Witches, What Really Were the Witch Cults?

By I.M. Knosp

Upon the mountain top they ride, brooms and bed knobs, oven scrapers and sorghum, fennel stalks and horny beasts. Gathering round a dark clad god with hands bloodstained they reach before the flame. Their eyes engulfed in splendor, their bodies rife with pleasure, their senses overflowing in ecstatic experience, wild haired their feet dancing, their bodies bared before the scarlet moon. Demons and devils cavorting around them, werewolves growling and tearing at flesh as shadowy shapes around them coalesce into packs of wild beasts charging, snapping, biting, the battle begins. The shrill calls crying out, roaring, writhing, fearful, bloody ecstasy… The witch is present and then… the witch wakes and life carries on.

There are many legends, rumors, tales, and stories filled with horror told of the witches of yore. Images flood the imagination of their clawed hands, iron teeth, pointed nose, faces covered in warts, while they cackle with laughter as they chant of “bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!”. Yet beneath all the macabre and eldritch tales, there is something far kinder, far harsher, and far more important than we might think. This is the tale not of the Witch Hunts, of the atrocities committed over centuries of pain and persecution. Instead, this is the core of the tale found hiding beneath the veneer developed over the millennia. Less chicken blood more bandages, less sigils more signs, less cannibalism more potluck, less malevolence more self-preservation. To tell such a tale we must begin with the well-known witch flying upon her broom soaked in baby’s fat with a hat full of dark spells and gruesome ingredients. For a story is a living breathing thing, as are traditions associated with it. So, we begin with the horrors and wonders of the Devils bloody contract the Witches Sabbath, then perhaps our story can truly begin.

The Sabbath

The Witches Sabbath of the medieval imagination was said to be a horrid demonic affair involving witches flying across the sky to join their dark god so they might engage in spells most foul, orgies, and of course human sacrifice. On days such as Walpurgisnacht, Yule, All Hallows Eve, The Ember Days, or any other regional day or period of note. The populace would be wary of witches and their flying to the sabbath lest a man be ridden to the Sabbath in place of the broom or other utensil the Witch typically favored. The children wary so as the witch would not capture them to then carry them off to be disemboweled, consumed, or dismembered for use in any number of spells.

Once at the Sabbath the witches would dance around a fire changing shape, while enjoying the company of the many devils lost in life’s most carnal pleasures. They were imagined sacrificing humans to their dark disfigured god, conjuring up illnesses and storms declaring their wicked deeds in the devils’ name or be woefully punished should they fail to successfully commit these atrocities and more in his name. The witches were then thought to plot against the Church trampling the cross and the sacred host. When their evil machinations were complete only then would they fly home. Whether in the form of a human, animal, smoke, or another shape they would ravage across the land consuming food, bewitching people, drinking all of the wine, beer or any other drink that had been left to ferment. They would then piss and shit in the vats so that the wine and food would seem as if it had been untouched, causing it to sour, returning home only just before the day broke their good Christian family and neighbors none the wiser. This is the story that had been told for centuries, but it is a lie! A dark figure of atrocity propaganda, a useful scapegoat, a tool of conversion and fear the Church was all too happy to use against the populace. However, that is not the tale I wish to tell, I wish to speak of a tale much older. I wish to speak of the men and women now known as witches and the story too often left untold. A tale of pain, sacrifice, tradition, lies, peril, resistance, hope, betrayal, magic, mystery, and family.

Lightning Strikes a Flock of Witches by William Holbrook Beard

What is a Witch?

The Witch was not a single role, nor did they have a singular purpose. The infernal Sabbath has been part of the common consciousness for centuries now, yet deep in the records we find what it was, disappointingly humdrum to most. The average meeting of Witches commonly known as the “Witches Sabbath” was more akin to a backyard barbecue or potluck then any demonic orgy. Most witches were tucked away in villages, the more isolated the village the less the traditions had been subsumed by the invading Church. The Witch had many names and duties, each role not necessarily performing the duties of another. Some called them Wicca, Chresnichi, Zduhac, Negromanat, Kresniki, Táltos, Werewolf, Hag, Knower, Wisewoman, Enchantress, Wizard, Azti, or Shapeshifter. They were known as Charmer, Herbalist, Crone, Ragana, Galdranorn, Völva, Masca, Bruja, Twister, Spinner, Benandanti, Trollgumma, Helrune, Hexe, Hagedisse, Wykke, Magjistare, and many many more names of both the men and the women we now call witches whose various purposes and forms were eventually conflated with entirely different beings and groups as over time traditions and beliefs melded with those of the Church.

