A Magician's Blog

A Magician's Blog

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Disney's Occult Masterpiece

All images belong to Disney.

All images belong to Disney.

‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ 1937, was the world’s first fully animated film, and is a masterwork of historical importance. As a child, I grew up watching Disney movies over and over again, and over time ‘Snow White’ has become my favorite in the Disney collection. Disney, being the company that birthed The Magic Kingdom, is responsible for perhaps a majority of the way the general public envisions magic. The images within Disney’s most well known films contain scenes of occult arts being performed, magical energies being utilized, and mystical transformations taking place. It’s important to note that in Disney’s early days magic and occultism were not subjects commonly portrayed in film, especially in detail. It is interesting that through the genre of children’s fantasy so much real world occultism was injected into the mainstream under the hands of Walt Disney and his teams. One of the films which provided many of these foundational magical images is a film about a gentle maiden in a life-and-death battle with an envious crone. In this in-depth analysis of the film we will explore the real occultism in my favorite Disney film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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The opening scene of Snow White begins with one of the most well known images of scrying into a magic mirror. Scrying has been used for millennia as a form of gaining psychic information by using a darkened surface to release the subconscious inner eye. In a chamber flanked by blue lights and curtains adorned with stars, the wicked Queen consults a darkened mirror surrounded by the symbols of the zodiac. "Slave in the Magic Mirror, come from the farthest space. Through wind and darkness I summon thee! Speak! Let me see thy face." In a burst of flame and the billowing of smoke the disembodied face of the Queen's familiar spirit appears. The Queen requests from him information in the same way a magician would contact their elementary spirit for information. The spirit in the mirror can overlook all of the land, transmit supernatural knowledge, and give this insight to his ruler. This movie, from the start, is potent with real-world occult magic, which was far-reaching in its underground presence in the western world. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and other similar societies, taught methods of occult divination in America and Europe throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. 

In the folktale version of Snow White we learn that from the beginning Snow was a magical child. Her mother, while pregnant, pricks her finger with a sewing needle and upon the drop of blood wishes for her child to be born beautiful, with hair black as ebony, skin white as snow, and lips red as blood. Snow White’s mother dies in childbirth, and soon after her father remarries a beautiful woman who is also vain and controlling. In the Disney version it is unknown where Snow's father is, but we might presume the wicked Queen killed him for his power, starving him in the dungeons. The figure of Snow's father is not important within the symbolism of the story from a psychosexual perspective, as the Prince serves as the driving male role and Snow's soon-to-be-obtained companion: the perfect and ideal partner for a young maiden. The wicked Queen, desperate for power, envies Snow as her own youth and beauty begins to decline. The archetypal symbolism of the Queen is that of the Crone; she is beginning to enter the post-mother phase of her life as she ages, and rather than becoming the positive archetypal image of the Crone she becomes the shadow: that of the anti-mother, the old hag who is symbolically infanticidal. She begins her plan to kill Snow White. 

We then transition to meet our titular character, who's first appearance onscreen is also potent in magic and symbolism. Snow humbly washes the steps of the castle. She is surrounded by white doves and pink cherry blossoms, symbolizing her innocence as a young maiden. As she goes to fetch water to complete her task, she hesitates at the well and begins to speak of magic and wishes. "I'm wishing for the one I love to find me today." The well is symbolic, of course, of the womb. "Make a wish into the well, that's all you have to do, and if you hear it echoing, your wish will soon come true." This is simple and primitive magical symbolism: where the well is the vagina, the waters symbolize the fluid nature of the womb which transforms what enters it into something different, more tangible, more real, more physical. At conception the sperm enters, is transformed, and is born into a child. So too does Snow White's wish transform through this ancient symbol into physical reality, as we see the Prince respond to Snow's beautiful voice, riding in on a white horse (also representing his youth, purity, and virginity), and greeting her with requited love. Her reaction to the prince is also symbolic: she is afraid and runs away! Not only does this signify a fearful reaction to her own powers of manifestation, (and symbolically as a blossoming young woman) but her fear of intimacy with a man. She is trapped in between the phases of childhood and maturity. She is not quite ready to fall in love with someone. It is known that Disney chose the talented Adriana Caselotti for the child-like attributes of her voice. Snow White was meant to be the perfect maiden.

The setting of the castle and all human characters being of royalty is a typical occult metaphor for the human realm, denoted by structure, power, wealth, sex, hierarchy, and struggle. (This is in contrast to the simple realms of the elementals, which we will explore as Snow enters the forest.) Snow exists firmly in this human hierarchy, but she has no control of her own power and voice, as she is still a child, and as such is forced to dress in rags, work as a scullery maid, and lives at the whim of her evil stepmother. The transition of Snow to a fully developed woman through her hardships is symbolic of her mastery of the inner worlds and her own personal demons, and this is the fundamental underlying narrative of the story. 

It’s important to address, before we get to the start of the story's action, what it means for the Queen to wish to kill Snow because of her beauty. The Queen is a power-hungry figure and craves superiority over everyone, which is noted by her constant asking if she is the most beautiful in the land. In her mind, when she attains this, it equates to money, riches, and getting any man she could desire. Yet, as the symbolic Crone, and Snow and the Prince the symbolic young couple, Snow becoming the most beautiful in all the land signifies the Queen's lack of control over what she desires; in short, the princes in the land will not want her, they will want Snow, and in this way Snow can attain more power than the Queen. Once again, the jealousy and greed of the Queen is comparable to the anti-mother trope. This leads to the turning point in the action: the Queen deciding to kill Snow so she can remain on her perch high above everyone else. In a magical sense we can also look at what happens right before this decision: Snow White begins to come into her own feminine power, as is shown in the wishing well scene. So not only does the Queen demand to be the most beautiful, but also the most magically powerful. Instead of wishing her child to thrive, the anti-mother wishes for dominance over her child. (Another witchcraft piece of media we have recently seen this in is American Horror Story: Coven.) The queen demands the Huntsman to kill Snow and bring back her heart (the symbolic vehicle of love and will) back to her. The huntsman can not bring himself to kill Snow because of her sweetness and loveliness, so shows her mercy and sends her running off into the forest. In occult terms the Huntsman is the gatekeeper: he commands the world of the animals, he draws the line between death and life as he draws his arrow. He is the Horned God who sends souls into the initiations of the inner realms, Earth, and Death. What follows is a significant (and terrifying for children, in theaters children would frequently wet their seats during this scene) montage of Snow suffering in the darkness of the forest. The initiator into the Earth, the Huntsman, symbolically allows her to penetrate the realms of the Earth elementals, and the fearful forest warps into a place of dark, hungry beings who grab at Snow. For the first time in her life she is subjected to the cruelty of the darker side of the Earth element. 

