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To Become a Witch

We are in the time of year when the witch receives an enormous amount of attention but in yesterday’s Brittany the witch had no impact on Hallowe’en at all. On the eve of All Saint’s Day, the dead were believed to return to their former homes and in expectation of this, the fire would be kept burning overnight by a large log known as the ‘log of the dead’ and the table would be set with a few pancakes and a little milk for the dead to feast on. The souls of the dead were not feared but welcomed as the old friends they had been in life and Brittany’s witches would likely have been as absorbed in preparing for those nocturnal visits as anyone else. So, if the region’s witches were not a feature of Hallowe’en celebrations, what were they?

The Jesuit missions to Brittany in the 17th century described the land as being in the primitive age of the Church. Relics of paganism were noticeable everywhere; magical talismans and charms abounded in common use, superstitions and witchcraft flourished. Even at this late date, the missionaries found prayers were popularly addressed to the moon and that some women taught the mysteries of the sun under the name Doue Tad (God Father). Even into the early 20th century, visitors noted a rural hinterland where the division between the natural and supernatural was often tenuous.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - witches sky dance
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The Scottish author Lewis Spence noted in 1917 that witchcraft was part of everyday life in the region’s more secluded départements and that people could still recall a time when farm and field were ever in peril of wicked spells and the deadly gaze of the Evil Eye. Witchcraft was clearly deeply embedded into the fabric of rural life here but the amalgam of sinister spell casters, magicians and folk healers makes a clear definition of witchcraft and its chief practitioner, the witch, difficult. A task rendered even more challenging if we need to frame our thoughts within today’s definitions and those used by followers of pagan religions such as the Wiccan movement.

To avoid falling down too many rabbit holes, I propose to focus on the question based on the world-view of the rural peasants of pre-World War One Brittany. The popularly accepted characteristics of a witch, whether male or female, here then seem little changed from those noted across Europe in the preceding centuries; they were believed to possess special power and an acute knowledge of how to wield that power so as to control and manipulate natural or supernatural forces. The witch was not feared because of any innate capacity for harm and mischief but because people did not know the limits of their power.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - Witches coven
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We often fear what we do not understand and witches were ascribed an enormous range of fantastic powers; from the removal of warts and locating lost wedding rings to raising hailstorms and talking the languages of beasts. The fact that many of their magical rituals were performed in secret or contained charms that were indecipherable to the ears of others likely fostered a mantle of ‘otherness’ that probably suited both the witch and the wider community.

The trials of witches noted here in the 19th and 20th centuries – mostly for fraud or practicing medicine illegally – reveal a landscape gripped with perceived threats and vague fears; an insecurity that bred an almost permanent state of anxiety that only traditional, familiar superstitions could alleviate and appease. Writing in 1893, the French psychologist Léon Marillier proposed that Bretons still possessed a state of mind where the explanation of a natural phenomenon, illness or death, which immediately came to mind, was a supernatural one. When one’s family or livestock were struck by some unforeseen misfortune it took no leap of the imagination to view one’s plight as the result of some spell cast against you.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - A Witch
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It was then necessary to consult the local witch, known in Breton as the Groac’h; an archaic term that was also used to describe both crones and fairies. The witch was often called upon to identify the spells that had been cast on others and was believed able to both identify the source of any spells cast and to counteract their effects. Lifting curses through charms of un-bewitchment seems to have been as significant a part of the witch’s role in rural society as ensuring the good health of people and their livestock or of foretelling the future.

