Posts Tagged With: Nature

Spell Ingredients: Add a Large Dose of Reality

Spell Ingredients: Add a Large Dose of Reality

Author: Solonius 

The first ingredient for any spell: A large dose of reality…. I mean, really, what do you expect? If all spells worked, wouldn’t humanity universally believe in witchcraft and magic and use it wholeheartedly? And to that extent wouldn’t worthy practitioners be a desired commodity? It is imperative for practitioners to separate their wishful and whimsical fantasies from serious study, contemplation, experimentation and application.

I believe that in order to further understand and define the super-natural, you first have to develop and have a thorough understanding of the natural. Any study of the Craft requires a greater amount of study into the realm of Laws of Nature and the Laws of Physics. After all, how can you define what is extra-ordinary, if you don’t even know the extent of what is ordinary?

The Laws of Physics are many, and the typical high-school student mostly understands the important ones. Opposites attract (by and large this only works for ions, kids, not people) , for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force, for any change in state the by-product or causation is heat, etc. How can better knowing these things help us in a greater understanding of our spell work? Because all these things deal with Energy, and what is the Universe constructed of? Anyone…? Yes, Energy. And what does spell work deal with, when you boil it all down (pun intended) ? That’s right, Energy! Or more accurately, the transfer of energy. This is the First Insight that any practitioner should grasp. EVERYTHING is energy.

The Second Insight that we should understand, because it deals with both types of laws, is that Nature abhors a vacuum. That can be observed as simply as watching a balloon deflate. What do you discover with these phenomena? That Nature seeks a balance. This holds true for the Laws of Life and the Laws of Physics. The Universe naturally seeks equilibrium. Whether this is between hot/cold, high pressure/low pressure, too many predators and not enough prey, the Law stays the same. In the end, Nature will follow its Laws. You do know, though, that there is a defined and empirical Order to Things. You might not understand it fully, but you can be assured that an order exists by observing the smallest things in nature. This is crucial: Be observant to Nature and learn from it. Nature, in all its complexity, is still a system of doing things the easiest and least energy wasting way. Contemplate that reality for a while.

Where does this energy come from? Good question. Is it physical energy, which means connected to our current plane of existence? If that is so, then you would not be able to contain it for the energy you are talking about on the physical plane is electrical in nature, and you would become walking atom bombs if you gathered the energy required to perform some spells. So it can’t be a physical energy type.

Is it spiritual energy (which obviously means it is energy collected from higher levels of existence) that you are able to gather and use? The usual consensus is “Yes, it is.” This leads to the next set of questions. Can energy from higher levels of existence cause effects on a lower level of existence? How can if affect the energy in a lower existence, if the two existences are not on the same sphere? Can the physical things you do on a lower plane of existence affect what happens on a higher plane of existence? Is your mentality the only link between what you perceive as the physical plane and planes above what you can perceive with your physical senses? What is the extent of ‘Reality’, does it encompass ALL spheres of existence as ONE reality? Nature abhors a vacuum, so if As Above – So Below is a Law of Nature, does this mean that the energies of a higher plane seek a balance with the energies of a lower plane?

It is said that in the higher planes all things are possible if you only imagine it so. I further postulate that you must not only imagine it so, it must become your perceived REALITY. You must learn to tap into the energies of the higher planes, and effect permanent changes there, before any changes can happen in the physical plane. I’ve often said that there is an ocean of difference between Understanding and Knowing. Understanding is intellectual; it is accepting truth without necessarily going through all the motions to prove it. Knowing is visceral; it deals more with proof from the physical senses perceiving something as true. Ergo, to make a change here, you have to Know that you have made a change in higher realms first.

I postulate the reason for this is the hypothesis of ‘trickle down economics’ if you’d like. What does this mean? It means that in order to build a hut on the physical plane, you must first build a mansion in the higher planes. More complexly, Nature (meaning all planes of existence) seeks a balance. Nature also does things the absolute least energy-wasting way. I perceive that Nature does not easily permit energy to flow across planes of existence, even if they are in the same ‘Reality’. With As Above – So Below, you can see through a simple diagram of two superimposed triangles (one point up, the other point down) that the equilibrium point is above here and now (the bottom point) , yet below the ultimate expression (the top point) . As you move down from the ultimate expression (the open V) , less and less energy is transferred. Therefore you must have a firm and knowing conviction of what you wish to accomplish and see a clear and precise picture of it occurring, before you can hope to realize it happening.

Ironically, you should also have a wonderfully developed sense of imagination up to the point of believing in what seems impossible. Only with an active imagination can you build that mansion up to the point of actualization in the higher planes. This seems contradictory, but I don’t feel that it is. Without a firm mental picture of what you require to exist, can you hope to achieve your goal? You have to build that mansion brick by brick, through much mental exactness and conviction. This requires a great deal of imagination as well as focus. The constructed mansion should then remain in that higher plane once you have completed it. It’s there; there is no doubt of its existence in your mind. Every time you visit the higher realms your mansion is there, gleaming with its glory. Make it Reality. Does this mean that a mansion will magically appear here and now for you in the material plane? Probably not, but the single minded effort it took to imagine it as reality in the higher plane, could translate into the required motivation and focus to achieve it in the here and now. Here is something else to consider: owning the mansion is secondary to the method of achieving it.

I’ve used the visualization of a mansion to put a face to a concept. However, it holds true for any endeavor. What you wish to have happen is secondary to HOW you achieve its happening. You build the mental picture (higher plane reality) while simultaneously going through with the steps required to achieve the same results. This multiple avenue approach enlists all your faculties to achieve what your desire is. The greater the amount of energies enlisted to achieve your desire, the more energy the universe aligns with the outcome. Remember: the method of how you achieve your goal is primary to the goal itself.

As an example: There is a twice-weekly fervent prayer on many lips throughout the land: “Please let me win the lottery!” However, if you never go out to purchase a lottery ticket, the effort placed into your prayer was wasted, wasn’t it? The same occurs with your Craft. Creating a spell to achieve the end result is short sighted. You still have to do the work to realize your goal. There really are no shortcuts. I don’t mean using some elaborate spell either. I mean elaborate mental visualization, coupled with following a plan to achieve the goal. Each reinforces the other, making the possibility of achievement vastly greater. Ground that visualization into what Laws Nature has already demonstrated. This lends conviction and credibility to the achievement of the goal.

