Fascinated by Witches? Follow These Trails to the Real Witches!

22nd Jun 2019
Photo of Fascinated by Witches? Follow These Trails to the Real Witches! by Shalbha Sarda

Do witches exist? Whatever your views are, back in the 17th-century, witches were feared immensely. Whether they exist or not, what we do know is the history of witchcraft is well-storied and tales of their magic ways have existed from pre-Christian times to the present day.

While some people think of witches as those green-skinned, wart-nosed, and pointy-hatted women you only spot around Halloween, there are plenty more modern-day witches who are casting away the stereotypes in favour of a more hippy (and spiritual) persona. Inspired by the belief in magic and witchcraft, we've rounded up the best places where you might feel part of the sisterhood.

Close to the French border, Triora, in Italy, is known as "The Salem of Europe." It is a sleepy little ancient hill town in the region of Liguria. While much of the architecture in Triora dates back to the 12th century, its period of great fame was during the 16th century when a number of witch trials were conducted by the inquisition. The modern town of Triora still revels in its morbid history and the decedents of the original witches can still be seen in the town. There are plenty of places today where the history of Triora’s witch hunt survives. History and mystery buffs may like to take a look at them.

The Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum contains artefacts from the trials, as well as reconstructions of the tortures and interrogations. Beyond the predictable museum, however, you'll find signs of witchy workings all over town. Similar to Salem, Triora has capitalised on its ties with witchcraft, and plenty of black cats, old women on broomsticks, moon, and stars can be seen on shop signs and porches. Triora also holds a series of folklore and horror-themed events and festivals. It has three annual festivals: a summer witchcraft festival, in August; and two autumn celebrations: the Mushroom Festival in September; and Halloween, at the end of October.

Known for its witch trials, revolutionary history and architectural significance this quirky, Massachusetts village in the United States is a cackling hotbed for Harry Potter fans. The town is still riding on the witchy wave and it promotes the “witch tourism” quite keenly. The town is called the witch city for nothing so while the witches are having a moment you can visit plenty of attractions related to them in the fun and fantastical city.

Visit the Salem Witch Museum for interesting exhibits that take on an interactive twist allowing visitors to really step back in time and experience the trials. Make your way to the House of Seven Gables, not only for a seriously witchy Instagram shot but also for a fantastic historical home tour. Get yourself a fortune reader at Salem’s oldest witch shop, Crow Haven Corner. If you’re looking to get a little spookier, take a "Bewitched After Dark" tour to learn all the secrets of Salem on foot at night.

The Salem Witch Village was the erstwhile epicentre for the witch trials. It is now an important historic district in the city to enjoy some Halloween-esque fun and to experience the haunted buildings.

The country is known as the “home of the Dracula”. Romania has recently started promoting paranormal, horror and entertainment tourism. Apart from the Dracula the witches also live in the suburbs of the Romanian capital, Bucharest. They have a very active witch culture, and their trade has been passed down from generation to generation. It seems the witches are here to stay.

They are, in fact, thriving in Romania as fortune tellers and some make such good money at what they do that their government began taxing them as legal workers. Whatever you decide to call them, they make use of all the witchy tools you're probably thinking of, from spells and potions to crystal balls and incantations (no broomsticks, though!).

Explore Bucharest's unique churches and temples that discusses the city's different religions and their role in politics, economics, and people's daily lives. Stir up some courage and marvel at the haunting decor of the Bran's castle in Transylvania which is commonly known outside Romania as Dracula's Castle. Play the "Haunted City Exploration Game" in the real world by using a mobile app. As you move around the haunted parts of the city, solving clues unlocking the stories, through the app you'll pass by the House of the Devil, find out about the organ traffickers, and discover many other strange places and stories of the city.

Take a tour to Boldu-Creteasca Forest near Bucharest where magic rituals keep the mysterious Witches’ Pond alive. This locale is a small place filled with sorcery. Witches perform their rituals there each year during the Saznienele celebration in June. Moreover, the place never dries, never expands and neither rain nor drought affects its shape in any way. Even the animals dislike this place, as they never drink water from it. Take a six hour journey from Bucharest to Hoia Bacui forest. Notorious for the reputation of the world’s most haunted forest has intense paranormal activities such as ghost sightings, unexplained apparitions, faces appearing in photographs and people reporting intense feelings of anxiety and the feeling of being constantly watched.