The local witch, despite their wicked role in many folktales, was widely held to possess a profound, practical knowledge of herbalism, healing and potions. In addition to being effective healers, witches were also commonly approached to find water sources and lost objects and to bring-on rain or fair weather. In many instances, they were also thought able to act as an intermediary between the dead and those family members still living. Witches often had an ambivalent role in their community but nevertheless remained an integral part of it. Although natural phenomena such as unseasonal weather, crop blight, illness and death were often blamed on the power of the witch, consulting one was seen as the surest way of countering another’s enchantments.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - Dead Listeners 1890
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The Breton countryside also featured characters known as diskanterezed (one who can undo or peel away). Like the Groac’h, these people were noted healers of benign ailments who often specialised in a limited number of afflictions such as removing warts or healing eczema. However, they were also approached for the preparation of charms, concoctions and amulets of bewitchment and un-bewitchment. Traditional healers, known as louzaouer (best defined as herbalists) were once also noted in nearly all communities here; sometimes several being active in a single commune and covering a range of specialities. Typically, these people prepared and administered remedies derived from plants that were either ingested or worn as an amulet. Such preparations were mostly composed of a mixture of bark, flowers, fruits, leaves, roots and seeds although animal products such as butter, eggs, milk and even dung were also used along with minerals such as antimony, mercury, salt and sulphur.

It is quite difficult and probably unhelpful in a blog post such as this to draw clear distinctions between the two former terms that were often interchangeable in parts of western Brittany. Thus, the vagueness inherent in the label of ‘witch’, as applied in Brittany, allows us to highlight the characteristics most closely commonly associated with all these practitioners.

Becoming a witch - Brittany -Three Witches Macbeth
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In Brittany, it was believed that only children who were born feet-first possessed the gift to be a diskanterez and that only an experienced practitioner could identify the child worthy of initiation into the mysteries of the craft. Like witches, they were thought to have been bestowed with their powers at birth although certain circumstances were thought more favourable than others. For instance, the strongest evil spells were those cast by witches born under a half moon or whose mothers had died in childbirth. The curses wrought by these people were considered especially powerful and were thought more dangerous because their spells could only be lifted by themselves.

The most powerful spell casters were held to be found amongst those born on the afternoon of Good Friday or on the first day of August or on a Friday in March, provided that day was one of the odd days of the month. Similarly, the seventh child born of a family where all six siblings were of the same but opposite sex, was considered destined to be a great healer. Likewise, the seventh child of a family of seven boys was thought to possess the gift to cure fevers and scrofula but only on a Good Friday. Only a witch born in May was said to possess the power to stop an expectant mother passing on an unmet craving to her baby in the form of a birthmark or noevi materni.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - witches at the gibbet
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However, the witch was not the only person believed to be able to cast spells and curses; they were merely those able to cast them at will. It was widely held that others, afflicted with the Evil Eye, had the ability to cast misfortune, such as those who, on the day of their baptism, had remained on the church porch without receiving the sacrament. Beggars, rag-pickers and tailors were also believed to have possessed the power to cast misfortune upon unsuspecting households and their livestock.

An examination of the Breton court records of the latter part of the 19th century also highlights that many spell casters were not the isolated witches of popular tradition but part-time practitioners who also held steady employment as clog-makers or farmers. Many were charged for having sold magical amulets but one witch was prosecuted for claiming to heal people by blowing on mirrors and a master mason from Rédéné, in western Brittany, was accused of cursing another man with “the bad wind”!

Becoming a witch - Brittany - Preparation for Witches Sabbath Teniers
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Whatever the circumstances of one’s birth or status, the ability to cast spells required knowledge and a deep understanding of the rituals required to affect the desired outcome. The words used by the spell caster were crucial, as was the delivery; several of the old spells that have survived to this day stress the need for a certain tone of voice to be used or for charms to be recited on one intake of breath only; failing to observe these crucial rites was said to annul the spell and even risk the incomplete spell falling against the caster.

In addition to the specific words used and their precise delivery, spells required particular gestures to animate them. For example, to heal eczema, the spell caster would recite the following formula three times in a single breath while continually tracing the sign of the cross with a silver coin: “Go away, go away. This is not your home, neither here nor anywhere. Between nine seas and nine mountains and nine fountains, turn northwest!” Other some spells could only be performed under specific circumstances such as on a particular date or time of day.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - Sneddon - Witch - Warboys
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Knowing the appropriate remedy to apply or charm to cast against specific situations was one of the key attributes that set the witch apart from other wise folk in the community. This ancient wisdom and secret knowledge was jealously guarded and was often thought to have been the exclusive preserve of a select number of families who only passed-down their precious charge to a privileged few in each generation. Some have speculated that the charms and rituals used by Brittany’s witches in the modern era were likely debased survivors of those once employed by the ancient druids.