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In the journey of so many Goddesses into the Underworld this scene represents the suffering that must be undergone and the sacrifices which must be made to penetrate the mysteries of Earth, something which all of us, especially occultists, must go through. 

Snow White survives the challenge of this Earthly initiation, and is brought deeper into the vibrations of the Earth element through the acceptance of the forest animals, the more subtle guardians of Earth mysteries. Another indication that Snow White is a magician is her ability to communicate with animals, a long-held belief about witches and shamans and those who straddle the different realms. She then sings with love and joy to the animals who are truly the brighter aspects of the Earth element. She slowly gains their trust, and another initiation into Earth is accomplished. She tells the guardians of the forest that she needs a place to stay, and because she has gained their trust they decide to take her to the cottage of the Dwarfs, and thus she is allowed to penetrate further into the occult realms of the Earth element. 

Franz Bardon, the brilliant German magician, said of the Earth elementals, "Gnomes are little people similar to the elves in fairytales. Usually they have long beards and wear caps, with long hair and flashing eyes and their garments are frocks. Every Earth spirit carries a small lantern and each lantern has a different luminosity. The lantern helps these Earth spirits find their way in the subterranean kingdom." 

Bardon also had more to say about Earth elementals which will play vitally into the main plot of Snow White: "As soon as the gnomes are convinced that the magician is superior to them in intelligence and willpower, they will not only derive happiness from the relationship but they will also become the most obedient servants."

The Dwarfs are the magical epitome of Earth, wearing dirty frocks, carrying lanterns to illumine the earth’s dark caverns, and digging in their mines for sparkling diamonds which they unsurface with no difficulty, for truly they are at one with the Earth element and contain limitless knowledge of the subterranean kingdom. They store their diamonds away without security, for they know that no one can steal them unless they become one with Earth. Hermetic magic teaches of communing with Earth spirits and learning their secrets to benefit mankind. Sure enough, this task is what Snow will eventually accomplish.

 Our pre-introduction to the Dwarfs is a messy house covered in cobwebs and clutter. It's obvious that for as excellent as the Dwarfs are at mining, they are neglectful of everything else. They are the pure spirit of the Earth element, as such they focus entirely on their work and neglect their music, socialization, dining, bathing, and storytelling. The Dwarfs have yet to truly enjoy all of the beauty that Mankind has to offer. This is meaningful because magicians know that the elementals are mostly one-dimensional creatures, unlike humans who are five-dimensional, possessing all the qualities of all the elements and being created in "the image of God." Each Dwarf has a one-trait name which describes them because they are simple beings, but only through Snow White's magic and enlightenment they begin to possess opposing, balanced qualities of themselves. It is known that a magician is the only way an elemental can truly obtain a "life." Some critics complained that the Dwarfs were one dimensional characters. But anyone who has studied the elemental kingdoms knows that true Dwarfs, Gnomes, Salamanders, and Sylphs would only be one dimensional; it is the nature of elemental creatures. The narrative beauty of this is it allows for the heartwarming transformation which will take place in the Dwarfs, and as such is not a hindrance but a benefit to the story if viewed from an occult perspective. Through the course of Snow White's life with the Dwarfs she teaches them to love all the joys of human life, and they teach her the Mysteries of the Earth. It is a mutualist relationship which leads the Dwarfs and Snow White to much learning and growth and ultimately, I believe, to giving the Dwarfs a true independent life because of Snow's power. 

"The longing for immortality of the elemental beings is great, and they envy human beings for this advantage, and the explanation for their yearning can be found in this fact. It is understandable that every elemental being aspires to achieve immortality, and that a magician can bestow immortality upon an elemental being." -Bardon

When human beings die, our souls begin a slow ascension to higher realms and eventual reunion with God. The same is not true for elementals, themselves not possessing the four-fold attribute of the Source—in essence not a true soul. So when an elemental dies or is destroyed, they simply return to the element they are made up of. But, through the power of a magician, they can become a multi-dimensional being and not have to face this fate. Such is the story of an elemental's life and their highest pursuits; and funnily enough such is the character arc of the seven dwarfs in Snow White. 

Franz Bardon continues, “As is well known, the difference between a spirit of the elements and a human being lies in the fact that a spirit of the elements consists of only one element, whereas a human being is computed of all four elements…" 

It doesn't all happen instantly. For the next quarter of the movie the Dwarfs and Snow experience growing pains. Snow must adapt to living in the realm of Earth and the Dwarfs must adapt to living with a human. During this period Snow learns to gain the affection of all of the Dwarfs, even Grumpy, and teach them to live close to the way humans do.

At first the Dwarfs hesitate to trust Snow when they discover she has made herself comfortable in their home. It is obvious no human has ever stepped foot near the Dwarfs' realm. 

Happy: Something's cookin'. Smells good!

Grumpy: Don't touch it ya fools! Might be poison. 

*Pot hisses*

Grumpy: See? It's witches' brew. 

(Perhaps you're right, Grumpy.)

Upon finding Snow, most of the Dwarfs are tamed by her beauty, and the fact that she is a very sweet person. Grumpy, of course, disagrees, and says, "...she's a woman, they're full of wicked wiles!" A wile is a "devious or cunning strategy employed in manipulating or persuading someone to do what one wants." This sounds very much like the magician persuading spirits or elementals into helping them! Grumpy realizes that Mankind has a history of getting use out of elemental spirits through magic. 

It’s interesting how the dirtiness of the Dwarfs is portrayed. As Earth elementals it is logical that everything surrounding them is covered in dirt, including their hands, and because they are beings of one single element, they have never even touched water. Snow, being a creature of all the elements, forces them to experience the water element. 

Happy: *swirls finger around in washing tub* "Gosh, it's wet!" 

Because of Snow's teachings, the Dwarfs are initiated into a new element. 

Snow White, with her experience as a scullery maid, prepares dinner for the Dwarfs and teaches them the simple human joy of dining with companions.

"Over the seven the Jeweled Hills, 

Beyond the seven falls,

In the cottage of the seven dwarfs,

Dwells Snow White, fairest one of all."

In a rage, the wicked queen descends into her dungeon scattered with skeletons, signs of death, and tomes of ancient wisdom. This is the lair of the archetypal Crone, where the aging queen's transformation to the most evil anti-mother takes place. 

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Disney, taking some liberty with the myth, added more sorcery to this scene. In the original folktale the queen simply puts on a disguise of an old peddler woman. The imagery in the Disney version is far more potent. 

"Mummy dust, to make me old.

To shroud my clothes, the black of night. 

To age my voice, an old hag's cackle.

To whiten my hair, a scream of fright. 

