Copyright © 1999 Rosemary Ellen Guiley. All rights reserved.
abracadabra A magical spell consisting of a singleword, which was popular in medieval times to get rid ofillness, misfortune or DEMONS. The word is inscribed onan amulet (see AMULETS) or written out on paper in amagical inverted triangle, in which one letter of the wordis dropped in each succeeding line, until nothing is left.The evil is supposed to fade away just as the word does.The diminishing word technique is used in many otherSPELLS for the same purposes.
In medieval times, abracadabra was believed to wardoff the plague. The triangle was written on a piece ofpaper, which was tied around the neck with flax andworn for nine days, then tossed backwards over theshoulder into a stream of water running toward the east.
The word's origin is unknown. It is said by some tohave been invented around A.D. 208 by Quintus SerenusSammonicus, physician to the Roman emperor Severus,as a cure for fever. Some hold that Sammonicus merelyborrowed a formula that was much older.
According to others, the word comes from the oldAramaic phrase, abhadda kedhabhra, "disappear like thisword," or the Hebrew phrase abreq ad habra, "hurl yourthunderbolt even unto death." It is also said to bederived from the name Abraxas, the Gnostic god whoappears on charms against the evil eye dating from thesecond century. Another possibility is that it is the nameof some long-forgotten demon. INCREASE MATHER dismissedit as a "hobgoblin word" that had no power atall. ALEISTER CROWLEY, on the other hand, said it is amagical word of great power and that its true form isabrahadabra.
See also CHARMS.
Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. [A Witches Bible Compleat New York: Magickal Childe, 1984.
Abramelin the Mage (1362-1460) A Jew fromWürzburg, Germany, Abraham, or Abramelin (alsospelled Abra-Melin), created a body of magical works thatfor centuries influenced magicians, including ALEISTERCROWLEY. An expert on the KABBALAH, Abramelin said helearned his magical knowledge from angels, who told himhow to conjure and tame DEMONS into personal servantsand workers, and how to raise storms (see STORM RAISING).He said that all things in the world were created bydemons, who worked under the direction of angels, andthat each individual had an angel and a demon as FAMILIARS.The basis for his system of magic, he said, may befound in the Kabbalah.
According to lore, Abramelin created 2,000 spiritcavalrymen for Frederick, elector of Saxony. He also issaid to have aided an earl of Warwick in his escapefrom jail and helped save the antipope John XXIII(1410-15) from the Council of Constance (see POPESAND SORCERY).
The magic of Abramelin allegedly is contained in amanuscript, The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage,actually a collection of three books. The manuscript waswritten in French in the 18th century but claims to be atranslation of Abramelin's original manuscript in Hebrew,dated 1458. It was translated into English around theturn of the 20th century by S. L. MacGregor Mathers,one of the early and most influential members of the HERMETICORDER OF THE GOLDEN DAWN. Crowley borrowedfrom the book for his own rituals to master demons, andGERALD B. GARDNER used it as a source for his BOOK OFSHADOWS.
Abramelin magic is similar to that found in The Key ofSolomon, considered the leading magical grimoire (seeGRIMOIRES). It is based on the power of numbers andsacred names and involves the construction of numerousmagical squares for such purposes as invisibility, FLYING,commanding spirits, NECROMANCY, shape shifting (seeMETAMORPHOSIS) and scores of other feats. Rituals for conjuringspirits, creating magic squares and making sealsand SIGILS are elaborate and must be followed exactly inaccordance with astrological observances.
See also MAGIC.
MacGregor-Mathers, S. L. The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage. Wellingborough, England: The Aquarian Press, 1976.
Adler, Margot (1946- ). American Pagan, author andjournalist, Adler is the first writer to chronicle in detailthe emergence and evolution of Paganism in the UnitedStates. The results of her research, Drawing Down theMoon (1979; 1986; 1995), make up a meticulous landmarkstudy of a highly complex and diversified religiousmovement.
Adler's interest in Paganism began with an early fascinationwith ancient Greek deities. Born April 16, 1946, inLittle Rock, Arkansas, she grew up in New York City asthe only child in a nonreligious household: her father wasan atheist and her mother a Jewish agnostic. Psychiatrywas a significant influence: her father and an aunt arepsychiatrists; her grandfather was renowned psychiatristAlfred Adler. Her mother was a radical educator.
At age 12, Adler became acquainted at grammarschool with the pantheon of ancient Greek deities. Shewas particularly drawn to Artemis and Athena for theirimages of strength and power.
While a student at the High School of Music and Art,Adler made a religious search, visiting different churches.She was attracted to the Quakers and their practice ofspeaking from the heart, and to the moving, ritual splendorof Catholic Mass in Latin.
Religion then took a back seat to politics for a fewyears. From 1964 to 1968, Adler attended the Universityof California at Berkeley, where she earned a bachelor'sdegree in political science, and became increasinglyinvolved in political activities. She participated in theFree Speech Movement and was jailed for demonstrating.She helped to register black voters in civil rights activitiesin Mississippi in 1965. She was an activist against theVietnam War, and demonstrated at the Democratic conventionin Chicago in 1968.
In 1968, she entered broadcast journalism, first as avolunteer for the radical/alternative radio stations inBerkeley and New York owned by the Pacifica Foundation.From 1969 to 1970, she earned a master's degree injournalism from the Graduate School of Journalism atColumbia University in New York, and then went to workfor WBAI, Pacifica's station in Manhattan. In 1971, WBAIsent Adler to Washington, D.C., to manage its newsbureau operation there.
