Where does the modern word 'Witch' come from?

The word 'witch' dates back to Old English where the noun forms were wicca (masc.) and wicce (fem.), from the Old English verb wiccian ('to practise witchcraft', 'to put a spell upon (a person)') and from a Proto-Germanic predecessor thereof. The American Heritage Dictionary suggests connection to the Proto-Indo-European root *weg- ('to be lively', 'to be wakeful or alert'), and offers the Proto-Germanic reconstruction *wikkjaz ('one who wakes the dead') as a probable ancestor. A contemporary cognate may be found in the Low German wicker ('soothsayer'). In Old English, wicca and wicce may have had a specific sense now lost to modern scholars but suggested by the presence of synonyms, such as gealdricge and scinlæce.

The Middle English word wicche did not differentiate between masculine and feminine, however the masculine meaning became less common in Standard English, being replaced by words like 'wizard' and 'warlock'. The modern spelling witch with the medial 't' first appears in the 15th century. In current colloquial English "witch" is almost exclusively applied to women, although some Wiccans and other Neopagans apply it equally to men and women.

The Old English plural form for both the masculine and feminine nouns was wiccan (= "witches") and wiccecræft was "witchcraft". The earliest recorded use of the word is in the Laws of Ælfred which date to circa 890:[3][4][5]

Tha faemnan, the gewuniath onfon gealdorcraeftigan and scinlaecan and wiccan, ne laet thu tha libban.
Women who are accustomed to receiving enchanters and sorceresses and witches, do not let them live!

This is merely echoing the Old Testament verse Exodus 22:18. In the homilies of the Old English grammarian Ælfric, dating to the late 10th century we find:

Ne sceal se cristena befrinan tha fulan wiccan be his gesundfulnysse.
A Christian should not consult foul witches concerning his prosperity.

In both these examples wiccan is the plural noun, not an adjective. The adjective fulan (foul) can mean "physically unclean" as well as "morally or spiritually unclean" or "wicked".

In Old English glossaries the words wicce and wicca are used to gloss such Latin terms as hariolus, conjector, and pythonyssa, all of which mean 'diviner', 'soothsayer', which suggests a possible role of fortune-teller for the witch in Anglo-Saxon times. However, since bilingual glossaries provide only crude correspondences between similar words in different languages, these glossarial connections are uncertain.[citation needed] Anglo-Saxon Britain was progressively converted to Christianity from the 5th century onwards, but the bulk of the surviving Old English texts date only from the 10th to 12th centuries. Furthermore, the surviving corpus of texts for the most part represent the language of the literary and learned Anglo-Saxons, principally religious or court men. Of the vernacular tongue used by the peasantry, villagers, and presumably practitioners of "wiccecræft", virtually nothing survives. Therefore, it can be assumed that any mention of witches or witchcraft in Old English texts will basically reflect the views of the medieval Christian church.[citation needed]

The word wicca is associated with animistic healing rites in Halitgar's Latin Penitential where it is stated that

Some men are so blind that they bring their offering to earth-fast stone and also to trees and to wellsprings, as the witches teach, and are unwilling to understand how stupidly they do or how that dead stone or that dumb tree might help them or give forth health when they themselves are never able to stir from their place.

The phrase swa wiccan tæcaþ ("as the witches teach") seems to be an addition to Halitgar's original, added by an eleventh-century Old-English translator

One of the most popular and effective forms of witchcraft today is Wicca. It uses a number of materials and rituals taken from books of magickal lore (Grimmoires). This site has further information regarding these issues. We also provide links to KNOWN professional services and suppliers to fulfill all your needs.