Enveloped on one side by South Africa and by Mozambique on the other Swaziland is a tiny landlocked country. It’s a country rarely spoken of as a tourist destination in the western world. But if you're on a witch's trail, Swaziland is a place where witchcraft is taken seriously and people do believe in the power of black magic. Not only do they have seemingly bizarre culture and traditions but the country’s laws are equally bizarre.

Their law launches a crackdown on high-flying witches after banning them from hovering above 150 metres. Strange, isn't it? While no penalties exist for witches flying below 150 m but any flying object exceeding that limit faces arrest and a hefty R500,000 fine. It is hard to imagine how serious the law is, but witchcraft isn't a joking matter in Swaziland for sure!

If you want to meet a real witch doctor visit the Mantenga Cultural Village where you will get the chance to meet a Sangoma (witch doctor) learn about their life and about country's history and tradition. There are a lot of other things to see besides chasing witches in Swaziland such as the national museum and park with game safaris. The parks here are home to four of the Big Five animals - elephant, lion, rhino, and leopard.

In northwest England, with green arable farms and pastures near the coast, and the wild and romantic moors and fells of the West Pennine Moors and Forest of Bowland, Lancashire is where you break free from the conurbations into the beautiful countryside. This place is a tourist’s paradise. But Lancashire also draws much mystery driven, spook seeking tourist in large numbers.

In the shadow of Pendle Hills lie pretty villages, which tell a story of intrigue and witchcraft nearly 400 years old. Many books and stories have been written about the Pendle Witches. You can retrace their steps through the witch walks and driving trails by foot or by car. Self-guided walking routes generally begin in a quaint village called Barley. Just follow the wooden markers engraved with a witch on a broomstick.

The walk takes you through historical sites associated with the witches and places of natural beauty, perfect for the summer months. To delve a little deep take the driving trail. It starts at the Pendle Heritage Centre in the village of Barrowford. Passing through cute and interesting villages, crossing Pendle Hill and the Forest of Bowland, and finishing at the imposing Lancaster Castle.

Straddling the former border between East and West Germany the mountain of Brocken lies within Harz National Park and is steeped in tales of witchcraft, magic, and apparitions. The "Mountain of the Germans", as the summit is often referred to was once a restricted zone between the east and west Germany. While wandering through these mountains, it's impossible not to realise that you have entered a domain of enchantment, a place where landscape conspires with legends to create spookiness.

This is a terrain of craggy peaks, gloomy forests, and river valleys banked by the towering cliff. Its position and altitude in northern Germany ensure at times harsh winds and cold temperatures, comparable to the mountains of Iceland evoking an utmost sense of other-worldliness that has inspired many fairy tales of our childhood and manifested as the greatest works of German literature.

It is not possible to drive to the summit by car. You can take a ride up with coachmen who offer carriage rides to the summit from the town of Schierke. Another way is to take the Brocken steam train, which is part of the Harz Narrow Gauge Railway to the summit. Alternatively, you can hike in the Torfhaus to the Brocken and follow the path that Goethe took.

On the Brocken trail, you can see witch altars and devil's pulpit. The two granite cliffs on the Brocken summit is the meeting point for witches and the devil on Walpurgis night celebrated on 30th April.

The quintessential "fairy tale" town of Schierke is dotted with half-timbered houses and Gothic turrets. The village attracts around six thousand Walpurgisnacht revellers. During this time Even hotel brochures display a logo depicting a crone riding a broomstick. In the days leading up to Walpurgisnacht, shops trade in witch puppets riding straw broomsticks. Postcards, beer steins, and wooden carvings glorify the season of the witch. Little old ladies in the area don pointy black hats, tarot cards, and devilish horns that glow in the dark.

Even The local steam train becomes a witch express, chugging down from the Brockenberg's summit to Wernigerode during that time. The day in the town begins with a parade of kindergarteners dressed as witches and pitchfork-wielding devils. Festooned with witch puppets while the real witches ride on broomsticks at night to the places of old pagan sacrifices in these mountains.

So leave the movie screen, grab your broomstick, paint your nails green, don your witch's hat and before you can say the words ‘hocus pocus,’ you could find yourself robed in black and visiting one of these mystical settings sooner than you think!

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