THE FIRST PEOPLE: THEIR EARLY BELIEFS AND HOW THESE MARRY UP WITH WITCHCRAFT. 

What I write in this First section is based upon my mind’s imagination of a distant time but I hope that it may ever-so slightly offer a peep through an otherwise dusty window into the world of Our ancestors and their ways of relating to the world around them as they witnessed it anew.   Today we have books on history, DVDS and computer simulations – but they had naught but their wits and the still small voice of their hearts.     So this first part is written from how I envisage the early people may have listened to the Whisper on the Wind and discovered the Lord and His Lady.

Further bear in mind that I am not attempting here an academic interpretation of the evolution of ideology but rather an attempt is made to explain how I believe we humans first became aware of the God and Goddess which I believe have always existed.  I also believe that the God and Goddess were only merely ‘uncovered’ by early man; not ‘invented’ by early man as many would have us taught.  It is my belief that the Gods of old held a close relationship with the first people that was experienced in their relationship with the things of Nature around them.  Thus the trees could commune with them, as too the rocks, the birds and animals, other tribes (of course). Early man understood the language of the Elements, the sky, the water.

Many things can be deduced regarding the life of early man:

They made tools and weapons, and used them; they clothed themselves in the skins of the animals they hunted; they decorated themselves with colouring matter, shells, with pieces of bone, even with beads. Later on, they began to domesticate animals – mainly the dog and reindeer. Early man began to make pottery, and to cultivate cereals.   They had stone needles by which they sewed together animal skins to wear. (The Religion of Paleolithic Man by The Rev. J. A. MacCulloch, The Expository Times, Vol. 17, No. 11, Aug 01, 1906]

Given all of these accomplishments, was Paleolithic Man religious?

I will begin this talk by looking at the beginnings of religion though not ‘religion’ as a system of belief, but as a ‘stirring’ of something presiding within Early man.   The oldest known evidence of prehistoric religious life dates from about 60,000 B.C. Part of this evidence includes graves where early man buried his dead, thus indicating that he felt ‘something’ to exist beyond the merely mundane world.

R.R. Maritt in his 1909 Paper on Pre-animistic religion relates to one’s understanding of the Gods and of Spirits by employing that good old English term, Awe and writes how he feels this one word to express the fundamental Religious Feeling most nearly. Awe was no doubt experienced as the thunder roared through the skies, eclipses were witnessed, earthy eruptions occurred (maybe with volcanoes or earthquakes) to move Early man to look without himself.

Following this, I think Early man would have perceived a Spirit pervading all life – a concept known as Animism (and Animism is considered to be the first religion). Sir Edward B Tylor took the belief in spiritual existence as the minimum definition of religion (Primitive Culture, 1913). The way that he phrased it was that the essence of religion was “the belief in Spiritual Beings,” that is “spirits” in the wide sense that includes “souls.” (see Pre-animistic Religion in R R Marett, The Threshold of Religion, 1909) Tylor also argued that given that tribes all over the world held a similar belief, there could be inferred the universality of Religion.

If religion is an outgrowth of some evolutionary way of Early Man attempting to understand the things around him, then does this make of religion nothing more than a “Belief,” instead of a Truth?    For myself, I believe that Religion (using Tylor’s definition of “the belief in Spiritual Beings“) arose from the fact that the Lord and Lady indeed “walked” upon the earth at one stage; they had a living relationship with the people as too all the other life forms.   Those who possessed a more developed, dare I say, ˈPsychical awareness,ˈ these were to become the Priest, the Shaman.

And to make sense of this, along manifested a more centralized concept – from within Early man -seeking to make sense of it all, and ego, a deeper wisdom showed forth.   Not wisdom in the traditional sense, but wisdom in the inner sense as arising from deep within the human to an outward manifestation. And so to make sense of these inner stirrings, the early peoples began to formulate these into a system by which religion was becoming more formalized – and this I call Witchcraft, the ‘Craft of the Wise.’

Now the late anthropologist, Dr. Margaret Murray, traced back Witchcraft’s origins to Paleolithic times – some 25,000 years ago when people to begin to awaken to a concept of Deity. At this point in time, maybe the Lord and Lady were pulling away as Early man became more sedentary or no longer lived in the harshness of the Ice Age.    The earliest representation of a deity can be found in the Caverne des Trois Frères in Ariège, France, usually known as “The Magician.”  It depicts a man in a mask and an animal skin, with horns on his head.

Dr. Murray writes of this in her book, The God of the Witches (1931):

The period when the figure was painted is so remote that it is not possible to make any conjectures as to its meaning except by the analogy of historical and modern instances. Such incidences are, however, sufficiently numerous to render it fairly certain that the man represents the incarnate god, who, by performing the sacred dance, causes the increase of the kind of animal in the disguise of which he appears.