What would be the required steps to achieve that goal without using any Craft? Incorporate those steps into the visualization with your spell. Bypass any flights of fantasy; they require too much energy to maintain. After all is it easier for your mind to accept flying to work on a broomstick, or driving your car? Your mind will default to what it Knows is possible, and will automatically call B.S. to what is not. Even a child imagining flying around the house on a broomstick Knows that they are just pretending. So why kid yourself? The more reality you incorporate into your Craft, the greater the results you will receive.

*On a side note: I don’t think of the planes of Reality as floors in a skyscraper, nor are they in some cardinal Direction. They don’t exist as pages in a book, where you can turn a page and have a new reality. I think of it as a condensing of energy from zero (conversely the most dense) to the ultimate amount of energy. They are all concurrent and here and now, superimposed upon what we can only perceive as the physical plane due to the limitations of our senses. This energy is limitless to infinity. For infinity is provable as far as we have observed. Outside the edge of the growing globe of galaxies expanding outward, is vacuum. Forever. You could hypothetically travel so far away that this entire globe of expanding physical energy seems like nothing more than a single spec of brilliant light. However, the theory of infinity breaks down if you require a starting point. As Above – So Below… Infinity must go in BOTH ‘directions’ forever, or the concept breaks down.

I thank you for your time in reading this. I hope it gave you some food for contemplation, and in some way helps you with more success on your path.

Regards,
Solonius

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The Daily OM For April 1st – Physical Intuitiveness

Physical Intuitiveness
The Body Is Natural

by Madisyn Taylor

So much of the human experience is removed from nature that we forget we are products of the natural world.

So much of the human experience is removed from nature that we tend to forget that we are products of the natural world. At the moment of birth, we are perfectly attuned to nature. Our feelings are an authentic response to the stimulus we encounter. We interact with our environment viscerally, desiring only what is necessary for our survival. And, if we are lucky, we take in nourishment in the form of pure mother’s milk. As months and years pass, however, we discover the sights, sounds, and scents of the synthetic world. Though these often momentarily dazzle us, the dim memory of our naturalness remains. When we embrace the notion that human beings are inherently natural, bringing it to the forefront of our day-to-day experiences, we achieve a new level of wellness that boasts nature at its very core.

We innately understand that our bodies are not composed of plastics or man-made chemicals and that there is no legitimate reason to consume or expose ourselves bodily to such substances. This knowledge is reinforced each time we find ourselves energized by sweet, fresh air and warm sunlight or awed by the majesty of Mother Nature’s beauty. We feel the strength of our connection to nature when fresh food that is close to the earth sustains us more effectively than artificial supplements and when the pleasures of exercise outweigh the pains of exertion. The human body has been blessed with the same physical intuitiveness that all nonhuman living beings employ instinctively. But because our lives are no longer bound up in nature’s rhythms, we must actively seek to reconnect with this formerly innate skill. The process of rediscovering our place in the natural world can be exciting and inspiring, since nothing more is required of us than to delight in nature’s wonders, to derive nourishment from natural foods, and to drink deeply of all the wisdom that plants and animals have to share.

Your own naturalness will reveal itself to you when you look beyond your beliefs, your lifestyle choices, and the attitudes you hold. When these constructs are stripped away, you will see a body and mind that never gave up its relationship to the essence of the natural world from which consciousness sprang.

Source:
Daily OM

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What Is A Druid, Anyway?

What Is A Druid, Anyway?

Author: Ellen Evert Hopman

There are many different Druid Orders and as is the case with most Pagan groupings, no two Druids will see things in exactly the same way.

To further confuse matters there is a different focus and feel to American Druid Orders and English ones. I can only speak for myself, as an American Druid of the  (Ord Na Darach Gile) .

History:

“Gaine daughter of pure Gumor,
nurse of mead-loving Mide,
surpassed all women though she was silent

she was learned and a seer and a chief Druid.”

(From The Metrical Dindsenchas, Gwynn translation, 1903)

There is plenty of evidence that women as well as men were Druids in ancient times. Druids presided at divinations and sacrifices and praised the Gods, but the primary task of all grades of Druids was to follow an intellectual path.

The Druids were the learned class of the ancient Celts, analogous to the Brahmins of India.

Both Hindu and Celtic culture are derived from the same proto-Indo-European roots. The caste system of the Hindus and the caste system of the Celts were essentially the same; both were fluid, that is one could move up or down the social ladder depending on skill and learning (it was only in the 10th century that Hinduism “froze” its caste system – a reaction to invaders from outside) .

The Druid was analogous to the Brahmin, the warrior to the Kshatria. There were the producer class of farmers and craftsmen and finally the slaves who were analogous to the Hindu untouchables. Among Druids there were specialists; it seems unlikely that every Druid was mistress of every Druidical function. Druids did not commit their knowledge to writing; important facts were memorized and passed down orally.

A Druid could be a Sencha, or historian for the tribe. They could be a Brehon, in which case they would have memorized volumes of Brehon Law making them eligible to be a lawyer, a judge, or an ambassador. A Druid could also be a Scelaige, or keeper of myths and epics. These myths were recited at important occasions like weddings and births, at the onset of a major journey or a battle.

The Cainte was a master of magical chants, invocations and curses. They could banish or bless with a song. The Cruitire was a harpist who knew the magical uses of music; she was mistress of the “three kinds of music:” laughing music (the sound of young men at play) , crying music (the sound of a woman in the travails of childbirth) , and sleeping music (the sound of which would put a person to sleep) .

The Druid might be a Liaig, a doctor who used surgery, herbs and magic to heal, or a Deoghbaire, a cupbearer who knew the properties of intoxicating and hallucinogenic substances.

Further specialties included the Faith, or diviner, the Bard, who was a popular poet and singer, and the highest grade of Druid, the Fili, a sacred poet and diviner whose words were prophetic.

