Onwards we go with the collection of magical practices from witch trials between 1455 and 1850 in Austria recorded in “Anthropology from Criminal Proceedings of the Austrian Alpine Provinces With Special Consideration of the Magic and Witch Trials 1455 to 1850”
Was it love Magic last time, we shall explore “Weather Magic” in this blog post. Like with any Magic, influencing the weather requires quite some precision in terms of formulating one’s intent, and one can rather easily evoke unintended consequences. It’s said that all Magic has its price, so when messing with something that big, one can quite easily be way over their head. Just remember how the German poet and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe elaborated on this in his poem “Der Zauberlehrling”, where the Sorcerer’s Apprentice uses Magic to help with his chores, only to lose control over said Magic, causing a huge mess instead of his goal, to clean up the house. The line:
“Those I called upon, those spirits
“I can’t get rid of now”
has even become the well known cliché “The spirits that I called”.
That said, one could definitely study these methods, and expand (or alter, where necessary) them to help their community when faced with weather situations that cause harm to people, animals, and the land.
As mentioned in my intro blog to this series , this is just to create an interesting overview of how folk Magic was practiced between 500 and 200 years ago, and should not be read as literal instructions to follow. Some practices require materials that are either no longer available (skulls from a graveyard). Other records describe practices that could pose health risks. Rather than an encouragement for you to follow these practices, these examples are a reflection of the times when they were used.
Also, a warning: The language in which these records are penned to parchment is often crude, vulgar, and by no means politically correct. I kept these expressions as they are. The statements of the accused or witnesses, or the terminology chosen by the individuals recording them, do not in any way reflect the opinion of this author.
From the “agreeable” [without torture] and then “painful” [with torture] interrogation of Margarethe Wilhalbm, shoe maker, at a trial in Styria, 1585:
The Sabonickhin [another witch] and the other members [of the witch flight] where flying with her; she used the feathers of a chicken she had plucked on Fat Tuesday and three stones and the water from the creek nearby for her Magic and the following words: “onwards and against nothing, on the wide street where the crossroads are”. Then she and the black Caspar [the devil]**) rode on a crooked stove pipe, with three men flying upfront. Soon thereafter, the gruesome weather***) brewed over the land.
*) This is a variation of the widely used spell to lift off and fly (on a broom stick or oven pipe), a practice that assures that one doesn't bang against obstacles and gets to the place one intents to.
**) Whenever you read that the accused witches admit to doing something with the devil -- and just riding a crooked stove pipe is one of the more lukewarm tales -- you can pretty much assume they admitted that under torture, or at least after being threatened with (more) torture.
**) That particular weather situation was the topic of this trial, as it was often the case that witches (and even non-witches) were accused of causing a particularly devastating weather and these situations were then referred to in the interrogations and sentencing. The next record also talks about a particular weather situations known to the community where and when they happened.
Witch trial against Margareta, the wife of Martl [Matthias/Matthew], accused of making weather; Biberstein, Carinthia, Austria in 1591:
[She didn’t make] the great hail storm from two years ago, but the next one that came up [the valley] from Gnesau. She and her two companions first took a bath in the Gurk [the local river], all three of them naked, and she poured the river water over herself and her three companions. They also buried bones there back then and soon a weather with rain and snow came.
Great witch trial against Christoph Gostner zu Sexten, innkeep, in Brixen, Tyrol. From the interrogation on 21 June 1595:
He mentions he couldn’t possibly know how often he fended [off bad weather,] but whenever he saw the thick and black weather coming close, he fended it off and pushed it back behind the highest mountains, where no rooster caws, no farmhand mows, no oxen lies down, no flower blooms, so that nobody suffers any damage.
*) During the whole trial, chaired by the infamous Henricus Institoris, author of the Witch Hammer, Gostner was able to proof that he always used Magic for the benefit of his community and always invoked Jesus and the Christian trinity (and not the devil) in his spells. And thus he went free.