In many cases, the charms and invocations used by witches here contained Christian rather than occult terminology and both they and those seeking their services often referred to their spells and charms as prayers. Although specific to each ailment and often to each practitioner, the incantations of healing were very often adaptations of the liturgical prayers of healing recited by the local priest. Likewise, many charms contained supplications to local saints invoking their power to act rather than their grace to endure. Such saints were often obscure, almost semi-legendary, characters whose names might have substituted for those of older Celtic deities as happened during the Christianisation of the land’s sacred springs.

Becoming a witch - Hermann Hendrich - Cloud Walker
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Our modern notions of witchcraft might sit uneasily with Christian beliefs but this was not so in the rural Brittany of old. Many of the spells and charms that have survived to this day called for the invocation of God or particular saints, although the Virgin Mary was notably invoked in a spell to prevent theft. The use of Christian motifs was not some subversive act of heresy but a petition to the ultimate power made by one who was believed to have been blessed by God with the gift of healing. However, some witches were believed to invoke not God and the saints but the Devil and his demons; such people were widely regarded as evil witches who practised sorcery in pursuit of selfish aims or to cause harm to others.

Those whose mothers had died in childbirth were thought to make evil witches but it was also said that anyone could, under certain circumstances, become a powerful witch. One means of doing so called for a green frog, caught on the day of the full moon, to be placed in an anthill while reciting a charm requesting the animal to call upon the Devil and plead for his attention. It was then necessary to go to a crossroads where five roads met and, during the chimes of the midnight bell, to pronounce another charm swearing patience and loyalty to the lord of darkness, ending with the promise: “For him, I will run”.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - Devil and witches - Medieval woodcut
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With the utterance of these last words, the Devil was said to appear upon one of the five roads, while a black cat appeared on the opposite road. Of the other roads, one was graced by a white hen, another by the green frog accompanied by an army of ants. The final road was the one by which the supplicant had initially travelled to this fiendish meeting and was free of any danger so that, after the conditions of the Devil’s contract had been accepted, the witch might withdraw without fear of harm. One of the witnesses to this diabolical pact was gifted to the witch to whose service it was now attached; tradition suggests that preference was usually given to the cat.

Another means of becoming a witch, noted in the east of the region, was even more repulsive. The ritual here called for the prospective witch to rub their whole body with the fat of a child that had been torn from its mother’s womb before the expiry of its natural term. The baby needed to be cut into pieces and put to boil over a large fire, its fat was then collected and poured into jars that were sealed and hidden behind the rock of the hearth (a large stone that often acted as a fire back).

Before using this ointment, it was necessary to first present it to a priest, who was also a secret witch himself, so that he might, by reciting certain charms in reverse order, imbue the ointment with the required effectiveness. Finally, this ghastly grease needed to be taken to a crossroads at night and smeared over one’s naked body during the chiming of the midnight bell while reciting a brief charm that ended with the words: “Where all companions are”. It was believed that the spell was now cast and that the new witch was immediately transported to the midst of a Sabbath.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - Dance of the Fadets - Ryckaert
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For those without the innate talent or the patience to learn the ways of the witch, other fantastic rituals were said to allow one to possess magical abilities. For instance, anyone who ate the heart of an eel, warm from the body, was supposed to be at once endowed with the gift of prophecy. Possession of a four leafed clover, a seven headed ear of grain or the grain that had passed through the millstone without being ground was said to allow its possessor the ability to see what remained hidden from the eyes of others; the four leafed clover found under a gallows was held to be the most powerful of these rarities. The spores of the green fern, collected on the night of Midsummer, were believed to be effective in helping locate hidden treasures and to give the possessor the ability to read the deepest secrets hidden within the hearts of others.

