|Hekate who Medea called to as she plucked vicious roots from the earth for her spells.|
Michelet described the witch as a type of person who communes with nature in a deep and mysterious way, is capable of medical and magical remedies with plants (with whom she holds some power over), and possesses knowledge in the production of love philters, birth control and deadly poisons. Most authors on witchcraft of the old world specifically state that a witch usually achieves her work through the use of plants, minerals and animal parts as well as manipulation of seasons and luminaries. In one passage he mentions the most basic Arts of the witch; healing, oracle, divination, conjure, shape-shifting, charming and dowsing.
She can heal. prophecy and predict, conjure up the spirits of the dead, can spell bind you, turn you into a hare or wolf, make you find treasure, and most fatal gift of all, cast a love charm over you there is no escaping.- Jules Michelet, La SorcièreIn popular occult literature of the Renaissance, witches, sorcerers or magicians were deemed to be those who practiced in varying degrees the "Seven Forbidden Arts" or Artes Magicae which were; necromancy, scapulimancy, chiromancy, hydromancy, geomancy, aeromancy and pyromancy, or to put simply in the words of my tradition; the reading of flesh, the reading of bone, communion with the dead and communion with nature. But of course, the way we have viewed witchcraft especially in the western world was influenced heavily by the motif of the classical Greek and Roman pharmakis and venefica of old and their somewhat infamous gifts. In essence the witch by inclination, indulges in the practice of:
- Communion with the dead (necromantic workings, or divination)
- Oracular Mysteries (divination and fortune-telling, seeing)
- Secret Knowledge of Plants (both benign and deadly)
- Attainment of Familiar Spirits (fetch, familiar, fairy or spirit with whom a practitioner associates)
- Birth control
- Poison and medicine
- Traveling herbs (psychoactive plants)
- Life-extending elixirs
These original archetypes for our modern Western image of the witch personified the terror man held for those women who worshiped herb and death- a fear of the remnants of the 'agrarian and funereal' nature of paganism. The balance of nature and death cults, or rather the intrinsic oneness of both things are the basis of the old world witchcraft. It hasn't changed in modern American witchcraft in my opinion, ancestor veneration and nature veneration are still alive and important in folk magic in the New World. Witchcraft by nature is funereal and agrarian, the dead and the land hold a significance in the classical writings on witchcraft, and from what we know of the pagan cults of Europe (and many a region) is that the dead and the land were once two things held deeply sacred, sovereignty and honoring the beloved dead is likely more the norm in paganism to this day; this is apparent in Irish and Nordic paganism which is ripe in tales of honoring the dead and mastering the land and it's beasts with a spiritual respect. I's rather universal in paganism and also in witchcraft, this practice of honoring of life and death, often times magically. The witch is always the herbalist, always the poisoner, always the person who was deeply attuned to garden, grove and grotto. Medea of Colchis and Kirki had a vast knowledge of plants, an extensive pharmacopoeia with which their magic is made radiant. Medea is of course the perfect witch; vengeful, intelligent, of divine heritage and of course, she was a master herbal sorceress who drew from the Garden of Hekate the great many herbs now associated with traditional witchcraft; henbane, nightshade, aconite, etc. The Herbal Sorceress is personified best by Kirke the divine sorceress who conjured from her sacred garden in the willow grove a wealth of herbs which she mixed with wine and oil and ensnared Odysseus and his men. She is one of the eldest witches of literature and represents a true sorceress who administers her concoctions with a magic branch of juniper:
She blended baleful drugs into the food, so that they should forget their homeland completely. She immediately struck them with her wand and shut them into piglets.-Homer's Odyssey.In this modern world's green witchcraft, especially the craft of a Hekatean, we look towards the inspired fore-mothers and forefathers of our characterization of what it means to be a witch, and how someone pursuing the folkloric and agrarian cultus at the heart of witchcraft can find the roots of the traditions that make us, us. For some people, it's simply living a more magical life. For others, it's ceremony and ritual and deeply held faith in personal gnosis. For a green witch in Hekate's garden, it is a combination of death and life; a cemetery in a garden, something that seems to be a perfect harmony for a witch... Especially the kind who gets their power from oneness with their bit of land... and the spirits there. In Hekate's garden, there is a place for the green witches, a perfect place doing what we do best; plant medicine.
|Death isn't evil, it isn't something to live life afraid of, it is sacred and beautiful. The rituals we keep to remember the beloved dead serve to remind us of the beauty in our temporary nature, in the power of memory. The body is a shell.|
For more information on witchcraft, herbal sorcery and plant medicine...
Witches, Demons, and Fertility Magic: Analysis of Their Significance and Mutual Relations in West-European Folk Religion by Arne Runeberg
Forbidden Rites: A Necromancer's Manual of the Fifteenth Century by Richard Kieckhefer
Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby
Greek and Roman Necromancy and Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds by Daniel Ogden
The Sorceress by Jules Michelet
Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries by Carlo Ginzburg