Tucked into these small rural villages many people kept their traditions. The men kept their hunting traditions, telling tales while walking through the woods communing with their gods of the forest or during the thick of war, upon sailing ships and while on perilous journeys. The women met their gods at the well, and honoring them at the hearth, they also saw their gods in the garden, in the meadows, in the glittering forest canopy, in some cases they “made love” to them as did the menfolk. Each had their own role. This continued century after century influenced and occasionally suffering at the hands of the New Religion.

In these traditions the gods were but one part of a massive tapestry of beliefs and figures within the world. Each moment and action carried with it significance. A hunt was not just a hunt, farming was not just farming, magic was all around them, purpose and meaning in nearly all they did. One of the broadest and most immediate forces that people would interact with was that of the dead. Ancestors did not simply fade in death, they interacted as house spirits, the Wandering Mothers, or flying across the sky with the Furious Host spending time with their descendants in dreams of the lands beyond this life.

These ancestral specters would not simply appear as ghosts or revenants they would become spirits at times even ascending to a place of godhood. While everyone could interact with their ancestors and the spirits of the dead in some form or tradition. There were people whose role was far more active than others. These individuals were often born with a sign, a caul over their head or born with teeth, feet first with the mother dying in childbirth, or perhaps even born with a tail? Whatever the sign the people knew what it meant, a witch had been born. Their abilities not by choice, they were born with it much as one might be born with a coat of fur or two different colored eyes, this power an intrinsic piece of them whether they wanted it or not. They may choose to reject it, to not accept the role, yet it was not so easy to deny a part of themselves as some of them may have wished. Others though relished their role, exclaiming loudly of their abilities or status. Such was the case of the Benandanti the remnant of a fertility cult that existed well into the 17th century in the Friuli region of Italy.

The Spirit Battles

The Benandanti were an interesting group of Witches in the sense they did not consider themselves Witches, but rather dutiful Christians bound from birth to their role as defenders of fertility and enemies of witches. They would discover malevolent “witches” and cure illnesses, they told fortunes, and spoke to the souls of the dead for those who wished to hear. They also traveled in spirit during the Ember Days, escaping their body in a form of catalepsy, a vulnerable near-death state, they would send their soul flying forth until arriving at “The Valley of Josaphat” a meadow where they would do battle with what they termed “Witches”. The Benandanti armed with fennel stalks while the witch’s used sorghum. If the Benandanti were victorious they would secure a bountiful harvest for the coming year but if they lost famine would occur.

In “The Valley of Josaphat” the Benandanti would not only fight “witches” they also encountered their gods or as many thought of them “Angels”. These figures as well as their very human commanders in these “Night Battles” would call their souls forth from their body to war with witches, at times the commander banged a drum to call them forth, whereas the Golden Angels and Godly beings merely called the soul from the body. These Benandanti that were involved in the Night Battles were almost always male, though many females also took part. The Women on the other hand often spoke of a procession of spirits led by a goddess, and some would tell of meeting “The Abbess” at a well when they traveled in spirit.

Similar traditions spread across Europe where whether in the Night Battles of Diana, The Wild Hunt led by Wotan, Harke, Harlequin, Berchtold or any other mythic figure. The spirits of the Witch, of the dead and of divine beings would battle and or revel. Many women would speak of the goddess they would meet in spirit whether this deity was Fraw Selga, Perchta, Habonde, Venus, Diana, Holda, or any number of deities. These deities often had retinues of spirits with them both those of the dead and those of the land. So the Benandanti were by no means an isolated group, nor did they escape the treatment from the Church that other pagan remnants felt.

It is unclear if the Benandanti truly believed they were following the Christian religion or if they merely encouraged the idea to avoid persecution. As the Benandanti slowly lost the faith of the people who thought of them as nothing but witches and trouble makers, the Church began to piece together enough of the Benandanti’s belief to mark them as devil worshipers and witches, claiming to be Christian would do nothing for them. The idea of a Christian witch, especially one so similar to the diabolical one the Church and the people spoke of, was an untenable position. Had the Benandanti been discovered centuries before they were, such as if they had been discovered prior to the 16th century they likely would’ve been executed enmasse. However, the fervor of witch hunts had largely died down around that time and the populations had become rightfully suspicious of how the supposed confessions were obtained. Due to this the Church did not really bother to pursue the Benandanti unless asked or one happened to fall into their lap. Eventually any difference between the supposedly “Christian” Benandanti and the Witches they fought faded from the common consciousness. The gatherings both in person and in spirit of the Benandanti became known as little more than a Witches Sabbath as diabolic as any other, and treated as such by the Church authorities.

