Several Different Account of Animals In Witchcraft

ANIMALS IN WITCHCRAFT

ANIMALS IN WITCHCRAFT-ANIMALS ON TRIAL

Witches and Cats

Locust on Trial

The Animals of Salem

The Animals of Finnish Witchtrials

The Trials of Familiars

Familiars of the Chelmesford witches
——————————————————————————–
——————————————————————————–
WITCHES AND CATS

“The rise of Christianity in Europe heralded a fundamental shift in attitudes to
cats.  During the Middle Ages, the cat’s links with the ancient, pagan cult of
the mother goddess inspired a wave of persecution that lasted several hundred
years.  Branded as agents of the Devil, and the chosen companions of witches and
necromancers, cats, especially black ones, were enthusiastically tortured and
executed during Christian festivals all over Europe.  It was also believed that
witches disguised themselves as cats as a means of traveling around incognito,
so anyone encountering a stray cat at night felt obliged to try and kill or maim
the animal.  By teaching people to associate cats with the Devil and bad luck,
it appears that the Church provided the underprivileged and superstitious masses
with a sort of universal scapegoat, something to blame for all of the many
hardships and misfortunes of life.  Fortunately for cats, such attitudes began
to disappear gradually during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the
dawn of the so-called Age of Enlightenment.  However, not until the middle of
the nineteenth century did cats eventually begin to regain the popularity they
once enjoyed in Ancient Egypt.”

********************************************************************

LOCUST ON TRIAL

The discussion so far has put me in mind of a terrific book I once read on
European animal trials, which were conducted up until I think the 17th century.
One example especially pertinent to the topic at hand:  if a plague of
caterpillars or locusts or whatever infested an area, the local legal community
would put the swarm on trial.  A locust would be captured and taken to the
courthouse.  It would become the “defendant” , and would in effect stand-in for
the whole swarm.  The trial would be conducted with all pomp and circumstance,
with a lawyer appointed to represent the swarm and etc. There were a number of
standard defensive strategies, and sometimes the swarm was even judged innocent
if their lawyer was especially able.  If judged guilty, however, the locusts
were ordered to get out of town.  If the infestation abated, the trial was given
credit.  If the infestation continued, this does not appear to have been seen as
an argument against conducting animal trials in the future.  I trust the
resemblance to the raindance ceremony is fairly clear here.

The author of the book (I cannot recall the title or author; I remember that it
was published in the early 1900s and the cover shows a reproduction of an old
print, portraying the public execution of a pig by hanging) argues that such
trials are an attempt by the human community to intervene in the natural order,
to exert its will over the world.  I think this is a pretty insightful comment.

“Exerting human will over the world” could serve as a definition of the goal
of science.  Bacon sometimes describes science as the human “conquest” of
nature, and certainly many modern critiques of science (feminist, for example)
have taken this to be the self-defined goal of scientific inquiry.  I’m not
arguing for the ultimate truth of this particular position, but on the other
hand if you look at things along these lines than certain aspects of religious
and scientific thought seem to be closely related, at least in their purpose.
Bacon’s studies of heat are supposed to yield a (universal) process for making
heat, the shaman leading a raindance is trying to make it rain, the animal trial
is an attempt to bring the plague to an end etc.

Note that the various rituals used for bringing about these interventions don’t
have to work very well in each case for the ritual to be accepted within the
community.   The community may simply accept that human powers are limited in
what they can accomplish.  I believe that within alchemical studies this was a
common view; even if all the processes were carried out correctly, you might
still not create gold from lead or whatever, and in fact usually would not.
Note also that the ritual might have multiple functions within the community.
The rain-dance both be used for bringing rain and bringing about group
solidarity.  These are not mutually exclusive.  Again, I have read something
similar with respect to alchemical procedures; that the alchemist “purifying”
metals with his various tools is also going through a process of spiritual
purification.  And certainly the animal trial, even if it does not drive out the
infestation, makes the community feel better.  The community is “doing
something” about its situation, even if its acts are ineffective.

I also like the animal trial example because it muddies the waters here in
interesting ways.  The conversation to date has concerned itself with
comparing/contrasting religious/scientific thought.  Yet here we see legal
institutions using their procedures in a way that suggests a religious ritual.
Conversations on the distinctions/similarities between legal and religious
thought, and legal and scientific thought, would also be good to have.

************************************************************
THE ANIMALS OF SALEM

Salem Story:  Reading the Witch Trials of 1692  by Bernard Rosenthal Cambridge
University Press 1993

p.18  John Hughes, while testifying about seeing beast transform into Sarah
Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba, also mentions that on March 2 “a great white
dog followed him and then disappeared, and then that night in bed he saw a great
light and a cat at the foot of his bed.”  (from Narratives of the WC Cases 1648-
1706 ed. G. LO. Burr)

p.21  Tituba’s testimony included many animals…black dog/hog/man/yellow bird
told her to serve him; yellow bird was accompanying Sarah Good (who had already
given accusers legitimacy); also said she saw a cat with Good on other occasions

p.22  T. saw 2 cats, black and red.  “What did the cats do?  Tituba did not
know.  Had the cats hurt or threatened her?  They had scratched her. What had
they wanted of her?  They had wanted her to hurt the children. They had forced
her to pinch the children.  Did the cats suck Tituba? No, she would not let
them.”

p.82  Bridget Bishop (owner of shuffle-board and cider teenage hangout) was
testified against by Wonn, slave of John Ingerson.  He “told a story of
frightened horses, the vanishing shape of B.B. (at the time B. Oliver), the
appearance of an unknown cat, and mysterious pinchings and pain.”

p.124  Martha Carrier:  7 yr. old daughter Sarah was induced to confess that “a
cat, identifying itself as M. C., had carried Sarah along to afflict people when
her mother was in prison.”

**********************************************************

THE ANIMALS OF FINNISH WITCHTRIALS

I have studied over 1200 finish witch trials 1520-1700 (with PD Marko Nenonen)
and there is a certain role of animals.  “Para”  was a small “cat-like” animal,
used  to  steal  milk  and a butter called cow  lucky especially in swedish
speaking west coast in Finland.  The “Para” was not found out by judges, but it
had a long folk tradition.  There are many examples  where  a  neighboug  was
accusing  another by stealing “butter lucky” with “para”.

“Para” is just the same “trollcat”  as it  was in  Sweden and Norway. You can
find  “Para”  in court  protocolls in  western part (Swedish speaking part) in
Finland (1520-1600),  but not  in finnish speaking parts on  the  country.   So
“Para” can’t  be shamanistic (Lappland) phenomenom, but it surely is known all
parts of Scandinavia.

As time goes, You could  find “Para”  in finnish  speaking areas too, but in in
1500-1700.   So  we have  learned it  from swedish speaking people.

But, as we are dealing with animals, you can find  other animals than “trollcat”
too.  We have cases with “trolldog” which I mean the Devil with a shape of a
dog.  Some of our accused had meet the devil with a shape of a dog (and a coat).

We have at least one case with a “metapmorphose”, where people have been accused of being  “werewolves”. In Estonia the tradition of those being wolves in night time was strong.   There  were many cases like that.