When a person stood between two lands – their feet on the ground with a sod of earth held above their head – on a moonless night, they were believed to be granted the privilege of seeing things that were unknown to others. It was said that if a woman cooked an oak apple in the water of a fountain whose source watered a cemetery, she would be endowed with the wisdom and knowledge of the ancient fairies. Similarly, if one could cut the branch of the hazel tree which revealed itself as pure gold during the striking of the Christmas bell, one would have a wand equal in power to those wielded by the greatest fairies.

Becoming a witch - Brittany - moonrise Harpignies
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Belief in the power of the witch did not disappear here due to the evangelising efforts of local priests who, in Brittany, were often regarded as sorcerers themselves. Indeed, most people saw no contradiction in the simultaneous use of the parish priest and the local witch; surely protection against the dangers of the world would be better assured if one accepted both as a safeguard? Popular belief in the power of witchcraft and of healing magic faded as the isolated, inward-looking communities that had long sustained such superstitions changed forever under the guns of the Western Front and the bombardment of industrialisation.

Published by Bon Repos Gites

Enjoying life in Kalon Breizh - the Heart of Brittany.

164 thoughts on “To Become a Witch

  1. The discomfort remains in the pit of the children’s stomachs.
    I don’t like this witch cult.
    Moreover, it is linked to sordid practices, even in the provinces of central France.
    I prefer a thousand times the sweet magic of elves, elves, and fairies.
    Nevertheless your article is very detailed and honest moreover.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I understand your opinion here! It is quite strange how the witch has become so central to modern Hallowe’en traditions when it did not feature as part of the festival for so long. I suspect that the witch was added to the mix in the modern American tradition and folk now try to extrapolate that back into the pre-Christian celebrations in the old lands of Europe?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Everything that comes from fear, from anguish is an inferior world, the world of the less evolved spheres of man. Do men become backward again?
        It is part of a degeneration of modern society.
        We seek to awaken a gloomy part of humanity.
        Witchcraft is linked to power, to the desire for power, to the desire to harm and to trivialize evil.
        This world is in bad shape. This world seeks itself, sometimes in darkness, sometimes in light.
        However, thank you for this article and all those that you publish or update.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As always, extremely interesting Colin! Isn’t it funny how witches were feared on one hand and blamed for everything, but then when needed to lift a spell or heal the sick they were sought after. Also I think it would have been pretty easy to put a curse on someone in those times because people were so superstitious. A sideways look and a guilty conscience would be enough to make one nervous 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I find it amazing that the more you believe is curses, charms and potions, the more they appear to work for or on you. The power of belief and the power of the mind is often under rated. Thanks for this excellent piece. Cheers. allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, you are right, popular opinions of witchcraft have changed considerably over time. I can see that some attitudes might have been based on differing definitions of what that entails but I cannot explain other shifts. It would be interesting to delve deeper! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So interesting story and inspiring to read 🌷🙏👍🏻📖 Our ancestors advised us their stories
    about evils and witches 🧙‍♀️ still awaking with so many issues on our minds and we are always
    moving for our families protection from these bad evil power , so once in a year we make them
    feel satisfied , we Indians also doing the rituals for the departed souls ,this is the truth of life 🌷🙏🌷
    Thank you for sharing and grace wishes 👏♥️😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks! I am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it is remarkable how so many disparate cultures, often separated by great distances, once shared recognisably similar beliefs completely independent of each other!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re welcome and thank you too, for another reason as well; because the region of Thessaly in Greece wherein our city of Volos administratively belongs has been trully filled with witches and sorceresses back then in the Middle Ages and finally burnt as everywhere else. If you would do a simple Google research about this both folkloric and historical issue, you may find all the events about witches in Thessaly region in Greece in the Middle Ages. Stay well!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it is remarkable how our concept of witches is now so fully moulded by the popular media of the last century or so. Although maybe we need to go even further back and the witches of Macbeth as stamping the image of the wicked witch on our imagination?
      I am happy that you liked the read! Stay well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK, understood 🙂 Pumpkins are very, very slowly becoming ‘a thing’ here now at this time of year but I think it will be at least another generation before Hallowe’en is celebrated. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 🪶but in yesterday’s Brittany the witch had no impact on Hallowe’en at all🪶

        I read this sentence completely out of context. Safe to say I made a mistake.
        This may take a while yes, people generally don’t celebrate Halloween in France.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I have heard stories about welcoming the spirits of loved ones home ❤️ with a meal left out over night for them and I have heard of this “log of the dead” … I don’t/didn’t know what region it was but I have heard of that.

