Most branches of Christianity has always associated witchcraft with the devil, or some form of demon worship. This has been used as an excuse for the persecution of innocent people who were seen as threats to society. (The Salem trials, the Knights templar, etc.).

What I want is for the Catholic Church to embrace witchcraft as a legitimate craft in the dark ages, and frame it as a tool for good. However, for whatever reason, only women have the ability to perform it. This is a problem as it can be seen as a challenge by officials to the role of men as leaders.

How can the church incorporate the practice of witchcraft into its practices without changing the status quo?

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 11:35
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    $\begingroup$ Why have you put a bounty on this when you already have 15 answers and have already chosen a best answer? How much more attention do you want for it? Plus with the best answer already chosen why do you think many if any people will be interested in providing additional answers anyway? Seems like you're just wasting your time to me .. What about the many many answers you already have is inadequate? and how do you expect to get anything different from those you already have if you don't detail your reasons for thinking they are? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ The differences between religious observance and witchcraft are all context. Ancient perceptions of witchcraft are equivalent to apostasy. It's not that you consult spirits, it's that you consult the wrong spirits for the wrong reasons. It's not that you cast spells, it's that you pray wrong. Relics good, charms bad. And so on. Certainly, there's historical examples where the accusation of witchcraft doesn't appear genuine, but that behavior is not unusual for any crime, even today. $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Commented Sep 9, 2022 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Is there actual witchcraft in your world or just superstitious believe that some people might practice witchcraft? $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ It's been done. Garrett's "Lord Darcy" series had magic realistically incorporated into Catholicism since the 14th century (the author was ordained in an Old Catholic church so knew the doctrines pretty well). Sorcery was a separate job to the priesthood so there was no problem having women do it. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 9:03

16 Answers 16


OK, we need a change in the role of women in Christianity, less opposition to magic, and support for some specific witchcraft practices.

Maybe consider starting the alternative history already in Judaism. Until the 6th century BCE, people in Israel and Judah were polytheists and had numerous temples for their main god Yahweh and his wife/consort Asherah, often associated with a tree (probably as the origin of life) and represented by a 'pole'. At some later point, the temple of Jerusalem must have started enforcing strict monotheism plus the exclusivity of the Jerusalem temple. Earlier writings were censored, and writings from the time are militantly monotheistic. The victory of the monotheistic zealots was so complete that the previous situation only became known through relatively recent archaeological findings. (All of this is actual history, not alternative history. Just in case this isn't clear because these facts are so little known.)

Suppose the process had not been quite so thorough. Currently there are only a small number of more or less opaque references to Jewish polytheism, such as a few references to Asherah poles, and the first commandment saying that God is jealous and his people are not supposed to worship his competition. Not that he is the only one. One can easily devise a variant of (mediaeval) Judaism in which Asherah retained her role to some limited extent, similar to the role of Jesus or that of Maria in Christianity. E.g., Asherah could be seen as simultaneously a human, a second god, and identical with Yahweh.

As a consequence of this alternative Jewish theology, Mary's role in Christianity might have become less significant. Or, more interesting for our purposes, she might have been strengthened through a merger with Asherah: Mary as an incarnation of Asherah (i.e. Asherah became flesh as Mary before Yahweh became flesh as Jesus), the consort of Yahweh and the mother of Jesus, therefore simultaneously the mother and wife of God. This weird dual role is not at all unusual for fertility goddesses. This would have considerably strengthened the role of Mary in Christianity. And if Asherah was weak enough in our alternative Judaism, then it was Mary who dominated the duality of Asherah-Mary.

In the time before the establishment of the Christian biblical canon, there were plenty of religious writings floating around that are now lost completely or were only recovered in fragments. If they mentioned Jesus at all, they were usually known as gospels. One of these was the Gospel of Judas. It is worth reading the Wikipedia article to get an idea of how radically different non-canonical gospels could be.