I think, the idea of “trollcats” is not shamanistic, it is surely
Scandinavian!

There is quite a lot of articles abou “Para” (Trollcat)  but only few of them
would be available in english.

But, there is one point we have to keep in mind.  People were ACCUSED of having  “Para” and  they were  CONVICTED to  using witchcraft, but they were never CONVICTED TO HAVING  PARA!   The matter  of trial was not, is there really animal shaped “butter stealing” para, but it was a question of practicing
witchcraft or superstition!

In Scandinavia  we  have  very old  “lore”, written  by one historian about
1200-1300, were a man was killed by “Mara”  (bad dream animal?) because he had not kept his promise to his Finnish wife.

Another instance of using “para”, other than trying have luck in stealing
butter,  was a “Finnish way” to use a bear as a helper for  killing someone’s
cattle.  People believed that some (almost always a man) people had  ability to
force bears to kill enemy’s horse or cattle.  But I  have no  idea, if the
bear wanted some price of it’s doings (nourishment or protection).

Even in the  oldest witch  trials (before  people had  any idea about satanistic
pact with devil) witches were believed to use some animals as a helper of their
maleficium.  So, this belief must be older than the christian theory of pact.

The bear  cases  seems  to  be  common way  to do  harm among finnish speaking
people.  In some rare cases the helper was a wolf. In some cases (1670s) the
helper was a dog, but it seems that the dog was not really an animal, but it was
a Devil with a shape of a dog.

Some ladies used cows (or even  a pig)  to ride  to “Bl=E5kulla” (the Sabbath),
but  those  animals   were  usually   “borrowed”  for  some neighbour and they
were not acting like a helper –  they were forced to do so.

Lapplanders who  had  long shaman  traditions used  to use “animal spirit
helpers” to do things, but they were not accused of forcing real animals to do
any harm, as far as I know.

There is  one  big  difference  between  using  a “Para”  and a bear. “Para” was
supernatural  familiar,  but  bears  were  really  acting animals whom could be
seen.  Damage made by para was a loss of butter or milk lucky, but a damage made by bear was real.   Anyone could see the damage.

In some  cases  there  was  so  called  “tonttu”  (tomptegubben or rgubbe in
swedish).  They were not used as helpers, but You should give them  some
presents  for  getting rid  of harms  they could do. People believed,  that
“tonttu” was  living in  particular place and people living in same area were
disturbing the tonttu.  So You had to do something  to  keep tonttu  in good
mood.   Tonttu was spiritual, because no one had never catch one.   Tonttu  was
not  an animal, but small human kind of creature.

Then there was “Nekki” or “Nacken”.   It  was a  creature living in lakes and
killing people by taking them under the water.  Nekki was not a real animal and
it did not acted like a helper for  anyone – it did what  it wanted  to do.

First little  more  about “para”.   The  belief of  “para” helping to steal cows
must be very old, because in one finnish church there is a painting of para.
The painting is older than the belief that a Witch have a pact with the devil,
the devil then  giving a  “spiritum” to a helper for  the  witch (This  belief
was  not known  in Finland until 1660s.)

Secondly, I think too, that a  witch-hare (para)is  common in Sweden. Probably
Finnish  speaking  people  have  borrowed  in  from  Sweden, because there are
no witch-hares in our oldest mythology as  far as I know.  The witch-hare (para)
was mentioned  in trials  some times in the Swedish speaking area of Finland
(west coast), but not in Finnish speaking Karelia, suggesting it is borrowed.

Thirdly, I have  to check  my papers  to find  out is  there any “pet
connection” in  finnish witch  trials, but  without doing  so I can’t remember
any cases where pet animals had  some part  of being helpers and neither did PhD Marko Nenonen as we discussed today.

But I could find at least one case where a man was killed  by his own dog.  The
victim,  Antti Yrjonpoika  Paivikainen, was  a customer of famous witch  Antti
Lieroinen  who did  all kinds  of maleficium for salary.  After their contact
Paivikainen was found dead and the cause for that was  his own  dog.   So
Lieroinen  was thought  to cause the death by using victim’s own dog to  kill
him.   This  was not proved, but Lieroinen was executed for  other witchcraft
he had  done.  This happend in 1643.

Fourthly, 27.3.1641 witch Erkki Juhonpoika  Puujumala (“Treegod”) was convicted in Turku Supreme Court.  He was sentenced to death for many reasons –  for killing  people with  witchcraft etc.   He  has had an arguement with other
people and he had said that he  was going change those people into wolves with
his maleficium.  This was not proved to happen, but it was one prosecution among many.   By  the way, Treegod said that he was 120 years old.

Fifthly, we have some cases where a witch has used a snake to do some crime.
One witch  argued with  his wife  and then  separated.  Later that ex-wife get
pregnant from a snake, and later gave  birth to some snakes.  In one another
case the  snake had  gone inside  of a woman (and they used a lappish healer to
try to get it out).

Snakes had also a  strong part  of shamanism,  but I  don’t know what really was
the function of shamans snake-shape belongings(??instruments??).  Finnish
folkloristics  seem to believe that the snake was for the shamans protection.

We had few cases where a snake’s head  was used  by magical meanings.

Sixthly, in  1732  court  was  dealing  with  a   case,  where  Lauri
Heikinpoika Tervo accused his neighbor “of  sending a  bird with fire on its
head (nose)” to burn his house, which  burned.   Due to losses of protocols, we
don’t know how  the case  was handled,  but I’m sure the court did not  find
neighbor  guilty.   Birds have  been known to used to carry fire in saami
tradition (says  finnish folklorist Aune Nystrom).

Seventhly, we have found one case  where a  woman gave  birth to some frogs, and one case where a frog was put in  a box  and buried inside of a church.  The box was just like those boxes they  used with human bodies.

Eigth, we have a case where they used a  fish to  heal sick person. The idea was
that the “Grande mal” (falling sickness)  would be moved from people to fish.
So they did it, but  unfortunately one innocent person touched  the fish  and
got  himself sick.   And  of course the sickness was grande mal.

Ninth, I have a strong feeling, that finnish courts  did not tried to found  out
if  the  accused had  animal helper  or not.   The law mentioned nothing about
animal imps or  spirituals, so  they were not needed as  evidence.    Maleficium
was  maleficium  and  it could be proofed without any animal helpers or spirits.

10th According  the  old folk  tradition the  bear will  not harm the cattle if
one takes a blind puppy dog and  buries it  with some rites in the land on area,
where the bear  lives.   But I  have no evidence that this has ever been done.

11th In Finland was  believed, that  milking others  cow, would steal not only
the  milk but  the further  milk lucky  too.   I think this believe is common in
whole Scandinavia.

12th A bear  could be  sent to harm neighbour’s cattle.  But at least in one
case (1746)  shows, that it could also to sent back to harm the original witch.

13th  I have no reason to believe that the animal (exept  the bear or wolf
sended  to  do  harm) were  real ones.   If  it was  so that the helpers were
real pets, why they did not execute the pets too?

