The Witches' Book of the Dead

The Witches' Book of the Dead

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by Christian Day
     
 

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Witches are creatures of magic. They cast spells, heal, and foretell the future. What you might not know is that Witches can also commune with the spirits of the dead.

In The Witches' Book of the Dead, modern-day Salem Warlock Christian Day shows how the spirits of our beloved dead can be summoned to perform such tasks as helping you to discover hidden

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Overview

Witches are creatures of magic. They cast spells, heal, and foretell the future. What you might not know is that Witches can also commune with the spirits of the dead.

In The Witches' Book of the Dead, modern-day Salem Warlock Christian Day shows how the spirits of our beloved dead can be summoned to perform such tasks as helping you to discover hidden opportunities, influence the minds of others, seduce the object of your affection, and even reach into the dreams of the unwary. According to legend, the Spirits of the dead can confer magical talents, fame, love, and wealth on those brave enough to summon them.

The Witches' Book of the Dead explores the enduring relationship between witches and the dead and teaches rituals and incantations to help readers open doorways to the spirit world.

Topics include:

  • Legendary Witches who have raised the dead, including The Witch of Endor, Circe, and Erichtho
  • Creating ancestral altars and building relationships with spirits
  • The tools of Necromancy: the bronze dagger, yew wand, iron keys, graveyard dust, the offering cauldron, spirit powders, the human skull, and more
  • Methods of spirit contact, including automatic writing, scrying mirrors, spirit boards, pendulums, and spirit mediumship
  • The ancient arts of necromancy as a method of conjuring the dead to assist in magic
  • Ridding yourself of unwanted spirits using rituals of cleansing, banishing and exorcism
  • Ghost hunting techniques that combine psychic wisdom with modern technology
  • Communing with the dead in dreams
  • Sacred holidays and powerful celebrations of the dead
  • Resources on where to ethically obtain the tools of the trade
  • An overview of the feared deities of the Underworld
  • Rituals, recipes, exercises, and more!

Dare to walk between the worlds with Christian Day as he guides you across the River Styx into the shadowy realms where the dead long to connect with us once more!

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This book delivers a call back to an often-neglected source of power, wisdom, and guidance: necromancy and communion with the unseen side of humanity. It is a fascinating compendium and a useful tool but definitely a controversial challenge. Read and enjoy, but apply the techniques with care and caution!" --Orion Foxwood, author of The Tree of Enchantment, primary teacher of Faery Seership and Co-Founder of the House of Brigh Faery Seership Institute.

"This beautiful tome piercingly reaches to the psyche of genuine magickal practitioners, reminding us that we have always, and shall continue to, work with forces beyond our immediate consciousness. For those exploring the serenity of shadow and the deeper levels of Craft, this book is most definitely for you." --Raven Digitalis, author of Shadow Magick Compendium and Goth Craft

"Filled with mystery and magick The Witches' Book of the Dead is deliciously dark, edgy, thought provoking and beautifully crafted." --Ellen Dugan author of Practical Protection Magick

"Christian Day is an amazing resource when it comes to magic and Witchy legend and lore. Day breaks down Witchcraft history, humanizes the folks who have always stood casting and conjuring at the outskirts of society, and then celebrates them like one would cheer a rock star. A great book and mystical look into connecting with the other side and transforming the universe around us." --Jeff Belanger, founder of Ghostvillage.com, author of The World's Most Haunted Places, and host of 30 Odd Minutes

"Christian writes with wisdom and authority, and makes the reader feel safe and secure, knowing they are being lead through advanced ritual practices by someone who knows his stuff A-Z." --Edain McCoy author of Advanced Witchcraft: Go Deeper, Reach Further, Fly Higher