There is also a text known as Gospel of Mary. As it is not well known and survived only in part, it is probably a good idea to rewrite it as follows:

Mary the mother of Jesus = Asherah = Mary Magdalene! As in many apocryphal writings, Mary is the closest disciple of Jesus. In addition, she is also his wife! (This is logical because Jesus and Mary are incarnations of Yahweh and Asherah. As they are not normal humans, incest is not a problem. And maybe contemporaries didn't suspect anything because Mary didn't age since giving birth to Jesus?)

Like Jesus, Mary does the occasional miracle. However, she does them in less spectacular ways, e.g. healing people by means of holy plants. Presumably she already had some practice when Jesus was born, and taught him the trade. The Gospel of Mary should also contain an explicit statement saying that Jesus was the only man allowed to engage in witchcraft. Otherwise it's strictly for women. This should also explain any anti-witchcraft passages in the Bible that you might otherwise have a problem with: they only apply to men!

However, alternative Christianity isn't actually a feminist religion. Misogynism creeps in in various ways, e.g. in a partial equation between Asherah/Mary and Eve. To stress this, the snake is added to the Asherah Poles, resulting in the Pole of Asclepius. So we have the connotations of fertility, original sin and healing all in one symbol. Just like 6th century BCE Jewish temples, Christian churches have two altars: A main altar with a cross in the middle and a side altar with an Asherah pole in the aisle. This isn't so different from reality, where some old Catholic churches actually have side altars with depictions of Mary!

  • $\begingroup$ Using the term "zealots" in this context is confusing. Do you mean the Jewish sect from whom the general term is derived, or the general meaning of "a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their ideals". $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2019 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinBonner, I don't think Hans meant "zealots" as a proper name. So I'm sure he intended the second meaning ("a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their ideals"). $\endgroup$
    – J-L
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ J-L is right, when I wrote this I wasn't aware of the origin of the word 'zealot'. If I had been aware, I would have avoided it as it is in fact a bit ambiguous in this context. $\endgroup$
    – user6330
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ The whole 'we found an Asherah pole so Israel was always polytheistic' argument is baffling. The Biblical account explains the presence of Asherah poles just fine; the Israelites apostasised repeatedly. It even mentions Asherah poles and kings that worshipped both Asherah and Yahweh. But why you'd interpret the archaeological evidence 100% opposite to the textual evidence is inexplicable; no other ancient text of any sort would be dismissed out of hand that way. $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 12:02
  • $\begingroup$ I have two chief criticisms of this answer: (1) it doesn't answer the OP's question, as it has nothing to do with the Catholic church or it's actual teachings, and (2) it's written as if these wacko doctrines are meant seriously, not as a hypothetical fictional world, which is hopefully the intent. $\endgroup$
    – workerjoe
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 15:22

Actually, Catholic doctrine didn't include belief in witchcraft most of the time. To believe that simple village women would make deal with the devil and gain thereby magic powers was a heresy of itself.

The Germanic Council of Paderborn in 785 explicitly outlawed the very belief in witches... (from Wikipedia)

Even the 'Hammer of Witches', although written by Catholic monks, didn't find much popularity among Catholics, and was more popular among Protestants.

It wouldn't, however, make witchcraft any more palatable for the Church on itself. I think, the easiest way to make medieval clergy tolerate magic of any kind would be to treat it as science, as a result of manipulating natural laws in any way, rather then as any mystical process.

Another possible variant, although more problematic in my opinion, would be to treat magic as a result of prayer, a miracle. If your witches would use the trappings of Christianity, pray to the God and St. Mary, use crucifix as a ritual tool, possibly, maybe, it could be seen as a miracle granted by the God. That the women were able to do that, and not men, could be seen as a special intervention of St. Mary for the other womenfolk.

