Ash Tree Magic and Folklore

Ash Moon: February 18 – March 17

In Norse lore, Odin hung from Yggdrasil, the World Tree, for nine days and nights so that he might be granted wisdom. Yggdrasil was an ash tree, and since the time of Odin’s ordeal, the ash has often been associated with divination and knowledge. In some Celtic legends, it is also seen as a tree sacred to the god Lugh, who is celebrated at Lughnasadh. Because of its close association not only with the Divine but with knowledge, Ash can be worked with for any number of spells, rituals, and other workings.

  • Some traditions of magic hold that the leaf of an Ash tree will bring you good fortune. Carry one in your pocket – those with an even number of leaflets on it are especially lucky.
  • In some folk magic traditions, the ash leaf could be used to remove skin disorders such as warts or boils. As an alternate practice, one could wear a needle in their clothing or carry a pin in their pocket for three days, and then drive the pin into the bark of an ash tree – the skin disorder will appear as a knob on the tree and disappear from the person who had it.
  • The spear of Odin was made from an Ash tree, according to the Norse poetic eddas.
  • Newborn babies in the British Isles were sometimes given a spoonful of Ash sap before leaving their mother’s bed for the first time. It was believed this would prevent disease and infant mortality.
  • Five trees stood guard over Ireland, in mythology, and three were Ash. The Ash is often found growing near holy wells and sacred springs. Interestingly, it was also believed that crops that grew in the shadow of an Ash tree would be of an inferior quality.
  • In some European folklore, the Ash tree is seen as protective but at the same time malevolent. Anyone who does harm to an Ash can find themselves the victim of unpleasant supernatural circumstances.
  • In northern England, it was believed that if a maiden placed ash leaves under her pillow, she would have prophetic dreams of her future lover.
  • In some Druidic traditions, it is customary to use a branch of Ash to make a magical staff. The staff becomes, in essence, a portable version of a World Tree, connecting the user to the realms of earth and sky.
  • If you place Ash berries in a cradle, it protects the child from being taken away as a changeling by mischievous Fae.
  • The Celtic tree month of Ash, or Nion, falls from February 18 to March 17. It’s a good time for magical workings related to the inner self.

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The Wicca Book of Days for Feb. 14th – Valentine’s Lovebirds

The Wicca Book of Days for February 14th – Valentine’s Lovebirds

Although February 14th is known as Saint Valentine’s Day and is dedicated to love and lovers, the Valentine who was canonized for having been martyred on account of his Christianity in ancient Roman times had no known connection with romance. It seems that Valentine’s name and patronage became confused over the millennia, and that the day’s association with love and romance arose from the widespread popular belief that birds began mating on this day. In England, it was said that if you were unattached, the first person of the opposite sex that you clapped eyes on on this day would become your husband or wife.

“The Lovers”

If you are not wooed tonight, you may find meditating on The Lovers, the sixth of the major-arcana. Tarot cards, thought-provoking. It portrays a pair of lovers, yet may be concerned with the dual options inherent in making any binding decision.

Spellcasting In Natural Magick

Spellcasting In Natural Magick

 
Spellcasting involves following a format that provides the structure to channel, amplify and release energies to bring into actuality the fulfillment of a wish, a need or desire.
 
Spellcasting can bring results fast if you really are in a crisis situation, perhaps because you endow the spell with the urgency and emotion. Mel, a 25 year-old store manager living in a historic town in the south of England, desperately needed a home to rent and had been to every agency in two with no results. A couple of days before she was due to move our of her present flat. Mel did a simple spell to find her a comfortable, affordable home as soon as possible. She took the symbol she had empowered, in fact a written one, to work having slept with it under her pillow.
 
The next morning her mobile rang. It was a man to say he and his wife had a home to rent and she could go to see it that evening. When Mel got there the house was perfect and affordable but the couple had no idea where they got her number because she hadn’t given it out and they had not even got round to advertising the house, so it had not come through an agent. The couple said they would let her know, but just as Mel was driving off disappointed, the man ran after her and said the house was hers and she could move in the next day. The couple didn’t know anyone to whom Mel might have mentioned the house problem. Mel moved into the house soon afterwards and was very happy there.
 
The energies of someone wanting to rent out a property and Mel’s urgent need must have telepathically been drawn together.
 
Of course, most spells aren’t as instant and may involve more earthly leg work. However, spells do get the energies moving and usually bring into your sphere through unexpected opportunities or seemingly chance meetings, what it is you need—at the time you need it. Under the rules of cosmic exchange you neeed to be willing to reciprocate by passing on information or surplus items when you hear though a friend of a friend of a need, even if this involves a lot of effort or you are busy at the time.
 
