|© Dot Connector Magazine|
By Laura Knight-Jadczyk
This article was first published in The Dot Connector Magazine, official publication of Sott.net.
When you think of Halloween, what is the first image that comes to mind? I took a little informal poll among my friends, family and associates. Guess what image came in first? Jack-o-lanterns! Bet you thought I was going to say "witches". Well, I sure thought it would be witches, but they only came in a close second!..
When I think of Halloween, I think of grade-school art projects where we cut out silhouettes of witches to paste onto large yellow moons made of construction paper. The witch was always on a broom with her black dress flying in the wind, accompanied by a black cat sitting on the back of the broom. I wondered even then how the cat managed to stay on and why anybody would think that straddling a broomstick as a seat would be even remotely comfortable.
But, there you have it: in a significant way, Halloween is associated with witches, evil women who consort with the devil and do evil things like caging lost children to fatten them up and eat them, giving poisoned apples and setting up spinning wheels to poison abandoned or hapless princesses who are only looking for true love.
The word 'witch' comes to us from the Old English wicca, which was a masculine word meaning 'wizard'. The feminine version was wicce, pronounced 'witch'. This came from Middle High German wicken , which meant to 'bewitch', and even older, from Old High German wīh which meant 'holy'. The dictionary tells us that a witch is someone who has malignant supernatural powers and practices spell casting with the aid of a devil or familiar. It also refers to an ugly old woman, or a beautiful young woman. The word 'witch' is an epithet for any woman who isn't inclined to be a doormat, flung to the floor by any individual who wants her to be subject to his or her will. Last of all, a witch is a practitioner of Wicca.
Wicca is a British construct created by an amateur anthropologist named Gerald Gardner who claimed to have had many interesting encounters and experiences with the occult and paranormal throughout his life. At one point, he claimed to have doctoral degrees from the Universities of Singapore and Toulouse, which was a lie. He claimed that he was initiated into a New Forest coven of witches which was the survival of a pre-Christian pagan witch cult. This alleged ancient coven has been shown by subsequent research to have been formed in the early 20th century and its ideas were based mainly on folk magic and the theories of Margaret Murray, so again, his honesty is rather suspect.
Gardner incorporated elements from Freemasonry, ceremonial magic, and the imaginings of Aleister Crowley and others. Most of what one sees when carefully examining these elements that combined to form modern Wicca bears no relationship whatsoever to the ancient religions as they can be discerned by deep study. Rather, these elements are likely more influenced by taking the descriptions of the persecutors of witches during the Inquisition as a guideline, instead of realizing that they were the defamatory falsifications of psychopaths. It is more likely that those accused of witchcraft during the witch persecutions were following beliefs akin to those of the Cathars - dualism - or even more ancient dualistic concepts. They also likely employed ancient knowledge handed down from Paleolithic shamanic systems which had little to nothing to do with 'ceremonial magic', spells or a 'liberal code of morality'. Unfortunately, neither Gardner nor Crowley had access to modern scientific archaeological studies from which one can actually infer something about the abilities, beliefs and practices of our truly remarkable ancestors.