The Random House College Dictionary derived “witch” from medieval English wicche, formerly Anglo-Saxon wicca (masculine), or wicce (feminine): a corruption of witga, short form of witega, a seer or diviner; from Anglo-Saxon witan, to see, to know. Similarly, Icelandic vitki, a witch, came from vita, to know; or vizkr, clever or knowing one. Wizard came from Norman French wischard. Old French guiscart, sagacious one. The surname Whittaker came from Witakarlege, a Wizard or a Witch. The words “wit” and “wisdom” came from the same roots.

There were many other words for witches, such as Incantatrix, Lamia, Saga, Maga, Malefica, Sortilega, Strix, Venefica. In Italy a witch was a strega or Janara, an old title of a priestess of Jana (Juno). English writers called witches both “hags” and “fairies,” words which were once synonymous. Witches had metaphoric titles: bacularia, “stick-rider”; fascinatrix, “one with the evil eye”; herberia, “one who gathers herbs”; strix, “screech-owl”; pixidria, “keeper of an ointment-box”; femina saga, “wise-woman”; lamia, “night-monster”; incantator, “worker of charms”; magus, “wise-man”; sortiariae mulier, “seeress”; veneficia, “poisoner”; maliarda, “evil-doer.” Latin treatises called Witches anispex, auguris, divinator, januatica, ligator, mascara, phitonissa, stregula.

Dalmatian witches were krstaca, “crossed ones,” a derivative of the Greek Christos In Holland a witch was wijsseggher, “wise-sayer,” from which came the English “wiseacre.” The biblical passage that supported centuries of persecution, “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18), used the Hebrew word kasaph, translated “witch” although it means a seer or diviner.

Early medieval England had female clan-leaders who exercised matriarchal rights in lawgiving and law enforcement; the Magna Carta of Chester called them iudices de wich (judges who were witches). Female elders once had political power among the clans, but patriarchal religion and law gradually took it away from them and called them witches in order to dispose of them. In 1711. Addison observed that “When an old woman begins to doat and grow chargeable to a Parish, she is generally turned into a witch.”

Reginald Scot remarked that the fate of a witch might be directly proportional to her fortune. The pope made saints out of rich witches, but poor witches were burned. Among many examples tending to support this opinion was the famous French Chambre Ardente affair, which involved many members of the aristocracy and the upper-class clergy in a witch cult. Numerous male and female servants were tortured and burned for assisting their masters in working witchcraft; but in all the four years the affair dragged on, no noble person was tortured or executed.

Illogically enough, the authorities persecuted poor, outcast folk as witches, yet professed to believe witches could provide themselves with all the wealth anyone could want. Reginald Scot, a disbeliever, scornfully observed that witches were said to “transfer their neighbors’ corn into their own ground, and yet are perpetual beggars, and cannot enrich themselves, either with money or otherwise: who is so foolish as to remain longer in doubt of their supernatural powers?” Witchcraft brought so little profit to Helen Jenkenson of Northants, hanged in 1612 for bewitching a child, that the record of her execution said: “Thus ended this woman her miserable life, after she had lived many years poor, wretched, scorned and forsaken of the world.”

“Women which be commonly old, lame, blear-eyed, pale, foul, and full of wrinkles; poor, sullen, superstitious, and papists; or such as know no religion; in whose drowsy minds the devil hath gotten a fine seat; so as, what mischief, mischance, calamity, or slaughter is brought to pass, they are easily persuaded the same is done by themselves . . . They are lean and deformed, showing melancholy in their faces, to the horror of all that see them. They are doting, scolds, mad, devilish; and not much differing from them that are thought to be possessed with spirits.”

Persecutors said it was heretical to consider witches harmless. Even in England, where witches were not burned but hanged, some authorities fearfully cited the “received opinion” that a witch’s body should be burned to ashes to prevent ill effects arising from her blood. Churchmen assured the arresting officers that a witch’s power was lost the instant she was touched by an employee of the Inquisition; but the employees themselves were not so sure.