Here we can see that man perceived of a God who presided over the everyday needs of the tribe – for the Stag would no doubt had provided food, clothing, warmth, its bones no doubt burnt; sometimes carved with images and kept. And to a lesser degree, the Stag (in its painted form) would have provided a connection between that of the human and the animal.  Thus the Stag here symbolized a gift of the God and this later developed into the God Himself – something later exploited as there arose those who sought to kill The God. Maybe this is why the Devil is often depicted as having horns, and therefore the Horned God Pan was seen as evil.

Another aspect is that the Stag was believed to represent death for it too would one day be killed after the performance of a magical dance.

In the Paleolithic period of which we speak, the world was believed to be a warm climate, on grassy lands, close to trees and near to water. The cave would still have been used later as a means of protection and warmth, if only for a time, as it was in the Ice Age. And it was within these caves that man recorded his relationship to animals by using painting as a means of working out (or at least assisting) his Magic.

Thomas Gale Moore of Hoover Institution, Stanford University informs us that:    “As the world warmed with the ending of the Ice Age, people began to shift from a nomadic hunter-gatherer existence to a more settled life style.” (Do Climate Changes Mean Anything?).   It were this settling down that would have had early man conducting his daily life outside the caves for longer periods and thus connecting deeply with his outside world, as he became more invested in agricultural pursuits, and building homes. There arose those individuals who, for whatever reason, did not perform this work.  They would have kept a deep connection with Spirit and thus became the Shaman or the Witch – responsible for the Spiritual needs of the tribe.

At this time, religion and magic would have been closely related. And, as Gerald Gardner, the “Father of Modern Witchcraft” writes: “The purpose of contacting the gods was to keep contact with the forces of life, and these were identical with the forces of magic and fertility.” (The Meaning of Witchcraft (1954) Chapter 3: The Stone Age Origins of Witchcraft). Notice how he says, ‘To keep contact with the forces of life.’    Ritual creates the setting, and Magic should be the end result.

Even now the Priest is often seen as the representative of God on earth, acting as the mediator between the believer and God.  Early man was thus developing a relationship with the Local Spirits of the Land and the Gods through that of the Witch.

Fire was a necessary ‘Magical Gift’ from the God as it would have been scarce as having not fallen easily upon the land itself (wood was believed to have been hard to come by in those far-distant times given that the world was coming out of the Ice Age) and yet the trees that were available magically gave wood which then produced fire. Thus when the God appeared, the Sun would shine; creating warmth – and the fire would arise from within the wood without, also giving off its warmth.  Thus Fire became a symbol of the God as too the wood. It has been worshipped throughout the world as shown in many of the rich mythologies which prevail. For example, in the Hindu Vedas, (written ca. 1500 BC) we have the god Agni, who is found within the fire, the sun and the lightning.  Wood gave warmth, protection and the material to make tools.  Even now the wand represents the God and is represented as the Element of Air (belonging to the east) whilst in Ceremonial Magic it is associated with the Element of Fire (belonging to the south). Both Air and Fire are symbols of the God.

An article from the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, states that “The early Neanderthals from the late Middle Pleistocene site of Poggetti Vecchi (central Italy) were able to choose the appropriate timber and to process it with fire to produce tools.” [Source: Wooden tools and fire technology in the early Neanderthal site of Poggetti Vecchi (Italy, Aranguren et al., Proc. National Academy of Sciences of the USA,  February 27, 2018, vol. 115, no. 9 pp. 2054–2059] and maybe this is another indicator of why certain trees are considered sacred as they too are a gift from the Gods.  Traditionally the wand is located by the Witch as she looks for it on a tree and either used as first found or whittled into that of the shape resembling a wand. Indeed, I came across a branch that certainly makes for a good wond.

Of course, the God and Goddess that I refer to would not have been viewed by these people as the God of the Witches but as that ‘Something’ intangible but of which did indeed protect them and give to them those items which they required.

Paleolithic man worshipped a God who thus ruled the outside world via the weather, the landscape, and the light.  His Goddess was She who protected the man and his kinfolk from the harsh elements – She gave of the earth and She reached out Her arms to embrace him in the form of the cave, which in turn protected the tribe from the harshness of Winter, the danger of the animals, and gave to the tribe, its warmth.  Because Fire could be halted by water, water in turn became a symbol of the Lady; of the Goddess. For water could quench the fire and protect the tribe from its unnecessary heat and from more widespread fires that may have arisen. Again, the Goddess is a symbol of the Tides (Water element) as She represents the ebb and flow of life.

So the God gave to Earth its rays from a Solar Orb. And the Earth bore new life as the women of the tribe bore forth new life. When the Sun appeared to warm the earth, it came to the early people to behold the Father in the penetrating rays of the Sun and the Mother in the Earth, who bore new life in the form of the plants, the trees and the manifestation of the animals. During the cold spells, when the Father Sun was scarce and the rains would fall, Mother Earth would become barren; the plants and animals disappearing under a white expanse of snow.  Thus, without the Father (the Lord), the Mother (the Goddess) could not bring forth new birth.  As such, the God and Goddess became equally important to one another.