In the traditions of the Benandanti we find not only the remnants of a pagan cult, but also the tendency of the populace after centuries of Church rule to try to make sense of the remnant pagan customs in the framework the Church gave them. Gods became angels and demons, and spirits became devils, witches and monsters. These night battles were by no means isolated, similar traditions appear in the Caucuses and the Balkans, around the Baltic Sea and in the British Isles, some form of the tradition and legend remained all across the land. Some more spiritual such as the Benandanti and Livonian Werewolves, others were more physical. For instance, the fights between different bands of Krampus in the Alps or the battles between the Ugly and Pretty Perchten.

Spirits of the Dead

While the Krampus and the Perchten battles are performed in person while dressed in Wilder Mann costumes they are no less spiritual in nature. Both the Krampus and the Perchten are spirits of fertility and of the land, the Perchten are of special note in fact. As the Perchten were once the souls of lost children who went to Perchta, the ones who chose not to reincarnate but instead became Perchten. Taking the form of beautiful glittering beings, hairy horned wild men, bird headed women or a number of other forms in service to the goddess. Yet as we see the tradition of these spirit battles was not of Good Witch Vs. Bad Witch. In the legends of the witches especially in the case of the Benandanti are seen a conflation between the witches and the spirits of the dead. Just as the Night Battles and flight of witches was most active around holidays and seasonal change, so too were the souls of the dead. Inside the traditions that call back to these ancestral spirits we find yet another tradition that of the leaving of food for the dead. An action recalled in traditions like Trick or Treating for Halloween or leaving cookies out for Santa in the modern day.

This “Food of the Dead” calls back to older tales of feasts left out for the dead, the Porridge left out for the Nisse in Sweden, or the Milk left out for Perchta and her Ghost Children. The Food was not eaten physically but in spirit by the ravenous appetites of the visiting dead, then the physical meal would be consumed after a certain amount of time by the living family. Legends tell of The Mothers, and White Ladies, among many other spirits, visiting the family around the time of certain holidays or the birth of a child.

In parts of Germany other folk traditions as well include the leaving out of food for the “Good Women” whenever a new babe was born, the family also would leave out spinning materials for the “Good Women” to spin a good fate for the newborn.

I have spoken of how the Witches were described as flying across the sky consuming milk, food, and alcohol yet the food would not shift at all though it may sour. Many of the supposedly malevolent tales of the Witches and their hi-jinks are taken from the beliefs surrounding the spirits of the dead, then twisted to suit a more malevolent purpose. The dead even remain relevant in modern customs such as ghosts abounding during Halloween and The Christmas “Elves” are a call back to ancestral spirits who would leave blessings and gifts while with the Wild Hunt or Furious Hosts. These times where the dead are most active also coincide with the time when the Earth is entering Winter, and fertility as a result is fading. Over time the spirits became conflated with the taking of fertility, yet the fights between the witches of rival villages or the living witches and the ghosts are also present across Europe.

The Myth of the Werewolf by Lorenzo de La Rocha 1895

A tale of Livonian Werewolves echoes these stories, with the famous tale of Old Thiess a Werewolf who claimed that he and others change into werewolves armed with iron whips to chase the devils and sorcerers into the entrance of the underworld or “Hell” by “the edge of the sea” in order to reclaim the crop for next year. In parts of the Balkans and Caucasus a more blatant battle between Witches from different areas takes place as they shape shift into beasts to engage in spiritual battle cheered from the sidelines by their respective lands.

Engaging in aerial combat having taken the shapes of wolves, bears, horses, and more they tear and gnash at each other. Other tales have various Witches, and their allies fly to the land of the dead or a meadow where the dead reside, though some versions of this tale call these ancestral spirits “Devils”. As the traditions of the Old Ethnic Ways mingled with the Churches decrees and beliefs, the souls of the dead were something the Church didn’t truly know how to classify. Sometimes they would be devils, others malevolent spirits, the church would then shove that lore into that of witches while the aspects the church could sanction were handed off to Saints and Guardian Angels as proof of their benevolence and protection.