    Crazy how views over time change… and also healer and herbalist are 2 big industries lol

    Lol I might have drank from a cemetery water fountain 😉 but I don’t think is same water that waters the cemetery? Lol 😮 💦🪦… but we can go with it anyway lol ✌️

    Wonderful stories – shedding both light on good and evil 😊😘 also gives a bit of a view into the society at that time and how some things came to be.

    It is little sad to see such magic spirit and life disappear 🫠

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks! I am pleased that you enjoyed these tales! 🙂

      The log of the dead is an interesting one as many have argued that it is closely associated with the other two major pre-Christian celebrations which were auspicious nights for the dead to congregate (Midsummer and Christmas) and also involved the ritual burning of wood (bonfires and the Yule log)!

      Haha, best check if there is a spring of well nearby! 😉 You just never know!

      I know what you mean but part of me likes to think that if folk remember a thing then it never truly dies away. 🙂 but then I like to think that Guingamp will win the cup! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The way you tell your tales pulls the reader in 😊👏

        A warmth and guiding glow to lead spirits to their homes and loved ones 😉❤️ is beautiful tradition

        Spirits are known to be cold, so a nice fire – warms the spirit right up 😘❤️ welcome home 👏

        If it makes people remember, think of or feel better – is beautiful thing to do ❤️

        Haha well let’s just say… I will soon have ALL the fairy knowledge when you do your post on fairies lol … so technically it’s finally coming to fruition 👏😄❤️ I will soon know lol 😉

        Very true … same thing with a spirit – when remembering the spirit that was lost – a little bit of every person continues on within the people they make impact on 😊

        Hahaha hey you are preaching to a RED SOX fan – keep the faith lol … one day we were cursed… and then in 2004 we went to first 🥇👏❤️❤️❤️☝️

        And then again in 2007, 2013, and 2018 ❤️ ☝️

        So yeah keep the faith fierce with that lol … “one day”

        Babe Ruth gave us that curse ⚾️

        Curse of the Bambino 😮😮😄

        The owner of the Red Sox at the time needed money and traded Babe Ruth to New York Yankees …

        New York began to win and Red Sox always lost

        Until 2004 and then omg what a year that was!!! ❤️

        So yeah keep that faith ❤️👏

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That is very kind of you to say – thank you, it is much appreciated! 🙂

        Agreed, there is something very heartening and connective about such customs and I am sure they were just as much about making the living feel better as honouring the dead.

        Haha, patience gal, patience! 😉 I will do a Hallowe’en one and then get started on fairies. 🙂 Leave your Disney back-stories at the door though 😉 but hopefully still a kind of magic! 😉

        That is funny about the Red Sox – you wait years and then dominate the game totally! I know they must be very popular as they always seem to appear in my WP Reader as a suggestion!

        Hope Dobey is still on fine form! Stay well 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes it is for the living … we had that convo before lol

        It’s a very beautiful heartfelt tradition 😊

        Hahaha oh I am patient – I figured yours would not be Disney-esk 😄 I’m sure will be magical though 🙌

        Do you have baseball over there?