Numerous stories depict the persecutors’ fear of their victims. It was said in the Black Forest that a witch blew in her executioner’s face, promising him his reward; the next day he was afflicted with a fatal leprosy. Inquisitors’ handbooks directed them to wear at all times a bag of salt consecrated on Palm Sunday; to avoid looking in a witch’s eyes; and to cross themselves constantly in the witches’ prison. Peter of Berne forgot this precaution, and a captive witch by enchantment made him fall down a flight of stairs – which he proved later by torturing her until she confirmed it.

Numerous stories depict the persecutors’ fear of their victims. It was said in the Black Forest that a witch blew in her executioner’s face, promising him his reward; the next day he was afflicted with a fatal leprosy. Inquisitors’ handbooks directed them to wear at all times a bag of salt consecrated on Palm Sunday; to avoid looking in a witch’s eyes; and to cross themselves constantly in the witches’ prison. Peter of Berne forgot this precaution, and a captive witch by enchantment made him fall down a flight of stairs – which he proved later by torturing her until she confirmed it.

Numerous stories depict the persecutors’ fear of their victims. It was said in the Black Forest that a witch blew in her executioner’s face, promising him his reward; the next day he was afflicted with a fatal leprosy. Inquisitors’ handbooks directed them to wear at all times a bag of salt consecrated on Palm Sunday; to avoid looking in a witch’s eyes; and to cross themselves constantly in the witches’ prison. Peter of Berne forgot this precaution, and a captive witch by enchantment made him fall down a flight of stairs – which he proved later by torturing her until she confirmed it.

Any unusual ability in a woman instantly raised a charge of witchcraft. The so-called Witch of Newbury was murdered by a group of soldiers because she knew how to go “surfing” on the river. Soldiers of the Earl of Essex saw her doing it, and were “as much astonished as they could be,” seeing that “to and fro she fleeted on the board standing firm bolt upright . . . turning and winding it which way she pleased, making it pastime to her, as little thinking who perceived her tricks, or that she did imagine that they were the last she ever should show.” Most of the soldiers were afraid to touch her, but a few brave souls ambushed the board-rider as she came to shore, slashed her head, beat her, and shot her, leaving her “detested carcass to the worms.”

From ruthlessly organized persecutions on the continent, witch-hunts in England became largely cases of village feuds and petty spite. If crops failed, horses ran away, cattle sickened, wagons broke, women miscarried, or butter wouldn’t come in the churn, a witch was always found to blame. Marion Cumlaquoy of Orkney was burned in 1643 for turning herself three times widdershins, to make her neighbor’s barley crop rot. A tailor’s wife was executed for quarrelling with her neighbor, who afterward saw a snake on his property, and his children fell sick. One witch was condemned for arguing with a drunkard in an alehouse. After drinking himself into paroxysms of vomiting, he accused her of bewitching him, and he was believed.

A woman was convicted of witchcraft for having caused a neighbor’s lameness – by pulling off her stockings. Another was executed for having admired a neighbor’s baby, which afterward fell out of its cradle and died. Two Glasglow witches were hanged for treating a sick child, even though the treatment succeeded and the child was cured. Joan Cason of Kent went to the gallows in 1586 for having dry thatch on her roof. Her neighbor, whose child was sick, was told by an unidentified traveler that the child was bewitched, and it could be proved by stealing a bit of thatch from the witch’s roof and throwing it on the fire. If it crackled and sparked, witchcraft was assured. The test came out positive, and the court was satisfied enough to convict poor Joan.

Witches were convenient scapegoats for doctors who failed to cure their patients, for it was the “received” belief that witch-caused illnesses were incurable. Weyer said, “Ignorant and clumsy physicians blame all sicknesses which they are unable to cure or which they have treated wrongly, on witchery.” There were also priests and monks who “claim to understand the healing art and they lie to those who seek help that their sicknesses are derived from witchery.” Most real witch persecutions reflect “no erotic orgies, no Sabbats or elaborate rituals; merely the hatreds and spites of narrow peasant life assisted by vicious laws.”

