The moon is a powerful symbol that has been used since ancient times for guidance and illumination
The History of Witches in Britain
Though there are few surviving written records of the history of witches in Britain, we do know that witches were active in Britain during the Medieval period, and that belief in witches and witchcraft in Britain spans all the way back to antiquity. Prior to the infamous witch trials, witches in Britain were considered healers, herbalists, helpers of the community. Many people sought them out when they needed salves or potions to cure ailments. Before witches came to be associated with the devil in Britain’s modern period, people who practiced healing magic were called the Cunning Folk and were highly revered in society.
The Cunning Folk
The Cunning Folk in Britain were believed to have existed from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. They were practitioners of folk magic – not to be confused with ceremonial magic – and often hired by the people in their towns for the purposes of healing, fortune-telling, love spells, finding lost objects and missing persons, catching criminals, and even aiding in fighting off bewitchments from ceremonial or ritual witchcraft practitioners.
Though today, we would still classify this practice as witchcraft, the Cunning Folk were often staunchly opposed to ceremonial witchcraft and were typically practicing Christians. As said above, they were healers, not hinderers – which is what they believed witches to be. According to Ronald Hutton, a British historian that specializes in British folklore, in his book, “The Triumph of the Moon,” the Cunning Folk were, “concerned not with the mysteries of the universe and the empowerment of the magus, so much as with practical remedies for specific problems.”
Laws Against Witchcraft
Due to his controversial English Reformation, in which King Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church, many in Tudorian society believed that his shirking of Rome brought about anti-Christian forces, such as witchcraft. It was widely believed at the time that his religious reformation would cause witches in Britain to be able to cause the death of a monarch.
In an attempt to smooth over the controversy, Henry VIII enacted Britain’s very first law against witchcraft, called The Witchcraft Act, in 1542. This law stated that witchcraft was a crime punishable by death.
The Witchcraft Act eventually fell to disuse upon Henry’s death in 1547 and was only replaced 16 years later, by Elizabeth I’s Act Against Conjuring, Enchantments, and Witchcraft in 1563. This act established that causing harm or death to anyone by way of witchcraft was a capital offense.
Following Elizabeth I’s death, her successor, James I broadened her original law by making any act of witchcraft punishable by death. His law was entitled An Act Against Conjuration, Witchcraft, and Dealing With Evil and Wicked Spirits. It was during James I’s reign that the British witch hunts reached their peak.
Mother Waterhouse, the First Execution
Elizabeth I’s anti-witchcraft law claimed its first victim in 1566. Agnes Waterhouse, also called Mother Waterhouse, was the first woman to be executed for witchcraft in England. In 1566, in Chelmsford, Essex, England, three women were brought to trial for witchcraft. Elizabeth Francis was the first accused who admitted to practicing witchcraft taught to her by her grandmother, along with her familiar, a white cat named Satan. Elizabeth then told her accusers that she gave the cat to Agnes Waterhouse, and taught her witchcraft.
Agnes also admitted to having practiced, stating that Satan, the cat, spoke to her, and for a drop of her blood would do anything she wanted. She stated she used Satan to kill her neighbor’s livestock after an argument. She was also accused of killing a man by way of witchcraft but denied these claims. Next, Anges’ daughter, Joan Waterhouse, was also accused of using witchcraft to scare her neighbor, 12-year-old Agnes Brown, with a demon dog.
In the end, Joan was acquitted, Elizabeth was imprisoned but not executed (until 13 years later when she was tried again and finally executed), and Anges was executed by hanging.
The Witchfinder General
Matthew Hopkins, the famed “Witchfinder General” (though that title was never actually given by Parliament), was believed to have accused and executed more witches in his brutal 14-month reign of terror than any other witch hunter in the 160 years preceding him.
Between March of 1644 until the end of his terror in 1647, it’s said that Matthew Hopkins was responsible for over 100 executions of suspected witches.
Though torture was supposed to be outlawed in England at the time, this didn’t stop the infamous Witchfinder General from using torturous techniques to extract confessions from his prisoners. His preferred methods of getting confessions were trial by water, pricking, sleep deprivation, and the finding of a Devil’s or Witch’s Mark.
Trial by water was performed by tossing an accused witch into a body of water to see if she would sink or float. It was believed that the water represented baptism and since witches rejected their baptisms, the water would reject them. Thus, if they floated, it was proof that the water wouldn’t allow them to submerge, so they had to be witches.