Rituals also follow similar stages beginning with a statement of the purpose, adding elemental powers and ending with the desired results. This would for example, be the rebirth of light as the December midwinter solstice, celebrating the return of the sun after the shortest day – and as importantly, acknowledging or bringing your own rebirth or renewal of hope.

Herb of the Day for August 10th is Valerian

Valerian

Valerian was named for the physician Valerius, one of the first to use the plant medicinally. Around the eleventh century, Anglo-Saxon leeches recommend its use in battling menstrual cramps. It was called Amantilla during the middle ages, and there is a recipe which recommends the use of a tea made from “the juice of Amantilla id est Valeriana,” to bring about peace between warring factions. Chaucer refers to the plant as Setwall.

Traditionally, valerian was used more often for medicine than magic, but there are still some uses for it in spellwork.

Valerian may smell raunchy, but it’s also known as a plant of love and protection. Hang it in your home to protect against natural disasters, such as lightning strikes or fire. If you’re a woman, pin a sprig to your shirt to attract men your way. Quarrels can be resolved in a home by placing valerian leaves around the perimeter of the house.

If you are fighting with a family member, try putting a sprig of valerian in each corner of your home. Putting it over each door will prevent strife and discontent from entering — but be warned – some people find that the smell of valerian reminds them of cat urine.

Other Names: All-heal, Heliotrope, St. George’s herb, Amantilla, Setwall
Gender: Feminine
Element: Water
Deity Connection: Aphrodite, Venus
Planetary Connection: Venus

If you’re a gardener, valerian tends to attract earthworms, which are great for your soil. This has to do with the levels of phosphorus produced by the plant’s roots, so if you need wormy dirt, plant some valerian.

 

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Burning ‘The Burning Times’

Burning ‘The Burning Times’

Author: Zan Fraser

It seems that there is a recent body of misinformation regarding the Burning Times making its way through the Wiccan/Pagan community, which amounts to a revisionist “take” on the Witches’ Holocaust. Being something of a debunking, this new school of thought asserts that the Burning Times is “over-hyped” and hysterically blown out of proportion. While as a rule, I am a huge fan of revisionist history, I find this development (which adds up to a sort of “Burning Times denial-ism”) a bit depressing.

Proponents of this new school of thought seem to me mistaken in a number of important ways. (1) They tend to describe the Burning Times as a sort of invention of Margaret Murray’s, the Egyptologist whose “pro-Pagan” interpretation of European history was so influential to the early Craft revival. (2) They challenge the conventional belief in huge numbers of Burning Times victims as overwrought, with the numbers inflated. (3) They question the interpretation of the Great Witch-Hunts as a “War on Women.”

Far from being a concept of Murray’s, among the broadest reaching of her theories, the first realizations of the Burning Times emanate centuries before her writing, expressed in horror by the period’s contemporaries. As early as the 1560s, Weyer was publishing denunciations of the excesses of German Witch-Hunting; Spee (confessor during the Wurzburg trials of the 1620s) , theology professor Meyfarth (in the 1630s) , and Junius (a torture-victim who generated one of the few Witch-Hunting documents told from the perspective of the tortured Witch) powerfully describe the hysterical panic of the populace and the agonized suffering of the accused. They leave no doubt as to the alarm and trauma that must have pervaded the German regions in the latter 1500s and early 1600s.

Burning Times revisionists make the vital point that the German cases (for their exceptional violence and cruelty) give us a skewed picture of the Hunt Periods. In the 1620s alone, some 600 persons were said to have been killed as devil-worshipping Witches at Bamberg, with some 900 more in Wurzburg. There are many reasons for this, notably that the German Prince-Bishops ruled as absolute authorities on both the secular and religious levels, and the particular Prince-Bishops during this period and in these regions appear to have been especially sadistic sorts. These numbers may be inflated to a certain degree (they probably don’t have a modern bureaucratic accounting system to keep track of such things) , but they clearly intend to describe large numbers of victims, with much resulting social terror and disruption. Revisionists are correct to point out that these levels of destruction are not matched elsewhere and tend to provide a somewhat distorted view of the Witch-Hunts.

(On more than one occasion, I have heard Wiccans describe the “Burning Times” in England as if the English Witch-cases were on a par with those of Germany, or to relate how English Witches “fled the Burning Times in England, ” to come to the New World of America in order to keep the “Old Ways” in safety. This ignores the reality that the English were relatively lenient in their regards to Witchcraft. Importantly they never accepted the idea of Witches as demonic- sparing themselves the hysterical “Satan panic” reactions experienced on the Continent- and they observed legal proprieties in their judgment of Witch-cases, as opposed to the German regions, which held Witchcraft to be such a subversive and lethal instrument that it justified abandoning basic legal protections for the accused. In an important difference, the English did not employ torture in Witchcraft cases.

