Friday, August 2, 2013

Strange Things About Witches You Probably Didn't Know

1-The term witch or cunning originally meant something akin to "Those who work with spirits (fairies)." So
Witches and shamans are different words
for essentially the same thing.
Picture is Female Witch Doctor by Arsenal 21
most of the witches spells were actually rituals to help them communicate with the spirit world. Many times they had no real magic themselves, rather their primary job was to act as mediators between the human and the fairy realms. (Or to help wicked spirits cause trouble in the world).

Witches and Cunning were very much like shamans. That is they got their power by entering the fairy realm or by asking for help from fairies, not from themselves.

2-Witches and Cunning worked for the familiar spirits (fairies), not the other way around. Though often the relationship between a witch and familiar became fairly symbiotic.

While some familiars took the form of animals many of these familiar spirits were spirits of the dead, One witch from Italy's familiar spirit was her dead father.

The Familiar Spirit themselves often had a master 
who was the devil or a fairy queen.

3-Almost no one ever chose to be a witch or cunning, rather the fairies or evil spirits chose them. In fact many people tried to resist becoming a witch or a cunning. But the familiar spirits would come to them and force them into the relationship, sometimes even possessing them, causing them to into a wild hysteria until they agreed to do what the spirits wanted.

A woman named Elizabeth Chandler even prayed to god to help her be rid of her two familiar spirits, but they kept appearing to her anyways. In the English Fairy tale "Yarrley Brown" a young man gets stuck with a familiar spirit who helps him while invisible, which freaks out everyone around him so that soon the young man is alone and friendless. When he at last tries to get rid of "Yarrley Brown" the familiar fairy replies;

"but I never said that I'd leave thee alone, Tom, and I never will, my lad! I was nice and safe under the stone, Tom, and could do no harm; but thou let me out thyself, and thou can't put me back again!"

Many fairies and spirits wanted to have a relationship with humanity, 
to be able to influence the world. Witches and Cunning 
Were their method of building this relationship.


Witch Fall by Anotherwanderer
4-Despite these potential problems most witches were close friends with their familiar spirits. At times a witch and a fairy could even become lovers. For example one young girl in Scotland was given the secret to magically divining the truth of things in return for becoming the lover of a fairy man.

5-To do their job witches often sent one of their souls out of their bodies to travel the human world or the spirit world. They would often do this through; extreme cold, fasting, sleep deprivation, and various forms of meditation.  While on their 'spirit journey' the witches body goes comatose and appears near death or to actually be dead.

During this time the witches soul is free to wonder the human and spirit worlds. Often times this Journey was undertaken to;

Gain magical knowledge
Familiar spirits would often guide their witches to ceremonies where they would meet a Fairy Queen, the Devil, other witches and other magical beings in order to increase their magical knowledge.

To fight illness and blight
Many witches throughout Europe would battle evil spirits in the spirit world. In the Baltic lands some people would fight evil spirits that wanted to blight their fields in the form of wolves.

To gain mystical enlightenment and philosophical understanding
Christian Saints would often leave their souls to have conversations with angels and see the afterlife (think "Dante's Inferno." Knowledge of various other philosophies besides the Christian one were also gained by those who went on spirit journey's, however, Christian Journey's were by far the most common.

To gather information on this world or cause mischief
Witches might also leave their bodies in order to find thieves or become thieves. Their soul could go about in the form of an animal (such as a cat) in order to cause mischief and attack people in the night.


5-One of the most important tasks of a cunning was to retrieve stolen or lost goods. This was a dangerous job, however, because if a witch accused someone who was found innocent of a theft than the witch could be liable for falsely accusing the person and punished accordingly

6-Good people might inherit evil spirits, and thus be forced by these spirits to become an evil witch. At the same time of course this means that a greedy person might inherit good spirits and so be forced to become a good cunning.

7-Evil Witches were most often motivated by revenge, by a malicious hatred of humanity (often times they especially hated men and or beautiful women).

8-Witches were often revolutionary figures. One man was told by the spirits to rob from the rich to give to the poor and he gathered thousands of followers to help him do this. Of course the rich didn't like this and he was soon killed.

9-It was dangerous to talk about ones relationship with fairies and familiar spirits. In a Welsh Folk Tale (Kaddy's Luck) one girl told her husband how the fairies had aided her when she young her baby was stolen away. This is one reason we have so little information on witches, because they were always reluctant to tell anyone about their relationship with the fairy world.

4 comments:

mikemonaco said...

Nice work! I like this series of posts of "strange things you probably didn't know". I can't believe I'm not seeing more comments on this blog. Very interesting stuff.

Paulie Rockets, Boy Genius said...

First off, this is a great blog! I love it.

On your point number three, there is still a strong shamanic tradition in Korea. Apparently, certain women get chosen by whatever means the spirit world uses. If the woman does not respond to the call, she will often get sick with various ailments that resist medical treatment. This phenomenon is often recognized by Korean doctors and they will tell their patients that the ailments will not subside until the patient accepts their calling.

Cool, huh?

Paulie Rockets, Boy Genius said...

First off, this is a great blog! I love it.

On your point number three, there is still a strong shamanic tradition in Korea. Apparently, certain women get chosen by whatever means the spirit world uses. If the woman does not respond to the call, she will often get sick with various ailments that resist medical treatment. This phenomenon is often recognized by Korean doctors and they will tell their patients that the ailments will not subside until the patient accepts their calling.

Cool, huh?

Nukiuk said...

Hello Paula Korean shamanism is very cool. Thank you for posting