To find a Witch’s Mark, women and men accused of witchcraft were shaved of all their body hair while Hopkins would search for any kind of mole, scar, or other skin imperfection, which he claimed would be the source of nutrition for a witch’s familiar. If no Witch’s Mark was found, Hopkins would claim that it was invisible, and so would resort to pricking. Pricking was the practice of using a knife or needle to poke at a suspected witch. If the person didn’t bleed – as was often the case because Hopkins tended to use dull or special needles – it was proof of witchery.
Hopkins retired from witch-hunting in 1647 after he, himself, was accused of witchcraft due to his unlawful methods of confession extraction and torture.
The Last Witch
Though the history of witches in Britain doesn’t end in 1727, the lawful executions of witches did. The last witch to be executed lawfully in Britain was Janet Horne.
In 1727, Janet Horne and her daughter were accused of witchcraft by their neighbors. Janet was in the stages of senility, and her daughter, whose name is not recorded, allegedly had deformations on her hands and feet. Thus, her neighbors accused Janet of riding her daughter like a horse, at night, to consort with the devil, which is why the daughter’s hands and feet were deformed.
The trial was quick and incredibly unjust, and the sheriff quickly decided both were guilty and would be executed by means of burning at the stake. Janet’s daughter, luckily, was able to escape, but Janet was stripped naked, covered in tar, and paraded through town before being burnt alive.
The history of witches in Britain is vast and lengthy. It cannot all be covered in a single article, so we chose to showcase what we deemed the most interesting or important parts. But the fact of the matter is, from antiquity to present times, Britain has an extensive and varied history with witches and witchcraft.
Things That Would Qualify You as a Witch in 1692
Witch hysteria began in Salem in January of 1692 when two young girls, Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams, fell ill. Betty, as Elizabeth was known, was the daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris, and Abigail was his niece. They had fits that included uncontrollable outbursts of screaming and violent bodily contortions. After a doctor couldn’t diagnose their illnesses, he told Reverend Parris that they had been the victims of witchcraft. Between January 1692 and the spring of 1693, over 150 people were accused of witchcraft, and 19 of them were hanged. When the hysteria was at its peak, almost anything could get you accused of being in league with the devil. Below, we’ll talk about some of the sillier things that would qualify you as a witch in 1692.
- Having a Vagina
Yes, simply being in possession of a vagina made you 80% more likely to be accused of witchcraft than someone without one. This was because it was believed that women were more susceptible to sin, and thus more susceptible to the devil’s trickery and temptations.
- Being Too Poor
If you sometimes have trouble supporting yourself and have to resort to asking your community or friends for help, you could have been a suspected witch in 1692. One of the first women hanged for witchcraft in Salem was Sarah Good, a poor woman who often begged her friends and neighbors for food, and was thus disliked and distrusted by the community. Due to this, they accused her of witchcraft.
- Being Too Rich
Are you self-made without the need of a man or family to help you financially? If yes, then you’re obviously a witch. In the 17th century, it was believed impossible for a woman to be financially comfortable – or even stable – without the help of a man, which meant she had to be in league with the devil.
- Having No Friends
Are you an introvert? BURN HER! BURN THE WITCH! Women who were shy or had trouble making friends were often accused of witchcraft because they were easy targets. With no one to stand up for them, the trials were a breeze, and off to Gallows Hill they were marched.
- Having Too Many Friends
On the flip side, if you are an extreme extrovert with a whole squad of awesome women surrounding you, you’re also a witch. The famed Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, started this rumor after he happened upon a group of women chatting together and having a good time. He called them a coven and accused them of chanting incantations. They were executed.
- Being Too Old
Older women were an easy target for witch hysteria. Whether married or not, it was believed that only the work of the devil could help a woman get to an advanced age, and so seniors were often accused of witchery. Rebecca Nurse, a septuagenarian, with a husband, children, and many grandchildren, who was also a respected member of the community, was hanged for witchcraft because of her advanced age.
- Being Too Young
Are you starting to see a pattern here? Quite literally, no one was safe from the accusations of witchcraft in 17th century Salem. Dorothy Good, daughter of Sarah Good, was accused, at the ripe old age of four, of witchcraft. Her accusers claimed she bit them and attacked them like an animal. After being interrogated for two weeks, Dorothy broke down and admitted to whatever her accusers were saying. She was imprisoned for four months, an ordeal which left her with permanent and extreme psychological damage.
