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"Graciously bestow upon all men felicity, the summit of which is the knowledge of the Gods." [Julian, Oration to the Mother of the Gods]

Category Archives: Pagan history

“A Witch In Love” (aka “Yuhee, The Witch”, aka “Witch Amusement”)

The Korean TV romantic dramedy “Witch Amusement” ran for a grand total of 16 episodes from March to May in 2007. The story centered on a young single professional woman in modern day South Korea who was derisively referred to as “manyŏ” (“witch”) behind her back by the people who worked for her.

The name of the “witch” in question is Yoo Hee, and the Korean title of the show was “Manyŏ Yoo Hee“, literally, “Witch Yoo Hee”. In Korean this is a rather clever play on words that can also mean “Witch Amusement” or “Witch In Love”.

The reason for referring to Yoo Hee as a “witch” is that she is seen as unfeminine and “cold”. She does not wear make-up and she always dresses in black clothes, and also wears glasses. She is also portrayed as pathetically unsuccessful in her attempts to have relationships with men.

The character of Yoo Hee (played by Han Ga In) is very similar to the Witch character portrayed by Kim Novack in the 1958 “Bell Book and Candle“, and also to the journalist/activist/feminist character played by Katharine Hepburn in the 1942 “Woman of the Year“. For that matter, all three characters show striking parallels with the real life story of Queen Elizabeth I, but with one major difference, for Elizabeth never married, and reigned as one of the most powerful and successful heads of state the western world had seen since the fall of Rome.

In contrast to the “Virgin Queen”, however, the three fictional characters Yoo Hee, Gil Holroyd (Novack), and Tess Harding (Hepburn), all end up surrendering their “unfeminine” independence to comply with social conventions in exchange for that ultimate goal that is the true heart’s desire of all “real” women: the love of a good man. (Don’t worry, I’m not really giving very much away by telling you this….)

As was the case with both “Woman of the Year”, and “Bell Book and Candle”, the lead character in “Witch Yoo Hee” is portrayed as proudly independent and highly successful. Han Ga In’s character is even a martial arts master who can (and when she feels like it, does) kick any man’s ass.

But despite (or rather, because of) her professional success and all around self-sufficiency, Yoo Hee is miserable and lonely, for, as a woman without a man, she is in an unnatural state. In fact, her greatest shame is that she has never had a second date. She has even programmed a list of “dating tips” into her phone to refer to during her unsuccessful string of blind dates (some of these dates turn out to be guys who lost a bet!):

  • Try to act cute.
  • Have a good appetite.
  • Act interested in the other person.
  • Try to find things in common.

Now, as I said already, just knowing that Yoo Hee will fall in love doesn’t give very much away. It’s pretty obvious where things are headed already by the end of Episode 1, and Episode 2 quickly removes any lingering doubts. Or does it? Let’s just say there is a lot more to the story than what has been (somewhat misleadingly) revealed here.

If you want to know more about “Witch Amusement” just check out the truly amazing website “dramabeans“, where two Korean-American women bloggers (who go by “javabeans” and “girlfirday”, and who may or may not be sisters, and/or criminals-on-the-run-hiding-from-the-law, and/or the same person,) provide detailed (and wonderfully snarktastic) commentaries on “kdramas” and other facets of “K-Pop” culture generally.

The cool thing, imnsho, about reading about “Witch Amusement” at the website “dramabeans” is that you have this hackneyed western cultural meme of the frustrated/liberated woman/witch being played out in a highly industrialized and in its very own and very strange way highly westernized country (and in a culture with its very own and very much alive-and-kicking ancient indigenous tradition of magical practitioners, most of whom are women), and then this all gets translated and reinterpreted for a western, English speaking audience by young Native-born Americans who happen to be young, successful professional Korean women who are obsessive fans of Korean pop culture. It is a cultural and sociological house of mirrors!

Personally I am very curious about this Korean word translated into English as “Witch”. I poked around and found two other occurrences of the word manyŏ:

사자, 마녀, 옷장 이야기 /
Saja, manyŏ, otchang iyagi /
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (by C.S. Lewis)

포르토벨로의마녀 /
Pʻorŭtʻobello ŭi manyŏ /
The witch of Portobello /
A bruxa de Portobello (by Paul Coelho)

My Article In Pagan Friends Webzine On Nazis and the Occult

Hey everybody! Check out my new article in Pagan Friends, the webzine that all the cool kids are reading these days: Hidden In Plain Sight: The Non-Occult Roots Of Nazism. The main point of the article is to show how the Nazis didn’t need no stinking Occultism to do their thing (and that those who claim there is a “connection” of some sort between Nazism and Occultism are peddling nonsense).

Charming and Witchcraft in Early Modern Scotland

In her Devices and directions: folk healing aspects of witchcraft practice in seventeeth-century Scotland (scroll down for full citation at the bottom of this post), Joyce Miller poses the question: “Why were charmers sometimes prosecuted for witchcraft? On the other hand, why were there so few?”

Miller is in something of a quandary. She wishes to insist (in fact, she does insist) that there were “intrinsic differences between witches and charmers,” but she finds that it is utterly impossible to keep the two separated. If two phenomena have large areas of overlap, as Miller concedes is the case with Witches and Charmers, then they can hardly be said to be “intrinsically different”.


