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Witchcraft – Chapter Four – The Trials

Witchcraft

Chapter Four – The Trials

by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.

To understand the connection between Christianity and the Old Religion, one must make the acquaintance of the Devil. Satan is an ambivalent fellow, and trying to figure out his character, origin, and relationship to God is difficult.

Here is a sentence from Isaiah, stating with authority that God created evil. “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.”  Clear enough.  But if he was created by God, who is always good, how can the Devil be bad?

Again, God wants to be killed in the person of Christ. It is his design, and it is meant for the benefit of mankind. If so, why are those who execute Christ considered “Devilish” for so long?  They were doing God’s will!

God is all powerful and all good. However, if God wanted to create a world which was all good, and couldn’t do it, than he is not all powerful. If he didn’t want to make a world which was all good, than He is not all good.

How do you get out of that?  You create an Adversary, who is equal to God in power, and is in a constant struggle with Him. But that doesn’t work either. The notion is taken from Persian Dualism, and to true Christians, this is heresy. The solution?  God permits the Devil to operate and make man into a sinner. In other words, an evil principle is needed to test men’s faith. This solution works until you ask the next question. Why is the sinner punished for what is permitted by God?

This would lead nowhere. If you continue with the questioning, eventually you will hit the wall — it is so because the Church says that it is so. Well, heresy or not, the Adversary, permitted or otherwise, remained. He had to. He was badly needed.

The Devil has many forms. He has superhuman intelligence and cunning, though sometimes he can be tricked. He is a handsome fellow, unless he transforms himself into an animal or a monster. He can perform miracles. He has tremendous legal expertise. He has scientific knowledge and understands the nature of the universe — and the psychology of men and women. He can be, and often is, quite charming.

During those times, if you were a good Christian, you believed in him. For without sin there is no overcoming temptation, no salvation, no need of a Church. Without Satan, there is no Christianity.

On the other hand, Satan could not have existed without the Church. Pagans had no fear of magic in itself. They were aware of magic used for good or for bad purposes, but the power itself they considered neutral. Most importantly, it came from men and women, natural to humanity itself. So the gods, demigods, spirits, etc., could never have given birth to the powerful entity of Satan.

To Christians, supernatural powers should come only from God, as miracles. If the saints did not perform them, then a demon did. Shows of second sight, moving of objects without physical action, transportation by levitation and so on frightened them.

As the smaller spirits and demigods were changed into demons, only one entity was strong enough to assume the role of the Adversary. The Devil took the shape of the familiar horned god. Pan loved nature; he was one with the earth; he even looked right with his horns and hooves. He was perfect for the job, and he got it. The new “evil entity” and his hordes of demons were now ready to tempt and mislead mankind.

In 380, Emperor Theodosius declared that all his subjects had to become Christians. Anyone following a different religion was a heretic. The heretics were to expect penalties by an authority guided by divine wisdom. The Church didn’t only kill the heretic – his or her family and friends were also seized. Their property was confiscated. Anyone who opposed them was declared a disciple of the Devil.

Christians now felt free to desecrate any temple – a good excuse to loot. In the process, they destroyed an enormous amount of Pagan literature. This literature was irreplaceable, and its destruction left us with huge holes in our understanding of the period. The Church destroyed the theater and any nonreligious music; limited art to religious subjects; declared that science was the Devil’s tool. It ignored the natural world with all its wonders, and feared it as temptation for sin. Life was just a preliminary to the glory of the afterlife in Heaven.

In a world that closed upon itself and denied nature, the Witches were at a disadvantage even before the great trials. They were part of a different, threatening way of life. The Church declared a war on Paganism. In the name of saving people’s souls it prepared to kill any number of bodies.

For the body didn’t matter at all. Pain and suffering were good if they happened in the name of Christ.  The salvation of one’s soul depended on purity, celibacy, and iron obedience. So what if the body of the sinner was tortured, or even killed?  Only the soul mattered. In one document, a priest declared that if an innocent person was executed, it didn’t really matter. God will recognize his own and the person will go directly to paradise. The brief, sad life on this dreary, sinful world did not count. From the 11th century on, the Catholic Church had many rival religions. They included Manicheans, Catharists, Waldenses and Albagenses. All were Christian, but the Church declared they were heretics. For various reasons, they also included Witchcraft, so to be a witch meant to be automatically a heretic.

Part of the crusade against witches was the spreading of wild rumors about their immoral and unnatural activities. The Church accused them of flying on broomsticks, having demon lovers, and murdering Christian children. It was quite a successful campaign, and brought a large number of women, some of them teen age girls or even children, to the stake.

The professional witch hunter made a very good living. There is a story about Matthew Hopkins, a professional witch hunter during the time of Puritans. The man developed a practical and quick system of destroying his victims. He would go into a village, find out who was unpopular with the Puritan regime, and report them. They would be tortured for a confession, and Hopkins would be paid per head for each conviction. The victims almost always confessed, since death was preferable to weeks of continuous torture.

Most of the victims, of course, had nothing to do with the Old Religion. They never saw a coven or an initiation ceremony. They may have known a little herbal medicine and possibly talked to their cats – strong evidence in those days. Enough to put them on the rack or burn them at the stake.

In 1318 and again in 1320, the Pope brought Witchcraft under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. The inquisition, as usual, was ready to eradicate any heretic, so the witch trials expanded. Women were made to confess to crimes that were everything the Old Religion abhorred. People would say anything under torture, and the torture was too horrible to describe in a book such as this. The women confessed, under this horror, the orgy-like nature of the Sabbats. They admitted to submitting themselves to intercourse with the Devil – often described as taking the shape of a male goat!  They admitted to casting spells that harmed their neighbors’ health, domestic animals, or crops; of using human body parts, even children’s, in their magical brews; of cannibalism, particularly involving newborn babies; of giving birth to the children of demons. All that and more – from people who worshiped Nature, who were the guardians of the sacred earth.

As the hysteria continued, the Pope sent two Dominican inquisitors, Kramer and Sprenger, to Germany. The two men wrote a book together, considered at the time the best textbook on Witchcraft. The name of this book was, in Latin, Malleus Maleficarum, which means The Witch’s Hammer. It is still available today, in the translation of Montague Summers. Summers was one of the few twentieth-century men to believe that the witches got what they deserved. He later wrote a book of his own, The History of Witchcraft, explaining the wickedness of Witchcraft. His book is a mind-boggling piece of superstition, ignorance and hate. As Summers was an educated man, a respected man of the Church, the book throws light on the obvious question: “How could they?  How could men of God torture and kill in the name of such nonsense?”  Read The History of Witchcraft. It’s worth it. You’ll understand what a Grand Inquisitor was really like.

The Malleus Maleficarun is horrifying. It explains the depraved nature of the Witch. It permits, even encourages torture, as means of extracting confession. It approves of life imprisonment for the repenting witch, and death to the unrepenting. It explains a sudden insanity as demonic possession – thus allowing the torture of the insane, a practice that lasted for centuries. The worst of it is that it is calmly arranged as a logical, clear, methodical, legal text.

This monstrous book extended its influence until the middle of the 18th century. Even Martin Luther was interested in it. Despite his objection to much within the Catholic Church, he believed in the Devil, and had, apparently, a confrontation with him. There is a story, substantiated by an ink stain in the castle of Wartburg, that the Devil tried to harass Luther. Luther threw his ink bottle at him. One wonders about his state of mind and his hallucinations.

Interestingly, Luther thought that witches rarely attended any Sabbats. According to Montague Summers, he held that witches generally hallucinated it under drugs or in a trance, but not always. On rare occasions, he thought, the Sabbats actually took place. Obviously, Luther couldn’t make up his mind. At any rate, he did not object to the witch hunts or the executions. Perhaps he didn’t care much.