Like Sorcerers, Druids performed feats of magic in the service of the king or queen and in the service of the tribe.

“Then Mogh Roith said to Ceann Mor: ‘Bring me my poison-stone, my hand-stone, my hundred-fighter, my destruction of my enemies.’

This was brought to him and he began to praise it, and he proceeded to put a venomous spell on it…”

(Forbhais Droma Damhghaire, Sean O’Duinn translation)

Druids were the teachers of the sons and daughters of the nobility. It was their task to hand down from generation to generation the knowledge of sacred animals, trees, plants, stones and all the details of the landscape, its history and how each feature got its name, as well as the tribal laws and precedents.

In contrast to village Cunningmen and Wisewomen (Witches) , who were counselors, midwives, magicians, herbalists, and veterinarians for their community, the Druids advised and worked closely with the nobility. A king or queen was a person from the warrior class who had spent their entire life learning the arts of defense and war, who was then elevated to the “Nemed” or sacred class by means of an elaborate ritual.

Druids were hereditary members of the Nemed class who had spent their lives learning the laws. A king or queen had to have a Druid advisor by their side at all times so that they could rule according to precedent. The stories of Arthur and Merlin are a good illustration of this relationship.

The justice of the king was so important that it would determine whether strong and good-looking children would be born to the people and if the weather, crops and animals would prosper.

There is evidence that the Druids supervised at human sacrifices. However, there is no evidence of the type of wholesale immolation in wicker cages reported by Julius Caesar. It is well to remember that Caesar was attempting to paint the Druids in a lurid light in order to get funding from Rome to continue his military campaigns and further his personal political ambitions. It seems likely that prisoners of war and criminals were dispatched in much the same way as we do it today, after judgment and sentencing.

The Druids were persecuted by the Romans and killed off in many Celtic areas.

However, the Romans never got to the extreme north of Caledonia (Scotland) nor did they invade Ireland. As a result Druids and their teachings persisted for many centuries. The Bards were able to continue to disseminate Druid teachings via story and song.

Who the Druids Were Not:

The Druids were not priests and priestesses of Atlantis, nor were they a lost tribe of Israel. Early English historians could not imagine that groups such as the Irish (whom they considered to be backward and inferior) could possibly have produced such a class of noble intellectuals and clergy.

The Druids did not build Stonehenge or the magnificent cairns of the Boyne Valley; Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange, which were built by pre-Indo-European, Bronze Age peoples. However, it is quite likely that the Druids used those monuments. In the case of the Irish structures, there is plenty of mythological evidence that the Iron Age Celts and their Druids revered these sites as sacred.

The Druids were not proto-Christians. They had their own system of ethics and deities that pre-dated Christianity.

Core Beliefs:

All of which brings us to the difficult question of what it means to be a Druid in the new millennium.

All modern Druids attempt to honor Celtic tradition. They also understand that there is no fully intact tradition of Druidism that stretches back to ancient times and that of necessity every Druid Order must create its own ritual form.

Some are happy to include recent speculations, such as the poetry of Robert Graves (inventor of the Celtic Tree Calendar) and others try to stick to more rigorously researched, scholastically verifiable sources.

It is more common to find practicing Christians among the English Orders. American Druid Orders, such as Whiteoak, Keltria, and ADF, place a larger emphasis on Pagan Celtic scholarship, seeing themselves as lore keepers for Pagan Celtic cultural, religion and magical tradition.

Irish Druidism is often concerned with the Forest Druid tradition, seeking to keep alive the ancient woods lore of the forest dwellers of the Elizabethan era and earlier.

As in the past, modern Druids tend to be intellectually curious, reading voraciously on subjects such as Celtic tribal law, history, philosophy, poetry, magic, religion, mythology, spirituality, traditional healing methods, music, archaeology and astronomy. They use these studies to create ceremonies that honor the Earth and the Celtic pantheon of Gods.

The Druids are not a male priesthood. There are a few popular authors and at least one old English Order that try to perpetuate that idea, but they are in the minority and do not represent the majority of Druids today. Druids are not among those who seek to exploit or ignore the Earth in Her time of need. They recognize that nature hangs in a delicate balance and that all life must be tended with care.

Druids do not ignore the needs of the people. As in ancient times they care for the welfare of the people, giving comfort in times of sickness and death, rejoicing in each other’s life passages and achievements, and seeking to advise, as best they can, the secular leaders of their towns, states and nations. They donate time and money to religious, cultural and humanitarian projects that capture their imaginations.

In short, Druidism is not a solitary path. The Druid is not isolated from her spiritual community, her town, her city, her nation or the world.

Ways of Worship:

Druids love nature and seek to know the land they live on intimately, observing seasonal and astronomical changes and animal behaviors as timing for festivals and as portents for the future.

Druids honor rivers, trees, mountains, green herbs, rocks, animals and every living thing. The Whiteoak Druids, for example, take an oath to protect “the Earth and Her creatures, ” making offerings to trees, stones, and to the local River Goddess of the Druid’s bioregion. Druids place an emphasis on praising the Gods and less of an emphasis on magic, using song, poetry, and crafts to express their love and kinship with their chosen deities. Druids make offerings to fire and water as a regular part of their rituals, in keeping with ancient Indo-European tradition.

Celtic Reconstructionist Druids, in keeping with tradition, work with the Three Worlds (Land, Sea and Sky) more than the Four Directions. Druids invoke and thank the ancestors, the Nature Spirits and the Gods in their rites. Druids are true polytheists, understanding each deity as a distinct individual with His or Her unique likes, dislikes, and spheres of influence. Among Druids it is considered somewhat rude to bring deities from different religions and cultures together in the same circle and every effort is made to work within genuine Celtic pantheons.

A Witch’s circle is a closed space, designed to hold and contain energy to build it into a “cone of power.” A Druid circle is a permeable affair; persons may walk in and out at will. Since part of the energy raising involves inviting the Nature Spirits to participate, Druids feel that there is no point in walling off the circle. Druid ceremonies are most often performed out of doors, ideally in the presence of living water, a fire, and a tree (or a pole or staff substitute) .

