Germany was once the witch-burning capital of the world. Here’s why by Gwynn Guilford

Wax dolls being given to the devil.

In 1572, the killings began. That year, authorities in the tiny settlement of St Maximin, in present-day Germany, charged a woman named Eva with using witchcraft to murder a child. Eva confessed under torture; she, along with two women she implicated, were burned at the stake.

The pace of prosecution picked up from there. By the mid-1590s, the territory had burned 500 people as witches—an astonishing feat, for a place that only had 2,200 residents to begin with.

Why is it that early modern Europe had such a fervor for witch hunting? Between 1400 to 1782, when Switzerland tried and executed Europe’s last supposed witch, between 40,000 and 60,000 people were put to death for witchcraft, according to historical consensus. The epicenter of the witch hunts was Europe’s German-speaking heartland, an area that makes up Germany, Switzerland, and northeastern France.

Conventional wisdom has chalked the killings up to a case of bad weather. Across Europe, weather suddenly got wetter and colder—a phenomenon known as the Little Ice Age that pelted villages with freak frosts, floods, hailstorms, and plagues of mice and caterpillars. Witch hunts tended to correspond with ecological disasters and crop failures, along with the accompanying problems of famine, inflation, and disease. When the going got tough, witches made for a convenient scapegoat.

But a recent economic study (pdf), which will soon be published in the The Economic Journal of the Royal Economic Society, proposes a different explanation for the witch hunts—one that can help us understand the way fears spread, and take hold, today.

The economic hypothesis

This alternative theory comes down to market competitionbetween churches. In early modern Europe, Protestantism emerged as the first truly viable challenger to the Catholic church’s hold on the population. The study views the Catholic and Protestant churches as competing firms, each in the business of supplying a valuable service: Salvation.

As competition for religious market share heated up, churches expanded beyond the standard spiritual services and began focusing on salvation from devilry here on earth. Among both Catholics and Protestants, witch-hunting became a prime service for attracting and appeasing the masses by demonstrating their Satan-fighting prowess.

“Similar to how contemporary Republican and Democrat candidates focus campaign activity in political battlegrounds during elections to attract the loyalty of undecided voters, historical Catholic and Protestant officials focused witch-trial activity in confessional battlegrounds during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation to attract the loyalty of undecided Christians,” write the study’s authors, Peter T. Leeson, an economist at George Mason University, and Jacob W. Russ, an economist at Bloom Intelligence, a big-data analysis firm. When it comes to winning people to your side, after all, there’s no better method than stoking fears about an outside threat—and then assuring them that you, and you alone, offer the best protection.

This concept goes a long way toward explaining not just why witch-hunting mania exploded in Europe, but also why it took hold where it did. Namely, in Germany.

“Neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire”

Until the 1500s, the Catholic Church had claimed a monopoly on religion. Secure in its dominance, the Church employed a basic competitive strategy against the occasional challenger: it labeled proponents of other religions “heretics” and either forced their conversion or simply killed them. The Church’s two main tactics in this coercive strategy were inquisitions and crusades. 

With the German monk Martin Luther, however, that strategy stopped working.

THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART/GIFT OF FELIX M. WARBURG, 1920
Martin Luther engraving made by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1520.

By nailing his Ninety-five Theses to the door of his local Catholic Church in 1517, Luther was acting as an early consumer protection bureau of sorts, blasting the Catholic church for exploitative practices. The promise of superior religious service sparked the Protestant Reformation, with Swiss theologians Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin piling on, adding to the movement’s momentum.

Per usual, the Pope declared Luther a heretic and banned the Ninety-five Theses. It turned out, though, that the Catholic Church’s coercive strategy—which worked well in Spain, Portugal

READ MORE HERE:  https://qz.com/1183992/why-europe-was-overrun-by-witch-hunts-in-early-modern-history/

The Hallucinatory Effect of Damp Rye Bread is why Witches are on Broomsticks By BARBARA STEPKO

Witches, dressed in black, flying through the night skies on broomsticks, casting spells and conjuring mayhem for mere mortals down below. It’s a big part of Halloween—as well as supernatural—lore, for sure. But how exactly did this legend come to be?

In a word: bread. In Europe, during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the doughy stuff was usually made with rye grain, which, under the right—or, rather, wrong—conditions can become a host for ergot, a fungus that grows on rye in damp weather. When consumed in high doses, ergot can be downright fatal. In smaller doses, it acts as a potent hallucinogen. (Witness LSD, which is a derivative of ergot.)

