Posts Tagged With: Africa

Let’s Talk Witch – The Birth of Voodoo


Gothic Comments

Let’s Talk Witch – The Birth of Voodoo

THE BIRTH OF VOODOO

Voodoo is probably the best example of the assimilation of African belief into other cultures. The structure of Voodoo as we know it today began in Haiti during the colonization of Hispaniola, although its essential wisdom originated in different parts of Africa long before the Europeans started the slave trade. It was actually the enforced intermingling of African slaves from different tribes that gave rise to the development of Voodoo in Haiti. Little attention was paid to the spiritual needs of the slaves so, in their despair, a common thread had to be found by the slaves themselves. They began to invoke not only their own tribal gods, but also to practise rites other than their own. This tribal mixture can be seen in the names of different rites and in the gods who are still worshipped who were originally deities from all parts of Africa. They mixed practices and rituals from numbers of tribes and in the process developed a completely new religion that very quickly gained popularity.

The French (the colonisers of Haiti) realized that this new religion was a danger to their colonial system and so they denied all Africans the right to their own religious practices severely punishing anyone found practising Voodoo with imprisonments, beatings and hangings. The French decreed that all slaves be baptized as Catholics, and so Catholicism became superimposed on the African rites and beliefs (which the slaves still practiced either in secret or hidden as harmless dances and parties). This religious struggle continued for more than three centuries, but none of the punishments could totally obliterate the simple faith of the Africans.

Followers of this new religion of Voodoo – which originates in shamanic practice – actually considered the addition of the Catholic saints to be an enhancement of their faith and set about incorporating Catholic hymns, prayers, statues, candles and holy relics into their rituals. Tribal deities were often given the aspects of Catholic saints; they did not become the Catholic saints, but retained their original characteristics and personalities while adopting the symbolic trappings of Catholicism and the saints who they seemed to resemble most.

The whole structure of Voodoo reflects its history. The cross as a symbol, for instance, was easy to accept because it was already a powerful representation in the tribal religions as the crossroads where the spiritual and material worlds meet. It was adopted as the symbol of the powerful god Legba, who is the guardian of the gates, messenger of the gods and has multiple faces. As the trickster, he is the child who wants things he cannot have. The saint most closely associated with Legba is St Peter who holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Source:

Natural Magic: Spells, Enchantments & Self-Development
Pamela Ball
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Witchcraft – Chapter Six – Witchcraft in Isolated Societies

Witchcraft

Chapter six – Witchcraft in Isolated Societies

by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.

In many isolated societies, the belief in Witchcraft has never died. The witches don’t hide their activities, and live as important members of the society. This happens in the Maori societies of New Zealand, the Barotse of Africa, and the Quiche of Guatemala. Among the people of the Marquesas Islands, witches are respected, but feared as well.

All of these societies believe that magic is neutral. The witches can heal or curse, depending on their character. Necromancy is widely spread, and the witches operate mostly at night.

Spells and incantations have particular power when the witch uses parts of the patient’s (or victim’s) body. Nail parings and hair are the best. If not available, the witch can use clothes that have been worn by the person. The strongest magical potions are produced from extremely unpleasant ingredients. The witch cooks the brains of dead babies, menstrual blood, bits of human bones, pieces of gravestones, powdered frogs and toads, and bats’ blood.

Obviously, all that is a low form of the Old Religion, corrupted over the long centuries. It’s not even particularly interesting, unless one is a student of anthropology. But some societies maintained a fascinating relationship to the Old Religion. Two forms are of particular interest. The first includes witches who lived surrounded by the modern world, but maintained the old ways. The second are the truly isolated groups.

An ancient group that has survived in Europe, almost intact, are the Basque witches. They live in the area between Northern Spain and Southern France. Those witches have maintained a system similar to the old covens; they have been relatively tolerated by the Catholic Church for centuries; and they observe a strict code when initiating new converts. Their order is headed by “La Señora,” an immortal woman who lives in a cave in the Pyrenees. This is clearly a description of the Mother Goddess in one of her many guises.

