Archive for the ‘Blog’ category

Announcement! – Everyday Magical Objects Contest Giveaway

August 1, 2017

Greetings to all you magically-minded folk out there!

In our most recent episode, we sort of came up with an idea for a contest on the fly, and asked you to send us ideas of unusual or particular items you’ve got lying around that you’d like to find a way to work into a spell somehow. Many of you are already sending us your ideas, which is wonderful, but we thought it would be a good idea to announce the contest a little more formally and let you know just what it is you’re entering for a chance to win. And so, here are the official rules!

Everyday Magical Objects Contest Giveaway

**Ways to Enter**

  1. Send us your magical object idea via email (you can try via social media, but we can’t guarantee we’ll get it that way). Please send just one object at a time, and give us enough of a description of the object that we know exactly what it is. If you can, give us some context, like what kind of magical practice you follow (so that when we come up with a response, it might actually be useful to you). This is definitely not a “stump the chumps” situation—that would be too easy with us!—so send us things that you genuinely want to know about. You can send us as many as you like, but each person can only be entered once for sending in an idea.
  2. If you’re a sponsor of ours on Patreon at any level, $1+, you’ve already got one free entry! If you become a sponsor before the contest deadline, you’ll also get the free entry.
  3. Share one of our episodes (a favorite or one you think others should hear) via social media and tag us for an additional entry! (We’re on Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you’re using the tags appropriate to those mediums or we won’t know you’ve shared anything).

That gives you the chance to get up to three entries per person! (Please note, prize winners must be located someplace where it is legal to ship the contents of the prize packs from the United States)

 

**What You Can Win**

We’re going to give away two different prize packs, each chosen randomly from our selection of entrants (NOTE: If you win one prize pack, you cannot win the other one, sorry!).

 

Crafty Cards Prize Pack

This prize pack will contain:

  • A signed copy of Cory’s card-reading book, 54 Devils
  • A deck of Wylie Beckert’s Wicked Kingdom playing cards (see the images above and check out her website, as these cards are gorgeous and perfect for cartomancy!)
  • A deck of the Fantod Pack, cards inspired by and drawn from the work of grim children’s author Edward Gorey, interpreted by Madame Groeda Weyrd
  • A free email-based card-reading from Cory! Ask your questions, receive answers from the great beyond! (or at least from Cory at his computer)

 

 

Wicked Stories Prize Pack

This prize pack contains things from or inspired by weird or magical stories:

  • A copy of the excellent and terrifying graphic novel Wytches, by Scott Snyder and Jock
  • A deck of Wylie Beckert’s Wicked Kingdom playing cards, which tell their own strange story
  • Several CDs from the Florida Folklife Collection, packed full of blues, bluegrass, and plentyof murder ballads
  • A “Dracula, Lord of Cunning” spellwork candle from Coventry Creations, based on both the character from Bram Stoker’s book and the Vampire Tarot by Robert M. Place

 

Both prize packs may also get a few extra goodies in them, too! If these prizes sound appealing to you, we’d love for you to enter to win!

 

The deadline for getting your entries to us will be Midnight, EST, Friday September 1st, 2017.

 

What will we be doing with your entries? Well, they’ll be part of an upcoming show (or more than one), of course! So make sure if you want us to keep you anonymous or use a pseudonym, you tell us in your email.

 

We can’t wait to see what you send us! Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far!

 

Be well,

-Cory & Laine

Advertisements

Special Update – Philadelphia Meetup and Tours

May 12, 2017

Hello everyone!

We’re getting extremely excited about our upcoming trip to Philadelphia, where we’re going to be seeing YOU (hopefully)!. We’ve got most of the pieces in place at this point, so here’s what’s happening: We’ll have two events on June 3rd, 2017, where you can come meet with us and take some tours related to magic.

Sign from the Penn Museum’s “Magic in the Ancient World” Exhibit

Event 1: A Meetup at the Penn Museum to take a private guided tour of the Magic in the Ancient World exhibit.

  • Where: The Penn Museum (3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA at the Group Entrance (Kress)).
  • When: Saturday, June 3rd, 2017 at 10:30am. The tour and time in the museum will take around 2 hours
  • Cost: Admission as part of our group is $17 for entrance and the guided tour. You can pay via PayPal in advance OR you can pay with cash, check, or credit card the day of the event. However, as a special bonus treat, we are covering the guided tour part of the admission cost for the first twenty (20) listeners who sign up via our Museum Tour event planner page! So if you know for sure you want to come, sign up there and your entrance cost is only $12!

