Witchcraft has nearly always been a tool used by the oppressed, the poor and the outcast but today it seems to be becoming the playground of the elite, the well-off and those who have a larger than average ego.
Within the British historical records of witchcraft, time and again we come face to face with a person who was living on the edge; despair causing mental anguish, illness causing physical misery and poverty causing wretchedness. When the world seemed to be against them and there appeared no respite or help, they turned to witchcraft to alleviate their suffering and bring hope.
For most, it was a way of earning a living; they charged their clients for the charms and the healings, they charged for finding lost property and identifying a thief. They were not doing it as entertainment or as a way of inflating their ego; they were doing it to facilitate survival in times when there was no state safety net to ensure they could eat and have a roof over their heads.
It is well documented throughout the ages that most cunning folk and witches met their familiar spirits at times of adversity, not during times of comfort and freedom from want. The only reason that they might receive their familiars in more settled and happier times was when the familiar spirit had been given to them or bequeathed to them from another practitioner.
Classic examples of this are the cases of Bessie Dunlop (Ayrshire), Agnes Sampson (East Lothian), Anne Jefferies (Cornwall) and Elizabeth Southerns (Lancashire).
Bessie Dunlop first encountered her familiar spirit “Tom Reid”, her husband and child were seriously ill and thought to die, one of her cows had just died and she herself was weak from not long since giving birth and the lack of food. In spite of all this hardship, she still had to move her remaining cattle to pasture, alone and near breaking point. It was as she was moving her cattle that Tom appeared and offered her help; he would give her magical gifts and knowledge to set herself up in business and therefore feed herself and family and be able to buy what they needed.
Agnes Sampson was offered the magical help and knowledge of her familiar spirit after her husband’s death and while she was struggling greatly to provide for her children and herself.
Anne Jefferies met her familiar who offered to help her gain money at all times to meet her needs while she was severely impoverished; this was to be done by giving her knowledge of healing.
Elizabeth Southerns met her familiar at a time when she was so poor that she was reduced to begging and it was while she was on her way home from such that the familiar suddenly appeared and offered her a way out of such poverty by the use of magic and witchcraft.
This theme of dire need and want is the main ingredient in the making of a witch or cunning person. Even those who were born into a magical family used the knowledge and gifts taught to them to supplement an existing meagre living or to better their lot in life.
Those who followed the Goddess Diana such as the Strega, believed that She gave the gift and knowledge of witchcraft to the poor via Aradia to improve their lives and lift them out of misery.
Even thousands of years ago, people made sacrifices to the deities for very real and needful purposes; to ensure a good harvest so they didn’t starve, to lift blight and illness to stop death ravaging the tribe and to illicit good weather and the warmth that was so vital to survival.
Within the Wytchenwood family, it has been used to supplement meagre earnings and better our lot. The Tradesman’s Great grandfather used his knowledge of witchcraft to supplement his earnings as an estate worker; he used it to heal animals for people. Most of his relatives worked on the land and so used it to supplement hard times. My family were agricultural workers for generations and so the living was harsh and mean; they used their knowledge to improve their lot and their incomes. We still use it for this reason today although we are no longer land workers; today we find ourselves in whole new arena of hardships and so we use it to better our situation and the situations of those around us or those who come to us. But one thing that never changes is the use of witchcraft for need not greed.
All of this is so far removed from what we see today; today it is a fashionable way of life, a tool for stoking and stroking the ego, a vehicle for showing off (self) perceived academic prowess or for mustering together groups of elitists. Our forebears would be shocked.