In a future post I will try to disentangle all the zigs and zags that Miller is forced into as she attempts to to toe the party line while also trying to accurately describe Witches and Charmers in early modern Scotland. But for now I will just let her speak for herself:

The first question to address is: what was charming? Charming was one feature of witchcraft practice and belief, but not all charmers practiced witchcraft nor did all witches practice charming. In some cases one person’s charmer may have been another person’s witch. However, under what circumstances the questionable practice of charming could become the crime of witchcraft is difficult to establish categorically.

Witchcraft, sorcery and charming were all features of magic or preternatural power. Although magic had developed a negative meaning, this hostility increased as a result of witchcraft prosecution and theological developments, which stressed its irrationality and downplayed its cultural significance and relationship with religious belief. Since all three were aspects of magic, charming was therefore related to, and in some cases part of, witchcraft practice and belief, yet it was not entirely the same. It shared many of the same physical and verbal actions — the words and deeds — of witchcraft, but it was usually equal to, and opposite from, witchcraft. Unlike witches, who were labeled by others, charmers knew who they were and would label themselves as such. There was also a difference between the perceived source of power of the two groups and, very importantly, their intent. Witchcraft was demonic and malicious: charming was neither.

The authorities, and particularly the church, did attempt to include charming with the prosecution of witchcraft. In 1646 the General Assembly of the church attempted to extend the scope of the witchcraft act to include the charmers:

“Because our addresses to the oridinar judge for punishment of charming, it is informed to us that the Acts of Parliament ar not expresslie against that sinne, which the rude and ignorant ar much addicted unto; may it therfor please your lordships that the Act of the 9 Parliament of Queen Marie made against witches and consulters be enlarged and extended to charmers, or that such other course be taken as that offence may be restrained and punished.”

Throughout the period of witchcraft prosecutions in Scotland, individuals were investigated and interrogated for practising charming. However, at the local level, attitudes were varied. The two presbyteries that were examined closely demonstrate the variation in investigation and prosecution of witches and charmers that was seen in Scotland. The Haddington presbytery had a higher percentage of accusations of both witchcraft and charming — 83 per cent — compared to Stirling, which had only 17 per cent. Given that the estimated population of Haddington was approximately 1.75 times greater than Stirling this difference was quite remarkable. Eighty-seven per cent of those who were accused of demonic witchcraft were from the Haddington presbytery, and only 13 per cent from the Stirling presbytery. The figures for accusations of charming, however, demonstrate the complete opposite: 56 per cent of those who were accused of charming came from the Stirling area, and 44 per cent from Haddington. This illustrates that local conditions and habits appear to have influenced both the rate, and type, of accusation that was processed through the church rather than any national pattern.

The church punished the majority of charmers, but some were prosecuted for witchcraft if their charming actions were categorised as indicating demonic intervention. Local kirk sessions and presbyteries examined evidence of both accused charmers and their clients in order to ascertain whether or not the practice was demonic. But the church appeared to have great difficulty in deciding what to do with them. In October 1630 the Dalketh presbytery asked the sunod of Lothian and Tweeddale for advice about charmers, those who consulted them and also those who had been slandered with no evidence of practice. The synod replied, ‘those that are simple charmers and consulters suld be refered to their [own] repentance’. As for those who had been slandered they thought nothing of them. It would appear then that if the practiced was believed to be demonic, then civil intervention would be required, if not it could be dealt with at local level by the church and the individual’s own conscience. The whole area was clearly confusing. On some occasions the question of whether the practice was demonic or not, was decided by whether rituals had been used, and whether these involved the use of words and actions, either alone or in combination.
[pp. 91-92]

The issue of “whether rituals had been used, and whether these involved the use of words and actions, either alone or in combination” is taken up again by Miller a few pages on. The bottom line, according to Miller, is that if both ritual and words were used, then this could be taken as evidence of Witchcraft, as opposed to mere Charming:

The recurrent motifs or features in the charming treatments that were analysed in this may be categorised according to time, place and manner. The ritual could be carried out as a particular time of the day, week or year; at a particular place such as a boundary, crossroads, bridge or river; in a particular manner, perhaps in silence; or particular direction, moving sunwise, anti-sunwise or backwards. Further categorising motifs which were recorded included the use of words or spoken charms; the use of a particular type of water, or at a specific place; numbers; fire; the use of an object such as a shoe, mail, thread or belt; cutting of nails or hair; use of an animal; meally oats but occasionally wheat. Although charmers did not use the polypharmacy of orthodox medicine they still employed a wide variety of motifs.

Detailed research in local sources from the presbyteries of Haddington and Stirling between 1603 and 1688 has revealed almost 100 references to some form of charming. They have been examined for the use of ritual and words, either alone or in combination, or for the inclusion of other motifs. The use of a physical ritual was by far the most common feature, as nine out of ten treatments (92 per cent) included a reference to soem form of ritual or routine. Words were mentioned in 42 per cent of the charms. A third (38 per cent) used words and ritual together but in this sample, perhaps surprisingly, only 3 per cent used words by themselves.

