An Anthropological view culturally & worldly: by. BRUJO NEGRO
Witchcraft a word we have all heard of now and then, a word that conjures up images of sinister acts, of malevolent spells or of an ugly hag riding on a broom to a secret midnight gathering. Ask some folks what Witchcraft is and you will get scores of answers but never the same. Some people will tell you that witchcraft is the worship of devils and of Satan, others will tell you that it is all a bunch of superstitious none sense, still others mainly "wiccans" will tell you that it is their religion. There are many examples of what people will tell you when you ask them what think about witchcraft and just what it is. It is my hope that with this essay I may shed the light of truth on what witchcraft is and give a better description of this misunderstood subject.
To start with let us look at the word "Witch" and what it means in our English language.
We get the word Witch from the Old English word "Wicca" which refers to a man or woman that practices magic. The key meaning here is a person that works magic, however we see that the word witch has attached to it the word "craft" this of course requires definition. The word craft refers to a skill in a certain trade as to having great proficiency in that particular field. In this case we are talking about magic, in essence the word "Witchcraft" refers to the: the trade or skill of working magic in all its aspects, casting spells, making potions etc. In which case this tells us that Witchcraft in reality is not a "Religion" though some religions are known to delve into the practice of Magic.
Having given an understanding of the word witchcraft lets look at some examples of what have been classified as "witchcraft". If we read the Encyclopedia Encarta the first example that is given of Witchcraft: "Many people participating in the contemporary revival of witchcraft, known as the neo-pagan revival, identify themselves as benign witches" as quoted from the encyclopedia encarta. This is in reference to the Neo Pagan Religion called "Wicca" a New Age religion founded by Gerald Gardner in the mid 1950s, Gardner wanted to resurrect the pre-Christian Pagan religious beliefs of old Europe. Since Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a "Wicca" coven in 1939 he "believed" was a surviving link to an ill-defined "Old Religion" of the British Isles.1
It was from these circumstances that Gardner soon wrote and published three books that heavily influenced the Wicca movement these were: High Magic's Aid 1949, Witchcraft Today 1954, The meaning of Witchcraft 1959. After his death in 1964 he was the leading figure in what became known as (Gardenian Witchcraft). 2
Although Gardner very well knew the differences to what actual Witchcraft is & his newly formed religion of Wicca many of those that followed the Wicca movement did not know the difference. This is because he used the two terms "wicca" & "witchcraft" interchangeably, many people associated the new religion of Wicca with it's modern English translation (Witchcraft).
To complicate matters further, the misconception of referring to Wicca as Witchcraft was continued by another scholar of the Wiccan movement, this man is Raymond Buckland. He is credited for introducing Gardenian Wicca to the United States in the early 1960s.
His book ( Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft) was meant to be a workbook teaching what he called "Saxon Wicca". However this also contributed to the misunderstanding of what Wicca & Witchcraft are. Other authors to come down the list of teaching wicca continued this trend of referring to Wicca as Witchcraft. It is true that Wiccan followers practice some magic, for the majority, the practice of magic is not their emphasis. In fact wiccans have many "laws" that they claim as gospel such as the belief in Karma which is really an eastern doctrine and has nothing to do with Old European Witchcraft beliefs of magic. There is much evidence in fact that proves that the "alleged" three fold law of wiccans was created to placate the Christian Fundamentalist groups into viewing them as "good" witches just to gain their acceptance.
However the problem with that gospel is that most Christian fundamentalist groups get their "understanding" of witchcraft from the old witch trials in the Middle Ages of Europe. This is the kind of Witchcraft that is classified in the Encyclopedia Encarta as " Diabolic Witchcraft" in fact much of the alleged "Diabolic Witchcraft" was never a real form of Witchcraft. In truth most of the so called heinous acts of these "Satanic" Witches were false accusations from "alleged" witnesses that claimed to have seen these hags going to their midnight Sabbath to meet with Satan.
The first woman known to have been burned as a witch, for (Heretical Sorcery) was Angele, Lady of Labarthe who was executed in 1275.3 Many of those burned during the middle ages were usually peasants who were seen practicing a simple form of Folk Magic.
Which brings me to my next subject (SORCERY) this practice is usually what a person would refer to as FOLK MAGIC. Sorcery or Folk Magic is in fact the truest form of Witchcraft in existence as it can be found all over the world in many cultures. I will include various examples here of Folk Magic which can & often does include Ecclesiastic cults as well. Folk magic is used to affect the environment & according to the culture that practices it certain aspects will be more emphasized over others.
In general the practice of Folk Magic is employed for mans basic needs: Prosperity, Fertility, Health, Safety from Physical Harm, Love or Companionship, getting rid of Enemies, and to have general Good Fortune. There are of course sub categories within this list of man's needs and usually this is influenced by those cultures practicing Folk Magic.
There are many elements employed by Folk Magicians, it must also be mentioned here that many such Sorcerers employ forms of Divination this was usually done to diagnose what was required to make a change in the Sorcerer's environment. Divination was also employed to discover who committed a crime and thus punishment was dealt out through Sorcery.