Dancing mania on a pilgrimage to the church at Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, a 1642 engraving by Hendrick Hondius after a 1564 drawing by Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

Records from 14th to 17th century Europe mention an affliction with “dancing mania,” with groups of people dancing through streets, often babbling gibberish, and foaming at the mouth until they collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Those who experienced this “mania” firsthand would later describe the wild (and, apparently, wonderful) visions that accompanied it. It was only a matter of time before resourceful types figured out how to use ergot (along with other plants such as nightshade) for hallucinatory, see-the-pretty-colors purposes.

Halloween postcard

But here’s the rub: When consumed orally, these hallucinogens can display nasty side effects – nausea, vomiting, and unsightly rashes, among them. Even so, our intrepid party animals weren’t about to give up their good times that easily. After some trial and error, they set out to find a way to partake in the same purple haze, without the unpleasant side effects. The solution, they discovered, was letting ergot absorb into the skin. And the best parts of the body for absorption were the sweat glands in the armpits and the mucus membranes of the “nether regions”.

Illustration of a witch

So these makeshift pharmacists developed ergot-infused balms—or “witches’ brews.” But here is where they got really crafty. To deliver those salves with maximum effectiveness (and, one would imagine, the least amount of mess), people turned to the most common of household items: the broom. In short, they used ointment-soaked broomsticks—or, more specifically, the handle of the brooms—to reach into the nether regions and get high, or “fly.” Another reason brooms may have been employed for intoxication: They were commonly used in pagan rituals, such as marriage ceremonies since they were believed to possess “energies,” both male (the phallic handle) and female (the bristles).

Here, however, is where things get really interesting. Ergotism, or ergot poisoning, has been traced to other outbreaks of bizarre behavior. In fact, Massachusetts in the late 17th century may have been the unknowing victim of an outbreak of rye ergot.

A Witch riding a broomstick with a black cat

Some believe that those same convulsive symptoms may have led to charges of witchcraft and the subsequent hysteria leading to the Salem witch trials in 1692 and 1693. In all, 19 women and men were convicted as witches after they, or children in their presence, acted as

READ MORE HERE:  https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/05/24/witches-on-brooms/

Black Magic: Hoodoo Witches Speak Out on the Appropriation of Their Craft By Gabby Bess

IMAGE BY KAT AILEEN

Join in on any 21st-century witchy gathering, and you’ll most likely take part in rituals from all over the world. At the last goddess worship session I attended, we sang in a pastiche of chants and spiritual practices that had wide-ranging origins—Kundalini, Santeria, Japanese Reiki—and at the end of the night they all blended under the muddled banner of “New Age.”

While a lot of modern witchcraft tends to be an amalgamation of practices from varying folk magic traditions, there are some witches who insist on purity. On Tumblr, the earthly world, and beyond, contemporary practitioners of Hoodoo, a folk spirituality with African American roots, are fighting against cultural appropriation of their craft.

Hoodoo, also known as rootwork or conjure, was brought to the Americas by African slaves. Due to its origins, Hoodoo was first a tradition of protection and practicality. “In the era of slavery, questions of security loomed large in African American experience,” writes Yvonne Chireau in Conjure and Christianity in the Nineteenth Century: Religious Elements in African American Magic. “For its part, Conjure spoke directly to the slaves’ perceptions of powerlessness and danger by providing alternative—but largely symbolic—means for addressing suffering. The Conjuring tradition allowed practitioners to defend themselves from harm, to cure their ailments, and to achieve some conceptual measure of control over personal adversity.”

IMAGE COURTESY OF MADAME OMI KONGO

According to the iconic author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, who embedded herself in the Hoodoo culture of the South in the 1930s and wrote about its history, the practice itself evolved from a combination of African spirituality and Christian rituals that slaves newly encountered in the Americas. In New Orleans, for example, she writes, rootworkers incorporated altars, holy water, and blessed oils from the Catholic church.