        Red Sox are the best always ❤️ WP knows what’s going on lol

        Just don’t go to the Yankee side 😝😝😝 bleh – hard core rivalry lol

        Yes Doby is doing well – he’s very funny and quirky and sweet – but still sort of like a velociraptor …but I am learning his bites for what he wants I just have to switch that from biting to nudging or licking lol … he doesn’t bite hard or mean – if we play he sometimes makes puncture wounds lol … but he never bites hard – he’s gentle biter 😉

        I teach him cool little tricks – he learns so fast!!! He like a little sponge! Loves to learn ❤️👏

        Stay well also – keep the faith and the beautiful traditions 😊👏

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thank you!! 🙂 No, baseball is not really a thing here but even the smallest villages have decent football pitches.
        Ha, yes, doggie nips! It always amazed me how gentle they were. Sure, they often hurt but you knew that if he really meant business, your arm would be in pieces!
        Glad to hear that he’s doing well! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Too American? Lol teasing

        The words football 🏈 and pitches ⚾️ do not compute together in my brain lol .. like pepper and soap 🧼

        Haha well he bites when he wants you to play with him or take him out

        He usually is softer for those … but when we play, he gets all excited – but… I have him sitting on command lol ❤️👏 he does so good ❤️

        Thank you 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      6. You are welcome! 🙂 Haha yes! Well, here they are often called stadiums but that conjures up images of seating areas. Sure, the big clubs all have those but in the villages it is usually a park with floodlights. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yes we have stadiums 🏟 too ❤️

        But baseball is fun any way or anywhere you enjoy it – in a stadium 🏟 or at a park with flood lights that usually turn off at 11pm lol

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating post with so much detailed and interesting information, even if some of the images were decidedly creepy and disturbing! I’m not sure how I feel about witches. They’ve certainly had a lot of bad press over the years, some of it deservedly, I imagine. However, I’m sure that many witches were actually very wise women…? #Controversial!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Another amazing post! So well documented, with so many interesting facts and curiosities about witches in the Breton culture, plus a very appropriate topic for this time of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much Susan, I am glad that you liked it! 🙂
      Ha, yes, it must have taken a particularly annoyed victim to offer himself up to ridicule as full of bad wind! 😉

      Like

  9. Very true, what you say about the effect of WW1. Until then maybe, people sought explanations for untoward or unfortunate events, but WW1 would have shattered so many beliefs. Of course there are many people that are “gifted” or “sensitive”, people who are tuned in to Nature. There is so much mystery in our Universe!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hey Colin – great post for Halloween. I am reminded of our local, Salem Massachusetts, which was the seat of witch trials way back when. It is quite the popular spot for tourists now. So much so they close most of the streets right in the town.

    Take care.

    Nancy

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pancakes for the “visitors”? Hmmm. They do that here too on November 2nd. As the tombs are painted afresh, and decorated with orange carnations, food, fruit and liquor is disposed on the tomb, until a swish of air tells the living that the dead have eaten, and the living can now feast. In the cemetery.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes indeed. Right now, people are furbishing the tombs everywhere. Cleaning up. painting the tombs, the crosses. Preparing the offerings. (Offrandes?). In many regions an altar is built up at home. Decorated with photos, cemapsuchil (orange carnation. Rose d’Inde in French), cut out paper. etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it is. I can not imagine sitting around a heath with no lights and an elderly relative scaring you with stories of witches and demons. 🤣. Your articles are always informative. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I believe you are right – the stories would gain more credence with young minds if told by an elder relative. Its the kind of impression that would stay with you forever and that you, in turn, would likely pass on.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I hadn’t thought of it that way that “the stories would gain more credence with young minds if told by an elder relative.” You are right, one does pass these stories onto their children.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I wonder if it was mainly women that were witches? Were male healers seen to be evil? In Chinese medicine they still use natural remedies to cure all sorts of rashes and I’d guess a lot of modern cures use the same herbs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the court records from the period 1850 to 1960, the number of men and women accused of being a witch is fairly similar. We get into difficulties when we start looking farther afield as the word “sorcier” can be applied very widely indeed! It is a generalisation but male witches were more often portrayed as evil or self-serving than female ones but again this is a broad generalisation! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent piece of writing. Very educational. I’ve always been something of a magnet for witches. I’ve known many, dated two, and lived with one for more than a year. She was high maintenance. Beautiful, but very stressful. I couldn’t accept much of her believe system. It didn’t end well.

