Witches; Beyond Samhain
Article ID: 11093
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Lady Abigail Welcher
Posted: November 26th. 2006
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Witches have always held a mystery and knowledge. For thousands of years, Witches have haunted the imagination of the human mind. Feared and hated, the Witch has been trampled down from a place of light and honor to a place of shadows and darkness. The theories on why this occurred range from a cultural fear of women in power to the dehumanization of women.
Over the years, the term Witch has gone through a strange transformation. Once held in honor and respect, now it is feared and despised. Once envisioned as a strong attractive woman, now depicted as a frail and hideous old crone.
I am a Witch. It was not something I got up one morning and decided to be. It is a simple statement of fact. I don’t believe any of us make a decision one day to turn our life’s upside down, cause our families to question our ‘real’ motives or desire to have people judge us as somehow less than they are.
In talking to countless Witches, I have heard them express not that they have found the craft or become a Witch, but rather, that they have returned to something they had always felt deep inside themselves. Once they read that first article or book, they realized that an important part of who they were had been missing. They experience what is explained as 'a return to self'. It is not something new, but rather a part that had been absent from their lives.
There will always be those people that pass through our lives who cannot accept that we are Witches. That it is not a costume we put on once a year, so we can dress up in pointy black hats. It goes way beyond our traditions of Samhain.
Most of us have heard the strange puzzlement in someone’s voice when they ask us, “Are you a real Witch?” They seem curiously surprised when we answer, YES.
For some people, it is because they cannot believe in anything like magick. Nor can they accept those called Witches who proudly practice it. Some are afraid. They live in fear of anything they cannot, or will not, understand. Others cannot get past the fears and prejudice taught to them in childhood, that it was a transgression to even talk to anyone that believed differently than they did. Unfortunately in life, we also run across those few who are so narrow mindedly intolerant and who oppose any belief that differs from their own.
So what happened? When did the pride in our personal beliefs and faith become something others assume we should somehow be ashamed of? When did the title Witch become a brand of dishonor? What makes this title hold any less respect than those within any other religion?
Witches, by word or deed, have been a part of civilization for as long as time has been time. As High Priestesses of the Old Religions and the Old Ways, they were called the Wise Women and held in reverence, for they were the healers, the keepers of wisdom, the teachers, the midwives and the councilors. They were skilled in the knowledge of the earth, the universe and the arts of magick.
Once the religion of the Old Ways and the Goddess were held above all others. Those who practiced the Old Religion of the Goddess understood that She was the Supreme Deity, the Creator of all life.
Goddess worship can be dated back more that thirty thousand years. Many anthropologists suggest that the first "God" or pantheon was in fact, feminine. During this early time, there was no suggestion of creation involving any part of the male principle. The Goddess was believed to have created the universe alone. She was the All.
In worship, women were known to hold the highest place of honor within these religions and were often the ones overseeing the rituals. Regardless of the fact, the women of these societies never appear the need to place themselves as superior over their male counterparts.
Generally those whom practiced Goddess worship found a balance in the honoring of both the male and female deities. This is demonstrated by the belief in, and the observance of, the sacred joining of the Sky God and Earth Mother in many societies worldwide.
Throughout the centuries of history, the Goddess assumed many aspects. She was seen as the creator, virgin, mother, destroyer, warrior, huntress, homemaker, wife, artist, judge, healer, sorcerer and Witch. Her roles and abilities always increased with the advancement of the societies that worshipped her.
Within history, She is found represented as a queen with a consort, or lover, the mother who bears a son who may then die young or be sacrificed only to rise again, representing the annual birth-death-rebirth cycle of life within the turning of the great wheel.
Through the ages, the Goddess has been given a thousand names and a difference face for each. She is associated with the sun and moon and the earth and the sky. Yet, she is almost always represented by nature. Those worshipping the Goddess worship or care for nature. This caring for all life, creature and plant, is why Goddess worship is a religion of nature often described as a “Nature Religion.”
So what happened? Goddesses were turned into evil women seeking to ravage mankind. Priestesses, become wicked seductresses, and a Witch, could be any woman (or man) once held in honor or power.
What brought about this transformation? From the once honored wise woman and healer to a feared detestable creature who desires only to destroy goodness and bring about wickedness? Why did she become so reviled by those of the new religion?
It is believed that as the Christian religion grew and moved across the lands, the leaders found it hard to convert those of the old ways. At first they tried to ease the people into this new faith by adapting some of the ancient ways. They incorporated many aspects of the rituals of the Pagan Gods into their own traditions.
