The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
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14-06-2013, 10:17 AM
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
(14-06-2013 08:27 AM)Dom Wrote:  Deep sleep and death - they have always been scary and were a gap in knowledge that needed to be filled. Human imagination produces some really interesting stuff, the sad part comes in when it's taken for real and steps are taken to eliminate the scape goats.

Very true. I probably would have been burnt back in the day because of my reddish-colored hair.
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14-06-2013, 11:17 AM
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
Thumbsup Hans Baldung Grien - good art choice! He was from a wealthy family of professionals and possibly the most gifted student of Albrecht Dürer. His personal art was pretty fascinating - erotic allegories and mythological work - he became deeply interested in themes related to death, the supernatural, witchcraft and sorcery. Very creepy shit - make no mistake, this was considered extremely religious art.

During Baldung's lifetime (c~1484-1545) the Protestant Reformation came along and started seriously discouraging idolatry to the point of enforcement. One could paint the standby religious work but it most often wouldn't sell, the buyer fearing church condemnation. The church usually ended up purchasing many amazing works for next to nothing or simply got it free as a result of keeping the artist from condemnation.

So, what's an artist to do to safely pay the bills? Make 'em an offer they couldn't refuse... sin. The somewhat famous and quite prolific, Baldung "the green" could paint up the best, most unimaginable sin anyone ever saw! Not nearly as prolific was Hieronymus Bosch, a contemporary (c~1450-1516) who also took up the craze for nightmarish and erotic depictions of the underworld. To be accurate, this was not the closeted underbelly of religious art but in fact it was quite mainstream. The suffering of the sinful was and apparently still is considered a beautiful thing.

That's why and how we're all gonna die in hell. Angel

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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14-06-2013, 02:25 PM
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
This is all very interesting, but people mostly brought the witchcraft crap with them in their minds.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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14-06-2013, 02:58 PM (This post was last modified: 14-06-2013 03:11 PM by kim.)
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
(14-06-2013 02:25 PM)Chas Wrote:  This is all very interesting, but people mostly brought the witchcraft crap with them in their minds.

True.
However, that mind needs positive (albeit freaky) reinforcement to keep the crap going strong. Imagine being right in the middle of the most enlightened time in history with world explorers coming back with tales of other worlds and strange animals. AND they are even talking about tossing out alchemy for some shit called science, WTF? This is a job for ... photoshop Hieronymus Bosch: master of freaky nightmare picture making...
[Image: hans-baldung-grien3.jpg]
This plus what the priest says is all that's necessary to keep those legends going strong for centuries. Shy
Reinforcement of fear in the minds of whomever one needs to control... that's a self reliant, hard working religion.

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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22-06-2013, 05:24 AM (This post was last modified: 22-06-2013 05:56 AM by ghostexorcist.)
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
(14-06-2013 06:21 AM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  Between other projects, I just started to research the history of the french concept "cauchemar" (nightmare). Cauchemar literally means "pressing spirit," and it is synonymous with "witch riding," especially by Cajuns and African Americans living in Louisiana. To me, it's obvious that two different folklore were fused. The original concept dealt with nightmares brought on by demons in the night. This eventually took on a sexual connotation via Succubi lore. The Wild Hunt-inspired legends of witches riding horses eventually changed into stories of witches riding humans at night. Therefore, it's easy to see how these two could mix.

I plan to write a short article in the near future. I'm now waiting for a book on medieval medicine and spirituality to arrive via my university library. An essay therein explains the origins and evolution of Succubi folklore. I'm just trying to see if I can figure out when the two legends met.