Andrew Youl, who tied a live toad around neck of his sheep in 1646, told the church officials that he had not used any words along with this ritual. Nevertheless he was reprimanded by the Haddington kirk session and told that unless he stopped using the ritual he would be censured as a charmer. The Haddington presbytery decided that Adam Gillies and his wife were not witches because, although they had tied wheat and salt tot heir cows’ ears, they had not used any words and had merely been carrying out, in the words of the church authorities, an ‘ignorant superstition’. To a large extent these physical rituals appear to have been excused as having carried out through simple ignorance rather than deliberate transgressions. The use of ritual alone appears to have been regarded by the church and judicial authorities as charming not witchcraft. In this case the rituals or charming might be seen to have been superstitious practice continued through ignorance rather than outright deliberate, demonic practice.

There was some concern, however, that rituals could be used to conjure supernatural spirits or powers and were therefore still very much antithetical to Christian practice. As [Stuart] Clark [Thinking With Demons, Chapter 32] points out, the term superstition had a number of applications or definitions that were used by the church. Firstly, superstition was used to define that which was opposite to accepted religious practice. Secondly, it was used to denounce certain practices and habits as valueless, either because they were carried out excessively or in the wrong manner. In its third version, superstitions, or inappropriate worship, was associated with demonic worship. In general, its use was perceived as due to ignorance and lack of understanding rather than active rejection of the authority of the church. In 1581, parliament passed an act making it illegal to visit wells and participate in pilgrimages. In 1629 the privy council issued a similar proclamation. In the 1648 the Dunblane synod passed an ordinance which again urged the abandoning of ‘superstitious wells and chapels whereunto people resort’. It would appear, however, that the ordinary population did not respond immediately, or at all, to these proclamation. Despite the desire of the authorities to force the general populace to abandon these practices they continued to be important to many and so continued to be observed despite the threat of punishment. For those involved, an accusation of charming or ‘ignorant superstition’ was in many ways a better option than an accusation of witchcraft which might result in execution.
[pp. 97-99]

And, finally, here is how Joyce Miller wraps up her essay:

The remedies offered by charmers in the seventeenth century were as varied as the treatments prescribed by orthodox medicine, but both were founded on logical principles and experience. The treatments displayed a consistency of technique, belief and participation, which show that charmers and society had a solid cultural foundation for understanding the causes of disease and the efficacy of their healing practices.Knowledge and skill in charming was both passed on through generations and gained through empiricism, but the knowledge was neither arbitrary nor chaotic. The charms were founded on both cultural and religious or spiritual traditions; their similarity with pre-Reformation practice was certainly marked although their principles and origins are likely to have been even older. This does not imply that charming was simply an alternative religious belief system recognised by a small section of the population. On the contrary most of society practised and understood an amalgamation of beliefs. It was the organised church itself, not society, which incorporated certain beliefs and rituals for its own purposes and rejected others. The pre-Reformation church accepted pleas to saints or pilgrimages to holy sites to help relieve suffering, but the Protestant church removed these elements of worship or ritual as being too Catholic in meaning. It has been suggested that the Protestant church in Scotland caused a change in attitude towards the causes and cures of disease. The church wanted sufferers to turn to the comfort of prayer and personal contemplation and responsibility, rather than using charms or magic. The goal was to achieve an ideal godly state, but it is clear from the records that many of the ordinary members of the population were slower in abandoning a system which they had followed for generations and which provided comfort, hope and control. In the absence of access to professional healers and in the wider context of witchcraft belief, the practice of charming was mainstream, rather than alternative, medicine.

Witchcraft practice in seventeenth-century Scotland was complex and mystifying, both for the ecclesiastical and secular authorities and the population at large. Charming — or folk healing — was only one aspect of witchcraft, but was an extremely important one as it provided both spiritual and practical comfort. It provided society with a means to counter the threat of malicious witchcraft. Charming also demonstrates that contemporary definitions of witchcraft practice, in its broadest sense, were not fixed solely in demonic terms, but were at times fluid and dynamic. Indeed charming continued to be practiced long after the church and the law decided that witchcraft was no longer a threat.
[pp. 104-105]

Joyce Miller’s Devices and directions: folk healing aspects of witchcraft practice in seventeeth-century Scotland is chapter 6 in the anthology The Scottish Witch Hunt in Context edited by Julian Goodare, published by Manchester University Press, 2002.

American Idol: The Goddess of Freedom

Sitting atop the US Capitol building is an extraordinary sculpture by Thomas Crawford:Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace. The statue weighs in at fifteen thousand pounds, was completed in 1862, installed in 1863, taken down for restoration and repairs in May of 1993, and returned to the top of the Capitol in October of that year. More about the “Statue of Freedom” (as she is now “officially” known) can be found here.

A full-size plaster replica of the statue is also on view at the US Capitol Visitor’s Center, where it is very prominent. This is a good thing, since the bronze original is almost 300 feet in the air.

Thomas Crawford was a New York City native and an Irish-American. By the age of 21, though, he had taken up residence in Rome, where he lived for the rest of his life. The “classical”, that is, Pagan, influence on Crawford’s work is so obvious that it almost seems silly to point it out. Other of Crawford’s works draw explicitly on Pagan themes, such as Orpheus and Cerberus, and Paris Presenting the Golden Apple. Other works depict the plight of the indigenous population of the Americas, such as Dying Indian Chief, and Mexican Girl Dying.

