Proud to be a witch

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europe was not a good place to be called a witch. People who didn’t fit in, were quirky, outspoken, or worked outside the norms of the ruling Christian faith, were persecuted and killed. Being different was not allowed. That is one of the reasons that many people are proud to call themselves witches. In this essay, you'll find some of the history of these dark times. And with this history, maybe a bit of the reason why we are so fortunate that we can be who we are, even if it is not always easy. People may sometimes look at us strangely or make lighthearted comments about the broom that you have lying around (you didn’t park it properly), but we are free to believe what we want and call ourselves what we want. We are free to speak about it, dress in the way we want, and practice our beliefs openly. We are fortunate to live in this age, and can take pride in the fact that the world has evolved into a place where you are free to believe and be what you want. Persecution and judgment of people who don't conform to "normal" societal views have occurred throughout history and will continue as long as there are people. By being proud and open about who we are and identifying as witches, and by being good representatives of those who practice the craft, we can show people that what we do is much closer to nature and being true to ourselves than they might imagine. By learning more about paganism and witchcraft, you become educated enough to bring wisdom to conversations. You can educate people about our history, our festivals, and our belief systems. Be a proud representative of paganism and show that there is honor in being "different."

What is witchraft

Witchcraft trough the centurys is a broad and complex term that can point to  various practices, beliefs, and traditions. It is often associated with magic, divination, and the supernatural. Witchcraft can vary widely from one culture or tradition to another, and it has evolved and adapted over time. While during the witch hunting witches where seen as woman and man who slept and worked with and for the devil, a witch in modern days can be someone who trys to live in balance with her or himself and nature. Celebrate the natural cycle of the years and the cyclus of the moon. 

Beliefs and Practices

Witchcraft encompasses a range of beliefs and practices that often involve the use of rituals, spells, and magic. These can include divination, herbalism, spellcasting, and communication with the spirit world. Witches honor and work with the natural world, such as the cycle of the moon, the elements and the seasons and the changes the seasons bring. Witches have a deep connection with nature. Witchcraft is a dualistic belief system. In contruary to the cristian belief, witches do not believe in 1 god, but in a variation of different gods and what they stand for. In the mid 20th century there was a increase in people that started themself witches, folowed by the upcoming of wicca, a belief system that took alot from different spiritual and pagan sources and combined them in a new one. Witches believe in animism witch means all mother natures gifts like herbs, plants and animals have a soul, this is one of the reasons that witches have such high respect for nature and the natural cycle of it. 

Witches as healers

Before christianity was the worlds “only” religion. The witch was the village wise woman, doctor, midwife, counseler, fortune teller and just all around wise woman. She was seen as a central figure in the village and was payed for her crafts with food and drink and work in return. Their knowledge of herbs and healing made them have high respect in their community. They also conducted rituals and ceremonys connected with events and the cycle of nature. Their guidance was not only sought when it was time for a child to be born but quite often also in desputes. As society transitioned to christianity the role of the wise woman began to change. The church vieuwed the practices and the high standing role of a woman as herectical, witch lead to the demonization of the witch.  Witchcraft got associated with accusations of malevolent magic and dealings with the devil. The European witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries led to the persecution and execution of thousands of individuals, primarily women, who were accused of practicing witchcraft. These historical witch trials were often fueled by fear, superstition, and religious beliefs.


It's important to recognize that witchcraft is a diverse and multifaceted phenomenon. Different practitioners have different beliefs and practices, and the term "witch" can mean different things to different people. Some see it as a spiritual or religious path, while others approach it purely as a form of magic. 

Historical Context 

FIrst mentioning of witches in different forms of written sources are very interesting, it gives a insight on the evolution and different meaning of the word witch and howlong magic / practicing or the knowledge of witches is already around. 

The Code of Hammurabi (18th centrury BC )

If a man has put a spell upon antoher man and it is not yet justified, he upon whom the spell is laid shall go to the holy river: into the holy river shall he plunge. If the holy river overcomes him and he is drowned, the man who put the spell upon him shall take possesion of his house. If the holy river declores him innocent and he remains unharmed the man who laid the spell shall be put to death. He that plunged into the river shall take possesion of the house of him who laid the spell upon him. 