A blast of wind, to fan my hate! 

A thunderbolt, to mix it well. 

Now, begin thy magic spell."

Once more we see an image of the symbolic womb within the chalice, where the ingredients transform into a magical elixir. Like the grim reaper himself, the wicked queen now wears a black hooded cloak.  

Through her sorcery she has become a creature of death and shadows, and now she conjures up a spell for Sleeping Death. 

She is now, fully, the archetypal Crone. As the transformation begins, the chalice representing the womb smashes to the ground and shatters, symbolizing her ultimate loss of fertility. 

Elsewhere in the land the joys of Air magic are being experienced by the Dwarfs who now have access to instruments which Snow has thoroughly cleaned. Singing and dancing abound, and the Dwarfs are initiated into another aspect of the elements and of human life. As wind, string, and percussion instruments fill the cottage with music a fly, an obvious creature of Air, buzzes around the Dwarfs. 

As the night rolls on, Snow White sings to the Dwarfs another affirmation for her future:

"Some day my prince will come, some day we'll meet again, and away to his castle we'll go, to be happy forever, I know. Some day when spring is here, we'll find our love anew, and the birds will sing, and wedding bells will ring, some day when my dreams come true.

Slowly but surely, the dwarfs begin to fall in love with Snow and the light and joy she brings with her, and thus the joys of human life and the nature of multi-elemental creatures. As Snow brings joy to the Dwarfs, she learns lessons in motherhood which prepare her for her future with the prince and the goals she will soon attain. 

Before bed, bathed in the moonlight, Snow White prays for blessings upon the seven dwarfs, and for Grumpy to like her (another wish which is instantly manifested).

As they sleep, the wicked queen creates the poisoned apple and travels through the dark, foggy forest toward the Dwarfs' cottage. As a representative of death, murder, and old age, the wicked Queen is followed by vultures. 

As the Dwarfs leave to the mines the next day, they warn Snow to be careful of the queen. 

As the evil queen approaches, the sweet kitchen witch employs the help of the animals to bake a pie for Grumpy.

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The evil queen lies to Snow saying the poisoned apple is a magic wishing apple. This is an obvious reference to the story of the Garden of Eden, both the snake and the queen represent a harbinger of death, in this case physical, in the Biblical case spiritual. The apple in Snow White represents personal desires to both characters; to the Queen it represents Snow's death and the attainment of power, and to Snow it represents her wish of future love and happiness. 

As the queen entices Snow the dwarfs and animals rush to save her. But it is too late. Snow takes a bite of the apple and collapses. The wicked queen pronounces, "Now I'll be fairest in the land!" while ironically she is transformed into a harbinger of death, decrepitude, and murderous evil. The Dwarfs arrive and, followed by vultures, the queen rushes through the forest and up a mountain, impeded by obstacles as Snow White was when she was initiated into the Earth Mysteries. The Queen is being initiated into mysteries as well, but they are the mysteries of Death. 

The last scene of the film is potent in natural symbolism. Since Snow represents the Maiden, the symbol of youthful female fertility, when she "dies" so too does the land. It is fitting that the first title card we see shows browning leaves falling off of a tree. It is autumn and the fertility of the land is disappearing. The Dwarfs, using their skill in the Earth element, fashion a coffin of glass and gold as winter descends upon the land. And finally as spring blossoms bloom, the prince hears of the Maiden who sleeps in the glass coffin and makes his way to her. 

As Snow White rests in her glass coffin, the Dwarfs are themselves made aware of the Mysteries of Death and what it means to be a mortal, five-elemental creature. 

With a kiss of true love, Snow is awakened and all the animals of the forest and elementals of Earth rejoice: the spring has returned, the trees are blossoming, winter is over, and the youthful Maiden of the earth is ready to be taken away out of the realms of energy and vibration and into the realm of life and physicality. The kiss between her and the prince is one of intersection: awake and asleep, alive and dead, earth and spirit, fire and water. The kiss is also a simplified image of marriage, sex, and eventual procreation. Snow White has gone through the Mysteries of childhood and is now reborn as a woman. The partnership between the Prince and the Princess in springtime symbolizes the triumph of life over death, of light over dark, of love over hate. 

Snow and the Dwarfs say their farewells. Both have learned all the lessons they needed to from each other. Snow must now go back to the world of men and continue on her destiny. Through faith, kindness, and bravery, she has triumphed over her abusive and life-threatening situation, and now is free to live happily ever after. 

Finally, Snow White's greatest wish is fulfilled: 

"Some day when spring is here, we'll find our love anew, and the birds will sing, and wedding bells will ring, some day when my dreams come true."

As the screen returns to the book which opened at the beginning, we see that it is adorned with the six-rayed-star, a symbol which represents the hexagram and thus the union of the male and female force. This symbol is well known to anyone who has studied the Golden Dawn’s system of magic. Because of the union of forces (positive and negative and fire and water) it is a symbol for the magician who has reached equilibrium and mastered the four elements. It is safe to say that after Snow's initiation into the magical realms, and the attainment of love, she has obtained the mystery of the six rayed star and has gone from a law-of-attraction-master to a true initiated Magician.

The back of the book, we see, is the crown, not only symbolizing that Snow is soon to become the queen of two kingdoms, but the union of man (or in this case woman) with God, the King of Heaven. If we analyze these symbols, we find a very occult message; note that the book could've been adorned with crosses and crowns which is common in much heraldry and decorative books, but the deliberate decision in art direction was made to feature the six-rayed star at the end of the story, followed by the crown... a not-so-conventional-Christian message, especially when we bring sexual symbolism into the end of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". This is potent symbolism to the initiated magician. 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a story of initiations and transformations. It is a story of triumph over darkness and despair. It is a lesson in jealousy, hatred, generosity, nurturing, and love. It is the story of a girl facing the challenges of growing up. It is a story that teaches that dreams can come true. 

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by Austin Shippey

'Hocus Pocus' and the Halloween Witch

Three goofy, haggard witches prance around a bubbling cauldron. A young girl is bewitched, frozen in a chair, a blank expression on her face. The head of the group consults an enchanted book bound in wrinkled skin. “…add a dash of pox, and a dead man’s toe. Dead man’s toe, and make it a fresh one!” These hags have used magic to lure the young girl away from home in order to accomplish a sinister magical act. 

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“Winnie… I smell a child!”

“And what dost thou call that?”

“…A child…”

Unbeknownst to the witches the young girl’s brother has snuck into the cottage to try and rescue his sister. He watches the witches from the rafter above as they brew their green, glowing potion. 

The head witch sniffs the completed potion with satisfaction. “One drop of this, and her life will be mine—I mean, ours.”