There are always those who try to stop the madness of mobs. They are the enlightened, the brave, the true heroes of their time. The philosopher Giordano Bruno, for instance, burned at the stake for saying what St. Augustine said before — that witches were just sadly deluded women. Great doctors like Paracelus, Johan Wier and Thomas Syderham risked their lives to fight it.

To end the madness, it took an inquisitor who could no longer tolerate it. Alonso Salaza y Frias, after a mass execution in Navarre, decided to do an investigation of his own. When it was finished, he openly declared that all the victims of this particular execution were innocent. He then refused, officially, to accept any further accusation without tangible proof. During trials, he would allow no torture. The property of the accused witch would no longer be confiscated.

The public lost interest. Without the pleasure of seeing a woman humiliated and tortured to death, and without the hope of material gains, what was the point of accusing anyone?  And you had to supply proof!  What an innovation!  No doubt, some bemoaned the good old days, when all you had to do was point at someone you didn’t like and wail: “witch!”

In England, they pretended they did not use torture, but some of their methods were so near it that the distinction is not clear. They were actively hunting witches for centuries, but eventually, in 1712, one witch was convicted but not executed. The British, like the Spanish, began to lose interest in the spectacle of horror. In Scotland the last burning was in 1727. In Germany, the last execution was in 1628. In France, it was stopped by a law passed in 1682. Europe began to emerge from the darkness.

The horror story is not yet over, though. Witchcraft in early America will be dealt with in the next chapter. While fewer people were executed in this country, it is probably the worst example, since the immigrants came here to escape oppression.

Folk medicine:

  • A lynx’s claw.
  • A weasel’s bones.
  • Snakes’ vertebrae.
  • Iron pirate pieces. If struck over the body of a sick person, the striking of the pirate will clear both physical and mental diseases and the effect of the evil eye.
  • Charcoal of an aspen tree. In today’s folk medicine, the charcoal is useful if the tree was hit by lightning. It is possible that the aspen in the grave was burned in the same way.

Magic items:

  • Horses’ teeth.
  • Twigs of a rowan tree.
  • An iron knife.
  • A sword.

The old Scandinavian Sagas describe activities of witches which are still part of today’s ceremonies. They also tell the usual stories – shape changing, riding on poles, or sending the soul out of the bodies.

Another interesting ancient connection exists in Mexico. A witch cult there was centered around a goddess, or a “Witch Queen.”  She always carried or rode a broom. The broom, to the Mexicans, symbolized purity and cleanliness. This is particularly important because the Medieval European witch considered cleanliness and order essential. Her contemporaries rarely bathed, and kept food debris on their straw-covered floors for weeks. The witches in Mexico, just like the European ones, always wore big necklaces. Men wore the same kind of leather apron as the Irish male witches.They worked in small rooms to confine the power – much like the circles of power of the European witches.

There is no explanation to the similarity. Some historical researchers believe that perhaps people traveled across the Atlantic before Columbus, and introduced the Old Religion to Mexico. Or perhaps the needs of Witchcraft created similar evolution wherever and whenever it was practiced.

Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome treated magic as if it was science. Not that they were particularly concerned with pure science; they were more interested in practical results. However, they had to know the medicinal and poisonous properties of hundreds of plants; they knew how to use hypnosis; they understood human consciousness. The magicians combined their practice with incantations and prayers, which is why today’s scientists do not take them seriously. But they were not much different. When achieving an identical result, today’s scientist credits it to reasoning or experimentation. The sorcerer assumed they were given by a supernatural power.

Some great scholars in Greece worked as sorcerers. Pythagoras, the mathematician, openly practiced philosophy, science and magic. He had a strong influence on Plato, not himself a sorcerer, but clearly a believer. One can see that in his Dialogues Aristotle suggested the influence of the magical theory in his History of Animals. Neither he nor Plato feared the magicians, though many other people did. Obviously, they understood, with their better education and sharp minds, what the sorcerers were doing.

Finding the roots of Ancient Greek Witchcraft and Hellenistic Witchcraft is easy. One has simply to look at their great holidays. Take, for example, the Eleuisian holiday which attracted thousands of people. Much like the May holiday participants in the British Isles, the Greeks had games, theater, wine, food, dancing and music. Everyone was at least half drunk and ready for religious ecstasy. Mystical rites included the purging of the fear of death, the procession in honor of the dead, and the wild, whirling dancing. People fell into trance-like states, many acting as if they were in direct communication with the gods. It was similar to Voodoo possession – or to the ancient shaman/witch union with the unseen forces. Naturally, some people were better at it than others, and some became priests and priestesses.

The best known priestesses were those who worked at the Oracle of Delphi. They dedicated their lives to the gods and practiced prophecy and divination. The priestess sat over a cleft in the rocks, from which fumes of various drugs rose to envelop her body. The drugs brought on a trance state, and under it she told the future. Another priestess or priest had to explain the messages, because often they were hard to understand. Many of the prophecies came true, and the practice lasted thousands of years. It is silly to dismiss the whole thing as a lie, as the Catholic church later tried. Ancient Greece was a culture of sophistication, intellect and learning. Could a handful of priests really trick these people for so long?

The god Pan is another connection with witchcraft. In the Dianic tradition of Witchcraft, one of the schools still active today, the horned god is still named Pan. Is it the same deity? There are some differences. But this happens to every ancient religion. Take the Judeo-Christian tradition. The current merciful God is very different from the angry desert deity that took the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan, destroying entire nations in His path. And yet any Priest, Minister or Rabbi would be horrified if you dared suggest that it was another God – Jehovah is Jehovah! Well, Pan is Pan. Then and now, he is a nature god, a part of every living animal and plant. And he is still with his goddess and with those who call themselves the Guardians of the Earth.

Shape changing was common in Greece, too, as seen by both mythology and literature. Zeus’ love affairs are famous for it. He changed into a swan, a bull, or even a shower of golden rain, as the occasion demanded. Also, the famous book The Golden Ass, by Apuleius of Madaura tells of such a change. It is a story of Greek man who, with the help of an untrained witch’s apprentice, turns himself accidentally into a donkey. After many misadventures, the goddess Isis restores him from the animal shape and he becomes her priest.

There are several great Greek witches. Medea is probably the most famous witch of antiquity. She is strong, possibly insane, and murderous. Hecate is first a moon goddess, then a witch goddess who rules the nights and all its frightening creatures. Circe is a sorceress who turns her lovers into swine when she tires of them. All the Greek stories of the great, power wielding, magnificent witches view them as evil. This is because they were, originally, priestesses of the Old Religion, worshipers of the mother goddess. The “new” Greek religion saw them as competition and turned them into evil hags, as most cultures do. For further proof, the texts often stress the witches’ knowledge of herbal medicine and magic – the obvious traits of the followers of Wicca, then as now.

The Romans used much magic in their daily lives. They employed magical astrology, and used amulets, incantations, healing and cursing formulas.

The Romans had an interesting device, very similar to today’s Ouija board. It was a metal disk, supported by a wooden tripod. On its rim, the letters of the alphabet were inscribed. The person performing the ritual suspended a ring on a thread, right above the disk. Some incantation was said, and the ring began to swing like a pendulum, forming words and answering questions.

The Aeneid describes magic extensively. Dido, the tragic heroin, is a powerful sorceress whose magic eventually turns against herself, much like Medea’s in Greece. Horace’s plays describe evil Witchcraft, including some horrifying ritual murder of children. Other Roman poets describe necromancy and divination. Obviously, witches in Rome had a bad reputation.

