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(night) The night of April 30th, also known as May Day Eve, followed by Beltane on May 1st — a fire-ceremony day in Celtic times celebrating the beginning of summer. Also an important witch festival, or sabbat.
(1867-1936) Warner liked to claim he was Count Louis le Warner de Hamon. Better known under his professional name, Cheiro, he was an Irishman who claimed to have discovered a rare book, written on human skin, about palmistry, and then to have studied in Egypt and in India to perfect his knowledge of the art. He opened an elegant salon in New Bond Street, London, and soon became the leading palmist of his time.
Flamboyant, and with a skill for self-promotion, Warner claimed to have had a love affair with the fabulous spy Mata Hari, to have obtained validation from the British intelligence services, and to have had a 1904 encounter with the Russian Czar and a battle of wills with the monk Rasputin. These claims were unsubstantiated, but of course added substantially to his reputation.
Warner traveled the world with great success. Celebrities of all sorts were his clients, British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, U.S. President Grover Cleveland, Kings Edward VII and VIII of England, General Horatio Herbert Kitchener, Leopold of Belgium, the Shah of Persia, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde among them. The fact that he may have performed his service for them, of course, does not imply their endorsements.
He died poverty-stricken in Hollywood, California, in 1936, his popularity having waned. Books on palmistry bearing his name are still sold.
From time to time, reports of weeping or bleeding religious statues, icons, or paintings are featured in the media. There is no specific season for this phenomenon, but Christmas and Easter are slightly favored.
The Christmas season of 1986 brought a media blitz of articles and interviews about another variety of the miracle, this one of a Virgin Mary painting in Chicago that was said by church authorities to exude “a very thin, oily sweet substance very similar to the [liquid] we use to baptize children or unction for the sick.” These authorities firmly declined to have the “tears” examined by chemists, saying that
to further analyze [this phenomenon] would be almost blasphemy. The Archdiocese thinks [investigators] should not subject [the substance] to a scientific analysis, which is not a very religious procedure.
The previous year, a similarly attractive myth had collapsed when another religious figure, in Montreal, Canada — this time a combination weeping/bleeding statue — turned out to have been smeared with a quite mundane mixture of the owner's own blood and Kmart shaving lotion. The resulting fuss was no surprise to experienced observers of these matters. Media exposure of the hoax brought a barrage of hate mail to the local bishop. The letter writers felt that in spite of the evidence — a direct confession from the hoaxer — the bishop still should have declared the event a genuine miracle.
Ordinary atmospheric condensation, encouraged by the increased number of candles offered at the site, as well as the exhalation of the large crowds, can often result in “tears” on a plaster figure. And it is obvious that any person armed with a concealed syringe or other similar device can surreptitiously project the required liquid onto the figure. Since proper examination of the site and of the substances involved are forbidden and discouraged, there is little to be gained merely by theorizing on the modus operandi that might have been used. Certainly, no assumption of a miracle would be parsimonious.
(also, werwolf; in French, loup-garou or bisclaveret; in Spanish, lobombre; in Italian, lupo mannaro) The myth says that a human can be temporarily changed into a wolf through a spell, ingestion of certain substances, a curse, or simply from family disposition, but most often from the bite of another such creature.
The belief is very old. Greek sorceress Circe in Homer's Odyssey changed men into swine. Plato and Pliny the Elder referred to werewolves, and Virgil wrote about one person:
By means of these [toxic plants] I often saw him turned into a wolf.
King John of England (1167-1216) was a far-from-excellent ruler whose body was dug up by superstitious folks who believed he was a werewolf, and in sixteenth-century France, serious laws were passed against those who were involved in such evil stuff.
Various cultures have elected other animals in place of the wolf. In Greece we hear of a wereboar, in Romania a weredog, and in China a werefox. In Malaysia and other parts of the Orient, a very similar mythology is taught, but the animal into which the afflicted person changes is a tiger, leopard, eagle, or serpent. In Africa and India, the belief is that men change into hyenas, leopards, and tigers. In Chile it's a vulture and in Iceland they become bears. The American Plains Indians feared the werebuffalo.
The condition of being a werewolf is properly known as “lycanthropy.”
See also vampire.
(also, Wier, 1515-1588) Born in Basel, Switzerland, Weyer was a sixteenth-century physician also known as Piscinarius, and a pupil of Agrippa.
The enlightened physician Johannes Weyer, at age sixty.
In 1564, his book De Praestigiis Daemonum (“On the Activities of Demons”) tried to perform the same service as Reginald Scot's book The Discouerie of Witchcraft, which was published twenty years later, by denying that witchcraft was a genuine power or a threat to Christianity. In any case, both books were essentially ignored, and persecution of supposed witches continued. He was very enlightened on his subject when he observed:
The uninformed and the unskilled physicians relegate all the incurable diseases, or all the diseases the remedy for which they overlook, to witchcraft. When they do this, they are talking about disease like a blind man does about color. Like many surgeons with their quackery, they cover their ignorance of our Sacred Art [medicine] with the playthings of magic malefactors and they themselves are the real malefactors.
Weyer vigorously pursued various claims of magic and witchcraft, showing that they had no basis in fact. He met the claimants on their own terms and defeated them. He investigated one of the most famous of all demon “possession” cases, that of the Nuns of Cologne in 1564. He solved that matter by determining that certain rather robust convulsions entered into by these virtuous ladies had been brought about, not by religious visions, but by visitations of neighborhood dandies who had favored them with their attentions and subsequently induced various raptures in the women by their very efforts at negotiating the walls of the convent. The ladies had turned heavy romance into religious exultation.