In Washington, politics and religion came together forAdler. She devoted extensive coverage to environmentalissues, which stimulated her interest in nature writerssuch as Thoreau. She saw a connection between environmentalissues and religion: the Judeo/Christian view thatit is humans' right to have dominion over the earthseemed flawed, and had led to exploitation of nature andthe earth. In contrast, Paganism and animistic religionsviewed humankind as a part of nature equal with all othercreatures and parts.
On a trip to England, Adler investigated the history ofthe Druids, and in the process discovered numerousPagan organizations. She subscribed to The Waxing Moon,which led to her introduction to Witchcraft.
WBAI relocated Adler back to New York, where sheworked as a producer and then hosted her own live program,Hour of the Wolf, which aired for two hours in theearly morning five days a week. Her show dealt with cuttingedges in such topics as politics, women's issues, thearts, ecology and religion. She hosted two other radioshows: Unstuck in Time and The Far Side of the Moon.
She received a letter from two Witches in Essex, England,who were selling tapes of rituals to Waxing Moonsubscribers. At first, the idea of Witchcraft rituals on tapestruck Adler as a joke. She replied that she might air themon her radio program.
The first tape she received was of the DRAWING DOWNTHE MOON ritual and the CHARGE OF THE GODDESS. Itevoked childhood memories of beautiful Greek goddesses,and in a powerful moment, Adler realized that theidea of becoming the Goddess as an empowering imagewas not only permissible but was being done by others.She began to search for such people.
In the early 1970s, contemporary Witchcraft wasrapidly gaining adherents in the United States. Importedfrom England under the aegis of RAYMOND BUCKLAND andRosemary Buckland, followers of GERALD B. GARDNER, theCraft was modified by numerous American covens. Adlerjoined a study group in Brooklyn run by the New YorkCoven of Welsh Traditional Witches. Another grouphived off from that coven to observe the Gardnerian tradition,and Adler followed. She was initiated as a firstdegree Gardnerian priestess in 1973.
Adler stayed in the coven about three years, thenmoved off in new directions. She formed a PAGAN WAYgrove in Manhattan, which became an informal recruitingcenter for persons interested in Witchcraft and Paganism.
A friend introduced Adler to New York literary agentJane Rotrosen, who suggested writing a book. Adler wasuncertain at first, then realized she was "on a nexus point... standing on a crack in the universe." The time forsuch a book was right. With Rotrosen's help, Adler developedand sold a proposal.
She spent three years researching and writing DrawingDown the Moon. She traveled around the country, interviewingabout 100 persons and groups involved in thePagan/Wiccan communities. Originally, she intended toinclude Britain in her survey, but British groups and individualsproved reluctant to participate.
To her surprise, Adler discovered that the Paganmovement is not what she had imagined: an integratedspiritual movement with environmental concerns. Somesegments did fit that image, while others were radicallydifferent. A decade later, the movement had becomemuch more integrated and concerned with ecologicalissues, in part, perhaps, due to the influence of books byAdler and STARHAWK.
Adler also was the first to note the connectionbetween the revival of Wicca and the women's spiritualitymovement. In later editions of Drawing Down the Moon,she chronicled the growing number of Pagans whoentered the Unitarian Universalist churches. For some 10years, she was on the board of directors of CUUPS, theCovenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans.
Though she acknowledges that she is a Witch in theWiccan religion, Adler prefers to call herself a Pagan. Shefeels the term Witch has so many negative associationsthat it may never be reclaimed as a term of female powerand independence. Furthermore, what is now practiced as"Witchcraft" has nothing to do with the heretical "witchcraft"of the Inquisition.
In 1977, two years into the book project, Adler leftWBAI. Upon completing Drawing Down the Moon, sheworked as a freelance reporter for National Public Radio(NPR) in Manhattan, then joined the NPR staff in 1979.She was priestess of a Gardnerian coven for five yearsuntil 1981, when she was awarded a prestigious one-yearNeiman fellowship to Harvard University. Following theNeiman, she returned to NPR in New York, but did notrejoin a coven or pagan group.
On June 19, 1988, Adler married her longtime companion,Dr. John Gliedman, in a handfasting held outdoorson Martha's Vineyard, Massachussetts. SELENA FOXofficiated at the legal ceremony, conducted within a magiccircle made of flowers and greens. Adler and Gliedmanthen jumped the broom, according to tradition. A receptionfollowed. The wedding was the first Wiccan handfastingto be written up in the society pages of the NewYork Times. A son, Alexander Gliedman-Adler, was bornin 1990.
In 1997, her book Heretic's Heart: A Journey ThroughSpirit & Revolution was published. It chronicles herupbringing as a "red diaper baby" and her involvement inthe radical issues and movements of the 1960s, includingthe emergence of Paganism. Adler sees that period moreas a ferment of ideas and ideals and of creative risk-takingrather than as an indulgent drug-and-sex party portrayedby most media. Heretic's Heart also includes perhaps theonly known correspondence between a radical student inBerkeley and an American soldier in Vietnam.
Adler has continued her work as a correspondent inthe New York bureau of the NPR. She travels widely topresent lectures and workshops, represent Paganism andwomen's spirituality at conferences, and lead rituals atgatherings. She has especially emphasized the importanceof ritual, not only as part of worship and rites of passage,but as an important way for the human soul to communewith and understand creation.
African witchcraft In African tribal traditions, witchcraftis part of the accepted supernatural landscape and isgenerally something to be feared.
