Before Christianity, there were Witches. After Witches came the Arcane Sisterhood. After the Arcane Sisterhood, there were no Witches...until the Sisterhood reformed once again with the intent of destroying man's world...and the magical society that sired them.
According to the Bible in the Book of Samuel (thought to be written between 931 B.C. and 721 B.C), lies a story of when King Saul sought the Witch of Endor to summon the dead prophet Samuel’s spirit to help him defeat the Philistine army. The witch roused Samuel, who then prophesied the death of Saul and his sons. The next day, according to the Bible, Saul’s sons died in battle, and Saul committed suicide. Other Old Testament verses condemn witches, such as the oft-cited Exodus 22:18, which says, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Additional Biblical passages caution against divination, chanting or using witches to contact the dead. The sourcing of the witches, per se, was from a series of unrelated female magic users and independent arcane societies and their ability to tap into magic, incantations and alchemy. Some of these Witches became the Arcane Sisterhood.
In the Western Hemisphere, between 0 and 400 A.D., regional Pagan gods were the norm. From 400 to 1000 A.D., Pagan gods were stripped of their power and notoriety in favor of the new religion - Christianity. Sadly, a tenant of Christianity was (and still does) espouse women and wives to be servile unto men. Many women under the auspice of their pagan gods, in most regional religions, had equal footing with men or were empowered to be as strong or even better than men. The Amazons, for example, were women who were kept from the hold of man, allowing themselves to provide a civilized society with a strong ability to fight back. Women in the Western Hemisphere were deprived of this strength and equality, and as such either submitted to the European group-think of the time, or joined 'undesirable' sects allowing them their own empowerment. One such sect was a community of secretive magic users called "The Conglomerate".
The Conglomerate provided a hidden society and series of magical schools that had gone on for thousands of years. Their ranks swelled and depleted over time, usually due to wars, disease or persecution, but their onus was a level of equality of women with men in all things magic. Some magical schools flourished with women due to the nature of women being able to manipulate or conjure magics based on the psyche and as well as their predilection to multi-task. This was provided and done usually in underground cities or locations away from prying eyes and egocentric men unnerved by magic...especially in regards to female magic users.
Many of the Conglomerate prior to 1400 A.D. would learn their trade (more to the point, their magics) and attempt to quietly interact with the western civilization, but many instead enjoyed the lifestyle and comfort magic brought to their lives, unlike most of the warlike western civilization that barely kept a step from famine and pestilence themselves. Sadly, some of the women of the Conglomerate wanted to help 'fix' the western civilizations and intended to integrate themselves (and later, their progeny) in the name of peace and prosperity, just like was done in the B.C.-era's Greek and Roman depictions of those gods. With the best of intentions, by 1400 A.D., nearly half of the magic users of the Conglomerate started re-integrating with the villages, towns and cities of the West. It didn't take long before the Western masses caught on that they were being invaded by 'unholy' personages.
With the West's fears at fever pitch against 'unholy' practices, most of the Conglomerate's men, fearing for their wives and children, brought their families back to the Conglomerate once the persecutions started. Many young, single women, instead, decided to stick it out, falling in love with the quest for power; power that would again 'fix' the current state of man's world. The more these women tried to help, the more they became persecuted and killed. Combining forces, the women formed an extra-regional 'sisterhood' across Britannia and the Eurasian and Northern African continents. This sisterhood found tenants from the power-seeking men of the west as well as the schools of magic of the Conglomerate and mixed the two, with the pretext that women needed to be the catalyst of change in man's world, fusing these two trains of thought to create an catalyst of change. That's when the sisterhood became the enemy of both the west...and the Conglomerate.
The sisterhood forged the idea of 'mixing' schools of magic, and instead or making and stoically managing unnecessary magical sects, there would simply be a 'specialty' in regards to specific sourced utilization of the magics, such as 'the mind', 'the flame', 'the ice', 'the earth', 'the sea'....etc. As such, the sisterhood, with this realigned magical order offended the time-honored designs of the Conglomerate, and as such were banished from the Conglomerate's magical society, casting them out into the Western world.
The West, on the other hand, now depicted these women as 'witches', thanks to the tenants of Christianity being what is was and the witches 'obvious' ties to Satan and the devil. As such, by the late 1400s, Friars Henry Kramer and James Sprenger wrote the Malleus Maleficarum, a veritable textbook on how to identify witches and 'legally' persecute and kill them. The Conglomerate, after several pitched battles with the Sisterhood, had their military wing of the society called the "Knights Arcanus" not only destroy the "Order of Arcane Sisterhood" (later known as simply the "Arcane Sisterhood"), but were ordered to transmute any of the sisterhood that could not be killed into inanimate objects; objects that would stand the test of time as a prison for the magical being of each sister of the sisterhood. To break the inanimate object was to release (sometimes very slowly) the spirit/soul of the sisterhood, thus the fusing of the sisters to inanimate objects needed to be done in places where no one (no man) would ever disturb them. This didn't go as well as the Knights Arcanus wanted, since the Arcane Sisterhood quickly realized the 'corralling' the Knights were doing. Thus dozens, if not hundreds of the witches were transmutated into free-ranging rocks, trees, or other openly accessible objects rather stones at the bottom of an ocean or lake. Nonetheless, between the West's persecution with the Malleus Maleficarum (with the ultimate cleansing of the Sisterhood courtesy of the Salem Witch Trials) and and the transmutations courtesy of the Knights Arcanus, the Arcane Sisterhood became extinct by 1697.
