This is a brief history of Witchcraft- and Wicca-related events - it is by no means all-encompassing, but it's a good general timeline.
~ B.C.E.: Before Current Era (B.C.) ~ ~ C.E. - Current Era (A.D.) ~
Before recorded history -
People honoured the spirit of every thing - plants, animals, winds, the Sun, the Moon, etc.
c. 350 B.C.E. -
Shamans and Druids are active.
c. 120 C.E. -
c. 371 C.E. -
The Roman Empire adopts Christianity as the official state religion. Roman officers spread this new state religion (or their interpretation of it) everywhere they go - this usually means killing priests of different religions, including the aforementioned Druids.
590-604 C.E. -
Pope Gregory I 'Christianises' Europe - he has 10 000 people baptised in England alone. He has churches built on the sites of pagan temples, but instead of worshipping the new God, locals develop a hybrid religion - outwardly Christian, inwardly pagan. The names of many of the churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary include "Our Lady", and old name for the Goddess.
1227 C.E. -
Pope Gregory IX establishes the Inquisitional Courts to arrest, try, convict and execute heretics.
1258 C.E. -
Pope Alexander IV instructs the Inquisition to confine their investigations to cases of heresy. They were not to investigate charges of divination or sorcery unless heresy was also involved.
1300s C.E. -
Stregheria is first known at about this time.
1326 C.E. -
The Church authorises the Inquisition to investigate Witchcraft and to develop 'demonology' - the theory of the Satanic origin of Witchcraft.
1330 C. E. -
The popular concept of Witches as evil sorcerers is expanded to include the belief they swore allegiance to and had sexual relations with Satan, kidnapped and ate children, etc.
1430s C.E. -
Christian theologians start to write articles and books which 'prove' the existence of Witches.
1450 C.E. -
'The Burning Times' begin. The phrase is first used by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s to describe the European Witch hunts of 1450-1750.
Johann Gutenberg invents moveable type (about 400 years after the Chinese did),
which makes mass printing possible - this enables the widespread distribution of
papal bulls and books on Witch hunting, and marks the beginning of Church
censorship of 'heretical' literature.
1484 C.E. -
December 5. Pope Innocent VIII issues a papal bull, Summis desiderantes affectibus (read it here), condemning Witchcraft and heresy. Due to the recent advent of the moveable type printing press, this was the first widely circulated papal bull. The bull insisted everyone help the Pope's inquisitors in the identification of Witches and led to the first hysterical Witch hunts in Europe and North America.
1486 C.E. -
The inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger publish the Malleus Malleficarum (the "Witches' Hammer"), a guide for Witch hunting using Summis desiderantes as the introduction. It contains three parts - the danger of Witches; the types of Witches and counters against their 'evil doings'; and the process of trying and convicting a Witch - and is credited with starting the Witchcraft hysteria in Europe.
1550-1650 C.E. -
The majority of the people killed in 'The Burning Times' die.
1563 C.E. -
Johann Weyer publishes a book critical of the Witch trials. Called De Praestigiis Daemonum et Incantationibus ac Venifiis ("On the Illusions of the Demons and on Spells and Poisons"), it argued that Witches did not really exist but that Satan promoted the belief that they did. He rejected confessions obtained through torture as worthless and recommended medical treatment instead of torture and execution. He only escaped being burned at the stake by publishing the book anonymously.
1603-1606 C.E. -
William Shakespeare writes his tragedy Macbeth, in which he was said to have used the incantations of real Witches. The story goes that these Witches cursed the play, giving rise to the 'bad luck' and mysterious accidents that befell various members of cast and crew over time (and thus the many superstitions that now surround 'The Scottish Play'). The three Witches portrayed in the play are now three of the most famous Witches in fiction (read the most famous of the Witches' scenes here).
1604 C.E. -
King James I passes the 'Witchcraft Act'. Under this Act, the punishment for practicing Witchcraft increased from one year in jail to hanging and any act of consorting with the Devil was made punishable by death. The English Witch trials from 1612-1649 and the Salem Witch Trials were all prosecuted under this Act, before it was repealed in 1763. Incidentally, James I is also said to have changed the Bible - where it once allegedly read "Thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live", it now says "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live".
1684 C.E. -
The last English Witch execution.
1692 C.E. -
The Salem Witch Trials begin - at least 24 people die (read about them here).
1745 C.E. -
France stops the execution of Witches.
1775 C.E. -
Germany stops the execution of Witches.
1782 C.E. -
Switzerland stops the execution of Witches.
1792 C.E. -
Poland executes the last person in Europe to be tried and convicted of Witchcraft (isolated extra-legal lynching of Witches continued in Europe and North America into the 20th century).
1921 C.E. -
Dianic Wicca is first identified.
1830s C.E. -
The Church stops the execution of Witches in South America.
1940s C.E. -
Gerald Gardner begins the Gardnerian tradition (we think).
1951 C.E. -
English Parliament repeals all laws pertaining to Witchcraft.
1953 C.E. -
Arthur Miller's The Crucible is a hit on Broadway.
1954 C.E. -
Gerald Gardner publishes Witchcraft Today, describing the existence of the Craft in the 20th century.
1960s C.E. -
Alexander and Maxine Sanders start the Alexandrian tradition.
1973 C.E. -
Raymond Buckland founds the Seax-Wica tradition.
1979 C.E. -
Margot Adler publishes Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today.
Starhawk publishes The Spiral Dance.
1986 C.E. -
Wicca is determined to be a bona-fide religion in the U.S.A. and given First Amendment protection.