As a result, the lore of the Witch and the lore of the dead inevitability became further and further conjoined as time went on. But it was in the legends of the living and their celebrations that other parts of the Witch find their origin.

What Really Were the Witch Cults?

Across Europe during the Middle Ages and beyond there was tell of “Witch Cults” said to venerate the devil and commit unspeakable atrocities. They would meet in forest clearings and atop mountains such as the famous Brocken in Germany. They would join together for the Sabbath or for the Esbat. The latter of which was far more akin to a business meeting, while the Sabbaths served a celebratory and religious purpose. Like the “Good Christians” these Witch Cults would collect themselves typically outside, weather permitting, and celebrate especially around Holidays. They would dance and feast, often bringing foods and enjoying a country get-together. These gatherings were typically led by a male head known as “The Devil” though occasionally a female might lead as well taking titles such as “The Queen of Elphame”. Though it is implied that in each case there were multiple figures who fulfilled this role, in many cases the Cults would hold meetings where “The Devil” would be at the head of the table and he would also have “The Devil’s Maiden” or some derivation of such a title, which served as matriarch to his role as patriarch. The Church records describe these figures as devils and demons that the Witches would venerate with circle dances, festivities, picnics, feasts, and many other traditions. When one looks at the names the “witches” themselves would use for their god it becomes a bit more obvious as to the origin of these “Witch Cults”.

Names such as Robin Goodfellow (The Faerie Puck), Robin Artisson (A Bear God), Janicot (A Wild God of the Basque), Hou (A Breton God), Holda (German Goddess); make it rather obvious that these so-called Witch Cults were remnants of the Ethnic Faiths Christianity had attempted to stamp out. To this cause the Church gladly attributed the title of Witch to those who performed traditions and rituals they considered heretical.

It is more than likely that most of the members of the “Witch Cults” were just average people who had by chance or by stubbornness kept to the Old Ways. Not Witches, just Bob the Baker, or Anna the Seamstress. It is not that Witches were not a part of these cults merely that they were not the entirety of them. It was these average people as well as the witches that got swept up in the Churches Witch Hunts under the delusion of pious action as well as righteous indignation. The inquisitors in their black clothes would sweep in and find those who had been accused of being witches and for most of their history were more than happy to commit atrocities to get the confession they believed would save the soul of the wretched witch. The Inquisitors often imprisoning their prisoners for over a year, only taking them out to torture and question them. These Inquisitors and Witch Hunters seem to have truly believed they were combating the devil, often outsourcing the torturing to professionals. Whether Devil or Wotan, Demon or Holda, or even Angels and Mary if witchcraft was suspected you were never safe. The Witch Finders would check in and over time, the fear and pain would drive women and men alike to confess.

In some cases, stating they would confess to whatever the inquisitor wished them to, even offering to merely repeat a previous Witches confession. Left hanging and in unbearable pain from their shoulders, whipped, prodded, needles poked into their genitalia, occasionally even raped by people who saw the women or men they held prisoner as nothing more than devil worshipers who bewitched and betrayed their neighbors, deserving of any suffering visited upon them.

As small bits of Witch lore combined with lore of Christianity’s older enemies, the folklore began to spread and bits of what a “Witch” was supposed to be, would trickle down to those accused. The prison guard or executioner may even feed them what they should say, eventually the accused would either confess or die as it was believed the witch would be protected from the pain and be unable to confess until the Devils hold over her was removed.

In cases such as that of Magdalena Bollman in 1747, who never confessed. She was tortured on the rack and on the block. Thumbscrews were put to her, and her genitals were pierced through with needles. The fact that her genitals were then found to be swollen was taken as proof that she had laid with the devil. When placed before the court in an unresponsive catatonic state she was decreed to be protected by the Devil. At which time they then continued her torture, tying a rope around her arms and pulling her down the stairs. She was later found dead in her cell from her injuries.

Yet this writing is not about the inquisitors, nor their atrocities. It is about the people whose very existence was considered a sin, an affront to the church. However, to understand the Witch Cult requires understanding the culture of the time, when a potluck and live music with a bonfire for light could be declared a Witches Sabbath if it strayed too far from what the Church decided acceptable. To acknowledge that when they didn’t get the desired answer, the church then commonly resorted to torture until the desired answer was received is important. As many of the confessions Witches told of their cults had to go through the Church first, who in many cases wouldn’t accept the answer they found to be incorrect. Another god could not be it must be the devil and his demons!