View of Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA. By Ross Abraham (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Event 2: A private “Spirits and Spiritualists” tour at the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery

  • Where: Laurel Hill Cemetery (3822 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia, PA)
  • When: Saturday, June 3rd, 2017 at 3:30pm. The tour will last about 1.5-2 hours, and does involve some walking around the cemetery
  • Cost: Admission as a part of our group is $15. You can pay via PayPal in advance OR you can pay with cash, check, or credit card the day of the event. Please sign up for the event in advance via our Cemetery Tour event planner page so we can be sure we have enough spots for everyone on the tour.

That means hanging out in Philly with us and other awesome New World Witchery fans, seeing really old magical stuff, and then wandering around a graveyard hearing about ghosts and spirit mediums. You can’t beat that! Well, you can, but I think trying to summon the ghost of Ben Franklin would be frowned upon by the city (but you can throw pennies onto his grave if that makes you feel better).

If you are going to attend, please do make sure you sign up so we can have a good head count, and we will look forward to seeing you there very soon!

With love and gratitude to you all,

-Cory & Laine

 

 

Announcement: Mixlr Chat – Walpurgisnacht Edition!

April 28, 2017

By Dennis Hill from The OC, So. Cal. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Little Effie shall go with me to-morrow to the green,
And you’ll be there, too, mother, to see me made the Queen;
For the shepherd lads on every side’ll come from far away;
And I’m to be the Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be the Queen o’ the May

-from “The May Queen,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

The fires of May Eve are upon us, and we’re gathering our witches not at the top of the Venusburg or the Brocken, but around the glowing digital fires of our Mixlr Channel. We’ll be doing a live broadcast on Sunday, April 30th, at 9pm Eastern Time to discuss the ideas of magical gifts and objects, and we’ve even got a special guest: AthenaBeth Black! If you haven’t checked out AthenaBeth’s YouTube channel, it’s chock full of great witchy discussions and ideas, and she’s agreed to stand in for Laine (who will sadly be away from a computer that night due to a scheduling conflict). You can listen live and even chat with us via the Mixlr message board while the discussion is going. We hope to see you there! Bring your favorite broom and brew, and come revel in the turning of the Old May Eve with us!

Blog Post 204 – What is New World Witchery?, Part III (Witches Have a Lot of Friends (You Just Can’t See All of Them))

March 30, 2017

“Tituba and Giles Corey,” by John W. Ehninger. Public Domain. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Welcome! If you’re just starting here, you should know that this post is part of my ongoing series trying to use folklore, history, and contemporary accounts of folk magic to paint a picture of what “New World Witchery” might look like. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to read the first post, “What is New World Witchery?, Part I (Irrational Pragmatism).” Then, at least logically, you might want to read the second post, which looks at how Witchcraft is an Amoral (not an Immoral) Act. But who needs logic? Start here if you please, or go back, or divine the content of future posts through by throwing bones, pulling cards, or shaking a Magic 8 Ball. I am just happy you’re here. Please note: my attempt to lay out some sort of shape that defines New World Witchcraft practices here is likely to satisfy no one (not even me). I undertake this effort largely because I think it gives me a point of reference when I’m developing other articles and trying to see how distinctly “New World” certain practices are. So let’s see where that leads us today (or perhaps, let’s not see…there’s a good bit of shapeshifting and invisibility ahead).

Witches Have a Lot of Friends (You Just Can’t See All of Them)

Anyone familiar with British cunning-folk practices has probably run across the concept of the “fairy familiar” through the works of scholars and authors like Owen Davies, Emma Wilby, and Ronald Hutton. English magical folk frequently entered into short- and long-term relationships with otherworldly beings. Sometimes these relationships were straightforward and reciprocal, and sometimes they seemed to be nearly unwanted but inevitable for the person selected by a fairy for contact and assistance. These are not elvish shoemakers doing a day’s work for a kindly cobbler, but often beings who seem to be able to impact the human world without fully understanding it, and beings who sometimes exact steep prices for their services. Wilby notes the phenomenon in her book, citing several well-known cunning folk and their fairy familiars:

“Susan Swapper (Wales, 1607), for example, claimed that she had been told by a companion that if she knelt to the queen of the fairies the latter would give her ‘a living’ while Joan Tyrry (Somerset, 1555) claimed that the fairies ‘taught her such knowledge that she getteth her living by it’…Jonet Rendall (Orkney, 1629) was told by her fairy familiar ‘Walliman’ that ‘He sould learne yow to win almiss be healling of folk’, while Anne Jeffries (Cornwall, 1645), by virtue of the healing powers she gained as a result of her liaison with the fairies, had ‘monies, at all times, sufficient to supply her wants.”