I finally found a place that sells affordable ($36+S&H) replicas of Crawford’s Goddess of Freedom, as I prefer to call her. And it is the likeliest place you could think of: The United States Capitol Historical Society. Mine arrived in the mail yesterday! One never really knows how a 9 inch “replica” of a 20 foot tall statue is going to look until one sees it up close. In this case, despite my very high hopes, I was not in the least disappointed. She is truly magnificent. In my opinion, every red-blooded American idolator should have one!

Catholic “Liberal” Paul Begala’s Vicious, Racist Slurs Against African Religions

“We (therefore) weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ where so ever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.”
[The Bull Romanus Pontifex (Nicholas V), January 8, 1455. Full text here.]

For over five centuries, African slaves and their descendants have struggled to keep their religious traditions alive in the “New World”. They have prevailed in the face of unrelenting, and often murderously violent, efforts by their good Christian masters to “convert” them to the religion under whose aegis they were enslaved in the first place. The survival, against all odds, of vibrant religious traditions such as Santeria, Vodou, Candomble, and Palo, should be celebrated as an astonishing, almost inconceivable, achievement, and as a simultaneously humbling and inspiring monument to the indomitable spirit of these daughters and sons of Africa.

Sadly, however, instead of being respected and admired, the millions of 21st century adherents of African-Diaspora religions continue to face ignorance and derision from “mainstream” (that, is Christian) society. A case in point was the ugly, bigoted outburst by Catholic “liberal” talking head Paul Begala last Friday night (July 15) on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” show.

Begala wanted to express his (justified) disgust for the idea that homosexuality is a disease, an idea apparently embraced by Michelle Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, who works as a “Christian counsellor” at a clinic that claims to be able to “cure” homosexuals and turn them into “healthy” heterosexuals. Here is how Begals chose to articulate his disdain for Marcus Bachmann’s homophobia:

“Well, his position seems to be, I will practice a crackpot theory if people ask me to practice a crackpot theory. What if somebody comes in and says, will you try Santeria or voodoo or astrology or any number of other crackpot theories? Would he adopt them?

“And that’s what this is. The notion that — first of all, they call it reparative, like your sexual identity is like a muffler or something. You have got to take it in the shop and repair it. It’s a crackpot theory and it’s bigotry.

[“Michele Bachmann Under Fire”, CNN transcript here]

Begala is a Catholic, the religion that gave us the Inquisition back in the Middle Ages, but that today is more well-known for harboring, and otherwise aiding and abetting, an international network of serial child rapists. And it was the Catholic Church that provided the religious justification for the African slave trade, which was seen as just another way of spreading their bigoted, crackpot “gospel”.

The Strange Case of Emma Wilby and the Wise & Cunning Witches of Britain

In her book Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits, Emma Wilby starts out Chapter Two, on Cunning Folk and Witches, by saying this:

“The common people of early modern Britain possessed a wide repertoire of spells and rituals with which they could practise magical self-help, but in those instances where more sophisticated magical knowledge was needed, they turned to a magical practitioner. In contemporary sources these practitioners were referred to under a wonderful variety of generic names: wise man or woman, cunning man or woman, witch (white or black), wizard, sorcerer, conjurer, charmer, magician, wight, nigromancer, necromancer, seer, blesser, dreamer, cantel, soothsayer, fortune-teller, girdle-measurer, enchanter, enchantrix and so on. These generic names, like those used to define categories of spirit, overlapped considerably and were often interchangeable.” [p. 26]

So far, so good. But notice a subtle shift that occurs in the next two sentences:

“At any given time, the term to be used to define a magical practitioner would have depended upon the type of magic they practiced, where they lived, whether they were liked or disliked and whether the person defining them was illiterate or literate, rural or urban, Puritan or Catholic and so on. The same practitioner, for example, could be referred to as a ‘wise man’ by one person, a ‘witch’ by another and a ‘conjurer’ by yet another.”

Wilby has gone from saying that the different terms for magical practitioners “overlap considerably” and are “often interchangeable” to saying that certain of these words do in fact refer to different types of magical practitioners, albeit in a context dependent way. Notice how different these two positions are. First there is the observation that the various terms listed do not uniquely define neatly separable categories, but then this is immediately followed by the claim that, on closer inspection, the terms “witch”, “wise man”, and “conjurer” can be disentangled from each other if we know who is using the terms. That is, even though the same person might be referred to by different terms, this only means (according to Wilby) that different people are using the terms differently. The important thing here is that Wilby intentionally (or so it seems impossible not to conclude) ignores the question of whether or not the same person will refer to the same other person as both a “witch” and a “wise woman” (and perhaps also as a “conjurer”).

Wilby then continues as follows:

“These complexities make it difficult for a historian to settle on a working terminology. Many of these generic names have survived until the present day. ‘Sorcerer’, ‘wizard’, ‘magician’ and ‘witch’, for example, are energetic and numinous terms, but they have been so distorted and embellished by the twentieth-century imagination that, with the exception of the latter, they are now seldom employed by academic historians.”