Witches provided a focus for sexist hatred in male-dominated society, as one writer pointed out:

“The spirit of the Church in its contempt for women, as shown in the Scriptures, in Paul’s epistles and the Pentateuch, the hatred of the fathers, manifested in their ecclesiastical canons, and in the doctrines of asceticism, celibacy, and witchcraft, destroyed man’s respect for woman and legalized the burning, drowning, and torturing of women . . . “Women and their duties became objects of hatred to the Christian missionaries and of alternate scorn and fear to pious ascetics and monks. The priestess mother became something impure, associated with the devil, and her lore an infernal incantation, her very cooking a brewing of poison, nay, her very existence a source of sin to man. Thus, woman, as mother and priestess, became woman as witch. . . . Here is the reason why in all the Biblical researches and higher criticism, the scholars never touch the position of women.”

Men displayed a lively interest in the physical appearance of witches, seeking to know how to recognize them-as men also craved rules for recognizing other types of women from their physical appearance. It was generally agreed that any woman with dissimilar eyes was a witch. Where most people had dark eyes and swarthy complexions, as in Spain and Italy, pale blue eyes were associated with witchcraft. Many claimed any woman with red hair was a witch.

This may have been because red-haired people are usually freckled, and freckles were often identified as “witch marks,” as were moles, warts, birthmarks, pimples, pockmarks, cysts, liver spots, wens, or any other blemish. Some witch-finders said the mark could resemble an insect bite or an ulcer.

No one ever explained how the witch mark differed from an ordinary blemish. Since few bodies were unblemished, the search for the mark seldom failed. Thomas Ady, one of the few 17th-century English debunkers of the witchcraft craze, author of A Perfect Discovery of Witches (1661), recognized this, and wrote: “Very few people in the world are without privy marks upon their bodies, as moles or stains, even such as witchmongers call the devil’s privy marks.” But no one paid attention to this.

Trials were conducted with as much injustice as possible. In 1629 Isobel Young was accused of crippling by magic a man who had quarreled with her, and causing a water mill to break down. She protested that the man was lame before their quarrel, and water mills can break down through neglect. The prosecutor. Sir Thomas Hope, threw out her defense on the ground that it was “contrary to the libel,” that is, it contradicted the charge. When a witch is on trial, Reginald Scot said, any “equivocal or doubtful answer is taken for a confession.”

On the other hand, no answer at all was a confession too. Witches who refused to speak were condemned: “Witchcraft proved by silence of the accused.” Sometimes mere playfulness “proved” witchcraft, as in the case of Mary Spencer, accused in 1634 because she merrily set her bucket rolling downhill and ran before it, calling it to follow her. Sometimes women were stigmatized as witches when they were in fact victims of unfair laws, such as the law that accepted any man’s word in court ahead of any number of women’s. A butcher in Germany stole some silver vessels from women, then had them prosecuted for witchcraft by claiming that he found the vessels in the woods where the women were attending a witches’ Sabbat.

Sometimes the accusation of witchcraft was a form of punishment for women who were too vocal about their disillusionment with men and their preference for living alone. Historical literature has many references to “the joy with which women after widowhood set up their own households, and to the vigor with which they resisted being courted by amorous widowers.” The solitary life, however, left a woman even more vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft, since men usually thought she must be somehow controlled.

Those who tortured the unfortunate defendant into admitting witchcraft used a euphemistic language that showed the victim was condemned a priori. One Anne Marie de Georgel denied making a devil’s pact, until by torture she was “justly forced to give an account of herself,” the record said. Catherine Delort was “forced to confess by the means we have power to use to make people speak the truth,” and she was “convicted of all the crimes we suspected her of committing, although she protested her innocence for a long time.” The inquisitor Nicholas Rémy professed a pious astonishment at the great number of witches who expressed a “positive desire for death,” pretending not to notice that they had been brought to this desire by innumerable savage tortures.

