This weekend I finally got round to doing a bit more research on the history of witchcraft. I say 'finally' because I got the books out of the library in around July and have been continually renewing them ever since. I kind of feel bad about it but the library really shouldn't have made it so easy for me to do so, all online and far too convenient.
I've found it a little trickier than I'd imagined, this research. Because in many ways I'm essentially a Victorian, I prefer researching from books but unfortunately my local library didn't have the biggest selection. There were basically two books on the subject, both only vaguely relevant.
The problem is, really, that I'm not looking for witchcraft history in terms of how witches were perceived and persecuted (the witch-hunts etc) but rather their beliefs and traditions. I've not really found a great deal on this, I assume because they wouldn't exactly have written it down and made it freely accessible to the outside world, what with all the death and everything. I could be wrong, of course, and would be very happy if this were the case. If there is a source I'm missing I'd love to know what it is.
The books I have are both very different from each other. One documents a very basic history of witchcraft and how it operates today. This book does document beliefs, ceremony and tradition etc, but much of it is 'New Age' and thus apparently originated in the 1970s. The second book is a heavy-duty academic study about Anglo-Saxon traditions, but deals little with the actual beliefs and more about the status of 'magic' and its users in society.
I'm not really looking for an absolute definitive guide to historical witchcraft practices because I intend to manipulate it anyway, creating a Chinese-whisper-like history for my own world. But at the moment I feel like I'm working off very little. I need something to base my manipulations on.
Maybe I'll just have to let my imagination loose to run free as it likes. Now there's a scary thought.