Witches and the Craft
There have always been “witches”, since even before the first temple was hewn out of the Earth. Since the first child ran to mother with a hurt to be healed or a fear to be dispelled, or a youth has pleaded with a popular uncle or aunt to share their secret of their success with the opposite sex. Over multiple generations advice becomes lore, experimenting becomes skill becomes ritual, recipes and remedies become spells and potions.
This ‘craft’ had power, yes – but purely natural and mundane. Sometimes stating one’s desire for something out loud starts one on the path to obtain it; sometimes believing your healer has access to powers greater than your own makes you heal faster; sometimes cursing an enemy affects them even without external influence; sometimes any prophecy or guidance is sufficient, even if it’s not correct.
The Craft survived and co-existed with organised religion – there are always some matters one would rather keep from one’s priest, and solutions more likely to be received at a more ‘local’ level than seeking to interrupt the God’s Games. However that’s not to say the two institutions have co-existed peacefully, wielders of the Craft have often come under persecution from clerics unwilling to share even a bit of their power over the flock. For that reason witches have historically operated subtly from the shadows.
A few generations ago, during the Underdark war, the ancient rituals and techniques of the Craft started to take on actual arcane power, surprising even those using the methods. Soon new powers were discovered, far more powerful and varied than those going before.
Students of the Craft can follow any faith, but popular are Ioun (the Goddess of Knowledge, Skill and Prophecy), Sehaine (Goddess of Illusion, Love and the Moon) for those specialising in those areas, and of course Corellon (God of Beauty, Art, Magic and the Fey). Not all arcane magic users are students of The Craft of course – without access to a hereditary teacher use of the new arcane power has had to have been (re)discovered independently of the ancient way. However it might be fair to say both the new “Arcane Magic” and “Science” have their basis in the ancient techniques and approaches of the Craft.