The witches surround the young girl, putting the ladle of potion to her lips.

“No!” shouts the older brother, distracting the witches. He jumps to the floor, grabs the cauldron, and empties its steaming contents onto two of the witches. The third witch, however, without missing a beat, zaps the boy with lighting from her hands, and he falls unconscious. 

Suddenly the witches notice a change in the girl. She begins to glow with a smokey light. The drops of potion which touched her lips seconds before have already taken effect. “Sisters, prepare thyselves. ’Tis her life-force! The potion works! Take my hands, we will share her…”

Together the witches suck every drop of life-force from the young girl, and realize that each of them have transformed to look younger than they were. 

The young girl is dead. 

The hilarious, campy and colorful 1993 Disney movie “Hocus Pocus” easily hides its dark undertones under layers of punchy comedy. The witch-sister trio Winnie, Sarah, and Mary make the most lovable of villains! Somewhat ironically, it seems the witch is perhaps the only archetypal character who can be laughed at and loved as they kill children… perhaps we must laugh at such a horrific idea in order to fully understand it. Witches were once seen as the source of demonic activity in the world, the untimely death or disappearance of children, the poisoners of water supplies, and the casters of curses. Witches used to be seen as harbingers of pestilence, murderers of children, cannibals, devil worshippers, and conspirators. Today witches are seen by popular culture not as something to be persecuted, but celebrated; whether it be “Charmed,” “American Horror Story,” or the upcoming “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” the witch is often the good guy, the person who uses their magical abilities to save the day. Perhaps this great shift in Western society over the last several hundred years from utter terror at the idea of a witch, to joy and festivity at the idea of the witch, is indicative of a slow overcoming of the fears which were once pinned upon the sorcerous heretic. One thing this shift is not indicative of, however, is an end to social bigotry and intolerance which indeed caused the systematic murder of thousands of people. Today we will explore these phenomena and seek to address the darker acts attributed to perceived witches. What can “Hocus Pocus,” and other depictions of the classic Halloween-Hag-Witch, teach us about our society?

It is an often undermined fact that the means that enabled the murder of thousands during the witch hunts was not the fear of Satan, death, pestilence, or curses: it was the hatred and subjugation of niche social groups, minorities, and those with the least amount of power in a hierarchical and highly conscientious society. In an interview with www.eurozine.com Carlo Ginzburg, the acclaimed historian, states, “In 1348 Jews all over southern France were massacred after being accused of spreading the Black Death. Early in the fifteenth century, this conspiracy model re-emerged, though in a different guise. This time it was the practitioners of the Black Arts who were supposed to be behind the veiled attack on Christianity. They were no longer in league with the Muslims [or Jews], but with the Devil. Conspiracy had thus become omnipresent.”

In (his perhaps magnum opus) “Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath” Ginzburg devotes a chapter to the mass persecution of lepers, Jews, and Muslims in Western Europe which continued through several centuries, ever evolving to find a new group to accuse of conspiracy. Many common elements were shared by these accusations: the poisoning of wells, the meeting in a secret place in the woods, the secret practice of revelrous heresy, the blighting of crops, the spread of disease, and the stealing and murdering of children—heresy being arguably the most commonly accused crime of all of these. The idea held among people at the very top of society was that non-Christian, non-powerful people must be in league with evil forces and against the power structure of society. The lepers, outcast from society, were accused of attempting to poison water supplies and cause leprosy to spread. The Jews, holding non-Christian beliefs, were seen as against Catholicism and thus must not respect the Monarchy’s “divine authority.” The Muslims, seen as foreign and placing faith in non-Christian Mohammed, must also be against the Church. Finally women, treated and seen as subservient to men and easily led astray without their husband holding a tight leash, were slowly lumped in with the mistrusted, and the idea that the least powerful in society were farther from God and closer to Satan led society to eventually believe that all of these segregated groups held a sinister, and indeed Satanic agenda. By then destroying these groups their funds, resources, and land could be snatched up by those holding the power: if the lepers were jailed their charitable funds could be seized, if a widow was called diabolic her land could be taken by the government. Those holding “Pagan,” “outsider” religious beliefs could be effectively erased from society, bolstering the influence held by the Church. It was a simple and nefarious process directed by the powerful and aided by the majority of society who benefited from the powerful overruling systems.  

We see the “Halloween Witch” idea explored through the 2015 horror film “The Witch.” Although less light-hearted than “Hocus Pocus” the same events occur at the beginning of both films: a witch steals a child, takes it back to her cottage, and in killing it uses its essence in her magic. Why were witches, predominantly (though never exclusively) women, accused of doing this? It is hypothesized that the fear of women, their reproductive abilities, sexual power, and biblical attributions caused religious fundamentalists with pent up desires to target vulnerable or disliked women with the threat of witch. Although this is obviously a large factor, as evidenced by the misogyny recorded in the Malleus Maleficarum, it was not the cause. As I spoke about before, the cause of the long-standing series of persecution of social groups was put into action by social hierarchy, kindled by subjugation of niche groups, and the flames were then fanned by corrupt people in positions of power, taking advantage of the main fears of the average person. 

It is undeniable that a hatred of paganism helped motivate the witch hunts. The image of the Halloween witch with pointy hat and broomstick links specifically to pre-Christian religious beliefs. The pointy hat was at one time believed to be old fashioned and was associated with country dwellers and people behind in the times. The broomstick of the witch arose out of pre-Christian fertility rites where witches would ride large stalks of fennel or other sacred plants. Sexism, agism, and ablism can be found along side the pagan intolerance; during persecutions people were seen as extra suspicious if they were a woman living alone, elderly or disabled men and women were often cast out and thus seen as living in the shadows, and because these people predominantly held less social power they were easily attacked. Folk magicians were rarely targeted with accusations, but the fact that they were Christian and did not work in groups meant conspiracy and heresy could not be pinned upon them, so they were free to sell their charms. The message here is obvious: if you were involved in powerful institutions such as the Church and were not suspected of conspiring against powerful figures within a niche social group, you were quite unlikely to be labeled as a witch, heretic, or conspirator, and thus killed. 

We hold in our past a history of murder, oppression, and subjugation of niche social groups and those who hold less power in society. These groups were accused of bringing disease, crime, terror, and evil into the society. They were seen as a risk to the integrity of many cultural beliefs and societal structures. Conscientiousness (as opposed to openness) within the society allowed this fear to spread across the society and result in the Western European witch hysteria of the Early Modern period which destroyed so many lives. 