The Gypsies in England, at least those involved in Witchcraft, also have a woman as their leader, but she does not have to be immortal. When the leader dies, they “adopt” a new leader. Sybil Leek, the great English witch, was their leader for many years. Obviously, they worship a representation of the Great Goddess, a priestess, rather than the Goddess herself.

Voodoo has its stronghold in Haiti and the West Indies. It is a mixture of African religions and Catholicism, and embraces many gods. In Haiti the principal god is a Great Serpent. Others are Papa Legba, the guardian of death, and Ogoun Badagris, the “Bloody Warrior.”   However, Jesus and the Virgin Mary are just as important. They put the Christian Cross in every shrine, together with symbols of the pagan gods.

Much magic is performed. Necromancy and animal sacrifices play a part of the ritual. There is also a lot of spirit channeling and healing.

The zombies, or living dead, are controlled by a spirit called Baron Samedi. During rituals, he is represented by a plain wooden cross, preferably taken from a cemetery. The cross is dressed in a tailcoat and a tall hat.

When necromancy is performed, the Baron Samedi is invoked in a cemetery. Three people must be present. They dress the cross on the grave with Baron Samedi’s traditional clothes, and burn incense and herbs. Then they request his help. They know the Baron has arrived when the clothes on the cross flap as if disturbed by wind. Some actually claim to see him – a tall black man with white beard and eyeless sockets in his head, though he can see very well.

The participants ask the corpse various questions. If it answers them, the corpse is rewarded by a limited time as a zombie. The zombie acts as the servant of the people who raised him, and performs tasks for them.

An interesting cult exists in Brazil. It is  based on spirit possession, and the followers are mostly Afro-Brazilians. The gods had been brought from Africa, originally, but they adapted completely to Brazilian life.

To attend the ceremony, you don’t have to be a believer. With the usual Brazilian hospitality, anyone is warmly welcomed. The ceremony takes place in an open pavilion, with the sacred area inside a railing. Many chairs and benches are arranged for the comfort of the spectators. There are drums ready, and an altar with images of the gods and of Catholic saints. Under the altar there are various bowls containing wine, beer, palm wine, and some food. Stones are arranged there for the visiting spirits, who will sit on them and eat and drink the offerings before possessing the mediums.

The whole idea is the possession. With dance, song, drumming and the shaking of some gourd-like musical instruments, the spirits, called encantados, are invited to enter the bodies of the mediums.  Excited by the heat, the dance and the music, the mediums go into a trance. One by one, they are possessed by the spirits. The trance goes on almost all night.

Most followers of this system are poor and have extremely hard lives. They believe that the supernatural world helps them survive the difficulties of this world. The encantados enjoy entering the bodies of living beings, so becoming a medium is thus a responsibility of each person toward a specific spirit. They do not deny the Christian God – on the contrary, they believe he is the greatest power in the universe. They love Jesus and the Virgin Mary. But the little spirits of their old religion are much closer. They take an interest in the people’s lives, and should be given the pleasure of entering the bodies of the worshipers in return. It is a kind, warmhearted system, and like Witchcraft, interested in achieving results.

But the most important connection is the relationship to nature. Everything in nature is supposed to belong to the encantados – bodies of water, forests, animals and birds. In a charming modern addition, vacant buildings also belong to them, because they claim the land on which the vacant house was built. While the house is occupied, the encantados graciously allow the humans to use it.

It’s better not to make them angry. Like all spirits, if not treated properly, they resent it and may do some mischief. But they never kill or torment anyone. At worst, they hide your possessions, slam doors, scare you by whispering among themselves, or appear like phantoms. Generally, it is easy to enlist their help, and there is no need for official witches and sorcerers. Anyone can join.