Study of African tribal religions illustrates the Africanancestry of modern VODOUN, SANTERÍA and Candomblé.There is a fairly universal belief in a supreme God, whomanifests himself in light and brightness: a shining,snowcapped mountain, or the light streaming through asacred grove of trees. But such a God is remote, accessibleonly to the priests or elders. God inspires great awe in hispeople, causing them to fear and avoid his symbols, suchas thunder and lightning. The birth of twins is also a signfrom God, creating reverence for the twins' divinity andtheir isolation from the rest of the community.
The spirits of the dead, or the "shades," however, areregarded as alive and able to communicate the needs ofhumans to the divines. They are always about, participatingin daily living, evident in the rustling of leaves, dustspirals in the earth, currents in the river. SouthernAfricans divide the shades into two categories: thedeceased relatives of any particular family and the foundingheroes, male or female, who define a community,chiefdom or region.
To keep the ancestors happy, living relatives offerfood, drink and animal sacrifice. Offering feasts must beattended by the ancestor's kin, since the meal itself is acommunion between the living and the dead. Familymembers air and resolve any quarrels before the offering,since Africans believe that festering, unspoken anger isthe root of witchcraft.
For the tribal African, the power of evil is everywhere,abetted by witches and their FAMILIARS but brought on byanger, hate, jealousy, envy, lust and greedall the vicesmen observe in themselves and their neighbors. It caneven be brought on by laziness, as certain evil personsraise the dead to do their work for them (see ZOMBIE).Evil does not come from the shades, nor do the shadespossess a living person. Both are outside influencescaused by witchcraft.
Members of the Nyakyusa tribes describe witchcraft asa "python in the belly," while the Pondo people call it a"snake of the women." As in Europe, most witches comefrom the ranks of women, poor men and young people.Others depict witchcraft as a baboon, and members of theXhosa tribes see it as a fantastic hairy beast with exaggeratedsexual organs. People accused of witchcraft within atribe often confess, attributing their evil to quarrels withwives, children or co-workers. If witchcraft has causedsickness, no recovery is possible without the witch's confessionand subsequent goodwill toward the victim.
In his groundbreaking studies of the Azande tribes inthe late 1920s, Professor E. E. Evans-Pritchard found thatthe Azande believe witchcraft, or mangu, is a hereditarytrait found in the stomach of a witch. Such an abdominalcondition results in an oval, blackish swelling or sac containingsmall objects located near the bile tract. TheAzande admit not seeing this sac while a person is alivebut claim to have extracted it in autopsy. Professor Evans-Pritchardspeculated that the Azande were describing thegall-bladder.
Nevertheless, the Azande attribute any misfortune,however, small, to mangu. Many people who possessmangu do not know it; since the spirit of witchcraft leavesthe witch at night to attack the victim's spirit, such dirtywork could occur while the perpetrator is asleep andunaware. Nightmares are considered witch attacks. Sonsof male witches inherit the condition from their fathers,while daughters receive mangu from their mothers. Children'smangus are small and inexperienced, so childrencannot be accused of witchcraft until they are older. TheAzande also believe that witchcraft emits a small, brightlight, similar to that of fireflies or sparks, which is invisibleexcept to other witches or to witch doctors, who aretrained witch-hunters (see WITCHES' LIGHT).
Interestingly, the Azande attribute little witchcraftactivity to SORCERY. Sorcery is possible, but unlikelyunless a man has seen an adandalaa species of wildcatassociated with witchcraft, the sight of which is fatalorhas touched his wife's menstrual BLOOD or seen her anus.
Witches among the Azande call each other to meetingswhere they learn each other's techniques, discusscrimes and rub their bodies with a special ointment calledmbiro mangu. A particularly successful supernaturalkilling may be celebrated by feasting on the revived bodyof the victim. Their familiars, both animal and human,accompany them and goad them on to greater evil.Whereas European witches were said to prefer cats, dogsand toads as familiars, African witches choose owls, bats,hyenas, baboons, zombies or, among the Xhosa, "hairydwarves."
To identify a witch, relatives of the sick first consultthe iwa oracle, a rubbing board operated with a woodeninstrument. The names of possible suspects are placedbefore the iwa, and the oracle selects the culprit and hisor her accomplices. Then the family verifies the witch'sname via the benge oracle: chickens are given poisonwhile a list of names is read aloud. If a chicken dieswhile a particular person's name is called, that person isguilty.
At that point, a wing from the unlucky chicken is cutoff and attached to a stick like a fan. One of the sick man'srelatives takes it to a deputy of the neighboring chief, tomaintain impartiality, and the deputy carries the fan tothe home of the suspected witch. The suspect's reactionand apparent sincerity are most important; if the suspectclaims innocence and begs his mangu to stop botheringthe sick person, recovery may occur. If not, the procedureis repeated. If the suspect is a respected figure in the community,the relatives may announce they know witchcraftis behind their relative's illness without naming names.Their discretion in the affair appeals to the pride andhonor of the suspected witch, and he may stop the spellin appreciation.
Members of the Tswana peoples deny the possibility ofan uncontrollable mangu; for them, all witchcraft involvesmalice aforethought. They do, however, distinguishbetween "night witches" and "day sorcerers." Day sorcerers,called baloi ba motshegare, use magic to inflict harmthrough the use of herbs and other medicinal preparationson a specific enemy and do not practice witchcrafthabitually.
Night witches, or baloi ba bosigo, are mainly elderlywomen who gather at night in small groups and then travelabout the countryside bewitching the unfortunate. Insteadof wearing clothes, they smear their bodies with whiteashes or the blood of the dead. Admission is open to anyone,but the applicant must profess her zeal by causing thedeath of a close relative, usually a firstborn child. Initiatesreceive an ointment that allows them to wake instantly andjoin their colleagues when called. Some tribes say that aspecial medicine is injected into the witch's thumb, andwhen her thumb itches, she will awake and depart.