It seems to me that the part "[I] push it back behind the highest mountain..." is actually the spell, or part of the spell, Gostner used to send bad weather away from his community
Witch trial in Gmünd, Carinthia, Austria in 1603:
Agreeable interrogation of Luisa Neuneger and Hans Träxler about weather-making and dealings with the devil
Last Good Friday, she [Luisa] dug up some soil at a crossroads [lengthy description where she did that near the town wall gate of Gmünd], and later threw such soil into the creek near the Laimbkhoffl farm as follows: she walked barefoot through the creek three times back and forth, throwing the soil with her left hand behind her back into the water, all the while saying: “As it is true that I throw the soil into the creek, as shall be true that the rain should fall on the property of Ruepen Gamper”.
While this particular spell seems to have been an act of revenge, it certainly could be used in cases of drought or wild fires to attract rain.
From the filing by Abraham Hilgartner against the beggar *) Hans Träxler:
As he [Hilgartner] and his companions walked on the public road towards the town, they met there a poor man who called himself Hans Träxler, who smashed his staff into the muddy puddle, which they all observed and thought it was done for a strange reason, yet not for this alone, but also for the motion of the water in the puddle. They asked the beggar in all seriousness how they should understand what he is doing. Thereupon Hans admits that he wants to cause a rain shower on the farmer Steiger’s property so that the farmer cannot bring in the hey – quite an amount of fodder. And the reason for that is because the farmer, who let him [Hans] stay over night, gave him bad food for dinner and the next morning for breakfast.
Again, Hans' rainmaking ritual is an act of revenge, but that is just the reason for the intent. If the reason was, for example, to put an end to a drought or a wild fire, it would be absolutely permissible to "smash one's staff or walking stick into a mud puddle".
*) Since Hans is a beggar, he neither has a cauldron nor a home where he can boil water and throw herbs into it, and where he could stir the steaming water to cause rain clouds to form. All of which is a well-known ritual to make rain. For him, the mud puddle on the side of the road will have to make due.
"Begging" -- which was less asking for money, but meant vagabonding from one farm to the next, asking for shelter in the stables and barns and for food -- was the "welfare-system" in those days. After the 100 and 30 years wars, many veterans, often wounded and no longer able to work, formed beggar parties and travelled around the countryside, often intimidating farmers to help them. They have heard a lot of magical things wherever warfare brought them and had quite a repertoire of magical practices. Yet they wouldn't be considered witches.
At the same time, people with disabilities and widows also often had no other way to survive, yet they didn't enjoy the "benefit" of being a part of a unruly bunch of war veterans. So they often were accused of wielding Magic, especially if the cows fell victim to diseases (and gave bad milk) or bad weather came around right after such a beggar stayed at the farm for a couple of nights. At the same time, witchcraft was often the only thing such "beggars" could resort to, to either make some money with herbal remedies, find treasures (quite a business model back then), or to threaten farmers if they were not willing to give them shelter and food.
Grand witch trial in Althofen, Carinthia, Austria in 1644:
From the interrogation of the beggar Pograz Summer, co-accused in the trial against Hans Winkler, aka Magic Hansl:
A number of people, amongst whom was the Achatz Wusogger near Guettaring, taught him that he should obtain a skull and put it into a water well. He did exactly that. Thereupon it rained the next night. After the rain, he brought the skull back to the grave yard.
He also reports that the earlier mentioned Wusogger told him to take two sticks, hit the surface of water with them, and say, ” rain, rain rain” and thereupon rain should follow. He did that and it rained soon thereafter.
*) Obviously, taking skulls, or anything, really, from a graveyard, is illegal.
Forming clouds by creating steam in a kettle, or hitting water with sticks, is known as analogue Magic -- the former creating "clouds" and the latter imitating raindrops hitting water.
From the agreeable interrogation of Sebastian Praitbrenner and consorts for practicing witchcraft and sodomy:
He says that he threw clothes lice [bed bugs?] into an ant hill and soon thereafter it rained, which he practice often.
Witch Trail against the beggar Stefan N. for weather making and dealings with the devil in Spittal, Carinthia, in 1666:
“Isn’t it true he can make weather?” – ” He can for sure.”