I think that the judges  has sent  the animals  to death  as they did with cases
where humans  had sexual  intercourse with  animal.  They executed both!  One
reason to not to do so could be,  that the animal was not “guilty” for anything
because it  could not  differ the right and the wrong from each other.  But so
did the raped animal neither.

14th The worms.  At least in one case the witch used worms to destroy a pig.  He
used some magical technique and  the victims  pig get “full of worms”  as  they
found  out when  they slaughtered  the sick pig. Worms could be sent to a human
being too.

15th The lycanthropy.  Werewolves had no part of  finnish trials, but they had
one in Estonia.  Why?  The Finnish people  have common roots with Estonian
people and  our languages  are still  guite similar. Our oldest  pre-christian
religion  is  common,  and   there  is  no werewolves in  that  tradition,  as
far  as I  know.   So, where the estonians got  the  idea about  werewolves?   I
think  that they have adopted it  from  germans.    Estonia  has  been  under
strong german influence, but Finland hasn’t.   So, I  believe, that  they must
have copied the idea from German “Werewolffe”.

According Maia Madar (Estonia I:  Werewolves and  poisoners, in Early Modern
European  Witchcraft  ed.     Bengt   Ankarloo  and  Gustav Henningsen,
Clarendon Press, Oxford 1990).

“Belief in werewolves was widespread.  At eighteen trials, eighteen women  and
thirteen men  were accused  of causing damage while werewolves.  At Meremoisa  1623, the  defendant Ann testified that she  had been  a werewolf  for four  years, and  had killed a horse as well as some smaller animals.  She had later hidden the wolf skin under a stone in the fields.”  (page 270)

Maia Madar tells other examples, too.  And in one  case where 18-year old Hans
had  confessed  that he  had hunted  as a  werewolf for two years, “when asked
by the judges if his body  took part  in the hunt, or if only his soul was
transmuted, Hans confirmed that  he had found a dog’s teeth-marks on  his own
leg, which  he had  received while a werewolf.  Further  asked wether  he felt
himself to  be a  man or a beast while transmuted, he told  that he  felt
himself  to be beast.” (page 271)

Madar writes:  “It was acknowledged  that people  could be transmuted not only
into werewolves, but also into bears.”

So as a lawyer I  must ask  why they  were confessing  that they were hunting as
werewolves  in  Estonia.    The  answer  must be torture. Torture was  widely
used in  Estonia ecen  it was  under the Swedish jurisdiction, where torture was
forbidden.

16th The devil in a shape of a dog.  All over the  Scandinavia we had trials
where the accused said, that the devil they’ve met had a shape of a  dog.   Why
the  dog?   Danish witchhistorian  Jens Christian V. Johanssen writes (in book
mentioned above), that  the popular culture (peoples believes) borrowed ideas
for wall-paintings in the church.

“In Ejsing church, Christ is tempted in the desert by the  devil – in the shape
of a  ferocious-looking dog!   Popular  imagination was so vivid that  on  given
occasions  the devil  came to  take his form”. (Johansen:  Denmark:  The
Sociology of Accusations in Early Modern European Witchcraft..  page 363-364).

Well, so and so.  But surely the popular culture appointed ideas from elite’s
culture.

17th The shamanism.  I have not specialised about  shamanism, so I’ll now follow  the  ideas  that  finnish  shamanism expert Anna-Leena Siikala writes  in   her  book   “Suomalainen  samanismi”  (Finnis Shamanism), Hameenlinna 1992.

Siikala writes about moving the  demon from  someone to  another.  In finnish
folklore it is usuall to remove a disease from  patient to an animal or  some
idol, like  wooden puppet.   This  is common between Middle- and  East-Siperia
shaman  too.   She remind,  that even Jesus removed demon from a man to some
pigs.  (page 187)

There is  information  about  this kind  of “removing”  in German and Estonia
too.  In Finland  this was  usually done  by soothsaying, but this was not
common in Middle-Europe or Scandinavia.

Siikala guesses, that this habit has  very old  shamanistic roots and that the
churhes middle-age tradition  has forced  this old religion. (pages 188-189)

In these cases animals are  shamans helpers  and they  carry the evil demon
away.    Shamans  (spiritual)  animal  helpers  are also spyes, Shaman can  send
them  far  away  to  collect  information  what  is happening.  Helpres  also
carry  the  information  from  here to the “heaven”.  “Because  shamans helper
animal do  not only  to take the disease to themselves,  but carry  it to
“heaven” (or  “to the other side” as shamans say), they are=20  not usuall
(real) animals” (page 191).

Siikkala says,  that middle  age church  adopted these  old ideas and they used
the idea to their rituals (to carry out demons).

Shamans used to call their helpers for instance by singing (and using the drum).
In my opinion it is surely understandable that shaman was all the  time
demonstrating  to  the  audience,  that  he  has  very important helpers.

The shaman uses his  helpers to  fight agains  other shamans helpers, too.  So
when shaman is healing a patent,  he first  find’s out where the disease has
become, and then force it to go back.  If the disease is caused by demon, you
have to fight against demon.  If it is caused by other shaman with his helpers,
so the helpers must fight together. (as Carlo Ginzburg’s “benandati” did).

The idea about shamans fighting together is old  and it  is common in Northern-
Asia, too.  In Siperia tradition the  fighning shamans could take a shape of
animals.

But I could not find any  reason to  believe that  the helper animals were real
animals in Siikalas book either.

According to Joan’s Witch Pages  they executed  a dog  in Salem Witch trials.
This is something I had  not pointed  out earlier.   If they really executed the
dog, so I’ll have to reuse my argument:  why they did not executed other
suspected “pets” too  (if the  “pet theory” is right)?

************************************************************

THE TRIALS OF FAMILIARS

One reason why they may not have executed pets is  because the  law assumed
that these creatures were supernatural beings  – by  definition.  If the animals
had  been  captured,  brought to  court, examined by authorities, etc.,  it
would  have  been difficult  to avoid the conclusion that the witch’s cat or dog
was, in fact, no different from any other cat  or dog.  In addition,  according
to folklore, these animals could not be killed by ordinary  means because they
were spirits. We have found one account, for example, of a suspected familiar (a
poodle dog called Boye, belonging to Prince Rupert) being killed by a silver
bullet fired by  a ‘soldier skilled in necromancy’  at  the battle  of Marston
Moor in  1642.  Also, perhaps it was assumed that the familiars would perish as
soon as the witch  was  executed,  since they  were assumed  to depend on
her/him for  nourishment (coincidently, of course, the animals probably didn’t
survive  for  long  once their owners were incarcerated and executed).  However,
I  agree with  you that the fate of these animals is somewhat mysterious.  My
guess would be that the  witch’s  neighbours  dealt  with  them swiftly and
discretely, but I have no evidence either way. I wasn’t aware of the Salem dog
execution but will now look into this. In the bestiality trials, the animals
were not generally executed as criminals.  Rather they seem to have been
regarded as polluted creatures which might have a corrupting influence on public morality if allowed to remain alive. Thus, there was a particular incentive to identify these (real) animals and kill them.