Among their alleged activities is the exhumation ofnewly buried corpses, which the night witches accomplishby using a special magic that makes the body floatto the surface. The witches then take whatever body partsthey need for their spells and medicines. Walls andlocked doors cannot keep a witch from entering a victim'shouse; once inside, the witch cuts her victim and insertssmall stones or fragments of flesh that will sicken himand eventually cause death unless treated.
Night witches choose OWLS as their familiars and rideon hyenas to cover great distances, with one foot on thehyena's back and one on the ground. Members of theBaKgatla tribe say that the witches make their own hyenasfrom porridge and then activate them with specialmedicines.
Although beliefs in night witches are widely held,many Africans take such stories lightly, acknowledgingthat no one has seen baloi ba bosigo at work. But the activitiesof day sorcerers are taken seriously, as many peoplehave seen the results of go jesa ("to feed"), or the practiceof putting poison in food or drink. In some accounts thepoison changes into a miniature crocodile, gnawing awayat the victim's insides until he dies in pain. But mostaccounts describe true poison, acting so slowly that suspicionsare not aroused until the victim is seriously ill ordying, and making identification and indictment of thepoisoner very difficult.
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic Among
the Azande (abridged). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983.
Mair, Lucy. Witchcraft. New York: McGraw-Hill World University Library, 1969.
Middleton, John, ed. Magic, Curing & Witchcraft. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.
Parrinder, Geoffrey. Witchcraft European and African. London: Faber & Faber, 1970.
Agrippa (Henry Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim)(1486-1535) Mystic and important occultist of the16th century. Agrippa's writings on MAGIC influenced generationsof thinkers that followed and became part of theheritage of folk magic practiced by witches and cunningmen and women. Like PARACELSUS, he was far ahead of histime, which made him very unpopular with his contemporaries.He spent much of his life in trouble with theauthorities of church and state.
Agrippa was born on September 14, 1486, in Cologne,and was educated at the University of Cologne. Somebiographers say he was born into a noble family, but theprevailing view is that he adopted the name vonNettesheim himself, after the founder of Cologne.
As a young man, he excelled in his studies. He becameproficient in eight languages and was a voracious reader.He was fascinated by alchemy and magic and delved intothe KABBALAH and Hermetic literature (see HERMETICA),attracted by the idea of achieving a spiritual union withthe Godhead.
His first job was an appointment as court secretary toMaximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Germany,who sent him to Paris as a spy. In what would become ahallmark of his career, Agrippa became embroiled in localpolitical trouble and was forced to leave.
By the time he was 24, he had collected a vast store ofknowledge, which he set down in a three-volume work,On Occult Philosophy (De occulta philosophia,) which wasa summation of all the magical and occult knowledge ofthe time. Agrippa maintained that magic had nothing todo with the DEVIL or SORCERY but depended upon naturalpsychic gifts such as second sight. He believed in the ultimatepower of will and imagination to effect magic and inthe power of mind over body; a jilted lover, he said, couldtruly die of grief. He said that man could achieve hishighest potential by learning the harmonies of nature.
Agrippa embraced astrology, DIVINATION, numerologyand the power of gems and stones. He described the astralbody as the "chariot of the soul" and said it could leavethe physical body like a light escaping from a lantern. Itwas said that he practiced NECROMANCY for divinationand conjured various DEMONS.
After writing On Occult Philosophy, more than 20 yearspassed before it was published. Meanwhile, Agrippaweathered one storm after another in his life. In 1509, atthe University of Dole, France, he earned a doctorate ofdivinity and lectured on the Kabbalah. He tried to win thepatronage of Maximilian's daughter, Margaret of Ghent,with a flattering work, The Nobility of Women, but thelocal monks denounced him as a heretic, and he wasforced to flee to England the same year.
Agrippa spent years drifting around Europe, formingsecret societies, holding various jobs until his temper orhis occult views caused him to be run out of town. Hewas frequently at odds with the church, for he consideredmany monks to be ignorant and narrow-minded. He wasunlucky in marriage: two wives died and the third ruinedhim emotionally and financially.
In Lyons he was appointed physician to Louise ofSavoy, the queen mother of the king of France. She wasslow to pay him and kept him confined to Lyons, impoverished,from 1524 to 1526. Finally, he was able to quithis job and leave for Metz, where he undertook thedefense of a woman accused of witchcraft. The chief evidenceagainst the woman was that her mother had beenburned as a witch. Agrippa destroyed the case against herwith the theological argument that man could be separatedfrom Christ only by his own sin, not that of another.As REGINALD SCOT describes in Discoverie of Witchcraft(1584), Agrippa triumphantly "delivered her from theclawes of the bloodie moonke, who with her accusers,were condemned in a great summe of monie to the charterof the church of Mentz, (sic) and remained infamousafter that time almost to all men." The humiliated inquisitorthreatened to prosecute Agrippa for being a supporterof heretics and witches. Ever after that, Agrippa was suspectedof witchcraft himself and was considered anenemy of the church.
Many fantastic tales surround the life of Agrippa, whowas widely regarded as a black magician. He was saidalways to be accompanied by his familiar, who took theshape of a large black dog (see FAMILIARS). On hisdeathbed, he renounced his magic works and the familiarby saying, "Begone, wretched animal, the entire cause ofmy destruction," whereupon the familiar ran out andthrew himself in a river.