This is not to say that on the social level the English never responded hysterically to fears or accusations of Witchcraft or that there were not English miscarriages of justice- but it is to say that the English made an effort to hold themselves in check regarding Witchcraft, which makes the Burning Times period in England of a different character than that in other parts of Europe.)

Conceding the point that the extreme degree of persecution in Germany leaves a lop-sided impression, it should be remembered that even in England, Reginald Scot was so alarmed over what he saw as the rise of “anti-Witch” prejudice that he published Discoverie of Witchcraft in 1584, decrying the stereotyping of elderly ladies as Witches (the English overwhelmingly imagined Witches to be elderly single women) ; according to Scot, this exposed defenseless old women to acts of violence. In A Briefe Historie of Wytches, , I collect from the period-drama several examples in which assault is thought justifiable if its victim is imagined to be a Witch.

In Sweden, Queen Christina was so dismayed over Witch-Hunting in her realm that in 1649 she ordered a series of reforms; this is the one instance in 300 years in which a European monarch so used the royal power, which Robbins finds “notable as the first legislation curbing witch hunts.” (Rossell Hope Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, “Sweden, Witchcraft In”) In all of these cases, the individuals involved- Weyer, Spee, Meyfarth, Junius, Scot, and Christina- are identifying “Witch-Hunting” as a feature of life around them, expressing the first glimmerings of understanding that they were living through a “Burning Times.”

In the early 1800s, the famous novelist Walter Scott was studying the Scots Witch-cases, publishing his summaries in Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft. The eminent Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan conducted another early scholarly review of the medieval Witch-Business, presented in 1843; this was followed by the majestic history collected by Joseph Hansen, published in German in 1900. We see here that identification and study of the Burning Times commenced well before Margaret Murray, who first published in the early 1920s.

One of her initial critics, Harvard professor George Lyman Kittredge, issued his fine volume Witchcraft in Old and New England in the latter 1920s. Although he hardly agrees with Murray, it is clear that the Burning Times is “set” in his mind as a historical phenomenon (p. 243) : “Such were the orgies of the Witches’ Sabbath as systematized in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by the scholastic ingenuity of devout theologians and described in confessions innumerable wrung by torture from ignorant and superstitious defendants in response to leading questions framed by inquisitors who had the whole system in mind before the trial began.”

I believe that- far from being among Margaret Murray’s “theories”- the medieval Burning Times is indeed a well-documented and reasonably well-understood phenomenon.

Another assertion made by the promoters of this new reading of the Burning Times is that not really very many persons were killed. They will quite properly dismiss the hysterically overwrought 9 million citation, then quote “recorded data” as giving an extremely paltry number, with “many countries” reporting only 3-10 victims, or certainly less than 50.

I find Anne Llewellyn Barstow to be persuasive on the issue of numbers: Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts Pandora Books, 1994 (p. 19-23) . Acknowledging the woefully imperfect state of records (many lost or defective) , Barstow nonetheless finds herself compelled to keep careful count as she works her way through the dim documentation of the past. Although this pains-taking approach adds hours of extra work, and great though the temptation is to start rounding off numbers, she retains “each awkward figure, ” remembering Holocaust historian Joan Ringelheim’s observation: to drop numbers now was to kill that individual twice. Accordingly Barstow provides in her Appendix B “the most complete record available at this time.”

Barstow comments upon Levack’s work (p. 22) , crediting him with producing the “most careful totals made so far.” She finds his figures “reasonable, ” but “almost certainly too low.” Given the faulty state of records, with additional cases emerging “steadily, ” and given that posse-style murders and lynching-deaths will not be recorded, Barstow finds it judicious to expand Levack’s numbers to 200, 000 accused, with 100, 000 dead. She finds it interesting that- just after the “recently ended holocaust”- Voltaire estimated that about 100, 000 had been put to death.

Contrary to the assertion of Burning Times revisionists that “many countries” had less than 50 Witch-Victims apiece, Barstow’s Appendix B describes only Montbeliard (55+) , Vaud (90) , Labourd (80) , Champagne (50+) , Essex (74) , New England (35) , Estonia (65) , Russia (10+) , Logrono (6) , Catalonia (45) , and Navarre (50) with less than 100 murdered Witches. She finds some 50, 000+ to have been killed in the German states; some 5000 in France; some 1000 in England; 1, 337+ in Scotland; 1500-1800 in Scandinavia; and approximately 15, 000+ in Poland.