- Having Too Few/No Kids
Being married and having no or too few children was grounds for execution for witchcraft. The devil must have cursed you and your unholy womb with infertility. Additionally, if any of your neighbors who had a lot of children found themselves with problems, it was obviously because the childless crone next door had put a curse on them due to jealousy.
- Having Too Many Kids
Of course, on the other hand, if you had too many children, you were obviously performing witchcraft and stealing the babies that would have been born to the infertile couple next door.
- Being Kind to Animals
You better not let anyone see you cooing to the cute dog down the street, or petting the stray cat behind your house because everyone knows that people who are kind to animals are witches! Believing in the idea that all witches had familiars – animals that would help them in the devilry – this meant that any woman caught talking to or paying attention to an animal would automatically be assumed to be a witch and put on trial.
- Being Eccentric Or Loud
Talking to yourself, being different from the rest of society, or even being too loud and sassy was a surefire way to get you put on trial. Women in the 17th century were supposed to be quiet, calm, submissive, God-fearing Christians. If you displayed any kind of characteristic that went against these traits, you qualified as a witch.
- Being Able To Swim
The ability to swim was not as widespread in 1692 Salem as it is now. One of the reasons trial by water became so popular during witch trials was because it was believed that if a person, once dropped in water, was able to make it back to the surface, evil forces had to be at work.
- You Made Someone Angry
At the height of the Salem Witch Trials, people were accusing each other left and right. All it took was for you to upset someone, or make someone angry, or, in the case of Rebecca Nurse, accidentally bump into someone at church, and they would accuse you of witchcraft.
- You have birthmarks
Called the Witch’s Mark, any birthmark, or mole, or scar, or tiny skin imperfection you had was all it took for you to suddenly be a suspected witch. It was believed that through these Witch’s Marks, the witch would feed her family her blood.
- You Had Spoiled Dairy Products
During the Salem Witch Trials, something as simple as your butter or milk spoiling could qualify you as a witch. Essentially, anything out of the ordinary that happened in everyday life that the people of the time couldn’t understand was blamed on witchcraft, including spoiled dairy products. Several people claimed that their butter had gone bad in the presence of a witch on trial. This was considered evidence against her.
1692 was a dangerous time. Literally, anything could be misconstrued or misunderstood and that would automatically qualify them as a witch. To learn more about the witch trials, check out our blog about the weird tests they performed to prove someone was guilty of witchcraft in the 17th century.
10 Most Mind-Blowing Ways Christianity Stole
When Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, it didn’t come without controversy. The Romans saw Christians as hostile heathens who rejected the religion of their ancestors. But many of the customs practiced by early Christians were actually borrowed from the pagans they so despised, all as a means of converting the Pagans to Christianity. Here are the 10 most mind-blowing ways Christianity stole from Paganism!
1) The Number 12
The number 12 has an important place in both Pagan and Christian traditions. Pagans worshipped a number of gods, usually 12, but also 22, 32, or 36 depending on the region. Early Christians paid homage to Jesus’ 12 apostles and even today it is said that he will return to Earth with his 12 disciples. Likewise, early Pagans often built temples in groups of 12, with circular designs like Stonehenge (in England) or The Sanctuary at Corsepius (in Turkey). Today, Christians are encouraged to welcome Jesus into their lives through 12 steps programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. 12 is also considered a good omen because many people believe it has no imperfections.
2) Christmas Trees
Early Christians were called tree worshippers by Romans who noted their custom of decorating Christmas trees during holidays. The first documented use of Christmas trees was in Germany in 1521. The ancient Greeks and Scandinavians also decorated trees to celebrate the Winter Solstice, but it is uncertain if they were using evergreen or just hung ornaments on their trees. Early Pagans would bring evergreen branches into their homes and decorate them to bring light and life into the home during the dreary winter months. It has been suggested that Pagan cults worshipped sacred groves of evergreens, thus giving rise to modern-day Christmas tree traditions, but there is no hard evidence to support these theories.