Library Journal
Day, a self-proclaimed warlock based in Salem, Massachusetts, here discusses the history of necromancy and its relationship to witchcraft. Topics of interest include opening the doorway between this world and the spirit world, constructing an altar of the dead, banishing and exorcism, methods of spirit contact, speaking with the dead, the history and nature of necromancy, oracular necromancy, necromantic magic, dreaming the dead, ghost hunting, and celebrating festivals for the dead. Three appendixes have recipes for necromancy incense, spirit powder, anointing oil, and food for the dead; deities of the dead; and various resources. Written with confidence and familiarity, the book's prose is straightforward and easy to understand. VERDICT Of interest to individuals interested in occult practices and necromancy.—Bradford Lee Eden, Valparaiso Univ. Lib., IN

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781578635061
Publisher:
Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date:
10/01/2011
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Witches' Book of the Dead


By Christian Day

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2011 Christian Day
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-607-4



CHAPTER 1

A Covenant with the Dead


"Witchcraft"—the word evokes images of strange rituals held in forgotten corners of gnarled forests lit only by the moon and perhaps a candle or two. Within a bramble-lined clearing is a stone altar, upon which is spread a gathering of roots, charms, daggers, and other tools of the magical arts. At the center of the altar, the stark presence of a leering human skull presides over the ceremony as a venerated representative of the mighty dead. A lone sorceress, draped in tattered black robes, pricks her finger to draw three drops of her blood as an offering to the spirits as she whispers her dark oaths and secret desires on the wind. As the Witch waits, the dead hearken to her call, rising from their shadowy resting places to serve their mistress's bidding.

This foreboding image of the Witch as necromantic sorceress, working under the guise of moonlight and conjuring spirits, continues to lurk in the unconscious depths of peoples throughout the world despite the hopes of the well-intentioned to turn the ancient arts of Witchcraft into just another mainstream religion, lush with spiritual devotion but nearly devoid of magic. Something within each of us knows that Witches are creatures of magic; Witches cast spells, heal, and foretell the future; Witches commune with spirits of the dead and otherworldly entities and employ those powers to weave their intentions into the world around them. This book explores the enduring relationship between Witches and the dead, and shares rituals and incantations to help you open doorways to the spirit world.


The Witch in Myth and History

Dig into the past and you will find that Witches have nearly always lived on the fringes of society, casting their spells by candlelight, mixing potions for love and elixirs for healing, and calling on spirits, fairies, and other strange denizens of the unseen worlds to bring about change and to teach the wisdom of arcane secrets. Ordinary people sought out Witches in the dead of night, hoping to divine the future and procure all manner of spells for love, health, and prosperity—or to deal justice to those who deserved it. The Witches were proficient at all of these things.

It is not certain when Witches first walked the Earth, but the arts of magic have been practiced since humans first endeavored to understand the hidden workings of the world around them and to solve the great mystery of death. It is difficult to outline in great detail all of the practices of ancient magical peoples because, aside from the occasionally unearthed curse tablet, amulet, or sacred inscription, early sorcerers rarely wrote down what they did. They passed their knowledge only to family or long-prepared apprentices, and often took their greatest secrets with them to the grave. We discover the Witch among the dusty bones and relics of archeology, in the whispers of folklore, and through direct communication with the spirits of those who lived long ago.

Among early tribal cultures, those individuals who could do magic were often separated out and given roles of recognition and honor. In this way, the earliest shamans and medicine people came to be. These tribal magicians were not that far removed from Witches, with one important exception: their practices were revered by the people around them, whereas Witches were typically outsiders who did magic according to their own rules.

As humans settled down and civilizations were born, priesthoods evolved from those early shamanic cultures. Priests served an important function in the emerging warrior-based states because they provided spiritual nourishment for the masses—a role they still play today. Magic itself was gradually assimilated into the state as an officially sanctioned practice, but also began to be restricted to those who were authorized to use it. Others, especially those for whom magic was their birthright, refused to bow to these emerging authorities, preferring to practice magic in the ways they understood it. From these early rebels, the idea of the Witch was born.

