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Reclaiming witchcraft


Eldorado
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Two authors and leading voices on portrayals of 'witchcraft', both modern and historical, discuss the changing image of the ‘witch’ in society and whether women are still being put on trial by pervasive social misogyny.

Who, or what, is a ‘witch’? 

The meaning of the word is ever-changing. Today, witches are upheld as strong and independent role models in children’s literature, and ideas around the mystical and supernatural are now seemed as far-fetched or harmless instead of the serious accusations they once were.

Witchcraft wasn’t always seen this way. The term ‘witch’ carries a long, controversial, and violent history that stretches back over centuries.

https://www.panmacmillan.com/blogs/literary/mona-chollet-and-sally-hinchcliffe-who-is-the-modern-day-witch

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Posted (edited)

This is a potentially interesting topic, but I think the interview of the OP was too focused on the authors pitching their specific books to promote much discussion here. Good for the authors, but not so good for a thread unless the thread were about those two books.

There was, I think, a historical "reclaiming of witchcraft" here in New England after the fiasco of the Salem witch trials in the 1690's. Witchcraft was essentially decriminalized by judicial reforms like the exclusion of "spectral evidence" (a witness testifying about visionary encounters with the defendant) and the long-term trend against confessions provided under torture or other forms of duress being admissible. Both were factors in the "successful" prosecutions in Salem. What can't be prosecuted is essentially not criminal, regardless of what the statute books say.

In that environment, over the next century two kinds of open witch practice became common. One was the gossip directed especially against women falsely claiming that they were witches. Elizabeth (Lewis) Blatchford of Barnstable Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, is a clear example. She is especially well-documented as a church lady, beloved mother and grandmother, good neighbor, and successful farmer. But gossip about her was spread under a pseudonym, Liza Tower Hill. The pseudonym reflects that she could have sued the gossipers in court, or shamed them before the church almost all the local white folk belonged to, had they used her real name. But the gossip wasn't putting her in any criminal danger, it was 'all in good fun.'

The other practice was women who embraced the witch persona. You can find some in the various New England town histories, it was a widespread "thing." My personal favorite is a tavern owner's wife who magically induced sudden thirst in men who passed by the bar. I think I've been bewitched that way once or twice myself.

This was also the time of the emergence of the Shakers, a religious communal movement whose farms are museums today. Some of their women were viewed as witches, and at least some of them seemed to like the reputation for magic, even if they might have preferred a different word for it.

Finally for this post, here in New England, there was a continuous practice of Native American - First Nations "magic" that spanned pre-Salem on into post-Salem times. This was especially respected for medicine, probably with a foundation in herbal knowledge. One of the whites who took the trouble to learn the Native craft was the black sheep of the Tufts family (for whom the university is named). He was a career criminal and among the few honest dollars he earned in his life was as a healer. But he, too, presented himself as a witch when it suited him.

Without the practical possibility of criminal prosecution, why not present yourself to the world as somebody to be reckoned with?

Edited by eight bits
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On 1/6/2022 at 11:46 PM, Eldorado said:

Two authors and leading voices on portrayals of 'witchcraft', both modern and historical, discuss the changing image of the ‘witch’ in society and whether women are still being put on trial by pervasive social misogyny.

Who, or what, is a ‘witch’? 

The meaning of the word is ever-changing. Today, witches are upheld as strong and independent role models in children’s literature, and ideas around the mystical and supernatural are now seemed as far-fetched or harmless instead of the serious accusations they once were.

Witchcraft wasn’t always seen this way. The term ‘witch’ carries a long, controversial, and violent history that stretches back over centuries.

https://www.panmacmillan.com/blogs/literary/mona-chollet-and-sally-hinchcliffe-who-is-the-modern-day-witch

"Witches" came into existence in the 13th caliphate, or presentday Spain.

 

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On 1/9/2022 at 2:44 PM, Abramelin said:

"Witches" came into existence in the 13th caliphate, or presentday Spain.

How so, do you reckon?

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I am a Hwiccan (wiccan).   I live in the ancient Kingdom of Hwicce (pronounced witch)  :D 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hwicce

It;'s been suggested, we were the original witches

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tribe_of_Witches

(But I am really an Anglian who thinks he's a Pict, so don't worry, I only turn people into frogs when there is an A in the month)


 

 

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32 minutes ago, eight bits said:

How so, do you reckon?

Then you would have to read "The People of the Secret" written by Ernest Scott.

Now that may look like an avasive answer, but it's not. One chapter of that book deals with the origins of witchcraft as we know it.

I have been thinking about copying that chapter by hand. I thought it was very convincing, btw.

Let's say that a Moorish sufi group sort of started it during the 13th caliphate (Iberia).

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If it was a none monotheistic belief system, yeah, it's a witch. Even if it's just folk magic or shamanism. If it ain't Christian it is evil. 

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1 hour ago, Abramelin said:

The People of the Secret" written by Ernest Scott.