The third claim of this would-be up-ending of conventional Hunt-Period consideration is that in “many countries” the “vast majority” of victims were male. Scandinavia, Finland, and Iceland are listed as places where “nearly all of the accused” were men. From this, the interpretation of the medieval Witch-Hunts as a “Holocaust of women” is questioned.

Barstow notes that the trials in Finland, Estonia, and Iceland (“which did not have a true witch hunt”) offer the “rare phenomenon” of predominantly male Witches. (p. 86) Finns had traditionally presumed sorcery to lie with men and some 60% of Estonia’s accused were males, often with reputations as healers or magic-workers. (Barstow, by the way, notes that Witchcraft in Scandinavia and the Baltic regions- the areas isolated from Christianity the longest- is “deeply rooted in European folk customs”; Robbins observes that “heathen beliefs in natural and magical powers” lingered in Finland longer than anywhere else in Europe, as Christianity was not introduced until 1157. (Encyclopedia, “Finland, Witchcraft in”)

Interesting though that is, male Witches appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Barstow remarks that the figures show women to have been “overwhelmingly victimized, ” constituting roughly 80% of the accused and 85% of the executed. (p. 23) In places such as Essex, females make up 92% of the accused, as they do during a Hunt in Belgium. During a Scare in Basel, the percentage of women accused shoots to 95%. Barstow quotes the observation of historian Christina Larner, “the chronicler of Scottish witchcraft, ” who felt that there must have been periods in East Lothian or Fife when no woman could have “felt free from the fear of accusation.” She notes the two German villages finally left with but one female inhabitant apiece, and the Rhenish village where one person (generally female) out of every two families was killed. (p. 24)

Barstow feels that her statistics “document an intentional mass murder of women.” To not see that is to “deny the most persistent fact about the persecutions.” (p.26)

Burning Times revisionists conclude that the Burning Times is a farce, a “theory” of Margaret Murray’s run amuck, fed by pumped-up numbers and a hysterical view of a “Holocaust of Women.”

With all respect, I feel that:

(1) The Burning Times is established as a medieval phenomenon well beyond Murray.

(2) Anne Llewellyn Barstow provides extremely well-researched figures, pointing to some 200, 000 accused, with some 100, 000 executed, around 85% of whom were women.

(3) Far from men being the primary victims during the Burning Times (Iceland, Finland, and Estonia notwithstanding) , I believe that so many women were targeted that the Burning Times might well be understood as a Religious War on Women- predicated upon the interesting assumption that Witches are most likely to be Female.

It is for this reason that one of the rallying cries of the Modern Wiccan Witchcraft Revival is: Never Again the Burning Times.

Your Daily Number for July 2nd: 4

Your courage may be challenged today, but no obstacle is too great if you work with diligence and resolve. Keep track of all details; an opportunity is at hand. You are steadily making a stellar impression on those with whom you work.

Fast Facts

About the Number 4

Theme: Form, Work, Order, Practicality, Discipline
Astro Association: Aries
Tarot Association: Emperor

Burning ‘The Burning Times’

Burning ‘The Burning Times’

Author: Zan Fraser

It seems that there is a recent body of misinformation regarding the Burning Times making its way through the Wiccan/Pagan community, which amounts to a revisionist “take” on the Witches’ Holocaust. Being something of a debunking, this new school of thought asserts that the Burning Times is “over-hyped” and hysterically blown out of proportion. While as a rule, I am a huge fan of revisionist history, I find this development (which adds up to a sort of “Burning Times denial-ism”) a bit depressing.

Proponents of this new school of thought seem to me mistaken in a number of important ways. (1) They tend to describe the Burning Times as a sort of invention of Margaret Murray’s, the Egyptologist whose “pro-Pagan” interpretation of European history was so influential to the early Craft revival. (2) They challenge the conventional belief in huge numbers of Burning Times victims as overwrought, with the numbers inflated. (3) They question the interpretation of the Great Witch-Hunts as a “War on Women.”

Far from being a concept of Murray’s, among the broadest reaching of her theories, the first realizations of the Burning Times emanate centuries before her writing, expressed in horror by the period’s contemporaries. As early as the 1560s, Weyer was publishing denunciations of the excesses of German Witch-Hunting; Spee (confessor during the Wurzburg trials of the 1620s) , theology professor Meyfarth (in the 1630s) , and Junius (a torture-victim who generated one of the few Witch-Hunting documents told from the perspective of the tortured Witch) powerfully describe the hysterical panic of the populace and the agonized suffering of the accused. They leave no doubt as to the alarm and trauma that must have pervaded the German regions in the latter 1500s and early 1600s.