The second version seems to be a bit more problematic to me, though. Magic as science would be no different from medicine, while magic as prayer would be in conflict with Church hierarchy. It would mean more conflicts and power plays inside the structure of the Church. Special monastic orders of magic-women, maybe, the attempt to keep them from high positions in the Church by men. It would be complicated.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with you that it would be complicated only if this thing wasn't there from the beginning. If your witchy womenfolk was already around since the very start of organized religion, you would probably end up with a very different social structure that you have today. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 11:26
  • $\begingroup$ @T.Sar I'd agree with you, but I'm afraid that if we incorporate magic in early Christianity, by 9th century the point of divergence will be so far back, that we will end up with completely unrecognizable structures. Nothing that a reader will understand as 'Catholicism with witches'. $\endgroup$
    – Cumehtar
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ Which is a very good reason to incorportate magic as far back as possible - it will provide for a way more interesting reading than just "Christianity but with witches bolted on". $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 15:09

How exactly are you defining witchcraft? It’s a tricky one, but aligning witchcraft with midwifery might get you somewhere with “only women have the ability to perform it”. I’ll have to come back to edit this, but I think Diane Purkiss has done some good work looking at the overlap between late medieval midwifery and witchcraft - if the Church sanctioned midwifery, encouraged the use of birth girdles and other ‘superstitious’ items, and allowed charms and amulets (have a look at Don Skemer’s book on Textual Amulets), then the two might have gone together without the negative connotations that actually ended up happening.

The other things worth looking at are accounts of mystical happenings. Again, I’ll come back and edit this when I’ve got all my notes, but there are examples of things like mystical pregnancies (generally women swelling with the Holy Ghost), devotional anorexia/inedia (surviving solely on the Eucharist), and other things that generally happened to women. Caroline Walker Bynum’s Holy Feast And Holy Fast is a great place to start if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

If you start with the kinds of things that were sanctioned (or even venerated) by the Catholic Church in the period you’re interested in, especially things that happened to women specifically, then use that as a basis from which to build your witchcraft practices. Female healers? They could be church sanctioned midwives. Able to perform miraculous acts? Incorporate them into hagiographical tradition. :)

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    $\begingroup$ +1 There were a lot of 'holy visitations' described in the texts of the period. St. Mary or Jesus coming in one's sleep with advice. Also, 'brides of Jesus' seemed bit to be a metaphor for medieval people - there was a number of accounts of nuns speaking of Jesus coming to them in their sleep and - well, you get the picture. $\endgroup$
    – Cumehtar
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ The whole ‘brides of Jesus’ thing got SUPER big in the later medieval period - dreams of Jesus as bridegroom, visions of being married with Jesus’s foreskin... I mean, if anyone ever thought the medieval period was boring, it’s definitely very weird. $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2019 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Cumehtar "there was a number of accounts of nuns speaking of Jesus coming to them" Would you be able to include some historical source for this? $\endgroup$
    – Suma
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Suma Agnes Blannbekin for a start, but I will look up more examples, I distinctly remember a significant number of them. $\endgroup$
    – Cumehtar
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 9:40
  • $\begingroup$ Midwives already were in a difficult situation in Medieval Europe. When a child of someone important was born with a disabilitiy or died during childbirth, then the midwive was often a good target for blame. And if she liked to use superstitious charms, then a witchcraft accusation claiming she cursed the child was often convenient. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 9:44

How to incorporate magic? Very easily. Slap a Saints name on it.



If there's not a saint for what you want, call it a Jesus something or another.

How to integrate woman controlled powers? A few different ways, but totally still doable.

Chain them to a controller that's male. It would require a cradle to grave scheme, trained from birth. Sequester them to nunnery. How do humans control other humans? Lots of ways.

Women have always had a place in the Catholic church. Any religion involves some magic.


I'm going to approach this from a different direction.
Rather than looking at our world as it is & making parallels, I'm going to cheat completely & use someone else's parallels...