These fairy relationships enabled many magical folk to get by, and even do some good, although one could also turn the power to do harm as well.

“Examination of a Witch,” by Thompkins H. Matteson (1853-Peabody Collection, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commoons)

In the New World, relationships with spiritual folk from other realms has almost always been suspect, even diabolical. Trial records from Salem show accused practitioners of magic confessing to secret meetings in the woods with devils (although there are also potential readings that might suggest meetings with local Indian tribespeople, who were often viewed as satanic savages by English settlers). During the examination of Tituba, for example, the accused slave confessed to meeting with a Devil-figure in the home of her master, Samuel Parris. She claimed to have signed the Devil’s book and to have been forced into doing ill to the children of the household. In another round of examination, she described the familiar spirits of another accused witch, Sarah Good, as a “yellow bird” that drank blood from Good’s hand and which had “wings and two legs and a head like a woman.” The foundation of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, which made the Salem trials so particularly heinous, was the permission granted by the court to allow “specral evidence,” or the suffering of the victims at the hands of unseen spirits, as concrete proof of witchcraft. Of course, many of these details derive from European witchcraft beliefs inherited from earlier trials and confessions, and we should not lay too much stock by them, but they do illustrate an interesting transition within the New World context. In many cases, the concept of “fairy” spirits who aided witches and magical practitioners shifted towards animal familiars (often uncanny animals) and spectral beings that could take the witch’s shape or work on the witch’s behalf (even if it was not in the witch’s best interest, as the specters often “attacked” Salem witchcraft victims in open court as the accused witches tried to defend themselves as innocent).

 

Witches in North America seemed to spend a lot of time either communicating with their spiritual allies (often in transfigured shapes) or gallivanting around in spirit form themselves. A common motif of “spirit flight” would allow witches to grease themselves up with a flying ointment to travel to distant towns and steal from the local larders and dry goods stores (or, even more often, the wine or whiskey stores of the well-to-do—perhaps another incarnation of the class equity balancing act I’ve already mentioned). Keeping witches out of such places involved spreading salt grains or mustard seeds on the porch or roof, hanging a sieve over the door handle, or otherwise forcing the witch to count some minute object like seeds or holes in order to frustrate her entry. Witches were thought to cavort with devils and wicked spirits in their invisible and insubstantial forms, or to go out working all kinds of mischief. A story from the Mississippi Delta region speaks of a “boo hag” that would travel out at night and leave her skin behind. Only when a young man put salt and hot pepper into her skin before she returned could she be defeated. The mindset of diabolical worship and revelry lingered in the popular imagination about witches well past the Colonial period. In the mid-nineteenth century, Nathaniel Hawthorne published his story, “Young Goodman Brown,” which was riddled with such witch lore. In more recent times, magical practitioners such as self-proclaimed “hexenmeister” Lee Gandee reported the constant presence of spirits, who he called his “boys.” Such spirits heightened or enabled magical practices for those who knew them and worked with them, even without the pretext of diabolical pacts.

 

Of course, not all spirits were unseen by those around the witch. Just as often, the witch’s companions would be animals like Sarah Good’s alleged yellow bird. A Virginia tale about a witch named Rindy Sue Gose tells of her diabolical pact to become a sorceress, for which she received a little black beetle in a medicine bottle, which she fed with blood from her shoulder. The sucking familiar was a trope widely found in European witch tales, and many believed that the animal would do the witch’s bidding by carrying out her orders or doing dark deeds on her behalf. The Southern tale of “Raw Head and Bloody Bones” describes a witch whose prized razorback hog is slaughtered by local ne’er-do-wells only to be resurrected by her magic to seek vengeance on those who took her friend away from her (again, a form of justice and rebalancing). A subtler way of viewing the animal relationship, however, might suggest that the witch did not so much employ the creature as a servant, but as a second self. Many witches in stories engaged in forms of shapeshifting, turning into black cats, large hares, insects, or other beasts in order to travel swiftly and unseen throughout their portion of the world. In shapeshifted form, witches were particularly vulnerable, and any harm that came to them—being cut with a silver knife or shot by a silver bullet—would leave a mark upon their human body that allowed them to be identified later or kill them outright.