In our modern society we must look back at our past and realize that we are not removed from it. In the aforementioned article Carlo Ginzburg asserts the same when it is suggested that the same form of paranoia influenced the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. “…yes, today the comparison is striking. It’s one of those things that can happen when you work as an historian -­ those sudden flashes of contemporaneity. The last couple of years has, at least, clearly demonstrated that the fear of conspiracy still is a powerful force today. It belongs to those central historical ideas that help to determine our view of reality. I see it as part of my challenge as an historian to draw attention to such historical accretions – to dispel the belief that our own lives are separated from the past. In truth, anything that can rid us of our illusion of historical autonomy pleases me.”

I believe it is our duty to look at the world around us and ask if the atrocities of the past are being repeated. In our respective cultures of today, do we accuse minority social groups of conspiring against us? Do we shun people who don’t believe the same things we believe? Do we label people as evil for holding onto old fashioned beliefs? Do we mistreat those who are weak, diseased, physically disabled, or mentally unwell? Do we steal the land and resources of people who hold the least amount of slices in the pie of powerful governments? Most importantly, will we silence people who are lesser heard, or will we let them speak? Will we defend freedom of religion or call certain ones evil? Will we stand up and defend the right to personal liberty, or will we toss another stick onto the blazing fire?

Whether we are laughing at a comedy or trembling at a horror, there are often potent lessons to be learned, whether about real magic, or of important world history. Movies, whether horror, comedy, or action, are not the enemy: they are often the hero. They teach us about our own feelings and thoughts when presented with horrors based in reality. When a movie sticks with us it allows us to eventually question why certain characters are portrayed a certain way. Because of stories we question why Little Red Riding Hood encountered the Big Bad Wolf, why Santa Claus gives toys to children, why mermaids drown sailors, and why witches steal children. When we dig down under the surface we discover worlds of reason behind the timeless stories and characters we grew up with as children. The lessons we learn then are all the more profound. The story is simply the messenger, it is up to us to read deeper. 

We are lucky now as witches to be presented with a plethora of media and art forms that present witchcraft as positive and beneficial. No longer is it seen as heretical, immoral, and criminal by most of western society. We can watch many witch-characters presented as a positive force in the world. But we can also see many witches interpreted as villains; and it is up to us to understand why. 

This entry in Austin Shippey’s “Magic in the Movies” series, where he will be exploring the historical beliefs and events that influenced our favorite magical movies, first appeared in the October 2018 edition of Witch Way Magazine.

Image belongs to Disney.

by Austin Shippey

Real Occultism in the Horror Film "Hereditary"

*MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE*

From flickering candles and white gossamer fabric, to an anticlimactic seance scene, to one of the most grand demonic rituals ever put to film, "Hereditary" is an iconic occult horror which, surprisingly, contains a lot of accurate theoretical magical beliefs. 

    Although not revealed until the end, throughout the movie the story quietly hints toward the idea that a demonolatrous cult is controlling the lives of the main characters, leading them toward the completion of an evil ritual. 

    Today we will explore the magical theory and history within “Hereditary.”

The seal of Paimon, worn as a necklace in “ Hereditary ”

The seal of Paimon, worn as a necklace in “Hereditary

The movie, from very early on, hints at a demonic occult underpinning. We begin our story by witnessing a funeral where the deceased's daughter Annie (played by Toni Collette) mentions her mother's "private rituals." Around her and her mother's necks hang a well-known goetic symbol: the seal of the demon Paimon, "one of the Four Kings of Hell" in classic demonology.

    Demonolatry is a practice within certain niche magical groups of raising demons up to the level of gods and worshipping them as such. It is a taboo practice within magic, and very much a minority; the classical methods of demonic magic almost singularly work through a High God, typically Abrahamic, in order to command and subdue the demonic legions. In demonolatry, the opposite is true: the demons become the "High Gods", and are revered as such. It is generally believed that this practice is counter to the true practices of demonic magic which produce viable results, yet demonolators disagree.

    The main methods of summoning the demon Paimon in “Hereditary” consist mainly of lighting candles, focusing on a triangle carved or constructed out of wood, the inscribing of invocational words of power, and the sacrificing of humans for the demon to manifest. 

A triangle is carved into the wooden floor

A triangle is carved into the wooden floor

Although the methods of conjuring a spirit in “Hereditary” are inspired by actual historical depictions of summoning powerful spirits, they are equally fictitious. The simple words "three will come before him" from Paimon’s description in “the Goetia” has been creatively interpreted as "three people will be sacrificed before he manifests" in the film. The goal in the movie is to allow Paimon to manifest on earth by possessing a human body, similar to the idea in “Rosemary's Baby,” and paralleling the story of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is simply one example of a powerful spirit made manifest in human form, other well-known examples would be Heracles and Dionysus.  The idea of a divine or elemental spirit living on earth as a mortal human has held much cross-cultural belief. Modern hermetic magicians have theorized that it is possible for a human soul to become displaced, often in a near-death experiences, and for a spirit to move in and take over. This has been seen as perhaps the true inspiration behind the myth of the changeling.

    Although real magicians frequently use a triangle of manifestation, words of power, and candles, these are not the means by which spirits are summoned. The true power of magical conjuration is kabalistic—meaning the reason the spirits are controlled is because they are under the authority of the Divine, the highest source of God. It is often taught in occult circles that, without this predominant connection to the divine, a spirit, angel, or demon will not be successfully summoned, or otherwise disobey greatly and cause much havoc. Demonolatry, contrarily, holds the idea that if a demon is served well, sacrificed to, or "cozied up” to, it will take a liking to the magician and out of sympathy give the magician what they want. This is refuted by most classical grimoires and most modern day magicians. Often the two types of practitioners are distinguished: a "magician" works kabalistically or through the Divine, someone who does not operate this way is often denounced as a "sorcerer."  Most practitioners of grimoire magic sacrifice little or nothing to any demon, and signing a contract or making a pact is seen as something which has negative repercussions in this life and many lives to come until the debt is repaid. Many hermetic schools of magic believe that many spirits, in their respective otherworldly realms, keep human souls in servitude until their debts are paid off. Although modern magicians tend to hold these speculations and opposition to pacts with spirits, there are actually historical examples of grimoires which do precisely the opposite...

    "The Grand Grimoire" instructs the sorcerer in making a classic "pact with the devil," ie signing a contract with a spirit called Lucifuge Rofocale. His name means "The one who flees the light," a perfect kabalistic example of a fallen angel/demon/spirit of malkuth fallen from kether; a spirit who once held great holiness and might and who has fallen to a simple and more earthly state of existence. This is interesting as a theory of the nature of the Goetic demons, once Gods, who have now fallen to the state of lesser spirits hardly remembered, yet still holding a store of power.  In "The Grand Grimoire" the sorcerer is told to make numerous sacrifices of animals, summon Lucifuge, and then sign the contract he presents in order to be in servitude to him in exchange for a great blessing of success in life.