Burning Times revisionists make the vital point that the German cases (for their exceptional violence and cruelty) give us a skewed picture of the Hunt Periods. In the 1620s alone, some 600 persons were said to have been killed as devil-worshipping Witches at Bamberg, with some 900 more in Wurzburg. There are many reasons for this, notably that the German Prince-Bishops ruled as absolute authorities on both the secular and religious levels, and the particular Prince-Bishops during this period and in these regions appear to have been especially sadistic sorts. These numbers may be inflated to a certain degree (they probably don’t have a modern bureaucratic accounting system to keep track of such things) , but they clearly intend to describe large numbers of victims, with much resulting social terror and disruption. Revisionists are correct to point out that these levels of destruction are not matched elsewhere and tend to provide a somewhat distorted view of the Witch-Hunts.

(On more than one occasion, I have heard Wiccans describe the “Burning Times” in England as if the English Witch-cases were on a par with those of Germany, or to relate how English Witches “fled the Burning Times in England, ” to come to the New World of America in order to keep the “Old Ways” in safety. This ignores the reality that the English were relatively lenient in their regards to Witchcraft. Importantly they never accepted the idea of Witches as demonic- sparing themselves the hysterical “Satan panic” reactions experienced on the Continent- and they observed legal proprieties in their judgment of Witch-cases, as opposed to the German regions, which held Witchcraft to be such a subversive and lethal instrument that it justified abandoning basic legal protections for the accused. In an important difference, the English did not employ torture in Witchcraft cases.

This is not to say that on the social level the English never responded hysterically to fears or accusations of Witchcraft or that there were not English miscarriages of justice- but it is to say that the English made an effort to hold themselves in check regarding Witchcraft, which makes the Burning Times period in England of a different character than that in other parts of Europe.)

Conceding the point that the extreme degree of persecution in Germany leaves a lop-sided impression, it should be remembered that even in England, Reginald Scot was so alarmed over what he saw as the rise of “anti-Witch” prejudice that he published Discoverie of Witchcraft in 1584, decrying the stereotyping of elderly ladies as Witches (the English overwhelmingly imagined Witches to be elderly single women) ; according to Scot, this exposed defenseless old women to acts of violence. In A Briefe Historie of Wytches, , I collect from the period-drama several examples in which assault is thought justifiable if its victim is imagined to be a Witch.

In Sweden, Queen Christina was so dismayed over Witch-Hunting in her realm that in 1649 she ordered a series of reforms; this is the one instance in 300 years in which a European monarch so used the royal power, which Robbins finds “notable as the first legislation curbing witch hunts.” (Rossell Hope Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, “Sweden, Witchcraft In”) In all of these cases, the individuals involved- Weyer, Spee, Meyfarth, Junius, Scot, and Christina- are identifying “Witch-Hunting” as a feature of life around them, expressing the first glimmerings of understanding that they were living through a “Burning Times.”

In the early 1800s, the famous novelist Walter Scott was studying the Scots Witch-cases, publishing his summaries in Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft. The eminent Wilhelm Gottlieb Soldan conducted another early scholarly review of the medieval Witch-Business, presented in 1843; this was followed by the majestic history collected by Joseph Hansen, published in German in 1900. We see here that identification and study of the Burning Times commenced well before Margaret Murray, who first published in the early 1920s.

One of her initial critics, Harvard professor George Lyman Kittredge, issued his fine volume Witchcraft in Old and New England in the latter 1920s. Although he hardly agrees with Murray, it is clear that the Burning Times is “set” in his mind as a historical phenomenon (p. 243) : “Such were the orgies of the Witches’ Sabbath as systematized in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by the scholastic ingenuity of devout theologians and described in confessions innumerable wrung by torture from ignorant and superstitious defendants in response to leading questions framed by inquisitors who had the whole system in mind before the trial began.”

I believe that- far from being among Margaret Murray’s “theories”- the medieval Burning Times is indeed a well-documented and reasonably well-understood phenomenon.

Another assertion made by the promoters of this new reading of the Burning Times is that not really very many persons were killed. They will quite properly dismiss the hysterically overwrought 9 million citation, then quote “recorded data” as giving an extremely paltry number, with “many countries” reporting only 3-10 victims, or certainly less than 50.