——————————————————————————–

Advertisements

November 29 – Daily Feast

November 29 – Daily Feast

Too much looking back robs us of our natural ability to change things. We are too good at finding reasons for failing, too well trained in using logic to work out knotty decisions. Every thinking, praying human being has access to supernatural answers to his problems, but he cannot use only human reason. And more than anything he must not give excuses or blame others for his own mistakes. Not can we say that if we sit still long enough a miracle will happen. We have to use our minds and our hearts and our spirits – but we must also obey the rules.

~ Some of us seem to have a peculiar intuition. ~

OHIYESA – SANTEE DAKOTA

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Magick is All Around Us

Magick is All Around Us

Author:   Luna   

Sometimes I get my inspirations from the simplest things. Sometimes it’s just a walk in the woods, and sometimes it’s the time of year or the holiday. Other times, it’s from interacting with a variety of people or animals, from playing with my dogs to working with native Chinese people. This time, inspiration came from somewhere I wasn’t expecting: one of the emails you guys have been sending me (thank you, thank you, thank you, by the way) .

A few weeks before writing this, I got an email from someone with a question I wasn’t quite expecting. The writer asked, “Do you think I can do magic with all this reality around me?” I have to admit that I’ve never been asked a question like that before. And, for a little while, I was confused as to how to respond to it. But then it came to me: perhaps the person who emailed me was having trouble sensing the magick in his everyday life and the forces he wanted to work with. This was something that I struggled with back when I first came to Wicca and that has taken practice for me to become good at. Not only that, but for many people coming to Wicca from a paradigm that sees magick as a thing of fantasy, this can be a really difficult barrier to overcome. So let’s talk about it a bit, shall we?

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this dilemma is the two different spellings that get used: magic and magick. With just the addition of a simple letter, we can change the meaning of what we would’ve thought of before as just one thing: a force of fantasy capable of creating great change and wonder but that is impossible to achieve in real life.

Now, you guys may or may not have noticed this, but in my essays for the Witches’ Voice, I tend to prefer the spelling with a k, and there is a reason for this. The main reason for this is to maintain a bit of separation between the magick I work with in my life and the magic I’m used to in role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and video games. When I first came to Wicca, I didn’t know that there could be one letter that could, for some of us, differentiate between two completely different concepts. And let me tell you, if you think I’m talking crazy again: I’m pretty sure throwing fireballs and a simple prosperity spell don’t fall under the same paradigm. That’s just my take on it. But I hope the explanation helps a little.

The next problem we come to in dealing with this barrier has to do with where we come from in terms of religion. I think I speak for a lot of us who came from either a Judeo-Christian background or from another religion that doesn’t see magick the same way that much of the Neopagan or at least the Wiccan community does. I know that for me, when I grew up, I didn’t think of magick in the same way. When I was younger, Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz provided my definitions of Witchcraft and magic. To my young mind, the only kind of magic I knew existed in fiction and wasn’t possible in real life.

Not only that, but growing up originally in the Christian faith, magic and religion didn’t mix. And I’m sure that, in some areas where you might live (and this is based only on my experience) , magick and Witchcraft are seen in a very different light. I’ve heard about so much about a number of Fundamentalists and some other sects of Christianity who denounce Wiccans and others as being in league with the devil or some such nonsense. Most if not all of us have at least heard of the Salem Witch Trials and other occurrences from what has been called the Burning Times. Now, even though I’ve left my Christian roots somewhat behind, I have a great respect for Christianity and many of its adherents. I have no problem with Christianity as a whole. It’s just some people who become very extreme and hateful about what I choose to believe and practice. I know it’s not always Christians who say these things, but it’s mainly what comes to mind. And I’m sure it’s what comes to mind for some of you, who came to Wicca or another Pagan path from a similar background to mine. And coming from a background and religious paradigm that sees magic as non-existent or confined to fiction (and those who claim to work as, at best, perhaps slightly delusional and, at worst, evil people) , accepting magick into the way one perceives reality can be rather challenging. Believe me when I say that I’ve been there and done that.
(I really hope I’m not confusing any newcomers with the whole magic/magick thing at this point…)

What’s important to keep in mind is that magick doesn’t work the same as how we’ve seen it in books, movies, video games, etc. Magick in reality is much more subtle; you don’t see people throwing fireballs at each other or calling down lightning from the sky because things don’t work that way. In fact, I like to think of how magick works in our world (as opposed to Harry Potter, great though the series is) as something akin to the wonders of a cup of tea. Why a cup of tea, you ask? Well, it may not seem like it’s doing much, but there is a certain calming power about it when you feel distressed (or, in the case of raspberry leaf tea, really helps out with bad and painful—uh, that might be TMI) . That, and it reminds me of something my dad said when I came out of the broom closet to him. While it was obvious (as many of you know from reading my essays) that my dad would see magick as being impossible, he is more than willing to admit the wonders of cup of tea has when I’m having a nuclear meltdown. I must admit that a part of me giggled inside, thinking, “Uh, Dad? That can be magick too.”

It’s often in the little things that we wouldn’t think of as magick or wouldn’t tend to notice. I often find that the magick I sense in the world always gives me a little tingle of excitement or is tied to an emotion. It could be the calming feeling that comes when watching the waves as they drift in and out with the tide. It could be the smell of a rose or any flower. It could be the sun shining down on you on a nice day (or in the midst of a ton of snow) . It could be that feeling you have when you’re with the one you love, that tender moment when you kiss. For me, this magick I sense often comes when I’m swimming, usually in a lake or in the ocean (chlorinated pool water doesn’t cut it for this type of experience, too many chemicals) . For some reason, whenever I get farther out into the water or even when I’m in open water with only a boat nearby, I feel this surge of energy and giddiness. One thing to try is to really pay attention to those feelings and sensations. At least from my experience, they can definitely be magickal.

The last barrier I wan to talk about in talking about magick in one’s life is visualization. Some of us come to Wicca or another Pagan path with a lack of practice in visualization. Now, I talked about this in my “The Importance of Basic Techniques” essay way back when, but visualization is an essential to magickal workings as well as other aspects of a Pagan faith. For many who come to Wicca or another path from a background that doesn’t see magick as part of reality, sometimes a lack of visualization skills can impact their first attempts to work with magick. Believe me, that was I a few years ago when I was first starting out. However, with some practice, I’ve found that this is the easiest barrier to overcome, especially once the importance of this technique has been explained properly. I’ve received an email in response to that essay that thanked me for clearing up why it was so important, as the sender had merely been told to practice these techniques without any explanation as to why it mattered (I really do enjoy some of the responses I get) .

So, thinking back to “The Importance of Basic Techniques” and my evening with Max, I want you to try this exercise, if you care to oblige me (you don’t have to) . Go ahead and hold your hands a little ways apart from each other and try to feel a ball of energy between them. Nothing yet? Now try it again but try to clearly picture the ball in your mind. It doesn’t matter is how big the ball is, but I want you to actively visualize it. Picture a ball forming between your hands. It can be any color you like and can take on any aspect. Are you seeing a difference? Even if you don’t see anything (which may not happen; it didn’t for me before) , you can probably feel something keeping your hands from coming together. Visualization definitely makes a difference in that exercise.