The extent to which pagan religion, as such, actually survived among the witches of the 16th and 17th centuries has been much discussed but never decided. Dean Church said, “Society was a long time unlearning heathenism; it has not done so yet; but it had hardly begun, at any rate it was only just beginning, to imagine the possibility of such a thing in the eleventh century.” In 15th-century Bohemia it was still common practice at Christmas and other holidays to make offerings to “the gods,” rather than to God. European villages still had many “wise-women” who acted as priestesses officially or unofficially. Since church fathers declared Christian priestesses unthinkable, all functions of the priestess were associated with paganism. Bishops described pagan gatherings in their dioceses, attended by “devils . . . in the form of men and women.” Pagan ceremonies were allowed to survive in weddings, folk festivals, seasonal rites, feasts of the dead, and so on. But when women or Goddesses played the leading role in such ceremonies, there was more determined suppression. John of Salisbury wrote that it was the devil, “with God’s permission,” who sent people to gatherings in honor of the Queen of the Night, a priestess impersonating the Moon-goddess under the name of Noctiluca or Herodiade.

The Catholic church applied the word “witch” to any woman who criticized church policies. Women allied with the 14th-century Reforming Franciscans, some of whom were burned for heresy, were described as witches, daughters of Judas, and instigated of the Devil. Writers of the Talmud similarly tended to view nearly all women as witches. They said things like, “Women are naturally inclined to witchcraft,” and “The more women there are, the more witchcraft there will be.”

Probably there were few sincere practitioners, compared with the multitudes who were railroaded into the ecclesiastical courts and legally murdered despite their innocence. Yet it was obvious to even the moderately intelligent that Christian society deliberately humiliated and discriminated against women. Some may have been resentful enough to become defiant. “Women have had no voice in the canon law, the catechisms, the church creeds and discipline, and why should they obey the behests of a strictly masculine religion, that places the sex at a disadvantage in all life’s emergencies? Possibilities for expressing their frustration and defiance were severely limited; but voluntary adoption of the witch’s reputation and behavior was surely among such possibilities.



What we have been calling ‘magick’ is actually a

continuous process. Since your subconscious never rests,

your environment is continually being shifted into line with

your model. This is true whether you study magick or not.

For most people, these effects are usually very subtle, and

they are probably not aware of them. However, as you work

with the occult, the flow of psychic energy and your

awareness of it increases. Your true will is more likely

to be strongly expressed. Your luck may be affected (either

in a positive or a negative way). Remember, our lives tend

to follow what we want down deep. That is why a positive

outlook is so very beneficial to us



‘Personal magick’ is that magick used to affect the

self; often involving affirmation, self-suggestion, and

self-hypnosis. ‘Active magick’ is outer directed magick (as

in PK) used to affect someone or thing, or to bring about

an event. ‘Passive magick’ is to be affected (as in ESP)

by an outside non-physical cause. Everyone possesses some

magical (and psychic) potential. Some are especially

gifted. Usually people are better at one kind of magick

(ie. active or passive) than they are at the other kind;

only rarely does an individual excell at both. Traning

and practice will, of course, improve ability somewhat.

Although the forces of magick are neutral, various

systems may take on the qualities of good and evil. There

is so-called white magick or good magick, black magick or

evil magick, and gray magick between them. When many people

refer to white magick they mean magick for unselfish

purposes, also healing and mental influence with specific

permission. By black magick they refer to magick for

self-interest and healing *without* specific permission.