It is believed that when the Sun disappeared during the winter months, that Early man came up with the concept of sacrifice as a way of keeping this God pleased — for this God would leave for a time but He always returned.  What must Early man have made of the first eclipse – maybe fear that he or someone in the tribe had done something not to the God’s liking and thus the God became angry and His face was covered.  Would Early man believe that it was the Goddess covering the God’s face – was the Goddess Herself angered with the God somehow?  Maybe Early man leant to prostrate during this time for the eclipse would be fairly short and as man leant down; his eyes shut, his heart speaking a prayer, the Goddess moved on and the God showed His face once more. Was this the beginning of our Prayers to the Gods? Possibly yes.

And what of the eclipse of the moon? Some believe it was the Goddess Luna in the pains of labour; to others, She was suffering from the art of wicked magicians.

How wonderful in some ways it would have been to have lived as Early man – and yet fearful at the same time.   Today, we no longer tend to fear the God or Goddess for we have sadly lost our sense of Awe. The thunder, though it still can make us feel alive, it is nonetheless explained for us, and the Science of the Eclipse makes us look upon it with interest, but the reverence is no longer really there.

The tribe, too, would have observed that as the Sun rose and settled each day and the Moon waxed and waned each dark-time, so did the men and women of the tribe, to coincide with same. The Sun brought about movement and oft-times heat, the Moon a time of rest, ergo the Goddess became associated with this moon and hence the Lunar Goddess; Lady of the Silver Moon.  The concept of the Seasons was beginning to be appreciated; an agricultural calendar of sorts developed.

When it were dark, man would become seemingly dead yet when he awoke during the day, he told of many a hunting tale though he had previously lay there still-like throughout the dark.  And the woman, maybe it was that she told of new-born babes and the gathering of the things of the green.  So Paleolithic man began to appreciate that whilst all seems sometimes dead – from the landscape to the animals, from the seasons to that of man, yet such have a part of them which continued elsewhere. This was the awakening of man’s appreciation of the Spirit or the Soul or of that which lived just beyond the earthly man, and of which continued beyond the grave.

And here we are starting to see that man began the practice of honouring those who shut their eyes for more than just a day or two.  Death was not something to be a-feared for all life would continue to awaken though the times were for some a longer time than for that of others.   The tree which lost its foliage would again become green when the Sun Father came a-visiting as the weather began to warm.  When the Sun took back His warmth, the things surrounding Early man would sleep a longer sleep. Thus the birth of Early man’s appreciation of what we may call Reincarnation.

Early man tried to keep the Spirit residing in the things around him alive as too his kinfolk by consuming parts of the fruits of the trees and plants and the flesh of his tribesmen prior to their burial; and he honoured his tribesmen by decorating their bones. He loved his Kin as we love our own and both ourselves and our Early ancestors thus buried their dead to honour them. Some of these people even buried cave-bears, which some believe could be related to a magical or religious practice.

Thus the Paleolithic Man — our Ancestor — had his high gods, he represented his gods in artistic form, he prayed to them, he worshipped his dead and possibly believed in a future life.   He was an animist and perceived all around him a Spirit of the Divine.  He had his own ways of venerating His Lord and His Lady.

Paleolithic Man thus gave us the roots of Witchcraft for many a Witch belief emulates that of early man. We pray, we invite the God and Goddess into Sacred Space (The Circle). We perform Ritual and carry out Magic to bring about Change. We honour our Ancestors (as do most Pagan faiths) and We hold dear the ‘AWE’ within our hearts.  Let us not downplay the Gifts bestowed upon us by Early man for if we study his religious worldview, we may just learn much that is lost and of which is desperately required today.

And yet sadly, as time has passed by, many people no longer honour these, our Paleolithic Ancestors for we call their ways “Superstitious.” In our modern world, we see them as not having the capacity to understand. As Tom Graves puts it:

It’s a characteristic of pagan cultures that they people the world around them with angels, demons, spirits, fairies and the like, and it’s a characteristic of civilized cultures that they sneer at this pagan “ignorance.”…Civilized anthropologists seem to have assumed that pagans see spirits because they’re trained to see them; but in reality it’s more likely that we in civilized cultures don’t see them because we’re trained not to see them. (Needles of Stone Revisited, 1986 p. 1530

I personally cannot escape the feeling that the Early peoples would have had a far more profound connection with the Lord and His Lady; the God and Goddess, than we can ever hope for now.  We may, in our modern times, turn to these two deities as a means of understanding our place in the world. Though we turn away from trying to understand how the God and Goddess relate their place in this modern-day world. Yet if we try to look at it from the perspective of the Lord and Lady, lessons can be learnt as to how best to live with all life that resides around each of us.  If the God loves His wild creatures, then it is incumbent upon us undertake all we can to protect them. And if the Goddess tries to impart Truth to us such as was told by the Goddess Arachne as she weaved her web concerning the exploits of the Gods, then we too should speak out in Truth.

