Witches and Wizards: The Real-Life Stories Behind the Occult's Greatest Legends

Witches and Wizards: The Real-Life Stories Behind the Occult's Greatest Legends

by Lucy Cavendish


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781925017441
Publisher: Rockpool Publishing
Publication date: 05/01/2017
Series: Supernatural Series
Pages: 180
Sales rank: 826,666
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Lucy Cavendish is a natural-born witch who created Witchcraft magazine, one of the first magazines of its kind in the world, and is a feature writer for Spellcraft. She appears regularly on television and radio, explaining the craft. She is also a founding member of the Goddess Association. Lucy is the author of several previous books, including Magical Spell Cards, Oracle of Shadows and Light, Oracle Tarot Cards, and Spellbound, and the coauthor of Oracle of the Shapeshifters. Visit Lucy at www.lucycavendish.com.au.

Read an Excerpt

Witches and Wizards

By Lucy Cavendish, Katie Evans

Rockpool Publishing Pty Ltd

Copyright © 2016 Lucy Cavendish
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-925017-44-1


A Snake Came Crawling

Pre History – the Dark Ages

* * *

Before there was terror there was a truce between the ways of the Old Gods and the New ... in the Dark Ages, there was light in the form of harmony, and the web of Wyrd was respected by all – even by Christian Kings.

A Wizard stands still in the field at dawn, his eyes fixed on the horizon, every sense anticipating the first rays of the sunrise, to choosing the perfect moment to begin the ancient ceremony. He murmurs incantations softly in the still air, each verse gathering power as the sun moves closer to the edge of the horizon. Four sods of earth stitched with seed lie at his feet, a beautifully carved plough rests in the field. With every moment his voice grows stronger, wilder, and before long the people gathered around can begin to discern what he is saying. And they long to hear – for he is speaking the old words over the land, the Magickal sounds that will bring the fields back to life, the prayers that will bring forth the grain and the vegetables, the fruits and the seeds that will provide every one of them with life throughout the season – and seasons – to come.

Every member of the tiny community has brought something to this immense ritual – the ritual known as AEcerbot, or the Remedy, to bring fruit to the fields. The Field Remedy charm is no fanciful thing, no dalliance with Magick. This is a twenty-four-hour process, which began at sundown the night before, and the Wizard has not worked alone. For the new Church's priest has worked and prayed over four sods of earth taken from the fields of the parishioners. He has soaked their roots in the poultice of honey and oil and milk and herb made by the Wise Women. He has prayed over the sods, and said a mass for them. He took four crucifixes and planted them into each sod within the Church, inscribing names of saints upon each cross. The Wizard does not like this change in the charm – for once the runes were written upon the sods, but for now they have agreed the saints must be asked for their blessing too, and it eases the priest's mind to know that the fields will be sown with the saints' blessings, as well as those of the earth mother, of Odin, of the Aelfer, or the elves.

In the darkness of the early morning, the villagers helped carry the sods to the fields, and now they stand gathered, along with their priest, watching their Wizard prepare ...

And it is then the Magick begins. As the sun turns the sky to gold and coral, the Wizard raises his arms, faces the east, and turns deosil – sunwise – three times, his voice growing in power and emotion, imploring the sun to fill the earth with its energy.

Each of the sods is ceremonially planted within the field, and the plough is then sprinkled with a strange mixture of frankincense, salt, oil and fennel ...

The cries are taken up by the villagers as the plough, now blessed, begins to break the earth.

Mother of Earth ...
Earth, Mother of mortals
Erce, Erce, Erce, Erce

* * *

This blessing of the land was a common ritual in Dark Ages Britain – a strange concoction, part Christian, part pagan, totally Magickal, that took weeks to prepare, a complete commitment by the priest and the people and a Wizard. It is typical of the syncretism of faith at a time when Wizards and Witches, cunning-men and Wise Women worked alongside the evolving Christian faith. (Cunning meant, in the old language, naturally clever – it did not have the connotation it has today, of being sly.) Whether Magick and miracle, both were woven into each other's worlds.

Between around 400AD and 1300, the Dark Ages allowed an evolution in religion. In Britain, the old Celtic ways had met and been melded to a degree with the practices of Rome, their gods meeting with the old ones, creating new, synthesized deities such as Sulis-Minerva of the sacred springs of Bath. Then came the Saxons, with their runes, and Odin, with Thor and Freya, and then came a new wave, the Christians, with their Christ – 'Christ', said St Columba, one of the founders of Celtic Christianity, 'is my Druid.' After them came the Vikings, and a further Nordic influence wove its way into the land. Thus Druids and priests, warriors, farmers, Wise Women and the cunning-folk who practised the Earth Magick found some way of getting along – and by finding where their worlds were similar, peace was possible. It was not perfect – there are laws we can trace forbidding malevolent Witchcraft, but the punishment for Magickal malpractice was to do penance for a year, or to eat bread and water for a time. King Alfred, who reigned as King of England (871–91) was a man who acknowledged the Magickal practice of his forebears – the philosophy known as Wyrd – but as he understood Wyrd – the energy and the weaving of fate and will that created lives – it was something brought about by God. He said, 'What we call Wyrd is really the work of God about which he is busy every day.'