I’m going to leave you with a few resources that really address some of the questions about magick and visualization for those who are still having trouble. The first one is, of course, the “Wicca First Degree” videos from user MagickTV on YouTube. I mentioned them back when I talked about basic techniques, but I want to give it another mention and a recommendation to check out the rest of the series as well. In particular, the exercises they give in addition to the main lessons are extremely helpful when working on visualization. Along with that, I’ve got a bit of reading material for you as well. The two main books I want to recommend are “The Inner Temple of Witchcraft” by Christopher Penczack and “Natural Witchery: Intuitive, Personal and Practical Magick” by Ellen Dugan. These two books place a lot of emphasis on visualization and psychic/magickal development for the beginner, and they’ve been a big help to me.

So, in conclusion, is it hard to sense magick in our everyday lives? For some of us, it can be, especially when we take our first few tentative steps down our chosen paths. Is it there, part of the reality around us? Of course it is, even if we don’t always notice it. And, to answer the question posed to me by a curious reader, can you work magick with all this reality around us? Yes, you can. It may be difficult at times, and you may find that some techniques may not work as well for you. But so long as you keep an open mind and an open heart, and as long as the work is meaningful to you, I personally see no reason why you can’t.

Magick is everywhere around us, part of the reality we live. And, for my part at least, it’s one of the things that makes life and spirituality truly special for any young Pagan, Wiccan or Witch.

____________________________

Footnotes:
“You Don’t Always Need Magick” by Luna
http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usmn and c=words and id=15186

“The Importance of Basic Techniques” by Luna
http://www.witchvox.com/va/dt_va.html?a=usmn and c=words and id=15057

From The Lips Of A Witch – Very Moving & Thought Provoking Poem

Wiccan Images

From The Lips Of A Witch…

Ye of little faith,
no tears for the Witch-
I beseech thee.
For this is my way,
I choose my Path,
and the ground reaches up to greet me.

The sun beats upon me,
tired and weary each step
yet no tears on my face you shall see-
This Witch has no reason to have wept.

In my face
The Witch’s tell tale lines,
each furrow an etch of wisdom gained
Yet no knowledge will you possess
If you strike and cause me pain

I see those things
you turn your back on
Betrayed by your fallen hope
You cannot bend me to your will
or sentence me to beg and grope

So still the fluttering of your hands,
your anger at my faith
I am a Witch, this much is true,
It is my Path- my Fate.

Pull close your heart,
And finally see
the emotion in my face
It is not fear, nor malice there…
just the serenity and grace.

I found my way through
love and light,
I grew to be who I am
It was not hate that got me here,
or fear of the God of Man

I found the Witch within my heart-
Or did the Witch find me?
We are one, and so the same
forever here to be.

So Goddess Bless, and
be true to yours,
and I shall be true to mine…
We’re all sisters and brothers under the skin,
regardless of our Divine.

 

Wiccan Pictures

The Witch Hunts of Old Hit Home

I have been thumbing through some of my books. Truthfully as I look through them, I can’t find anything at all that interests me to talk about. Except one thing that I learned about not to long ago that happened in my hometown.

All of my family came out of the mountains of Eastern and Central Kentucky. Most of the men were coal miners and the women were homemakers. I remember my father had come from a family of 13 children. There would have been 15 but two of them died as babies. My mother came from only a family of 3 children. Her baby sister passed on when she was 12 from lockjaw. She stepped on a rusty nail and there was no cure at the time. My father and mother met, married and moved to Western Kentucky. I grew up in this area and have lived here all my life. I always thought it was a very peaceful and lovely place to live. All those thoughts were scattered to the wind the other day. I learned of something terrible that had happened here. Down where the floodwall now stands on the other side of it, three witches were hanged. I cried.

The thought of those women or so called witches has been weighing on my mind. The is the first time, I had ever heard of the witch hunts and executions coming this far south. The details of the hanging are unknown to me. The names of the victims and what they were accused of is also. I want to know about these women. I feel a yearning to know. Perhaps it is a sisterhood or perhaps there Spirits are calling to me, I don’t know. But I want to find out.

I haven’t mentioned any of these to my husband yet. I know what he will say, “leave it alone. Don’t go snooping.” I had an aunt on my father’s side to just disappear. No one in the family ever talked about her. The only reason I know is because I did a little genealogy on my own. She showed up in the censuses and I also found a birth record of her. I even asked my sister about her and she had never heard of her either. It was always public knowledge that women on both sides of the family practiced healings and witchcraft. It makes me wonder if one of those women could have been my aunt.

I cannot even begin to think how to go about researching something like this. I know my husband runs across transcripts of Witch Trials no one had ever heard of before. He gave me one not to long ago about a trial in Pennsylvania that I have found no record of anywhere. I would love to find out more about these women. I would especially like to know if one of them was my aunt.

Perhaps this explains the strong feelings I have in regards to the Burning Times. Perhaps it explains why I am always talking about our Ancestors. I know I had several stoned and hung, distant ones not like an aunt. To me, an aunt is blood, real blood. I feel a responsible to find out what happened to her. Then I stop to think, if it was my aunt could I honestly handle the cruelty that I found out she suffered. Who knows if she was an actually practitioner? She might have been one of my relatives that was completely innocent. The thought of that makes me sick. The thought of her being tortured and no telling what else, just to make her confess. Then taken out to a gallows or even a tree and hung, it makes me cry. It is different when you read and heard about the old ones back in the 1600’s. But when you wonder if one of these women could have been your  aunt hung back in the early 1900’s. It hits home. It hits you square in your heart and soul.

The cruelty of people. How could people treat any of them the way they did? Did these people have any regrets? Didn’t they have any compassion for another human being? What happened back then, did the world go mad? I guess due to my tolerance and compassion for others, I will never understand it.

All I know is I want to know who these women were. Whether any of them were my aunt or not, I pray the Goddess gave them peace and comfort. I truly pray they were reborn into a much kinder and gentler world from which they came.