    Toward the end of "Hereditary" the main, innocent characters are tricked into invoking the demon Paimon into their house. The sorceress who gave Annie the charm states clearly that the whole family needs to be in the house when the incantation is read. We can surmise that the words scrawled across the house's walls by the sorceress grandmother form the house effectively into a vessel (similar to a magic triangle) for the spirit to manifest in. This is hinted at by the fact that Charlie's (played by Milly Shapiro) attic bedroom forms a sharp triangle, as does the roof of her treehouse.

    The mother within the family, Annie, acts as a medium briefly for Charlie. Mediums have been used in ceremonial magic since ancient times, and modern magicians often employ psychics to receive communication from spirits. A famous example is the Enochian magic by John Dee and Edward Kelley.

    After this invocation the story takes a turn for the worst. Blue, flashing light follows Peter, (played by Alex Wolff) the body chosen for Paimon. Fear and strange visions overwhelm him. Mistrust and discord plagues the family. It all ends in the grand manifestation of Paimon within a magic triangle: the treehouse. Another magic triangle is formed by the three corpses arranged ceremonially by the demonolatrous cult.

    There is one theory that Paimon, having travelled from the East and riding a camel, and being effeminate in appearance, actually began as a Middle Eastern pagan Goddess. Another claim by Poke Runyon, the famous Goetic magician, is that the name "Paimon" translates to "a tinkling sound" hinting at the origin of Paimon being the diminutive Christianized form of Isis herself, echoing her tinkling sistrum. Although these hypotheses are unproven, there is a possibility. At the end of Hereditary we can hear "a tinkling sound" incorporated into the score.

    In the end the most surface-level interpretation is that the demonolators win and successfully incarnate a demonic spirit in the mortal world. Utilizing heinous methods the sorcerers achieve their goals of sacrificing a family to bring about their desires of success, money, and "good familiars."

    "Hereditary" has achieved much critical acclaim for its craftsmanship and mastery of a sense of dread and evil. But what can we take from this as people interested in world spirituality and religious mythology? Many who watch this film will call the sorcerers "witches" for lack of a better term. Many who hear that there are real ceremonial magicians and practitioners of grimoire magic will assume that the occult is a place of violence, evil, and crime. Such has been the case for many decades. Yet many people also will investigate their spiritual curiosities and learn that magical people are predominantly devoutly spiritual and religious, and seek to do good for mankind. They will also inevitably realize that the magic shown in their favorite horror films is fictitious at its very core, however inspired by actual historical beliefs they may be. These movies act as a spotlight which directs attention toward the other worlds and planes of being, and when people fear, they often question. And that is all for good.

    This is a part of my larger series on Magic in the Movies, another such article in the series will appear in Witch Way Magazine this October.

 

by Austin Shippey

The Chaos of the Wilderness, The Dark Horned God: A Rite

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This rite is meant to trigger a mystical understanding deep within the primal side of the human mind. It is a meditation on the Horned God, for those who believe in him, and those who do not. It is a powerful rite that works not because of steps or symbols, but because of our deepest human instincts. 

The central message is to face the primal nature of our past as humans, and all the fear, adrenaline, and impulses that come with it. I was recently confronted by the movie "The Ritual" on Netflix, which features a group of men being stalked by a vicious horned creature in the forest. Comparing this creature to the Horned God of the Witches allowed me to ponder my experience of the Horned God in all of his aspects, the Wise Comforter and Consoler, and the Dread Lord of the Shadows. Such visions are a must for those pondering the mysteries of life.

You will need to find a dense forest. I would suggest a public park or a small bit of property where the trees can conceal your view of the regular world, but where you can be sure you won't get lost. I once went out to a small reserved piece of wilderness to collect wood for a wand, and although you could walk from one end to the other in about fifteen minutes, the dense trees and vines shielded my view of the outside world. I felt as if at any moment I could be turned around and lose my sense of direction, or stumble upon some natural beast or insect that would turn the peaceful situation very suddenly into a dangerous one. In this situation, the primal brain can quickly take over, and we can time travel to the ages where our ancestors hunted in the wild forests of long ago. 

When you've found your forest, be sure to prepare any necessary items and have them on hand. Bring a small offering for the Horned God in your pocket. It could be grains of pure resin incense, food, drink, a trinket of fine material, something meaningful to you, etc. Be sure to be safe and prepared for what may await you. Not only are there animals in the woods, but people, insects, obstacles, cliffs, poisonous plants, and thorns. The forest is a place where we no longer have the control over our environment that we're used to. 

At sunset, when the sky is mixed between daylight and darkness, speak this incantation at the edge of the forest:

“At the hour in between,

Let me walk beyond the threshold,

To see what to others remains unseen,

To hear of the mysteries yet untold."

Step into the forest. The entire time you are within the trees you should be focusing on every detail around you. Hear every twig snap, hear every insect and bird flutter and sing, hear the wind in the trees, smell the soil and foliage. Watch the shadows ripple, distort, and grow. Watch the forest become engulfed in the night. Feel your feet against the ground, its firmness or solidity. Pay attention to everything that you touch. 

Begin walking the path, concentrating on breathing meditatively, and observe your surroundings. There is one perfect branch in this forest that you will use as a wand for the ritual, but only one: you must find the stick that was born for the completion of this rite. It will not be found easily, but when you do find it you will know

Search carefully. As the sun sets and the shadows overtake the forest it may become harder to see. It is okay to use a flashlight, but a gas lantern would be preferable. Better yet, go out on a bright, clear full moon. 

Soon you will find the wand. When you do, point it up toward the sky and speak this invocation:

“Toward the earth thy sharp horns point,

Darkened soil, shadowed oak,

With a kiss your power anoints,

Then Earthly presence fades like smoke.

 

Dreaded Lord of dark and fear,

Of gnarled thorns and pooling mud,

Of trees which block out sound to hear,

Of frightened quickening of blood.

 

God of survival scared and dire, 

Of unknown strength and courage bold,

And dwindling embers of the fire,

God of the Ages, unknowably old,

 

Hidden flame which burns below,

Never ending yet unseen,

You have comforted the many,

All who will die, who ever have been.

 

Teach me of that hidden fire,

That let my elders see the way,

And may I grow old and never tire,

And survive the night to see the day."

 

Hold the wand out, close your eyes firmly, and begin to spin slowly, as if choosing a place at random. Make approximately twenty rotations, lose yourself in chance. 

Stop suddenly. Plunge the wand into the ground. The invocation is complete. Keep your eyes close and meditate while listening to the sounds of the forest.

Leave any offerings you have brought with you at the base of the wand. 

