We are soon to approach Halloween -31ST October! The night most closely connected with Witchcraft. In Pre-Christian times, this was when the beginning of Winter was celebrated. Halloweens association with witches comes from the legend that the Sun is so low in the sky on that day, the gates of the underworld have to be opened to let in the light. It was believed that when the gates of the underworld opened to let in the light demons and spectres spill out to plague the Earth.
Witches are constantly feared by all sorts of different people and for all sorts of different reasons. We hear the word “witch” and assume that it is to do with bad spells, trickery and evil. This is mainly due to the history of witchcraft.
For example: In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a bull declaring that bad witches did indeed exist, and thus it became a heresy to believe otherwise. This was quite a reversal, because in 906 the Canon Episocopi, a church law, declared that belief in the existence and operation of witchcraft was heresy. As a result of this, church authorities tortured and killed thousands of women, and not a few men, in an effort to get them to confess that they flew through the sky, had sexual relations with demons, turned into animals, and engaged in various sorts of black magic. There wasn’t even any questioning or investigation . No one stopped to think about the witches who did good things and any old woman living alone with just animals for company would have been a prime suspect for being labeled a witch in Early Modern Europe. Many people that lived in the villages and towns were convinced that witches made bad potions and cursed evil spells. Even wise women who told fortunes or made healing products and love therapies were suspected of being witches. Although some of those accused may have been practicing black magic, most suspects were completely harmless and some may have even been mentally ill but were still accused of being evil and witches real or imagined were persecuted in what the Church saw as an out-and-out war between good and evil and the majority of the accused were innocent people.
There are many different types of witchcraft but one of the most well known is Pagan/Wiccan Witches, which some refer to as “The White Witch”. The magic is full of love, peace and goodwill. White magic can vary tremendously but the majority will follow all sorts of different healing techniques such as Reiki, (healing through touch) Moon cycles, (Moon Spells) Love spells through candlelight and crystal healing. Many also work with tools such as pendulums, tarot cards and rune stones, all of which have dated back years and years. Some people today still declare such tools to be evil, such as tarot cards, which have been referred to as “The devil’s picture book”. However, tarot cards are seen as being hugely romantic by many painters and artists.
The general idea of the tarot stemmed from finding meanings through art work. If you are familiar with tarot cards then you may well notice how similar some of the images are to that of the renaissance period – one of the most romantic periods in history. Tarot cards have been around for years and first started as a form of entertainment. For instance, playing cards first entered Europe in the late 14th century, probably from Mamluk Egypt, with suits very similar to the tarot suits of Swords, Staves, Cups and Coins (also known as disks, and pentacles) and those still used in traditional Italian, Spanish and Portuguese decks. People would sit round tables and deal the cards. The first known tarot cards were created between 1430 and 1450 in Milan, Ferrara and Bologna in northern Italy when additional trump cards with allegorical illustrations were added to the common four-suit pack. Lots of people who use Witchcraft today like to honour the earth and nature as the general belief is that “God” is in everything and that God speaks through nature as he created our world and our rhythmic cycles, some people use the Goddesses of Nature (Nature spirits). This is a far cry from the witchcraft imagined by the Christian Church during the witch-hunt times and many good witches today are genuinely psychic and wish to do their very best to encourage and help people who are in need of guidance.
The man who introduced modern witchcraft, Gerald Gardner is often referred to as “The Father of Witchcraft”. Gardner was a British government worker employed as a plantation manager is Southeast Asia. In 1939 he returned to England and claimed to have been initiated into a secret group called the “Wicca”. He is known to have created modern Witchcraft. The witchcraft laws were abolished in 1951 and in 1954, Gardner published a book Wicca (Modern Witchcraft) called Witchcraft Today. This, and his other books were tremendously influential as they helped people to understand the nature of the craft and also formed the idea of the witch as someone who practised a pre-Christian religion.
Of course there are good witches and bad witches, just like there are “good” people and “bad” people. But ultimately witchcraft, if used in the right way (with love and peace) can be very effective.
Why not try some Halloween harmony and seasonal fun
Halloween just isn’t Halloween without a pumpkin lantern! One of the best things about pumpkin lanterns is that you can use the remainders of the pumpkin for soup! Yum.
Why not make an expressive face on your lantern to represent how you feel? Or if you have children let them do it, but make sure you wield the knife! Make the most of apples by apple bobbing, either in a bowl of water outside or by suspending apples from strings indoors so you can make home made toffee apples! You can thread unshelled peanuts onto a string and then hang it up for the birds. Fill empty yoghurt pots with a blend of birdseed, fat and bread-crumbs and hang upside down for the birds to eat. You could even make homemade treats for the “trick or treaters”. Giving something out on Halloween makes you feel wonderful and there is nothing quite like that seasonal feeling!
REFS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarot The world of wizards and witches-Paul Dowswell The Real Witches Garden – Kate West The world of Witches and Wizards-Paul Dowswell http://atheism.about.com/od/christianityviolence/a/witches.htm The world of Witches and Wizards-Paul Dowswell