Terry Pratchett wrote a lot about religion & witchcraft. In his world, the gods all actually existed - you didn't have to believe in them if you didn't want, but you knew for sure that they were actually there. I don't recall him ever having a 'devil' parallel at all. [1]

His witches, therefore, rather than being the stereotypical 'devil worshippers dancing naked round standing stones' [2] took an altogether different view. The magic they did was sometimes 'real' but more often than not they relied on solid midwifery skills, a good knowledge of herbs & a very good grasp of "headology" [that's psychology to you & me].

He therefore mainly avoided the potential clashing of dogmas by not making them compulsory in most cases & more specifically by never tainting his witches with 'evil'. [3]

A witch with this cultural background could more easily be seen alongside a more real-Earth religious system, as is doesn't really clash with it.

Priests generally don't have issues with midwives, pharmacists, or psychologists, only with 'devil-worshippers' - so if your witches have never been seen this way there's no need for them to ever be at odds with organised religion. They could even, at a push, be 'nuns with special jobs'.

[1] [after comments] He did in fact have one devil character, but somewhat out-of-canon, so I'll leave him out for this comparison.

[2] He did use parallels to Shakespeare's witches, "When shall we three meet again?" etc, but it was often followed by discussion over who couldn't make it because their Doreen couldn't babysit that night, or arguments over who would bring the cakes & make the tea.

[3] He did parallel the 'witch gone bad' using references to the ones who lose their way & turn towards a 'dark side' would end up living on their own in out-of-the-way gingerbread cottages & be burned in their own ovens by small children. These witches were seen even by their fellows ['sistren' (sic)] as aberrations, & don't form a part of the overall world view of witches.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi, welcome to worldbuilding.SE, please take the tour if you haven't yet and visit the help center if you need more information. $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2019 at 7:06
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @LiamMorris - I've actually been lurking here a while & I'm 140k+ rep on the overall network, so I generally know my way around - but I'll definitely check out the specifics for this stack. Thanks again :) $\endgroup$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ As a Devil-expy, Pratchett has the newly appointed King of Hell, Astfgl, in the Rincewind book "Eric" $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2019 at 7:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal Ahhh - I'd completely forgotten the 'devil as proactive office manager' character from Faus... ermm... Eric. I always consider it to be slightly out-of-canon, like Pyramids. I think it's safe to leave him out for this particular comparison, but thanks for jogging my memory :) $\endgroup$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 7:42

Step one: find some heathens and learn their culture.

Step two: take not of whatever parallels you can find between their heathen culture and your own. For example, if they believe in a master god, you can trace a parallel to your own single god.

Step three: copy their traditions, but replace all the symbolism with sigils and images from your own tradition.

Step four: repeat all steps above, ad infinitum.

For example, the Bible says that Jesus was born around the time of a heathen census, and those did not happen in December. But some heathens that the church really wanted to convert only celebrated their major god birth on the solstice of winter, so the church preached to them that it was JC's b-day that was actually being celebrated that time of the year. It stuck, and to this day we celebrate the day when the three wise men (or twelve, depending on tradition) dressed in red and broke into the stable where Mary gave birth through a chimney to put some incense, gold and... stuff into his socks.

There was also something about a mesopothamian goddess of fertility that was celebrated some moons after the other heathens orgies. But you know how these kinds of things always get lost through the ages and translation, so now we celebrate the rebirth of god by evoking a bunny which lays colored eggs (in some countries, those eggs are also made of chocolate).

Sometimes you get a twist when you try to reform your own religion. One person's celebration of the time when their people escaped slavery by running away from it is someone else's celebration of someone being flogged and hanged on a cross in a very passionate manner.