Turn back on your path, and leave the forest, walking slowly and consciously. 

Go home and enjoy a nice bath and a cup of tea, or whatever makes you feel comfortable. 

Thus ends the rite.

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by Austin Shippey

The Alexandrian Rose Ankh

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 Life, Magic, Mystery. Three words which have evaded full understanding since the dawn of time. In the mists of that dawning we know that humankind had looked up at the vastness of space, and in the twinkling stars saw stories of great monsters and terrible Gods. Snakes, insects, and thunderstorms became omens; the voices of spirits booming through the landscape or slithering through the dirt.  Circles and slashes were arranged and each one communicated an ephemeral thought from one human mind to another. Through symbols, we know—even if we cannot say.

     It is an esoteric art to craft a perfect symbol from visions, feelings, dreams, or thoughts. The depiction of a simple image can take decades for an artist to complete—yet other times the opposite is true. Sometimes a symbol can bloom into life as if it had been eagerly waiting to appear before physical eyes. Such is the case of the rose blooming from seed, the lily blossoming in sunlight, and the ankh being etched into stone over 3,000 years ago in Egypt. The staying power of these symbols are evidence of their universal truth. Such is also the case with a simple little pendant consisting of an ankh, a rose, and the tiny, hidden leaves of a lily conceived and created for a religious tradition of Witchcraft in the 1970s. 

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     In “The Alexandrian Rose Ankh” the co-founder of the Alexandrian Tradition, Maxine Sanders, writes:

“Mr. George Alexander was an artist who specialised in the different. He wanted to be a maker of magical weapons, swords, athames and anything made of metal. George wanted to create a symbol of our craft that would be recognisable to those Initiated, and to seekers with a curious nature. To begin, we had to find what the Craft meant to us. Life was the first word, Magic the second and Mystery the third, all we had to do was create the symbol for all three.”

     It is a difficult task to create an all-encompassing symbol for a religious group; how does one calculate the adoption of the Cross, the Om, the Star and Crescent, or the Pentagram, and replicate their impact on the spirit of the believer? If one tries too hard to invoke emotion the symbol can become contrived, if one succeeds in invoking emotion they also risk the symbol becoming outdated, nostalgic, eventually irrelevant. Maxine continues:

“The Ankh is the symbol of life, the rose and the lily, the magician. Only the tips of the lily’s leaves, slightly visible, the mystery. Of course, there are a myriad of symbolisms within the Alexandrian Rose Ankh. The five petals of the rose, the elements, etc.”

     So the Rose Ankh was created. When those first witches hung the newly crafted silver ankhs with cherry-red enamel rose petals around their necks, the connection that remains with us manifested. Thus was born a powerful occult symbol which could be utilized privately by witches of the Alexandrian Tradition, and also worn proudly to be seen by curious outsiders who may inquire about the strange looped cross with a flower in the center. 

     Roses and Lilies have long been associated with the Magician. The five-petaled rose equates to the pentagram, the six-petaled lily represents the hexagram; occult concepts hidden in natural plants. In the Tarot The Magician is surrounded by lilies and roses as he points his wand toward the heavens. The rose has long been a symbol for secrecy, such is told in an ancient Greek tale when Eros gives a rose to Harpocrates as a sign to keep the indiscretions of the Gods secret. Later Roman banquet rooms had roses painted on the ceilings to remind guests to keep things said under the influence of wine secret (a perfect witchcraft analogy). Christian confessionals have been carved with five-petaled roses to indicate confession’s private nature. In the Rose Ankh the leaves of the lily are hidden behind the rose, indicating the aspect of Mystery. The two symbols of Magic, the rose and the lily, are divided into seen and unseen—as is the magic that Alexandrians practice.  The ankh, being the ancient Egyptian symbol of life, is carried in depictions of nearly every deity in the ancient Egyptian pantheon. These symbols are profound and potent. 

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     Due to the passion and finesse of the hands of talented Priesthood, decades ago and currently, the Rose Ankh has become the symbol for us Alexandrians to represent our religion to ourselves and the world. High Priest Brian Cain has worked to produce a new line of Rose Ankhs, of these Maxine Sanders says, “Never before has a Rose Ankh had the intensity or purity of vibration of the originals, until today." They are sold and gifted only to those who are initiated; outsiders cannot purchase them… and why would they want to? It is a symbol of our brotherhood, a statement that we are proud of our first independent roots in the household temples of 60s and 70s England, and of our breaking away into a magical world of our own where our highest ideals could be pursued and encouraged. 

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     To many Alexandrians the Rose Ankh is a talisman which can be used to meditate upon the highest Mysteries of our existence and learned from over the course of one’s spiritual study and dedication. It is a password to realms unknown and beings unspoken of. It is a symbol of devotion, clutched for protection during fear or jangling and swinging in the ecstatic dance of the witches’ rituals. The Rose Ankh is a symbol of the Alexandrian spirit of freedom, liberation, expression, and reveling in the expansive beauty of the cosmos. Who knew all of that could be contained in a little silver or gold pendant depicting an ankh with a little flower in the center. 

     My rose ankh is a bit battered. I expect it will continue to receive more dents, scuffs, and scratches as the years pass. I have seen others with tarnish encircling the petals of the rose, some on white, glistening chains and others on blackened, aged chains from decades of wear. I have known of a glistening ruby and diamond encrusted ankh carefully stored in its original box of out fear of losing the precious item. I have seen ankhs being blessed and placed over the necks of proud, new initiates who moments before had just stepped foot inside their first Alexandrian circle… I was one of them. 

by Austin Shippey

When "Tradytionael Wytcch" Role-Playing Goes Too Far

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     I have been aware, since the beginning of my journey in witchcraft, that there have always been people who like to make-believe that they are Dark, Spooky, Ancient Witches. Fueled by popular books and horror movies, this niche of people brag loudly: “I'm not afraid of death and darkness,” “I'm not afraid to make blood sacrifices,” and “I'm not afraid of cemeteries and bones.” As I roll my eyes, I also assume that they aren't afraid of decorating their homes with black candles. But alongside the more amusing of these role-players exists a number of people who take their hobby further into a realm I'm both annoyed and disturbed by. Countless times during the modern witchcraft revival there have emerged thrill-seekers and rebels who, typically accompanying acts of childlike defiance, eventually commit crimes and abuses time and time again, like a child who kills animals when young and grows to abuse humans in adulthood. This phenomenon is worrying, yet seemingly ever-present.