King Alfred was a deeply committed Christian, a Warrior-King who fought off Viking invasions, and a shrewd, religious diplomat who encouraged kindness and mercy. His influence was immense and resulted in more and more churches being built in the little villages. Priests were encouraged to work with the Wizards and Wise Women, and Vikings became farmers and citizens of Wessex. It was a cunning – in the best sense of the word – form of conversion; a stealthy, shrewd wisdom that created opportunities for Christianity. achieved not through violence and force, but through clever manipulation of existing belief systems that resulted in the Christianisation of Old Briton.

In the Britain of the Anglo-Saxons, faith was a synthesis of the Old Ways and the new, and while churches like the little one at the village now known as Alton Priors in Wiltshire were being built, they were also part of a wider system of belief that had flourished and evolved for years.

Take, for example, this charm – one of the most famous of syncretic faith, known as the Nine Herbs Charm. This fragment reveals so much about the Anglo-Saxon world and its ability to meld forms of belief that later centuries would tear apart.

A snake came crawling, it bit a man.
Then Woden took nine glory-twigs,
Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.
There apple brought this pass against poison,
That she nevermore would enter her house.

This spell was used widely and it can found in the tenth century Anglo-Saxon manuscript, the Lacnunga. It was common for charms to make mention of Christ or one of the Old Gods. The Nine Herbs Charm mentions Odin – Woden – and Christ.

So, although many people today believe that there was never a time when Witches and Wizards and Priests and Church lived alongside each other, the truth is that they did. Although they skirmished and fought, there was a tolerance – sometimes almost envy – towards many Magickal practices within the early Church, which sought to bring people to Christianity though absorbing the pagan rituals and ways that were too loved, too revered to move on. Today you can see images of the Green Man in Westminster Abbey, runes in a Saxon churchyard, and yew trees in every Christian cemetery. Ostara, the Goddess, became Easter, Yule or the Winter solstice became Christ-mass, and Samhain became All Hallows Eve. Woden's day became Wednesday, Thor's day became Thursday, Freya's day became Friday – we live in a world still defined by Wyrd and the path of the Anglo-Saxon Wizards and Witches.

So now we can see how it was: until the early middle ages, folk magic and Witchcraft survived – and sometimes even thrived – alongside Christianity. It was officially disapproved of, certainly, and looked upon with suspicion and sometimes condemnation. But as is now clear, many of the Anglo-Saxons' folk charms made use of working with Old Gods and Goddesses, faerie and elf, Christian saints and Angels all within the one ritual. The Nine Herbs Charm casts out curses and illness by calling upon both Christ and Odin, and was used to heal Christian and Hedge Witches (practitioners of herbal Witchcraft) alike. Land blessings called upon faerie and elf, and saints and trees. The reality is there was no great divide for nearly 600 years. And for hundreds of years a syncretized form of religion flourished – a very eclectic version, which entwined ancient indigenous ways with the teachings of the New Christ and formed a relatively peaceful path, layering aspects of the New Ways over a solid and magical foundation of the Old Ways. Herbal remedies, midwifery, folkloric beliefs and oral history combined to form a concoction of faith that was, at times, not so far removed from the beliefs of the past.

The Church, in fact, had proclaimed that Witchcraft was a myth (despite the Bible devoting a chapter to the Witch of Endor) and that those who believed in such beings were merely falling into the belief systems of the pagan 'past' – even while working within the very festivals and days, the traditions and the Magick it said were myth. But the Church was busy – very busy – from around 600AD dealing with its own internal issues. Catholicism had its own rifts and chasms: Was the seat of the Church Rome, or was it more universal? Was the first saint Peter, or was Paul to be more revered? Ought the Druidal hybrid that was the Celtic Church, the same Church that kept Goddess Brigid and made her a Saint, make worshipping her more acceptable – or was it too pagan? Heresy was the great crime to fight, and as the Dark Ages gave way to the medieval era, the focus shifted to those who dwelled outside of the borders of Christian lands. This is despite the Old Testament, which specifically warned people off consulting with those who could cast spells, raise spirits – all the talents of the Biblical Witch of Endor who you are about to discover.