Agrippa conjured demons and spirits, sometimesusing magic MIRRORS. He supposedly conjured the spiritof Tully to deliver an oration for him; the spirit was soeffective that it reduced the audience to tears. It was alsosaid that when Agrippa traveled, he paid innkeepers ingold coins that later turned into seashells (see MONEY).He became associated with the story of FAUST, the legendarydoctor who sold his soul to the Devil.
The most famous occult legend about Agrippa tells ofan unfortunate young man who poked about in his study.Agrippa, who was living in Louvain, Belgium, at the time,rented out a room to this young man. Once when Agrippawas out of town, the youth asked the magician's wife for akey to his study, saying he was interested in reading someof the books. At first the wife refused, but the youthbegged her until she relented and gave him the key.
In the study, the youth found a book of magic SPELLSlying on a table and began to read aloud. Suddenly therewas a knocking at the door, and a demon appeared. Thedemon demanded to know why he had been summoned.The young man was so terrified that he could not reply,whereupon the demon seized him by the throat andstrangled him.
When Agrippa returned home, he was horrified tofind the corpse. If he called the authorities or tried to getrid of the body, he would be accused of murder. He summonedthe demon to restore the corpse to life. Thedemon did, and Agrippa sent the reactivated corpse towalk up and down the marketplace, and then collapse inan apparent natural death. But the marks of strangulationwere found, and Agrippa was accused of murder. Onceagain, he had to flee town.
Agrippa secured the patronage of Charles V, whoappointed him to chronicle history. By then, he was disillusionedwith magic and considered it a waste of time.Theology, he said, was the only thing worth studying.Around 1530 he had published On the Vanity of Sciencesand Arts, an attack on all sciences and the occult, inwhich he took the view that knowledge only makes manaware of how little he really knows. The book angered theking, who had Agrippa jailed for a year on charges ofheresy.
After his release, On Occult Philosophy was published,and it appeared to contradict everything Agrippa had saidin Vanity. The apparent inconsistency further blackenedhis reputation.
Agrippa went to Cologne, where he got into troublewith the inquisitor. Not only was he thrown out ofCologne, he was banished from all Germany. He wentback to France, but his uncomplimentary remarks abouthis former employer, the queen mother, led him againinto jail.
Upon his release, he went to Grenoble, where he diedin 1535. His first work, On Occult Philosophy, survived tohave a profound impact upon the development of Westernoccult thought.
After his death, a spurious magical GRIMOIRE attributedto him, called the Fourth Book of Agrippa, served forcenturies as a popular textbook for country witches.
See CUNNING MAN/CUNNING WOMAN; WIZARD.
Cavendish, Richard. A History of Magic. New York: Taplinger, 1977.
Seligmann, Kurt. The Mirror of Magic. New York: Pantheon Books, 1948.
Wilson, Colin. The Occult. New York: Vintage Books, 1971.
aiguillette A knotted loop of thread, also called a ligature,which witches were said to use to cause impotence,and perhaps even castration, in men; barrenness in women;and general discontent in marriage. The aiguillette alsoserved to bind couples in illicit amatory relationships.
The phobia of the ligature, or fear of satanic castration,was widespread in 16th-century France. It was believedthat at the instant when a priest blessed a new marriage,the witch slipped behind the husband, knotted a threadand threw a coin on the ground while calling the Devil. Ifthe coin disappeared, which all believed to mean that theDevil took it and kept it until Judgment Day, the couplewas destined for unhappiness, sterility and adultery.
Couples living in Languedoc were so fearful of sataniccastration that not 10 weddings in 100 were performedpublicly in church. Instead, the priest, the couple andtheir parents went off in secret to celebrate the sacrament.Only then could the newlyweds enter their home, enjoythe feasting and go to bed. At least one physician,Thomas Platter, concluded that the panic was so bad thatthere was a local danger of depopulation.
See also MALEFICIA.
Aix-en-Provence Possessions The burning alive ofFather Louis Gaufridi for bewitchment of the nuns at Aixin 1611 formed the legal precedent for the conviction andexecution of Urbain Grandier at Loudun (see LOUDUNPOSSESSIONS) more than 20 years later. This case was oneof the first in France to produce a conviction based on thetestimony of a possessed demoniac. Prior to the 17th centuryin France, accusations from a demoniac were consideredunreliable, since most clerics believed that any wordsspoken by one possessed by the Devil were utterancesfrom "the father of lies" (John 8:44) and would not standup to accepted rules of evidence. As in Loudun, sexualthemes dominated the manifestations of the nuns' possession(see DEMONIC POSSESSION).
In his book The World of the Witches (1961), historianJulio Caro Baroja comments that "in the history of manyreligious movements, particularly those which have tostruggle against an Established Church, an important partis played by men who have a physical and sexual powerover groups of slightly unbalanced women in addition tostrong spiritual powers." By the 17th century, theCatholic Church was fighting mightily to stem the tide ofReformation through miraculous cures and demonstrationsof faith and by the TORTURE of heretics and WITCHES.Baroja continues: "At a later stage [in the religious movement]we find such people formally accused of being sorcerersand magicians ... and causing the women theyhad abused [or seduced] to be possessed by the Devil."Baroja finds Father Gaufridi to be the perfect example,concluding that if he indeed was guilty of sexual crimes,he certainly was not a Satanist (see SATANISM).