Those who chose the path of priesthood often had magical and necromantic talents, but their practices grew more and more liturgical and political as time went on, gradually losing the power of spirit and magic. Thus, their people were left with oracles proclaiming the will of the state as "divine prophecy."

In classical Roman times, Witches often caused much fear; their craft was sometimes even outlawed, but still these magical people carried on in secret. The literature and commentary of the era paints the Witch as a dark and formidable enemy. Roman emperors of the pre-Christian era, for example, welcomed the practice of virtually hundreds of faiths, but not Witchcraft. The reason for this is simple: Witches had the power to affect the tides of reality around them. The Roman leaders of the time feared this power, knowing that, just as they could be stripped of their rule as the result of a few drops of poison in their wine goblets, the Witch's curse, a far more undetectable danger, could bring their reign crashing down around them if they proved to be unjust rulers who abused their people.

Witches were feared in ancient Greece as well. There, they were believed to practice necromancy, summon dark forces, and consult with daemons— spirits good or evil (that would later evolve into the Christian concept of the entirely evil demon) that the Witch employed to perform all manner of tasks. It was this use of spirits that caused the Greeks to associate Witches with the powers of darkness and the underworld. They were looked upon as strangers in their native land, sometimes to be consulted, always to be feared.

In the fourth century, a new spiritual behemoth arose in the form of the Christian church. It began as a small cult that honored its founder's principles of peace and love, but through the seduction of political power, this young faith merged with the Roman Empire to become one of history's most cruel scourges on humanity. Before long, the Church, one of many competing faiths of the time, could suffer no rival and began persecuting what it deemed to be "heresy" as a means of suppressing any threat to its political might. In doing so, the Christian authorities began to designate other supernatural forces, such as spirits, faeries, and deities, as demons, devils, and evil spirits. In doing so the Church not only set the stage for later persecution of Witches, but of all non-Christian faiths.

Among the deities that the Church of Rome recast as evil were the horned nature gods, such as Herne, who led the wild hunt, a metaphor for the spirits of the dead who maraud the land by night; Kernunnos, lord of animals and the underworld; and Pan, the classic goat-footed god of indulgence and carnality. Because the emerging Church held a fundamental worldview that nature was sinful, the horned gods were considered formidable enemies and were the primary targets of ecclesiastical wrath. The Church created the concept of the Devil from a composite of the Satan, or adversary, in Judaism (who was not originally considered the personification of evil but rather a tester of faith), and the horned gods and spirits throughout the known world, reaching as far as Celtic and Persian lands for inspiration.

The persecution of Witches came to full force during the thirteenth through the seventeenth centuries, when authorities thoroughly associated Witchcraft with the worship of Satan. According to trial records, the spirits of the dead that Witches worked with were seen as demonic familiars, and sometimes even the Devil himself. The familiar spirit was described as more of an evil assistant—a watchdog from the depths of hell, rather than the spirit of the Witch's beloved grandmother or an old friend.

Much of what we know about the practices of European Witches is gleaned from the records of the countless Witch trials that took place over several hundred years. Most of the records dealt with men in black (and no, not the kind who hunt aliens), queens of the underworld, and, of course, the Devil himself. But recent translations of Hungarian Witch trials records by Hungarian Professor Éva Pócs show possible links to ancient cults of the dead as well as connections to both Nordic and Celtic shamanism hidden within the testimony of the accused. The word wicca (pronounced "Witcha"), which is the root of Witch, is a Germanic term, and an increasing number of scholars are looking to the Germanic Norse for the roots of European Witchcraft. While the word "Witch" is specifically Germanic, I personally take the route of using the word more broadly, to apply to similar magical peoples throughout the known world.

Ever rebellious, Witches continued to practice their ways in secret, keeping the knowledge underground and passing it only to members of the family. Some hid in Christianity, becoming priests, nuns, and other religious functionaries while continuing to work the arts of magic in the quiet of darkened rooms, midnight chapels, lonely woods, and decrepit tombs.