We have lost our once-lived deep connection – the rocks are nothing but lumps of coal, the plants and trees things with are there for our food, shelter or pleasure, with the animals often seen as being ours to hunt and kill or use for our own entertainment. We too abuse our fellow Brothers and Sisters to serve our own ends.   We no longer have that same profound connection that made of us ONE with ALL the things of Nature, of the landscape and the weather.

Part of this is due, I think, to our propensity to make patterns.   As time marched forward, people would invariably had begun to make associations between the Gifts of Nature and then assigned them to either the God or the Goddess, hence the development of the ‘System of Correspondences’ contained in the teachings of MAGIC and WITCHCRAFT. This evolved over time to become now employed as a quick guide to what is associated with what:

A simplified ˈChart of Correspondencesˈ is that existing between the Planets, Metals and Colours.

PLANETS                    METALS                 COLOURS

Sun                                Gold                           Yellow

Moon                              Silver                         White

Mercury                          Quicksilver                Grey

Venus                             Copper                       Green

Mars                               Iron                            Red

Jupiter                           Tin                             Blue

Saturn                            Lead                           Black

These have developed over time into more complex forms and can be helpful when performing magic and ritual. For example, when casting the Circle to create a Sacred Space, the following Correspondences would usually apply (Traditions can differ)

The Circle is divided into Four Quarters (East, South, West and North) and each Quarter is known as the Four Watchtowers, the Four Winds or the Four Corners and each Quarter is associated with an Element.

QUARTER   ELEMENT       GENDER         COLOUR

East               Air                     Male                  Yellow

South            Fire                   Male                  Red

West              Water                Female              Blue

North             Earth                 Female              Green

These Correspondences or ‘Patterns’  would have come to Early man as he made observations and noted the stability of these correspondences; a stability that would have appeared as ‘magical’ in itself.

But sadly too, this recognition would have eventually lost its ‘Magic’ over time for ˈfamiliarity breeds contemptˈ as there was no variation to move us – The Sun arose daily with only an Eclipse to offer something new.  And this would have contributed a step further towards the demise of Magic, Witchcraft and a loss of respect for the Spirits of the Land, of the Gods and Goddesses of the tribes or collectives.  

May I interject here that I feel that there is One Creative Principle (beyond our means of understanding) which manifests through a Lord and Lady (which are more accessible to us) who, in turn, have given birth to the numerous Gods and goddesses which abound throughout many cultures, and of which we learn many of the worthy attributes and values as how best to live.  This is achieved, for example, by reading the tales that are told of them.     Even modern day fantasy novels can deeply connect us back to the worlds of the Gods and Goddesses, the Elementals, the Selkies and the Spirits.

RELIGIO PAGANORUM – WHAT IS THIS?

As the First Peoples moved away from seeing the Rocks and Mountains, Trees and Rivers, Sky-Air-Fire-Water and the Flowers and Animals imbued with their own independent Spirits, they began to ascribe Local Deities to each of these kingdoms or collectives.  They began to move towards a Polytheistic worldview where a Deity held sway over the many. Of course, I sometimes think that maybe each Kingdom may have held its own relationship to a Deity beyond that placed upon it by humans. I feel it possible that this ‘Moving away’ was the beginning of our disconnect from Nature, whereby these Beings were either inert or they shared a Group Consciousness – to the detriment of their own Individual Consciousness.

From here, it was only matter of time before these Local Deities were either denied their own existence, or were made into Evil Gods to be killed as they competed with the One God.  As such, people began to worship more a Monotheistic God who certainly did (and still does) LORD it overall and of Who desired that the Old Gods be gone.   Once this Monotheistic God appeared on the scene, people moved away from seeing Nature as containing local spirits and deities and this, and I do sincerely believe this, brought about the Genesis of our disconnect with Nature. A negative consequence of having One God is the belief that HE DOES EVERYTHING FOR THE GOOD so, it was therefore deemed appropriate by His followers that their God could be challenged by another BUT LESSER SUPERNATURAL BEING SEEKING TO USURP HIS SUPREME RULE– and this Lesser God they called Satan, The Devil, Lucifer.

Here is the beginning of the idea that the Witch, especially as an individual, was to be feared. The Witch was now deemed as one who lived outside of Society, giving allegiance unto the Devil. Sadly, many were simple village folk who no doubt worship the Monotheistic God.