Modern Druids do not practice animal or human sacrifice, regarding hard work and artistic achievements as adequate offerings.

The major festivals of the Druids are: Samhain, the ritual end of the harvest season and great festival to honor the dead; Imbolc, a festival especially dedicated to the Goddess Brighid; Beltaine, the beginning of Summer and Lughnasad, the start of the harvest season and a festival dedicated to Lugh and His foster mother. These festivals are known as “Fire Festivals.”

Many Druids also celebrate the Equinoxes and Solstices and some meet at the full or new moons

____________________________________

Reading and Other References:

For a list of links to the major Druid Orders, book lists and service projects please see:
Sources:

Breatnach, Liam (translator) ; Uraicecht Na Riar, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1987.

Hopman, Ellen Evert; A Druids Herbal, Destiny Books, Rochester, VT, 1995.

Kelly, Fergus; A Guide To Early Irish Law, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1991.

Kelly, Fergus (translator) ; Audacht Morainn, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1976.

Markale, Jean; The Druids, Celtic Priests of Nature, Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT, 1999.

Matthews, John; The Druid Source Book, Blanford Press, London, 1996.

Ellen Evert Hopman

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Witchcraft – Chapter nine – Witchcraft Today

Witchcraft

Chapter nine – Witchcraft Today

by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.

A thousand years ago or today, if you asked a witch why she practices the Craft, her answer would be universal: It accomplishes results.  However, the many “workbooks” and “spell books” on the market won’t necessarily teach you how to become a witch or to perform magic. Pursuing witchcraft without a coven, without ceremonies, without initiation does not generally work. At best, it will probably be self delusion; at worst, it can do some psychological damage. There are some witches who work alone. There are even courses one can take in big cities such as New York or San Francisco. But Witchcraft is more than just a few spells – it’s a religion. Without the tenets, the commitment, the depth of feeling for the earth – it’s just an imitation.

There is no doubt that magic still exists, and that it can be powerful. But how do you define it in a world such as ours?  If all the nonsense is dismissed, it means using some abnormal ability or a talent. The witch creates a change in circumstances – a change that would not have occurred naturally. Some people have psychic powers, just as others have a natural talent for painting or music. When trained, the powers are enhanced. When used in the correct manner, they are quite successful. Naturally, these powers can be used either for good or for evil. Those who use it for good tend to become witches. Those who use it to do harm call themselves Satanists or Devil Worshipers. There is always a choice.

As seen in previous chapters, all isolated societies have ceremonies, initiations, and some form of magic. Witches, the descendants of such people, have not lost the knowledge. Other organized religions tend to ignore the magical connection, with one exception – prayer. All religions claim that prayer accomplishes tangible results. What is prayer but an attempt to convince the supernatural to do what we want?

Most witches believe that the power is found inside their own bodies. This is the reason why some witches prefer to work in the nude – they feel that the clothes block the power’s release. Other witches work partially nude or dressed in loose robes. In today’s society, with its relaxed attitude toward the human body, nudity is not a problem. After all, the witches do not engage in any immoral activity during the ceremonies. But during the Middle Ages, or even the 18th century, people sometimes didn’t take off their clothing even to bathe. They wore special “bathing robes” for the purpose, so that they would not have to look at their own nude bodies!  It is easy to imagine the uproar when the nudity of the witches was discovered. Naturally the general population assumed the witches engaged in orgies.

In the East, it is commonly believed that each person generates a personal electromagnetic field. It is called the Aura. Many Westerners agree that the Aura exists, and some parapsychologists and physicians are currently investigating it. Many books about the subject are available, so there is no need to go into a discussion of the Aura here, but it does bring up an interesting point. Those who see the Aura, whether with the naked eye or with the new scientific apparatus, say that clothes do interfere with the observation of color and vibration of the Aura. Investigation, therefore, is always carried out in the nude. As it is possible that some of the magic is dependant on the Aura, it would be interesting if someone would conduct a combined study.

There is so much more that can, and should be done. Today’s New Age scene makes practicing Witchcraft easier than ever. There is a climate of greater tolerance to these matters, and other disciplines benefit as well – such as parapsychology, homeopathy, and the more serious research into the occult. Those disciplines are not at all alike, but there are occasional overlaps that are immensely interesting. One such connection is the subject of Out of Body Experience, or as parapsychologists usually refer to it – OBE.

OBE is the condition in which the person undergoes separation between body and soul. The body remains asleep or immobile, while the soul travels the world or even the universe. The condition has been observed by such different people as Tibetan monks, German mystics, and Medieval witches. No one really knows how it happens, or if something actually leaves the body. Some say it’s simply a vivid dream, or a hallucination. Others feel that one’s consciousness is able to “stretch” to any distance, but the soul has nothing to do with it. We don’t know.

Witches have always done it. They believe that it is a dangerous pursuit, best done only after strict training, and under a “buddy system,” like scuba diving. When the soul leaves the body, a shining “silver” cord seems to connect them to each other. The witches say that it may snap and the person could die, unless carefully watched by the “buddy.”

Many modern witches, and some researchers as well, tend to believe that this was the base for the legend of the flying witch. The Medieval witches were so certain they actually flew when they were out of body, that they confessed doing so to their tormentors, much like what they did when they had flying dreams induced by drugs.

There is a large selection of books about OBEs. Particularly good are those written by Robert Monroe, a modern American who had incredible experiences with OBEs and had established a research center devoted to it.

Of course it is just one example. A combination of many disciplines, including the understanding of religion and history, can do much to open our eyes to new possibilities. Fortunately, some witches are willing to talk and cooperate, and their help is important. One of them is Sybil Leek.

She is an extraordinary woman. A truly nice human being, and a warm and committed family person and friend. A successful journalist, mostly in Radio and Television, and a writer of the most interesting books. She leads a normal life in every way, but in addition is, and has been since early childhood, a practicing witch. She has made it her mission to educate the public about the difference between Wicca and Satanism. The reason is her fear of the merging of the two systems. So many covens are sprouting, without the benefit of the traditional training, that some, she feels, may be drawn to the dark side. She strongly objects to the practice of occult knowledge without the mental discipline. Dabbling with the powerful forces of the Occult without being able to fully control them can be dangerous to the practitioners as well as to the people around them.