Romans, as a nation, enjoyed cruelty. One has only to look at their arena games and war atrocities to see that. The stories about the witches reflect that taste. Unquestionably, some Roman witches turned to the dark side. The records show that their help was often used for poisoning, necromancy, and even attempts at raising of the dead and the creation of zombies. It was a sad period for true followers of the Old Religion.

In Egypt, magic was entirely scientific. It was mixed with religion, but nevertheless practiced as a precise and organized activity. From the mythologies and magic books it is clear that they had a system of the Occult based on subjects. There are separate texts on astrology, alchemy, formulas for magic in daily use, etc. The practitioners were specialists. The ordinary people, in addition to consulting the experts, could also purchase amulets and herbs for self protection and do-it-yourself magic.

Repeating the magic formula in exactly the same way, even down to the tone of voice, was called “right speaking.”  The Book of the Dead stated that the gates to the other world would not open to a person who did not know his secret name or who uttered it incorrectly. The name of each gate in the other world also required correct reading and pronunciation.

The Egyptians had many books containing formulas and incantations, spells and charms for daily use. Amulets were important. They were worn by the living and put on the dead. Amulets could be made of any material and sometimes carved with magic formulas. Some shapes were particularly popular, such as the scarab and the heart. The Egyptians even had amulets to protect each part of the body. The books often mention dreams and shape changing. For example, there are spells in the Book of the Dead teaching the newly deceased how to change into birds, crocodiles, or serpents.

The positive image of the witch lasted for generations. Eventually, however, patriarchal monotheism took over in the West, first by Judaism and later by Christianity. With it, the position of the witch deteriorated. The Bible often refers to witches in a negative manner. They are always fiercely persecuted by the priests of Jehovah. Most notable is the Witch of Endor, who is consulted secretly by King Saul. The story is interesting because  Saul killed  many witches on the demand of the Prophet Samuel. She is one of the few survivors.

Earlier, Moses and Aaron practiced Egyptian magic, described in detail in Exodus. They turned a stick into a snake, for instance, during a competition with the Egyptian magicians. The plagues visited on the Egyptians, including such things as pestilence and darkness in the middle of the day, sound like malevolent Witchcraft. Naturally, the Bible describes the plagues as punishment by God.

King Solomon, David’s son, was supposed to be the wisest man of his generation, perhaps the wisest ever to live on Earth. He was a magician as well. The book The Wisdom of Solomon was written many years after his death, but much of it is probably based on his words. In it he said that God gave him power and knowledge, and that his studies included not only science but the Occult. In the original text, this included power over demons. The sentence was mistakenly translated as power over the winds, because the two words are similar in the original Hebrew. He also claimed knowledge of exorcism.

Nevertheless, the Bible is determined that no witch should be permitted to live. The reason is simple. A witch is not only a worshiper of a competing religion, but a symbol of a matriarchal society. A society ruled by women is offensive to the male-dominated Jews and Christians. So the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan is the point in time in which the power of the Old Religion began its slow decline. It has taken many centuries and a fierce struggle, but a gentle nature religion is no match to the powerful, military, new religion. Starting from Mount Sinai, a fiery volcano in the desert, the Judeo-Christian creed swept everything in its violent path and conquered the Western world.

 

Source:

Encyclopedia MYTHICA

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Witchcraft – Chapter three – Under Early Christianity

Witchcraft

Chapter three – Under Early Christianity

by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.

As we begin to examine the relationship between the Old Religion and the Catholic Church, one thing must be clear. This book is not an attack on the Catholic Church. The Church, as we know it today, is a wonderful organization. It is charitable, supportive of many great institutions and a patron of learning. Naturally, no one can agree with everything the Church does or thinks. We are entitled to disagreement, which, in turn, boosts progress. However, while part of the historical clash of the religions is painful, it is not told as criticism of the Church today. Over many centuries, the Church evolved into the larger and richer organization we now know.

In addition, many of those responsible for the terror of the Witch Trials were more administrators than men of God. They wanted property and power. Much like some corrupt politicians, they thought that the end justified the means. On the other hand, some Christians truly believed in the influence of the Devil, believed it with all their hearts, and thought that by tormenting the body they saved the soul. It is difficult to understand, in our century, how deeply superstitious most Medieval people were, and how much the supernatural threatened their lives.  Many acted out of ignorance and terror.

In 906, Regino, abbot of Prum, wrote an interesting document. It became known as the Canon Episcopi. Few documents in history were so misunderstood; few caused so much violence.

Regino described the habits of some misguided women who believed in their own hallucinations and illusions. These women thought that the Pagan Goddess, Diana, flew them over great distances. At those faraway places, they worshiped her and her husband, the Devil. Regino, a compassionate man, made it clear that he believed the Devil himself was responsible. The Devil made the poor women think that what happened in their dreams really took place.

Sure, Regino was frustrated by the women’s stupidity – how could they think that any god could exist away from the one true faith, Christianity?  However, not for a moment did he believe in the flights, the Sabbaths, or anything else the women said they had done.

Until that time, the Church Fathers felt the same way, accepting Witchcraft as a stupid hoax. After all, how could an illiterate bunch of women have power over God’s world?  Nonsense!  Any good Christian, using the name of Jesus, could get rid of the tricks of a witch. St. Augustine, for example, heard that witches turned men into donkeys by feeding them magical cheese. He thought it was funny. To the people who told him the story, he said that such events must have been hallucinations or jokes.

Of course the Church did not approve of Witchcraft. The women who worshiped Diana were sinful Pagans who tried to cheat good Christians. But they were powerless. Only God had power over humanity.

If only they stuck to these views. If only there was no connection made between Witchcraft and Dualism. Dualism was a belief that gave real power to evil as represented by Satan. The horned God of the witches, as you will see later, looked very much like Satan. If this connection was not made, perhaps humanity would have been spared the carnage of the witch trials.

But the Church didn’t understand Regino and disagreed, eventually, even with its own early Fathers. The Church took Regino’s document and twisted the meaning around. For six centuries they read it as an admission that the women actually flew to worship at the Sabbaths.  Interestingly, Regino didn’t even mention Witchcraft in the document.  What he asked was that the clergy would preach that such ideas are false. A gentle man, all he wanted was to convince those women to desert Paganism and embrace Christianity. Poor Regino. Had he seen the tortured and murdered victims, he would have been horrified.

For in the early centuries of Christianity, Paganism was not suppressed; Christians and Pagans lived side by side.  They did it for so long, that Christians took over some of the Pagan gods, holy places and customs, in order to reconcile people to the new religion. Pope Gregory the Great, for instance, went as far as ordering the placement of Christian relics in Pagan shrines. He hoped that the people would gradually begin to think that the old god was a new saint. Pagan feast days were used for Christian holidays. Christmas, perhaps, is the most notable example.  In the Bible, the exact date of Christ’s birth is never mentioned. So they placed it right over an important pagan holiday.

Those gods that did not become Christian saints were turned into demons. However, many new converts to Christianity continued to worship them side by side with the new God. One Saxon king had a temple with two altars, one for Christ and one for the “Devils.”  If you look carefully at Christianity now, so much of the Pagan still remains – the dove, the lamb, the sacred fish symbol, the ever-burning fire, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Baptism – all were, once, Pagan symbols.

As far as the 12th century, priests complained that in Ireland, the people worshiped Pagan Deities. In England, even some monks were caught worshiping Diana in woodland shrines. This continued up to the 14th century. About the same time, the poet Petrarch, while visiting Colonge, saw women performing Pagan rituals. Old habits die hard, country people are conservative, and the transition was not as easy as the Church would have it.