The Witches and pagans were not the only ones to feel the Churches close minded brutality. Before the true hysteria of the Witch Hunts took off, there were similar mass panics regarding Lepers, Jews, and Heretics. At the same time as Catholicism was finding its footing, other sects abounded and were subsequently squashed. Long after it had begun its first crusades in Europe, Catholicism then turned its attention to the small sects who had ended up combining the old and the new. Some heretical sects in the Alps even began honoring Lucifer as God of the Earth to Yahweh’s god of the sky, viewing them as brothers. It seems most likely this was a result of conflation of the church with pagan myth, or an attempt for the folklore to make sense of what was lacking in Christian lore.

The atrocity propaganda against all three, mimics much of the more nonsensical and demonic accusations against the witches, such as profaning the host and cross, worshiping a donkeys’ ass, cannibalism, and dark masses to the devil, as well as mass poisonings and plots. As such much of what the Church thought about these earlier threats it then attributed to the Witches centuries later. Most obviously in the names chosen for their get together, that of the “Sabbath” and of the Witches meeting places “Synagogues”.

In the Witch Cult, the complete inversion and perversion of the Christian faith was seemingly discovered. They supposedly swore allegiance to the devil, took unholy communion, were baptized in blood, and seemed to toss away any Christian morals, they were even renamed old names of gods such as Anna, Ellen, or any number of names cleverly disguised beneath innocuous names the Church had gladly declared identical to those of biblical figures or of Christian origin. Such a thing had to be stopped. The new converts to the “witch religion” from Christianity likely required some kind of initiation and swearing against the Christian god and Jesus who some members of the various ‘cults’ would call “That Cursed Prophet”. This was likely done as a sign they had truly left the religion, as far more women than men seem to have been converted back to the old traditions, it stands to reason that this was done largely as a means of marriage. As the men of the old religion found themselves requiring a wife the women they would court would then convert, these handsome gentleman callers would become “the devil” to the Witch when later confronted by representatives of the clergy. As such much of the “Sex with the devil” as described, was likely a result of conflating ones’ husband or wife with the devil, in addition to a bit of ‘fun’ in the woods around the holidays helped along with some alcohol and passion.

The Witch was also said to carry a mark on her body as a sign of her allegiance to this devil. Some of these were similar to warts or extra nipples, the Christian legend would claim these marks to be teats with which the witch fed her familiars or spirit helpers. Some women were so worried about having such a mark they would seek out executioners and other figures to check that a mole, wart or third nipple wouldn’t get them burned as a witch.

At the same time greedy or spiteful neighbors were all too happy to at times to send their fellow man down the river. In some areas during the witch trials the Witch would be looked over while naked by members of the same sex. Often times around the genitals, if “long strange nipples” were found they were then proclaimed as proof the accused were witches. Much of this was likely internal politics of the village taking hold and certain people paying with their lives.

Though there is some truth to the “Witches Mark” as members of the “Witch Cults” would often be marked through the use of tattoos or scarification to indicate their membership. Often the mark was so small that it could be easy to miss, located in places such as the upper thigh, foot, or another easily concealed area. In later periods the “witches” would often show up to the physical gatherings disguised as animals, wearing hoods, or both. This was in order to protect their identity as if the Church were to find them they would be tortured for names.

Records indicate more women than men ended up giving up others, as most men would choose death or execution over being caught or giving up their people. Similar in many ways to the current habit of men to go down fighting when confronted by the law rather than be arrested.

Whoever led the ceremonies and celebrations often wore the garb of an animal such as a bear or goat skin, often embodying the god or totem animal of the individual or people. The costume seems to have not always been worn by a single person, though individuals who more befit the witch role were often described using it or “in animal form”. As well as residing on the edge of the town; a common trope of Witches and Wizards in folklore and legends, these costumed figures often played fiddle or bagpipes at the celebrations, much as mummers or carnival goers may in the modern day. The role of the Witch was still as it had always been, a mediator of spirits, a seer, a spirit guide, a healer, and an herbalist. Yet just as with the Benandanti centuries later the Witch Cults in the Middle Ages began to be attacked by the common people as well, husband against wife, parent against child, neighbor against neighbor.

