Today’s daily tarot reading card offers a light hearted message and a reminder to basically “chillax” and enjoy yourself. Pop on a funny movie or do something silly and frivolous. As I was shuffling, I also heard ‘increase the peace’.
Perfect day for it.
Magickal Spellcards deck by Lucy Cavendish
Witches… from blockbuster Hollywood movies to the plethora of books and media that either praise or condemn them. They are predominantly known to practice witchcraft which is the belief and use of magical skills and abilities. You may think you know quite a bit about modern witches but do you actually know the real history of witchcraft?
Let’s tug at the veil of mystery that surrounds witchcraft to show you its origin and various facts surrounding it.
The earliest records of witchcraft
The concept of witchcraft and those who practice it (witches) has persisted throughout recorded history and continues to have an important role in many cultures today. The practice of simple sorcery, a form of witchcraftwhich involves giving offerings to spirits or using charms, can be found in most traditional societies. Evidence of this can be found in cave paintings and prehistoric artwhich depict magical rites and religious rituals.
In fact, one of the oldest forms of religion, Shamanism (contacting spirits through dreams, meditation, and trances) is considered a form of witchcraft. Carole Fontaine, a recognised American biblical scholar, argues in her Ancient Mysteries documentaryon witches, that the idea of witchcraft has been around for as long as humans have tried to deal with diseases and avert disaster.
Alleged practices of early witches
In the earliest accounts of human and witchcraft history, witches were seen as servants of deities and goddesses and therefore were revered in their communities. The witchcraft label was applied to those who people believed could influence the mind, body, or property of others. Their practices usually include:
- performing magic
- concocting potions and ointments
- necromancy (conjuring the dead)
- demonology (control of spirits and demons).
Back then, the word “witch” was not exclusively negative and was used to describe a healer or a wise person. However, this all changed in the fifteenth century with the widespread popularity of Christianity and Islam. Witchcraft was then associated with heresy and apostasy and viewed as evil.
Condemnation of witchcraft
Scholars believe that the condemnation of witchcraft began long before the birth of Christ. Even as far back as 1300 years before the common era, when the Hebrews settled in Canaan. The Hebrews believed in the laws of the Bible. And considered witchcraft to be dangerous and prohibited it as a pagan practice. This was further heightened when the Indo-Europeans expanded westward. With them came a warrior culture and male gods that valued aggression, which overshadowed the once-revered female deities.
In the 1300s, when the bubonic plague decimated half of Europe, it also caused a lot of hysteria. Many attributed the plague to the Devil and his supposed worshippers. At this point, the Catholic Church’s Inquisition was already in full swing. And intensified its efforts to seek out and punish the causes of the mass deaths which included the Devil-worshipping witches.
During this period, hundreds of thousands of people were accused and executed for being witches. Others were imprisoned, tortured, banished, and suspects had their possessions and lands confiscated.
Hammer of the witches
This dramatic rise in terror of witchcraft led to an actual witch-hunting manual written in 1486 by two German monks. The Malleus Maleficarum, which is Latin for Hammer of the Witches, outlined how one could identify who was a witch and how to punish one. As well as how to put a witch on trial and why a woman is more likely to be a witch than a man.
The book grew in popularity and eventually became the handbook for trying witches in secular courts throughout Renaissance Europe. However, it was not used by the official Inquisition and was later condemned by the Catholic Church in 1490.
Modern witchcraft practices have grown since the early twentieth century. Now they can involve anything from magic, shamanism and folk medicine, to spiritual healing and calling upon spirits. Plus they veneration of ancient gods and deities. Several neo-pagan witchcraft groups have appeared claiming to be offshoots of traditional witchcraft.
It’s fair to say that witches have had bad press. And whilst there are always unethical and dangerous ones in any subset of people, witches are nothing to fear. Unless, of course, you fuck them over but they are here to help humanity.
Are soulmates real?
It’s a legitimate question. It’s a common question.
