Early Magical Communities: Europe
The first known culture to have practiced a modicum of magic in Europe was known as the Bell-Beaker culture, which occupied both the European Stone and Bronze ages, ending around 1900 B.C.E. Best known today as a simple people who made their mark on history through a curious pottery style, not much is recorded about their origin. During this time, the most beneficial contribution to society that can be contributed to Wizardkind is the idea of symbols becoming text. Young witches and wizards practiced drawing the shapes that wands make during particular spells. When questioned, they introduced the idea of using symbols to convey words. For a while their advice was brushed off as quirky nonsense, but the idea eventually took hold.
Several unexplained phenomena occurred during Bell-Beaker times which baffle Muggles to this day, but these can be illuminated by lesser-known wizarding folklore. The most notable of these phenomena, perhaps, is Stonehenge in England, known by Muggles as one of the “Seven Ancient Wonders of The World.” They have proposed several theories as to how the landmark came to be, but the theory that occasionally touches the truth lies in a legend about Stonehenge’s heel stone, known as “The Friar’s Heel.”
Muggle Frank Stevens, curator of the Salisbury Museum, records the legend of the Friar’s Heel in his book Stonehenge—To-day & Yesterday. It is in sum this:
In his wanderings, the Devil, the villain of many Muggle myths of the time, had seen some huge stones in the back garden of an old Irish woman, and he thought to move these stones from her garden to the stoneless Salisbury Plain so as to sew confusion in men’s minds for all time. Before he could begin his mischief, he needed to obtain the woman’s permission, but she met his petitions with refusal until finally he played upon her greed and, knowing that the old woman’s mathematical skills were poor, agreed that she could have all the money that she could count in the time that it took him to remove the stones from her garden. He handed her a pitiable sum in coins and set to work. The poor woman had had time to add barely two coins together before the Devil had prised the stones from the ground, tied them neatly together, and slung them across his back.
Having obtained the stones, the Devil flew away to the Salisbury Plain, but the stones were so heavy that the willow strap cut into his shoulder. The Devil bore the pain as long he could, but finally had to shift his bundle. One stone fell from the pack and lies at the bottom of the River Avon. This stone near Bulford, England is offer as supposed verification of the tale’s truth.
Arriving at the Plain, the Devil deposited his heavy burden and set to work arranging the massive stones. Revelling in his mischief, the Devil boasted aloud that he would puzzle men for all time with this project.
His cry was overheard by a passing friar (a Muggle of the Christian faith who lives according to certain rules), who replied and was unfortunately heard in turn by the Devil. The Devil, enraged by the discovery of his mischief, hurled a stone at the friar as the man fled from the Devil. The stone struck the friar’s heel, but the friar was unhurt while the stone still bears the imprint of the friar’s heel.
Just then, the sun rose and the Devil, who cannot abide sunlight, had to stop, and the stone remained where it had fallen.
While this story shares the same outcome and a similar theme as the true story, the main character was a wizard, not the Devil, and is the ‘good’ character, while the old woman is the ‘bad.’ Gerbert DeBolbec, a well-off wizard who lived near the Salisbury Plain with his wife Josselyn, practiced magic quite subtly, but strengthened his skills by affecting nature rather than typical inanimate objects. His lands were inordinately prosperous but not so much as to arouse alarm in surrounding townspeople. One neighbour, a hag by the name of Cedany, resented his fortune. As a hag, she was only able to produce rudimentary magic, but she often reached beyond her means with unpredictable results. Josselyn, in an attempt to improve relations between their households, came to Cedany with an offer to extend magical protections to her land. In a fit of jealous rage, Cedany insisted that she was powerful enough to protect herself, and in her effort to prove herself she turned the contents of her grounds—trees, bushes, and Josselyn—into stone. Realizing her mistake—and knowing that Gerbert would be unforgiving—she fled. When Gerbert deduced the whereabouts of his wife, he destroyed Cedany’s house, and, grief-stricken and unable to tell which one was his wife, loaded the large stones into a pack that he enchanted with an Undetectable Extension Charm and went in search of the hag. The bag had a loose seam, and one of the rocks—incidentally, the one that was formerly Gerbert’s wife—fell out to land in the River Avon. He realized much later that one of the stones was missing. Helplessly, he wept bitter tears, which soon turned to mindless tears of fury. Upon finding the hag, he cast the most powerful spell that had been attempted in history thus far, entrapping Cedany in an enchanted circle of the stones. He then continued hurling stones in an attempt to squash his enemy. The stone that dealt her death blow ricocheted to land farther away as the heel stone, carrying with it the imprint of her body later known as the Friar’s Heel. When the magnitude of the magical energy that he had spent caught up to him, the broken wizard died of exhaustion.
(Legends like that of the Friar’s Heel were created when Muggles could find no other explanation. Unlike other areas whose religions embraced magic, prevailing European churches of the Common Era, from which their legend of the Friar’s Heel comes, shunned magic as an explanation, preferring instead a clerical “because I said so” mindset. Scientific explanations were unacceptable as well, and many of that era’s most groundbreaking scientists were incorrectly labelled as sorcerers.)
Christianity began its rapid spread across Europe early in the Common Era (C.E.). Most of the technological advances of the time were made by Muggles, as wizards and witches lived too far from one another and were too and were too fearful of religious fallout to draw too much attention to themselves. This explains why technology moved so slowly.
Pagans and occultists made up most of those who practiced magic in Christian Europe, and they were a spurned minority. There were also rare instances of shamanism, but the influence of Abrahamic religions and their conflict with the supernatural kept most witches and wizards in hiding. Many Roman and Egyptian laws of the time reflected this belief.
This lack of tolerance, more than anything, contributed to the eventual detachment of wizarding and Muggle societies. The dangers of revealing oneself were so great that they eventually led to the International Statute of Secrecy.
Early Magical Advances
Separate from the prying eyes of Muggles, magical theory and skills were being advanced at a glacial pace. Some of the most impacting developments were made in wandlore. Without the creation of the written word, most prehistoric findings on wandlore have been lost. What we have today are legends and rumours that have been built upon to create the theories of modern society.
Because wandlore is such an inexact and involved science, the Ollivanders are worth mention in prehistoric wizardry. Wandlore is passed down from master to apprentice, and it is often a family business. Geraint Ollivander was one of the most skilled wandmakers in history, and he, along with his ancestors and descendants alike, created a lucrative wandmaking business that is considered the best of all time, with the possible exception of Gregorovitch’s wand shop in more modern times.
The adoption of international businesses such as wandmaking and the increasing ease of travel with the rise in Muggle trading during the Common Era began to unite witches and wizards from all ends of the globe. A cesspool of knowledge resulted in rapidly evolving magical theory, which was readily available. Before these times, magical knowledge was sectionalized by geography, and hard to build upon. Naturally, the evolution of magic would require some necessary changes to wizarding lifestyles, beginning with education.
The need for wizarding schools became apparent as society changed. Schools would make it possible for young witches and wizards to accumulate more knowledge in one year than could ever be taught by parents who knew only what their parents had shown them.