A 6th century Portuguese monk, acting as a missionary, complained that the women worshiped their “devils” quite openly. The interesting thing here is that the monk believed in the existence of those devils. He said the woods, streams, rivers and meadows were full of the devils, and he saw them with his own eyes!

To entice the women to the new faith, churches were built over the old holy places. In the British Isles, they were built over the shrine of Astarte in Northumberland, of Diana in Bath, of Mithras in York. In Spain, they built them over sacred mounds. Still, the women did not accept them. The priests complained that the women brought their old habits into the new churches anyway – they sang, they danced, they performed strange rituals.

Many chieftains accepted the new faith because politically it was advantageous.  Some men followed. There was a good reason why the women stuck harder to Paganism —  the Church despised women. According to the Bible, women caused the Original Sin. The Church considered them weak, stupid, faithless, and hardly above beasts of burden. They had no rights, no protection, no dignity. In almost every way, they were slaves. The strong women of the Old Religion, the priestess, the Witch, the teacher, the healer, became the enemy of all that was sacred.  How could they accept Christianity?

Diana’s cult remained so widespread, that the Church viewed her as an arch rival. Eventually they started to refer to her as the “Queen of the Witches.”   Occasionally they attempted to include her in the Church, like so many of the saints. But they soon realized it was impossible. The Grand Inquisitor Torquemada, the most famous, or infamous, of them all, declared that Diana was the Devil.

Naturally, a secret religion that allowed a woman an important place, appealed not only to the hereditary witches, but to many converts as well. Recruits were never welcomed, though, as they were always potential spies. So the religion went underground almost totally and became a secret society. Many of the people that were later tortured and killed had no connection whatsoever to the Old Religion. The real followers knew, from long experience, how to hide.

This was a strange time. Many new sects came into being, and both Paganism and Christianity influenced all of them. To many people, Jesus himself was a magician. He exorcized demons. He healed the sick by “laying on of hands.”  He raised the dead and made predictions. He claimed Divine Origin and Virgin Birth. It is true that he never tried to prove himself, and claimed all his power came from God. He didn’t want to be thought of as a magician. But to the common people it mattered little.

To understand those times a little better, two sects should be examined – Gnostics and Kabbalists.The Gnostics were not really Christians, and the Church did not approve of them. They were people who wanted peace, mysticism, and a chance to think about the universe. Most of them lived in the wilderness. Unfortunately, the Church destroyed much of their writing with the usual thoroughness. That left us with only partial knowledge of their nature.

The Gnostics disliked the world. They did not believe God created it himself, as He was not interested in creating anything. He was totally removed from any matter, and existed in a realm which was beyond matter. A split in the Godhead had occurred at some point. This split they called The Fall, and it somehow created a demon, called the Demiurge. The Demiurge created the Universe. Some said he did it with the help of Sophia, the feminine side of God. The Demiurge also created six other demons, called Archons, to help him in his work.

To make matters worse, the Demiurge had completely forgotten about The Fall, and believed himself to be the only God. With the help of his Archons he created Man. Man, therefore, is created and trapped by a god who has deluded himself. In other words, God is crazy. Man’s only hope to escape to his true home and the true God is through  knowing the true state of affairs. The word Gnosis, which is what the name of the religion is based on, means Knowledge.

Naturally, the denial of the Christian God did not endear the Gnostics to the Church. And the Demiurge was admirably suitable for identification with Satan. Evil by nature, a fallen angel, self-deluded and cunning at the same time – what could be better?  Heresy!  Kill the Gnostics!

Now, you could ask, where is the connection to Witchcraft?  Gnosticism is a totally different religion, isn’t it?  It does not love the world; it despises nature and its beauty; the earth is a place to escape from rather than enjoy. Nothing in common, right?  Wrong. Religious teachings can always, but always, be twisted around to benefit someone.

This time of furious faith was the golden age of the magicians, and many of them had Gnostic influence. For example, take Simon Magus – a very successful magician.  Simon Magus may have been a native of Samaria. At any rate, he was working there during the time of the Crucifixion. His following, however, continued as far as the 4th century CE and spread far and wide.

Simon was impressed by the apostle Philip’s cures and exorcisms. He decided to be baptized, but saw Christianity more like a magical system than a new religion. He probably didn’t care much about the distinction, being of a practical rather than a spiritual nature. His intention was to buy the apostle’s secret of “laying on of hands” for healing. Very understandably, he thought it was a great magic trick.

Unfortunately, it offended the apostle Peter, who disliked Simon Magus immediately. On their first meeting, Peter rebuked Simon for trying to buy the apostles’ secret. Incidentally, this is where the word “simony” is derived from – buying and selling of priestly gifts or powers. Simon, who considered all of them professional magicians, could not see what was wrong in buying a perfectly good trade secret for a fair price. He probably thought Peter behaved like a pompous hypocrite, but being a particularly pleasant man, Simon took the rebuke with good grace.

Simon’s writings show a lot of female imagery. Paradise, for example, he described as the “womb.”  The imagery links him strongly to the Old Religion.  Unlike Jesus, he never objected when people called him a magician. After his death, his successor called himself Nenander, meaning Moon-man. Neander claimed to be the reincarnation of Simon himself. In later centuries, one of the great objections made against Simon Magus was his acceptance of women as equals. In true Wicca tradition, he viewed the power of the gods as shared between male and female.

He had a disciple, a Phoenician sorceress called Helen. With her he established a sort of trinity in which he was the Father and the Son, and she was the Holy Ghost. So in actuality, he adapted the new religion to his own views. He and Helen were worshiped, though, in front of statues of Zeus and Athena. So he certainly appealed to the Pagans as well.

Helen was worshiped in many forms by the followers, particularly as Sophia, the Gnostic Virgin of Light and wisdom. So here was a strong connection to Gnosticism. She was also claimed to be Mary, Mother of Jesus, and occasionally Mary Magdalene. It was all completely mixed.

Simon Magus, despite his bizarre activities, does not come across exactly like a charlatan. Rather, he operated like a Shaman. True, he did practice some necromancy and even said he had created a human being from thin air and a wandering soul. But these improbable tales were probably just plain advertising and increased business. And many people benefited from his healing.

His end is shrouded in mystery. The legend said he had a contest with the apostle Peter, in front of the Emperor Nero, who was an admirer of Simon. He proved his powers by flying at great height. Peter, supposedly calling on God, broke the spell and sent Simon down to his death. Considering the fact that the flight was probably staged with wires, and that Peter must have tampered with the mechanism, it is interesting that no one ever charged Peter for the murder of Simon Magus.

The second sect to be examined is The Kabbalah. There are many arguments as to when it started. The Kabbalah is Jewish mysticism. It is secret knowledge, forbidden to most people. To study it, you had to be a scholar, male, over forty years of age and married. Otherwise, you were never allowed to touch it. This patronizing attitude was justified by saying that it presented a danger to lesser beings – such as unmarried men or any women. It is available to anyone today, and is extremely interesting. Some good introductory books will be mentioned in the bibliography. For the student of Witchcraft, it is a valuable subject.

Some scholars say that one of the major books, the Zohar, was written in 1275 by the Spanish Kabbalist Moses de Leon. But it is obvious the date means only that it was written down on paper at that time. In oral tradition, it existed much earlier. Some sources believe the Kabbalah was practiced at the time of the early Gnostics. Others go back even further. There is no way to prove it, but the material gives the impression of extreme antiquity.

The similarity between Witchcraft and Kabbalah is astounding, and is often overlooked, mostly because researchers try to pin the origin of Kabbalah on Gnosticism. True, there is a great similarity between Gnosticism and Kabbalah. This is because Gnosticism, as well as Kabbalah, had much of their origin in the Old Religion, but the Old Religion existed thousands of years before either of them.