Using magick to forcefully control another’s will is, in a

sense, black magick too. There are also some people on the

occult fringe who claim to be, possibly even think they are,

‘Satanists’, devil worshipers, or black magicians. These

people are most likely charlatans, hoaxters, dablers, or

merely misinformed. They may be attracted by the ‘art’ of

black magick, or even by the ‘glamor’ of doing something

against the ‘rules’. But a real black magician is very

dangerous. Because he has dedicated his life to evil. We

usually think of ‘white magick’ as having *unselfish

intent*, and (in the extreme case) of ‘black magick’ as

being actual Satan worship, human or animal sacrifice,

dangerous unconventional magical practices, and other

bizarre stuff as makes a nightmare. It is all a matter of

degree. Most mild self-interest magick (one of the most

common kinds) would be called ‘gray’. Better terms may be

*constructive magick* as being beneficial; and *aversive

magick* as magick intended to work against the natural

order, and to tear down. There is also the *high magick* of

spiritual alchemy (ie. spiritual growth), also known as ‘the

Great Work’; and conversely there is ‘low magick’ which is

concerned with materiality.

Any magick act is likely to produce side effects

regardless of whether or not the desired result is achieved.

Such side effects are no problem for constructive magick,

since they are benificial as well. However, aversive magick

can produce aversive side effects which may even harm the

magician — aversive magick is dangerous!



We have been describing ‘traditonal’ occult

philosophy here, and certainly an important part of the

tradition is the idea (and terms) microcosm and macrocosm.

The greater universe, known as the *macrocosm*, includes

everything that exists. It corresponds with the *microcosm*,

or tiny universe, ie. man — who is thought of as a

miniature replica of the macrocosm (whole universe).

This basic magical relationship is demonstrated in the

Bible (Genesis 1.27), where God is the macrocosm; and in

the writing of Trismegistus (“As above so below”). Since

man is in the image of God (universe) it follows that God

is in the image of man (in other words, man and the

God/universe match each other). The magician, as a microcosm

is thus connected with the macrocosm. There is an intimate

relationship of energies between you and everything else.

The universe is reflected within us and we are projected

into the universe. This is an important theory behind magick

and astrology.



The ancients described man as mind, body, and soul.

Psychologists of the twentieth century added the

subconscious to that deffinition. This produces a four-fold

classification. The universe is also divided into four

corresponding parts (‘worlds’), as shown below:


===== ==== =======

spiritual world spiritual body (soul or kia) intuition

mental world mental body (conscious mind) rational


astral world astral body (subconscious) emotions

physical world physical body physical senses

The astral body (subconscious) is the intermediary

for intuition, magical and psychic phenomena, and is the

‘psychic link’ to the physical world. Most occult and

magical phenomena originate in the invisible, non-sensate,


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non-physical realm (ie. without physical senses). Each of

the four worlds interacts with the other worlds. Psychic

energy flows from the spiritual to mental to astral to

physical. The physical world is a projection (manifestation,

reflection, or shadow) of the higher worlds. Our center of

consciousness is generally within these higher worlds.

“We are”, to quote the rock music group the Police, “spirits

in the material world”.

There are many similar terms used by other occult

groups. For example, ‘astral light’ is another name for

astral world, although it may sometimes also refer to the

entire non-physical realm, as may ‘inner planes’ or ‘the

invisible world’. Planes are essentially the same as worlds.

Vehicles or sheaths are the same as bodies. Some groups

include an etheric or vital body between physical and

astral: it is mostly ‘physical’ with a little of the

lower ‘astral’ besides. And sometimes astral and mental

are each divided into two parts (upper and lower). The

‘causal body’ is the upper ‘mental’.



Your awareness of the physical world and of your

place within it is mostly based upon the physical senses

(hearing, sight, smell, touch, taste). These five senses

continually send information to the mind, and it is up to

the mind to select and interpret them. If you could not do

so, your senses would overwhelm you and be meaningless.

Selection and interpretation of your sensory inputs is

essentially an automatic, mostly subconscious function of

the mind. The program or map which the subconscious follows

as its reference point is called a _model_. The model is a

subconscious mental photograph of how you believe the world

looks (ie. worldview, mindset, egregore, or belief system).

