After an eventful summer, which culminated in a fantastic visit of the Emerald Island, Ireland, I am back at Druidry, Magic, and blogging about it (although my Druidry was by all means an integral part of my travels through Eire).
With the kids out in off the grid camps in the woods of Vermont, where they had to forage for their own food on the camp farmland, cook over fire only, and bathe in creeks with bio-degradable soap, I had time to do everything from cooking to gardening more intensely, more purposefully. And that also included reading through social media feeds.
One common thread I noticed particularly on Magic group chats was a continuous inflow of requests for spells for all kinds of situations, for love and for when love was betrayed, for money and jobs, for healing an ailment and sometimes for pure revenge.
Why old spells and rituals
The suggestions for spells in the responses to the inquiries were of course as valid as any. Yet they are more or less modern, and sometimes require modern equipment. For example, any freezer spell today would suggest to use a freezer, unless you live somewhere where ice occurs naturally. And in many places where it does, you’ll only have it to your disposition during the cold time of the year. In other words, mediaeval folk didn’t do freezer spells, yet “halted” people with various methods. But still, it is rather likely that these more modern spells may in fact be way more applicable for you today than what I am planning to gather over the next few months. I just think it’s beneficial for anyone practicing Magic to know how it once was done. One difficulty with these old practices is that they often require props in the ritual that are really hard to get these days (e.g. parts of the ropes that were used to hang people, or pieces from the wood of the axe used by the executioner for decapitations, from the wood of the gallows, or, as described in this record from 1666, a spoke of a breaking wheel (a versatile and deadly torture instrument) were often used as talismans:
This piece of wood [spoke of a breaking wheel] is priceless, if one is lucky enough to get hold of it. Seldom do people regret to have one. One cannot put a spell on the person or make their wine go bad in whose house that wood can be found; no lightning can strike. The one who carries one, no thieve can mug them, which has often and many times been proven. Also in whose house that wood is, no thieve can steal nothing.
Why the sometimes weird language?
The original texts are in the German from the period when the court records were created. Since that covers a time span of approximately 500 years, and German has changed significantly since then, I could have chosen to translate the texts into modern English. I could not have chosen to translate them into old English, for I am not educated in that. But…there is something about this old way of expressing oneself that actually lends an additional layer to the Magic. It does not make the Magic stronger, but somehow the way folk talked about these practices reveals a lot about how they thought.
Why also spells that can harm?
The responses to these “Does anyone know a spell for “x”?” questions are usually “Don’t do that”, “Definitely do that”, and mentions of spells. Here, I am not going into the Do or Don’t discussion. I have written about what I think about responsibility when wielding Magic in a number of posts already. In this series of blogs, I intend to simply translate some rituals and spells as they were dotted down in witch trial court records in the Alps anywhere between the 15th and the 19th century. It is meant to be a record of Magical practice hundreds of years ago, and requires the reader to muster their own integrity and to make sensible choices when deciding to use these spells today.
Magic and Christianity
Given the time and the area in which these spells and rituals were recorded, we have to expect to see a lot of Christian thinking and wording. Unlike the general believe, that witches were pagan back then, they acted very much within the Christian life during these times. Many of their spells, often penned down in their “little books” invoked Jesus, the Christian trinity, or one or more Christian saints. They were also not accused of, tortured, and executed because they were witches, but for what they did as witches. At least in the early days of the inquisition. In fact, if a witch was able to prove that they invoked the Christian deities, and not the devil, in their practice, and that they acted for the benefit of their community, they were acquitted. From a court record from 1455 we even know that a man accused to have killed another one in a brawl requested the court to be let into the town where the court resided without being harmed or arrested, to do the following:
He [the accused] will travel to the town. The corpse of the deceased is to be exhumed and laid in state outside the gate of the city wall. Then he and the other three involved will step towards the corpse and will, one after another, lay two fingers on the wound of the deceased and utter the following oath: Should I, <name>, have fatally shot the deceased, I shall forever forfait God’s martyrdom and his rose-colored blood on behalf of my soul, and my soul shall never step in front of God, so help me God and his saints. Amen
Clearly, we are looking at some form of Magical practice here, known as “bier probe”, in other words a test of truth next to a corpse, that was not only sanctioned by the Church, but also a way to convince the secular judiciary of someone’s innocence. In the collection of spells I am putting together, however, I will replace the names of the mentioning of Jesus, the Christian trinity, or the saints with the variable <deity>, so you can insert whichever God, Goddess, or natural force with which you connect.
How does this series work?
In the following weeks and months, I will translate and publish here spells and rituals from witch trial court records, and order them into categories such as
- Love Magic
- Weather Magic
- Milk and other food Magic
- Magic against thieves and getting stolen items back
- Binding and defense Magic
- Sleep Magic
- Health Magic
- Magical items (talismans etc.)
Each blog entry will be about one of these categories, and eventually all linked together to form a collection of mediaeval spells and rituals.