My initial research suggests the connection between Cauchemar and witch-riding is a mistake in definition. Cauchemar literally means "pressing demon/goblin," but it is most often translated as just "nightmare." The "mare" of nightmare is a Saxon word for demon or goblin. However, it seems people who don't know its linguistic roots may have thought it had something to do with horses (a "mare" is a female horse). Desmond Morris suggests that this well known painting by Henry Fuseli may have popularized this idea:

[Image: John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_Nightmare.JPG]
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22-06-2013, 01:25 PM
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
Oh right - there was always something about goblins sitting on your chest - I remember this. Thumbsup

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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26-06-2013, 08:49 PM (This post was last modified: 26-06-2013 09:11 PM by ghostexorcist.)
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
(22-06-2013 05:24 AM)ghostexorcist Wrote:  My initial research suggests the connection between Cauchemar and witch-riding is a mistake in definition. Cauchemar literally means "pressing demon/goblin," but it is most often translated as just "nightmare." The "mare" of nightmare is a Saxon word for demon or goblin. However, it seems people who don't know its linguistic roots may have thought it had something to do with horses (a "mare" is a female horse). Desmond Morris suggests that this well known painting by Henry Fuseli may have popularized this idea:

[Image: John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_Nightmare.JPG]

This dictionary from 1726 lists the following entry: "INCUBUS, or Night-Mare, or Hag is a ..." Hag is short for hægtesse, which is Old English for "witch." This means that Cauchemar and witch-riding were associated by at least the early mid 18th-century. I'm sure there are earlier instances, but I'm constrained by only being able to read English (and some Chinese). Knowing French and German would help out a lot.

Here is a neat essay on the Incubus from the 1750s. This is back when they wrote the "s" like an "f".
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27-06-2013, 08:35 AM
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
It turns out the connection between the incubus and the hag is much older than I would have ever thought. A famous French physician writing in 1305 mentioned the following:

Quote:"Incubus is an apparition (phantasma) that presses on the body and weighs it down during sleep, disturbing both movement and speech. Incubus is the name of a demon and that is why some people think that when the incubus is directly above the body--especially when a person lies on his back--he presses the body down by his corrupting influence, to such an extent that the patient thinks he is going to suffocate. When this happens to babies, they often do suffocate, because they cannot bear so great a corruption. Such is the opinion of theologians. But the common people (vulgares) believe that the incubus is an old woman (vetula) who tramples on and presses down the body. This is nonsense. The physicians (medici) have a better opinion."

The concept of the Incubus is much older than this, going all the way back to at least the 4th-century. There seems to have been two main versions of the incubus: 1) a creature that strangled people in their sleep and 2) a creature that primarily had sex with women in their sleep. The first category was actually known under a different set of names, all of which appear (from my limited exposure to the romance languages) to have female roots. These names are lamia, masca, and stria. These are all, somehow, based on the Germanic term "mare," as described above. My source says these words later became associated with witchcraft. So the concept of an old woman who liked to strangle adults and babies in their sleep is an old one. However, it appears that the incubus and early horse-based witch lore was still separate. I can see how both became associated, though.
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27-06-2013, 09:17 AM
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
I recently read an account of a 'witch ride' trial during 1659 here in Cambridgeshire (England). The accuser said that she had been transformed into a horse and ridden by a witch and her friends to an inn, tied up while they feasted, then ridden home again. The accused and her friends were all Quakers, unlike the accuser. The Justice in this case was a reasonable man. He questioned the accuser as to the state of her feet and hands after she had suffered from this experience. He then asked her if she had been afraid of the accused witch while waiting for the case to be heard. The woman responded that she had not, as she had performed a magic spell to protect herself. The Justice resolved, if he was to proceed with the case, he'd have to also prosecute the accuser for practicing witchcraft herself! The case was quickly dropped, with the accused widow being acquitted.

(Source: A Grim Almnanac of Cambridgeshire. Neil R.Storey 2009).

That's a point that I'd make. In rural medieval and even post medieval England, most people believed in magic. Most people would go to a cunning healer, when ill, or would make a charm, or perform a spell to ward off what they perceived to be witches, or evil spirits. It was a world of magic to them. The reality of magic was reinforced by the Church, with it's stories of spirits, heavens, demons, virgin births, miracle cures, etc.

The present day perception of witchcraft in the west has been greatly distorted by two sources - Hollywood, and modern Neo-paganism.