This is a very strange collection of nearly, but not quite, random statements. What is the relationship between (1) the “complexities” associated with the various terms for magical practitioners during the 16th and 17th centuries, and (2) how “energetic” and/or “numinous” some of these terms might be today? And, moreover, why are we to believe that the degree to which a term is still “energetic” and/or “numinous” is relevant to whether or not such a term is to be “employed by [21st century] academic historians”, especially when the most “energetic” and “numinous” of them all, “witch”, is one of the primary terms still in use???

And why does Wilby make the bizarre statement that terms for magical practitioners became “so distorted and embellished by the twentieth-century imagination”? Are we really to believe that the “eighteenth-century imagination” was dispassionate and objective about these things, so that terms such as “witch” were in use back then in a way that was undistorted and unembellished?

Wilby then proceeds to reveal the true reason for the pathetically tortuous “logic” of the presentation so far:

“Given such difficulties, we shall follow [unnamed] contemporary scholars in the field and employ the following terms. Any individual who practiced magic in a professional capacity, whether for good or ill, will come under the umbrella term of ‘magical practitioner’. Those magical practitioners primarily associated with the practice of maleficient magic will, in the absence of any viable alternative, be termed ‘witches’. Those primarily associated with the use of beneficient magic will be termed ‘cunning folk’ — a title which, although popular in the early modern period, hanot survived into the present day and therefore is not overlaid with modern connotations.”

It is astounding that Wilby asserts the “absense of any viable alternative” for the use of “witch” to refer to practitioners of harmful magic, when she herself in the opening paragraph of the chapter told us that among “the wonderful variety” of contemporary early modern terms for magical practitioners were numbered “white witch” and “black witch”. Moreover, absolutely everyone (starting from today and going back to the dawn of the early modern period) has always unambiguously associated the term “black witch” with those engaged in “the practice of maleficient magic”, and “white witch” with magical practitioners who heal and otherwise are of benefit to others.

The problem for Wilby, and she is perfectly aware of this, is that the terms “witch”, “wise woman” and “cunning woman” (in particular) have been consistently used by speakers of the English language, from the 16th century up to today, as both generic and ambiguous terms for magical practitioners.

Later on in the same chapter, Wilby returns to the issue: “In early modern Britain the term ‘witch’ generally denoted an individual who was seen by others, or perceived by themselves, as being able to employ magical powers to do harm.” [p. 42] That this statement is, in fact, a lie, is immediately demonstrated by Wilby herself several pages later, when Wilby once again joins the issue in a section titled “Cunning Woman or Witch?”

“In a significant minority of records, the presence of a cunning man or woman can be identified with certainty. Bessie Dunlop’s case is a prime example. Bessie was not brought to court because she had performed maleficium, but because a local family had protested that she had falsely accused them of theft. She performed only good magic and her family had fairy connections. Most witch-trial records, however, are not so clear cut, and it is difficult to say with any certainty whether the individual who stood before the bench was a cunning woman or a witch. One of the reasons for this difficulty is the fact that there was a great deal of overlap between the two types of magical practitioner in the period. While historians often make a distinction between cunning folk, who performed good magic, and witches, who performed bad magic, in the early modern period this distinction was often blurred. Although some cunning folk had a reputation for being wholly good, a large proportion of them were considered ambivalent, that is, they could employ their magical powers to both help and harm. Christina Larner describes this dual nature in a Scottish context:

“The healer is a source of hope in the community. But this power is two-edged. If he should fail, demand extortionate and unecomonic returns for his services, or become hostile, then he becomes a source of menace and a focus for anxiety. The refusal of Canon Law to distinguish between black and white magic . . . regardless of whether it is intended to heal or harm, in fact reflects a peasant reality: that the healer can be dangerous.” (Christina Larner, Enemies of God, 1981, pp. 138-139)

[pp. 53-54]

After quoting from Larner, Wilby goes on to cite the 1608 case of Beigis Tod of East Lothian, who was accused of witchcraft on the basis of her reputation for being able to both “on-lay” and “off-take” sickness. Wilby also recounts cases in which people known as healers were approached by those who were willing to pay them to use their powers to cause harm. Sometimes such offers were (reportedly) accepted, while other times they were (reportedly) declined. Wilby also points out that it could be “good for business” for a healer if she or he also had a reputation for being able to “perform maleficium” — for one thing, it helped in collecting the bill! Wilby sums up the situation like this: “Given the ambivalent nature of early modern cunning folk, therefore, when we are presented with trial records describing them performing both good and bad magic, it is difficult to establish with any certainty whether the cited practitioner was a cunning woman or a witch.” [p. 55]

There is a huge problem with Wilby’s neat little disclaimer above: it is always (as opposed to only when “we are presented with trial records describing them performing both good and bad magic”) impossible (as opposed to “difficult”) to establish with any certainty whether a person on trial for witchcraft was exclusively a practitioner of beneficial or harmful magic, or of both. And it is always impossible, assuming one has some passing familiarity with and at least a modicum of respect for the truth, to claim that the word “Witch” has at any time during the last five centuries been used specifically to distinguish practitioners of harmful magic from those who practice beneficial magic.