It was built up from an early age by your religious and

cultural background through interaction with family and

others. It contains your experiences, attitudes, and

habits. And whether you realize it or not, most of your

behavior, thoughts, feelings, and habits are based upon and

conditioned by that model; even personality. The model is

one of the mind’s master programs. Change in behavior

generally requires a change in the model. These limitations

built into our way of thinking cause our perceptions to be

subjective. That is why Hindu philosophy looks upon the

world as illusory (maya); the world itself (object) is not

an illusion, however from our viewpoint through perception

(subject) it is.

Thus we are all conditioned by experience. Except

that our perceptions, hence our experiences, are first

conditioned and limited by the model. Our perceptions and

experiences tend to conform to what we expect. We tend to

misinterpret or ignore things which do not match our

preconcieved notions about them. This is automatic.



A number of other occult disciplines are prevalent

today besides magick. There are many cults and sects which

profess their own views, but there are really few differences

between them. One popular area in the occult today is

witchcraft. This is far removed from the cliche of devil

worship. Real witchcraft is a nature religion (pagan).

Witchcraft has much in common with magick.

Alchemy also has much in common with magick. It’s

heritage comes from the middle ages. Alchemy fathered

chemistry and the physical sciences. But the avowed purpose

of alchemy, turning lead into gold, is too limiting to be

called magick. Sometimes the goal of alchemy is interpreted

in another way, as the transformation of man into a spiritual


Then there are the numerous modern day seers or

‘pychics’, as they like to be called, who operate within

their own somewhat unique systems. Although many of these

people are deluded frauds, some are very powerful occultists


Of course, everything I have said here is a

generalization. Magick, witchcraft, alchemy, or any occult

field are complex subjects. Suffice it to say that magick

includes them all (it is eclectic). For magick is undoubtedly

a philosophy which has, as the late Aleister Crowley wrote,

“The method of science — the aim of religion.”



Magick encompasses many things — science and art,

philosophy and metaphysics, psychology and comparative

religion. Magick is an adventure at the borderlands of the

unknown. It can fit the pieces of the puzzel of life into a

meaningful whole.

_Magick is fun_ and interesting. Use magick to help

raise consciousness without drugs. Gain new experiences.

Fantacy can come alive through magick. Psychic phenomena can

be controlled and be fun and helpful.

_Magick is beneficial_. It can help you to have

excellent health, and bring you good luck. With magick life

runs smoothly; life is good. Also use magick for personality

improvement, to control bad habits and to develop new


_Magick is powerful_. Never underestimate the

tremendous power of magick. Use magick to alter events and to

achieve your goals. Exert an influence over people and

phenomena. But power for its own sake is self defeating. The

power which magick can give you should not be your primary

reason for studying it.



The ability to think seems to set us apart from

other creatures. And although we are concerned with

living in the physical world, we are mental beings. The

fact is we are thinking all the time. We plan, we brood,

we get depressed or elated — all of it is thought. But

the universe is mental too, and if we could control our

thinking we would see magnificent results in the everyday


Many systems have been developed over the ages to

help us control our thoughts. A great amound of dogma too

has been kicked around in an attempt to make us into better

people. Magick (the occult kind, spelled with a ‘k’) is one

of the oldest and most general of these systems. Magick is

the study and application of psychic forces. It uses mental

training, concentration, and a system of symbols to program

the mind. The purpose of magick is to alter the self and the

environment according to the will.

Most of the magick we see today comes to us from

ancient Egypt and Chaldea. The Chinese, Hindus, and Tibetans

developed their own unique types of magick. Western magick

was locked up by the Egyptian priests for thousands of years

and then supressed by the rise of Christianity. It was not

until medieval Europe that magical knowledge was rediscovered

by the alchemists and Cabalists. Only during the past hundred

years or so has western culture been open minded enough to

permit widespread investigation of the subject. Only since

the start of the twentieth century has science shown much

interest in it al all.