For his labors, Weyer was castigated by the church and his own profession. Complained one well-known physician of the time:
Oh, if only such a man had never been born, or at least had not written anything! Instead of which, he gives many people through his books the opportunity to sin and to enhance the Kingdom of Satan.
Weyer managed to survive this criticism, lived to the then-surprising age of seventy-three, and was accorded a proper Christian church burial.
To many modern historians of medicine, he is looked upon as one of the founders of modern psychiatry; he is certainly one of the first philosophers to record a rational view of various human mental aberrations, many of which are believed even today, by the uneducated, to be caused by demons, witches, and other fanciful inventions. Weyer knew better and had the good common sense, intelligence, and fortitude to say so.
Strangely enough, Weyer also published Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, a catalog of demons and their attributes, in 1563. It was an inventory of devils, of which he said there were exactly 7,405,926, in 1,111 divisions of 6,666 each. (Modern Lutherans claim that there are 2,665,866,746,664 devils or demons, but demons are lively folks and very difficult to get to stand still during a count.)
White, Ellen G.
Early English term for witch. Derived from a German root word meaning “to twist or to bend.” Also used to denote the witch religion.
See Davenport brothers.
According to Malleus Maleficarum, witches, men or women who have entered into pacts with Satan, are capable of changing themselves into other creatures, raising storms, bringing sickness to humans and animals, causing sterility, and flying. They consort carnally with demons and even with Satan himself.
The belief in witches brought about the persecution and prosecution of many unpopular persons in medieval times. See witchcraft and Salem witch trials.
A male witch is now often referred to as a warlock, though not strictly correctly. The term should more properly be applied to males of monstrous appearance who perform magic. “Warlockry” is the practice of infernal magic specifically by males.
In Reginald Scot's book The Discouerie of Witchcraft (1584) appears one of the earliest descriptions:
Witchcraft is in troth a cosening [deceiving] Art, wherein the Name of God is abused, prophaned, and blasphemed, and his power attributed to a vile creature. In estimation of the vulgar people, it is a supernatural work, contrived between a corporeal old Woman and a spiritual Divel [Devil]. The manner thereof is so secret, mystical, and strange, that to this day there hath never been any credible witness thereof. It is incomprehensible to the wise, learned or faithful, a probable matter to children, fools, melanchollick persons and Papists.
In modern times, witchcraft has been construed as a naturalistic religion of sorts, attributing spirits of all sorts to trees, rocks, clouds, and almost all “natural” objects. Incantations are used to try to bring about desired events, and in general it is a harmless distraction for otherwise idle persons to embrace.
The reputation for naked orgies, sacrifices, and other often odious practices that the public often attributes to witches is undeserved. Those habits are more properly assigned to followers of Satanism.
St. Thomas Aquinas, who accepted every myth of evil, lent his validation to witchcraft. It is interesting to note that the first woman ever burned alive for accusations of having intercourse with a devil died the year after Aquinas did (1274).
Penalties for practicing witchcraft have varied greatly over the ages. In ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, witches and magicians were prosecuted severely, and Plato approved punishment for the practice of magic of all kinds. The Romans set up special councils to punish witches, and in 139 B.C. all sorcerers were commanded to leave Italy within ten days. The Emperor Augustus ordered all books on magic to be burned publicly, and Tiberius again ordered witches exiled. Subsequent rulers (Constantius, Valentinian I, Valens) decreed death for witchcraft.
However, certain rulers such as Caracalla, Julian the Apostate, and Alexander Severus (third century A.D.) consulted and employed witches.
Henry VIII of England, in 1542, passed a law against “conjurations and witchcrafts and sorcery and enchantments.” In 1563, Elizabeth I forbade witchcraft and when James I succeeded her to the throne he was very severe in his condemnation and pursuit of witches. His Act of 1604 put to death some seventy thousand accused witches, according to one estimate, a grossly inaccurate figure. An even stronger act was passed in 1649.
In 1692, the town of Salem, Massachusetts, began hunting down witches and the absurdity took root in America.
One account says that the last witch executed in England was Alice Molland, condemned in 1685 for killing three persons with spells. However, two women were hanged at Northampton in 1705 and five more in 1712, and the death penalty for witchcraft was in effect until 1736. The prohibition of witchcraft in England continued up to 1951. The last known execution in Scotland for witchcraft took place in 1722, and a woman was burned as a witch in Germany, at Würtzburg, in June 1749.
See also conjuring, Reginald Scot, and Johannes Weyer.
This term is usually applied to a native healer who practices among rural people in his or her own country. The modern witch doctor in Africa applies primitive psychology when he “pulls the thorn” by applying his mouth to a wound or the ailing portion of the body, producing by sleight of hand a thorn, stone, or sliver that is said to be either the actual cause of pain or a material representation of a demon or devil.
Anthropologists have spent much time examining these methods, and one of them has favorably compared these primitive methods to those used by today's more civilized practitioners. There may be a lot of information in these practices that can benefit medical science; much of today's medical knowledge came from similar sources.
Witch of Endor
In the Bible, in book I Samuel 28, the witch of Endor was said to have called up the ghost of the prophet Samuel at the command of King Saul. The ghost angrily predicted Saul's downfall. The original story was written about 1000 B.C.
Known in Italy as the Ghirlanda della Streghe, this is a series of knots with the feathers of a black hen inserted at intervals. It is used to cast spells. It is a popular item for the local cottage trade and is sold to tourists who have no more success with it than the witches ever did.
See Devil's mark.