     There has been a recent controversy that has sparked me to type these words. When confusion arose from the general public, some experienced Priesthood in one of the oldest and most mature lines of modern Witchcraft said simply, “No, witches do not sacrifice animals.” I'm sure those asking the question were relived by this response which surely represents the majority opinion, but a light will always lure moths. In nearly every forum where a witch stated animal sacrifice has no part in witchcraft, there were half a dozen “Traditional Witches” demanding acceptance for their niche hobby. Those who capture and kill crows, surround them with spooky, store-bought candles, and snap pictures for Instagram passionately disagreed and demanded the statement be revoked. Those who once bought a tiny mouse from PetCo and then chopped its head off as a Grand Sacryfice to the Hornyd One bumbled their way across the keyboard in defiance. To my surprise one Praktytioner of the Arkane Arts even captured wasps and squashed them to make her magyck work. What insidiously grew from my annoyed amusement was a startled concern: the same people I assumed were harmless (except to small helpless animals) began to threaten my close friends and I over messages and posts. As the flames grew higher phone calls were directed to my friends' house threatening violence. The same people who were being defended as “just good people who commit earnest sacrifice, as people have always done in the past” showed their true colors simply because people dared to disagree. 

     A retrospectively amusing case of this same type of Wytcch was “The Highgate Vampire,” who was eventually arrested in the 1970s for vandalizing and desecrating Highgate cemetery and mailing threats and spells to people. He began his career as a Dark and Spooky Wytch with hijinks and petty crimes galore, which mostly consisted of distracting the police from more important work. What eventually happened to fulfill this man's yearning for the feeling that he was a True Witch was the destruction of sacred property and the instilling of fear in many innocent people. (He is now an earnest spiritual person and has left his crimes in the past.) In comparison to similar figures in the past, it is obvious that these people need to put down the dagger, pick up the phone, and make a call to a good psychologist's office.

      Many of my elders in witchcraft have written about the same sub-genre of witch from their personal experiences. They describe people so desperately attempting to possess some form of power over their lives and the lives of those around them that they inevitably turn to heinous and evil crimes. Animal abuse, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and even kidnapping soon followed these taboo-pushing “rebels.” Many people began as “witchcraft outsiders” who claimed to be genuine spiritual people and then very quickly began to lure, manipulate, and abuse those who joined them in their rites. I am not disturbed by the fact that there are people who kill animals; people have always killed animals for food, survival, or genuinely old religious traditions in reverent and community-based manners. What really disturbs me are the demands made by these modern wytcches seeking to bolster a hobby that is done for thrill or some form of questionable spiritual reassurance... a hobby which the majority of people are turned-off and concerned by... and the fact that the misbehavior and threats surrounding this hobby are highly reminiscent of what many abusers in the occult world have done in the past.

     One of the main grabs these rodent-squashers make is that “Witches all over the world have always sacrificed animals.” I really wish it was obvious enough why “Because someone in the past did it” is an entirely fallacious excuse for present behavior, but sadly I will have to make it more clear for those in the back. 

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     I am talking about witchcraft, not magic, and as such these issues of sacrifice become much more pronounced, especially when popular movies and TV shows are still inspired by the witchcraft lore of Early Modern Europe. It's quite obvious that witches in the past are said to have sacrificed not only animals, but humans and infants. Around a blazing fire in a dark forest wail haggard old women, and beneath their shouting cries a terrified baby moments before its murder. A witch is seen holding a knife to the flesh of a newborn, moments later pummeling the corpse to a pulp, and then smearing the gory remains on her body. These folkloric sacrifices were terrifying to people hundreds of years ago, and still are when portrayed in film. As no stranger to horror stories and cinema, let alone the folktales of fictional witches of the past, I have no objection to these portrayals. They are inspired by historical folklore and portray fascinating archetypes of the ante-mother, the fear of infertility, women's sexual power, and the anxieties of parents in the protection of their offspring. These are primal ideas which must be explored, and fine by me if they are explored through the Witch. But when Tradytionael Wytcches make a lifestyle out of looking back at old folklores and pretending that they are true portrayals of an ancient witchcraft, I am worried. Not worried that they will sacrifice babies, but that they will eventually do anything to satisfy their desire for something “real” in their life.

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     On the bookshelf of many a Traedytionael Wyytch can be found stories from the times of the witch persecutions, and even modern books by people pretending to be a part of that historic folklore. These older books (in rare instances) call for the sacrifice of frogs, birds, goats, dogs, and black cats. The idea is, spurred by reductive, white anthropologists in the 20th century, that all folk magic is equal to witchcraft (a proposition that is still denounced by many a historian) and thus any old spell that was recorded is somehow witchcraft. A well-known spell to bring rain required a black cat and the sea. The witch would take the cat, toss it out into the sea, and when the cat swam back, would repeat the process over and over again until, stricken by exhaustion and cold, the cat would give up and drown. An animal sacrifice for a magical outcome. Yet this practice, especially because of its prolonged cruelty toward the animal, would get anyone fined, arrested, and jailed today. These are the types of outdated practices Tradytional Wytches are defending simply because they are old. Similar sacrifices are made by modern Dark Scary True Wytches, frequently utilizing helpless small animals, and are often photographed afterwards, overlaid with spooky filters, and the trophy posted online. The bones of the slaughtered animal are often then amassed and laid out on altars, which are further photographed, filtered, and posted online. There is an unpleasant pathology here that stems partially from the unwarranted glamorization of past, and eventually extends to actual physical abuse and/or bloodshed by those who claim to be living the life of a witch. This is not simply hunting or farming, this is disturbing. The fact that it is being normalized and made on-trend by "Traditional Witches" on the internet is disgraceful and disillusions me greatly as to the creative merit of non-lineaged, non-traditional witchcraft branches (however “Traditional” they nevertheless claim to be).

     The sensational animal killing by troubled and disturbed teenagers in the 90s is now being actively justified by people claiming to be witches... because they read it in a book. What kind of behavior is subsequently accepted when people justify violent acts because they feel it is “just spiritually right?” What kind of sacrifice is permitted in the name of “Old Fashioned Witchcraft” when customs are built from the ground up out of antiquated folklore, and then where are the lines drawn? I think it goes without saying that whoever aligns themselves to these silly, abusive, and pathological practices are not on my side and do not have my support. Animal sacrifice is not a “traditional” aspect of witchcraft, no matter how many people make-believe it is.

     These types of dedicated role-players are jokes, until they are not. I don't intend to embrace these people as Priesthood or Witches for the same reason I don't embrace the Westboro Baptist Church as Christian. When you invent your own spirituality and the invention becomes distasteful to hundreds or more people, don't be surprised when you aren't invited to the party, and when your demands for acceptance are not met. Unfortunately for all of us, these people tend not to be good people. Fortunately for me and the rest of Witchcraft, they are also not real Witches.

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by Austin Shippey