Last but not least, about only women being able to do it: if you are running a machist, mysoginistic organization in a world where women can evoke fireballs and hurl them at you, it is in your interest that they are no longer able to cast magic and that all the knowledge on such things is controlled by the patriarchy. Because the moment they learn to cast again, the evil system goes down. This is actually why the priests are forbidden from marrying and stuff.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What's the relationship between December and the birth date of Jesus Christ? Is there any respectable Christian church which has a doctrine saying that Jesus the Annointed (the human man) was born in December? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ I was raised Orthodox, and as far as I know the doctrines about Christmas are the same. Even the customs are somewhat similar, with songs about censuses, Bethlehem, three kings from the East etc. But, as far as I understand, Christmas celebrates the birth of the Saviour, and not specifically the anniversary of the birthdate of the man named Isa bin Yusef al Nazri. I don't think that the Church lato sensu has any official doctrine about the actual birthdate of Jesus the man. It most certainly didn't have one in the 3rd century, and afterwards it would have been rather late to establish one. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Christmas is the feast of the birth of Jesus Christ; in all Christian churches. Christmas has always been in Dec/Jan (at least since ~300). Also, why are you calling Jesus Isa? That is an Arab name; a language that didn't come into being until much later. Jesus would have been Yeshua in Aramaic. However, since the most proximate historical records of Jesus are originally written in Greek, it is even more appropriate to call him Iesous. In any case, calling him Isa seems like a false striving for authenticity; why not call him Isus like the church in which you were raised? $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 12:23
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion: I prefer fictional striving for authenticity instead of false. And yes the feast celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ the Savior, but I really do not think that any church teaches that it is supposed to take place on the birth date of the historical man who lived among men. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ I@AlexP I went to a catholic school and to the church and they both made it explicit that Jesus was born on Dec 25. $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2019 at 13:07

Only some types of magic are forbidden

Might not be as difficult as you think, depending on how you set up your world's magic system.

The Bible (OT) lists a number of specific kinds of magic practices that are explicitly forbidden - those listed in Deuteronomy 18-10, and one in Exodus 22-17. Since it separately lists the types of forbidden magic instead of just a general prohibition against all supernatural practices, this suggests that any magic that does not fall under these particular categories are not forbidden.

Indeed the Talmud lists various anecdotes of people using supernatural abilities - and makes a distinction between "miracles" (which are unique events) and those which are done through specific knowledge of the world's inner workings. Medieval Kabbalists were quite all right with making various forms of protective amulets and other practices that they did not consider to fall under the categories of forbidden magic.

Now here's the problem (and the fun part): the details of what these specific magic types are are not well documented. There's also a fair bit of discussion as to whether they refer to magic at all or were simply particular idolatrous practices that were well-known at the time and subsequently forgotten.

Some specific practices that are generally agreed upon as forbidden include divination through the dead (necromancy), divination through a particular animal's bone placed under the tongue, anything that involves the worship of a false deity, or practices that "harm the world" - though this last one could be more of a statement about how the magic is used.

The Talmud mentions that summoning small animals is generally forbidden, but is permitted in order to fight off a threat. Also, King Saul inquired of a necromancer at one point despite it being explicitly forbidden, so there's apparently some room for flexibility in times of need.

Anyway, TL:DR - some types of magic are permitted, other types are forbidden. The Bible only forbids the forbidden types, and even the forbidden magic may be acceptable under extreme circumstances.


The problem is that the dogma is kinda... dogmatic!

As a result, everything this is not commonly observable and does not exists in the Bible or Evangiles is at least suspect. Witches are not common in our world and remember that Galilee had to refute his theorie of the earth turning around the sun not to be burned as heretic.

But nowadays, science has established that the earth is nothing more than a planet turning around its star (which is called sun) and it is no longer a problem.

In a world where magic would be common, using it decently (according what Catholic hierachy thinks) would not be a problem. Another example is weapon factory or usage. Bible does says Thou shalt not kill but soldiers and weapon smith are not condamned. But in the middle age, crossbow was banned by Catholic church because it could be used to too easily to kill knights, until regular armys use it commonly.

Another example is medecine. Catholic churched condemned dissection of corpses, until it became a common practice.