Nevertheless, Father Gaufridi was convicted by hisown confession following torture and the accusations oftwo nuns: Sister Madeleine Demandolx de la Palud andSister Louise Capel. Gaufridi recited his DEVIL'S PACT forthe inquisitors, in which he renounced all spiritual andphysical goodness given him by God, the Virgin Mary andall the saints, giving himself body and soul to Lucifer. SisterMadeleine also recited her pact, renouncing God andthe saints and even any prayers ever said for her. Gaufridiwas burned alive, and the two nuns were banished fromthe convent.
Two years later, in 1613, the possession epidemic atAix spread to nearby Lille, where three nuns accused SisterMarie de Sains of bewitching them. Most notableabout Sister Marie's testimony, in many ways a copy ofSister Madeleine's earlier pact, was her detailed descriptionof the witches' sabbat: The witches copulated withdevils and each other in a natural fashion on Mondaysand Tuesdays, practiced sodomy on Thursday, and bestialityon Saturdays and sang litanies to the Devil on Wednesdaysand Fridays. Sunday, apparently, was their day off.
Baroja, Julio Caro. The World of the Witches. 1961. Reprint, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.
allotriophagy The vomiting or disgorgement of strangeor foul objects, usually associated with someone possessedby or obsessed with the DEVIL or other DEMONS(see DEMONIC POSSESSION). Such actions also once wereseen as illusions or SPELLS caused by witches or asattempts at suicide by the mentally deranged. Most treatiseson possession written during the Renaissance andlater included the vomiting of unusual objects as an indicationthat the Devil had entered a person's body. Theobjects vomited by the victim could be anything from liveanimals, such as toads, snakes, worms or butterflies, topieces of iron, nails, small files, pins, needles, feathers,stones, cloth, shards of glass, hair, seaweed or foam.
In the demonic possession case of JOSEPH ANDTHEOBALD BRUNER, two small boys living in Illfurth,Alsace, France, in the mid-1860s, the boys often vomitedyellow foam, feathers and seaweed. During his exorcism,Theobald is reported to have drooled a steady stream ofyellow froth (see DEMONIC EXORCISM).
Simon Goulart, a 15th-century historian, tells of ayoung girl whose abdomen continually swelled as if shewere pregnant. Upon receiving drugs, the girl began vomitinga huge mass of hair, food, wax, long iron nails andbrass needles. In another account, Goulart says a mannamed William, succumbing to the fervent prayers of hismaster's wife, Judith, began vomiting the entire front partof a pair of shepherd's trousers, a serge jacket, stones, awoman's peruke (hairpiece), spools of thread, needles anda peacock feather. William claimed that the Devil hadplaced the items in his throat. Finally, Goulart relates thecase of 30 children in Amsterdam in 1566 who becamefrenzied, vomiting pins, needles, thimbles, bits of clothand pieces of broken jugs and glass. Efforts by doctors,exorcists and sorcerers had no effect, and the childrensuffered recurrent attacks.
Alrunes In German and Scandinavian myth, theAlrunes are sorceresses or female DEMONS who canchange shape; they are believed to be the mothers of theHuns. As late as the 19th century in some rural areas,they were personified by small statues, which were keptin the home, clothed and made offerings of food anddrink. It was believed that the Alrunes could divine thefuture by responding to questions with motions of thehead. If the statues were not properly cared for, they weresaid to cry out, which would bring great misfortune to thehousehold.
altar Elevated place where religious ceremonies areconducted and where offerings are made to a deity ordeities. The altar has ancient associations with the GODDESSand Mother Earth, who rule the wheel of birth-death-rebirth.
In contemporary Witchcraft and Paganism, the altar isalways placed within a MAGIC CIRCLE. It usually faceseither east or north, depending on the tradition and practicesof the COVEN. There are no set rules in the Craft forthe construction of the altar. If the ceremonies take placeout of doors, rocks or tree stumps may be used. Indoors,the altar may be a table, a wooden box or a board placedon boxes or bricks. Whatever the form or materials, thealtar should not contain conductive metals such as ironor steel, since they could interfere with the energy of theritual tools made of iron or steel (see WITCHES' TOOLS).Since many covens meet in homes or apartments wherespace is at a premium, the altar may not be permanentbut erected only during ceremonies.
The objects of ritual and worship placed on the altarvary, depending upon the practices of the coven and therituals to be performed. They are: an athame (a black-handledknife that is the Witch's primary magical tool), awhite-handled knife, a sword, a wand, CANDLES, a cup orgoblet of wine, anointing OILS, dishes for SALT and WATER,a necklace without beginning or end, a censer, BELLS,scourges, dishes for offering food and drink to the deitiesand images of the deities, such as figurines, wax statuesor drawings. If a broom (see BROOMS) and CAULDRON areneeded in rituals, they are placed on either side of thealtar.
The altar is never used for blood SACRIFICE, which isprohibited in contemporary Witchcraft and Paganism.
In the GREAT RITE, which is actual or symbolic ritualsex, the body of the high priestess is considered an altarof the sacred forces of life, which echoes back to theancient connection of altar to the Mother Goddess. Thisis not to be confused with, nor equated with, other practices,such as Satanism, in which a naked woman sometimesserves as an altar as an object of degradation. Nakedgirls and women reportedly served as altars in the BLACKMASS in 17th-century France.
During the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance,it was commonly believed that at witches' SABBATS,the woman who was high sorceress or high priestessserved as both living altar and sacrifice to the DEVIL. "Onher loins a demon performed Mass, pronounced the Credo,deposited the offertory of the faithful," observes historianJules Michelet in Satanism and Witchcraft. According toMichelet, the eucharist at these sabbats consisted of a cakebaked upon the altar of the woman: "It was her life, herdeath, they ate. The morsel was impregnated already withthe savour of her burning flesh."