The format of The Kabbalah is misleadingly simple. The base is a diagram of the sacred tree of life;  it is made by ten circles joined by twenty-two lines. The ten circles are called Sephiroth in Hebrew. The word means “the emanations of God.”  Each soul undergoes a fall from the top circle, the Godhead, through the other circles, each representing a stage of creation, into our world and an earthly body. Then, the soul has to work on its climb back into the Godhead, using the astral body, or the body of light, as its vehicle. The creative Godhead is all pure thought. It is split in two, male and female, so the tree is represented by a female side and a male side, equal in power and necessary for the maintenance of the world.

Through various techniques of devotion, meditation, and concentration, it is possible to release the soul. Then, by using the tree of life, you can travel the universe through the twenty-two paths (those lines that connect the ten Sephiroth). Much can be learned that way.

Another great Kabbalistic similarity to Witchcraft is the “Gimatria.”   This is a system of conversion of words into numbers, and then back into other words of the same number. It sounds simple, but it allows the practitioner to use words of power. Particularly important are the forbidden names of various angels or even, at the ultimate, the unmentionable name of God. The use of language is extended to various formulas and the manipulation of words – very much like magic spells.

One such charm is open to anyone and is quite useful. It is not magic and has no true mystery. It deals directly with your subconscious and could enhance your success with various projects and goals. And yet it is so ancient that it goes back to the invention of writing itself – when the written word was power. Try it.

Take a peace of paper, and in the shortest possible way, write down a sentence that represents a goal. Let’s say  you want to be a professional artist some day, but have very little time to paint or draw, because of your school obligations, part-time job, social life, or sports. You regret that, because you know that to be an artist you must work at it. So write “I AM A GREAT ARTIST.”  Now cross out letters so that each letter appears only once. Here are the steps:

  • “I” is removed. You now have I AM A GREAT ARTST
  • “A” is removed. You now have I A M GRET RTST
  • “M” appears only once.  “G” appears only once. No need      to touch them.
  • “R” is removed. You now have I A M G R E T T S T
  • “T” is removed. You now have I A M G R E T S
  • “S” appears only one. No need to touch it.

After you do that, you will end with this bizarre word “IAMGRETS” which obviously is meaningless. Stare at the word very intently for a long time. Carry it with you. Stare at it often. It sinks, eventually, into your subconscious. You will find that in a few weeks you’ll be doing some unexpected things. Perhaps you will step into an art supplies store and buy those water colors you promised yourself last spring. Or maybe you’ll find yourself drawing caricatures of your teachers at class (not a good idea – beware of being caught). Or you will have an idea of sketching something as part of a school project, perhaps an experiment in biology, which suddenly looks much better when presented graphically. It works every time. This is a small example of Witchcraft at its practical best.

Well, it can’t be denied that Witchcraft does work. But the horror of the next few centuries was not based on practical little magic things like that.  Nor was it about the love of nature and its worship. It was about humanity’s relationship with a nonexistent entity who had many names.

 

Source:

Encyclopedia MYTHICA

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The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

Author:   Crick   

As Paganism slowly but surely emerges out of the grip of suppression brought on by what is now commonly referred to as organized religions. We may want to be aware of several pitfalls and realities as we once again step into the light of day.

First of all, the top three organized religions are themselves fairly new in the grand scheme of history. Prior to their appearance on the world stage, basically everyone in the world followed some type of pagan belief, which was for the most part an individual spiritual belief and not an organized religion per se. Such beliefs were influenced by ones personal environment and the immediate world around them. There was an interpersonal awareness that helped to shape one’s values and thus their corresponding beliefs. In today’s artificial world we no longer have such a mainstay or influence to guide us.

The current “accepted” beliefs being touted by the main three organized religions and the suppression of former popular beliefs did not occur as a natural effect of events in human history.

It was and continues to be a planned and concerted action, which began in one instance with the advent of the apologists and has continued on through the ages by acts of repression, fear and some very clever propaganda. These deliberate actions have been supplemented by the tactics of politicians who are overtly biased in favor of the institutions of organized religion.

After all, power begets power.

As such we should be aware that the basic tenet of these man made religious organizations is to hold onto such power at all costs. We as a community would like to think that we are accepting of all religious beliefs and spiritual paths, as we should be.

But we should not be so naïve as to think that just because we are so accepting that organized religions will welcome us back with open arms from the isolation of an exile that they themselves imposed upon those of pagan beliefs.

In all reality they (organized religions) would very much like to see paganism fade away as just another passing fad. An example of this is the gathering in Rome in the summer of 2007 of the Roman Catholic Church of which the primary topic was “how to draw folks away from Devil worship (allegedly paganism) and back into the grasp of the one true church”.

Granted there are some individuals within organized religion who are realistic and enlightened enough to accept the fact that not everyone is going to believe as they do. And thus are willing to work with members of alternate beliefs such as paganism.

However the harsh reality is that these folks generally belong to one of the very aggressive religious organizations whose leaders do not endorse such openness. And as such we are being accepted only in isolated situations and only at the very grass roots of these religious institutions.

Acceptance of the fact that the oldest religious/spiritual beliefs in the world were not obliterated and are making a re-emergence is going to take some considerable time, effort and patience.

We will re-emerge into the light of day one enlightened heart and soul at a time. To believe otherwise is in my personal opinion, both foolish and self-defeating.

Another pitfall we should be wary of is manipulation by the organized religions. They have by virtue of their position in the world today, proven to be very adept at such tactics.

And quite obviously (to some of us anyway) they are employing these tried and proven techniques to the very community that they would like to once again vanquish back into the throes of exile.

What is this manipulation you may ask?

Over the recent years, a crumb will fall off of the table of organized religion and a pagan will be ‘allowed” to sit at the same table as these folks. Each time it has been a Wiccan who is chosen to take such a seat and in each case the chosen Wiccan will proclaim themselves as representative of the whole pagan community. And then folks in the pagan community will swoon like young schoolgirls and say, “oh what a great thing this is for the community”.

In my personal opinion, such proclamations fall right into the hands of those of the organized religions who are sponsoring such meetings.

I have serious reservations about such an approach and reaction for several down to earth reasons.

First of all, realistically we as a community are dealing with folks who are well schooled in such manipulation. It is quite apparent that if you can’t outright obliterate what you object to then you find a way to control it.

For example Brighid the Goddess did not become a Christian saint by happenstance. It was an act of sage manipulation by an organized religion. Hence we have the old adage of, “keeping your friends close but your enemies even closer”.

And so with all due respect to those of the Wicca, I personally have to wonder why organized religion seems to only choose members of Wicca, which is by all accounts barely a generation old and thus but a babe in the world of paganism as the ones who are proffered a seat with these folks.

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here, I think that it is great that a pagan of any path gets the crumb that is offered, to a certain extent.

But then this brings me to my next concern.

One of the primary tenets of paganism is diversity. And if we are to avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy then perhaps those Wicca who are chosen to be seated with organized religions should state responsibly, that in fact they represent but a small portion of the pagan community.

Again, with all due respect to those of the path of Wicca, not only would this be a realistic statement but it would also leave the door open to those of other pagan beliefs. And as such would be a confirmation of the pagan community’s stated belief in the tenet of diversity.

Paganism is after all an acronym or umbrella for many “diverse” beliefs. And no one path can honestly state that they alone represent the many different beliefs that align themselves under the banner of paganism.

In all reality, and yet once again with all due respect, as an Irish witch who also engages the path of shamanism, Wicca does not remotely represent my personal path. Nor does it accurately reflect the beliefs of those who are Asatru, Voudon, Santerian, Odinist, Yoruba, Shamanic, witch and so forth.