I find Anne Llewellyn Barstow to be persuasive on the issue of numbers: Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts Pandora Books, 1994 (p. 19-23) . Acknowledging the woefully imperfect state of records (many lost or defective) , Barstow nonetheless finds herself compelled to keep careful count as she works her way through the dim documentation of the past. Although this pains-taking approach adds hours of extra work, and great though the temptation is to start rounding off numbers, she retains “each awkward figure, ” remembering Holocaust historian Joan Ringelheim’s observation: to drop numbers now was to kill that individual twice. Accordingly Barstow provides in her Appendix B “the most complete record available at this time.”

Barstow comments upon Levack’s work (p. 22) , crediting him with producing the “most careful totals made so far.” She finds his figures “reasonable, ” but “almost certainly too low.” Given the faulty state of records, with additional cases emerging “steadily, ” and given that posse-style murders and lynching-deaths will not be recorded, Barstow finds it judicious to expand Levack’s numbers to 200, 000 accused, with 100, 000 dead. She finds it interesting that- just after the “recently ended holocaust”- Voltaire estimated that about 100, 000 had been put to death.

Contrary to the assertion of Burning Times revisionists that “many countries” had less than 50 Witch-Victims apiece, Barstow’s Appendix B describes only Montbeliard (55+) , Vaud (90) , Labourd (80) , Champagne (50+) , Essex (74) , New England (35) , Estonia (65) , Russia (10+) , Logrono (6) , Catalonia (45) , and Navarre (50) with less than 100 murdered Witches. She finds some 50, 000+ to have been killed in the German states; some 5000 in France; some 1000 in England; 1, 337+ in Scotland; 1500-1800 in Scandinavia; and approximately 15, 000+ in Poland.

The third claim of this would-be up-ending of conventional Hunt-Period consideration is that in “many countries” the “vast majority” of victims were male. Scandinavia, Finland, and Iceland are listed as places where “nearly all of the accused” were men. From this, the interpretation of the medieval Witch-Hunts as a “Holocaust of women” is questioned.

Barstow notes that the trials in Finland, Estonia, and Iceland (“which did not have a true witch hunt”) offer the “rare phenomenon” of predominantly male Witches. (p. 86) Finns had traditionally presumed sorcery to lie with men and some 60% of Estonia’s accused were males, often with reputations as healers or magic-workers. (Barstow, by the way, notes that Witchcraft in Scandinavia and the Baltic regions- the areas isolated from Christianity the longest- is “deeply rooted in European folk customs”; Robbins observes that “heathen beliefs in natural and magical powers” lingered in Finland longer than anywhere else in Europe, as Christianity was not introduced until 1157. (Encyclopedia, “Finland, Witchcraft in”)

Interesting though that is, male Witches appear to be the exception rather than the rule. Barstow remarks that the figures show women to have been “overwhelmingly victimized, ” constituting roughly 80% of the accused and 85% of the executed. (p. 23) In places such as Essex, females make up 92% of the accused, as they do during a Hunt in Belgium. During a Scare in Basel, the percentage of women accused shoots to 95%. Barstow quotes the observation of historian Christina Larner, “the chronicler of Scottish witchcraft, ” who felt that there must have been periods in East Lothian or Fife when no woman could have “felt free from the fear of accusation.” She notes the two German villages finally left with but one female inhabitant apiece, and the Rhenish village where one person (generally female) out of every two families was killed. (p. 24)

Barstow feels that her statistics “document an intentional mass murder of women.” To not see that is to “deny the most persistent fact about the persecutions.” (p.26)

Burning Times revisionists conclude that the Burning Times is a farce, a “theory” of Margaret Murray’s run amuck, fed by pumped-up numbers and a hysterical view of a “Holocaust of Women.”

With all respect, I feel that:

(1) The Burning Times is established as a medieval phenomenon well beyond Murray.

(2) Anne Llewellyn Barstow provides extremely well-researched figures, pointing to some 200, 000 accused, with some 100, 000 executed, around 85% of whom were women.

(3) Far from men being the primary victims during the Burning Times (Iceland, Finland, and Estonia notwithstanding) , I believe that so many women were targeted that the Burning Times might well be understood as a Religious War on Women- predicated upon the interesting assumption that Witches are most likely to be Female.

It is for this reason that one of the rallying cries of the Modern Wiccan Witchcraft Revival is: Never Again the Burning Times.

Speculation That The ‘Windsor Witches’ Raised Energy (Part 1)

Speculation That The ‘Windsor Witches’ Raised Energy (Part 1)

Author: Zan Fraser

Four women of Windsor, England, were arraigned in January 1579, and condemned as “notorious witches.” The judgment (based upon their apparent confessions) was that they had caused the deaths of a number of people through their “Sorceries and Inchauntementes, ” a capital crime in Elizabethan England. The four were killed (probably by hanging) on February 26, 1579: Mother Dutton, Mother Devell, Mother Margaret, and Elizabeth Stile, alias Rockingham.

