Since humankind has been able to think, people have always been looking for ways to influence events in their favor, including manipulation of the supernatural.
While our world may seem quite safe and secure in many ways, the world the cavemen inhabited must have seemed very hostile at times.
The climate itself was challenging, and Paleolithic man also faced predation by dire wolves, saber tooth cats and giant hyenas, among other animals. If the neighboring clan or tribe was unfriendly, raids and sneak attacks might occur, and there was always the threat of starvation, illness or injury.
Among the Earliest of Beliefs
Traces of what might be considered the beginnings of the “Black Arts” can be found in cave art from 25,000 to 40,000 years ago. Hunting and fertility were not activities that could be taken lightly—life and death situations were something our ancestors faced on a regular basis. Ancient drawings show that the Horned God, often referred to now as Cernunnos, and various Goddess avatars were often appealed to for assistance.
Prehistoric man also invested nearly every part of the natural world around him with some sort of divinity. Springs, rocks, trees, mountains and the sky all possessed spirits that would need to be appeased at some time or other.
One way of drawing favorable attention would be by using spells and supplications—the earliest form of witchcraft—and these oral incantations would be handed down over generations.
To aid in the efficacy of a spell, Paleolithic people would use natural ingredients from the world around them, too. Animal parts, special stones and plants would be included in rituals.
In fact, it was probably such practices that helped lead to a greater knowledge of the use of herbs for healing. A good deal of witchcraft, or “Wicca,” has always been involved with healing and is often referred to as “white magic.”
What about the Black Arts?
Apart from spells used to heal or for the successful outcome of a hunt, there would naturally be spells used for harm as well; it’s simply human nature.
Curses were probably the most frequent type of spell used against an enemy. In many cases, it probably had to do with competition for a mate. It’s easy to imagine a woman cursing another female who was making moves on her man.
Tribal or clan conflicts often called for the services of a supernatural intermediary, not only to ensure that their group came out on top in a fight, but that the other one would be totally destroyed.
Such powerful magic required extreme measures. The practice of offering a blood sacrifice developed as one of the oldest ways in which humans attempted to appease gods or use spiritual powers to influence the outcome of events.
Oddly enough, black magic, its spells and incantations, was likely one of the earliest stepping stones to religion, the practice of animism, even if loosely organized. Belief is a strong force for good or evil—something our Stone Age ancestors knew quite well.
Since you’re here …
… we’ve got a small favour to ask. More people are reading CAVEMENWORLD than ever, but few are paying for it. Advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike some othe organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our articles open to all. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. CAVEMENWORLD’s independent, investigative journalism and graphics take a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.
If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure.