Deities of the Witches
It is certain that the devils have
a profound knowledge of all things.
No theologian can interpret
the Holy Scriptures better than they can;
no lawyer has a more detailed knowledge
of testaments, contracts, and actions;
no physician or philosopher can better understand
the composition of the human body,
and the virtues of the heavens, the stars, birds and fishes,
trees and herbs, metals and stones.
A LIST OF DEITIES BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN WORSHIPPED BY ACCUSED WITCHES DURING THE MIDDLE AGES THROUGH THE RENAISSANCE PERIOD.
Aside from worshipping the Devil, witches were purported to have abased
themselves to a bevy of other deities. Many of these goddesses, gods, devils,
and demons (the classic horned devil included) were simply familiar deities of
antiquity, sometimes given different names. Where an old god was deemed useful
by the Church, it was simply converted into a saint.
The following did not make it into the Christians’ good books:
Abonde, Abundia, Aradia, Ashtaroth, Asmodeus, Beelzebub, Belial, Cernunnos,
Diana, Fraw Fenus, Fraw Holt, Fraw Selga, Gulfora, Hecate, Herodias, Holda,
Leonard, Lilith, Mephistopheles, Minerva, Perchta, Put Satanachia, Satan, Satia,
Intrinsically linked with the classical goddess Diana, Abonde also went by the
names Abundia, Perchta, and Satia. Abonde led nocturnal hordes of witches
through homes and cellars, eating and drinking all they could find. If food and
drink were left as offerings, Abonde would bestow prosperity upon the occupants
of the home. If nothing was left out for her and her followers, she would deny
the denizens of her blessings and protection.
The Thesaurus pauperum of 1468 condemned “the idolatrous superstition of those
who left food and drink at night in open view for Abundia and Satia, or, as the
people said, Fraw Percht and her retinue, hoping thereby to gain abundance and
riches.” The same practice of offering drink, salt, and food to Perchta, “alias
domine Habundie,” on certain days had been taken note of and subsequently
condemned in 1439 by Thomas Ebendorfer von Haselbach in De decem praeceptis.
According to Roman de la Rose, written at the end of the thirteenth century,
third born children were obligated to travel with Abonde three times a week to
the homes of neighbors. Nothing could stop these people, as they became
incorporeal in the company of Abonde. Only their souls would travel as their
bodies remained behind immobile. There was a downside to this astral
projection: if the body was turned over while the soul was elsewhere, the soul
would never return.
Bibliography. (Ginzburg 40-42)
See Abonde, Diana, or Perchta.
A corruption of Herodias, Aradia was identified with Diana. Herodias was
directly responsible for the death of John the Baptist. According to C. G.
Leland, Aradia was worshipped by Italian witches. Aradia is still worshipped
today by some neopagans.
Bibliography. (King 25)
Also known as Astaroth, Ashtaroth was usually depicted as an ugly demon riding a
dragon and carrying a viper in his left hand. He was the Treasurer of Hell, and
was also the Grand Duke of its western regions. He encouraged sloth and
Ashtaroth was one of two demons prayed to in the Black Masses of Catherine
Monvoisin, Madame de Montespan (mistress of Louis XIV), and a 67-year-old priest
by the name of Guibourg. (The other demon prayed to was Asmodeus.)
In 1678, Nicolas de la Reynie, Louis XIV’s Lieutenant-General of Police,
arrested these people along with 215 priests, sorcerers, and fortune tellers who
had dabbled in black magic. 110 of these people were tried and sentenced. Some
were hanged, some were exiled, and some were imprisoned for life. Of Guibourg,
La Reynie said:
A libertine who has traveled a great deal…and is at present attached to
The Church of Saint Marcel. For twenty years he has engaged continually in
The practice of poison, sacrilege and every evil business. He has cut the
throats and sacrificed uncounted numbers of children on his infernal altar.
He has a mistress…by whom he has had several children, one or two of whom
he has sacrificed…. It is no ordinary man who thinks it a natural thing
to sacrifice infants by slitting their throats and to say Mass upon the
bodies of naked women.
It seems quite likely that Madame de Montespan was one of the living altars for
Guibourg’s masses. In one such mass, “at the moment of the bread and wine a
child’s throat was cut and its blood drained into the chalice. Simultaneously,
a prayer was recited to the demons Ashtaroth and Asmodeus: ‘Prince of Love, I
beseech you to accept the sacrifice of this child…that the love of the King
may be continued…'”
Shortly before the arrest of Guibourg and his cohorts, a sorcerous attempt was
made upon the life of Louis XIV. An altered consecrated wine was prepared to be
slipped into Louis XIV’s food. In the wine was dried powdered bats, menstrual
blood, semen, and, “to give consistency,” flour.
Bibliography. (Masello 26) Bibliography. (King 110, 111)
Asmodeus was one of the busiest demons. He was not only the overseer of all the
gambling houses in the court of Hell, but the general spreader of dissipation.
On top of that, Asmodeus was the demon of lust, personally responsible for
stirring up matrimonial trouble. Maybe it was because he came from the original
dysfunctional family. According to Jewish legend, his mother was a mortal woman,
Naamah, and his father was one of the fallen angels. (Or, possibly, Adam before
Eve came along.) Characterized in The Testament of Solomon, the great manual of
magic, as “furious and shouting,” Asmodeus routinely did everything he could to
keep husbands and wives from having intercourse, while encouraging them at every
turn to indulge their pent-up drives in adulterous and sinful affairs. When he
condescended to appear before a mortal, he did so riding a dragon, armed with a
spear; he had three heads–one a bull’s, one a ram’s, and one a man’s–as all
three of these were considered lecherous creatures by nature. His feet, on the
same theory, were those of a cock.
For information on a black mass held for Asmodeus, see Ashtaroth.
Bibliography. (Masello 26)
Part of the Christian mythos, Beelzebub was one of the powerful seraphim first
recruited by Satan. From his new home in Hell, Beelzebub discovered how to
tempt people with pride. He became associated with flies because he had sent a
plague of the insects to Canaan. He may also have become known as the “Lord of
the Flies” because of the popular belief that decaying corpses generated flies.
Regardless, when summoned by sorcerers or witches, he would appear in the form
of a fly.
Bibliography. (Masello 25)
Much has been made of Belial, one of the Devil’s most venerable demons. As the
demon of lies, he was immortalized in Milton’s Paradise Lost (Book II):
A fairer person lost not Heaven; he seemed
For dignity composed and high exploit:
But all was false and hollow; though his tongue
Dropped manna, and could make the worse appear
The better reason, to perplex and dash
Maturest counsels: for his thoughts were low;
To vice industrious, but to noble deeds
Timorous and slothful.
Before Satan had been the established leader of the forces of evil, Belial had
been the undisputed regent of darkness. This view is reinforced in The War of
the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness from one of the Dead Sea Scrolls:
“But for corruption thou hast made Belial, an angel of hostility. All his
dominion is in darkness, and his purpose is to bring about wickedness and
Magician and necromancer Gilles de Rais attempted to summon both Belial and
Beelzebub by using the severed body parts of a murdered child.
Bibliography. (Masello 27, 28)
A Celtic god whose physical attributes came to be applied to those of Satan.
Known as the Horned God and as Hu Gadarn, Cernunnos was the god of nature,
astral planes, virility, fertility, animals, sex, the underworld, reincarnation,
Bibliography. (van Hattem)
The classical moon goddess, Diana, is still worshipped by neopagans today. Long
after Christianity’s triumph over classical paganism, her worship is still going
strong. St. Kilian, a Celtic missionary to the pagan Franks, was martyred when
he attempted to persuaded the peasants to abandon their worship of this goddess.
A writing on the life of St. Caesarius offhandedly mentions “a demon whom simple
folk call Diana.”
Diana was the personification of the positive aspects of lunar forces. She was
also believed to have led groups of nightriders (known as the “Wild Hunt” or the
“Furious Horde”) who flew through the air. The “Wild Hunt” was comprised of
“people taken by death before their time, children snatched away at an early
age, victims of a violent end.” The goddess would accompany her followers as
they wandered at night among the houses of the well-to-do. Whenever they would
arrive at a home that was particularly well-kept, Diana would bestow her
blessings upon it.
Many benandanti (from the Italian for “those who go well” or “good-doers”) were
followers of Diana. The benandanti were members of a fertility cult who were
basically anti-witches and practicers of white magic. Nonetheless, they were
tortured by the Inquisitors just the same as practicers of the black arts were.
Diana was intrinsically linked with several other witch deities, including
Abonde, Abundia, Aradia, Hecate, Herodias, Holda, Perchta, Satia, and Venus.
Bibliography. (Ginzburg 40-46) Bibliography. (King 24)
Fraw Selga is yet another goddess believed to have led the “Furious Horde.” A
Germanic deity, Fraw Selga was said to be the sister of Fraw Fenus (Venus), and
like Venus and Diana, was referred to as “the mistress of the game.” The
processions following Fraw Selga “were composed of souls in purgatory, as well
as of the damned who were suffering various punishments.”
Fraw Selga could impart wisdom to her followers. She knew where buried
treasure intended for the God-fearing could be found.
During Fraw Selga’s conventicles (which took place during the Ember Days),
followers would partake in scrying. They stared into a basin “in which the
fires of hell appeared,” and they saw “likenesses of the members of the parish
who were destined to die within the year.”
Bibliography. (Ginzburg 51)
Gulfora, also known as the Queen of the Sabbat, was another goddess in the same
vein as Holda, Perchta, and Diana. She led the Wild Hunt, which is also known
as “the days of Jupiter.”
In 1519, Girolamo Folengo wrote Maccaronea, which says,
Not only do old hags bestride cats and goats and pigs, but many
dignitaries too, and civic officials and those who administer justice
to the people in the august senate range themselves to be governed
under Gulfora’s sway. They observe the days of Jupiter; they anoint
their limbs, hurrying to pay court to the Mistress, who is called
Bibliography. (Wedeck 126)
Perhaps the most notorious of all witch goddesses, Hecate was a dark
manifestation of Diana. Hecate is the patron goddess of witches and sorceresses
because of her skill in the arts of black magic. She is the queen of darkness,
perverse sexuality, and death. Classically, she is the goddess of “roads in
general and crossroads in particular, the latter being considered the center of
ghostly activities, particularly in the dead of night. . . . Offerings of food
(known as Hecate’s suppers) were left to placate her, for she was terrible both
in her powers and in her person–a veritable Fury, armed with a scourge and
blazing torch and accompanied by terrifying hounds.”
The followers of Hecate were rumored to have strange powers, such as that of
being able to draw down the moon in order to employ the averse aspects of lunar
forces. Followers could metamorphose into animals and birds, had insatiable
sexual appetites, and had an intrinsic understanding of aphrodisiac and
poisonous herbs. Witches in the service of Hecate had intense scatological
interests, and in one classical account, were known to have “pissed long and
vigorously” on the face of a man they captured. Indeed, one of the epithets of
Hecate was “excrement-eating.”
According to Apuleius, (a classical author who once stood trial himself on
charges of black magic), witches’ dens contained many questionable materials:
incenses, the skulls of criminals who had been thrown to wild animals, metal
discs engraved with occult signs, small vials of blood taken from the murdered
victims of the witches, the beaks and claws of birds of ill omen, and various
bits of human flesh, particularly the noses of crucifixion victims.
Bibliography. (Morford & Lenardon 182) Bibliography. (King 16,
See Aradia or Diana.
Also known as Fraw Holt, Holda became virtually synonymous with Abonde, Diana,
and Perchta. Originally, Holda had been a Germanic goddess of vegetation and
fertility, much like Perchta. Holda was also the goddess of spinning and
She, like her other manifestations, was the leader of the “Furious Horde” or
“Wild Hunt” (Wütischend Heer, Wilde Jagd, Mesnie Sauvage)–“namely of the
ranks of those who had died prematurely and passed through village streets at
night, unrelenting and terrible, while the inhabitants barricaded their doors
Holda had two forms, that of a beautiful girl dressed all in white, and that of
a hideous crone with fangs, a hooked nose, and long, tangled gray hair. In the
latter form, she looked just like the stereotypical image of a witch or the evil
stepmother of fairy tales. As the White Lady, she was a fertility goddess who
granted prosperity to home, family, and field. As the Hag, she offered those
who ignored or insulted her death, illness, and misfortune. In this form, she
was responsible for fog and snow.