If we as a community are going to endorse diversity as one of our founding tenets then we need to surpass the temptations of ego and thus avoid the snare that is being put into place by those religious organizations that have shown such skill in manipulation.

Those who are tapped should show some responsibility and use their opportunities to ensure that organized religion is aware that we are in fact a diverse community and do not fit into one spiritual/religious shoe fits all.

By the same token, we as a community need to overcome our petty ego driven differences and be willing to proffer folks from various pagan beliefs as representatives of our community. Granted this will take a measure of maturity that has for the most part been lacking in our community.

But I personally believe that if we are true to ourselves and our community that we can indeed find the inner strength to exhibit such maturity as a community to express ourselves in such a manner.

The final concern that I would like to express in this treatise is this.
Why do we buy into the perception that organized religion has of us?

Realistically, it is “their” perception and should not be the view that we as pagans hold of ourselves.

Why do we as a community get all flustered and swoon whenever organized religion allows us a seat?

They are in all reality the newcomers to the world stage of religious/spiritual beliefs.

Paganism is in fact the oldest such beliefs in existence, period!
When one of us is invited to their table it should be with the approach that they (organized religions) should be honored to have a member of such an ancient belief seated at their table.

We need to stop playing into their blatant manipulation and express ourselves with aplomb and dignity and not as eager children grateful for a brief moment of attention.

I personally believe that this is why they (organized religions) only invite the Wicca (who are the babes of pagan society) into their midst. In this manner they can point and say “but they have only been around since 1952” and so the manipulation continues and unadulterated attempts at control continues.

In closing I would like to make it clear that I am not casting about disparaging thoughts against those of the Wicca or any other members of organized religions and/or other pagan paths.

My words are simply a reflection of the realities that we as pagans did not create but which we have to live with. How cognizant we are and how we approach such issues as a community in regards to organized religions will determine whether we remain in the daylight or whether we once again resume our existence in the darkness of religious/spiritual exile.

If you don’t want to think of these issues in regards to yourself then maybe you should consider the religious/spiritual freedoms (true freedoms) of your children and your children’s children.

For in all reality, such manipulation and control did not occur over one generation nor is it likely to ebb within just one generation. Freedom of religious/spiritual beliefs is an ongoing struggle against those who would have it otherwise.

I think the last 2000 years or so has made that quite clear…

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C A N D L E M A S: The Light Returns

C A N D L E M A S:  The Light Returns
=====================================
by Mike Nichols

It seems quite impossible that the holiday of Candlemas should be considered
the beginning of Spring.  Here in the Heartland, February 2nd may see a blanket
of snow mantling the Mother.  Or, if the snows have gone, you may be sure the
days are filled with drizzle, slush, and steel-grey skies — the dreariest
weather of the year.  In short, the perfect time for a Pagan Festival of Lights.
And as for Spring, although this may seem a tenuous beginning, all the little
buds, flowers and leaves will have arrived on schedule before Spring runs its
course to Beltane.

‘Candlemas’ is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older
Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc.  ‘Imbolc’ means, literally, ‘in the belly’
(of the Mother).  For in the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings.  The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening and the new year grows.  ‘Oimelc’ means ‘milk of ewes’, for it is also lambing season.

The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish
Goddess Brigit.  At her shrine, the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of
19 priestesses (no men allowed) kept a perpetual flame burning in her honor.
She was considered a goddess of fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and
healing (especially the healing touch of midwifery).  This tripartite symbolism
was occasionally expressed by saying that Brigit had two sisters, also named
Brigit. (Incidentally, another form of the name Brigit is Bride, and it is
thus She bestows her special patronage on any woman about to be married or
handfasted, the woman being called ‘bride’ in her honor.)

The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of
Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be ‘Saint’
Brigit, patron SAINT of smithcraft, poetry, and healing.  They ‘explained’ this
by telling the Irish peasants that Brigit was ‘really’ an early Christian
missionary sent to the Emerald Isle, and that the miracles she performed there
‘misled’ the common people into believing that she was a goddess.  For some
reason, the Irish swallowed this.  (There is no limit to what the Irish
imagination can convince itself of.  For example, they also came to believe that
Brigit was the ‘foster-mother’ of Jesus, giving no thought to the implausibility
of Jesus having spent his boyhood in Ireland!)

Brigit’s holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since
she symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge, and the
fire of poetic inspiration.  Bonfires were lighted on the beacon tors, and
chandlers celebrated their special holiday. The Roman Church was quick to
confiscate this symbolism as well, using ‘Candlemas’ as the day to bless all the
church candles that would be used for the coming liturgical year.  (Catholics
will be reminded that the following day, St. Blaise’s Day, is remembered for
using the newly-blessed candles to bless the throats of parishioners, keeping
them from colds, flu, sore throats, etc.)

The Catholic Church, never one to refrain from piling holiday upon holiday,
also called it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  (It is
surprising how many of the old Pagan holidays were converted to Maryan Feasts.)  The symbol of the Purification may seem a little obscure to modern readers, but it has to do with the old custom of ‘churching women’.  It was believed that women were impure for six weeks after giving birth.  And since Mary gave birth at the winter solstice, she wouldn’t be purified until February 2nd.  In Pagan symbolism, this might be re-translated as when the Great Mother once again becomes the Young Maiden Goddess.

Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore.  Even our American
folk-calendar keeps the tradition of ‘Groundhog’s Day’, a day to predict the
coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be
‘six more weeks’ of bad weather (i.e., until the next old holiday, Lady Day).
This custom is ancient.  An old British rhyme tells us that ‘If Candlemas Day be
bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.’  Actually, all of the
cross-quarter days can be used as ‘inverse’ weather predictors, whereas the
quarter-days are used as ‘direct’ weather predictors.

Like the other High Holidays or Great Sabbats of the Witches’ year,
Candlemas is sometimes celebrated on it’s alternate date, astrologically
determined by the sun’s reaching 15-degrees Aquarius, or Candlemas Old Style (in 1988, February 3rd, at 9:03 am CST). Another holiday that gets mixed up in this is Valentine’s Day.  Ozark folklorist Vance Randolf makes this quite clear by
noting that the old-timers used to celebrate Groundhog’s Day on February 14th.
This same displacement is evident in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as well.
Their habit of celebrating the birth of Jesus on January 6th, with a similar
post-dated shift in the six-week period that follows it, puts the Feast of the
Purification of Mary on February 14th.  It is amazing to think that the same
confusion and lateral displacement of one of the old folk holidays can be seen
from the Russian steppes to the Ozark hills, but such seems to be the case!

Incidentally, there is speculation among linguistic scholars that the vary
name of ‘Valentine’ has Pagan origins.  It seems that it was customary for
French peasants of the Middle Ages to pronounce a ‘g’ as a ‘v’.  Consequently,
the original term may have been the French ‘galantine’, which yields the English
word ‘gallant’.  The word originally refers to a dashing young man known for his
‘affaires d’amour’, a true galaunt.  The usual associations of V(G)alantine’s
Day make much more sense in this light than their vague connection to a
legendary ‘St. Valentine’ can produce.  Indeed, the Church has always found it
rather difficult to explain this nebulous saint’s connection to the secular
pleasures of flirtation and courtly love.

For modern Witches, Candlemas O.S. may then be seen as the Pagan version of Valentine’s Day, with a de-emphasis of ‘hearts and flowers’ and an appropriate
re-emphasis of Pagan carnal frivolity.  This also re-aligns the holiday with the
ancient Roman Lupercalia, a fertility festival held at this time, in which the
priests of Pan ran through the streets of Rome whacking young women with
goatskin thongs to make them fertile.  The women seemed to enjoy the attention
and often stripped in order to afford better targets.