This Is Halloween! Salem During The Samhain Season

This Is Halloween! Salem During The Samhain Season
By Artemisia, Nicole, Maeve, Phoenix ShadowDancer, and Roisin
Salem, MA was founded by Puritans sailing from England in 1629. The town is notorious for the witch trials that took place in the vicinity in 1692. We know that the Salem “witches” were innocent victims of mass hysteria. The first “witch” was hung in June of that year. In October, 13 executed women and 5 executed men later, the witch-trials were suspended. From then on, witches, the devil, and any vestige of the occult left Salem for over 250 years and Salem reverted to yet another boring, Puritan New England town.
Not until the 1970s did the witches return to Salem… and this time they brought T-shirts.
Salem is Halloween 365 days a year, so you can imagine what events take place during the week of Halloween! A few former-residents of Salem along with some local pagans offer an insiders’ view of Salem during this season.
Fun Things To Do In Salem by Phoenix ShadowDancer
Living close to Salem has always felt like a privilege to me. From the days when I was a child, when my dad would take me to the “witch shop” (Crow Haven Corner) to today, when I go to feel the amazing spiritual and magickal energy, I have always loved the town. There are so many things that a magickal person can do in this beautiful little town, from historical site-seeing to really amazing food. One of my favorite things to do is to walk through the “witch’s memorial” (which isn’t really a memorial to witches at all…since it is most likely that the women and man killed were probably not witches) to the old cemetery, sit on the wall, and write in my journal or just meditate. It’s a beautiful site. Another favorite is to visit all of the occult shops. Of course, many of them carry the same products, but the atmosphere when you walk into these shops creates a warm, fuzzy feeling all over.
There are millions of historical sites to see in Salem. There is the Witch’s Museum (which harbors a bunch of wax figures and tells the story of the Salem Witch Trials), the House of Seven Gables, which was once home to writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, and, of course, the Witch’s Dungeon which I have actually never been to. During the autumn season, Salem hosts a month-long festival called “Haunted Happenings”, which creates an eerie flare for visiting these sites.
Finally, there are numerous groups of pagan men and women in Salem who never feel squeamish about walking around in their cloaks, and “witchy attire”. This was my favorite part about Salem. Usually, a large pagan group called the “Temple of Nine Wells” will put on a public ritual for each pagan holiday, which are inspirational and all-together fun. For Samhain, they often gather at Gallows Hill for a large public ritual (which often consists of hundreds of people) and then process to town from there in memory of those who were executed for their beliefs. No matter what your interest, the autumn season is always a wonderful time to visit the town of Salem. During this season, everyone is a witch .
Avoiding Salem by Roisin
I have never been to Salem for Halloween. I’ve thought about it a few times, but I’ve always decided not to go. I go up to Salem a few times a year, usually on weekends in the summer to check out the Peabody Essex Museum and do a little shopping. You may wonder why, and many people I’ve met, given my religious beliefs and geographic location, are shocked to hear that I avoid Salem from October 1 through November 2. The reason for that is the same reason I avoid all Irish bars on St. Patrick’s Day. It doesn’t have a lot to do with green beer and green beer vomit (but that does count for something). No, I stay away because I celebrate my heritage 365 days a year. I don’t need to be squeezed into an overcrowded bar and have some drunk spill beer on me while singing “Danny Boy” off-key. As for Halloween in Salem, I celebrate my faith in the Goddess every day. I don’t need to freeze my ass off wandering around the streets of Salem while freaky (deliberately freaky) guys and girls try to pick me up, on the assumption that Pagan chicks are poly, easy, and like to f—- anything. I also don’t need to deal with the witchier-than-thou types in Salem, whose own brand of Goddess is the only one acceptable. I also don’t like the overly commercial nature of the holiday up there. Still, Salem is a fun town to visit, but I like to do it on my terms, not everybody else’s.
When You Can’t Get To Salem, Go To Boston!  By Nicole
I have lived in Boston all my life and since Salem on Halloween can be pretty a pretty crowded scene, I usually stay local and keep it simple. Salem is not the only spooky place in New England. A trip to some of the oldest cemeteries in America makes for a “grave” Halloween experience. Mt. Auburn Cemetery, founded in 1831, is the final resting place of thousands of distinguished people including 19th century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and artist Winslow Homer as well as 20th century visionary Buckminster Fuller. Mt. Auburn commemorates the dead in a tranquil, natural setting “embellished” with ornamental plantings, monuments, fences, fountains and chapels that also makes it a place for the living. You can go, have a picnic on a tomb, write in your journal, and romanticize about the past. Park Street Church, the site of the old town granary (where grain was kept before the Revolution) dates back to 1809. The Church was the first location of Sunday School in 1818. On July 4th, 1829, William Lloyd Garrison gave his first public anti-slavery speech here and two years later “My Country, Tis of Thee” was sung for the first time by the church’s choir. But Park Street Church is best known for its cemetery, where at least 1,600 people are known to be buried, dating from the 1600s. Among those laid to rest are Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and the victims of the Boston Massacre. Elizabeth Vergoose, buried here in 1690, is believed to be the storyteller later immortalized as Mother Goose. There’s nothing more fall-feeling than crunching through fallen leaves around the Granary graveyard with the smell of roasting peanuts in the air and sipping some hot cider.
A day pensive day spent grave-hopping ends nicely with a night dancing at ManRay Nightclub, home of New England’s underground scene, catering to a variety of alternative cultures. ManRay can guarantee a spooktacular Halloween night! Dance the night away with vampires, dominatrix damsels, and sexy heathens… and those are the regulars! With an annual costume competition cannot be rivaled with awards like “best use of pvc tape in a costume” the night always promises a lot of laughs, dancing, and great people watching.
Disillusionment Of Salem by Maeve
Dis`il*lu”sion*ment, n. The act of freeing from an illusion, or the state of being freed there from. As a child growing up I always thought of Salem of being this real life mystical place. As a teenager I craved to be there on Halloween. The night that was already charged with so much meaning I felt would be that much more powerful there. A couple of years ago I was able to realize that childhood idea but it wasn’t what I expected. The only thing to compare it to is Mardi Gras: streets full of people, outrageous costumes, insane behavior, drinking and a few drugs here and there… not much in the way of mystical experiences. Salem is an old town with a lot of history but it was not the source of a lot of the history we were taught. There was a lot of energy but it was very chaotic and came from the people I was surrounded by not the environment. I think in my head I had pictured bustling activity of like-minded people or some such thing. While I can say that I have experienced Salem at Halloween and there were some positive things; it was an experience that freed me from my childhood illusions.
Living In Salem On Halloween by Artemisia
As someone who can claim to be quite familiar with Salem, once being a local and having much family who lives in the area, I feel that there is definitely something special about Salem. The energy in and around the area is very mystical; perhaps because it is surrounded by the ocean and marshland or perhaps it just cannot be explained. I can say for sure, however, that the endearing qualities of Salem are not due to the Haunted Happenings events each October, but rather, in spite of the hordes of people that go there for Halloween. There is nothing better than walking down the brick-laid streets looking up at the brick buildings, crunching along in the leaves, watching your breath puff in the cool, damp air on a sunny October day. This downtown area has something for everyone: great restaurants, cafes for the college kids, shops full of supplies for the practicing pagans, tourist traps for the visitors, local grocers, museums, unique book stores, plenty of good seafood, great bars full of local characters, antique shops, one of the oldest hotels in America, and great architecture. If you wander a little further off the path, you can walk out to the wharf and see the boats in the harbor, or go down to Winter Island and walk around on the beach, or sit on the benches at Salem Willows and enjoy the beautiful ancient trees overlooking the bay, or even hop in your car or on the bus and head towards Marblehead to visit the hidden treasure of Salem: Forest River Park and enjoy a walk on the waterfront overlooked by gorgeous, friendly trees and many seagulls. Whether you go to experience the beautiful natural sights, to window-shop downtown, or to get some great food, one thing you will be assured of: an eclectic group of people, ranging from the blue-collar “townies”, to the black-caped pagans, to the college students at Salem State, to the old Salem families, and the recently or not so recently immigrated, living and working in harmony and tolerance together in this unique city.
No matter what you do on Halloween… whether it’s to camp it up in Salem, participate in a Samhain ritual outside the beautiful autumn weather and reclaim your freedom of religion, spend a quiet day among the dead, or a loud night dancing—have fun, be safe, and be true to yourself!
About The Authors: Artemisia, Nicole, Maeve, Phoenix ShadowDancer, and Roisin are Keepers of the Moon. We meet twice a month to meet, discuss, act, and do ritual work in a safe, supportive atmosphere. Our goals are to facilitate spiritual growth, be spiritual resources to one another, and enact positive change in our lives and communities. These goals are strengthened through regular meetings, rituals, and celebrations, all which honor the Universal Feminine Divine. We are a group of women who believe in, practice, and foster an egalitarian society that is based on tolerance, wisdom, compassion and respect.