Such an example of folk magic being used in this manner is with the Bakongo people of the Congo Basin of Africa. The Bakongo use spirits that are called n'kosi or n'kisi which are usually prepared inside a wood statue fetish as a pair male & female, or sometimes a bundle sack various elements make up the foundation of the N'kisi. It's main power was to seize a thief or criminal and squeeze him until blood jumps out of his nose & mouth. 4
They were used as follows: They go to the scene of the theft with the two parts of the fetish, of which the male most of the attention; he is waked up with gunpowder set off under his nose. Then people chew kola nuts spit the juice all over his front, a goat is sacrificed the blood sprinkled on the N'kisi, he is given a terrific shaking while everyone sings and beats drums, the N'kisi's proprietor exhorts him to catch the thief. 5
If there after resulted a man whom had nose-bleeds he would soon be identified as the thief once he consults a doctor, he would be dealt with accordingly. In this case the actual punishment comes first, through which the nature of the thief is divined.
In the middle-east amongst the Religion of Islam some Mohammedan men are known to practice their own brand of Sorcery. These Muslim Magicians place a high emphasis on "written spells" over incantations yet they do use prayer in conjunction to their written spells. Learned Magicians study the Koran and by reading between the lines of the scripture they discover how spells should be constructed. These written charms make excellent booby traps, put on the roof of target or hung in a tree or buried on their property, or put in their fire to inhale the fumes lunacy follows. 6
In this tradition of folk magic, Mohammedan magic is concerned with a Muslim's basic needs. As in Afghan Muslim magic it is: to win the love of a desired woman, obtain the love and loyalty of your four wives, sexual vitality, protection from physical and Magical harm; good fortune in money, health, attack or curse spells to defeat enemies. Of course it must be emphasized that the Holy Koran is the pillar to this potent system of Sorcery. 7
So here we have an example of Folk Magic rooted in an (Ecclesiastical Religion).
Amongst the tradition of the Kabala & those whom practice the practical as to say folk magic side of the tradition. We find a similar practice to that of the Mohammedan in which Kabalists are known to work magic with the Holy Bible. Certain passages of Psalms in the bible were written on a piece of parchment and were carried by their owners to facilitate good health, or protection from physical harm even the expulsion of evil spirits in the body. Here again we see the written charm being put to use, all of the Psalms in the scriptures are known to effect a certain outcome when prayed a certain number of times in conjunction with certain holy names of god.8
In more recent times we find similar folk magic practices both in the West Indies & in the Southern United States of the U.S.A we find two related folk magic traditions that spawned from African origin. Yet because of culture clash have come to include several of the above mentioned systems of, Folk Magic or Witchcraft. These two traditions are known as OBEAH and HOODOO both traditions make use of the Holy bible & work with kabalistic magic, make use of written charms & fetish as used in the Bakongo traditions.
Also both folk magic traditions are known for their use of potions mainly: oils, powders, incenses. Many of which carry the titles of their magical purpose, for example in the old "rural" days of the Southern United States 1930s Hoodoo workers made oils & powders called (Law Stay away) & (Hot Foot powder) these they employed to keep away the police when they ran their bootleg liquor activities. Also famous in those days was the (Gambling Hand)9 this was a mojo bag made to enhance a gambler's luck, in those days such mojo bags were likely to have in them the index finger bone of a man & perhaps a pair of dice along with other good luck items. Both Obeah men and Hoodoo men were famed for their ability to remove negative spirits from a person and to send negative spirits of the behalf of a client to harm their enemy.
And much like the Mohammedan Magician, both Obeah man & Hoodoo man study the Holy Bible and read between the lines to discover how to create spells. This is evident in some of their herbal lore such as the use of Hyssop baths for removing a "jinx" which is quoted in the book of psalms; Psalm 51:07 "Purge me with Hyssop, & I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow".
Obviously all of these folk magic traditions share a common thread that binds them together. That is that Witchcraft was and is used to address mans basic living needs be they emotional, material or physical. All are unique to their culture yet all of these folk magic traditions of Witchcraft have something to offer mankind. That is the ability create change in the environment according to the desires of the Sorcerer.
In essence that is what "Witchcraft" is meant to be, the skill or craft of using magic to create those outcomes that the practitioner desires. It is not meant to have a religious overtone as a rule and it has been noted Witchcraft and the use of Magic has always taken the supernatural into it's own hands and given man the edge that he desires in his earthly pursuits of life. Truly there are many more examples of this core practice of Witchcraft known as "Folk Magic" or Sorcery. I can write pages of these worldly examples of Witchcraft; It is my hope however that with the various examples given, the reader can get an idea of what is meant by (Witchcraft). Lest the person be caught by the ignorance of assuming that Witchcraft is a "Religion" and that only a "Wiccan" practices Witchcraft.
1. page126 Witchcraft Eric Maple
2. page126 Witchcraft Eric Maple
3. page 54 Witchcraft Eric Maple
4. page 59 "The Heathens" William Howells
5. page 59 "The Heathens" William Howells
6. page 55 "The Heathens" William Howells
7. pages 3, 7, 10, 11, 12 & 14 of "Invincible Magick Spells" Mohammed Ali
8. pages 5 & 6 from "Secrets of the Psalms" G. Selig
9. page 158 (Voodoo & Hoodoo) Jim Haskins
WITCHCRAFT " The story of man's quest for supernatural power" Eric Maple 1973 Octopus books limited.
THE HEATHENS "Primitive man & his religions" William Howells 1948 original copyright, 1962 The American Museum of Natural History, 1986 reissued by Sheffield Pub Co. Reprinted by arrangement with Doubleday & Co, Inc.
The Invincible Magick Spells of the Afghan Mullah-Sensees by Mohammed Ali 1993 Finbarr International.
Secrets of the Psalms by Godfrey Selig copyright 1982 eighth printing in Jan 1990 Dorene publishing Co, Inc.
VOODOO & HOODOO by Jim Haskins, c. 1978-1990, First Scarborough House ed. 1990.