The Witching Hour

The Witching Hour

The phrase, ‘the witching hour’ refers to the darkest time of night, when supernatural beings, especially witches, were most powerful. Sometimes referred to as the ‘devil’s hour,’ the phrase was popularized in 1835, but not by witches. It was, like so many other ways, another tool used by the church to exert control over their congregations. Throughout time, fear was used frequently, to keep steer the population into obeying church doctrine and following their code of morality. With brothels, taverns, gambling dens, and other unsavory places plying their trade in the wee hours of the morning, the church likely saw this as a useful tool to keep people at home during the deepest part of the night. Despite it being used as a tool by the church, the actual origins of the term are unknown. It did, however, withstand the test of time, and is still in limited use today.

Throughout history, supernatural beings were the source of fear among the common folks. This dates back to ancient times, and across the world. Faeries, djinn, demons, ghosts, goblins, vampires and werewolves all have legendary status as dangerous creatures, which would steal souls, energy, or take life, under the most violent and horrible methods. They would come into the world of the living when the veil was thin during the late hours and wreak havoc on the land of the living. Yet of all the creatures the common people feared, witches were feared the most.

Demons, ghosts, and other supernatural entities were rare, but when present, easy to recognize. Plus, they were only here for a few hours each night. Witches, on the other hand, could literally hide in plain sight since they had no distinct recognizable feature, such as leathery wings, or a wispy see-through form. Anyone could be a witch, an old woman, a young girl, even a man, and they had no boundaries. The church saw them as their biggest threat, and made great and terrible investments at destroying them.

In the ancient folklore, the witching hour was often longer than one hour. Depending on your beliefs, it could be from midnight to 3:00 AM, 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM, 2:00 AM to 4:00 AM, or the entire period of midnight to 4:00 AM. There are historical church records that list most reported occurrences of supernatural activity happen between midnight and four AM, with the hour between 3:00 and 4:00 the peak. Interestingly enough, violent crime was also the highest in that four hour time period. Perhaps the reports were whitewashed to add a supernatural layer, as a way to limit the movement of people at night. In some areas, the church outright forbade women to be outdoors between 3:00 and 4:00 AM. Anyone who failed to follow the rule was immediately viewed as suspicious, sometimes with dire consequences and horrendous accusations.

witching hour

The Witching Hour in Modern Times

Witches of old, did practice their craft at night, but mostly for practical reasons. Persecution by the church forced it. During the wee hours, very few people would be moving around. That meant fewer prying eyes and less a chance of getting caught. Modern-day witches and practitioners of magick of all types, still work mostly at night. The midnight hour is very significant to many, but more symbolically. Certain auspicious nights are better than others for spellwork and magickal workings. Some examples of these would be full or new moons, solstices, equinoxes, or other visible lunar events. Lunar energy has always been a consideration as it adds powerful energy to spells and magickal tools.

To this day, the belief continues. The veil separating the land of the living and the land of the dead, grows thinner at certain times of the night and completely transparent on Samhain and Beltane. Some believe that the during the witching hour, it is easier to make connections with faeries, or to summon darker creatures like demons, but that’s a story all of it’s own. Those who seek to commune with the spirits of their ancestors find the witching hour period as optimal. It’s not because of an old belief, but because it’s the time when most of the world is at rest. There is little noise or activity, which creates a period of serenity that allows for uninterrupted communication.


Witches have been misunderstood, feared, and persecuted for thousands of years. Even today, in this so-called modernized world, the fear continues, even outside of religious groups. Yet, many still believe witches are in league with the devil or some other demonic form. In reality, most witches have no connection to any religion. They don’t worship a demonic force, kill babies, or steal the souls of children. Most are knowledgeable of the ways of the earth, understand the plants and the trees, and have an energetic connection with the natural world around them. They trust in their own abilities and rely on no other. Having a strong self-confidence and making the choice to walk their own path, or simply to be different has kept most people at bay, at least for now.

Additional Reading

Planting a Witch’s Garden

Witches Bottles – Protection Against Witchcraft and Conjure


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