“How does he when it should rain?” – “He does nothing but bathe in the lake.”
“In which lake does he bathe?” – “In the Ossiacher and Millstätter lakes.”
Here, we might just witness one of those trials where a farming community tries to get rid of a beggar by accusing him of punishable offenses. Often, the court preyed on the superstitions of the accusers as well as of the accused to get to guilty pleas.
Witch Trial against the beggar Simon N. for dealings with the devil and weather making, in Strassburg, Carinthia, in 1666:
In the agreeable interrogation, Simon admits that he can do some, but not much Magic, and in particular he can make rain:
He would smoke [fumigate] with Valerian and stinging nettle, also pussy willow, majoram, and [black] powder, he would also add droppings from wild boar piglets, and he would ask the house guest Agnes Grien to participate.
While the invitation of Agnes might just be because she was a witch, too, and not because it was needed for the smoking ritual, it was also common for people accused of witchcraft to snitch on others in the hopes of a better outcome in their own court proceedings.
Witch Trial in against Mathias Perger aka Lauterfresser near Brixen, Tyrol, in 1645
It’s been more than two years ago when he stayed with a Bavarian woman in Teffereggen, when bad weather came about. Thereupon, the Bavarian woman took a shirt that was worn by a child at its christening and hung it on a fence post, which is good against bad weather. And the weather stopped moving. Folks in Toldern [Tyrol] belief the same thing.
It is not advisable to wash clothes on Fridays, because when one wears a shirt that was washed on a Friday, they have to be afraid of the weather.
When he wanted to make wind, he took a pipe and put into it a needle that was used to sow together a shroud and the tongue of a [non-poisonous] snake into the pipe and spoke the following words, “come, come, eastern wind against the mountain”. And soon thereafter came the wind.
To make sure a brewing storm cloud doesn’t come down on one’s fields, he would bury a knife with its heel in the soil and the blade sticking up, the sharp edge against the weather. When he removes the knife, the weather would come down where it is.
This is a practice that I have already used successfully once because heavy rain clouds threatened to drown out a big Fall Equinox rite. One has to be very careful to bury the knife in a place where no one is going to walk around, and mark it well so people don't step on it.
Witch trial against Hansl from St. Veitsberg for witch flight, alliance with the devil, and making weather; in Paternion, Carinthia, in 1658
Furthermore he says that he, when farmers asked him to during dry times [a drought], took a trough filled with water, put in three hot stones used in soap making, and put it all under the open sky, whereupon it rained soon. He had learned that from farmers and the sacristans do it as well.
We're learning about analogue Magic again here, for the hot stones will heat the water so that steam evaporates from the trough. Such simple Magic was apparently well known amongst farmers, another group often accused of witchcraft, usually by jealous other farmers.
Admission to practicing witchcraft by the baker and innkeeper Georg Hollerspacher in 1674:
[…] Admits that he, in the night of the Three Wise Kings [Jan 6, aka Perchtlnacht *)], which they also call the rich night, collected bread crumbs and other leftovers from meals into a new pot and placed all that on the pasture before sunrise the next day. Thus he fed the wind so that it does not cause any harm to his land and properties all year long.
*) This is the last night of the Rauhnächte in the Alps, ending the proper time of the Winter Solstice. It is said that, during that night, the Mother Percht (a form of the Goddess in her winterly crone stage) visits people's homes. Traditionally, one would deck the table with white linen and place bread and a glass of milk on it so she can take a rest from her travels.
Such were the practices of old to make rain (mostly) and to either move weather somewhere else or halt it altogether. Again, Magic needs to be applied responsibly, for what one would like (beautiful sunshine all year to attract as many tourists as possible could cause serious harm to farmers and live stock.
Waiver: Some of these practices can be, as we know nowadays, harmful or even deadly, and could violate laws. The author is not liable for any damages or negative consequences from any treatment, action, application, or preparations, to any person reading or following the information provided in this blog article.