A Player with a Hermit by Moritz von Schwind 1846

Over time the churches view permeated society, and the Witches became blamed for everything wrong in the world. Famine, illness, barren women, bad luck, even erectile dysfunction, and spoiled milk. A total inversion of their old role as helpers and servants of the people. After plagues, famines, wars, and corruption became rampant the Witch became a boogeyman. They became an easy scapegoat despite a huge swath of the population keeping old traditions around in new forms. The pagans, witches and unlucky individuals caught in the crossfire were common victims for the angst and ire of people. Many may try to blame ergot poisoning, but drugs have never been needed to stir up a mass panic or delusion, people are good enough at doing that themselves, and the mob has never been known to be reasonable.

The True Witch

Yet behind such things there still exists the true witch. Not conflated with the dead, heretical atrocity propaganda, biblical lore or festive farmers who kept the old ways alive. A role of self-sacrifice and service to ones people, an often thankless position as people became scared or irked by the powers they supposedly possess. Many would exist on the fringe of society or travel, such as the Völva, who predominately served as seers and advisors. They would often hold a distaff or staff with distaff qualities and many tales recall them as “Sitting Out” a method of divination where one goes out into the wilds and sits, not eating or drinking until exposure causes a different state of consciousness. They are then said to be able to commune or peer through the veil or to the Web of Wyrd to receive their visions. Their ability was so renowned that gods such as Odin would even seek certain ones out to ask for aid.

Odin & The Volva by Lorenz Frolich 1895

Yet their role was often thankless, and it was dangerous as well. Traveling across the frigid unforgiving north, their gift often requiring them to put themselves in even further danger such as sitting out or going into an ecstatic state of near death, which left them open to being killed by simply being rolled over and their soul unable to return via the mouth.

Other witches would serve as herbalists or midwives, not bothering with magic so much as apothecary and medicine. Nicknames of plants like Eye of Newt (Mustard Seed), Bat’s Wing (Holly Leaves), Bear’s Foot (Lady’s Mantle), or Beard of Monk (Chicory) contributed to the common idea of the Witches cauldron full of magical animal parts. What was once used to make medicine became the bubbling Witches cauldron full of poisons and wicked potions in the imagination of the common folk.

Yet the story of the witch has so much more to discuss brooms, hats, trios, baby fat potions, black candles, familiars? What of them?! The Witches Broom? Quite likely a distaff, staff or perhaps simply a broom for cleaning. The hat? Perhaps it was the hat of an alewife or a traveler’s hat, maybe even a fashion statement of a specific time and place. The Three Witches so common in depictions? The Good women often appear in threes. Solution of baby fat? Salves and unguents for healing or with which the inexperience or ungifted may enter ecstatic states, these salves largely made using animal fat or lamp oil and ingredients that in lesser hands would potentially be a fatal poison such as aconite.

Then what of Black Candles? Celebratory lights for fertility celebrations. But the cats and familiars you ask? Spirit animals and misidentified farm fauna, or more likely the Witches pet. All of these things are window dressing, extra, small bits of the legend and role of the witch that has become prominent through successive retellings and the fantastical visions of authors and tellers of tales.

Like many parts of the ethnic culture and faith of Europe the Witch is a complex and multifaceted role, conflated with many things both related and unrelated. Their tale involved perseverance in a world increasingly hostile to their very existence. They became known as baby eaters, famine bringers, poisoners, monsters, devil worshipers, among many other less savory things. They faced torture and even papal decrees proclaiming them marked for death. Some fled to the edges of civilization others crossed the sea to America where a Witch Cult would take root.

Yet still just beneath the veneer as with all the aspects of our Old Ways is something beautiful. A role of self-sacrifice, healing, love, life, and magic! A role that was feared as well as respected. A role people may sorely miss, especially in a maze of self-proclaimed witches appropriating a history with candles, glitter, and chicken feathers. Once solemn and filled with trials each battled, in both the spirit and in the flesh, battles hard won and well rewarded. Perhaps the Witch may make a comeback someday. Their story never faded even if the role has. So, tell their story. Tell their purpose, and nurture hope for the future. For the spirits of the dead, for those who kept the traditions alive in remote corners of the shires and mountains of our lands, for those who were called charmer and werewolf, seer and spinner, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother, maiden and crone, the Hermit and Witch. There are those who need to hear it, so that those who have been, can be a part of those yet to come. For in the fields and in the family home, on the mountains and in the country shires, life truly does go on.

Herne’s Oak from the Merry Wives of Windsor by George Cruikshank 1857


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