The role of 20th Century British neo-pagans is often ignored. Margaret Mead - an Egyptologist pronounced that the witches of Old were secretly celebrating a surviving pre-Christian religion. Her hypothesis has frequently been denounced and discredited, and it has been suggested that she herself may have involved with neo-pagan groups. None-the-less, it was seized on by British cults that had been experimenting for some time with blends of Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, classic European paganism, and Free masonry. Gerald Gardner then revealed the religion of Wicca (originally just called Witchcraft), that he claimed had been passed to him by a coven of witches in the New Forest. From this one claim, of one man, a new World Religion has been born. However, there have been whispers ever since that this 'coven' never existed as a witch coven (indeed, Gerald Gardner had introduced this new word 'coven'), but he had encountered just another recent middle class cult. The wheel of the year was patched together, from different traditions from around Europe, and a few festivals added, to make it work. The athame or ritual knife? Gerald Gardner was an authority on ritual knives from around the World. It was his hobby. Elements of free mason ritual were also embedded into the new belief system.

I'm convinced that the witches of old England did not see themselves as pagans. Magic was a common belief, and many rural people used charms. These people were at the same time very much subjects of Christian churches. I imagine that an old widow was a vulnerable figure in the community, and it would be in her interest to make a living by encouraging the belief that she was 'especially' powerful.

This was passed onto the American colonies.
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27-06-2013, 10:02 AM
RE: The spread of witchcraft folklore to and in America
(27-06-2013 09:17 AM)Trojan_Llama Wrote:  I recently read an account of a 'witch ride' trial during 1659 here in Cambridgeshire (England). The accuser said that she had been transformed into a horse and ridden by a witch and her friends to an inn, tied up while they feasted, then ridden home again. The accused and her friends were all Quakers, unlike the accuser. The Justice in this case was a reasonable man. He questioned the accuser as to the state of her feet and hands after she had suffered from this experience. He then asked her if she had been afraid of the accused witch while waiting for the case to be heard. The woman responded that she had not, as she had performed a magic spell to protect herself. The Justice resolved, if he was to proceed with the case, he'd have to also prosecute the accuser for practicing witchcraft herself! The case was quickly dropped, with the accused widow being acquitted.

(Source: A Grim Almnanac of Cambridgeshire. Neil R.Storey 2009).

That's a point that I'd make. In rural medieval and even post medieval England, most people believed in magic. Most people would go to a cunning healer, when ill, or would make a charm, or perform a spell to ward off what they perceived to be witches, or evil spirits. It was a world of magic to them. The reality of magic was reinforced by the Church, with it's stories of spirits, heavens, demons, virgin births, miracle cures, etc.

The present day perception of witchcraft in the west has been greatly distorted by two sources - Hollywood, and modern Neo-paganism.

The role of 20th Century British neo-pagans is often ignored. Margaret Mead - an Egyptologist pronounced that the witches of Old were secretly celebrating a surviving pre-Christian religion. Her hypothesis has frequently been denounced and discredited, and it has been suggested that she herself may have involved with neo-pagan groups. None-the-less, it was seized on by British cults that had been experimenting for some time with blends of Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, classic European paganism, and Free masonry. Gerald Gardner then revealed the religion of Wicca (originally just called Witchcraft), that he claimed had been passed to him by a coven of witches in the New Forest. From this one claim, of one man, a new World Religion has been born. However, there have been whispers ever since that this 'coven' never existed as a witch coven (indeed, Gerald Gardner had introduced this new word 'coven'), but he had encountered just another recent middle class cult. The wheel of the year was patched together, from different traditions from around Europe, and a few festivals added, to make it work. The athame or ritual knife? Gerald Gardner was an authority on ritual knives from around the World. It was his hobby. Elements of free mason ritual were also embedded into the new belief system.

I'm convinced that the witches of old England did not see themselves as pagans. Magic was a common belief, and many rural people used charms. These people were at the same time very much subjects of Christian churches. I imagine that an old widow was a vulnerable figure in the community, and it would be in her interest to make a living by encouraging the belief that she was 'especially' powerful.

This was passed onto the American colonies.

Thanks for commenting. I know all about the creation of the modern Neo-Pagan movement thanks to my archaeology professor's lectures. He has written a lengthy blog entry on Margaret Murray (Mead was a different person) and how her writings on the so-called "old religion" influenced H.P. Lovecraft. It's pretty interesting.

I'd love to read more period accounts of witch-riding because that would help me pinpoint when it first came to America.
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