“Superstition Mountain Sentinel (Coyote Sundial),” By Mikesanchez1109 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]


 

They could transform others as well, using them has horses (as Betty Booker did to the old Skipper). One legend from Acoma describes two evil “warlocks” who used a magic hoop to turn themselves into coyotes in order to kidnap a beautiful girl from a nearby tribe. Interestingly, the medicine man of the tribe tracks them through the help of animals, telling the braves following him “Listen to the bird singing in yon bush. It is warning us of the great danger we ace. It says to hurry for Isleta [the girl] will be abused if she is not rescued soon.” Animal friends with spiritual connections appear to help both “good” and “bad” magicians, and the Acoma tale reads much like European fairy tales that feature animal helpers warning of danger.

 

Speaking of fairies, did they all disappear in the New World? Not quite. The unseen powers of fairies do linger on in parts of North America, although many of the tales involving them seem to emphasize the need to counteract their work. The concept of being “elf-shot” or attacked by fairy magic seems to have transferred into areas where large Irish and English populations thrived, including parts of the Ozarks and Appalachians. Vance Randolph speaks of “power doctors,” which are remarkably similar to the “fairy doctors” found in Irish folklore, for instance. There are also plenty of tales of “little people” in the New World, often from Native American sources, although the close interactions noted between cunning folk and fairies are largely absent. In more recent years, however, fascination with fairies and similar beings has captivated American imaginations. There are fairy-oriented gatherings, such as FaerieCon and Mythic Worlds, that seek to connect fairy beings with spiritual identity (and have a rollicking good time doing so). Threads of Traditional Witchcraft in North America have made much of connecting with a “fetch beast,” which is similar to but distinct from the familiar spirits seen in earlier periods of American witchcraft. The broad picture of North American witchcraft certainly has room for the fairy brides and husbands and teachers of British lore, of course, but on the whole North American witchcraft seems to lean more towards the animal kingdom, tales of diabolical meetings, and invisible specters than the Good People Under the Hill. Perhaps much of that has to do with the aversion to aristocracy and courtly systems in North America—the fairies of Europe often seem to organize themselves in ways that parallel the human nobles around them. North Americans are largely removed from such formal aristocracies (although they certainly still exist in the forms of social classes, as evidenced by cotillions and debutante balls). We turn, instead, to wilder things—beasts and haints and devils—to connect to magic.

 

Next time: Witchcraft Makes Things (Happen)

 

Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Special Update – Come See Us in Philadelphia!

March 17, 2017

Sign from the Penn Museum’s “Magic in the Ancient World” Exhibit

Hello Everybody!

We’ve mentioned it a few times on the show, but we’ve finally nailed down a date for our upcoming Philadelphia meetup! Laine will be coming to visit in Philadelphia for the first weekend in June, and we’re setting aside a day so that we can hang out with some of our listeners. Set aside Saturday, June 3rd, 2017, because we’re planning to meet for a tour of the Penn Museum’s “Magic in the Ancient World” Exhibit, then possibly do a little ghost tour in the evening. There are some other possibilities for some magical fun in the area, too, and one or both of us might be able to swing some of those extra stops (but we’ll have to play that by ear).

So, the short version:

  • When: Saturday, June 3rd
  • Where: Philadelphia, PA (specifically the Penn Museum)
  • Who: Cory, Laine, and You!
  • What: A day of looking at old magical stuff, making fun of Cory’s fear of bunnies, and having fun!
  • Why: Because we like you!

We will be putting up some more information as we get a little closer to the date, including a way for you to let us know if you’re coming (we’d love to have a headcount–we might even be able to do a private tour with enough of us!). For now, we are just happy that we have the opportunity to hang out with some of you in the near future on the horizon!