Brazil has another form of worship, found mostly around the fishing and sailing areas. It centers around the goddess Iemanja. She is a powerful entity, original to Africa, but greatly transformed. Iemanja is the Queen of the Sea, protector of sailors and fishermen. All who die at sea go to her luxurious underwater palace, so the sailors prefer that to dying in bed. But she never drowns anyone herself. She is a kind, magnificently beautiful goddess, occasionally rising from the sea to greet the sailors. They sing songs in her honor at night, when the trail of moonlight shines on the water. The storytellers say this is Iemanja’s hair, floating on the waves. Obviously, Iemanja is a manifestation of the Great Goddess in one of her many forms.

The second form of isolated Witchcraft includes Shamanism n Siberia, the Eskimos, the aborigines of Australia and many Native American tribes.

The Shamans work like the traditional, Stone Age witches. They move between this world and the world of the spirits. The people rely on the Shamans to enter the dangerous supernatural world and act on their behalf.

The reindeer herders and the fishermen of Northern Asia live around the western shore of the Bering Sea. Most are nomads who live in felt tents. Imagine living such a hard life, surviving long, harsh and threatening winters. When the day’s work is over, there is nothing to do but huddle in a warm, dark tent. Watching the Shaman summon spirits, or have a contest with a disease-producing demon, is good fun. He is also responsible for retrieving your soul if you happened to have lost it through sickness, or if a demon has enticed it into the lower regions of nature. You can always trust the Shaman to get it back.

Shamans in this area have two guardian spirits. One is a kind, understanding spirit of a long-dead Shaman. The other is in the shape of an animal. He can be dangerous and tricky, but very useful.

The Shamans dress beautifully, the clothes made of skins and embroidered with the symbols of the trade. They usually carry a tambourine drum, ready to be beaten when summoning spirits.

At night, the Shaman puts out all the lights in the house or tent. He begins to sing and beat the tambourine. The songs start softly, and then, slowly, grow in intensity. The Shaman goes into a trance. Suddenly, the audience hears other voices, made by various spirits. The audience joins in the singing and drum beating, and starts imitating the sounds of the spirits. The Shaman then is possessed by the spirits, and under their influence gives their messages to the people. Eventually the spirits bid the people farewell. When the lights are on again, the Shaman will be found exhausted, perhaps even fainting, lying on the floor.

When going into the spirit world, the Shaman does it during the day. He is accomplishing this difficult adventure by being in two places at once. The body performs dances in this world, showing the audience what his soul is doing in the other world. The dance may show fights, discussions, or anything else that is happening to the soul. Once the purpose is accomplished, the soul of the Shaman returns to the body.

There are as many female Shamans as males, and there is a complete equality between the sexes. This is because a shaman is considered sexless, and even the males wear female symbols on their decorated clothes.

Anthropologists have often noted that many people do not wish to be shamans. It takes a certain character, and in many ways the personality resembles that of the witch. The Shaman is a loner who likes to spend much time in meditation, and usually has vivid dreams since childhood. Invariably, he or she is quite intelligent.

The similarities among Shamans defy geography. The native diviners of South Africa are recognized early, or may enter the life because of an illness or spirit possession. The same is done by Native Americans. The Woyo woman of West Africa must be possessed by a god, while still young, and chosen for the profession of a diviner. She cannot enter training without it.

The aborigines in Australia are strongly connected with magic and sorcery. Much of it follows the familiar lines, but one practice is of particular interest – death caused by sorcery. If a person committed a particularly horrible crime, the sorcerer places a curse to make him “half dead.”  The community withdraws from the person, and rites are performed, showing that he is no longer part of the living, but is now a member of the society of the dead. In almost all cases the person actually dies, probably from shock or the lack of desire to live under such circumstances. Add to that the deep-seated fear of sorcery, and a person has no chance to survive at all. Some researchers believe that this was exactly the way Stone Age people punished their criminals.

By observing those isolated societies, and comparing them to Stone Age Witchcraft, much can be learned about the development of the Old Religion. Obviously, the supernatural world plays an important part in many lives, then as well as now. The current follower of the Old Religion is still quite comfortable with this unseen world and its powers.