So if magic was rather common in a world, the Catholic church would have adapted to it.


There is some debate on the Old Testament translations from Hebrew into Latin and English around the topic of witches and wizards. The term poisoner is thought to be more accurate than the Witch or Wizard. Some people, in modern times, have used that fact as fodder for the arguments that the prohibitions on witchcraft were actually male chauvinism seeking to control the practice of midwifery.

But, in the context of when the Hebrew Bible was written, it is thought to have meant people that use witchcraft to harm another.

If this idea is acceptable, then your story's Catholic World might accept witchcraft if it was used for good purposes and not selfish purposes or injuring another person. There are still many prohibitions in the Bible against interacting with familiar spirits and demons, so the rest would be how does witchcraft work in your world.

  • $\begingroup$ There is no such thing as the "Hebrew Old Testament" (which you have spelled wrong). We Hebrews just call it The Bible but it's easier to say The Hebrew Bible in mixed groups. Christians refer to our Bible as The Old Testament (as paired with The New Testament, the books of Jesus that Jews do not use). So you can say "The Hebrew Bible" or "The Old Testament" (if you must) but don't combine the terms. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn, The term referred to the original language the Old Testament was written in just as the phrase Chinese Old Testament means an Old Testament written in Chinese. $\endgroup$
    – EDL
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for changing it. It was confusing. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 21:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "then your story's Catholic World might accept witchcraft if it was used for good purposes and not selfish purposes or injuring another person" that's already a thing IRL. You have people who use "good magic" that is for helping people and are doing that magic in accordance with the Bible. It's regional, so it's not everywhere but one name for such a person is a "pellar" (possible source is the term "repeller" as a sort of guardian) or otherwise more generically "white witch" and some variations of this. Nowadays that falls under "traditional witchcraft" and still has practitioners. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 4:00

Make Mary rather more than just the vessel who delivered Jesus into our world. Make her instead the greatest of the white witches.

Of course, the early church was misogynistic, and so this would be an extreme rift from out own world. Even so, stranger things have happened. Had the Plague of Justinian been defeated thanks to the efforts of some herbalists/witches who found out how it was transmitted (fleas) and managed to stop it (maybe an obscure African plant we know as Pyrethrum) ... in our lifetimes we had a very close shave with SARS, which was defeated by reducing its opportunities to infect new victims.

Add as much magic as you need.


We already have an example of Catholic-incorporated witchcraft that survives to the modern era: exorcists. The use of magic to combat magic is a time-honored tradition, pitting the power of your god against whatever the other person worships. It's like religious Pokemon, except Mew2 commits genocide to prove a point.

While today's exorcism has slowly adapted in reaction to increased understanding of mental illness, there are still rare instances where the Church decides that this is not an insane person and if the family agrees, an exorcist can be utilized in an attempt to drive out the foreign spirit.

What do we derive from this?

  1. That magic is okay to the Church if it comes from God, and not from you.
  2. That it is used towards the glorification of God, not you.
  3. That it solves a problem that would be very difficult to address any other way.

One major advantage that the church had as it persecuted the magic wielding witches was the fact that there wasn't any magic wielding. At least, none that was powerful enough to put a stop to the persecution.

Makes the inquisitors' job nice and cushy, don't it?

Now, if witchcraft was real and/or much more powerful, you'd have serious battles on your hands, where witches would sometimes kick the inquisitors' cushy behinds.

In a world of power witches, many people and society in general would have use for witchcraft skills and you might add to your story social structures like guilds and schools of witchcraft, or positions in other institutions (e.g. royal court witch), that would lend some political power to witches.

Under these circumstances the church would have a hard time labelling magic as "evil" and abuse magic users. It would be much more practical and profitable to have a truce at first, then make use of witches, then label useful magic as a holy gift from God.