In our modern world, this has caused us to become too materialistic to the detriment of the Spiritual World that lies beyond our own; the God and Goddess are concepts only that help some of us relate to Nature.   The long-time war between the city folk and the simple-minded country folk had narrowed as the country folk of old became more mechanical in their thinking and began to leave behind the religio paganorum – the Religion of the Villagers.  

In the early days, the pagan farmers gave back to the earth to reap a greater, healthier harvest. Now they were beginning to shy away from such concepts. They no longer worked with Nature or respected her ways, but rather they sought to ‘Tame’ her; to control her to their own narrow-minded whims.

The result – A parting of the ways from the Lord and Lady and therefore an up rise in environmental degradation; a parting not seen so wide as in the past.  But make no mistake – the Earth is alive and will not tolerate either the cruelty dished out to her nor the indifference by those who do not care. Her children – the rocks, trees etc, fish, birds, animals, as too the people.  She will not simply stand aside and allow these to be continually abused at the hands of ‘civilized’ man.  She shall retaliate to protect Her own. Could this be the cause of the environmental and ecological disasters experienced today?

How can we alter this inevitable outcome? I feel that once again the author Tom Graves offers one such solution when he writes that:

The whole pagan worldview is different from our civilized one.  It has a totally different definition of reality, one that makes little or no sense in terms of our religion of ˈscientism,ˈ… If we are to make use of the pagan-world to help us understand nature, and thus understand ourselves, we have to find some key point around which the pagan world-view and our civilized one can be made to make sense.   (Needles of Stone Revisited p.5)

By a return to the Ways of Witchcraft with its rituals, spells, invocations, herbal lore, tales of the Gods and Goddesses, the celebration of the Sabbats and Esbats – and the attention to detail and focus on the tasks at hand, I believe these can bring our world back into harmony with the World of Nature and thereby decrease Her retaliation at our currently disinterested ways.

THE RISE OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY (THE ROMAN EMPEROR, CONSTANTINE)

With Christianity spreading, those people followed the old Gods were cast aside for not embracing the new religion.   There is much dissention at this time against this ‘Sect’ of the Christians everywhere spoken against (Acts 28:22) for they challenged the old ways, but more so Judaism.  Their ‘One God’ was the greatest and thus to worship Nature was now considered to be erroneous; a form of Idology. (Rom.1:23 – “They changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” and Colossians 3:12 -” Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth“). 

With these Scripture, the Witch was no longer easily tolerated for her friendship with Nature, her garden of healing herbs are green-plot laid by the Devil. Her ability to heal with Herbs further proof of her devotion to Old Nick; her black cat one fit to seal her fate.

With the birth of Constantine the Great (ca. 275 AD) there was opened the way for a future establishment of the Church and Christianity was established as the State Religion of Rome in around 324 AD.   At this time, Constantine adopted many of the Pagan beliefs in an attempt to convert the masses.    Thus many of the Church observances are merely Pagan beliefs wrapped in Christian garb, such as Easter.  However, it was the Magic of these people was condemned.

There is an interesting passage about this in the book, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology (Intro. By Hans Holzer, 1974 p. 70)

In the first years of Christianity all private magical rites were forbidden and only public augury permitted…In 500 AD all sorcerers were driven from Rome.  When in the following century the Lombards reached Italy they sold magicians as slaves outside their province, irrespective of whether the magic was successful

THE EVIL OF WITCHCRAFT IMPOSED BY THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH

As time marched on, the Church began to place more emphasis on the divisions between good and evil.    Follow the Church, worship her One God and you were fine.  But woe betide if you didn’t – you were now deemed to be a follower of The Devil (complete with Horns, I may add).

Eric Maple had this to say in his entry on Evil in the 1970 Encyclopedic Man, Myth and Magic:

In an age when the whole of society seemed beset by the forces of hell it was inevitable that the Devil’s agents upon the earth, the witches, should have come under heavy attack; almost every type of natural calamity was laid at their door, particularly the onset of disease, the sinking of ships at sea, storms and bad harvests.   It was accepted theology that a witch attained her powers by a compact with Satan, and as a penalty for forswearing her immortal soul and imperiling the human race there existed no logical alternative but to kill her.

The Magic Rituals were going; the Witch invariably disappearing.

We have now come to the phase where an estimated 9 million innocent man, woman and children were put to a trial and death.  Apart from the people, we have many records that relate to animals also being tortured and put to death – the Witch’s Black Cat being one such animal. Other familiars included ferrets, rabbits, hedgehogs, mice or any small animal.  Blackbirds and crows were fairly frequent as these birds were traditionally used in divination.  Amongst the reptiles appeared frogs and toads but interestingly fish never appear in these records.   This latter anomaly is most likely due to the fact that the Fish is an ancient symbol of the Christian Faith and its association with the loaves and fishes. (Matt.15:30-38) In Guide to Grand Jurymen (1627), it was insisted that the primary evidence of witchcraft was the possession of an animal familiar. As such, to have a frog living in a pond near your cottage was enough to have you tortured and killed.  But let’s be honest, of the estimated 9 million killed, no doubt only a very small handful could be classified as Witches who consciously and deliberately performed Ritual and Magic.