The Deuteronomy 18:11 (fifth book of the Old Testament 7th-5th century bce) 

Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire,

nor a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghost and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. 


The Witch of Endor: Describes a woman referred to as the “witch of Endor” who was summoned by King Sual to conjure the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel.

The Twelve Tablles of roman law (451 BC)

Provisions against evil incantations and spells inteded to damage cereal crops. 

Early midievil times 

Pope Gregory the 7th wrote to Harald the 3th of Denmark in 1080 that he forbid to put witches to death upon presumption of their having caused storms or failure of crops or pestilence. 

Herbert Thurston, an English priest and a expert on spiritualism(1856-1939) sayd that the fierce persecution of supposed witches where not generaly found in the first thirteen hunderd years of the Christian era. 

Executions before the Christian era

The first accounted execution of a person presumed to be a witch was in 323 BC. The woman's name was Theoris of Lemnos. She was a Greek woman who lived in Athens and worked as a witch, folk healer, and potion maker. In classical Athens, practicing magic was not a crime, but using potions for harmful purposes, such as causing harm, was prohibited. The trial of Theoris of Lemnos is one of the most well-known Athenian trials of women accused of practicing magic. The exact crimes for which she was convicted are not known. It was said that she assisted slaves in murdering their masters and conspired in a slave uprising. The fact that her entire family, including her children, was executed alongside her suggests that in the eyes of her prosecutors, her actions were deemed particularly severe. However, it can be debated whether this assessment was accurate, as not long after her trial, another Athenian woman, Ninos, was tried and executed. Ninos was a priestess who provided love potions to young people and taught them about foreign gods.

Under the law as stated in the Twelve Tables of Rome, 170 women were executed as witches during an epidemic around 451 BC. In 186 BC, the Roman Senate restricted the rites in honor of Dionysus, and in the following years, approximately 5,000 members of this cult were executed. In 31 BC, more than 2,000 magical books were burned in Rome. Persecution of witches continued in the Roman Empire until around 390 AD.

Witchcraft and magic have a long and complex history. Early executions related to witchcraft serve as examples of how societies reacted to and dealt with fear and individuals believed to be involved in magical or supernatural activities.

The witch hunt 

The Witch Craze, also known as the European Witch Hunts, was a period in history marked by the intense persecution of individuals believed to be witches. It began with isolated incidents and gradually escalated into a widespread and systematic campaign to identify, prosecute, and often execute those accused of practicing witchcraft. One key catalyst for this dark chapter in history was the publication of the "Malleus Maleficarum". This infamous manual provided a theological and legal framework for the witch hunts, legitimizing the persecution of supposed witches and encouraging the use of torture to extract confessions. The Witch Craze spanned several centuries and had profound social, cultural, and legal consequences.

Malleus Maleficarum 

As mentioned before the first thirtheen hunderd years of the cristian era was not seen as a time of fierce witchhunt. It was mostly dismissed as superstician. This changed after Pope Innocent V111 issued the Summis desiderantes affectibus (1484), a papal bull recognizing the existance of witches and the permission to do whatever necessary to get rid of them. As a reaction and adding to this papal bull the Malleus Maleficarum was published. 

The Malleus Maleficarum, also known as "The Hammer of Witches," is one of the most infamous and influential texts in the history of witchcraft persecution. Here's more information about it and its impact on the witch hunts:

Publication and Authors

The Malleus Maleficarum was written by Heinrich Kramer, a German churchman, and Jacob Sprenger, a fellow inquisitor. It was published in 1487. The book was intended as a practical guide for the detection, prosecution, and eradication of witches. It was meant to serve as a manual for inquisitors and judges involved in witch trials.


The Malleus Maleficarum was written in response to Pope Innocent VIII's papal bull, "Summis desiderantes affectibus"  which recognized the existence of witches and granted inquisitors the authority to pursue and prosecute them. The authors sought to provide a theological and legal framework for the witch hunts that were gaining momentum across Europe.