Witches were magical mercenaries—an elite breed of supernatural power brokers. While they often served the communities they lived in from the edges of the village, the Witch's first loyalty was to herself and her family. For many, Witchcraft was the path of the lone practitioner, seeking wisdom in hidden places.

Witches appear in the myths and legends of almost every culture in history, and are often portrayed as enemies of cultural authorities that disapprove of them, labeling them as potentially dangerous outcasts and heretics. These magic-makers came shrouded in many guises, and did not always use the word "Witch" to describe themselves. Rather, they used the words of sorcery within their own languages. You can recognize Witches by their talent for controlling natural and supernatural forces, their ability to see into the past and future, and their skill at summoning the dead.


The Witch as Necromancer

Many of the great Witches of history, folklore, legend, and literature worked with the dead. These fearsome figures have become part of cultural traditions worldwide, inspiring both honor and fear many centuries after passing into the realm of spirit. Modern Witches aspire to emulate these illustrious enchanters and often call them to be part of present-day magic.

Perhaps no conjurer of spirits is more famous than the Witch of Endor, a woman who practiced her arts in spite of the condemnation of her ways by the authorities of her time. The Witch of Endor makes her first appearance in the Old Testament book of Samuel. The Prophet Samuel has died and King Saul, an insecure and bitter ruler, has begun to harshly impose the scriptural ban on sorcery and necromancy. But when his priests are unable to bring him the truth he seeks, Saul realizes that it's the Witch who is able to conjure truth when all else fails. He goes to the Witch of Endor (disguised and in the dead of night, of course) and beseeches her to raise the spirit of Samuel, who promptly foretells his impending death on the following day. It turns out that the spirit of Samuel was correct in his prediction. Perhaps such bans on Witchcraft by authorities were brought about by their understanding that the Witches could get results, and that these results were not always what the authorities wanted to hear. Because of her mastery of the necromantic arts, this skilled sorceress of Endor is still remembered and called upon by Witches in the present day.

The greatest Witch of classical Greek times is the legendary Circe, who appears in Homer's Odyssey as both benevolent helper of the hero, Odysseus, and feared wielder of justice to those whose hearts are untrue. Circe lived on a desolate island near to the entrance of the underworld and worked with the goddess Hecate, guardian of the crossroads and patroness of the dead. Circe tells Odysseus to travel beyond the Western horizon to the edge of Hades, land of the dead. She teaches Odysseus the process by which he can conjure up the shades of the dead through blood sacrifice, and so the hero makes his journey to the underworld, performing the rituals where the rivers Acheron and Cocytus meet, into which the waters of the river Styx flow—waters that separate the lands of the living and the dead.

In the saga of Erik the Red we find one of the most dramatic examples of the Seidr—the Norse form of Witchcraft. The Witch Thorbjorg was a seeress who was often invited to winter feasts so that she might share her visions of the future with guests. Thorkell, a chief farmer in a region of Greenland where famine had struck, called Thorbjorg to one of his feasts to hear her foresight of just when that famine might end. She arrived in a strapped blue cloak bedecked with stones, calfskin shoes, and catskin gloves, and carried a staff bound with brass and also adorned with stones. Around her waist hung a pouch in which her many magics were stored. Thorbjorg stayed the night and the next day; as she prepared to perform her Witchcrafts to answer the questions asked, she asked for a woman to perform a song of spirit-summoning called the varÐlokur, also known as the Warlock song or warding song. A Christian woman who was not a Witch, but who knew the song from the teachings of her foster mother, came forth and sang the varÐlokur so beautifully that the spirits of the dead emerged. Thorbjorg divined the future from these spirits, among them several that the Witch said would normally stay away. She imparted to the guests that the famine would end by the springtime and all would be well with the crops. This story not only shows a significant tie between Witches and the dead, but has provided a strong but much-debated possible source for the word "Warlock," and is why I use it today to describe myself.