If you’ve ever partaken in a Communion service, you’re familiar with its origins: Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding by turning water into wine. (The first documented Communion ritual was practiced in Alexandria and involved bread and wine.) The fish symbol appeared on early Christian tombstones and other artifacts as a nod to Jesus, who stated that he will make you fishers of men. But the reality is that the symbol of the fish finds its roots in Paganism. The Christian symbol of the fish, called the Ichthys, even gets its name from a Pagan God, coincidentally named Ichthys, who was the son of the sea goddess, Atargatis, in Babylonian mythology. Pagans worshipped the symbol of the fish, often drawn by two intersecting crescent moons, as a symbol of fertility, believing it resembled a woman’s womb, thus representing the monthly cycle.
In ancient times, humans used fire as a tool for cooking, keeping warm, and light. In addition to these benefits, fire also had religious significance in many cultures. It was believed that divine forces were responsible for providing fire to humankind and so certain rituals were performed to appease these gods. Fire rituals were performed by Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Hebrews, Incas, Native Americans, and many other cultures around the world. One of these Pagan beliefs is represented in Christmas celebrations where families gather together around a Christmas tree, which has lights adorned on it. Lights that, in ancient times, were actual candles, not the string lights we see today.
5) Easter and Easter Eggs
Pagans and Christians alike observed that eggs were a magical and unique thing: they start out in a lifeless shell and turn into a living, breathing animal over time. It didn’t take long for Pagans to adopt eggs as symbolic of new life, springtime, and transformation, while in Christianity, eggs, and Easter eggs, in particular, symbolize Jesus’ resurrection and emerging from his tomb after three days. Like with many Christian holy days, the holiday known today as Easter got its origins from the Pagan festival of Ostara, a celebration of the Vernal Equinox.
6) The Virgin Birth
Think Mary was the first virgin to give birth to a god, demi-god, or son of God? Think again! Virgin births have been around in mythologies for centuries before Jesus. One of the earliest mythologies of an immaculate conception was that of the Egyptian God Horus, borne of the virgin Isis. Other virgin births prior to Jesus consist of Zoroaster, Mithra (who’s birthday is also written as December 25th), Krishna, and the Tien-Tse (Sons of Heaven) in China, among others.
7) Death and Resurrection
Like the myth of the virgin birth, Jesus’ resurrection cannot be solely (or even primarily) attributed to Christianity. 5000 years before Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Egyptian God, Osiris was killed and resurrected (more than once!). Osiris’ son, Horus, was also killed and resurrected. Moving onto Greek mythology, Adonis, Hermes, Dionysus, and Herakles all died and were resurrected. Other deities who were killed and subsequently resurrected include Tammuz of Babylonian mythology, Zarathustra, Mithra, and Krishna. The latter of which was believed to be crucified as well.
8) Longer Days at Easter
The earliest Christians may have decided to celebrate Easter on a Sunday because it meant they could worship for longer. During some years, Easter would be celebrated on April 21st or 22nd, rather than March 25th—but Christians still kept their firstfruits celebrations by congregating in church. Pagans, on the other hand, held celebrations at night since they thought that’s when spirits were most likely to wander into our world. It’s no wonder that Christians started celebrating Easter sunrise services!
9) Sunday Rest Days
The ancient Romans had a day of rest on Sunday. The ancient Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Persians, and even ancient Jews had a concept of a day of rest. Some have speculated that Christians stole their Sabbath from Pagans, but it’s possible that all religions were taking a page from history.
The Christmas tree tradition can be traced to Pagan practices in Germanic Europe. Heathens decorated fir trees in honor of their god, Thor, around December 24—the same day that early Christians used to celebrate Christ’s birth. But the theft from Paganism goes far deeper than simply Christmas trees. The entire holiday of Christmas – you know, the supposed day of Jesus’ birth? – was stolen from the Germanic celebration of Yule, and the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Though it is widely accepted that Jesus’ birth coincides with Christmas Day, historical texts suggest that Jesus was, instead, born in the Spring, however, in an effort to convert Pagans, who were very attached to their holy days, early Christians adopted Pagan celebrations and renamed them.
Written by Vehemence
Greek Goddess – Canola
Cana Cludhmor (also known as Canola), was a Celtic Goddess of Inspiration and Creativity and inventor of the harp (Lyre), Ireland’s long-loved symbol and the core of traditional Irish music. Her story begins with something trivial: a lover’s quarrel.