The burning of Witches originates with St. Augustine (354-430 AD) who said that pagans, Jews and heretics would burn forever in eternal fire with the Devil unless saved by the Catholic Church. This is recorded in his De Divinatione Dæmonum (On the divination of demons) written between 406 and 410. He likewise ascribed any form of magic to evil angels.

A part of this persecution was carried out by the Inquisition which was most likely established on the grounds that the Church could restrain those spreading ‘false teaching,’ – this is based on Acts 13:8-11 where Paul causes a sorcerer, Bar-jesus, to become blind for seeking to turn away the deputy of the faith.   In 1484 appeared the book, Malleus Malificarum (Hammer of the Witches) by Dominicans, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger in response to the Papal Bull issued by Pope Innocent VIII, the Summis Desiderantes.

In a novel about Witchcraft, a character is heard to say, “The fear of God is the root of some evils. It’s the way fear has.” (Mist over Pendle by Robert Neill,1951).   Could this “Fear of God” be a possible explanation for the root of the Witchcraft persecutions of those Dark times?  If the Christian God is the only True God worthy of Worship — and that only He is able to save one from Satan — then it was thus likely a “Fear of God” which keep us from the Hellish flames. Who wouldn’t feel the fear of the Witches given the lies told against them?

I cannot help but feel a profound sadness when I read the numerous stories of these innocent women, men and animals who were put to death under the guise of Witchcraft.  Even the Witch had a life that mattered; a life that should have reached its natural lifespan. But yet Satan did truly have his way though it were the Church which fed his insatiable appetite – a Church that was established to bring folk back to God, and not assign them to the Flames of an Earthly Hell.  Of course, ultimately the Church thought that by burning these people, they were freeing them from the Eternal Fires whilst to drown them was to know truly who were the Friends of Satan.    The logic being that if a person accused of witchcraft floated, it was because they were rejected by the baptismal waters. It was also believed at this time that Witches did not weigh much and therefore would float.

Let us hear what the 16th century French Demonologist, Jean Bodin, has to say concerning the Witch:

Even if the Witch has never killed nor done evil to man, or beats, or fruits, and even if he has always cured bewitched people, or driven away tempests, it is because he has renounced God and treated with the Satan that he deserves to be burned alive…Even if there is no more than the obligation to the Devil, having denied God, this deserves the most cruel death that can be imagined’

(The Demonomania of Witches, 1580 and written in Latin)

He further declared that anyone denying the existence  of Witchcraft were but Witches themselves and that, with rare exception, such as these should not be allowed to go unpunished.

As the French writer, Michel de Montainge observes in his 1588 essay, ‘Of Cripples,’  “…it is setting a high value on our conjectures to roast a man alive on account of the.”

But what can we expect when people, in this instance, appeal to Universal Law, the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church!

Talks such as this are by way of keeping alive the memories of these poor souls who were captured, tortured and ultimately put to death.  Long live the memory of our Witchy Brothers and Sisters, as too their kindly Familiars.

My friend, Andrew Rooke, sent me the following quote that can be equally applied to that of Witchcraft as viewed by many Churches and by many a Christian today.

“There is an attempt to paint African spiritual traditions in a negative way and Europeans have produced a whole vocabulary to do it. So, when they (ie the Europeans) have a belief system, they are religious, when we (ie Africans) have a belief system they are cults. When they have people ministering to their belief systems, they’re priests, when we have ours, they are shamans, medicine men or witch doctors. When they believe in the subtle forces, its spirituality, when we do it is demonology. They use religious symbols, but when we use our own symbols, they are fetishes. When we have images representing the spiritual forces, they become idols; theirs become icons and we can go on and on with such double standards.” – R. Walker interview for Ancestral Voices website 2014

I once wrote an article, Spirituality and Respect (The Phoenix, No.5, October-December 2018) wherein I explain:

As a Pagan, I have encountered a lot of religious intolerance, be this seen, read and/or experienced firsthand. Often when I go to speak about the things of Paganism or allied Faiths, my views have been seemingly dismissed as irrelevant or not worthy of the same respect as some other “Faiths” seem to attract. Often I am responded to with an insincere “That’s nice” or “But that’s not a real faith, only a pastime,” all the while my listener not hearing what I am attempting to convey to them or misunderstanding me.

I have heard much misinformation concerning Witchcraft such as: Witches worship the Devil because they follow an evil path.  Witches believe in fictitious spells, Witches cast spells to control people, Witches sacrifice animals in wild gatherings, Witches will curse you as soon as look at you, Witches are immoral, Witches are Satanists. Or they are gullible people used by Satan Himself to snare others to His Infernal Kingdom.

