Wiccan History Timeline
This is a work in progress for the history of witchcraft.
Ancient peoples revere healers, known as witches, who practice magic.
The Celts lived in Europe and were feared by the Roman Empire who adopted many of their customs and practices as their own.
Exodus 22:18 (Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live) condemns witchcraft.
Earliest known reference to the Druids.
Iceni Celts submit to the conquering Roman ruler Calaudius.
King Prasutagus dies and his wife Queen Boadica is publicly beaten and her two daughters are raped by Roman guards, causing outrage in the Iceni people against Roman rule.
61 A.D. to 63 A.D.
The Iceni Celts are lead in battle against Roman rule by the warrior Queen Boadica. They were almost successful in defeating the Romans.
Under the pre-Christian Roman Empire, punishment of burning alive was enacted by the State against witches who brought about another person’s death through their enchantments.
The Christian Council of Elvira refuses last rites to those who had killed a man by a magical spell because such a crime could not be effected “without idolatry” (i.e. the help of the devil).
Conversion of Emperor Constantine; Christianity is granted official toleration by the Roman Empire.
Canon 24 of the Council of Ancyra imposes five years of penance upon those who consult magicians. Here, the offence lies in participation in paganism.
St. Augustine argues that witchcraft is an impossibility.
Christian pope Gregory the Great proclaims “all the gods of the heathens are demons.”
The Council of Paderborn rules that sorcerers are to be reduced to serfdom and made over to the service of the Church.
The document De ecclesiasticis disciplinis ascribed to Regino of Prüm describes popular notions of witchcraft and states it is the duty of priests to “instruct the people that these things are absolutely untrue and that such imaginings are planted in the minds of misbelieving folk, not by a Divine spirit, but by the spirit of evil.”
Pope Benedict VIII is consecrated May 17.
King Henry II is crowned in Rome on February 14.
The first “heretic” is burned in France sparking the witch hysteria.
Pope Gregory VII writes a letter to King Harold of Denmark forbidding witches to be put to death upon presumption of their having caused storms, failure of crops or pestilence.
King John was born on December 24
King John ruled
A man named Gideon was tried by Ordeal of Red Hot poker and proved innocent of witchcraft.
Hubert de Burgh was accused of using Charms to obtain favors from the king.
Cats, dogs, and wolves were hung with their owners for being witch’s familiars.
Christianity has replaced traditional religions, which Christians call paganism.
Pope Innocent III attacks the belief that both God and Satan can have supernatural powers. Anyone who held the belief in this were labeled heretics.
Eustace the Monk was drown in Sandwich for having magical powers.
In Germany, the secular law code “Sachsenspiegel” designated death by fire as the proper punishment for witchcraft.
Pope Alexander IV instructs, “The Inquisitors, deputed to investigate heresy, must not intrude into investigations of divination or sorcery without knowledge of manifest heresy involved.” “Manifest heresy” is defined as: “praying at the altars of idols, to offer sacrifices, to consult demons, to elicit responses from them… or associate themselves publicly with heretics.”
Thomas Aquinas argues that demons do exist that try to lead people into temptation.
The first “witch” is burned to death after judicial sentence of an inquisitor, in Toulouse, France. Her name was Hugues de Baniol and she “confessed” to having given birth to a monster after intercourse with an evil spirit and to having nourished it with babies’ flesh which she procured in her nocturnal expeditions.
Women are singled out as witches in Europe.
Beginning of the witch trials in Europe.
Philip IV of France sought to end the Knights Templar in order to gain their wealth, under the rein of Pope Clement V.
Philip IV had the Knights Templar arrested and false confessions of blasphemy, idolatry, and sodomy were given as a result of their days of torture.
Guichard, Bishop of Troyes, was accused of killing the queen of France with sorcery.
After fighting for Christianity for 183 years against the Muslims, the Knights Templar was dissolved and their properties were divided between the hospitallers.
Jacques de Molay, last grand master of the Kinights Templar,was burned at the stake for “Devil Worship” despite his good service for Christianity during the Holy Wars.
Pope Clement V died April 20.
The Bishop of Cahors was found guilty of trying to “think” the pope to death using a crystal ball.
Large-scale witch trial in Toulouse, France, in which 63 persons were accused. Of these, eight were handed over to the state to be burned and the rest were imprisoned.
Pope Gregory XI declares that all magic is done with the aid of demons and thus is open to prosecution for heresy.
Peter de Gruyères, a secular judge, carries out large-scale witch trials in Bern, Switzerland.
King Henry V denounces his step mother, Joan of Navarre, for attempting to kill him using incantations.
Joan of Navarre is imprisoned for using witchcraft to try to kill the king.
Gilles de Rais was hanged on October 26 after being found guilty of 150 human sacrifices to Satan.
Robinet de Vaulx of Arras confessed to Inquisitors that he had attended a Witch’s Sabbat and named those with him. Those people that he named were tortured, brought to trial, found guilty, and condemned to death.
Pope Innocent VIII issues an edict that calls for the eradication of witches and other heathens.