These accounts of sabbats were extracted under TORTUREand must be viewed as fiction to satisfy inquisitors.
Buckland, Raymond. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1986.
Crowley, Vivianne. Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Millennium. Revised ed. London: Thorsons/Harper Collins, 1996.
Farrar, Stewart. What Witches Do: A Modern Coven Revealed. Custer, Wash.: Phoenix Publishing Co., 1983.
amber A yellow gold, fossilized resin with electricalproperties, highly prized since prehistoric times and wornas jewelry to protect against witchcraft, SORCERY and POISONS.Only the pearl is older than amber in use as jewelryand AMULETS. Amber was heavily traded by the Phoenicians.The ancient Romans used it to cure headaches andthroat infections, and considered a phallus made of amberto be the ultimate protection against the EVIL EYE.
Amber also is considered a bringer of good luck and aprotector of health. It is believed to help women in labor,to keep a person cool in the hot sun and to remedy failingeyesight, earaches and a host of intestinal and kidney ailments.Jet, or black amber, has similar properties. In Iceland,jet serves as a protective amulet. In medievalEurope, jet was burned to drive away evil spirits.
Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. A Witches Bible Compleat. New York: Magickal Childe, 1984.
amulets Objects imbued with magical properties thatprotect against bad luck, illness and evil. Amulets are universaland are answers to age-old needs: to be healthy; tobe virile and fertile; to be powerful and successful; tohave good fortune. To ancient humans, these needs werecontrolled by the invisible forces of good and evil.PRAYERS, SACRIFICES and offerings induced the good spiritsto grant blessings; amulets prevented the evil spirits fromtaking them away.
Originally, amulets were natural objects whoseunusual shapes or colors attracted attention. The magicalproperties of such objects were presumed to be inherent.As civilization advanced, amulets became more diverse.They were fashioned into animal shapes, symbols, RINGS,seals and plaques, and were imbued with magical powerwith inscriptions or SPELLS (see ABRACADABRA).
The term amulet comes from either the Latin wordamuletum or the Old Latin term amoletum, which means"means of defense." The Roman naturalist, Pliny, definedthree basic types of amulets: those offering protectionagainst trouble and adversity; those providing a medicalor prophylactic treatment; and substances used in medicine.Within these three general categories are many subdivisions,for no one amulet is broadly multipurpose.Amulets with inscriptions are also called CHARMS. Anamulet typically is worn on the bodyusually hungaround the neckbut some amulets guard tombs, homesand buildings.
The ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Arabsand Hebrews placed great importance in amulets. TheEgyptians used them everywhere. The frog protected fertility;ankhs were linked to everlasting life and generation;the udjat, or eye of Horus, was for good health,comfort and protection against evil; the scarab beetle wasfor resurrection after death and protection against evilmagic. Some Egyptian amulets are huge: a stone beetlemounted on a pedestal at Karnak (now at the BritishMuseum) measures five feet long by three feet wide, andweighs more than two tons.
The Assyrians and Babylonians used cylinder sealsthat were imbedded with semiprecious and preciousstones, each stone having its own unique magical powers(see STONES). Various animal shapes served as amulets;for example, the ram for virility, and the bull for virilityand strength.
The Arabs gathered dust from tombs and carried it inlittle sacks as protection against evil. They also worepieces of paper on which were written prayers, spells,magical names or the highly powerful attributes of God,such as "the compassionate" and "the forgiver."
Hebrews wore crescent moons to ward off the EVIL EYEand attached BELLS to their clothing to ward off evil spirits.
The natives of the west coast of Africa carry amuletswhich Western explorers named fetishes (see FETISH). Afetish consists of a pouch or box of "medicine" such asplants, fruits or vegetables, animal hair, paws, dung or livers,snake heads, SPITTLE and URINE. Natives believe thatthe fetish also contains a god or spirit who will help thewearer of the fetish obtain his or her desire.
Two amuletic symbols that are nearly universalthroughout history are eyes and phallic symbols. Eyesprotect against evil spirits and are found on many tombsand walls, and on utensils and jewelry. The phallic symbol,as represented by horns and hands, protects againstthe evil eye.
The names of God and gods, and magical words andnumbers, have provided amuletic protection since antiquity;they were particularly popular from the Renaissanceto the early 19th century, when the GRIMOIRES,books of magical instruction, were written. In MAGIC,using the name of a deity taps into divine power. In theOld Testament, the Hebrews gave the personal name ofGod as a four-letter word called the tetragrammaton,transliterated as YHWH and pronounced "Yahweh."This name appeared in different spellings on manyamulets and TALISMANS to help magicians conjureDEMONS and protect them from attack by the spirits (seeNAMES OF POWER).
Some magical words and numbers are arranged in patternsof squares. One of the best known of these is the"Sator square":
S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S
Although numerous attempts have been made totranslate the Sator square into something that makessense, it remains nonsensical. It was inscribed on wallsand vessels as early as ancient Rome and was consideredan amulet against SORCERY, poisonous air, colic and pestilence,and for protecting cow's milk from witchcraft.
Holy books such as the Koran, Torah and Bible areconsidered to have protective powers. Bits of parchmentwith scripture quotes, carried in leather pouches or silverboxes, are amulets in various religions. Ancient paganswore figurines of their gods as amulets. This custom wasabsorbed into the Catholic Church.