    Slowly and deliberately, witches and witchcraft has become normalized. The agenda is not yet complete. There’s a lot more coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks, I am glad that you liked it!! 🙂
      Witches eh? That’s a no-win situation! 😉
      You are right – witchcraft is becoming normalised!! I guess that started in the late ’50s but it is definitely something more today – whatever that is!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am pleased that you found it of interest and appreciate you taking the time to read it! 🙂 Yes, the term witchcraft encompassed a broad range of practitioners who carried on the old ways long after the witch-hunting hysteria of the the 16th century had died away. They still find curses hidden in field even today!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Eerie, wonderful, would love some of these scenes around the house, especially for Halloween. .
    At my convent school one girl claimed to be a real witch, and that from where a blade of grass pierced the ground, she could see into her father’s underground kingdom.
    Where did this come from ?
    Another girl claimed that she could., Two witches ?
    Not the rest of us, but – aged about 7, 8, we wondered.
    So much else we were supposed to believe, .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Two budding witches? I am guessing that in the days before Harry Potter that was quite unusual for a 7 year old! I do love the poetic imagery of seeing into the fairy realm through a blade of grass!! 🙂

      Like

      1. I am sure that I have seen a bee costume somewhere but cannot place whether it was in real-life or some movie! Not threatening eh? How about if you carried a scythe! 😉
        Enjoy the weekend. Stay safe! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Poor old pagans! They had all this marvelous knowledge from being close to the earth and then were castigated. Willow Bark was developed into Aspirin. I really enjoyed this post, especially at this time of the year. Mexican honor their dead in a similar way – Dias de las Muertos. There were a few girls named Septa at our area. It’s intriguing how the Celts still incorporate lucky number seven with modern Catholicism.

    I am certain I would have been burned at the stake had I been born at an earlier time. My premonitions of death and birth that are very accurate. I can smell if someone is about to die, especially of cancer. Animals are drawn to me in a magical way… Just call me Tabitha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am very happy that you enjoyed this one! 🙂

      Ha, I am sure that you would have seen them coming! I hope so anyway!! They say that some animals can smell cancers don’t they, so, I guess some humans must have such a developed facility too!! Fascinating!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU Goff for taking the time to read it! 🙂 Yes, there are many Breton words that are the same as those in Welsh or are recognisably related even after the shifts from Old Welsh to modern Welsh and Old Breton to modern Breton!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. An excellent article and a good choice with looking at the sources of witchcraft before the First World War. Now, that charm for eczema might come in handy….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much!! I am very pleased that you enjoyed it! The First World War seemed the natural break as really that was the event that effectively destroyed the ‘old ways’.

      There have been court cases involving witches since then and dagydes and spells are still found hidden near some buildings even today!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suppose the shift into industrialisation didn’t help either, but I really liked there used to be a distinction between helpful witches and harmful ones. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, the old Breton’s seemed to like balance in things, As you say, there were benign (after a fashion) witches and those you really did not want your angry neighbour to visit! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  17. I love the beginning when you wrote about fear of witches. To often we fear something because we aren’t sure of what that thing or person is capable of. So we self protect without knowing if it is harmful.
    Also I was wondering; are you considered a witch if your mom passed away giving birth to you?

    I’m having a blast playing catch up on your blog 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, thank you! I am glad that you are enjoying the reads! 🙂 🙂
      Yes, it seems that everything I have read suggests that folk did not fear the witch as any great manifestation of power or even evil. They accepted that witches were well learned and could do things most folk could not. It was the limits of what they could do that was feared. Even today, so many folk fear the unknown and it is, sadly, as much a problem today as then! Yup, those whose mothers died giving them life were considered to make very powerful witches – if they chose to become one, of course 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The infant mortality rates and maternity deaths were staggeringly high in those days! I seem to recall that women had a 60 per cent chance of dying during their childbearing years – frightening odds 😦
        Ha, yes, I think we all are still guilty of that, even if just a little 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  18. It was good to read of the more gentle comments on witches. I knew two old ladies who would pass, I suppose, for country witches. One, I loved. One, I feared. Thanks for another absorbing post.
    Gwen.

    Liked by 1 person

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