In addition, she is also concerned about the split in Witchcraft that took place during the 20th century. There are two major systems. One is the old Celtic Tradition which she follows with her coven, Horsa, located in New Forest in England. The other was led by the late Gerald Gardner, and is stronger in another part of England and in the Isle of Man. Both systems are influential in America as well.

Many consider Gardner the father of the revival of Witchcraft in our time, though he disagreed. He always maintained that good friends, who were members of a coven,  introduced and initiated him to Witchcraft. Either way, he certainly did much for the followers of the Old Religion, and his books are outstanding for their accuracy and historical interest.

Since 1951, the year in which the last laws against Witchcraft were repealed in England, many covens, on both sides of the Atlantic, came out of hiding. During the years of secrecy, they grew in different directions, and some have little or no resemblance to original Witchcraft. While Sybil Leek objects to that, other people feel that it doesn’t matter. As long as the basic tenets are followed and no harm is ever done, there is no reason to prevent evolution in the Old Religion.

It is impossible to outline a religion based on thousands of years in one short chapter.  In addition, so much is private and never revealed by any real witch. But some basic knowledge of the Old Religion is necessary even in a historical review such as this book. It is particularly important to set the record right, because the student can be misled by the number of modern books that pretend to teach the actual ritual. Those books are fun and mostly harmless, but they are not the Old Religion.

To understand how the Old Religion is structured, let’s start with the description of the Beginning. It is based on the old Celtic tradition, but of course it goes back much further.

In the beginning, there was Energy. The Energy was a mixture of the sublime, the material and the etheric fire. The fire contained life and creative thoughts.

The Supreme Being used these to create vapor, which eventually condensed into water, earth and air. They combined with the fire and together created physical and spiritual life.

Intelligent beings came to life. Some were lower than humanity, such as animals and plants. Some were higher, such as angels and nature spirits. All slowly evolved over millions of years into more complex and diverse forms.

This happened, and will happen again, not only on earth but throughout the universe. The great energy, directed by the Supreme Being, allows growth and reincarnation for everything – from the smallest creature to a star system.

Since spirit is always present, thought is a form of matter. By sending out thought, one can build matter from energy. This is one way “magic” is done – the creation and manipulation of events and matter in ways which are different from the usual.

Reincarnation allows continuous education. Each life, in the thousands of bodies the spirit occupies, teaches and refines the spirit. It is slowly prepared for the final merging with the creative force, when it will bring back all the rich experience to enhance the source.

Nature is the body of this life force. We are all part of it, and hurting even a small section is doing damage to the whole. This is why the witches are the guardians of the earth. They seek to protect and heal it. Each blade of grass, snail, or elephant is as important to the witch as her own body. This is why Witchcraft and ecology have so much in common.

Witchcraft does not have a Bible, but it has a code. In other religions, most of the tenets are based on the difference between good and evil. In Witchcraft, most of the tenets are based on natural laws. They stress a balanced life, based on the understanding of the cyclical nature of the universe and the earth.

To the witches, good and evil are human ideas. The powers they follow are neutral – they can be used to heal or to destroy. By carefully staying with the rules, they avoid harming anything.

Witches seek the Absolute Good by trying to find and correct imperfection within themselves. They also try to transfer the idea of goodness to all that surrounds them. The goodness within is the spark from the Supreme Being.

Evil must be shunned. Association with evil slows the pursuit of the absolute good. However, since everything was created by the Supreme Being, there is no point in judging other people’s behavior. Each person is responsible for their own acts. So the witch will not curse or put a hex on anyone – it will only hurt her own Karma. The world is full of matters beyond one’s control, but by using reason, the witch can avoid the pitfalls and go successfully through each incarnation. She avoids blaming circumstances, gods, or other people for her misfortunes, and tries to learn something from difficult events.

Witches have no temples. They worship the Creative Force through nature. Representing it are the Goddess and the God. The Goddess takes precedence – it is a matriarchal religion – but the male principle, represented by the God, is greatly honored. He warms the Earth to bring the harvest, and therefore is identified with the sun. He is also the essence of the spirit within the woods, trees and water. The Goddess is the all-mother, the symbol of fertility. She also represents the moon and its cycles.

It is easier to worship and identify with these two Gods, because they are part of the Earth. The Supreme Being, who is above all else, is involved with the concerns of the entire universe, and therefore more remote.

Through meditation, a witch can be in touch with higher beings. They help her with the growth of her character and development of her life. But this should not grow into dependency. Each person is responsible for her or his own growth, so mediation and contact with those beings are limited. As the spirit evolves, higher vibrations are developed, and one becomes closer to the Supreme Being. This makes magic easier to achieve.

The clue for witchcraft is the ability of the witch to see, really see, the connections and relationships in the universe. Since the Creative Force of the Supreme Being made the universe, everything is connected. When the connections are perceived, they can be manipulated. The witch does exactly that. You can learn a hundred different incantations and magic brews, but unless you see the hidden unity between two things or events which seem to be far apart by time and space – you’ll accomplish nothing.

All this is organized into the tenets, which are as important to the witch as the Ten Commandments are to the follower of the Judeo-Christian traditions.

The tenets are not in order. They are all equally important and depend on each other. Following them is as essential to being a witch as the knowledge of magic or the celebration of the ceremonies. There are various versions, but for the greater part they are in agreement.

* The tenet of reincarnation. Each human being has three parts – the body, which is the earthly vehicle;  the mind, which is the reasoning part;  the spirit, which is the immortal part. The spirit inhabits many bodies until it has learned enough to return to the Supreme Being.

* The tenet of the balanced life. One must learn to live a life which is orderly, balanced and free of any excess. Body and mind must be healthy. One must work and support oneself. Relationships must be reasonably good. Lifelong education must be pursued. Duty to one’s family and community must be honored.

* The tenet of the harmony with the universe. One must realize the unified nature of the universe and one’s place in it. Harmony is essential for the successful life and the Karma.