In Wicca, the most powerful amulet is the silver pentacle,the religious symbol of the Craft (see PENTACLE ANDPENTAGRAM). SILVER in general is held to have amuleticproperties and is used in jewelry along with various crystalsand gems. The sign of the pentacle, called a pentagram,is traced in the air in rituals done to protect sacredsites, homes and other places. Other amulets are madefrom herbs and various ingredients, which are placed in acharm bag (also called a GRIS-GRIS).
Budge, E. A. Wallis. Amulets and Superstitions. 1930. Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1978.
Lockhart, J. G. Curses, Lucks and Talismans. 1938. Reprint, Detroit: Single Tree Press, 1971.
Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.
Anderson, Victor The cofounder of the Feri (formerlyFaery) Tradition of Witchcraft was born shortly after theturn of the 20th century in New Mexico. When he was ayoung child, his family moved to Bend, Oregon. An uncorrectedcondition or ailment left him nearly blind for life.
In Oregon, Anderson met and was initiated at aboutage nine into the Craft by Witches who called themselvesfaeries. He came upon a small, old woman sitting nakedin the center of a circle alongside brass bowls filled withherbs (see MAGIC CIRCLE). She told him he was a Witch.Instinctively, he took off his clothes and was sexually initiated.He experienced a vision, which he could seeclearly despite his nearblindness, in which he floated inblack space, holding on to the woman (who became theGODDESS), until he suddenly found himself in a junglelikesetting under a vast sky filled with stars and a greenmoon. Coming toward him was the HORNED GOD, a beautifuland powerful man, yet effeminate, with an erectphallus. His head was horned, and from his head came ablue flame. After some communications with the deities,the vision vanished and Anderson returned to the present.He sat in the circle with the old woman and wastaught the ritual use of the herbs and teas in the brassbowls. She washed him in butter, oil and SALT. He dressedand returned home.
Anderson worked in a COVEN; most of the covenershailed from the American South and practiced a type ofWitchcraft (there were no "traditions" then) that was notso much a religion but more a "devotional science," a wayof living that emphasized harmony with nature, MAGIC,celebration, music and ecstatic dancing. They reveredPagan deities, which they called "The Old Gods" and"The Old Powers," but did not have the developed theologiesof more modern Craft traditions.
Anderson married a northern Alabama woman, Cora,who came from a family of Christians who practiced folkmagic. In the 1950s the Andersons broke up a fistfightbetween their only son and a neighbor boy. The boy, whoyears later changed his name to GWYDION PENDDERWEN,became a good friend of the family and was initiated intoWitchcraft by the Andersons. The publication of GERALDB. GARDNER'S book, Witchcraft Today, inspired Anderson toform his own coven. He and Pendderwen cofounded andwrote most of the rituals for the Faery Tradition, namedafter the Faery Witches Anderson worked with as a child.After Pendderwen's meeting with Alexandrian-traditionWitches in England, he and Anderson incorporated materialfrom the Alexandrian BOOK OF SHADOWS into theFaery Tradition, later renamed Feri.
Anderson, who has lived with his wife in the Bay Areaof California since the 1960s, is the author of a book ofCraft poems, Thorns of the Blood Rose.
See also STARHAWK.
anointing oils See OILS.
apples Apples, cultivated in Britain as early as 3000B.C., have had a long association with MAGIC, WITCHES andgoddesses. Magic apple lands, whose fruit gave eternallife, were cultivated by various Western pagan goddesses,among them the Greek Hera, the Scandinavian Idun(Idhunn), the Teutonic Freya and the Norse Hel, Queenof the Underworld. In Iroquois myth, the apple is the centraltree of heaven. In Christianity, the apple offered Eveby the serpent is the fruit of life but becomes equatedwith sin.
Games and DIVINATION with apples were part of theCeltic/Druidic harvest festival of Samhain (All Hallow'sEve), now celebrated on October 31 (see WHEEL OF THEYEAR). A surviving custom is the dunking for apples onthis night. According to another custom, peeling an applein front of a candlelit mirror on Samhain will reveal animage of one's future spouse.
Magical fermented cider may have been used in otherpagan rites. In parts of England, another name for strongcider is witches' brew. Apples and apple peel are used indivination methods common in the British Isles.
In English lore, the apple tree is synonymous withenchantment and associated with figures in the Arthurianlegends. Arthur, upon being mortally wounded, was spiritedby three fairy queens to the magical place of Avalon,"Isle of the Apples" or "appleland," ruled by MORGAN LEFAY, the crone or Mother Death aspect of the Triple Goddess.Arthur's knight Lancelot fell asleep under a graftedapple tree and was carried off by four fairy queens. QueenGuinevere gave an apple to St. Patrick, who died; she wasaccused of WITCHCRAFT and condemned to burn at thestake, but was rescued by Lancelot.
Witches who wished to bewitch or poison others wereoften said to use apples, as in the folktale of Snow White,who was put to sleep by the poisoned apple of the blackwitch-queen. In 1657 Richard Jones, a 12-year-old boy inShepton Mallet in the county of Somerset in England, wassaid to be bewitched by a girl who gave him an apple.Jones suffered fits, and neighbors said they saw him flyover his garden wall. The girl, Jane Brooks, was chargedwith witchcraft, convicted and hanged on March 26,1658.
According to English folklore, it's bad luck to pick allthe apples in a harvest: some must be left for the FAIRIES.
The apple is a love charm in VODOUN, and in English,Danish and German folklore.
See DEMONIC POSSESSION.
Leach, Maria, ed., and Jerome Fried, assoc. ed. Funk & Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.
Opie, Iona and Moira Tatem. A Dictionary of Superstitions. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.