Lighten Up – You Might be Giving Pagans a Bad Name If…

by Cather “Catalyst” Steincamp

 

You Might be Giving Pagans a Bad Name If…

You insist that your boss call you “Rowan Starchild” because otherwise you’d sue for religious harassment. (Score double for this if you don’t let that patronizing dastard call you “Mr. or Ms. Starchild.”)

You request Samhain, Beltaine, and Yule off and then gripe about working Christmas.

You expect your employer to exempt you from the random drug testing because of your religion.

You think the number of Wiccan books you own is far more important than the number you have read, regardless of the fact that most of your books are for beginners.

You’ve won an argument by referencing “Drawing Down the Moon,” knowing darned good and well they haven’t read it either.

You said it was bigotry when they didn’t let you do that ritual in front of city hall. It had nothing to do with the skyclad bit.

You picketed The Craft and Hocus Pocus, but thought that the losers who picketed The Last Temptation of Christ needed to get lives.

You’ve ever had to go along with someone’s ludicrous story because it was twice as likely to be true than most of the nonsense you spout.

You complain about how much the Native Americans copied from Eclectic Wiccan Rites.

You’ve ever referenced the Great Rite in a pick-up line.

Someone has had to point out to you that you do not enter a circle “in perfect love and perfect lust.” (Score double if you argued the point.)

You claim yourself as a witch because how early you were trained by the wise and powerful such-and-such of whom nobody has heard.

You claim to be a famtrad (hereditary), but you’re not. (Score double if you had to tell people you were adopted to pull this off.)

You claim to be a descendant of one of the original Salem Witches. (Score to a lethal degree if you don’t get this one.)

You think it’s perfectly reasonable to insist that, since every tradition is different, and no one tradition is right, there’s no reason not to do things your way.

You’ve ever been psychically attacked by someone who conveniently held a coven position you crave, and suddenly had a glimpse into their mind so you could see how evil they were.

You’ve ever affected an Irish or Scottish accent and insisted that it was real.

You think it’s your Pagan Duty to support the IRA, not because of any political beliefs you might share, but because, dammit, they’re Irish.

You talk to your invisible guardians in public. (Score double if you have met the Vampire Lestat or Dracula, triple if you got into a fight and escaped, or quadruple if it was no contest.)

You’ve ever confused the Prime Directive with the Wiccan Rede.

You’ve ever tried something you saw on “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch”

You’ve suddenly realized in the middle of a ritual that you weren’t playing D&D.

You’ve failed to realize at any point in the ritual that you weren’t playing D&D.

You’ve suddenly realized that you are playing D&D.

You hang out with people who each match at least fifteen of these traits.

You recognize many of these traits in yourself, but this test isn’t about you. But, boy, it’s right about those other folks.

So Many Questions and Ideas…

So Many Questions and Ideas…

Author: Divine Witch

I have decided to be a witch. Well, I think I have. For the past three years I have been going back and forth with the infatuation with Wicca and Witchcraft. But really it started before that. As a child, I wondered about Voodoo or Black Magic. My grandmother was afraid of it. She would tell me not to let people play in my hair because they could use the hair strand to put a curse on me. Also, she didn’t like me giving pictures out to friends for the same reason. I always thought she was a bit paranoid about the whole thing. So I grew up with that and for that reason I never really heard about good witches, the ones that practice good or white magic. Except maybe the ones in fairy tales or Disney. But we all know that stuff is a joke anyway.

Of course for Halloween, kids dressed as Witches, Wizards and things of that nature. I was a Witch quite a few times. My granny (yes the same one) even made me a witch costume from scratch one year. Then when I was about thirteen, I got invited to a Halloween party last minute and had nothing to wear. So my aunt made me into a Gypsy.

I had no idea what a Gypsy was at the time. But it was fun being dressed up in all of the jewelry and other things she put on me. I don’t remember everything I had on but I do remember it was fun, and that she went a little overboard. Damn, I wish I had a picture. So really, that’s all I got about Witches and stuff like that. I always assumed it was just fairy tale Disney stuff and that it was never really real.

Then when I became an adult I had an older boyfriend who swore his last girlfriend and well as another did Voodoo on him. He would tell me stories on what happened to him. Now I’m not saying that Voodoo is nonsense or that it doesn’t exist but sometimes he was a little dramatic also. So even though I partly believed him, I was becoming more interested about it by this time.

In 2000, I took a Tarot reading class and ended up buying two decks of cards. One I actually used and the other for was more for collection purposes. Still have them I believe. After my youngest son was born in 2001, I used the deck to do readings on myself, mostly for practice. Since I wasn’t really good about reading due to lack of experience, I didn’t really understand what I was getting. But I wrote it down to see if it would make sense later. And sometimes it did. Years went on and I would be touch and go with things; I wore an Amethyst pendant around my neck or maybe I would carry a “good luck charm” in my purse from time to time.

Then in 2007 it happened. By this time I was heavy into Native American studies and culture (still am as that is my heritage) and was looking to connect more with Natives. I ran into a lady on a Native American news/culture/events website and she told me about a retreat that is held every year in June. I received more information about it and wanted to go. So I went and found about Goddess worshiping and the moon cycles, and loads of other stuff I never really thought about. Oh, and I participated in a sweat lodge too. Wore me out but it was a nice experience. But the whole three days was an eye opener for me. It was full of women, regular women like myself that were Witches.

I went home with my head spinning and swimming with ideas and thoughts. I never knew there were publications catered to the Goddess or Witches. I never really heard of Wicca either. All I heard about was the negative stuff. So I bought Scott Cunningham books and Sage Woman magazines. Then I started purchasing candles, athames, seashells for incense burning and other things for my altar. And I really wanted to work with herbs. I even wanted to grow my own herbs for magickal purposes.

Then I would practice. Or try to. I could not concentrate. For one, I was waiting on one of my kids to get out of bed and disturb me, or the phone to ring or whatever. My brain would never shut up, that didn’t help either. So I grew frustrated and walked away from it. Well, not entirely. I would still pick up a Sage Woman magazine every so often or read about the Salem Witch Trials. But then it was hard because school kept me busy and I really couldn’t dedicate myself to it.

And now here I am again with all of this time gone by and still basically at square one. I know so much but still know so little, feeling just as lost as before. So now I do have a couple of friends that I could get insight from but one lives in Canada and the other does not practice really anymore either. So in between being uneducated and being in an area where witchcraft is taboo I am stuck. And I don’t like being stuck.