The Bible's Beautiful, Compassionate Witch of Endor

In the Old Testament is a bizarre story of King Saul consulting with a woman who has come to be known as The Witch of Endor. King Saul, a King of Israel, was said to be profoundly against 'unnatural' crafts like those of the Witch, Wise Woman and necromancer – or, as they are known today, mediums. He had spent his reign effectively driving out anyone who worked with spirits, or herbs, or Wise Women in general. Until he needed one, of course. Saul had relied upon the prophet Samuel for guidance, and when Samuel passed, Saul became lost, falling into despair. Desperate to have the guidance of his old friend back, he turned to a Witch, a woman who lived high in the mountains, deep within a cave, far away from demanding humans. This one last Witch is visited by Saul, who travels the vast distance to her in disguise, and she raises the spirit of Samuel from the dead so the King can ask Samuel his questions. Samuel's spirit is distressed by being disturbed from his rest, and chastises Saul for further angering God by having the Witch raise him up. Saul absolutely believes this is Samuel, by the way – he recognises the voice, and he knows his old friend is not happy with him at all. Samuel goes on to predict that Saul will perish when he goes into battle the next day, as will his troops and his son, all of whom will be with Samuel soon enough in the land of the dead.

Saul is not pleased with this at all, and breaks down crying. But he knows that his friend's spirit speaks the truth, as he is repeating an earlier prophecy. The Witch comforts the grief-stricken Saul, feeds him (he is famished and worn out from the two-day journey to reach her) and she lays him down in her own bed so he can restore himself for the long journey home.

Saul, as prophesied, goes to war against the Philistines, for all that has set this war in motion took place long ago, when he ignored Samuel's first warnings. His army is slaughtered, his son falls, and Saul is terribly wounded. Knowing he disobeyed God, ignored the wisdom of Samuel, and sought advice from the Witch, he commits suicide by falling on his sword, unable to bear going on amidst the ruins of his life.

* * *

It's a curious story. The Witch – or the necromancer or medium – is portrayed so beautifully. She is adept, she is compassionate, and she is truthful. For this passage to have survived in the Bible tells us something of the ambiguous relationships between Magickal women and the Patriarchs of the Old Testament and the Hebrews. To this day, this chapter of the Book of Samuel is argued over by Christians, again and again. And yet there she is, the Witch of Endor – kind, able, and honest. A Wise Woman for the ages. Fans of the delicious 1960s television classic Bewitched may also be tickled to know that Samantha Stevens' mother was named after the Witch of the Old Testament – Endora.

Because of the influence of this biblical story, the enduring appeal of folk magic and the Old Ways, and the syncretic forms of Magick still in popular use, prosecuting people for Witchcraft was relatively uncommon, until the early fourteenth century when a series of natural disasters left half the population dead and the other half barely holding on.

Famine, War and Pestilence

There was a mini ice age on the planet in the early 1300s – great glaciers crept across Northern Europe, temperatures dropped, infant deaths soared, old and weary ones were picked off by starvation and disease, women died in childbirth and all succumbed to fever and hunger. In the midst of the climate change came crop failures and animal deaths, which in turn created famine, which in turn was followed by war – the Hundred Years' War consumed France and life became hard and frightening, and short and painful for most people throughout Western Europe and the British Isles.

Then came an apocalypse. The plague – a swift, lethal disease landed in the west, and life would never be the same again. Known as the Black Death because of the disfiguring black boils that erupted on its victims, this disease arrived from the east via trader's ships in Sicily in 1346. Highly contagious, an utterly unprepared and undernourished populace was easy pickings for the plague. Carried by rats, upon which fleas feasted, which then bit humans, the Black Death ruthlessly carved its way through Italy, then France, spread then to the northern lands, leapt the sea to Britain and Ireland, turned south to annihilate the populations of Spain and Portugal. Within five years, 25 million people were dead. Entire towns perished. Combine this calamity with the Crusades, and the famine, and the crop failures, and the fierce winters and wars that had drained money from the coffers of local landholders, and it is little wonder that people began to hunt for a reason – something, anything – to make sense of this run of misfortune. This rapid succession of dreadful events forever changed the restless alliance between those who practised the Old Ways, and Christians. The Church proclaimed that God had abandoned his people because they had not completely eradicated the old religion. The Devil, they said, was loose in the land, set free by the sympathy still given to those not yet claimed by Christ. The Devil was behind the curses of pestilence and famine, fever and death. Magick, they said, was the Devil's method, and Witches and Wizards were his instruments.

* * *

Practical Magick

Why not work with your own version of the land charm, and make a Magickal poultice and bless your working tools?

Take, at sundown,
One part full-cream milk
One part honey
One part fennel
One part cinnamon
Three drops of frankincense

Chant the following over this concoction nine times:

Earth Mother, Mother of all
Who all the world does adore
Let me prosper, thrive and grow
Bless my work, let it flow
Bring to me the truest riches
I'll honour you with words and wishes
I thank you now for all that shall come
I'll bless my work, with you, with Sun


Excerpted from Witches and Wizards by Lucy Cavendish, Katie Evans. Copyright © 2016 Lucy Cavendish. Excerpted by permission of Rockpool Publishing Pty Ltd.
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.

Table of Contents


A Snake Came Crawling,
Merlin – The Wild Wizard of Wales,
Bring the Hammer Down,
The Wizard of the Burning Times,
Salem: A Page from the Devil's History Book,
Sympathy for the Devil,
The Children of the Revolution,
Turning the Wheel of the Year,
About the Author,

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