The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Roots of Witchcraft: The Magical World
Elements of Witchcraft
How far back do we have to go to find that primal witch? Well, how far back can we get? Because however far we can go, we will discover magical practices waiting for us.
Recognition of magic power and the accompanying urge to manipulate it exists from earliest creation. Folklorist and practitioner of magic Zora Neale Hurston identified God as the original hoodoo doctor, because he spoke the world into creation with a series of magical words. That’s a concept that would have been familiar to the ancient Egyptians. Among their many creation stories is one where Ptah the craftsman god, the original mason, also brings the world into existence using magic words. Other creation stories from all over Earth posit a similar magical creation. The world and all inhabitants, including people, are created via incantation, song (charm), visualization, spell-casting or image-magic: figures molded from Earth, life magically breathed into them.
Other creation stories make the magical connection very explicit. In another Egyptian creation tale, the Creator, having contemplated creation, realizes that all will not be well and that people are potentially in for a lot of grief, heartache, and trouble. Feeling remorseful, the Creator quickly invents magic power (heka, to the ancient Egyptians) for people to use to ward off the harsh blows of fate. Magic is thus a crucial necessity of divine origin.
Another creation myth is both explicit about primordial witchcraft and ambivalent toward it. The Zuni are an indigenous nation of the North American south-west; according to their cosmology, shortly after Earth was populated, a sacred pair, male and female, commonly identified in English translation as “witches,” emerge bearing gifts. While traveling around, examining Earth, this pair, these witches, meet some young women and ask them who they are. The girls say they are Corn Maidens but they have a problem: corn doesn’t exist yet.
The witches immediately remedy the situation, distributing seven varieties of corn as well as squash and melon seeds, the staple diet of the indigenous farmers of the American south-west. This gift stimulates the Corn Maidens to form a pair of lines facing the sun and begin a dance in tribute: the birth of religion and agriculture, with full approval from the witches. This is a nice witch story. The witches, however, also bear another gift: death. They insist death is necessary to prevent Earth from becoming overcrowded. People, however, are horrified and behold witches, responsible for life-saving sustenance and the introduction of death, with suspicion ever after. It is an early acknowledgement of ambivalence toward witchcraft: the power to heal and preserve may also be wielded to harm and destroy.
You don’t hold any stock with mythology and ancient creation tales? That’s OK; let’s take a look at what the archeologists and anthropologists have to say. Plenty of physical evidence documents the primordial origins of witchcraft and magical perspective.