"The More Women, The More Witches."

For now at least, this will be the last installment of excerpts from William Perkins’ Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft. To complete the circle, so to speak, this section ends where the section quoted in Part One of this series begins.

I come now to shew who is the practiser hereof, whome the Text principally aimeth at, namely, the Witch, whether man or woman. A Witch is a Magician, who either by open or secret league, wittingly, and willingly, consenteth to use the aide and assistance of the Devil, in the working of Wonders.First, I call the Witch a Magician to shew what kind of person this is: to wit, such a one as doth professe and practise Witchcraft. For a Magician is a professor and a practiser of this art, as may appeare, Act. 8. 9. where Simon a Witch of Samaria is called Magus, or Simon the Magician. Againe, in this generall tearme, I comprehend both sexes or kinds of persons, men and women, excluding neither from beeing Witches.

A point the rather to be remembred, because Moses in this place setting down a Judiciall Law against Witches, useth a word of the feminine gender [mecashephab] which in English properly signifieth, a woman Witch: whereupon some might gather, that women onely were Witches. Howbeit Moses in this word exempteth not the male, but onely useth a notion referring to the female, for good causes; principally for these two.

First, to give us to understand, that the woman beeing the weaker sexe, is sooner intangled by the devils illusions with this damnable art, then the man. And in all ages it is found true by experience, that the devil hath more easily and oftener prevailed with women, then with men. Hence it was, that the Hebrewes of ancient times, used it for a proverb, The more women, the more Witches. His first temptation in the beginning, was with Eve a woman, and since he pursueth his practise accordingly, as making most for his advantage. For where he findeth easiest entrance, and best entertainment, thither will he oftnest resort.

Secondly, to take away all exception of punishment from any party that shall practise this trade, and to shew that weakenesse cannot exempt the Witch from death. For in all reason, if any might alledge infirmity, and plead for favour, it were the woman, who is weaker then the man, But the Lord saith, if any person of either sexe among his people, be found to have entered covenant with Satan, and become a practiser of Sorcery, though it be a woman and the weaker vessell, she shall not escape, she shall not be suffered to live, she must die the death. And though weaknes in other cases, may lessen both the crime and the punishment, yet in this it shall take no place.

The second point in the description, is consent to use the helpe of the devil, either by open or secret league, wittingly and willingly: wherein standeth the very thing, that maketh a Witch to be a Witch: The yielding of consent upon covenant. By which clause, two sort of people are expressely excluded from beeing Witches, First, such as be tainted with phrenzy or madnesse, or are through weaknesse of the braine deluded by the devil. For these, though they may be said after a sort to have society with Satan, or rather he with them, yet they cannot give their consent to use his aide truly, but onely in imagination; with the true Witch it is farre otherwise.

Secondly, all such superstitious persons, men or women, as use Charmes and Inchantment for the effecting of any thing upon a superstitious and erroneous perswasion, that the Charmes have vertue in them to doe such things, not knowing that it is the action of the devil by those meanes; but thinking that God hath put vertue into them, as he hath done into herbes for Physicke. Of such persons we have (no doubt) abundance in this our Land, who though they deale wickedly, and sinne grievously in using Charmes, yet because they intend not to joyne league with the devil, either secretly, or formally, they are not to be counted Witches. Nevertheless, they are to be advertised in the meane time, that their estate is fearefull. For their present ungodly practices have prepared the already to this cursed trade, and may bring them in time to be the ranekest Witches that can be. Wherefore I advise all ignorant persons, that know not God nor the Scriptures, to take heed and beware of this dangerous evil, the use of Charmes. For if they be once convinced in their consciences, and know that God hath given no power to such means, and yet shall use them, assuredly they doe in effect consent to the devil to be helped by him, and thereupon are joyned in confederacy with him in the confidence of their vine hearts, and so are become Witches.

The third and last thing in the description is the end of Witchcraft; The working of wonders. Wonders are wrought three wayes (on hath beene shewed,) either by Divination, or by enchantment, or by Jugling: and to one of three heads all feates and practices of Withcraft are to be referred. Now if any man doubt; whether these be such Witches indeed as have been described let him remember, that besides experience in all ages and countries, we have also sundry examples of them even in Scriptures. In the old Testament we reade of Baiaam, Num. 23. who though he be called a Prophet, because he was so reputed of men, yet indeed he was a notorious Witch, both by profession and practise, and would have shewed his cunning in that kind upon the Israelites, if God had not hindered him against his will. Of the same kind were the Inchanters of Egypt Exod, 7. the Witches of Persia, Dan. 2. and the Pythonisse of Endor, knowne for a renowned Sorcerer over all Israel: and therefore Sauls servants being asked, could presently tel of her, as we read, Sam. 28.

In the new Testament, mention is made of Simon, whose name declared his prosession; his name was Magus; and the text saith, that he used Witchcraft, and bewitched the people of Samaria, calling himselfe a great man; Act. 8. 9. Whence it was that after his death, there was a statue set up in Rome in honour of him in the daies of Claudius Cæsar, with this inscription; Simoni Deo Sancto. And it is not unlike, but Bar-iesus the false Prophet at Paphus, was a man addicted to the practices of Witchcraft, and for that cause was called by a kind of excellencie, Elymas the Magician, Act. 13. 6.8. that is, the great or famous Sorcerer. Lastly, the Pythonisse at Philippi, that gather master much advantage by divining Act. 16. 16. And all these used the helpe of the devil, for the working of wonders.