* The tenet of tolerance. One must accept the fact that others have different opinions, and endure it without suffering or inflicting pain.

* The tenet of learning. Learning should not be limited to books. Practical as well as theoretical learning is essential, and it must be applied to everyday life. It is best to learn personally, from a mentor, and at one’s own pace. One should realize what one is best at, and learn to specialize.

* The tenet of trust. All love must be accompanied by trust. This means love of every kind, toward people, animals, nature or the universe. Without trust love is meaningless.

To practice Witchcraft, the witch needs a few tools. They are very much the same since the dawn of the Old Religion, and are basically simple.

  • A sword, used for forming magic circles.
  • A knife, used to guard against evil.
  • A white-handled knife, used for cutting herbs or heather for the broom with which the witches sweep the circles clean.
  • A wand – for small private rituals, such as praying to the Guardian Spirits.
  • The Pentacle, a five or six-pointed star, used as an amulet, and carried at all times.
  • A censer – a vessel for burning incense.
  • Four candlesticks to burn in honor of East, South, West, and North.
  • The scourge – a knotted rope, used as a symbol of power and of suffering.
  • The cords -symbolic of the binding quality of the power.

While many of the practices are unknown, some are no longer a secret. Since the witches believe that the original Wicca came from the East, the altar is placed in the east. In addition, the witches start from the east when forming the circle. The representatives of the God and Goddess generally stand in the east, too.

Prayers are made toward the north. In the old days, the witches believed that the North was the direction of Paradise. It was underground, in a hollow earth, and the northern lights shone from there.

A circle is purified. The priest and priestess, as representatives of the God and Goddess, bless cake and wine in a short ceremony. They place a cauldron in the middle of the circle, and spirit is poured in and ignited. Herbs and flowers are thrown in. The priestess and priest, standing in a pose that represents the magical pentacle, chant a prayer. Everyone dances around the cauldron. After that, there is a feast, including the blessed cake and wine.

The circle represents a sacred place between our world and the world of the gods. It is drawn with chalk or paint on the floor, or simply drawn as a mark on the carpet. Another symbolic circle is drawn in the air with a magical knife. The circumference of the circle is between nine and 11 feet, unless there is a reason for a larger circle, perhaps  to include a larger coven. The inside is blessed and purified, and is considered the gods’ domain. It contains the power inside it, and does not let it dissipate.

Obviously, this is a beautiful, nature oriented, peaceful religion. But if one is not stable and balanced, the control of magic can be psychologically damaging. An unlimited use of the power may lead to Satanism. The Satanist has little self control, as Satanism does not demand it. So he or she is always willing to promise instant, powerful results to those who seek their aid. Satanism, therefore, is tempting for the new student who is not always patient, and wants to see quick results. Also, it has drama and style, and is more exciting than the balanced, controlled way of the Wicca. It glorifies unlimited mental power and justifies any excess as the natural state of humanity.

For example, an important difference is the way the gods and spirits are treated. To the witch, everything depends on free will. Even the choice of obeying the Goddess and God is exactly that – a choice. The price for such liberty is that the Gods do not have to give the witches what they want, either. If asked, the Gods may answer the request, or they may decide otherwise. The witch does not expect the requests to be answered regularly. The favors certainly cannot be demanded, and they are never bartered. There is no such thing as a sacrifice, for instance. No witch ever thinks – God, if you do such and such for me, I’ll say twenty prayers. Or if you answer my request, I’ll give to my favorite charity. Also, the Gods are never blamed for any natural calamity, such as an earthquake, or a forest fire. Such things are part of the natural history of the planet, and if the witch suffers because of it, well, that’s the way the world is. The only prayer the witch would say could be something like: “Dear Mother Goddess, give your daughter the courage and the strength to bear this calamity.”  These are not the exact words – they are not available – but this is the gist of it.

The Satanist, on the other hand, feels the need for control. The entities he approaches, be it demons or the spirits of the dead, are conjured and commanded to do the magician’s bidding. If the spirit manages to release itself from the spell, it generally turns on the magicians and destroy them.

However, it must be understood that the power itself is the same whether used by the witch or by the Satanist. The energy is coming from the same source, and is neither good nor evil. It’s just there, available to those who can use it. The Satanist knows about the unity of the universe as well as the witch, and conducts his or her magic accordingly.

To put a curse on someone, there must be a link made between the man, the “medicine” or charm, and the magician. The magician will obtain a few fingernail clips, some hair, or at least some clothing of the victim and establishes the link. If such objects are not available, the magician tries to create an artificial link. He will hide a magical object in the victim’s house, or will create a wax image in his likeness. Occasionally,  the magician will create a psychic link by simply declaring the need for it. The energy of magic then goes through the link as if it were a channel.

While witches have no need to tamper with other religions, the Satanists must. There is no Satanism without Christianity. As seen in a previous chapter, Satan, or the devil, is a Catholic creation. There is no real Satanic bible, Satanic code, or Satanic tenet. All that exist are the reverse of those of the Catholic Church. So the Satanist ritual is a crude and unpleasant mockery of the Church. Mutilated crucifixes, the Lord’s Prayer read backwards, obscenities inserted into the Bible readings are some of the rituals.

These practices are mainly stupid and lacking in good taste. Unfortunately, Satanists engage in some other, much more dangerous activities. There is evidence of desecration of cemeteries, animal mutilation, and even, though rarely, ritualistic murders. While not everything is known about their cult, there is no doubt that the animal mutilation is a form of sacrifice. The desecration of cemeteries is done for the purpose of digging out the dead bodies. The Satanists need the bodies for practicing necromancy.

The power of the Satanists should not be underestimated. Like the witches, they have psychic powers, and a variety of physical and mental tools. There are incantations and magic words, which are really a way of setting vibrations in a certain way. They use wands, rings of power, various herbs, and knives. The clothing is specially designed, with embroidery of the names of the demons or other forces.

Aleister Crowley was an interesting modern Satanist, living between 1875 and 1947. Crowley studied the occult from a very young age, with a particular interest in the dark side of magic. Blood, torture, and mutilation fascinated him. He even neglected to get his Cambridge degree because of his involvement with magic. For a short while he was part of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn – an organization close in philosophy to Witchcraft. However, he was rather quickly expelled.