Pope Innocent VIII publishes the bull Summis desiderantes affectibus (“Desiring with the Greatest Ardor”) condemning witchcraft as Satanism, the worst of all possible heresies. The bull also officially grants Heinrich Krämer and James Sprenger, Dominican inquisitors, the right to prosecute persons of any class or any form of crime. He uses Exodus 12:18 to back up his campaign.
Heinrich Krämer and Jacob Sprenger publish Malleus maleficarum (“The Hammer of Witches”), a learned but misogynistic book blaming witchcraft chiefly on women. It was reprinted many times thanks to the newly-invented printing press and was a major influence on the witch-hunt hysteria of the next two centuries. It was regarded as the standard handbook on witchcraft until well into the 18th century.
Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of Witches) triggers witch-hunts in Europe.
Prosecutions for witchcraft begin in Mexico.
The penal code Carolina decrees that sorcery throughout the German empire should be treated as a criminal offence, and if it injured any person, the witch was to be burned at the stake.
The Scottish Witch Act states that even people who consult with witches to cure various maladies were as guilty of witchcraft as those who actually practiced it.
The Protestant ruler of Saxony imposes the penalty of burning for witchcraft of every kind, including fortune-telling.
Period in which witch-hunts are most severe.
121 persons are burned as witches over three months in Osnabruck, Germany.
Witch trials in North Berwick, Scotland.
King James authorized the torture of suspected witches in Scotland.
In response to a witch panic in the Basque region, La Suprema (the ruling body of the Spanish Inquisition) issues an “Edict of Silence” forbidding all discussion of witchcraft. For, as one inquisitor noted, “There were neither witches nor bewitched until they were talked and written about.”
The Jesuit Friedrich von Spee publishes Cautio criminalis against the witch craze.
The Putnams start a land feud with the Townes near Topsfield, Massachusetts
First hanging for witchcraft in New England.
Alse Young is executed as a witch in Wethersfield, Connecticut.
Ninety-three people are accused of witchcraft—fifty in Massachusetts and forty-three in Connecticut. Sixteen are put to death.
Outbreak of witch-hunts in Sweden.
The English government revokes the Massachusetts colonial charter.
Massachusetts minister Increase Mather publishes Remarkable Providences, a handbook for identifying witches.
Rebecca Clinton is convicted of being a witch in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Samuel Parris is ordained as minister of the Salem village congregation.
Betty Parris and Abigail Williams try a voodoo fortune-telling experiment. They begin having fits.
Ann Putnam, Jr., Elizabeth Hubbard, and other Salem village girls join Betty Parris and Abigail Williams in having fits. They accuse Parris household slave Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne of casting spells on them.
Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne are brought before judges.
The girls accuse Martha Corey of bewitching them. Betty Parris is sent to live in the home of Stephen Sewall.
Martha Corey is questioned and sent to jail.
Ann Putnam, Sr. begins having fits. She and the girls accuse Rebecca Towne Nurse of putting a spell on them.
Rebecca Nurse is questioned and sent to jail.
Thomas Putnam has joined in the accusations. Twenty-three accused witches have been jailed.
Puritan minister Increase Mather and the new Massachusetts governor, William Phips, arrive in the colony with a new charter from England.
Thirty-nine other people have been jailed as suspected witches.
Governor Phipps appoints the Court of Oyer and Terminer to try accused witches. Deputy governor William Stoughton is the chief judge. Bridget Bishop is convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death.
Bridget Bishop is hanged. Nathaniel Saltonstall resigns from the panel of judges.
Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes are put on trial. Although Nurse is acquitted, the judges ask the jury to review their decision; return a guilty verdict. Governor Phipps gives Nurse a reprieve, but later withdraws it. All the women are sentenced to death.
Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes are hanged.
George Burroughs, John Procter, John Willard, George Jacobs, and Martha Carrier are hanged. Elizabeth Procter receives a reprieve because she is pregnant.
Giles Corey is pressed to death.
Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Pudeator, Margaret Scott, Wilmot Redd, and Samuel Wardell are hanged.
Increase Mather gives a sermon in which he questions the validity of spectral evidence. The sermon is later published as Cases of Conscience concerning Evil Spirits Personating Men.
Governor Phipps forbids the jailing of more suspected witches.
Governor Phipps dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer.
The “bewitched” Salem girls are called to Gloucester to identify witches, but they are ignored when they have fits.
Between May and October, 19 people are tried and hanged as witches in Salem, Massachusetts.
Cotton Mather publishes Wonders of the Invisible World in defense of the witch trials.
A Superior Court, headed by William Stoughton, is formed to try accused witches. After three are found guilty, Phipps gives them a reprieve; he also gives reprieves to five others sentenced previously.
Stoughton resigns from the court in protest against the reprieves.
Governor Phipps orders all remaining accused witches released from jail after payment of their fees.
The Massachusetts General Assembly declares a Day of Fasting to commemorate the victims of the trials. Twelve trial jurors sign a statement admitting they convicted and condemned people to death on the basis of insufficient evidence. Salem trial judge Samuel Sewall makes a public apology for his role in the executions.
