Those who are familiar with magick as well as many who are not, are quite familiar with the “Malleus Maleficarum” or the “Witches Hammer” which was used to “haunt” down “witches” who were being accused of performing Covens–a coven usually refers to a group or gathering of witches.
The word coven, from Latin “Conventum”, remained largely unused in England until 1921, which is when Margaret Murray promoted the idea that all witches met in groups of 13 called covens–12 witches and the devil as leader. According to her the number is used as parody of Christ and his 12 disciples. An alternate theory suggest the number 13th is used because it is the maximum number of people one could get inside a 9 foot circle; numerologists understand the energetic power behind the use of the number 13th (Real Magick is not trickery but the study, understanding and use of Mathematics and “pure” science; which is very different from modern science).
The actuality of covens was also accepted by Montague Summers, a well-known Roman Catholic writer on “witchcraft” on the 1920’s and 1930’s. Each member of a coven is said to specialize in a particular branch of magick, such as bewitching agricultural produce, producing sickness or death in humans, storm raising, or seduction. Most historians as well as serious students of Magick (not demonic rituals; for the two are very different on history, mythology and practice) dismiss the Murray theory of covens as bias, unfounded and based on insufficient evidence.
The supposed meeting of witches in secluded places to hold depraved parties, unleash libidinous impulses and commit crimes was one of the bases or foundations for the accusations made against witches during the trials which took place in the 15th, 16th and 19th centuries. These “crimes” were recorded in the accusers’ records and they were obtained through “confession”; the person who was accused of witchcraft was arrested and made to confess through a harsh (if not diabolical) “interrogation” process lead by fanatics. Women were found guilty for feeling lust and supposedly exposing uncontrolled demonic desires.
The crimes committed while haunting witches was also based on books of the time written by fanatics who claimed they knew how to detect a witch from the rest; interestingly enough, any woman who had her own opinion was labeled a witch. As previously mentioned, one of the most “famous” books regarding how to detect a with and what to do with one, was the “Malleus Maleficarum”; a book which had great influence for centuries. The Malleus describes women as imperfect animals who are led by their carnal desires; in other words rather than look at men as equal sexual participants (for it takes 2 to tango), it sets all blame on women for seducing men–men being the “innocent victims” of such seduction (in other words, they were viewing men as half wits who could not think for themselves and who are gullible).
The Malleus describes a “good” woman as someone submissive and who is mentally castrated from her sexuality. The Malleus elevates sorcery to the criminal status of heresy and recommends that secular courts prosecute it as such. The Malleus suggests torture to effectively obtain confessions and the death penalty as the only certain remedy against the evils of witchcraft; at the time heretics were frequently sentenced to be burned alive–makes you re-think as to whom was really more in need of “repentance” and “punishment”.
Most historians and linguists have concluded covens were not real and that they only existed within the mind of the accusers and those being accused; let me elaborate….
There is no proof that covens took place other than the signed “confessions” brought forth by the accusers. These so called confessions cannot be taken seriously when they were obtained under torture. When a person is being tortured, the prisoner will most likely confess to just about anything to make the torture stop; back then torture procedures were Machiavellian in nature.
The other reason to doubt such accusations, is the fact most of the women who were being accused were used to working with plants (plant medicine). Many of those plants were hallucinogens, as such those women “believed” they had fly, etc. There were inquisitors who challenged the accusations towards those women and brought forth evidence (plants, witnesses) yet they were made to be silent.
Another reason why credibility is being challenged that covens back then took place in the way it was described, is due to the fact that the actual word for covens was “aquelarres”. Experts linguists have concluded that such word did not appear in any records until the 15th century; in other words, it appeared when the accusations started. “Aquelarre” is a word that originates from Euskera/Basque. Aque means male goat and larre means meadow (could make reference to Pan or to Baphomet–I wrote an article a while back, explaining the proper symbology and history of Baphomet) As such linguists believe the word was put together by the same people who started the hunt for witches; they had to be “educated” men who had knowledge of languages, origins and meaning. There are also doubts about the word Sabbath or Sabbat, which was another word used to label these so called secret reunions. Sabbath or Sabbat comes from the word Shabat which is the day of rest for Jewish people; in an era marked by anti-Semitism, in which some Jews (frictions between Jews and Christians) were accused of the same crimes as those who where heretic, it is natural to conclude the association of words as questionable if not malicious.
Despite the fact there is no serious evidence to support covens as per the way it was described, culture was certainly impacted by the accusations; as such, we find art and folklore heavily impacted by the delusions of those times. How is it that people and culture were so affected? It probably has to do with perception. Two factors which could have contributed to such perceptions would have been, the pagan rites towards nature and the perception Judeo-Cristian culture had about sexuality; particularly feminine sexuality in all its expression.