Do you consider this source authoritative or reliable on the history of witchcraft? If this review is any indication

https://www.newdawnmagazine.com/articles/quest-for-the-people-of-the-secret

then it seems questionnable. Ernest Scott is a pen name of a British journalist, Edward Campbell, apparently an authority on circuses and training animals for performance. It is unclear how he acquired the kind of schoalrly expertise that would be needed to master the medieval history of Sufism in what is now Spain.

I wonder if maybe he didn't. Any thoughts you might have on his reliability would be welcome.

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Quote

He had in mind the formation of a vast encyclopaedia of all world knowledge (Taken from the link.)

@eight bitsPretty much the internet.

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When I think of witches, I can’t help but remember all those poor souls burned at the stake by religious superstition. What a shame.  But, looking at our ancestors and our world today, I’d say that we humans are just a bunch of effed up em effers, if you know what I mean.

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I knew a witch once I divorced her sorry a$$ and she took everything I owned. You can’t get more evil than that. She’s just lucky I didn’t break out some old family recipes on making her life miserable. She did that all on her own without my help. 

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9 hours ago, eight bits said:

I wonder if maybe he didn't. Any thoughts you might have on his reliability would be welcome.

My thoughts have been that it was actually Idris Shah who wrote the book, or had a very big influence on the end result.

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8 minutes ago, Abramelin said:

The book was published in 1983.

https://www.usg.edu/galileo/skills/unit07/internet07_02.phtml

Quote

The Internet started in the 1960s as a way for government researchers to share information.

 

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1 minute ago, XenoFish said:

 

1 minute ago, XenoFish said:

The Internet started in the 1960s as a way for government researchers to share information.

I'm pretty sure neither Scott nor Shah were government researchers.

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What personally amazes me is, that I bought the book in a second hand bookshop for maybe 15 guilders (around 1995), and that you can buy it now, second hand, for hundreds of dollars.

Edited by Abramelin
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25 minutes ago, Abramelin said:

 

I'm pretty sure neither Scott nor Shah were government researchers.

In 1983 the internet was technically born. So the idea of it already existed. That was my point and the reference I originally made was related to the article 8bit offered. 

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1 minute ago, XenoFish said:

In 1983 the internet was technically born. So the idea of it already existed. That was my point and the reference I originally made was related to the article 8bit offered. 

But the book was published in 1983, so I think it is very unlikely either Scott or Shah had used that newborn internet.

Shah owned lots of old books on Sufism. Back then you had to wade through thousands of pages when searching for info. It must have been a huge undertaking.

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53 minutes ago, XenoFish said:

That was my point and the reference I originally made was related to the article 8bit offered. 

Please reread this.

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46 minutes ago, Abramelin said:

But the book was published in 1983, so I think it is very unlikely either Scott or Shah had used that newborn internet.

Shah owned lots of old books on Sufism. Back then you had to wade through thousands of pages when searching for info. It must have been a huge undertaking.

I know what a library is. I knew the struggle of doing book reports without the internet at my finger tips. That didn't really catch on until AOL became a thing. Along with the glorious singing of dial-up 

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1 hour ago, Abramelin said:

But the book was published in 1983, so I think it is very unlikely either Scott or Shah had used that newborn internet.

Shah owned lots of old books on Sufism. Back then you had to wade through thousands of pages when searching for info. It must have been a huge undertaking.

When I joined the US Military in 1978, we were using a protocol called ARPANET. The protocol was a bit haphazard at times but it did work, I did not no that the public adopted it in 1983 though, I only used the network at work and I didn’t use what we call the public internet until the mid-1980s. 

Edited by Manwon Lender
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1 hour ago, XenoFish said:

In 1983 the internet was technically born. So the idea of it already existed. That was my point and the reference I originally made was related to the article 8bit offered. 

Ok, I got it now, finally: it's about Bacon wanting to write an encyclopaedea himself for a pope who assumed such an encyclopaedea already existed.

But as we all know, much of the internet is filled with garbage; any moron can write and post something online.

During the middle ages it wasn't easy to get (a copy of) some manuscript, any manuscript.

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Just now, Abramelin said:

Ok, I got it now, finally: it's about Bacon wanting to write an encyclopaedea himself for a pope who assumed such an encyclopaedea already existed.

But as we all know, much of the internet is filled with garbage; any moron can write and post something online.

During the middle ages it wasn't easy to get (a copy of) some manuscript, any manuscript.

The internet acts as a nexus of human thought. Knowledge, desire, ego, and insanity all in electric form. A metaphorical collective unconscious. 

So an Order wanting to create a collection of all knowledge is basically the net. 

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2 minutes ago, XenoFish said:

The internet acts as a nexus of human thought. Knowledge, desire, ego, and insanity all in electric form. A metaphorical collective unconscious. 

So an Order wanting to create a collection of all knowledge is basically the net. 

I know. But they didn't have that option during the middle ages. It must have been a monstruous undertaking to compile something like an encyclopaedea based on existant manuscripts scattered all over medieval Europe and the Middle East, aside of having to translate those manuscripts.

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