Blog Post 203 – What is New World Witchery?, Part II (Witchcraft is an Amoral (not Immoral) Act)

March 16, 2017

“Tituba and Giles Corey,” by John W. Ehninger. Public Domain. (via Wikimedia Commons)

This post is part of my ongoing series trying to use folklore, history, and contemporary accounts of folk magic to paint a picture of what “New World Witchery” might look like. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to read the previous post, “What is New World Witchery?, Part I (Irrational Pragmatism).” Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you. I have already said there what I will reiterate here: that my attempt to lay out some sort of shape that defines New World Witchcraft practices is likely to satisfy no one (not even me). I undertake this effort largely because I think it gives me a point of reference when I’m developing other articles and trying to see how distinctly “New World” certain practices are. There will always be exceptions, of course. Rules and witchcraft have a murky, complicated relationship, a thought which brings me to the subject of today’s section:

Witchcraft is an Amoral (not Immoral) Act

Despite a common popular conception in parts of early America, most witches are not interested in worshiping a literal Christian Devil or sending random blights over their neighbors’ crops. That doesn’t mean witches do no harm—they seem to do a lot of it, at least in accounts historical and folkloric. For instance, many witches will tie up a rag to an axe handle or fence post in order to steal milk from their neighbors’ cows, thereby stealing directly from the people around them. Seldom are those targeted by witches run into ruin or completely deprived because of the witch’s interference, although it may cause them some anxiety and trouble. The magical theft seems to be an extension of the pragmatism mentioned previously, though, offering the witches involved a way to sustain themselves. There are stories of people being tormented to the point of death, of course, but as in the famous Bell Witch case, much of the lore surrounding such attacks implies that the target has wronged the witch in some way, and that the witch is simply bypassing conventional justice for her own brand (see Keith Thomas’ essay on English witchcraft for a good outline of that argument, which applies equally in a number of Colonial-era witchcraft cases).

Witchcraft is not an act of evil unless it is being labeled that way by those not practicing it, but its applications are often morally ambiguous, verging on unethical. Take for example, the case of Mont and Duck Moore in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Duck would hex livestock within the community, and then Mont would remove the curse…for a fee, of course. This was an act of commerce far more than it was an act of evil. Or at least, it was evil in proportion to its pragmatic approach to earning a living. The case of Betty Booker mentioned previously provides an example with a bit less racketeering.  At the far end of the spectrum we have the case of “The Witch of Pungo,” Grace Sherwood, who provided a variety of cures for her community in Virginia, only to end up being “swum” for her troubles (fortunately, she survived the experience). Sherwood reportedly stirred up the ire of some of her neighbors through her witchy ways, but seldom held back in her condemnation of those same neighbors when they leveled accusations against her. Folk magic and witchcraft, as we have seen already, are about meeting needs, and those needs are frequently morally dubious, much more so than the people who perform conjurations to help meet those needs. Cheo Torres noted that he was once asked what people liked to ask curanderas to do for them by a reporter. He replied: “Well, I said, young men usually want something to help them get sex…[M]idle-aged women usually want something to make their husbands love them again, sine that spark has left their lives. Middle-aged men want something to help them deal with the old aches and pains of their arthritis or their old football injuries. Older women wanted something to help them win at bingo or the lottery. And older men usually wanted something to attract younger women.” Clearly, meeting the needs of those who come to them is what creates moral ambiguity, far more than a witch’s partnership with a particular imp or spirit (although we’ll be getting to that topic soon enough).

Statue of Grace Sherwood on Witchduck Rd., Virginia Beach, VA. By Lago Mar [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A New World Witch is accountable to herself, and answers to her own sense of morality. Some stories demonstrate a witch paying a price exacted later by a Devil, but for the most part any suffering they find is at the hands of those who work countermagic against them—for example in tales where a hexed butterchurn is used to reverse harm upon the witch who cast the curse in the first place. One informant shared a just such a reversal with me regarding the Evil Eye:

“If your infant is thought to have been given the Evil Eye, it will display tantrums, inexplicable fits, crying, fever, coupled with nausea out of nowhere. If this is determined to be the case, the one suspected of giving the Evil Eye to the child must be confronted in front of said child, and be asked to submit (pass along with their mouth or spit in a glass of water) their saliva to the infant for it to ingest… Giving of themselves a part of them, to queue [quell] its curse.”

The person who gave the Evil Eye was expected to be a person that could be confronted, negotiated with, a part of a community that operated by informal, unofficial, but very potent magical “rules” that could flex and adjust to particular circumstances.

Justice is negotiated in individual encounters rather than through uniform rules. Witches like Sherwood may have had tempestuous personalities but still acted as forces for good in their communities. Milk-stealing witches met their needs through magic, often because they had fallen through any social networks of support that were supposed to exist in their communities, and frequently paid an eventual price for their deeds at the hands of those they’d wronged. Some witches played a system, as in the case of Mont and Duck, and were tolerated by the community at least for a time. No one, it seems, in history or folklore, expects the witch to act in a morally “mainstream” manner, but to operate under her own code of right and wrong (and any shades of gray between).

