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  • feedwordpress 08:01:43 on 2018/10/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , demons, , Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages, , Mother Shipton, , witches   

    “A Witch is born out of the true hungers of her time”*… 

     

    Witch

    In 1488 during the reign of Henry VII, one year after the Dominican Heinrich Kramer wrote his notorious witch-finding manual Malleus Maleficarum, an adolescent girl named Agatha Soothtell gave birth in a cave among the dales and moors of Yorkshire to her daughter Ursula, supposedly conceived by the Devil himself. Ironically it was there in “God’s Own Country” that young Agatha would raise her demonic charge, both of them forced to live in the cave where Ursula was born. The site that would be visited by pilgrims for centuries afterwards, making it arguably England’s first tourist attraction, was known as much for the strange calcifying waters of its subterranean whirlpool as for its medieval Satanic nativity.

    Most sources claimed that Ursula died during the rule of Elizabeth I in 1561, but with eight decades separating her supposed death and the first appearance of her name in print, it’s fair to assume a degree of invention in her biography. Despite her legendary ugliness (Ursula’s seventeenth-century biographer described her as “a thing so strange in an infant, that no age can parallel”) at the age of twenty-four she married a carpenter named Toby Shipton, and it is to posterity that she would come to be known as “Mother Shipton”. A less appropriate surname, because as “Smith” and “Taylor” indicate profession, so too did “Soothtell”. Mother Shipton would become the most famed of soothe tellers in English history, renowned for her prophecies and used as a symbolic familiar in the art of divination for generations, the very constructed personage of the seer, a work of poetry unto herself. As scholar Darren Oldridge writes, “Unlike other ‘ancient prophets’ who were known by their words alone, Shipton emerged as a personality in her own right”…

    Mother Shipton was Yorkshire’s answer to Nostradamus. Ed Simon looks into how, regardless of whether this prophetess witch actually existed or not, the legend of Mother Shipton has wielded great power for centuries— from the turmoil of Tudor courts, through the frictions of civil war, to the specter of Victorian apocalypse: “Divining the Witch of York: Propaganda and Prophecy.”

    See also “Woodcuts and Witches,” an explanation of how the rise of the mass-produced woodcut in early modern Europe helped forge the archetype of the broom-riding crone.

    Then watch Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages, an extraordinary 1922 Scandinavian film by Benjamin Christensen. As you’ll see, it’s a curious (and groundbreaking) mix of documentary and silent horror cinema. Most films of the period were literary adaptations; but Christensen’s take was unique, based on non-fiction works, mainly a 15th-century treatise on witchcraft that he found in a Berlin bookshop.

    * Ray Bradbury, Long After Midnight

    ###

    As we search for our eye of newt, we might note that today is All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween.  Many Halloween traditions originated from ancient pagan Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival of Samhain, which was Christianized as Halloween in the eighth century, by Pope Gregory III.

    The original reason for disguise on Samhain was to prevent lonely spirits recognizing and snatching one away to their between-the-worlds home; it was an additional bonus that the costumes allowed you to lead a mini-riot without being recognized.  The custom of trick-or-treating seems to date to the 19th century in England, when people went house-to-house in costume at Halloween, reciting verses in exchange for food, and sometimes warning of misfortune if they were not welcomed.  It seems to have taken off in the U.S in the 1920s.  The custom of making jack-o’-lanterns began in Ireland in the 19th century; “turnips or mangel wurzels, hollowed out to act as lanterns and often carved with grotesque faces,” were used at Halloween in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands.

    Special Halloween bonus: Jacques Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire infernal, a monumental compendium of all things diabolical, was first published in 1818 to much success; but it was the fabulously-illustrated final edition of 1863 that secured the book as a landmark in the study and representation of demons.  Read “Defining the Demonic,” then page through the 1863 edition at The Internet Archive (whence every item in this post).

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:24 on 2015/01/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , Marco Polo, Owen Davies, , , witchcraft, witches   

    “Witches was the invention of mankind, son. We’re all witches beneath the skin”*… 

     

    The history of witchcraft in Britain is a dark one, brimming with trials, persecution and torture, which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent men and women during the 16th and 17th centuries. But what did you actually have to do to end up in the dock, accused of Devil worship and crimes of witchcraft? Very little, as the following questions, compiled with the help of Owen Davies, professor of social history at the University of Hertfordshire, reveal…

    Take the quiz at “Would you have been accused of witchcraft?

    * Ian Rankin, The Flood

    ###

    As we stir our cauldrons, we might spend a memorial moment honoring two extraordinary explorers who died on this date.  Marco Polo, whose coda to his remarkable travelogue was “I did not tell half of what I saw,” passed away on this date in 1324.

    A page from “Il Milione” (aka” Le Livre des Merveilles” (“The Book of Wonders”)… and in English, “The Travels of Marco Polo”

    And Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist, philosopher, and pioneering astronomer, rose to his beloved heavens on this date in 1642.  Galileo (whom, readers will recall, had his share of trouble with authorities displeased with his challenge to Aristotelean cosmology), died insisting “still, it [the Earth] moves.”

    Draft of Galileo’s letter to Leonardo Donato, Doge of Venice, in which he first recorded the movement of the moons of Jupiter– an observation that upset the notion that all celestial bodies must revolve around the Earth.

     
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