The Malleus Maleficarum is divided into three sections. The first part deals with the theological aspects of witchcraft, explaining the nature of witches, their pact with the Devil, and their activities. The second part provides detailed instructions on how to conduct witch trials, including the use of torture to extract confessions. The third part discusses legal procedures for prosecuting witches.


The Malleus Maleficarum played a significant role in the intensification of the witch hunts during the late 15th and 16th centuries. Its publication provided a framework for the witch trials, legitimizing the persecution of supposed witches and encouraging the use of torture to get confessions. The book contributed to the widespread fear and hysteria surrounding witchcraft.


The Malleus Maleficarum continued to influence witch trials and persecutions for centuries. While it was not officially endorsed by the Catholic Church, it was widely used by inquisitors and secular authorities. Countless innocent people, mostly women, were accused, tortured, and executed as a result of the guidelines and beliefs propagated by the book.

It's important to note that the witch hunts were not exclusive to one particular region but occurred across Europe, with varying intensity and duration in different areas. The Malleus Maleficarum, along with other factors like social, religious, and political upheaval, contributed to the dark chapter in history known as the European witch craze. 


The European Witch Hunts, which spanned from the late 15th to the 18th century, marked a dark chapter in history characterized by widespread paranoia, hysteria, and the ruthless persecution of those accused of witchcraft. At the heart of this witch craze lay a series of gruesome trials and executions.

Accusations of witchcraft often arose from personal grudges, jealousy, or neighborly disputes. Anyone who deviated from the social norm or displayed peculiar behavior could become a target. Inquisitors and local authorities conducted investigations, employing cruel and dehumanizing techniques to extract confessions. Accused witches were subjected to sleep deprivation, strappado (a form of hanging), and various forms of torture.

Witchcraft trials were notorious for their unjust proceedings. Accused individuals faced overwhelming odds, with confessions often obtained under duress. The accused were rarely granted fair trials, and the authorities often operated with a presumption of guilt. Tortured and exhausted, many accused witches admitted to practices they had never engaged in.

Executions were brutal and public spectacles. The accused witches, often women, were subjected to various forms of execution, including burning at the stake, hanging, or drowning. In some cases, witches were strangled before being burned to spare them from the agonizing death by flames. Their property was frequently confiscated, leaving their families destitute.

The worst period of the witch craze varied across Europe, with Germany and Switzerland experiencing some of the most extensive witch trials. The city of Würzburg, in the early 17th century, became notorious for its large-scale witch trials, where hundreds of individuals were accused and executed.

The exact number of people who fell victim to the witch hunts is difficult to ascertain, but estimates suggest that tens of thousands of individuals, primarily women, were executed during this period. It wasn't until the Age of Enlightenment that beliefs in witchcraft and the witch hunts began to wane, and legal reforms were implemented to protect individuals from such baseless accusations.

The European Witch Hunts serve as a somber reminder of the dangers of mass hysteria, unjust legal systems, and the persecution of those considered different. 

The Netherlands 

Pagans in the Netherlands

While it is imposseble to give the exact time and dates, Most of the Netherlands was pagan till about 700-715. Around that time the christianization started that would be fully implemented around the 11th century. The earlyest forms of paganism date back to the germanic tribes that had polythistic belief systems, worshiping deities asscociated with nature and the cycle and other aspects of life. Deities and rituals varied amongst tribes. The Roman influence, witch began around 57 BC brought Roman gods and practices into local beliefs. After that time around the 8th to 11th century The Netherlands, like much of Nothern Europe was raided by The Norse (vikings) This brought Norse mythology and beliefs into the Netherlands, witch blended with the existing Germanic beliefs. 