Next time: Witches Have a Lot of Friends (You Just Can’t See Many of Them).
Thanks for reading!

-Cory

Blog Post 202 – What is New World Witchery?, Part I (Irrational Pragmatism)

March 8, 2017

“Tituba and Giles Corey,” by John W. Ehninger. Public Domain. (via Wikimedia Commons)

It has taken nearly seven years, two hundred articles, over one hundred podcast episodes, and the formation of an interactive community of people all interested in the systems and traditions of various magic-practicing people in North America (and beyond), but now here we are. Based on the title of this post, you may be imagining that I’m about to lay out a complete definition of “New World Witchery.” One that locks down all these various strands we’ve been chasing. Or you may be thinking nothing of the sort, and instead be stumbling upon this article first and trying to decide if the rest of the material here would ever be of interest to you. I think, then, that I am bound to disappoint, because attempting to cage “New World Witchery” in one place, form, or time will never work—it seems that so long as there is still a “New World” with practicing witches in it, that definition is going to have to remain somewhat flexible and fluid.

In one of my last posts, I attempted to answer the question of whether or not I am a witch, and in doing so I covered several key points: practical (although not entirely logical), wondrous (in the sense that the world is full of strange, marvelous, and sometimes terrifying things), and traditional (in the most literal sense of the word). I realize in attempting to create some sort of categorical definition of “New World Witchery,” I’m going to at best satisfy but a very few, but hopefully if you’ve been along for the ride thusfar, you’ll at least come on the journey with me and see what makes sense to you, or what you might change or improve. I will also note that while I am drawing on sources from history and folklore, I will not only be turning to the past. Witchcraft seems to be alive and well today, so I’m inclined to pull from contemporary sources, too. Your mileage with those sources may vary.

This article will be divided into multiple posts, mostly due to length. I’m going to link to material within each part, but the full references will be added retroactively to the posts when they have all been completed, for the sake of practicality. Speaking of which, that takes us to our first major point, and the subject of this initial post.

Hamsa Hand (via Wikimedia Commons)

Irrational Pragmatism: Witchcraft Gets the Job Done (Even if No One Knows How)

I mentioned in the previous article that in many cases, witchcraft seemed to be less about formal religion than “muttering under one’s breath in a time of need, or knowing not to burn sassafras wood.” What I see repeated over and over again in witch tales is a deeply pragmatic approach to problems. A person is marginalized by their community, or denied a favor, or needs to get some milk to keep from going hungry. The only unusual aspect of the problem-solving is that it involves magic, which operates in highly irrational ways. Dorcas Hoar and Bridget Bishop in Salem both existed at the fringes of their town’s social structure, women who needed to survive without adherence to rigid Congregational conformance and who did not have the typical family structure of the community to support them. Dorcas Hoar’s husband had died the year before the trials began, but she had been engaged in acts of divination during the decade before the trials as well, and was reputed to own magical texts. Bishop was known to be strongly opinionated and ran an unofficial tavern out of her home. Hoar managed to escape the trials with a conviction but lived to tell the tale for nearly twenty more years, but Bishop was not so lucky.

Within folkloric cases of witchcraft, those who perform magic may be accomplishing their own ends, but they are also serving a bigger social function, too. I’ve mentioned Betty Booker here previously, and her case shows that a witch can stand in for a judge and jury against those who behave shamefully in a community, as Booker does by “riding” the old skipper after his miserly behavior. In a more contemporary setting, the application of folk magic might be a way to bridge the gap of personal connection (especially in an age where we tend to communicate from behind a screen). One person communicated a bit of lore to me regarding infants and the evil eye that illustrates this point: “My mom said that if someone wants to touch/hold your baby and you don’t let them then there is a chance that person will leave casting ‘mal de ojo’ (evil eye) on your baby causing them a lifetime of bad luck, conversely, she said that letting others hold your baby is good luck.” While it is always a good idea to wash one’s hands before handling a newborn, it’s also important to integrate the new child into a community, which seems to be one of the underlying themes of this lore of baby-passing. Whatever the case, New World witchcraft meets needs, and it meets them where they are without hesitation.

 

Next time: Witchcraft as an Amoral (not Immoral) Act

 

Thanks for reading,

-Cory


%d bloggers like this: