Copyright 1983 by Barbara G. Walker.
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Aztec Goddess resembling the medieval Hecate as Queen of Witch- Tohu Bohu
es. Her symbol was a broomstick; she was also associated with the moon, ^bbhih
the snake, and the screech owl. Her sabbats were held at crossroads.
Her sacred women were Ciuateteo, "right honorable mothers," or
Ciuapipiltin, "princesses." Sahagun said they were the ghosts of
women who died in childbirth. "They were supposed to wander
through the air, descending when they wished to earth. . . . They
haunted cross-roads to practice their maleficent deeds, and they had
temples built at these places where bread offerings were made to
them, also the thunder stones which fall from the sky." ' In other words,
in Mexico as in Europe, the missionary clergy were at pains to
diabolize the Mother-deities.
1. Summers, V, 261-62.
Garment of clan-ruling matronae in pre-patriarchal Rome. Men
adopted the toga as they gained political power, until in classical times
the only women still wearing it were promiscuous priestesses of the
Goddess. Thus it became a custom to distinguish a prostitute by the
name of "toga-wearer." '
1. Rose, 191.
Hebrew "primal chaos," elemental formlessness between the destruc-
tion of one universe and the creation of the next. The idea came from a
general Asiatic belief in cyclic recurrences brought about by the
Goddess (Kali), herself the cauldron or sea of "infinite formlessness,"
holding all potential forms in a plastic state of flux. 1 She was the
Abyss or the Deep before creation, according to the Bible (Genesis 1:2).
Chaldean sources of the Bible myth said the brooding creative
spirit that brought order out of chaos was the Goddess; but patriarchal
writers transformed her into the "Spirit of God." 2 Tohu bohu was her
semi-fluid substance, menstrual blood in the process of clotting into
solidity; the sea, but also a sea of blood. Orphics called it "Chaos eternal,
immense, uncreated, from which all is born; neither darkness nor
light, nor damp nor dry, nor hot nor cold, but all things mingled,
eternally one and limitless." 3 Some scholars have identified tohu with
the Primordial Sea, the Goddess Tiamat (Hebrew Tehomet), and bohu
with the male earth god Behemoth, making "a sexual creation." 4
l.Avalon,229,233. 2. Augstein, 209. 3. Lindsay, O. A., 116. 4.0chs,94.
Latin lingus, "tongue," was derived from Sanskrit Hngam, "phallus."
^^^mb^^^h Showing the tongue between the lips was once a sacred gesture
representing the lingam-yoni; to this day the folds of the vulva are
properly called kbiae, "lips." (See Vagina Dentata.)
At the moment of her mating with Shiva, Kali Ma usually showed
a protruding tongue in token of the sexual sacrament. 1 The classic
Medusa head signifying "female wisdom" also had a protruding tongue,
a reference to ancient sexual mysteries celebrated in her honor. 2
Medieval Christians understood very well that the protruding
tongue was a sexual symbol. Their pictures of lusty devils showed
long phallic tongues, and sticking out the tongue "at" someone became
their favorite gesture of insult, equivalent to "fuck you." In the east,
where sexuality was not associated with shame or dishonor, sticking out
the tongue is still considered a polite greeting.
Italians used to heighten the mouth's resemblance to a vulva by
drawing down one corner of it with the thumb. 3 Biting the thumb, a
supreme insult in Italy, cast a curse of castration.
Archaic sacred kings, who had to kill their "fathers" or predeces-
sors to win the queen, often castrated the defeated rival to deprive his
ghost of virtu (man-magic) which might give him enough power to
return for revenge. This Oedipal attack was often mythologized as
the slaying of a dragon, symbol of "father," or "phallus bigger than
mine." The dragon-slayer's reward was the woman (mother). Drag-
on-slaying heroes cut off the dragon's tongue, representing amputation
of the penis. Tristan cut off the tongue of his slain dragon, to establish
his right to demand the hand of Iseult. 4
In medieval cathedrals, "an extraordinary number of grotesque
heads are depicted with protruding tongues," and this was distinctly
related to exposure of sexual organs. "The exposure of the genitalia was
widely believed to thwart and keep at bay pursuing evil forces." 5 All
over the Gothic cathedral, numerous creatures with their tongues
sticking out showed once again that the cathedral was dedicated to a
pantheon of both Christian and pagan deities. People wanted their
"creatures from the grotto" ox grotesques to inhabit the same
churches that were built over the sites of the old grottoes. By Renais-
sance times, the old deities with their obscenely protruding tongues
were declared devils, so it became conventional to show devils making
this gesture. 6
The story of Pinocchio's nose, which grew every time he told a lie,
may have originated in Oriental beliefs concerning the tongue.