Such has been the True manifestation of Evil towards an otherwise highly misunderstood and maligned Religion.   The things that I have heard are truly a very, very sad injustice to those of us who love the Lord and Lady.     All we are trying to do is to live a life of balance in an otherwise unbalanced world.  To learn tolerance of our neighbours, to live in harmony with the animals and the environment.

If this be evil, then I gladly choose this evil for evil is not to be found in the teachings of Witchcraft. Maybe it is found within some individuals claiming to be Witches, but that claim is negated if one violates the RedeEight Words the Witches Rede: An It Harm None, Do As Thou Wilt.    No person bringing shame on the Craft brings shame to the whole Craft anymore than a Priest who does wrong brings shame on the whole of the Church.   Some may argue otherwise but I do not believe a few rotten apples spoil the lot.

THE REINTERPRETATION OF WITCHCRAFT IN MORE RECENT TIMES

Why is it that Witchcraft has survived down the ages – from the dawn of time, throughout the Burning Times; the Dark Ages, to now?   If it is due to some misguided loyalty to a Devil, then surely the treatment meted out to its followers is enough to sway them and would-be followers from the path.   And how have we managed to keep it alive as a Path many still follow today?

I think the answer lies in the ability of Witchcraft to draw us back to a deep relationship with the Natural World – the world of the Five Elements; that of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit.    Witchcraft is based on many things but mainly on Ritual and its outpouring of Magic.

By Ritual, I mean the Casting of the Sacred Circle as a means of opening the portal between our world and the world of Spirit and thereby utilizing the power raised for the benefit of both these worlds. A part of that Ritual requires intense concentration and meditation, attention to details such as shown by the ˈSystem of Correspondences,’ the reading of the tales linking us to the Gods and Goddesses and emulating these tales in our daily lives. And the learning and imbuing deep within the words contained within the Invocations (whereby the deity is invited to enter the person, usually a High Priestess or High Priest)— for example, we have the:

Invocation to the God (WICCA: Guide for the Solitary Practitioner)

Blazing God,

You Who are the King of the Gods

Lord of the Sun,

Master of all that is wild and free;

Father of woman and man,

Lover of the Moon Goddess and protector of all the Wicca:

Descend, I pray,

With Your Solar ray of power

Upon my circle here

And so the Call is put forth for the Descent of Pan.

But what of Magic?  Is this the conjuring tricks of the stage magician? Nay, it is the power that we work to bring about change.   In 1929, Alastair Crowley defined magic as “the science and art of causing change in conformity to the Will.” (Magick in Theory and Practice, 1929).

And how can we achieve this state? —”Dedication, self-discipline, patience and reflection on what has been learned all form a changed self within the aspiring Shaman” so wrote D J Conway — or that of the aspiring Witch, Wiccan, Druid.    “However,” she continues, you will accomplish little if you are not dedicated, disciplined, and sincere in your motives.”     So the bring about “Change in conformity with the Will,” the practitioner must be sincere and honest.  Above all, I believe his intent in performing magic must be pure and that which creates the Balance of which I have previously alluded to.

A similar insight into how to work Magic is found within the pages of Gerald Gardner’s (Scire)  1949 novel, High Magic’s Aid

Throughout the practice of high magic, or art magic as it is often called, the emphasis is upon Purity and Strength, and through Purity, Strength of Will and Self-Control.   Without these no man can become a Magus. (Chapter XV

I truly believe that what lies deep within our Heart is what defines our Witchyness, not the outward trappings of elaborate Chalices, Wands and Robes.—It is Purity, Strength of Will and Self-Control.

Our ancestral Brothers and Sisters who followed the Old Ways during the Dark Ages were more than likely either extremely poor and therefore concentrated their efforts on getting through the day or they were occupied with agricultural pursuits. This was a time when folk would have woken before dawn, dressed and then gone out to perform their farming chores – milk the cows, feed the chickens, till the land, plant crops, mend the fences etc, and come back home when the sun was waning. Add to this the inside chores – cleaning the home, mending and making cloths, preparing meals. Many would have been schooled in the University of Hard Knocks; not some educational institute whereby to learn the elaborate rites and words that attend many a Pagan rite or gathering.

We need to take into account that:

The wide-spread social misery of the 11th and 12th centuries, the alarming spread of Catharist and Waldensian heresies, the terror of the Black Death which devastated the whole of western Europe in the 14th century, and its startling concomitants, the Flagellant and Dancing manias, had all contributed naturally to prepare men’s minds for a conviction of the reality of Satanic agencies operating with fresh virulence in the world, and terror-induced persecution while in its turn persecution propagated terror – Chambers Encyclopedia of 1922 in its Witchcraft Entry.