But the witch has never ignored this world. It’s impossible to separate the Old Religion from the living, breathing planet. The next chapter deals with Witchcraft’s immensely important relationship with the plants and animals. The love of nature is the core of the witches’ being – which is why they see themselves as the Guardians of the Earth.

Source:

Encyclopedia MYTHICA

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Your Ancient Symbol Card for Feb. 14th is The Tree

Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today

 

The Tree                       

 The Tree symbolizes spiritual health and growth. The healthy tree is rooted in a rich, nurturing medium, has a strong trunk from which leaf laden branches fan out to capture the sun’s energy. The Tree represents a healthy spirit entrenched in experience and strengthened by wisdom. It is a spirit that is happy with itself, but continues reaching to become even wiser, more complete, happier, stronger. While The Tree represents a strong and independent spirit, it is also a life-force that owes much of its strength and growth to being surrounded by other healthy spirits.

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Your Charm for January 27th is The Serpent

Your Charm for Today

Today’s Meaning:

This aspect will be affected by someone’s illness being shed. Their healing will cause positive changes within this aspect for you.

General Description:

In primeval days the Serpent deeply appealed to man’s imagination, and owing to its length of life was used as the emblem for wisdom and eternity. It was a household god in ancient Rome, and sacred to their god of medicine. The Romans believed that the Serpent renewed its youth by casting its skin, and it became their symbol for long life and vitality. In India the Serpent symbolizes the infinite duration of time and wisdom. Serpent rings were worn to ensure health, strength, and long life. The rings were also believed to possess great protective and enduring virtues. The Serpent was a mark of royalty in Egypt, and worn as a head dress or UR.AEUS

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Your Charm for January 13 is The Heart

Your  Charm for January 13th is The Heart

The Heart

 Today’s Meaning:       

A course of events that cannot be altered has been set in motion within this aspect. Accept whatever happens in the near future and do not waste your time fretting about it–you can do nothing.         

General Description:        

This was a favourite charm in Egypt, worn in order to frustrate magicians, sorcerers and evil wishers from bewitching the wearer and stealing the soul from the heart; for it was the general belief that if the soul left the heart, the boy would soon fade away and perish. The ancient Egyptians also believed that, after death, the heart was taken, in the underworld, and weighed against the symbols of the law; if found perfect, it was restored to the body, which at once came to life again and enjoyed everlasting felicity

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Our Herb for December 30th – Jewel Weed

Today’s Herb – Jewel Weed

Jewel Weed

Impatiens capensis
Synonyms—Wild Balsam. Balsam-weed. Impatiens
pallida. Pale-touch-me-not. Spottedtouch-me-not.
Slipperweed. Silverweed. Wild Lady’s Slipper. Speckled
Jewels. Wild Celandine. Quick-in-the-hand.
Part Used—Herb.

Habitat—Members of the genus Impatiens are found widely distributed in the north temperate zone and in South Africa, but the majority are natives of the mountains of tropical Asia and Africa.

The flowers, purple, yellow, pink and white, sometimes a showy scarlet, are spurred and irregular in form and are borne in the leaf axils.

The name Impatiens is derived from the fact that the seed-pod, when ripe, discharges the seeds by the elastic separation and uncoiling of the valves.

Under the name of Jewelweed the herbage of Impatiens aurea and of I. biflora are largely employed in domestic practice and by homoeopaths and eclectics.

Description—The plants are tall and branching, tender and delicate succulent annuals, with swollen joints, growing in lowlying, damp, rather rich soil, beside streams and in similar damp localities.

They are smooth and somewhat glaucous, the stems somewhat translucent, the foliage showing a brilliant silvery surface when immersed in water, which will not adhere to the surface.

The leaves are thin, ovate oval, more or less toothed, of a tender green color.

The slipper-shaped, yellow flowers, in bloom from July to September, have long recurved tails, those of the first-named species being of a uniform pale-yellow, those of the second species, orange-yellow, crowded with dark spots, hence its common name of Spotted-touch-me-not. The oblong capsules of both species when ripe explode under the slightest disturbance, scattering the seeds widely. Most of the popular names refer to this peculiarity, others to the shape of the flowers.

