|A portrait of Queen Elizabeth I|
But then came one book which calmed the situation down - The Discoverie of Witchcraft whose author is Reginald Scot. It was among the first works which took on a rational attitude lead people to question their superstitious notions of witchcraft. Though it didn't have a long reputation since King James IV of Scotland (who became the king of England in 1603 and took on the title of James I of England) ordered every copy to be burnt. His mother, Mary, Queen of Scots was all for death penalties for Witches and realized her ideas by killing about 200 Witches per year (in Scotland that is). His mother's ideas influenced him and obviously had them in mind when he gave out the aforementioned order. That same James wrote a treatise on demonology and witchcraft, after which he became the patron to witch hunters.
|A portrait of King James I|
In time, people started believing less and less in the verity of all the negative allegations regarding Witches, but they also started doubting their existence. Though there were a few individuals such as Joseph Glanvil who tried to prove to people that Witches really did exist and that they were malicious. He wrote these ideas in his book entitled Sadducismus Triumphatus. Proof of this disbelief is the trial of Jane Wenharn from 1711. This woman was accused of witchcraft, but the judge acquitted her of all claims. This case is thought to be the last witchcraft trial in England.
|A portrait of King George II|
Little by little, people got a bit more serious about witchcraft. Proof of this is the book Del Congresso Nottorno delle Lammie (On the Nocturnal Meetings of Witches) whose author is Girolamo Tartarotti. This book was revolutionary because it was the first one ever to look at witchcraft as a tradition. What Tartarotti claimed in his work was that Witches are actually descendants of an ancient cult of the goddess Diana, but he managed to ruin this compliment by connecting this cult to some branches of ceremonial magick which, as he claims, dabbled in invoking demons.
|A depiction of the "Horned God" in the|
cave of the Trois Frères, France
Don't forget that the last witchcraft Act is still effect all this time, even though it's all hush hush. Witches aren't mentioned all that much, there aren't any trials or punishments because society became much too skeptical when it came to Witches and managed to forget all about the tragedies that had happened throughout the centuries. But someone had to remind them, and that someone was Gerald Gardner who published a book entitled High Magic's Aid in 1949 under the pseudonym of Scire. In order to avoid breaking any laws or trials, he covered his real name up with this pen name and he wrote the book as if it were a novel, even though it contains complete instructions for carrying out some rituals which are practiced to this day in Wicca. As an example of this, I would like to take a quote form this book in which the procedure of opening the circle is described.
"Upon the altar-table lay the athame, the magic sword, the burin and the sprinkler, also materials for their work; four iron discs, two-and-a-half inches in diameter, already purified by fire, had been prepared previously. There were writing materials, lengths of cord, some black cloths and a scourge, laid ready. Before the bench were two stools. The inner circle, seven feet in diameter ... was already drawn on the floor; surrounding it was a double circle eight feet in diameter, with names of power between the two. Thur took the magic sword and retraced all the markings with its point, for the painted circle has no power of protection, which comes from power of the magic sword or the athame. It but serves as a guide to the latter, to ensure they draw the circle perfectly."
|Gerald Gardner, a clip from an interview|
Now you know how it is that we can practice our beliefs so freely today, even though they may be different. I for one am grateful to all those souls who died so many years ago and sacrificed themselves for their beliefs. I also mourn those that were wrongly "accused". I hope that you will take at least a minute of your time on June 22 and think about the freedom you have, about all these people and meditate on what freedom of thought, beliefs and action means to you.
It this topic has intrigued you and you want to read more, you can read the following books in which you can find more information:
Marion Gibson - Witchcraft and Society in England and America
Gerald Gardner - The Meaning of Witchcraft
Raymond Buckland - The Witch Book; the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca and Neopaganism
a perigee moon.
Gather your energy for the next few days and I'll write to you again soon. :)
Until next time. Yours,