There are a plethora of theories on soulmates and whether soulmates are real. Undoubtedly, one of the most intriguing is that created by Plato in Symposium (385-380 BC), as told via Aristophanes. Plato believed there were three genders; male (which was born from the sun), female (born from Earth) and a hybrid combination of both (born from the moon). This third subset of people had two sets of genitals, arms and legs and a second face. Zeus feared their power (kinda) and thus proceeded to slice these people in half, ‘as if he were cutting an egg in two with a hair.’
Our other half
Since then, we ceaselessly search of our other half. Upon meeting that other half, we throw our arms around one another and become whole again. Or “get intimate”, as humans would have it. ‘And in their brief moments of love making they would be able to return to each other, becoming lost in their symbolical oneness if only for a short while.’
And don’t think that homosexuality (are excluded from this painful yearning: ‘The creatures who had been double women before, naturally sought out women; those who had been androgynous, sought out members of the opposite gender; those who had been double men, sought out the company of men, and not simply for intercourse, but so they could become whole again by being rejoined with their soul mates.’
The most glaring flaw in this theory is that it does not account or include other sexualities besides heteronormativity and (possibly) homosexuality.
This esoteric could be a reason why so many of us scrupulously search and search for our “other half”. Even against all logic, despite all great pain, all great fear and why some cannot rest until it has occurred. Most of us are doomed to spend a solid chunk of eternity, faffing about trying to find the separated part of us and until we do, human supposedly feel that icky incomplete feeling. We desire romance as a salve for the wound.
Soulmates and the belly button
According to this theory, that is why we have a belly button. Zeus chose not to have it healed so we could be reminded of this incident. Like feeling scattered and incomplete was not a reminder enough! Whilst this may not be a healthy view according to modern society (especially for so many of us that are learning to live “just” as a “half”), it has provided me relief in knowing that it’s okay to want a soulmate or partner occasionally. If humankind have been searching since Ancient Greece then most of us may just be more human than we realise.
And so many of us must continue our fruitless search for that ever elusive half. Not just any half but the “right” half (this conflicts epically with my personal beliefs, mind you).
‘The desire to love is synonymous with the desire to transcend the limitations of the ego and the physical body, and thus the desire to transcend death itself…
…By finding a true soul mate, human beings can help one another recover their original, exalted nature, at one with the Universe, as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.’
Are soulmates real to you? Does this theory work for you?
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I’m living between worlds at the moment as a modern witch. Which makes me quite tired. My body swans through this world, this heavy, archaic world.
And my mind is here also but my “other mind” the greater mind, or the mind behind the mind, is all encompassing something that I cannot grab, name or identify. At least not in the space, time, location sense.
This modern witch motherboard dashboard can operate at entire freaky levels – I’m writing and sitting in here this physical, heavy body (both energetically and physically) and there is a fully composed song (although the lyrics dash mercilessly out of my grasp, they fear their own genius too much to be left to the clumsy devices of a pauper like me). This song is a beautiful chart topper, with heart stirring melodic familiarity. And my conscious mind, the smaller mind at the forefront, seems to be scrambling, itching… trying to work out who sings it and where I’ve heard it before. How can I find it on Spotify?
I am half awake. Which makes it difficult, as most of the world’s population know, to exist. Stretching through worlds, no, bigger and better than worlds… are they dimensions? Leaves me confused and ever grasping for what I’m supposed to be doing, knowing, feeling…
This hypnagogic state is often my favourite (when it precedes a deep sleep). It also offers the most mystical insights and experiences. I’ve had the most vivid of auditory hallucinations during this time-space void: fully plotted out movies, orchestral odes, long lost memories and answers to problems de jour. But being in this state when the sun is shiny and the day is floodlit with normalcy is just plain f*cking irritating and debilitating.
Imagine me calling in sick (I don’t need to because I’m a fulltime modern witch but imagine nonetheless) because of “In Between Worlds Syndrome”. Such an irksome affliction.
Soundtrack to today’s mood:
What do you do when you encounter the modern witch affliction?
Read about the history of witchcraft.