Alot of traces of pagan history in the Netherlands are found in Frisia, a province of the Netherlands. Somuch gold was found in this province that it most have been one of the riches area’s of the netherlands between the Roman time and the year 1000. Alot of the treasure show Heathen gods and myhology creatures.  This can (partly) be explained by there location, close to the sea and the trades routes that comes with them. The Frisan folk are well known for being stubborn and quite chauvinistic. You can always find the Frisians at a festival, because they mark there territory mostly with their local Frisain flag. If you do a DNA test on a Frisian person, you are very likely to find a big part viking in them :) As sayd they traded alot with them and among that i guess they had some more fun :)


A well known story in the Netherlands is the story of Bonifatius. He was a missionary that wanted to bring Christianity to the Germanic people One of the most famous action he preformed was felling a sacred oak of Thor (Donartree), This was a tree considered sacred by the pagan Frisians. He did alot more then that and eventually was martyred around 754 by a group of pagans. If you do some more research about it, it turnes out that Bonafatius really had a death wish, He was well in his 70’s and he wanted to become a saint and to acomplish that he had to dy a martyr. He actually tormented the local population somuch that they finally killed him. Acording to the local law (Lex Frisionum) they had full right to punish Bonafatius cause of him desecrating their holy places. 

The Witch Hunt in the Netherland

The Witch Hunts in the Netherlands where part of a broader phenomeon that peaked in the 16th and 17th century, In the Dutch Republic, the authorities where more skeptical of witchraft accusations compared to other European regions.Especially in the Northern parts of the Dutch Republic.Nevertherless there were cases of witch trails, especially in rural area’s. In the Netherlands the witches where burned and / or hanged. 

How did the trials go? 

Witch trials, or witch trials in the Netherlands, generally followed a similar pattern as in other parts of Europe during that ime. Here is a overview of how witches were tried in the Netherlands:

Accusation: Witch trials often began with an accusation. Someone in the community, usually a neighbor or a fellow villager, accused an individual of witchcraft. The accusation could vary, but it typically involved alleged witchcraft, devil worship, or involvement in harmful practices.

Investigation and Charges: After the accusation, an investigation began, usually conducted by local authorities such as city councils or magistrates. They searched for evidence of witchcraft, such as spellbooks, broomsticks, or other alleged magical objects. The accused was interrogated and could be pressured to confess.

Trial: If there was sufficient evidence and confessions, the case was brought to trial. In the Dutch provinces, trials were often held in urban courts, and sometimes there were special witch trials. Judges and jurors decided on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Torture: In some cases, torture was applied to obtain confessions. Torture was a controversial practice and was not used everywhere in the Netherlands. However, in some provinces, such as Friesland, torture was used as part of the witch trial.

Punishment: If the defendant was found guilty, a conviction and punishment followed. Punishments ranged from imprisonment to the death penalty. The most common punishment for witchcraft was burning at the stake, but the death penalty could also be carried out by hanging, or a combination of the 2. 

Recantation: In some cases, confessions were recanted before the sentence was executed. Defendants tried to save their lives by retracting their earlier confessions, but this did not always lead to clemency.

As the Enlightenment progressed, attitudes toward witch trials became more critical. Witch trials declined in the 18th century, and legal reforms were introduced to protect individuals from unfounded accusations.

Witch trials in the Netherlands largely followed the European pattern of accusation, investigation, trial, potential torture, punishment, and recantation. However, the exact course of events could vary depending on the region and local authorities.

Heksenwaag - The witches weighhouse 

The Heksenwaag in the Netherlands, also known as the Witches Weighhouse in English, is a historical landmark associated with the witch hunts that occurred during the Early Modern period. I think it deserves a special chapter cause it was clearly used to plead the people free from being a witch. 


The Witches' Weighhouse is located in the town of Oudewater in the province of Utrecht, Netherlands. It dates back to the 16th century and played a unique role during the height of the European witch craze. Oudewater's history is intertwined with witch trials and accusations, and the town sought to provide a fair and just method to prove that accused individuals were not witches.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, witch trials were prevalent throughout Europe, and many innocent people, primarily women, were accused of practicing witchcraft. Oudewater became famous for its Heksenwaag, which means "Witches' Weighhouse." Here, accused individuals, usually women, could voluntarily undergo a weighing process. The belief was that witches were lighter than other people because they had renounced their baptism during their pact with the devil.

The Witches' Weighhouse in Oudewater gained a reputation for conducting fair and impartial weighings. The process was thorough and transparent, and the weighmaster ensured that the accused received a certificate indicating their weight. This certificate could be used to prove their innocence in other regions, where witch trials were more severe.

