Unlike many other creatures of the night, witches are legitimate. Throughout history there have been many known witches, and there is still a religion practiced today that is based on a religious form of witchcraft. Are these witches the same ones we see in black capes and sporting warts? That depends on the style of the witch in question and any unfortunately blemishes she (or he!) may have.
The traditional followers of Wicca are members of a secretive society dedicated to following customs and beliefs of ancient witchcraft. There are many more individuals who follow different variations of Wicca, but the original religion became popular in the 1950s in England, and nobody is certain of its origins as it is so secretive.
Followers of Wicca generally refer to themselves as witches and may use a set of worship tools including brooms, candles and cauldrons. As there is no central theology or belief in the religion, members from different areas or groups may all feel differently about certain aspects or practice their religion differently. Regardless, the majority of Wicca followers are in fact witches.
Some of the most famous witches in all of the United States at least were not really witches at all. In a town in Massachusetts, there was a huge witchcraft uproar in the late 1600s. Over one hundred people were accused of witchcraft in Salem and surrounding areas and more than twenty individuals were killed in the matter of months Ė all because of a few false witchcraft claims.
Salem, Massachusetts was a town founded by Puritans from England. These individuals had very strict religious beliefs and the town itself was very harsh in judgment of those who broke the rules of the community. This is not unlike countless cities all over the world.
A group of girls in the village began to act strangely and then began accusing other villages of practicing witchcraft. Unfortunately, one of the accused, a slave from Barbados, admitted to witchcraft after denying it countless times and sealed her own faith and that of many others. Villagers spanning from a four-year-old little girl to an eighty-year-old man were accused of witchcraft by this group of girls, and the village, unfortunately, believed them.
Nineteen alleged witches were hung, and others imprisoned for months on end without a trial. The unfortunate little girl who was accused was even imprisoned, and later went insane. The older man was pressed to death using heavy stones for refusing to participate in a trial for witchcraft. Over twenty people (and two dogs) had died or been executed before the hysteria stopped, and since that time it's become very clear how ridiculous and sad the entire episode was.
The saddest part is that false trials and executions such as these did not only happen three hundred years ago in small towns in America. They happened all over the world throughout all times, including today. We would hope that most individuals know now that those who call themselves witches are not any more evil than the rest of us, but countless people have died over the years for simply having someone else accuse them of practicing the Devil's work. The irony, of course, is that Wicca and other religions that might call members witches are much closer to other natural religions that they would ever be to Satanism, which is the true worship of the Devil.