One of the nicest folk-customs still practiced in many countries, and
especially by Witches in the British Isles and parts of the U.S., is to place a
lighted candle in each and every window of the house, beginning at sundown on
Candlemas Eve (February 1st), allowing them to continue burning until sunrise.
Make sure that such candles are well seated against tipping and guarded from
nearby curtains, etc.  What a cheery sight it is on this cold, bleak and dreary
night to see house after house with candle-lit windows!  And, of course, if you
are your Coven’s chandler, or if you just happen to like making candles,
Candlemas Day is THE day for doing it.  Some Covens hold candle-making parties and try to make and bless all the candles they’ll be using for the whole year on this day.

Other customs of the holiday include weaving ‘Brigit’s crosses’ from straw
or wheat to hang around the house for protection, performing rites of spiritual
cleansing and purification, making ‘Brigit’s beds’ to ensure fertility of mind
and spirit (and body, if desired), and making Crowns of Light (i.e. of candles)
for the High Priestess to wear for the Candlemas Circle, similar to those worn
on St. Lucy’s Day in Scandinavian countries.  All in all, this Pagan Festival of
Lights, sacred to the young Maiden Goddess, is one of the most beautiful and
poetic of the year.

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Candlemas: The Light Returns

Candlemas: The Light Returns
by Mike Nichols

It seems quite impossible that the holiday of Candlemas should be considered the  beginning of Spring.  Here in the Heartland, February 2nd may see a blanket of snow  mantling the Mother.  Or, if the snows have gone, you may be sure the days are filled with  drizzle, slush, and steel-grey skies — the dreariest weather of the year.  In short, the  perfect time for a Pagan Festival of Lights.  And as for Spring, although this may seem a  tenuous beginning, all the little buds, flowers and leaves will have arrived on schedule  before Spring runs its course to Beltane.

‘Candlemas’ is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older Pagan names  were Imbolc and Oimelc.  ‘Imbolc’ means, literally, ‘in the belly’ (of the Mother).  For in  the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision,  there are stirrings.  The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening  and the new year grows.  ‘Oimelc’ means ‘milk of ewes’, for it is also lambing season.

The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit.   At her shrine, the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of 19 priestesses (no men  allowed) kept a perpetual flame burning in her honor.  She was considered a goddess of  fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing (especially the healing touch of  midwifery).  This tripartite symbolism was occasionally expressed by saying that Brigit had  two sisters, also named Brigit. (Incidentally, another form of the name Brigit is Bride,  and it is thus She bestows her special patronage on any woman about to be married or  handfasted, the woman being called ‘bride’ in her honor.)

The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of Ireland a  demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be ‘Saint’ Brigit, patron SAINT  of smithcraft, poetry, and healing.  They ‘explained’ this by telling the Irish peasants  that Brigit was ‘really’ an early Christian missionary sent to the Emerald Isle, and that  the miracles she performed there ‘misled’ the common people into believing that she was a  goddess.  For some reason, the Irish swallowed this.  (There is no limit to what the Irish  imagination can convince itself of.  For example, they also came to believe that Brigit was  the ‘foster-mother’ of Jesus, giving no thought to the implausibility of Jesus having spent  his boyhood in Ireland!)

Brigit’s holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since she  symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge, and the fire of poetic  inspiration.  Bonfires were lighted on the beacon tors, and chandlers celebrated their  special holiday. The Roman Church was quick to confiscate this symbolism as well, using  ‘Candlemas’ as the day to bless all the church candles that would be used for the coming  liturgical year.  (Catholics will be reminded that the following day, St. Blaise’s Day, is  remembered for using the newly-blessed candles to bless the throats of parishioners,  keeping them from colds, flu, sore throats, etc.)

The Catholic Church, never one to refrain from piling holiday upon holiday, also called  it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  (It is surprising how many of  the old Pagan holidays were converted to Maryan Feasts.)  The symbol of the Purification  may seem a little obscure to modern readers, but it has to do with the old custom of  ‘churching women’.  It was believed that women were impure for six weeks after giving  birth.  And since Mary gave birth at the winter solstice, she wouldn’t be purified until  February 2nd.  In Pagan symbolism, this might be re-translated as when the Great Mother  once again becomes the Young Maiden Goddess.

Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore.  Even our American  folk-calendar keeps the tradition of ‘Groundhog’s Day’, a day to predict the coming  weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’  of bad weather (i.e., until the next old holiday, Lady Day).  This custom is ancient.  An  old British rhyme tells us that ‘If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two  winters in the year.’  Actually, all of the cross-quarter days can be used as ‘inverse’  weather predictors, whereas the quarter-days are used as ‘direct’ weather predictors.

Like the other High Holidays or Great Sabbats of the Witches’ year, Candlemas is  sometimes celebrated on it’s alternate date, astrologically determined by the sun’s  reaching 15-degrees Aquarius, or Candlemas Old Style (in 1988, February 3rd, at 9:03 am  CST). Another holiday that gets mixed up in this is Valentine’s Day.  Ozark folklorist  Vance Randolf makes this quite clear by noting that the old-timers used to celebrate  Groundhog’s Day on February 14th.  This same displacement is evident in Eastern Orthodox  Christianity as well. Their habit of celebrating the birth of Jesus on January 6th, with a  similar post-dated shift in the six-week period that follows it, puts the Feast of the  Purification of Mary on February 14th.  It is amazing to think that the same confusion and  lateral displacement of one of the old folk holidays can be seen from the Russian steppes  to the Ozark hills, but such seems to be the case!

Incidentally, there is speculation among linguistic scholars that the vary name of  ‘Valentine’ has Pagan origins.  It seems that it was customary for French peasants of the  Middle Ages to pronounce a ‘g’ as a ‘v’.  Consequently, the original term may have been the  French ‘galantine’, which yields the English word ‘gallant’.  The word originally refers to  a dashing young man known for his ‘affaires d’amour’, a true galaunt.  The usual  associations of V(G)alantine’s Day make much more sense in this light than their vague  connection to a legendary ‘St. Valentine’ can produce.  Indeed, the Church has always found  it rather difficult to explain this nebulous saint’s connection to the secular pleasures of  flirtation and courtly love.

For modern Witches, Candlemas O.S. may then be seen as the Pagan version of Valentine’s  Day, with a de-emphasis of ‘hearts and flowers’ and an appropriate re-emphasis of Pagan  carnal frivolity.  This also re-aligns the holiday with the ancient Roman Lupercalia, a  fertility festival held at this time, in which the priests of Pan ran through the streets  of Rome whacking young women with goatskin thongs to make them fertile.  The women seemed  to enjoy the attention and often stripped in order to afford better targets.

One of the nicest folk-customs still practiced in many countries, and especially by  Witches in the British Isles and parts of the U.S., is to place a lighted candle in each  and every window of the house, beginning at sundown on Candlemas Eve (February 1st),  allowing them to continue burning until sunrise.  Make sure that such candles are well  seated against tipping and guarded from nearby curtains, etc.  What a cheery sight it is on  this cold, bleak and dreary night to see house after house with candle-lit windows!  And,  of course, if you are your Coven’s chandler, or if you just happen to like making candles,  Candlemas Day is THE day for doing it.  Some Covens hold candle-making parties and try to  make and bless all the candles they’ll be using for the whole year on this day.