Historical Significance

Today, the Witches' Weighhouse in Oudewater is a museum and a historical landmark. It serves as a reminder of the superstitious and dark chapter in European history when individuals were persecuted as witches. The Witches' Weighhouse also underscores the importance of fair justice and skepticism in the face of mass hysteria.

The Witches' Weighhouse in Oudewater is a unique piece of Dutch history, reflecting the efforts to provide a fair method for proving innocence during the witch hunts of the Early Modern period.

Witch hunt in England 

The witch trials in England had some notable differences compared to the rest of Europe during the witch hunts of the Early Modern period. 

Legal Procedures: In England, witchcraft accusations were handled somewhat differently from the continent. English law required strong evidence to convict someone of witchcraft. While the Witchcraft Act of 1604 criminalized invoking evil spirits to harm others, it was one of the most restrained witchcraft statutes in Europe. The English legal system relied more on eyewitness testimony and less on the use of torture to extract confessions.

Execution Methods: In many parts of Europe, the preferred method of executing convicted witches was burning at the stake. In contrast, in England, convicted witches were typically hanged rather than burned. 

Late Peak: Witch trials in England reached their peak in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, later than many other European countries. While the witch hunts were in full swing in continental Europe in the 16th century, England saw a surge in trials and executions in the early 17th century, with the Pendle witch trials (1612) being among the most famous.

Decline: Witch trials in England began to decline in the mid-17th century, especially after the English Civil War. By the late 17th century, there was a growing skepticism about the witch hunts, and they eventually subsided.

These differences in legal procedures, and the timing of witch trials distinguish England from many other European countries during the witch hunts. While England was not immune to the witch craze, its approach and outcome in dealing with witch trials differed from continental Europe.

The witches monument 

Early 2023 a organisation was formed in the Netherlands that did a wake and lay flowers on 20 places where witches where burned during the witches trials. They are pleading to get a monument as a reminder of all the people that where killed during the witches hunt. 

Is the witch hunt over?

The persecution of individuals accused of witchcraft has not entirely ceased in some parts of the world. While many societies have progressed and no longer engage in witch hunts, there are still instances where people, particularly women, are accused of witchcraft and subjected to violence and even death. It is important to remember that not so long ago, it was still illegal to be a witch. The Witchcraft act was only completly lifted in 1951. 

Till this present day practicing witchraft in Saudi Arabia is a crime that can be punished by death. In Tanzania woman are still murdered following accusations of being a witch. In september 2020 Ahmed Hassan was executed by a firing squad in Somalia and in 2021 Sangweni Jostina, accused of being a witch was beaten and burned alive in South Africa. 


In reflecting  the complex and often dark history of witchcraft, it becomes evident that the journey of witches through the ages has been fraught with both resilience and persecution. From the early accounts of Theoris of Lemnos to the intricate web of trials and tribulations in Europe during the witch hunts, the story of witches is one of both triumph and tragedy.

The witch hunts, with their fervor and fear, cast a long shadow over Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was a time when being different, outspoken, or adhering to practices outside the Christian norms could lead to accusations of witchcraft, which, in turn, could result in torture and death. The publication of the "Malleus Maleficarum," the infamous witch-hunting manual, further fueled the fervor and provided a disturbing framework for these trials.

Amid this bleak history, we find beacons of hope, like the Witches' Weighhouse in Oudewater, Netherlands, where individuals could prove their innocence through a fair and transparent weighing process. This serves as a testament to the importance of skepticism and fairness in the face of mass hysteria.

As we reflect on this history, it's vital to acknowledge the progress we've made. The witch hunts are largely behind us, and we now live in an era where freedom of belief and self-expression is celebrated. However, it's also important to remember that witch hunts have not been entirely eradicated from the world, and instances of accusations, often accompanied by violence, still occur in some regions.

In conclusion, the history of witchcraft is a testament to human fear, prejudice, but also resilience and the pursuit of justice. We must remain vigilant against the resurgence of witch hunts and embrace the freedoms that allow each of us to be who we are, proudly calling ourselves witches. By understanding and sharing our history, we can ensure that the lessons of the past continue to guide us toward a more just  future.