Pagan fertility rites existed in pre-Christian Europe, many of the cults that were held at that time were to honor the Gods of nature and Fertility–Christianity was a concept which did not appear in Europe for a very long time. The festivals and rituals which were used to honor nature and fertility could include free sexuality; free not as we understand it now. Free sexuality of the time was spiritual in nature, nothing to do with orgies or people abusing each other like animals. Sexuality was being used to harness the power of the orgasm as the ultimate path for meditation and alchemy–no different than Celtic magick (I have an article on that, as well as other articles on the power of the orgasm and its healing properties). To the people back then, fertility meant the impregnatable power which can be found within and all around us; in other words…divinity. As a matter of fact, one cannot be certain if these rituals were literal or symbolical in nature; regardless, it was enough for ignorant minds to use them as basis for their accusations to murder women and so called heretics.
Even though Hebrews had experienced persecution and were suffering the side effects of Christians who were prejudice towards them, it did not stop them from being prejudice towards women and other type of heretics. They did not respect, much less accept the fact other cultures could believe in nature as divinity and other “gods” as guides. Hebrews had one “God” (yet that God had angels, archangels and so forth)–that “God” was a demanding and punishing type of God; there was no “salvation” be it not through his dogma.
TO PAGANS DIVINITY IS THE JOINT COMMUNION OF MALE AND FEMALE ENERGIES, THIS INCLUDES LIGHT AND DARKNESS, CHAOS AND ORDER. TO HEBREWS/CHRISTIANS, GOD IS MALE IN NATURE.
To Hebrews back then, the pagans were idolaters, ritualistic; despite the fact that all religions follow rituals. Any person who did not think the same was a person deserving of condemnation; as a matter of fact, the Old Testament is full of punishment and torture towards any person who did not accept the God of the Hebrews. Christianity which was born later, inherited most of those concepts–to Christianity, sexuality is simply a reproductive function. To them there is nothing sacred about sexuality–when they claim sexuality is sacred, they are not referring to the actual act of sexuality but to the dogma set around it.
There was a time sexuality was sacred (the way of the initiates) within the Middle East (Jerusalem, etc); however, like most things, over time such knowledge was repressed and dogma took over– conveniently narrowing the definition of sacred in order for a patriarchal system to take place.
Due to persecution, the rituals of pagans had to be held in private; this of course did not help their cause, for it was used as more ammunition against them. They were accused of horrible crimes, killing of children, drinking of blood etc. In other words due to ignorance, pagan rituals and witchcraft (magick) was confused with diabolical rituals and false dark sorcery. One cannot be sure if the confusion and melting of the two were done in purpose or purely base on ignorance; either way, it serve the cause of the inquisition and their haunt for witches.
**As you can see, I did not use the word satanic rituals, for Satan and the so called Devil are not the same, anymore than a Demon and a Daemon are. The fact there is a Satanic Bible, does not mean it is based on origins any more than the actual Bible is–they are a compilations (as the word bible itself means) of various beliefs from different cultures of even more ancient times.
Interestingly enough to be a witch back then was to be an independent woman. A witch, was usually a woman who lived secluded, close to nature and whom work with plants; using them to help others to heal. These women were also midwifes who helped bring life into this world the way a woman was meant to (women did not start to give birth laying on their back until French King Louis XIV turned it into the norm, for he liked to watch his wives and mistresses pushing out his children). The fact that these women whom were called witches lived independently, own their sexuality, had knowledge and could take care of themselves, was something to be despised by a system designed to “honor” men through submissive women. Any man who liked or supported these “witches” was accused of being a heretic or to have been taken over by the devil.
As you can see we cannot prove covens took place or not; however, witches covens in the way it was described has no evidence to support it; it seems more the result of ignorance and fear. In order not to repeat history, perhaps we should learn to practice open mindedness by respecting those of different beliefs than ours–we can agree to disagree. Just because I disagree with someone doesn’t mean I have the right to persecute or bully that person nor to accept such treatment from someone else.
In the name of dogma and a God (from many cultures) thirsty for vengeance and veneration, so much blood has been shed. Perhaps it is time we learn to see divinity exactly for what it is, a force of expansion which couldn’t possibly be represented by any deity that promotes exclusion and division. At the same time, it is up to us to act responsibly and not behave in the same way our ancestors did; punishing and excluding; for that is exactly what led to people who thought differently, to be haunted down like animals and tortured in inhumane ways.
We cannot gasp at the horrors of the past, only to repeat the process all over again; telling ourselves we are not talking about the same thing. Any God, system, belief that requires the exclusion, punishment and haunting down of your fellow humans, is not justice nor good law, for it only promotes hatred which always leads to violence. I may disagree with certain beliefs, that does not mean I would ever stand for their exclusion and torture.
We cannot live in a society that claims we are all one and we are all free, while we hurt each other and are stripped of our own rights–that just goes to show we have learned nothing from history and the dangers of dogma; even though it is being dressed up differently, it seems dogma still rules. The moment they take your humanity (the ability to feel for another being, even if that being thinks differently than you) its’ the moment they take away your divinity…its the moment you cease to be and a mindless robotic entity starts to live.
"Eighty percent of most choices are based on fear. Most people don't choose what they want, they choose what they think is safe" Phil McGraw