Of Witches there be two sorts: The bad Witch, and the good Witch: for so they are commonly called. The bad Witch, is he or she that hath consented in league with the devil to use his helpe, for the doing of hurt only as to strike and annoy the bodies of men, women, children, and cattle with diseases, and with death it selfe: so likewise to raise tempests, by sea and by land, & c. This is commonly called the binding Witch.

“The Good Witch Must Also Die”

What they mean by "dialogue", Part Three

The Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches (representing “mainline” Protestants), and the World Evangelical Alliance (representing the Sarah Palin/Pat Robertson crowd) recently got together to draw up “Recommendations For Conduct” for Christian missionaries.

The “recommendations” begin with a preamble that outlines the “Basis for Christian witness”. The fourth point of these bases states:

“4. Christian witness in a pluralistic world includes engaging in dialogue with people of different religions and cultures (cf. Acts 17:22-28).”

In the passage of the Book of Acs cited above, Paul “engages in dialogue” with the Pagans of Athens by telling them, “you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” And then, in verse 30, Paul further clarifies what his idea of “engaging in dialogue” is: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

For more on the Christian conception of “dialogue” see these other posts from this blog:

And for more on Christian missionary activities in general, check out these:

"But especially the blessing Witch" ("The Good Witch Must Also Die", Part Three)

Here is how William Perkins ends his Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft (this is Part Three of a series; if you are just tuning in, there are links to the first two parts at the bottom of this post):

Everie seducer in the Church, whose practise was to draw men from the true God to the worship of Idols, though it were a mans owne sonne or daughter, wife or friend, by the peremptorie decree and commandment of God, was at no hand to be spared or pitied, but the hand of the witnesse first, and then the hands of all the people must bee upon him, to kill him, Deut. 13.6.9.

If this be so, no Witches convicted ought to escape the sword of the Magistrate; for they are the most notorious seducers of all others. When they be once intangled with the Devils league, they labour to inure their dearest friends and posterity, in their cursed and abominable practises: that they may bee the more easily drawne into the same confederacie, wherewith they themselves are united unto Sathan. I might here alleadge, that they deserve death because many of them be murtherers, but I stand not upon that instance, because I hold in the general that Witches are not to be suffered to lieu, though they doe no hurt either to man or other creatures, and that by vertue of Moses lawe, onely for their leagues sake, whereby they become rebels to God, Idolaters and seducers, as now hath been shewed.

Yet not with standing all that hath been said, many things are brought in defense of them, by such as be their friends and welwillers. First, it is said, that the hurt that is done, comes not from the Witch, but from the devil; he deserves the blame because it is his worke, and she is not to die for his sinne. Answ. Let it be granted, that the Witch is not the author of the evil that is done, yet she is a confederate and partner with the devil in the fact, and so the lawe takes hold on her. See it in a familiar comparison. A company of men conspire together in a robbery, by common consent some stand in open place to espie out the bootie, and to give the watch-word, others are set about the passage, privily to rush upon the man, and to spoyle him of his goods. In this case what saith the law? The Parties that gave the watchword, though they did nothing to the man, yet beeing accessories and abettors to the robbery by consent, they are theeues, and liable to condemnation and execution, as well as the principalls. Even so stands the case with the Witch.

In the working of wonders, and in all mischeivous practises, he or shee is partaker with the devil by consent of covenant: the Witch onely useth the watchword in some charme or otherwise, and doth no more; the devil upon notice given by the Charme, takes his opportunities, and works the mischief. He is the principall agent, but the other yieldeth help, and is rightly liable to punishment. The reason is, because if the devil were not stirred up, and provoked by the Witch, he would never do so much hurt as he doth. He had never appeared in Samuels likenes had he not been sollicited by the Witch of Endor. He would not have caused counterfeit serpents and frogges to appeare in Egypt, but for Jannes and Jambres, and other Inchanters. And in this age there would not in likelihood be so much hurt and hindrance procured unto men, and other creatures by his meanes, but for the instigation of ill disposed persons, that have fellowship and societie with him.

Againe, they object, that Witches convicted either repent, or repent not: If they repent, then God pardoneth their sinne, and why should not the Magistrate as well save their bodies, and let them live, as God doth their soules. If they do not repent, then it is a dangerous thing for the Magistrate to put them to death: for by this meanes he kills the bodie, and casts the soule to hell. Answ. All Witches judicially and lawfully convicted, ought to have space of repentance granted unto them, wherein they may be instructed and exhorted, and then afterward executed. For it is possible for them to be saved by Gods mercie, though they have denied him. Secondly, the Magistrate must execute justice upon malefactors lawfully convicted, whether they repent or not. For God approoveth the just execution of judgment upon men without respect to their repentance: neither must their impenitencie hinder the execution of Justice. When the people of Israel had committed Idolatrie in worshipping the golden calfe, Moses did not expect their repentance, and in the meane while forbeare the punishment, but he and the Levites presently tooke their swords, and slew them, and the Lord approoved their course of proceeding, Exod.32.28. When Zimri an Israelite had committed fornication with Cozbi a Midianitish woman, Phineas in zeale of Gods glorie, executed judgement on the both, without any respect unto their repentáce, Numb.25.8. and is therefore commended, Psa. 106. 30.

