Witchcraft In Old English this word was ‘wiccecræft’. ‘Wicce, being the feminine origin of ‘Witch’ and cræft, which means ‘power or skill’. Basically then, Witchcraft, is a Woman’s practice of magic. For example, In the Laws of Ælfred (c.890), witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman’s craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the Saxons. In English law, Witchcraft was first declared a crime, in 1542; trials there peaked in 1580s and 1640s but fell sharply after 1660. The last, in 1717, ended in acquittal. The Witchcraft Act was repealed 1736.
Around the time of Gardner’s first works, Witchcraft went from being a word for a woman’s practice of Magic, to encompassing both sexes, and being a word that is simply, the practice of magic. Many people today, who’s beliefs and practices of a magical nature are eclectic will refer to themselves as a ‘Witch’.