Other customs of the holiday include weaving ‘Brigit’s crosses’ from straw or wheat to  hang around the house for protection, performing rites of spiritual cleansing and  purification, making ‘Brigit’s beds’ to ensure fertility of mind and spirit (and body, if  desired), and making Crowns of Light (i.e. of candles) for the High Priestess to wear for  the Candlemas Circle, similar to those worn on St. Lucy’s Day in Scandinavian countries.   All in all, this Pagan Festival of Lights, sacred to the young Maiden Goddess, is one of  the most beautiful and poetic of the year.

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Let’s Look At The Folklore About Santa Claus

Folklore of Santa

Santa is a folk figure with multicultural roots. He embodies characteristics of Saturn (Roman agricultural god), Cronos (Greek god, also known as Father Time), the Holly King (Celtic god of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian winter god), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic All-Father who rides the sky on an eight-legged horse), Frey (Norse fertility god), the Tomte (a Norse Land Spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year), and Thor (Norse sky god who rides the sky in a chariot drawn by goats). Julbock or Julbukk, the Yule goat, from Sweden and Norway, had his beginnings as carrier for the god Thor. Now he carries the Yule elf when he makes his rounds to deliver presents and receive his offering of porridge.

When Early Christians co-opted the Yule holiday, they replaced the ancient Holly King with religious figures like St. Nicholas, who was said to live in Myra (Turkey) in about 300 A.D. Born an only child of a wealthy family, he was orphaned at an early age when both parents died of the plague. He grew up in a monastery and at the age of 17 became one of the youngest priests ever. Many stories are told of his generosity as he gave his wealth away in the form of gifts to those in need, especially children. Legends tell of him either dropping bags of gold down chimneys or throwing the bags through the windows where they landed in the stockings hung from the fireplace to dry. Some years later Nicholas became a bishop–hence the bishop’s hat or miter, long flowing gown, white beard and red cape.

When the Reformation took place, the new Protestants no longer desired St. Nicholas as their gift-giver as he was too closely tied to the Catholic Church. Therefore, each country or region developed their own gift-giver. In France he was known as Pare Noel. In England he was Father Christmas (always depicted with sprigs of holly, ivy, or mistletoe). Germany knew him as Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man). When the communists took over in Russia and outlawed Christianity, the Russians began to call him Grandfather Frost, who wore blue instead of the traditional red. To the Dutch, he was Sinterklaas (which eventually was mispronounced in America and became Santa Claus). La Befana, a kindly witch, rides a broomstick down the chimney to deliver toys into the stockings of Italian children. These Santas were arrayed in every color of the rainbow–sometimes even in black. But they all had long white beards and carried gifts for the children.

All of these Santas, however, never stray far from his earliest beginnings as god of the waning year. As witches, we reclaim Santa’s Pagan heritage.

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A Glorious Sunday Morn To All My Loves, Family & Friends Too, lol!

Witchy Comments & Graphics
My morning started out very nicely. I don’t know how I got in this mood just to bite someone’s head off. We are having a local telethon for disabled children. I started watching about 4:30 this morning. Then about 7:00 it turned to Gospel music. They never start the Gospel hour at 7:00 it is generally around 10:00. So I kept listening and hoping and listening and hoping, finally I said the hell with it and turned the TV down. In the meantime, my bobcat jumps my Pomeranian and you would have thought she killed her. Razzy (bobcat) has been wanting to play all morning. I have played with her some. So she get on the bed and lays in wait for Kiki to hop on the bed. When Kiki did Razzy jumped at her. She didn’t hurt Kiki just scared the crap out of her.

Now I have all the homefront issues handled, I get on the site and I have someone trying to tell me what I put on the front page. That struck a nerve. Started by staying Witch craft is not a religion but it can be compared to knitting or crocheting. But it was turned around somehow and stated that yes, Witch craft could be a Religion now days. Then ended by saying, Witch craft is the oldest religion in some part of the world. “Baby, first off before you ever dare tell me what I wrote, you best read it. Don’t ever attempt that again. I am the author of the front page. I know what I wrote. Next, Witch craft is not two words, it is one like this “Witchcraft,” see.  The part that really pissed me off was comparing my Religion, YES, MY RELIGION! Don’t like Witchcraft classified as a RELIGION GO SOME PLACE ELSE, Got it! But comparing it to knitting or crocheting, that tells me you are no WITCH.  Instead you are an IDOIT! You want to make comments like these, you best find you another site to do it at. NOT THIS ONE! Because yes when I run into comments that make me angry, I do call them out.

I know exactly what you are. But now it is wonderful, because remember the time I was threw out of an Award’s Site. Come to find out the owner was a Baptist. She threw me out but left it were I could read each and everyone of your nasty comments about me and my Religion. Baby, pay back is a bitch! You see, I am not going to let you comment or anything. I am treating you the same way ya’ll treated me. Sit and take it! I am not near as nasty as everyone of you were to me. But I will tell you one thing if you ever come back to this site, I will publish your name and let every witch here do what she wants with you. Got it. Never, ever darken these halls again!

Now that I am through with my dear old friend there, I was thinking this morning. This was when I was starting to flip the channels, then I thought what good would it do? All I see on Sunday mornings is Baptist, Christian, Catholic and every other mainstream Religion out there on TV. I got to thinking wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Craft Hour on TV. I know, I know! I wouldn’t even know how to go about doing it. But it would be so beautiful to see somebody on there spreading the word of our Goddess. Wouldn’t it? I use to be able to turn the TV down low when I was posting on Sundays but I can’t do that anymore. I know you are thinking, “well, change the channel!” I am going too in a minute or so. But I guess the Goddess has touched my heart and soul, I don’t want to hear any other Religions. The only one I want to hear is the words of our Religion. I want others to come to know the Goddess. Have our Divine Lady fill their souls and hearts with joy and love. There are still thousands of individuals that have not heard our message yet or more important met our Divine Mother. The internet has been an excellent resource but we are going to have to come up with more creative ways for our message to get out. I know television is a pipe dream right now but one day, perhaps with the Goddess it can come true.

I hope everyone has a very relaxed and blessed Sunday.

Luv & Hugs,

Lady A

P.S.

I know there are several here to start trouble from another Religion this day. They are probably wondering how can she talk all so holier than thou right after she gave someone hell. I can do it because I am a Witch. We have all learned from our past history what individuals like you would do to us if given the chance. I can guarantee you one thing, you or anyone else like you will never get that chance again. It was a hard lesson learned but we learned it well. We will not go quietly anymore nor will we remain quiet. Our Goddess does not expect us to die for Her unlike some of your Religions suggests. Our Divine Mother stands beside us at all times. Loving us, caring for us and comforting us at all times. I have made a commitment to Her. That commitment to my Mother is that I get Her message out to many people as I can. Nothing or no one will deter me from that mission. May the Goddess bless you and help you to see the error in your ways!

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Wishing You A Very Blessed Monday, Dear Brothers & Sisters of the Craft!

TO BE A WITCH

To be a witch is to love and be loved.
To be a witch is to know everything, and nothing at all.
To be a witch is to move amongst the stars while staying on earth.
To be a witch is to change the world around you, and yourself.
To be a witch is to share and give, while receiving all the while.
To be a witch is to dance and sing, and hold hands with the universe.
To be a witch is to honor the gods, and yourself.
To be a witch is to be magick, not just perform it.
To be a witch is to be honorable, or nothing at all.
To be a witch is to accept others who are not.
To be a witch is to know what you feel is right and good.
To be a witch is to harm none.
To be a witch is to know the ways of old.
To be a witch is to see beyond the barriers.
To be a witch is to follow the moon.
To be a witch is to be one with the gods.
To be a witch is to study and to learn.
To be a witch is to be the teacher and the student.
To be a witch is to acknowledge the truth.
To be a witch is to live with the earth, not just on it.
To be a witch is to be truly free!

 

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts, The Witch | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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