As mythology tells it, one fine day, Canola had an argument with her lover, Machuel. Although she was a goddess, as an intermediary between our physical world and the infinite Source of All, she felt emotions just like mortal humans. So, like any mortal woman who’s had a falling-out with her man, Canola was a little…vexed. And the best way to deal with strong emotions was to get some air, so Canola went out for a late-night walk to clear her head.
She decided to walk along the seashore, hoping to calm down and feel the peace and beauty of nature. Suddenly, she heard beautiful, haunting music drifting over to her in the wind. It was so enchanting and compelling that she completely forgot her anger and sat down to listen more intently to the melody. She was lulled into a deep sleep as the music continued to wash over her, calming her soul.
Upon awakening in the light of morning, the music was still floating along, and she just had to find where it was coming from. After searching for some time she found its origin – and it was quite a surprise. The music was emanating from the carcass of a giant whale laying on the beach. The wind was gently strumming the notes across dried sinews still attached to the rib-bones of the whale. Even in the death of a beautiful creature, Mother Nature made something alive and beautiful. What a gift!
While sleeping, Canola’s mind, stroked by the wonderful notes, was full of marvellous dreams. Upon witnessing the unique gift offered to her by Mother Goddess, inspiration struck Canola and she was moved to try and recreate this wondrous, natural resonance. Canola, filled with creative intelligence, forged the harp (Lyre), Ireland’s national emblem to this day.
The harp is believed to symbolize the immortality of the soul and the eternal circle of life. Dane Rudhyar, in a 1922 lecture in New York City, said that the original, primeval harp was shaped like a bow or a half-circle. He also adds that the circle represents the unmanifest (the spirit world) while the half-circle represents the manifest (the physical world). These two shapes help us understand the eternal cycle of life.
Canola created the Irish harp, a unique, exquisite instrument that captures the haunting melodies of the universe, inspired by the perfect dance of nature. The harp, the Irish Goddess’ gift to the people of Ireland, continues to depict the eternal nature of life.
Canola is known as the patron Goddess of musicians and bards. Call on Canola for inspiration in your creative endeavours and look to her while practicing dreamwork and magic. She reminds us that the universe is made up of vibration and frequency and that we are all cosmic beings in this great journey of life, death and rebirth.
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Jet, Emerald, Beryl
Jet: protection, anti-nightmare, luck, divination, health
Jet is fossilized wood. It was said to absorb a piece of the wearer’s soul for protection. In ancient Greece, the priestesses of the goddess, Cybele, used it to curry her favor. Jet was found in pre-historic graves as burial gifts for fortune and to guard the departing spirit, so it passed on to the next life safely. It was burned by sea witches for divination and other purposes. In the Middle Ages, it was carved into the shape of a beetle for protection.
Jet absorbs negativity, removing it from the wearer and their environment. It is used to guard against nightmares and is placed under the pillow to ward off these bad dreams. Jet also increases psychic abilities (such as in divination) and medium abilities in contacting and conversing with the dead. Jet is also said to keep proper energy flow in healing spells and rituals.
Emerald: love, money, mental powers, psychic abilities, protection, exorcism, eyesight
In ancient times, emerald was thought to stand for the Earth. An odd ancient use is documented in Hindu writings to be used to protect against nocturnal emissions. In the 16th century, it was used to strengthen the memory and is mentioned in the works of Albertus Magnus as far back as the 13th to 14th century. Emerald was given to the possessed to drive out the demons.
Emerald can be used to draw love after enchanted with a green candle. It is used in business spells to promote sales and consumer awareness. Emerald also is said to increase the wearer’s awareness of psychic abilities. It is also used for protection. Emerald is often used as a gazing stone to relax the optic nerve, especially when the user spends a very long time on computers or other screens.
Beryl: psychic abilities, healing, love, energy, anti-gossip
Beryl is often used for so called “crystal balls.” In fact, the famous Dr. Dee, the astronomer, and advisor to Elizabeth I, had a crystal ball that was made of beryl. It was used for divination in the 5th century Ireland by the specularii. In the 13th century, beryl was carved in the shape of frogs to reconcile enemies. In the 16th century, it was worn in debates to gain understanding and to win.
Beryl has a variety of uses. It is worn for protection versus drowning and sea sickness and also to increase psychic awareness. It is particularly well-suited to scrying under a waxing moon. It can provide protection from fascination and help the user find lost items. Beryl is exchanged between lovers to ensure fidelity. It’s healing ability is most effective on the liver, glands and eye disease.