Watch Now: Meet the Vodou Priestess Summoning Healing Spirits in Post-Earthquake Haiti

Though Hoodoo itself (not to be confused with Voodoo) stems from an appropriation of sorts, the southern folk magic is still intimately tied to its uniquely African American history. This is particularly apparent in the specific uses for Hoodoo spells, many of which are for security, stemming from the violence and disregard that enslaved blacks endured. Common rituals include carrying “a little bag of garlic and brimstone on the person to safeguard you” and walking backward into your house and then forward to ensure that no one will harm you, Hurston writes in Hoodoo in America. Today, this manifests in reblogging sigils—a painted symbol said to have magical powers—like that which circulated on Tumblr among Hoodoo practitioners to protect the people of Ferguson during the unrest following police violence and the killing of Mike Brown in the

READ MORE HERE:  https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qkg93m/black-magic-talking-with-hoodoo-witches

Why Are Black Cats Considered Bad Luck? BY KATE ERBLAND

ThinkStock
THINKSTOCK

Feline friends and fans know there is nothing to fear from the world’s most cuddly creatures (sorry, red pandas, corgi puppies, and fluffy bunnies, this is a cat’s world), but the persistence of the pesky belief that black cats are somehow bad luck has endured for centuries. Sure, back during the heyday of Egyptian rule (around 3000 BC), all cats were notoriously honored and worshipped—killing one was even a capital crime—but the rise of good, old-fashioned witchcraft in Europe put the kibosh on any trace of goodwill towards the inkiest of felines, and the all-black brethren are still trying to distance themselves from the bad press of a witchcraft affiliation.

Black cats pop up frighteningly frequently in all sorts of culturally based bits of folklore, and though much of their mythos is actually of the positive variety, Western tradition has so maligned the critters that black cats as bad luck have become something of a given in various circles (at least, that’s what it looks like once Halloween decorations start popping up, “scaredy cats” and all).

The Middle Ages

It seems that the association between bad luck and black cats dates all the way back to the middle of the fourteenth century. It’s not known exactly how and why cats became associated with the Devil in the Middle Ages, but the belief was so persistent that they were all but exterminated during the Black Death pandemic around 1348 CE. (Pause to cry.) Ironically, killing off the cats only worsened the plague, which was often spread via rodents, which all those dearly departed cats could have helped kill. Oopsie!

Scottish Folklore

Scottish folklore includes a fairy known as the Cat Sith, a giant black cat (with a small white spot on his chest) who was believed to have the ability to steal a dead person’s soul before the gods could claim it. That belief led to the creation of night-and-day watches called the “Late Wake” to guard bodies just before burial. The Scottish also employed such tried and true methods as “using catnip” and “jumping around a lot” to scare off potential Cat Sith soul-stealers. (Some things never change, even when you’re dealing with possibly fairy-infused felines.)

The Age of Witchcraft

Blame black magic. As chatter about nefarious witchcraft began to spread around Europe in the sixteenth century, cats (particularly black ones) found themselves tangled up in the hunt, simply because many presumed witches had taken in alley cats as companions. Somehow, the concept of “companion” turned into “familiar,” and the belief that witches could turn themselves into their (typically black) cat companions became

40+ HOMEMADE HALLOWEEN DECORATIONS! By Jill

We gathered up Over 40 of the BEST Homemade Halloween Decorations to share with you today! These Spooky ideas are very easy to make and you will have the scariest house in your neighborhood! We always love decorating for every Holiday. Halloween is one of our favorites. You can get creative, sloppy, and neglect the dusting to fit with the “theme”…it’s wonderful!

Over 40 of the BEST DIY Halloween Decorations & Craft Ideas!

Halloween Flower Centerpiece from Pockets Filled with Posies

Halloween Flower Centerpiece...these are the BEST DIY Halloween Decor & Homemade Craft Ideas!

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Wood Crate Pumpkins from Crafty Morning

Wood Crate Pumpkins...these are the BEST Homemade Halloween Decorations & Craft ideas!

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Halloween Wine Glass Candle Holders...these are the BEST Homemade Halloween Decorations & Craft Ideas!

READ MORE HERE:

https://kitchenfunwithmy3sons.com/homemade-halloween-decorations/

 

Information and Correspondents in Witchcraft — Herb – Cloves by Vaya

Herb – Cloves

Planet: Sun, Jupiter

Element: Fire

Magical Properties

– In Japan and China cloves are used as an important material in incense, and in some European countries they can be found during Christmas and Yule in a holiday decoration called a Pomander.