Warres are a worthy ordinance of God, and yet no Prince could ever attempt the same lawfully, if every souldier in the field should stay the killing of his enemie, upon expectation of his repentance. And whereas they say, that by executing an impenitent Witch, the Magistrate casteth away the soule; we must know, that the end of execution by the Magistrate is not the damnation of the malefactors soule, but that fin may be punished that others may beware of the like crimes and offences, and that the wicked might be taken away from among Gods people. But some Witches there be that cannot bee convicted of killing any: what shall become of them? Ans. As the killing Witch must die by another law, though he were no Witch; so the healing and harmelesse Witch must die by this Law, though he kill not, onely for covenant made with Sathan.

For this must alwaies be remembred as a conclusion, that by Witches we understand not those onely which kill and torment; but all Diviners, Charmers, Juglers, all Wizzards commonly called wise men and wise women; yea, whosoever doe any thing (knowing what they do) which cannot be effected by nature or art; and in the same number we reckon all good Witches, which do no hurt but good, which do not spoile and destroy, but save and deliver. All these come under this sentence of Moses, because they deny God, and are confederates with Sathan. By the lawes of England the theise is executed for stealing, and we thinke it just and profitable; but it were a thousand times better for the land, if all witches, but especially the blessing Witch might suffer death.

For the theife by his stealing, and the hurtfull Inchanter by charming, bring hinderance and hurt to the bodies and goods of men; but these are the right hand of the Devil, by which he taketh and destroyeth the soules of men. Men doe most commonly hate and spitte at the damnifying Sorcerer, as unworthy to live among them; whereas the other is so deare unto them, that they hold themselves and their country blessed, that have him among them; they flie unto him in necessitie, they depend upon him as their God, and by this meanes thousands are carried away to their finall confusion. Death therefore is the just and deserved portion of the good Witch.

FINIS.

The above text is found on page 652 of the 1618 Cambridge edition of the Collected Works of William Perkins.

“The Good Witch Must Also Die”

"A thousand deaths of right belong to the good Witch." ("The Good Witch Must Also Die", Part Two)

This post is Part Two of the series “A Good Witch Must Also Die”. Scroll down for links to other posts in this series as I get them out.

The following picks up immediately where the previous post left off. It is from Chapter Five of William Perkins’ Discourse of the Damned Art of Witchcraft.

Here observe, that both have a stroke in this action: the bad Witch hurt him, the good healed him; but the truth is, the latter hath done him a thousand times more harme then the former. For the one did only hurt the body, but the devil by meanes of the other, though he have left the body in good plight, yet he hath laid fast hold on the soule, and by curing the body, hath killed that. And the party thus cured, cannot say with David, The Lord is my helper; but the devil is my helper; for by him he is cured.

Of both these kindes of Witches the present Law of Moses must be understood. This point well considered, yieldeth matter both of instruction and practise. Of instruction, in that it shewes the cunning and crafty dealing of Satan, who afflicteth and tormenteth the body for the gaine of the foule. And for that purpose hath so ordered his instruments, that the bad Witch gives the occasion, by annoying the bodie or goods; and the good immediately accomplisheth his desire, by intangling the soule in the bands of errour, ignorance, and false faith. Againe, this sheweth the blindnesse of naturall corruption, specially in ignorant and superstitious people. It is their nature to abhorred hurtfull persons, such as bad Witches be, and to count them execrable; but those that doe them good, they honour and reverence as wise men and women, yea, seeke and sue unto them in times of extremitie, though of al persons in the world, they be most odious: and Satan in them seemes the greatest friend, when he is most like himselfe, and intendeth greatest mischiefe. Let all ignorant persons be advised here of in time, to take heed to themselves, and learne to knowe God and his word, that by light from thence they may better discerne of the subtill practises of Satan and his instruments.

For matter of practise; Hence we learne our dutie, to abhorre the Wizzard, as the most pernicious enemie of our salvation, the most effectuall instrument of destroying our soules, and of building up the devils kingdome: yea, as the greatest enemie to Gods name, worship, and glorie, that is in the world next to Sathan himselfe. Of this sort was Simon Magus, who by doing strange cures and workes, made the people of Samaria to take him for some great man, who wrought by the mighty power of God, whereas he did all by the devil. He therefore beeing a good Witch, did more hurt in seducing the people of God, then Balaam a bad one could with all his curses. And we must remember that the Lord hath set a lawe upon the Witches head, he must not live, and if death be due to any, then a thousand deaths of right belong to the good Witch.

The text above is found on page 638 of the 1618 Cambridge edition of the Collected Works of William Perkins. Here is a direct link to an image of the original of that page, and here is a direct link to the table of contents for the entire work. And here is a link to the full text of Perkins’ Discourse (scanned). Those three links go to pages that are part of the Cornell University Witchcraft Collection.

“The Good Witch Must Also Die”