To complete this transformation from the old ways, they built their churches on ancient Pagan sites. They changed many of the Pagan festivals into Christian holidays. Yule, the Birth of the Sun God, became Christmas. Samhain became the Eve of All Souls Day (Hallows' Eve or Halloween). The Spring Renewal festival (Ostara) became Easter, and so on throughout the Pagan calendar. Even the 'Gods' and natural spirits were made into Saints who could be worshipped according to the Christian faith.
Yet this so-called tolerance for the old ways would quickly end. Any who continued to worship the old ways would be cruelly persecuted. The church declared all Gods except “their god” to be evil, renaming them as demons led by the Horned One. The very image of the old Pagan Horned God now became the Devil and therefore all those who followed the old ways became heretics and evil Devil-worshippers.
Subsequently, even the Goddess, honored above all Gods, was to suffer humiliation. She would be changed within the biblical account of creation stories into a human, Eve. Being made of man, she no longer had the power to stand alone. She was now depicted as weak, easily turned from god, filled with lustful desires and without control of even her on body.
Then in the attempt to complete the destruction, they tried to destroy even Her symbolism. The serpent once representing control of sexuality, knowledge and strength, now becomes the slithering seducer tempting Eve with an apple. The apple, another symbol of the Goddess, became the fruit of carnal sin. Both became malevolence symbols to mark the weakness and evil embodiment of all women.
Then as history shows, the wise women now called, Witches, became the personification of all that was evil within the world. It was believed that they not only turned away from god, but they signed blood oaths with the devil, the god of evil.
So whatever bad thing happened in life could now be blamed on the Witch. Pestilence, disease, death, plague, or famine, it must be a Witch. If the weather became too much, be it rain or sun, it must be a curse. A Witch. A child’s death was no longer the act of nature, but and act of evil. A Witch.
Even with the healing of sickness, when the priest prayers could not heal, then it must be Witchcraft. If someone was healed outside the church, it was of evil doing and must be of a Witch. Even those who became well were accused of giving bidding to the Witch to be healed and therefore must give up the name of the healer or die in the Witches stead.
With the publication of the "Malleus Maleficarum" (The Witches' Hammer) around 1490 CE, anything from a mole to the glance of an eye could condemn one to death for being a Witch. Of course, ownership of property could also have someone accused of being a Witch. In the majority of cases, it was not being a Witch or Witchcraft that these unfortunate souls were guilty of, but a far worse crime, one that people still condemn others for today… that of being different.
Even today, in this world we consider modern, we are not so advanced to be free of the dangers that overcame those in our past. Most of us have seen hatred in our lifetimes. Not just the pain and injustice toward those of another race, but the fear bred from hate -- the kind of loathing that seeks out those that are different, condemns them without reason and then boast that it was for some right and just cause.
The truth of their motivation is not righteous, but man-made. It is used to inflict a personal punishment according to a private agenda, not justice. In this way, hate and fear are carefully concealed within what is ‘called’ right according to the morals of the majority. A majority, not in number, but in those who make themselves heard by the cruelty they force on others.
Autumn illuminates the land with colors blazing from the hillsides. It was this time of year that my Great Grandmother would remind me of all those who had given up their lives in our journey to humanity.
The journey is not over; we must keep going forward. There are still mountains to climb, rivers to cross and even a few valleys to rest in for a while. Yet we must keep going, and we will get there in time, to the humanity we seek.
It is up to us. Perhaps we will grow from what we learn. Then, I believe we are to share, to teach and to help others somewhere in our future.
People can be cruel and filled with hate. But most of the time, it is because they are afraid to hear anything that is outside what they believe is acceptable or normal. In time, they may accept what we have to offer. Or they may not.
This places the responsibility for teaching upon us, those whom they fear, in order that we may show the world --once again -- who we are. We are the ones who will have to be long-suffering.
We will be the teachers and in time, Goddess willing, they will see the truth before them.
“If the Witch-hunters (whatever century) had been placed under a spell, it would be no hex, but rather their own fears."
May we remember the past to enhance the future. With blessing and peace.
High Priestess; Ravensgrove Coven
Orlando Florida Area
Copyright © 08132006
Copyright: Copyright © 08132006
High Priestess; Ravensgrove Coven
Orlando Florida Area
Lady Abigail Welcher
Location: Titusville, Florida
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