Each of these Witches of old, as well as others we will meet later on, worked with the spirits in daily life. The power and wisdom they received from supernatural beings infused their ability to better understand the inner workings of magic. These great sages of Witchcraft now inhabit the twilight world of the dead, yet they continue to inspire Witches today, and are often conjured to bring their magical legacy into modern times.


Modern Wicca: Witchcraft Renewed

In the early 1950s, a new image of the Witch emerged in the form of modern Wicca, which portrays Witchcraft as an ancient fertility cult that worships a god and a goddess. Blended together from bits of pre-Christian religions, Freemasonry, and nineteenth-century ceremonial magic, Wicca incorporates magic into its practices, but it is often secondary to worship. While it is true that some historical Witches have been associated with this deity or that, religious devotion did not define those individuals as Witches, and was certainly not the reason why they were both vilified and deified—their power was.

Real Witches were distinguished by their magic, their cunning powers of manipulation, their connection to the spirits, and, most importantly, their willingness to exploit these powers for their own ends and to meddle in the affairs of others. I sometimes wonder if the gods and goddesses we call on today might once have walked the Earth as Witches themselves, having been so magical in life that they were deified in death. Consider the story of Jesus, who performed miracles and magic, preached from the fringes of society, and was later referred to as a god. While these facts do not necessarily mean that Jesus was a Witch, he certainly fits some of the criteria that I use to distinguish one. The Buddha also began as an actual person, Siddhartha Gautama, and is now revered by traditions throughout the world. So if it's safe to say that if this is true of other magical people, then it just may be that our very dieties are the departed Witches of long ago.

Contrary to the Earth mother goddesses and jovial gods of modern Wicca, when Witches were associated with gods or goddesses, these deities were usually even darker and more feared than the Witches themselves. The spiritual intelligences employed by the Witch were typically not the officially sanctioned deities of the culture he resided in.

Modern Wicca has two ironclad, dogmatic rules that adherents follow. The first, "Do what you will and harm none," is a concept likely adapted from the teachings of Aleister Crowley. The second, the "threefold law," is a precept stating that everything the Wiccan does will return to her three times. Neither of these axioms appears in history prior to the twentieth century. In real Witchcraft, there are no rules. Morality and ethics are situational and dependent upon the culture, upbringing, and personal philosophy of the Witch. There are times, such as when danger is imminent, that the Witch must take defensive action. It is not evil to protect yourself, your family, and your community. The competent Witch learns to work within the balance of nature and the tides of magic.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from The Witches' Book of the Dead by Christian Day. Copyright © 2011 Christian Day. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Christian Day is a modern-day Warlock living in the "Witch City" of Salem, Massachusetts. He is the creator and coordinator of the annual Festival of the Dead and has appeared on The Travel Channel, Showtime, TLC, MSNBC, TMZ, and CNN.com, and has been widely quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and USA Today. Visit him at: www.christianday.com, www.festivalofthedead.com or www.salemhex.com

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The Witches' Book of the Dead 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Jesse_Gillespie More than 1 year ago
This book is right up there with Mastering Witchcraft by Paul A Huson! Its written in a similar fashion and is just as educating. As witches and Warlocks we are all necromancers and throughout time I personally have a decrease in our connection to the dead (ie. only honoring them on Halloween.)This book will get you in touch with the beloved dead in a way like no other book before it has. you will learn how to form a bond between them and what you can do for them so that they can do things for you. I personally would rather seek help from my relatives that have passed over than always going to the gods. they are busy beings and the are taking care of all their children. where as the dead are always able to aid their loved ones here on this earth. I rate this book 10/5.
Robo-Hamster More than 1 year ago
It explains the history and the meaning of the celebration for the day of the dead. The history goes back many, many years. I enjoyed the erriness, of the whole book. Parts are just ghostly and keeps your attention. A great learning tool.
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Not good