You could have magic-nun-healers dispensing god's grace and healing to anyone willing to pay/pray. Bear in mind that it's the practical use of getting people to be faithful or give money to the church that is the key. A healer who won't serve in the name of the church or can't fight the church, is of no use and is therefore not holy. We can happily murder her.

Now you can go ahead and label the "other" magic users as evil (necromancy/destruction magic etc, but generally anyone who won't work with the church) and have a magic war where the church becomes the greatest supporter of witches due to a common enemy.


Here are a Few Turning Points That I Think Would Make a Difference

Simon Magus and Peter (approx 63 AD) Simon Magus was a Samarian (Northern Israel) magician who, around 63 AD converted publicly to Christianity and was baptized. He was criticized by Peter for trying to monetize his own conversion.

The addition of a mere few words to the account recorded by Luke in Acts, (8:20) "...it's not your sorcery, but because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money..." would have help give clarity to church fathers when thinking about the subject.

The Murder of Hypatia (415 AD)
Hypatia was a popular Egyptian professor and a dedicated atheist (neoplatonist). Because of her popularity, church leaders approached her socially and for advice. Because of this, Hypatia became deeply involved in a internal political struggle within the church between her friend and recent convert Orestes (who was also the Roman prefect, or governor of Egypt) and the "rightful" heir (people believed church leadership might be hereditary) Cyril. The entanglement got Hypatia murdered by a mob. Later historians would record her both as a witch and a saint.

If, instead, you had something like the O'Reily-Stwart Debates between Hypatia and someone, recorded by antiquarians. Both sides could walk away claiming victory. It might have made clearer for posterity contemporary atheist values (and distinguish them from "magic"), better define what witches or magic was, and maybe have saved Hypatia's life by convincing one of the two sides to back down.

King Phillip of France and the Betrayal of the Knights Templar (Friday October the 13th, 1307 AD) What do you do when you owe a stupendous amount of money to the only international bank in the world, and you need a loan? Why, of course, you arrest the bankers, seize the bank, and approve your own loan request! King Phillip set the precedent for the convenient finding of "witches"; government searches as a cover story for property confiscation. The way in which this was done would be mirrored so closely by the Spanish Inquisition (1478) that we tend to think of these two events as simultaneous.

The Pope (the seat of the church was in France at the time) was a puppet of the French king, so it might have been too much to hope the Pope had took a public stand on defaming, torturing, and murdering the church bank. Edward II had just become king, and was too weak to take a stand -- but maybe he could have. Maybe if cynical historians had done a more thorough job of popularizing the money grab for what it was, instead of allowing the charges of witchcraft to linger, nor set the precedent for Spain that this way of doing business got results.

The Spanish Inquisition (1478) Ferdinand and Isabella (the same pair of Columbus fame) were a pair of weak monarchs over an extremely divided Spain (7 kingdoms, 5 languages, and half-occupied by the Almohad Caliphate (empire) in the south). You know how we can unify all these people under our rule? We'll search out non-conformers and take their stuff! Worked for King Phillip, right? The Spanish Inquisition set our popular attitudes about magic and witches, despite it being largely a political land and property grab by too weak monarchs.

Again, bitter (and preserved) critique by historians would have helped keep attitudes in the present more level. Little known fact : Pope Sixtus tried to reign in the Inquisition from within. Maybe he could have publicly denounced them, instead. Or, maybe if the Pope had been really clever and suggested burning (instead of seizing) the belongings of witches, would have nipped the profiteering motive from Ferdinand and Isabella. Maybe Reformist attitudes could have matured early and denounced the action (Martin Luther would nail his theses to the wall in 49 years), with the protection of the German nation behind them.

Salem Witch Trials (1692 AD) By now steeped in a lot of paid-for press making witches bad. It's possible these would have happened anyway -- there's thought that something medical that drove the people temporarily insane.

Maybe without the imaginative groundwork laid by the Spanish and French Inquisitions this insanity would have manifested as dragons in the New World? Maybe fairies? Would have resulted in, perhaps, a new myth, instead of the shameful memory.