After that, Crowley completely dissociated himself from the Old Religion. It was much too tame for his taste, which leaned toward the dramatic. He called himself “The Great Beast” and his services were quite showy. He wore a wardrobe of incredible ritual garments, had an impressive collection of ceremonial swords and knives, and conducted the services on a huge altar, decorated with extremely tall, valuable antique candlesticks. The combination of the opulent surroundings, his magnificent voice, and his extremely dominant personality made him one of the most famous modern Satanists. For a long time Crowley had a large following.

Addiction to drugs and heavy drinking, however, destroyed his body as well as his mind. Still, he left books that may be of interest to the student of modern Witchcraft. Despite his many problems, Crowley was a very intelligent man and an interesting writer. His love of the theatrical, however, interfered with the accuracy of his writing. For example, he was blamed for practicing necromancy and human sacrifice, which in reality he never did. Not only he did not deny the activities, some people claim he actually started the rumors – to enhance his reputation as the “Great Beast.”  So one does not know how seriously to take some of his statements.

Another interesting Satanist is Anton LaVey. He is the founder of the Church of Satan, and the author of The Satanic Bible. As said above, it’s not really an official bible. It’s really just LaVey’s views. He maintains the traditional ideas, though, that Satanism is the reverse of Christianity. God, to him, represents evil, while Satan, who is good, will eventually triumph.

Interestingly, LaVey admits that he had never seen Satan. He feels Satan is a mirror image of humanity. While one can communicate with him, much like the way one communicates with God, Satan cannot be conjured or summoned any more than God can. The smaller demons and devils he considers mere dreams and hallucinations. This interesting approach got him many followers. Most of his success, though, he owes to his sense of drama, like Crowley, and his ability to manipulate people. His attitude to Witchcraft is clear. He despises witches and all they stand for, and considers them hypocrites. Obviously, Satanism has very little to do with Witchcraft, and is best avoided by the serious student. In addition, it has little to offer by comparison. A little instant gratification, sure, but not the depth of the Old Religion. It is a much younger religion, too, a mere few hundreds of years old, while the Old Religion had been here from the beginning.

In a religion this old, obviously there have been ongoing evolutions, and many branchings of the roads. It is good and even necessary that it should be so. But still, it is always important to maintain a balance, as the witches say. So we all benefit if the Old Religion is kept, at least by some, in its ancient and pure ways. As we are entering the twenty-first century, we do so with an ecosystem partially destroyed by our own lack of respect for nature. Perhaps it is time to learn from the ancient Guardians of the Earth. They can help us restore our planet to its former health and beauty. And then the sad eyes of the old Shape-Changer, the wise and innocent man/beast whose picture is so beautifully drawn on the dark walls of Stone Age caves, will no longer accuse us of the destruction of his beloved domain.

 

Resource:

Encyclopedia MYTHICA

Categories: Our History | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Categories: Our History | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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 two – The Dawn of Witchcraft

Witchcraft

Chapter two – The Dawn of Witchcraft

by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.

Good hunting and fishing determined the survival of the Stone Age tribe. A little later, the number of domestic animals and the success of crops meant life or death. The tribe also needed many children. They had to replace those who died in infancy and early childhood, and few people lived beyond their thirties.

A division of labor existed from the earliest societies. Men hunted and fished. Women gathered food and cared for the children. Men had a male god, who controlled the hunt. The god wore horns or antlers, representing his power over the prey. Women worshiped a great mother goddess. She insured fertility and controlled the magical and medicinal powers of plants. Later, when agriculture was developed, both god and goddess protected the domestic animals and the crops. A priestess and a priest worked together as the representatives of the gods. They had ceremonies to influence the gods to help the people.

Slowly, the ideas of an afterlife and reincarnation began to emerge. The horned male god took on the additional feature of the god of death. The female goddess added the moon and its cycles to her domain. They were united in a sacred marriage, and shared fertility rites.

Their myth, still alive today, is simple. The goddess represents life. The god represents death. Life and death are a continuous cycle. The cycle contains three great truths – loving, dying, and reincarnating to live again. Magic controls all of them. To fulfil love, one must be born, unite with the loved one, die, and reincarnate. The cycle may repeat as many times as necessary.

During the Stone Age the people believed that reincarnation occurred in groups. You found yourself, life after life, with the same people. Witches no longer believe in group reincarnation, but it is easy to understand why the Stone Age people did. They lived in closely knit tribes and were afraid to be reincarnated among “strangers.”  Reincarnation itself, however, is still an important part of the Old Religion.

All gods and demons emerge from humanity’s relationship with nature. To understand the minds of the prehistoric cave painters, one must look at isolated societies that still live in a similar way. Many anthropologists call these people “primitive.”  This word gives the incorrect impression of inferiority. These people are not inferior in any meaningful way. They are just not living in our mechanized, Westernized society. Their way of life is just as complex and rich; their minds are just as alert as ours. Furthermore, they maintain a connection with nature that we have lost.

The Tasaday of Mindanao, Orochon of Siberia, Gilyaks of the Amur valley, and the Australian aborigines work in surprisingly similar ways. Their cultures present evidence about how the prehistoric mind worked.

The lives of these people are balanced with nature. The word is significant, because as you will see in an upcoming chapter, the balanced life is one of the principles of Witchcraft. Witches seek exactly what these people had maintained naturally for thousands of years – a balance that was lost with the development of civilization.

The prehistoric people saw themselves as part of their surrounding, neither more nor less important than the animals, the plants, the stones and the rivers. They believed that inanimate objects had lives of their own. Judging by the behavior of the isolated societies mentioned above, the Stone Age people often spoke with the fire, the stones, the water. If you ask the Orochon or Tasaday about it, they will tell you that the inanimate object understands and answers them.

The reasoning power of such people is different from ours. They see little difference between the real and the unreal. They will rarely ask why something happens. Things happen, and they will deal with the results. They use no written language and therefore have a powerful memory.