Many animals were sacred to Holda: birds of prey, bears, horses, goats, wolves,
pigs, and hounds. Along with her sometimes partner the Wood Man, she was the
guardian of wild animals.
Holda may be part of the origin of the Santa Clause mythos as well. She treated
If they behaved themselves during the year then at Christmas she
rewarded them with gifts and good luck. If they had been naughty they
would be severely punished. Sometimes Holda was used as a bogey
figure and mothers threatened their children that if they did not
behave then she would come and take them off to the woods and teach
them good manners. Holda allegedly kept the children in a well,
endowing the good ones with abundant luck, health and wealth, and
turning the bad ones into Faerie changelings.
Bibliography. (Ginzburg 40) Bibliography. (Hilton)
Although he had a rather unlikely name for a demon, Leonard was a kind of
quality control expert for black magic and sorcery. He was also the master of
sabbats, presiding over them in the form of an enormous three-horned black goat
with the head of a fox.
Bibliography. (Masello 43)
Lilith is a kabalistic demon who appealed more to magicians than to witches.
According to legend, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, and the first social
feminist. Made from filth before the creation of Eve, Lilith believed herself
to be Adam’s equal and objected to “missionary style” sex. She believed that
sexual relations should take place with the two of them lying side by side. Adam
objected to this, so Lilith left him to mate with fallen angels.
Together with the fallen angels, Lilith parented a huge family of female demons
called lilim. Lilim are identical to succubi for all intents and purposes. Both
seduce men and take away men’s strength in the night hours.
Bibliography. (King 95)
The name Mephistopheles comes from the Greek for “he who does not like light.”
Mephistopheles is perhaps most famous for being the demon summoned by Faust.
Faust had summoned Mephistopheles to teach him great knowledge and to grant him
Mephistopheles fulfilled all of Faust’s desires. Nevertheless, at the end of
the twenty-four year contract, it was Faust’s turn to please Mephistopheles. All
that was left of Faust at the end of the contract was his torn and bloodied
corpse. The soul had been consigned to Mephistopheles in Hell.
Minerva (known by the Greeks as Athena) is yet another goddess thought to have
led the Wild Hunt. Like Holda, Minerva was traditionally thought of as the
goddess of weaving, spinning, and of women’s household arts in general.
Perchta or Percht was yet another manifestation of Diana and was synonymous with
Abonde as the leader of the host of the dead. Perchta was originally a southern
German goddess of vegetation and fertility. She had many different names (and
changed her sex) depending on the geographical region. In “southern Austria, in
Carintia, among the Slovenes, ‘Quantembermann’ (the man of the four Ember Days)
or ‘Kwaternik’; in Baden, in Swabia, in Switzerland, and with the Slovenes
again, ‘Frau Faste’ (the lady of the Ember Days) or similar names such as
‘Posterli,’ ‘Quatemberca,'” and ‘Fronfastenweiber.’
Bibliography. (Ginzburg 189, 190)
Put Satanachia was the commander-in-chief of Satan’s army of darkness. Aside
from having profound power over mothers, Put Satanichia had an immense knowledge
of the planets. He also provided witches with their animal familiars.
Bibliography. (Masello 40)
See Abonde or Diana.
Venus was originally the Roman goddess of love, but by the time of the
witchcraze she was relegated to demon status. She became synonymous with Diana
in terms of being followed at night by a retinue of women. Witches knew her as
Fraw Fenus, stating they visited her at night-time.
Venus could grant to these witches the power of astral projection. Witches
could fall into “swoons which rendered them insensible to pricks or scaldings.”
When the women revived, they said they had been to heaven and “spoke of stolen
or hidden objects.”
Bibliography. (Ginzburg 43, 44)
“Verdelet was something of a cross between a maitre d’ and a transportation
coordinator. He was master of ceremonies in Hell, and also shouldered the
responsibility of making sure witches on Earth got to their sabbats safely and
Bibliography. (Masello 44)