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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in salem

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dancing with the Black Man

I recently had an e-mail from a friend who, after this year's Midwest Grand Sabbat, had packed up the family and headed out on a road trip, destination: Salem, Mass.

As an offering, she'd brought a cork from the Grand Sabbat night.

Now, this may seem an odd kind of offering to make, of little or no intrinsic value, but think about it.

Gods help us, the Salem witch craze of 1692 is probably the most famous witch hunt of history. (Americans have always been good at publicity.) Personally, I doubt that we see here anything more than scapegoating and the pathological inner workings of theocratic society.

But let us say for a moment—call it “mythic history”—that there actually were witches of our sort in “17th” century Salem: people who fled to the New World because it was no longer safe to keep to the Old Ways back in the old one.

What do they find when they get here? A mighty Forest (and such a forest!) and in that forest, who but the Black Man Himself, our beloved Horn-God, more beautiful and terrible than ever, already waiting for us.

Waiting to dance.

Would you not want to know that, 300-some years on, our people are still here?

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A Brief History of Witchcraft (Part One)

Witchcraft has probably been around as long as humanity has in some form or other. It can take many forms, from a shamanic and animistic practice to one that uses very formal and complex rites, rituals and correspondences. At the heart of witchcraft, is the ability to create change in the world, to take control of aspects of life and the natural world in order to bring about the desired outcome.

It is difficult to separate witchcraft from religious or spiritual traditions found in the history of ancient humanity. As we simply do not know what they believed, we can only make assumptions based on what we find through archaeology and anthropology. There are tantalising examples of cave art from our Stone Age ancestors, where we see human beings with animal qualities performing rituals of a sort. We believe that they saw the feminine principle in the divine, based on findings such as the Venus of Willenorf (from around 30,000 BCE) to examples of goddesses from the Nile region in Egypt such as Nathor figure (from around 4,000 BCE). We assume that the cave paintings and statuary/figurines represent god/goddess images, or their priests/priestesses, however, that is still an assumption. The rites and rituals that may have accompanied these items would have elements of what we know today as witchcraft perhaps evolved with them. At the very least, we can deduce from the artwork that they had religious or spiritual traditions, but what exactly these were in anyone's guess.

It's yet another assumption, but one many are happy to make, that throughout history there have been those who have been seen as different, as set apart from the normal lives and routines of others, whether it be in a tribe or community. These people may have had highly developed sensitivities, and were able to predict the weather perhaps (I personally always know when the pressure is changing from a high to a low front; I can feel it in my head and my ears pop!). They may have had a near-death experience that grants them an ability to deal with death and the dying. They may know where the herbs grow that heal certain wounds. Notice that I say "may" in each of these sentences, because we just don't really know for sure, and it would be irresponsible for me to say otherwise.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Call It Payback

In his 1693 book, Wonders of the Invisible World, New England Puritan divine Cotton Mather (1663-1728) wrote that “The witches are organized like Congregational Churches.”

By this he meant that individual covens were fully autonomous: each one ruled by a council of elders, lacking any overarching jurisdictional body.

281 years later, in 1974, Covenant of the Goddess was founded.

As it happens, founding mother Alison Harlow (1934-2004) once told me that while drawing up CoG's initial paperwork, she and her colleagues remembered Mather's words—which Margaret Murray had cited in her 1921 Witch-Cult in Western Europe—and decided to follow Mather's advice. That's how they ended up taking the charter of the Congregationalist churches (now the United Church of Christ) as the new organization's starting point.

In this way, the Archpuritan himself, Scourge of New England Witches, Champion of the Salem Witch Trials, was instrumental in helping to found the oldest, largest, and most successful organization of witches, warlocks, and covens in the world.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    There must be particularly high levels of it around here. I hear there are plans to mine it, if they can get it past the EPA.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I believe that Irony is one of those subatomic particles that our scientists are trying to identify.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I’ve heard it said that the famous “Witch City” of Salem, MA has five seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter, and October. As a witch from the opposite end of the country, I’ve always wanted to experience that October goodness in Salem. Finally, two days before Samhain, I got the chance.

Part of the experience is the overall vibe of acceptance and openness among the pagans in town. I’m so used to being part of a fringe religion, that to be thrust into a situation where I was among the majority was a sudden and welcome change.   Certainly, not everyone wandering Essex St. and Pickering Wharf that day was a practitioner of Witchcraft, or even Pagan, but they were open and tolerant of my minority religion. Even if they were only doing it for the money, it was still a wonderful feeling.

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  • Miles Gerhardson
    Miles Gerhardson says #
    Wonderful insight....that coincides with "What's good for the goose is good for the gander"....
PaganNewsBeagle Watery Wednesday Community News Oct 29

In today's Watery Wednesday we are featuring Community News of our Pagan communities and allies. Salem's next door neighbors; solitary Samhain; witchy shopping in NYC; Circle Sanctuary celebrates; Southern Pagans.

Salem's next door neighbor -- Danvers, MA -- hasn't cashed in on the Witch craze (at least yet.) Discover what the Other Salem thinks of all the hoopla in this profile.

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John Alden Junior: What do they want, these terrible witches?

Cotton Mather: The same thing we all want: a country of their own. 


Wow, speaking of Witchsploitation: a new TV series, set (you guessed it) in Salem, Mass, 1692.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Three of my foremothers (Lacy and Foster) admitted being witches in the 1692 Salem trials. Their family farm became a tourist att

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