(Many older women of the period possessed “aliases, ” meaning the names of previous husbands. Stile had been married to a man named Rockingham, who must have died, before she married Mr. Stile. As she is identified as a widow, Mr. Stile must have been deceased as well. It was the Elizabethan custom to call older women “Mother”; this custom seems to have super kicked in when the woman in question was perceived as a witch. English witch-accounts typically are populated with women called “Mother This” and “Mother That.”) In addition to these four, there are some four or so other individuals implicated as Windsor Witches.

A remarkable thing is that the case of the Windsor Witches is recorded in two separate pamphlet-accounts, providing two independent points-of-view with which to consider the matter. Edward White published A Rehearsall both straung and true in March 1579, based upon Elizabeth Stile’s jail statements. Richard Galis (whose father had been a mayor of Windsor and one of the men to whose magical murder the four confessed) published his A brief treatise later that year.

One text is held at the British Library, the other by the Bodleian; both are reprinted by Marion Gibson, in Early Modern Witches: Witchcraft Cases in Contemporary Writing, (New York: Routledge, 2000) . Barbara Rosen also reproduces A Rehearsall both straung and true in her collection of sources Witchcraft (New York: Taplinger Publishing, 1972) .

The striking thing is that the Windsor Witches seem to have formed a genuine magic-working group (what we would call a “coven, ” although that word is not used) . Item 6 of Stile’s statements in Galis’s account (Item 7 in Rehearsall) asserts that “father Rosimond and his daughter, mother Margarete, mother Dutton, and her selfe [Elizabeth Stile] were accustomed to make their meeting on the backside of Maister Dodges, where they used to conferre of such their enterprises as before they had determined of and practized.” The “backside of Master Dodges” would be the back of the man’s property, presumably remote and removed from traffic.

Rehearsall says that they met “in the Pittes there, ” meaning “saw-pits” or large holes dug into the ground into which felled trees would be angled, to be conveniently chopped down to size. “Conferring” and “determining” give the impression of a deliberative group that traded advice and suggestions back and forth. In Item 23 of Rehearsall, Stiles elaborates further that the group “did meete sometymes in maister Dodges Pittes, and sometyme aboute a leven of the Clocke in the night at the Pounde [pond].”

Bits of the group’s history start to emerge. Stile said that it was Mother Dutton and Mother Devell who had “enticed” her into the practice of witchcraft. Mother Dutton was apparently clairvoyant; Item 2 of Rehearsall assures that she “can tell every ones message, assone [as soon] as she seeth them approche nere to the place of her abode.” This of course implies that people frequently sought out Mother Dutton at her residence for her assistance with their problems- the “messages” that they bore.

As with a number of the English cases, there appears to have been a strong sub-current of the wise-folk traditions going on behind the scenes. The pious Address that opens Rehearsall condemns the “malicious and treasonable driftes [ways]” of witches, “of late yeares greately multiplyed” in number by Satan. It goes on to fault persons who call witches “by the honorable name of wise women” and seek them out “for the health of themselves or others.”

Father Rosimond, cited as a cohort by Elizabeth Stile, was such a cunning-man. (The fact that he is “Father” Rosimond is the male corollary to the custom of calling older, witchy women “Mother.” It does not mean that he was a Catholic priest, especially as he has a daughter.)

The Memorandum affixed to the end of Rehearsall discusses how “the Wiseman named Father Rosimonde” advised a Windsor man to break a spell of bewitchment by scratching the forehead (so as to draw the blood) of the vindictive witch (Mother Stile, as it turns out) . Item 1 of Galis’s account states that “one father Rosiman…and his daughter are witches, and that the said Rosiman can alter and chaunge him selfe into any kinde of beast that him listeth [that he desires].”

Elizabeth Stile insists in Rehearsall (Item 24) that she often found Rosimond sitting in a wood not far from his house, “under the bodie of a Tree, sometymes in the shape of an Ape, and otherwhiles like an Horse.” She goes on to reaffirm in Item 25 that “father Rosimond can transforme hym selfe into the likenesse of an Ape, or a Horse, and that he can helpe any manne so bewitched to his health againe, as well as to bewitche.”

Shape-shifting appears to have been a custom with the Windsor group. Item 22 of Galis’s account informs that “their woords of charme weare [were] these, come on let us go about it, and presently they were changed into a new shape.” In addition to other things, Galis reports a supernatural attack from “a huge and mightie black Cat, ” which he took to be a transformed witch.