Being a time of great and terrible persecution, the elaborate tools that many books would tell us to deck our altars with – as a way of connecting with the God and Goddess; these simply didn’t exist. The athamé (the Witches working tool) – if it were decorated in sigils, would most likely have been inscribed in wood-ash – this being so that the handle could be wiped clean if the Inquisitorial authorities were afoot.

One author writes of how: ̎…the Witch would have kept her athamé separate and not used it for anything but magic. She would have written the magical signs on it in ink at the time of its consecration and then washed them off again, perhaps putting some small private make on the knife only she would recognize,” thus making of it a simple kitchen knife.  (Witchcraft for Tomorrow byDoreen Valiente, 1978

We would not have worn elaborate jewelry or donned robes decked with symbols and magical sigils, our altars would have consisted of a fallen log, most likely left where it fell – a gift from the Lord and Lady. Our athamé may have been (again most likely) the knife we cut our bread with and the chalice a simple mug, sitting amongst the many – most likely it were crafted with love in our hearts for the God and Goddess. Could a witch afford an athamé set aside exclusively for magic rites! Maybe yes though most likely not. To cut Bread – a gift from the earth to sustain one’s life – surely such were not anathema to our Lord and Lady.

I also do not feel that a Book of Shadows – where astrological dates are entered and rituals are written down in “One’s own hand“– would have existed but maybe it were a simple book where the witch recorded his or her observations with herbs or the time of the seasons. To record any further would surely have invited death. Maybe they compiled a Herbal where they could record their witchy ways in a fashion that cast a veil over what they truly meant – I simply do not know. Let us remember that the Witch was of the common folk; the Ceremonial Magician was one who had to be educated in the languages of Latin, Hebrew and Greek., deriving his work from the Hebrew Cabala.

And if we hearken back to the days of our early ancestors, they would have had none of these ritual paraphernalia. Yet I feel they had the heart, the strength and the tenacity to follow the Old Gods and Goddesses from a place deep within their hearts. They may have feared the Lord and Lady in some respects, but they were not a-feared to listen to the Call of the Lord and His Lady Love and to respond to that Call, as they truly lived from that place deep within their hearts.

HOW MODERN WITCHCRAFT CONTAINS BELIEFS OF THE FIRST PEOPLE (ANIMISM/PANTHEISM/PANPSYCHISM)

I have reached a point in my own life where I no longer feel the need to explain intellectually why I believe that rocks, plants and animals are special and just as important as humans (if not, in some ways, more so).  Nor do I feel the need to explain how I just know in my INNER Self that ALL LIFE has SPIRIT permeating through it and which goes on living in the Afterlife or Otherworld. In some ways I do not think I can even employ words to convey how I just know this in my INNER SELF but nevertheless within my SELF, I know it to be true.

By learning about Herbal Lore, and Spell-casting, we reconnect back to our ancestors. We learn too how best to respect and honour the Old Ones of the far distant past—Who are these One Ones?  “Traditionally, these are the primal Spirits of the earth which existed long before that of humans. They are the “Teachers” that dwell within the trees, hills, lakes and oceans. Our ancient ancestors learned from these spirits before there were any farmers or agriculturists.    The teachings of the Old Ones are those of a forgotten age. The Standing Stones represent this ancestral memory and the Tree symbolizes the living teachers of the memory.” (The Well-Worn Path Card Deck Book by Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor)

Thus, Witchcraft has in it the elements of Awe, of the First Religion, Animism and its cousin, Panpsychism. It is likewise Pantheistic for it views the spark of the Divine residing in each of the things found within the world of nature.   Witchcraft too is polytheistic is that it worships the God and Goddess and their children. Lastly, it is monotheistic for it recognizes that there is One Principle guiding all Life, even in that of the Lord and His Lady-Love.

THE BENEFITS OF RETURNING TO WITCHCRAFT

Witchcraft is all about balance, about the harmony of all life, loving community; not thinking that my way is the only way. It is about respect but equally about speaking about the injustices that may prevail in one’s environment.   It is about performing ritual in honour and devotion to the Lord and His Lady – it is not about performance for performance sake with elaborate altars and embroidered robes (those these are not wrong in themselves). Better it is to perform ritual with an honest and sincere heart.  Witchcraft for me connects me back to a time long ago when the Lord and His Lady roamed the land, protected the things of nature, could be heard within a storm or felt in the down-pouring of the rains.

As I said at the beginning, there was once a time when Early Man walked intuitively with the Gods — maybe not possessing the words to express their feelings.  However, they would have no doubt experienced a deep stirring within the Hidden Places of the Heart that may have helped them to understand these feelings; the forming of images in their minds that made these stirrings deeper and yet lucid.

That is the Essence of Witchcraft.

May the Lord and Lady Walk with alongside each of us as we Journey through this wondrous Earth