– Cloves are often used to banish and ward against hostile or negative forces. In an extension, they are handy with shielding against psychic attacks and unwelcome magic. They can be used to drive off unwanted spirits and entities, or do things as mundane as stopping gossip.

– Due to the above property, cloves are also used for protection and cleansing. They can be

READ MORE HERE:

9 Things You Never Knew About Real-Life American Witches by ALEX MAR

Witches do celebrate during Halloween season, but, for them, it’s a very different holiday.

Witches are among us, and far more of them than you think. Today, when people talk about “witches” in this country, they are often talking about members of the “Pagan” movement, a group of perhaps as many as 1 million Americans whose practices draw from a combination of pre-Christian European religions, Western occult and Masonic societies, and forms of witchcraft. I spent much of the last five years immersed in the American Pagan community — first at arm’s length, as a journalist; then as someone personally curious about the rituals I’d observed; and finally, for a couple of years, as an active student and participant. The result is Witches of America, both a snapshot of present-day witchcraft across the United States and a memoir of my own searching and questioning. Now that we’re in the thick of Halloween season, here are some facts about witches that may surprise you.

1. Witches are often invisible. Not literally, of course. But the women and men who consider themselves witches or Pagans don’t always announce themselves in goth gear, tattoos, and piercings. Many are just as likely to dress in utterly innocuous ways — in the daily uniforms of, say, a single mother driving her kid to track practice, a grade-school teacher, a tech entrepreneur, or a cashier at Trader Joe’s. Morpheus, the Pagan priestess who served as my personal entrée into the witchcraft community in the Bay Area, was actually working for an environmental protection group when I first met her. She’d drive to work in a pickup, dressed in khakis and a hoodie, her hair in a long red braid. The local ranchers she consulted with had no idea that she regularly hosted rituals under the moonlight out on her property, just a few miles away.

Some witches choose to remain “in the broom closet,” as they call it — because they work for the government or with children, live in a conservative community, or are simply afraid that the word “witchcraft” still carries too much baggage. At the same time, since the ’80s, Pagans have been gathering in outdoor festivals and indoor hotel conferences all around the country, sometimes in groups of a few thousand. And with the rise of the Internet in the ’90s, vast networks have also spread online, making it that much easier for someone Craft-curious, in an area without a visible Pagan presence, to connect with a mentor in a chat room.

2. While Hollywood horror films have (unfairly) made witchcraft out to be the work of the Devil, they’ve gotten plenty of details right. Pagans are not interested in worshipping the Devil — many would say that the Satan of Christianity is a god they don’t even believe in — so that’s a major strike against the Hollywood horror-movie depiction of witchcraft. On the other hand, there is a certain amount of drama and flair to ritual magic that the movies have come close to getting right. Witches do gather in a circle to perform rituals, sometimes outdoors, under the moon. They use wands and ritual daggers (or athames) to guide magical energy in the right direction; they chant, sometimes in ancient languages. Depending on the specific tradition a person trained in, they may also practice magic while “skyclad,” or in the nude. This isn’t an invitation to sex but instead a way of letting go of the mundane, material world and entering a heightened state that allows for more powerful magic.

3. Most witches follow a strict moral code. Returning to the sinister Devil-worship thing: The horror-movie assumption that anyone who labels herself a “witch” is out to harm others is false and unfair. This community follows an ethical standard that’s similar to a concept of karma: The Threefold Law warns that any action you take will come back at you three times over. Or, for witches of the Wiccan tradition, there’s the Wiccan Rede: “An’ it harm none, do what thou wilt” — follow your own lead, as long as you don’t cause harm to anyone else.

Yes, some witches perform “hexes,” and a personal or coven rivalry might, in a rare situation, escalate into a “witch war.” But this kind of behavior is frowned on. The goal, as with many religious practices, is to bring yourself closer to spiritual enlightenment and balance — which is that much harder to achieve if you’re busy creating chaos.

4. Witches often do practice in “covens.” A witchcraft tradition can spawn many “lines” (or splinter sects) founded by the disciples of

READ MORE HERE:  https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a47749/real-life-american-witches/

 

 

 

 

 

Power of PIES

Welcome to the Power of PIES. I apologize to those coming to this site looking for dessert : ) Instead, the PIES represented here is the powerful combination of Prayer, Imagination, Emotion, and Starting now. Read on, and I promise you will be impacted in a positive way. After all, life is sweet. Enjoy it!

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