These are all examples of the medieval mythology that witches transformed into animals, surely inherited from shamanic Celtic/ Teutonic religions. To judge from their testimony, the Windsor Witches are pretty confident that they can handle animal-metamorphosis.

Unlike the four condemned women, Rosimond and his daughter do not appear to have been charged. Either they did not excite the alarm in their neighbors that the women did or they are an example of anti-witch misogyny, whereby authorities and townsfolk regard male and female witches in different lights.

Another detail fascinating from the modern perspective is the back-story of two women who died slightly before the local fear of the Windsor Coven (as we might call them) blew up into accusations of death and harm. Galis’s account makes clear that dread and suspicion of the group had been building well before the events reported in Rehearsall.

At one point, Mother Audrey and Mother Nelson were required to stand under the pulpit during Sunday service, in order to bring them back into the Christian fold and away from the pernicious snares of witchcraft. A short time after, both women died- we are not told how (although Galis assumes that the agony of their reawakened Christian consciousness did them in) . The event of Mother Audrey’s death is referred to several times, deemed significant because she is called “the Mistresse” witch.

It was the Elizabethan habit to esteem some witches as vastly more important and superior to other witches. Reginald Scot (writing in the 1580s) complained that a witch named Mother Bombie was held as a “principal witch, ” “being in divers books set out with authority, registered and chronicled by the name of ‘the great witch of Rochester, ’ and reputed among all men for the chief ringleader of all other witches”; a Dame Witch directs and oversees the witch-workings of Jonson’s play The Masque of Queens. Such customs may be seen as analogous to our own tradition of the High Priestess.

In the section where Galis describes how Mother Dutton “practised with her Associates his overthroowe, ” he cites as the four notable witches, Mother Rockingham (Stile) , Mother Dutton, Mother Devil (possibly his satire on Mother “Devell”) , and “Audrey the Mistresse.”

As he describes the witches being subjected to public exposure under the pulpit during services, Galis marks that a brief while after (undoubtedly due to gnawing conscience) , “Audrey the Mistresse and Mother Nelson dyed [died], after whose death the sisters left behinde…made their assembly in the pits in Maister Dodges backside.” In addition to “sisters, ” Galis refers to the witches as “Confederates” and “Associates.”

It is apparent that Mother Audrey was regarded as the Chief Witch or what we would call the High Priestess of the group. As Elizabeth Stile is recorded as being “of the age of lxv, ” or sixty-five, we might imagine that Mother Audrey was well advanced in seniority as well. One last thing- Rehearsall does not use the name “Audrey” for the Chief witch of the Windsor group. Item 26 of Rehearsall records Elizabeth Stile as calling “mother Seidre…the maistres [mistress] Witche of all the reste, and she is now deade.”

Is it possible that “Mother Seidre” is a ceremonial name or a witch-name assumed by Mother Audrey, perhaps upon her elevation to the High Priestesshood? Its apparent connection to Nordic seider, or the trance-induced revelations of prophetic women called seid-konas, causes one to wonder.

The Windsor Witches do not seem to have been an admirable lot- we would say that they were Un-Ethical in their practice. Their social relationships with the outside community appear antagonistic and their own testimony appears to admit to all sorts of misdeeds, including killing various people by torturing wax images.

They seem not to have comported themselves as would a Blesser or Blessing Witch (as the Age expressed it) ; the Blessing Witch Mother Bombie (contemporary to the Windsor Witches) appears to have been universally beloved and feared by none, whereas the Windsor Witches freak people out that they are killing them and causing harm. (For more on Mother Bombie, please see Chapter I of A Briefe Historie of Wytches/i>.)

It seems pretty much agreed upon within Windsor society that the following people constituted a confederation or an association of witches: Mother Nelson, Mother Dutton, Mother Devell, Mother Margaret, Elizabeth Stile (Mother Rockingham) , the wise-man Father Rosimond, and Rosimond’s daughter. Mother Audrey (presumably also called Mother Seidre) was the Mistress Witch or High Priestess until she died. These people would meet near a pond around eleven o’clock of the night or (apparently more often) they would assemble at the removed portion of Mr. Dodge’s property, where the saw-pits were (presumably therefore a wooded area) . Item 17 of Galis’s account refers to these meeting places when Stile claims that Mother Dutton and Mother Devil (Devell) “allured” her to “doo and exercise ye craft.”

This is the question- what did the Windsor Witch confederation “do and exercise” as “ye craft, ” when they met in the late still of night in the wooded pits of Dodge’s land?

Speculation to follow-