Robert Calef writes More Wonders of the Invisible World, in which he attacks accusers and judges in the Salem trials.
Samuel Parris is forced to resign as minister of the Salem village church.
The Enlightenment begins to displace Puritanism and traditional superstitions.
The Reverend Joseph Green formally reverses Martha Corey’s excommunication from Salem village church.
Ann Putnam, Jr. makes an apology for her role in sending innocent people to their deaths.
The Massachusetts General Court grants the sum of 578 pounds as compensation to the families of Salem trial victims.
The last trial for witchcraft in Germany is carried out at Würzburg.
Torture is abolished in Prussia.
Last known execution for witchcraft takes place in Switzerland, in the Protestant canton of Glarus.
Belief in witchcraft lingers in New England.
Torture is abolished in Bavaria.
Torture is abolished in Hanover.
American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne writes Young Goodman Brown, one of many stories and novels about Puritan bigotry and repression.
Birth of Aleister Crowley, occultist who influenced Gerald Gardner.
Birth of Gerald Gardner, founder of Gardnerian Wicca.
Aleister Crowley joins the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, of which William Butler Yeats was also a member.
Charles Godfrey Leland publishes Aradia or the Goddess of the Witches.
The British Order of the Druids revives the practice of Wicca.
Crowley meets a leader of German Masonic order called the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), a combination of Masonic rites and the traditions of the Rosicrucians, the Templars, the Illuminists, and Bengali Tantrism. Crowley was soon initiated into the order and progressing through the degrees of the order.
Crowley is named Grand Master of the O.T.O. for Great Britain and Ireland.
British archaeologist Margaret Murray writes The Witch-Cult in Europe, sparking an interest in witch covens.
Birth of Alexander Sanders, founder of Alexandrian Wicca.
Margaret Murray published her article “Witchcraft” in the 14th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.
The O.T.O. in Germany is effectively dissolved by the Nazis.
Gardner joins the Folklore Society and presents a paper on witchcraft.
The year Gerald Gardner claims he was initiated into a witch cult called the New Forest Coven, led by Dorothy Clutterbuck.
Zsuzsanna Budapest, feminist writer and leader of Dianic Wicca, is born.
Gardner joins the nudist group The Fiveacres Country Club.
Gardner begins work on High Magic’s Aid, a fictional novel partially based on those of his Southern Coven. The witches of his coven opposed making their rituals public, which is why it was presented as fiction and filled out with rituals from other sources.
Gardner and Edith Woodford-Grimes start a company called Ancient Crafts Ltd.
Gardner meets Crowley at Crowley’s home in Hastings for the first time on May 1, and visits him again several times during May.
Gardner becomes a member of the O.T.O. in May and is authorized by Crowley to found an O.T.O. encampment and initiate new members.
Crowley dies on December 1.
On December 27, Gardner writes a letter claiming to have been designated as successor to Crowley as leader of the O.T.O. Karl Germer assumed leadership instead, and held it until his death in 1962.
Gerald Gardner publishes High Magic’s Aid under the pseudonym Scire.
Gardner begins distancing himself from Crowley and the O.T.O. in favor of Wicca.
Gardner states in a letter that Crowley had participated in the witch cult but left in disgust due to the leadership of the High Priestess and the nudity.
Anti-witchcraft laws of 1735 are repealed by the British Parliament.
English writer Gerald B. Gardner declares himself a witch.
Gardner founds the “Northern Coven” in London and holds a small rite at his home near the British Museum on May Eve.
Doreen Valiente is initated by Gardner, and soon became High Priestess.
Gardner publishes Witchcraft Today, an event which many regard as the founding of Wicca.
Wicca splits into two factions, one that supports Gardner’s growing publicity of the religion (led by Gardner) and one that opposes it (led by Doreen Valiente).
Gardner publishes The Meaning of Witchcraft, in which he first uses the term “Wica.”
Neo–paganism spreads throughout North America and Europe.
Gardner winters in Lebanon to help his failing health.
Gardner dies of heart failure on the SS Scottish Prince in the Mediterranean. His body is buried at the next port of call, Tunis.
The Council of American Witches (which no longer exists) formulated a kind of basic Wiccan creed.
The Covenant of the Goddess is formed to incorporate hundreds of separate Wiccan covens. It is officially recognized as a church in the United States.
The District Court of Virginia declares that Wicca is a legitimate religion protected by the First Amendment.
A federal appeals court ruled that Wicca was a legal religion. Wicca is therefore now protected by the U.S. Constitution as are other religions.
Valiente publishes The Rebirth of Witchcraft, a first-hand account of the history and development of Wicca.
Aiden A. Kelly publishes Crafting the Art of Magic, Book I, which aims to show that Gardner’s Book of Shadows could be entirely traced to earlier sources.
A Wiccan vernal equinox celebration starts a controversy at Fort Hood, Texas.
The Bush Administration votes to allow the pentacle (5 pointed star inside a circle) to be engraved on the headstones of fallen pagan soldiers buried in Arlington National Cemetery and other U.S. military burial grounds.