Thank you Reinhard for asking questions that brought about this series.
I. Early Magick
One tradition holds that Witchcraft began more than 35 thousand years ago, when the last great sheets ice began their journey across Europe. Legend holds that small groups of hunters followed the free-running game and bison across the tundra. Armed only with the most simple weapons, these tribes depended on the extraordinary gifts of their shamans. These shamans could attune themselves to the herds, the animal mind, the spirit of the herd. As they became an integral and interactive part of the energy all life forms share, they were able to call those of these herds who were willing, to pits, cliffs or traps that allowed the clans or tribes to be fed. This was an ongoing cycle of life, in which both the herd animals and the humans understood and regarded as a sacred gift the life of the food animals.
Other traditions hold that ?25 thousand years ago in Paleolithic Wo/Man depended upon hunting to survive. Only by success in the hunt could there be food to eat, skins for warmth and shelter, bones to fashion into tools and weapons?. Nature was overwhelming. Out of awe and respect for the gusting wind, the violent lightning, the rushing stream, Wo/Man ascribed to each a spirit; made each a deity ? a God. It was at this time that magick became mixed in with these first faltering steps of religion.? (Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, Raymond Buckland, p 2-3)
?Male shamans dressed in skins and horns in identification with the God and the herd; but female priestesses presided naked, embodying the fertility of the Goddess. Life and death were a continuous stream; the dead were buried as if sleeping in a womb, surrounded by their tools and ornaments, so that they might awaken to a new life.? (Spiral Dance, Starhawk p3). The power of Woman to bring forth life was one of the greatest mysteries, and women were revered. Through new life, came the survival of the clans, and provision for children and the elderly. When these were provided for, there was new strength and the wisdom of the elders which allowed all to thrive.
The first true example of what we consider sympathetic magick took place, when those early people put on the antlers and robe of their prey, invoked the power to draw that animal into the dance of life and death, and played out the hunt they sought to occur in future days. ?The Penobscot Indians, for example, less than a hundred years ago, wore deer masks and horns when performing rituals for the same purpose.? .? (Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, Raymond Buckland, p 2-3)
The rituals and processes we use for magick today appear to be similar or the same as those used by our ancestors. Models found of life-size prey were found, complete with spear marks in the clay.
Human psychology is blessed with the gift of imagination, of visualization. And there is little practical difference between creative visualization and spellwork. The same steps, procedures, preparations, focus and energy are present in both. Only the name and the respect given the process differs.
The primary difference between these early magickal practices and later, more formal, religious practices has to do with who performs the acts related to the desired outcome.
In the tribal system, the entire clan performed the dances, the sacred plays of the hunt. Sometimes there was a leader considered a specialist, a shaman. Many times, the entire group was part of the process.