During this time of 'persecution and hunting', the Arcane Sisterhood had its own battles inside the sisterhood. Each group (the mind, the flame, the ice, etc.) believed that THEY should lead the sisterhood, and as such infighting became deadly. Sisters of the Flame would kill Sisters of the Mind, Sisters of the Ice would kill Sisters of the Sky, etc. The infighting directly led to the downfall of the Arcane Sisterhood and was cemented by the West's and Conglomerate's follow-on actions and killings. Thus when most 'transmutated' Arcane Sisterhood sisters were imprisoned, their infighting conflicts were still in full play, with a new element of hate and animosity towards each group. Thus, for the next four to five centuries, these women remained imprisoned...until an alien invasion brought the sisters back into the world again.
In 2000, the alien Soltan Star Empire invaded Earth. One of their goals was to siphon off all of Earth's innate magic (considered to be some of the purest magic in the Universe) and take it as their own. Thanks to the combined forces of the Knights Arcanus and the world's superheroes and military, the Soltans, within several months, were kicked off Earth for good. In the last battle with the Soltans, as the last of Earth's magics were being drained away (which would have included the souls/magical being of the Sisterhood even in their transmutated state), Samhain Knight, leader of the Knights Arcanus, destroyed the magical energy siphons of the Soltans and allowed for all magical energy to be released back to Earth...at a 400% level.
The magical backlash was enormous on the Ley Lines and any object or person of magical connection. All of the sisterhood's transmutations cracked, and as such allowed, for the first time in centuries, the opportunity for their release. Over the next decade and a half, the Arcane Sisterhood began to free themselves; sometimes simply due to the magical fractures, other times, freed sisters magically detecting other sisters imprisoned and freeing said sister from their Knights Arcanus-created prisons. By 2016, the Arcane Sisterhood, in the surviving number of under 200, was back together again, but not all was forgiven; the infighting for leadership was still, surprisingly, a huge issue.
Malconna, the first to be released in 2000 from her Knights Arcanus transmutation imprisonment, led the discussions to unite the Arcane Sisterhood. Sadly, as a secondary effect of being 'transmutated' for so long, most of the Arcane Sisterhood's physical bodies were horridly scarred with mottled patches of the substance they'd been transmutated with, as well as open magical wounds all across their bodies, making them hideous to even look at. All their magics could not undo what was done to them, and as a result, their hatred, anger and disgust of man grew to a fervent pitch. Malconna used this 'fervency' to focus their anger and unite the sisterhood. As such, the first order of business was to get even with the Knights Arcanus, or more to the point, the 'modern day' gathering of the Knights Arcanus (which at this time, was no longer under the control of the Conglomerate).
During a 2016 Halloween Event (see comic here), the Arcane Sisterhood went to New York City to attack and destroy the Knights Arcanus. Much to the surprise of the sisterhood, one of the Knight's pets, "Manny the Maneaster", a Venus Fly-Trap-type creature with acid in its maw and powerful arcane protection spells put upon it, saw the Arcane Sisterhood and attacked them...mostly die to its voracious appetite at that time. As such the Arcane Sisterhood, who were still using 'old school' magics could not stop Manny. In the first attack, Manny 'ate' Malconna, and attempted to eat/swallow over a dozen more, while also spitting acid on dozens of others of the sisterhood, killing nearly 40 sisters in less than 2 minutes of battle. Malconna, miraculously, pulled herself out of the monster's maw and escaped before being consumed, however, the acid did its job on her, leaving her at death's door. Only a rare necromancy spell that Malconna knew of (and promised never to use) saved her, leaving her bound to dark/death magic thereafter. As for the rest of the Arcane Sisterhood, most either left the sisterhood or died that day. Interestingly, the only people who knew about this entire battle were the Arcane Sisterhoood...and Manny, wherein Manny survived, but had indigestion for weeks thereafter.
In 2020, remnants of the Arcane Sisterhood reformed once again, after their individualized attempts towards integrating into the 21st century failed miserably. Once again, under the leadership of Malconna, this 'new' Arcane Sisterhood continues to plot the overthrow of man and the destruction of the Knights Arcanus (and in turn, the Conglomerate). With access to the internet and learning modern magics (from raids on some of the Conglomerate's schools), the Arcane Sisterhood is becoming more powerful once again. As such, it's only a matter of time before the Knights Arcanus and the rest of the civilized world will have to face off with the Arcane Sisterhood again.
Secretly located somewhere in northern New York state, United States
magically shielded from view and detection.