Just give "witchcraft" a different name. It is how authorities incorporate stuff that outwardly doesn't complies with their heavy-hand-enforced morals. Just like how "Socialism with Chinese characteristic" is more akin to state-controlled capitalism and not socialism. In the anime "A certain Magical Index", the Christian church, as well as other religious sects, deploy magical fighting forces to further its goals. They call their witchcraft "holy spells" and such.


Practically though, you would want to confine all witches into specialized monasteries and/or a distinct Christian order like Dominicanes or Jesuits.

Catholic church already has a huge predisposition towards displaying infernal beasts, skeletons, skulls and all such attributes of witchcraft in their own churches, which is not shared by other branches of Christianity, so in some sense it would be easier for them to integrate witches dogmatically.


Each idea, requires either adding soem flexibility on church's ideas, or stretching the definition, usage and limits of witchcraft. Maybe both.

Idea 1: "We live in darkness to serve the light."

Okay, very basically, witchcraft in medievel fantasy settigns can do some nasty stuff, depends on definition. But being usually associated with demonic powers, witchcraft is known to inflict misery.

But, power is power. There was a historical example I vaguely remember about a pope, claiming he had literal demons chained under the church's basement.

Think of something like that. An enslaved demon, and church is using that demon's powers with the help of many women who can channel that power. "They reminds us what the dark powers can do, they offer us a way to undertand and build counter-measures against it, and they offer us a wide arsenal of powers in our command. A... Necessary evil."

Idea 2: "Our curse is our blessing."

Maybe witchcraft is originated from a curse. Or takes a heavy toll. So, only a special group of women, who can handle the side effects, and specially trained, indoctrinated, are serving to the church as assistance in areas where non-magical methods won't work. But all actions of these women needs to be regulated. That is why "wild" or "rogue" witches, who perform witchcraft outside church's interference, are known as heretics and dangers. So they are executed on the spot. Some other women can also wield and learn witchcraft, but it is not systematic.

Idea 3: "Monster on leash"

Inquisitors aided with trained, perhaps tortured witches. Maybe they were broken by other means. Up to you. Church takes and raises whoever they can control, and kills those who they can't control. All for the sake of power, all because of the arrogance of the bishops and pope himself.

Idea 4: "These nuns are too good of a fighter/healer/scholar for a human!"

Witchcraft, is not exactly openly performed, but rather, a group of nuns who wields weapons and trained in martial arts or trained in healing etc are actually performing witchraft to further boost their abilities. But, they are a seperate organization under the church who plan on their idea of devotion by whatever means necessary. So, for others, they are just "Nuns who are exceptionally trained." And they become a nun to hide their methods under the church's protection.

Idea 5: "Weapons of my enemies."

Maybe women can "activate" artifacts made by witches, and they can use these "artifacts to full potential because females in this setting has a naturally higher magical or witchcraft talent. And it shows. So, these women can "use" witchcraft based tools and methods, but are not witches themselves. All these artifacts were actually creation of witches church took. And someone figured out that women can use these artifact. Creating a defence force who can actually benefit from the "weapons of church's enemies."

Idea 6: Desperation

Maybe the famine, plague, wars and many other disasters you could add, caused the church and people following them to be desperate. So, they captured young witche trained them, and added them to their ranks. It was not something church planned, or even wanted. But, desperate times brings desperate measures.

Idea 7: Puppet or battery

Maybe the "burnt" witches are not actually burned, but taken to a special place, placed under a... surgery... that deprived their senses, and allowed someone to wield them as staffs or sources of magic. Maybe these witches were turned into small containers that grants power of witchcraft to whoever female, touches it. Maybe church is using these "witches" as battery for magic and training lots of women just to use all the witches they captured and... turned. Check out the catridge of the bondrewd from made in abyss. Similar method.


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