Interestingly, even today, a witch keeps as few written records as possible. She must burn all her papers when she realizes that she is near death, unless there is a very reliable witch who will inherit the notes and include them in her own work.

Researchers always assumed that this habit existed because of the danger during the Witch Trials. Every Medieval witch memorized as much as possible. When the inquisition marched into her home to look for evidence, it was best not to have the grimoires, as spell books are called, around the house. However, the truth about the memorizing habit may be deeper. Perhaps the witch is still following the prehistorical tradition of magic without written language.

We generally look for rational explanations for illnesses, sudden death, or accidents. The Stone Age people thought differently. Spirits and invisible forces filled their world. Magic caused distressing events. Someone conjured the malevolent spirits; perhaps the spirits themselves were angry and wanted revenge. If a wild beast or a force of nature caused death, then the supernatural force behind them actually made them do it. One had to appease or control the force. The shaman, priest, or witch could achieve that by establishing a relationship with the objects or the forces. In other words – he or she had to use magic.

The entire physical world was alive, swirling with energy waves, for the shaman and the witch. They established relationships with storms, water, and the seasons themselves. In a deep enough trance, they entered into a two-way conversation with the elements. They released their powerful souls from their bodies and let the souls kill the enemies or the beasts, heal the sick, or direct the animals toward the hunters.

The people were, above and beyond anything else, hunters and gatherers. They depended upon two factors. First, the availability of animals and plants; second, their ability to escape extremely dangerous predators. Fortunately, their witches knew herbal medicine and the setting of bones, and the hard life had some compensations. The tight communal life encouraged an incredible level of nonverbal communication. To us, they would seem telepathic, so well they understood each other without words. They were like flocks of birds or schools of fish that react to a situation as one large creature. In addition, they had supernatural endurance. This talent still exists in many isolated societies. For instance, look at the “runners” in Tibet. These are men who can run distances that are considered literally impossible by modern athletes. They do it in a trance, without much effort, and arrive in good shape. It’s all mind power.

The Stone Age magic-making was simple. They had dances that imitated the hunt and controlled the hunted animals. The dancers wore antlers or bird masks, whirled, chanted, and went into trances. These ceremonies, the beginning of Witchcraft, are painted over and over on cave walls.

The image of the horned god may have started during these dances. Imagine a dancer, wearing antlers to impersonate a reindeer or a stag. He is whirling in a trance, moving with the rhythm of the chant and drums in the warm cave. The fire behind him throws a strong shadow on the cave’s wall. The shadow is strange and threatening, and it attracts the attention of the tribe’s artist, always sensitive to new images. He picks a bit of charcoal from the fire, and quickly draws around the shadow. The drawing looks like a man/beast. As the months go by, the artist draws him again and again, developing a new image, adding the image into the magic.

It joined a wall already full of beautifully, accurately drawn pictures of animals and birds. The artists of the Stone Age were hunters who killed many animals. As they cut the animals for food, they learned much about anatomy. From necessity, they were also good observers of the animals during their daily lives. The art, however, was neither artistic expression nor a celebration of yesterday’s successful hunt. It was, just like the dance, an act of magic. By drawing an animal you controlled it. A picture of a successful hunt today would produce one tomorrow. A picture of an animal giving birth would insure fertility and good future hunts. Drawing dangerous animals falling into pits would make sure they would not kill you, but die themselves first. This was Witchcraft.

There were the dreams, too. To the Stone Age mind, dreams had a reality as definite as the waking world. The spirit, released from the body, walked the dream world; it spoke with other dreaming spirits or with the spirits of the dead. The dreams revealed the future, and were important to the well-being of the entire tribe. It is entirely possible that Out-of-Body-Experience (OBE) started like that. People who have experienced OBE claim a part of their consciousness, or their soul, leaves their body and explores the world on its own. Ancient cultures in all parts of the world described OBE. It is practiced today by people of various religions and nationalities. Parapsychologists argue whether OBE exists, or if it is a powerful dream form. Witches claim they just do it. At this stage of modern research, there is still no proof either way.

As the climate changed and lost some of its harshness, people began to live longer, create settlements, and develop agriculture. The witch’s importance did not diminish. The prosperity of crops and domestic animals, fertility of the land, and the continuous development of herbal medicine remained the witch’s domain.

Religion became more organized, but the job of the witches remained the same – influencing the supernatural powers. It didn’t matter if the people called them shamans, shape-changers, wizards, druids, priestesses or witches. It didn’t matter if they worked in the woods, the meadows, or at the altar of the simple, beautiful new temples. They helped humanity survive, worshiped the nature gods, served the earth.

And so it went on for generations. It continues today. The similarity between Witchcraft in the various ancient cultures is so strong, and the relationship to today’s Witchcraft is so amazing, there is no possible way to assume it happened by chance. Let’s look at a few cultures. They are not in any order – it’s more like a bit of time travel to places of interest.

In Denmark, archaeologists found the grave of a powerful Bronze Age witch. The grave contained obvious evidence of wealth – gold, jewelry, costly swords. It also had various items of Witchcraft, neatly arranged in a large bronze bowl. Identical Witchcraft ingredients are still used in folk medicine, and similar tools are used by today’s witch. Here is a list of the items.

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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Your Tarot Card for February 27th is The Moon

The Moon

Thursday, Feb 27th, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What has traditionally been known as the Moon card refers to a deep state of sensitivity and imaginative impressionability, developed within a womb of deep relaxation. Here we dream and go into trance, have visions and receive insights, wash in and out with the psychic tides, and experience deep mystical and/or terrifying realities beyond our ordinary senses. The full moon and/or eclipse cycle charted by the Magi (as in some of the earliest Moon card images) exemplify this as a mechanism that Nature uses to expand consciousness.

The variants of the courtly lovers (representing skillful use of the sex force) or the man sleeping it off under the tree (use of drugs to alter consciousness) are also traditional avenues for tapping this primal force. Human interest in higher states propels us to the frontiers of consciousness, where we cannot always control what happens. The Moon card represents the ultimate test of a soul’s integrity, where the membrane between self and the Unknown is removed, and the drop of individuality reenters the Ocean of Being. What transpires next is between a soul and its Maker.

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