So you’re probably asking was is the point of all of this? Well, it’s really because I need some help. And maybe I felt that I needed to say this and I has helped me realized some my problems too. One of the reasons I felt I could not concentrate is I still have some stigmatizing behavior and thinking to take care of. And I also realized that I am more passionate about Witchcraft and root work. Go figure, huh?

So now I need to find someone or something to help me on that path while working with the stigma and other things as well. But how do I get over that? How long is it going to take before I feel like a real Witch? But hey, I’m getting there. As a kid I never thought it would come to this.

Slowly but surely.

Middle Age Witchcraft

Middle Age Witchcraft
 
 

During the early Middle Ages, the early Christian Church didn’t focus on witches or witchcraft. The Council of Paderborn in 785 explicitly outlawed the belief in witches, and Saint Boniface declared in the 8th century that a belief in the existence of witches was unchristian altogether. The Emperor Charlemagne decreed that burning a witch was actually a pagan custom, and anyone caught doing it would be punished by death. In 820 the Bishop of Lyon and others declared that witches could not fly or make brooms fly, could not make bad weather, nor change their shape. The idea that people could do these things, were deemed fanciful tales of mythology. The decree was accepted into Church law. King Coloman of Hungary declared that witches do not exist, and therefore witch-hunts were not necessary. Many other rulers of his day followed suit and the witch-hunts ceased for a while. These non-existent concepts lasted until the late 12th century. And the first medieval trials against witches occurs in the 13th century with the establishment of the Inquisition. The Church was actually concentrating on the persecution of heresy. But witchcraft, either real or just alleged, was treated as any other sort of heresy. It’s also at this time where we see the label Witchcraft applied broadly to pagan beliefs and practices. No longer does it become a label for a craft or practice, but as a title or label for a set of spiritual beliefs. Witchcraft becomes the title of a religion, with many varying practices. And it’s here where many today claim the label for their religious practice.

 

Today, Witchcraft can be defined as:

 

A neo-pagan religion that is further defined and put into practice by it’s many sects, such as Wicca, Deborean Wicca, Strega, Pictish and others.

 

The European witch-hunts reach their pinnacle around 1450. No longer is it a theological campaign for the church, but a phenomenon that resembles mass hysteria and fear. The classical attributes of a witch, casting negative spells to control others, flying on brooms, intercourse with the Devil, and meeting with demons and other witches at sabbats, became descriptive fact in Canon Law around 1400. Conspiracy theories begin to form; stating that witches use their sabbat rituals and underground movements as a means of plotting to overthrow Christianity. The church and monarchies see this as a war upon their authority and control to be weeded out and destroyed. The lands of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as Scotland were all affected by the trials. 29 editions of The “Malleus Maleficarum” were reprinted between 1487 and 1669, even though the book was condemned by the Catholic Church in 1490. It was continually used by secular witch-hunting courts to condemn and prosecute accused witches. Intellectuals spoke out against the trials from the late 16th century. Not even then elite society could keep themselves or their family members out of the witch jails. Johannes Kepler in 1615 used his prestige to keep his mother from being burnt as a witch. The 1692 Salem witch trials exploded even though the practice of witch trials was declining in Europe. During the Early Modern Period the concern over witchcraft reaches the boiling point. There are many thoughts as to why the trials began. That they were more about the desire of the Church and current Monarchies to gain or maintain control over the citizenry. It’s interesting to note that most of the witch trials that ended in convictions took place in rural areas with a 90% conviction rate. Another interesting statistic is how the highest concentration of trials took place along the borders of France, Germany, and Italy, in what is now modern day Switzerland. Some areas, such as Britain (with the exception of some notable trials in Scotland) saw fewer trials, but were still extensive. And some point to Spain as holding the largest portion of trials and executions. There were early trials in the 15th and early 16th century, but then the witch scare went into decline, before becoming a big issue again and in the 17th century. The practiced declined some say in part to other more weighty concerns placed before the Church and Monarchies. Others say it declined out of fear of reprisals. And still others claim it’s a combination of these reasons, and the increased practiced of Witchcraft sects to go underground and hide their beliefs and practices. There are many traditions who make the claim that their early practioners migrated away from these witch-hunt areas to escape persecution and continue their beliefs and practices. While others make claims of going underground into secret societies. Though there is no unequivocal evidence of secret pagan societies or migrations; we can learn from history how persecutions do indeed force people to flee or live in secrecy.

 

What is an Animal Familiar?

What is an Animal Familiar?

By Patti Wigington

The black cat was the traditional witch’s familiar, but some people connect better with other animals.

In some traditions of modern Wicca and Paganism, the concept of an animal familiar is incorporated into practice. Today, a familiar is often defined as an animal with whom we have a magical connection, but in truth, the concept is a bit more complex than this.

History of the Familiar

During the days of the European witch hunts, familiars were “said to be given to witches by the devil,” according to Rosemary Guiley’s Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. They were, in essence, small demons which could be sent out to do a witch’s bidding. Although cats — especially black ones — were the favored vessel for such a demon to inhabit, dogs, toads, and other small animals were sometimes used.

In some Scandinavian countries, familiars were associated with spirits of the land and nature. Fairies, dwarves, and other elemental beings were believed to inhabit the physical bodies of animals. Once the Christian church came along, this practice went underground — because any spirit other than an angel must be a demon. During the witch-hunt era, many domestic animals were killed because of their association with known witches and heretics.

During the Salem witch trials, there is little account of the practice of animal familiars, although one man was charged with encouraging a dog to attack by way of magical means. The dog, interestingly enough, was tried, convicted, and hanged.

In shamanistic practices, the animal familiar is not a physical being at all, but a thought-form or spiritual entity. It often travels astrally, or serves as a magical guardian against those who might try to psychically attack the shaman.

Today, many Wiccans and Pagans have an animal companion that they consider their familiar – and most people no longer believe that these are spirits or demons inhabiting an animal. Instead, they have an emotional and psychic bond with the cat, dog, or whatever, who is attuned to the powers of its human partner.

Finding a Familiar

Not everyone has, needs, or even wants a familiar. If you have an animal companion as a pet, such as a cat or dog, try working on strengthening your psychic connection with that animal. Books such as Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak contain some excellent pointers on how to do this.

If an animal has appeared in your life unexpectedly — such as a stray cat that appears regularly, for instance — it’s possible that it may have been drawn to you psychically. However, be sure to rule out mundane reasons for its appearance first. If you’re leaving out food for the local feral kitties, that’s a far more logical explanation. Likewise, if you see a sudden influx of birds, consider the season — is the ground thawing, making food more available?

If you’d like to draw a familiar to you, some traditions believe you can do this by meditation. Find a quiet place to sit undisturbed, and allow your mind to wander. As you journey, you may encounter various people or objects. Focus your intent on meeting an animal companion, and see if you come into contact with any.

In addition to familiars, some people do magical work with what’s called a power animal or a spirit animal. A power animal is a spiritual guardian that some people connect with. However, much like other spiritual entities, there’s no rule or guideline that says you must have one. If you happen to connect with an animal entity while meditating or performing astral travel, then that may be your power animal… or it may just be curious about what you’re up to.