Medicinal Action and Uses—The herbs have an acrid, burning taste and act strongly as emetics, cathartics and diuretics, but are considered dangerous, their use having been termed ‘wholly questionable.’

Constituents—The chemical constituents are not known, though the leaves apparently contain tannin, which causes them to be employed as an outward application for piles, proving an excellent remedy, the freshly gathered plants being boiled in lard and an ointment made of them. The fresh juice of the herb appears to relieve cutaneous irritation of various kinds, especially that due to Rhus poisoning. A yellow dye has been made from the flowers.

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Jewel Weed
Impatiens capensis
Found: in wet, shady soil throughout our area
Height: 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet)
Leaves: are oval shaped and toothed. Toward the bottom of the plant they are opposite; leaves on top are
alternate.

Flowers: have a characteristic pendant-like shape with red spots

Uses: crushed leaves can be made into a poultice to treat a rash or inflamed skin, including irritation from Poison Ivy. Lawsone, a component of Jewel Weed leaves, has reported antihistamine and anti-inflammatory activity.

Jewel Weed – “Touch Me Not” – Impatiens This plant is a very effective Poison Ivy antidote.

The Jewel Weed Stem should be crushed and the liquid rubbed into the skin contacted by the Poison Ivy and symptoms will not appear or will be much less troublesome.

Jewel Weed usually grows near water or in shallow ponds. It is often found in areas where Poison Ivy grows.

Leaves of three, Let them be … Poison Ivy Link to Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center. Jewel Weed totally neutralizes the Poison Ivy’s oily antigen called Urushiol, and you will no longer spread it by scratching or rubbing. The Urushiol oil may be carried on the fur of pets, clothing, shoes, toys, tools, or other objects and then transferred to the skin. Approximately 24 to 36 hrs after a sensitized person is exposed to the Urushiol, a blistery, itching rash develops. Usually within 15 minutes of contact, the Urushiol binds to skin proteins. If it is washed off with soap and water before that time, a reaction may be prevented. After the antigen is fixed, however, it cannot be washed off or transferred to other areas. Scratching or oozing blister fluid cannot spread the antigen to other areas of the body or to other persons.

Jewel Weed is still quite helpful even if you have developed scabs, though you need to work – Rub – it in longer, and it takes time for the blisters to heal.

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Today’s Charm from December 17th is The Ankh

 Today’s Charm

Today’s Meaning:       
 You may need help from a higher law to balance this aspect. This law could be a supervisor, a mediator or even a judgment through a legal venue.General Description:

Throughout Egyptian civilization, which lasted some 6,000 years, charms and talismans played a conspicuous part, both in their religious and civil life. The Ankh, the symbol of life one of Egypt’s most popular and ancient amulets, was supposed to bestow upon the wearer, intelligence, power, and abundance. It was formed by the hieroglyphic RU, O, set on a cross, the loop RU representing a fish’s mouth (supposed to give birth to water), and in this form represents the key of the Nile which inundates the country fertilizing the land and bringing prosperity. Most of the Egyptian gods are shown holding an Ankh, and their kings always carried on at their coronations.

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Celebrating Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Gujeswari Jatra

Celtic Comments & Graphics

November 26 and 27

Gujeswari Jatra, Senegal Initiation Rites

On this date the Goddess Gujeswari Jatra is honored by the Hindus and Buddhists of Nepal. Activities fill the day beginning with prayers to the Goddess. These are usually followed by a musical procession through the streets where participants sing sacred songs to praise Gujeswari. The activities come to a close after sunset with more prayers and songs that are usually followed by a fast until the following evening.

It is around this time of the year in the Basari villages of Senegal that the young men are initiated into manhood. The elaborate rituals take months to preparation that test both the minds and bodies of the candidates. The initiates then compete against each other in village games to demonstrate their courage and masculine strength. The festivities are brought to a close with a feast dance.

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