Buddhists said a liar's tongue would grow to great length in hell. 7 The
Buddhists called "liars" most of the old non-Buddhist deities who
stuck out their tongues in token of the sexual sacrament.
1. Neumann, CM., pis. 65, 67. 2. Massa, 19. 3. Knight, S.L., 30.
4. Guerber, L.M.A., 240. 5. Sheridan & Ross, 54. 6. de Givry, 141.
7. Tatz & Kent, 69.
Alternate name for hell, from the Jewish shrine of Tophet in the
valley of Hinnom, outside Jerusalem, where Solomon made fire- ^^m^^^mm^^^m
sacrifices to the Tyrian god Heracles-Melkart, or Molech (1 Kings
11:17). The previous source was probably the Egyptian Tephet, "Hid-
den abode," a part of the underworld. 1
At the Tophet altar, victims "passed through the fire to eternal
life," meaning they were burned to death and rose again as gods. For
a while, Molech was identified with Yahweh, which is why the sons of
Aaron were consumed on the altar by "fire from the Lord" (Leviti-
cus 10:2). Norse heroes also passed through "magic fire" to reach the
paradise of the Valkyries. Jewish surrogate-kings were still burned for
the Lord in Hilkiah's reign (2 Kings 23: 10). 2
Levite priests eventually distinguished Yahweh from Molech and
forbade the latter's worship (Leviticus 18:21); but the cult of Hera-
cles-Melkart still flourished in St. Paul's time in Paul's own home town
of Tarsus. 3 Because victims burned in this "Tophet" were deified as
holy martyrs, Paul thought there was a special magic in giving one's
body to be burned (1 Corinthians 1 3:3).
1. Budge, G.E. 1,230. 2. James, 192. 3. H. Smith, 182.
During the Middle Ages, torture became the common accompani-
ment to legal cases involving matters of faith. Pagan common-law
traditions opposed the use of torture, and regarded an accused person
as innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution. 1 Christian crusaders
and inquisitors reversed this trend. (See Inquisition.) The Inquisi-
tion's use of torture removed all possibility of proof of innocence.
Gibbon said, "No power under heaven could save the prisoner; he
was doomed." Weyer, an eyewitness, wrote that the inquisitors' victims
were "slaughtered with the most refined tortures that tyrants could
invent, beyond human endurance. And this cruelty is continued until
the most innocent are forced to confess themselves guilty." 2
Surviving records, though scanty, paint a hideous picture of the
Inquisition's activities, which were sometimes disbelieved even by
icontemporaries because they were unimaginable. A woman arrested at
Eichstatt in 1637 "laughed heartily" on the first day of her trial at the
idea that she might have trafficked with the devil. She said she would
rather die than accuse herself of such doings; she had lived a
jblameless life with her husband and eight children for more than 20
years. Three weeks later, she died under the torture, confessing that
he was in love with the devil, that she killed one of her children at his
bidding, and that at least 45 of her neighbors were fellow-Satanists. 3
Not even the most saintly had a chance against the inquisitors'
hngines. A 16th-century abbess of the convent of Santa Isabela at
Cordova, Magdalena de la Cruz, was a woman of "an extraordinary
reputation for sanctity." Nevertheless she was accused and arrested,
and soon confessed to practicing witchcraft with the help of two familia
demons, Balbar and Pithon. 4
The inquisitors' rule was to keep on torturing until the victim
named many "accomplices," who were then arrested and tortured
until more names were given, and so on until whole districts were foun
to be "infected" with heresy. One woman told her confessor: "I
never dreamed that by means of the torture a person could be brought
to the point of telling such lies as I have told. I am not a witch, and I
have never seen the devil, and still I had to plead guilty myself and
denounce others." One minister urged a condemned witch to re-
nounce her accusations of innocent people, but she answered, "Father,
look at my legs! They are like fire ready to burn up so excruciat-
ing is the pain. I could not stand to have so much as a fly touch them, t<
say nothing of submitting again to the torture. I would a hundred
times rather die than endure such frightful agony again. I cannot
describe to any human being how terrific the pain actually is." 5 Such
torture was "extensively, viciously, and persistently used and could
break all but the most heroic spirits." 6
Weyer served as a physician in witch prisons and spoke from first-
hand knowledge of women driven half mad "by frequent torture . . .
kept in prolonged squalor and darkness of their dungeons . . . and
constantly dragged out to undergo atrocious torment until they would
gladly exchange at any moment this most bitter existence for death, are
willing to confess whatever crimes are suggested to them rather than
be thrust back into their hideous dungeon amid ever recurring torture.'
Friedrich von Spee, a Jesuit confessor who also worked in the prisons,
wrote: "All recantation is vain. If she does not confess, the torture is
repeated twice, thrice, four times. In 'exceptional' crimes, the
torture is not limited in duration, severity, or frequency. . . . She can
never clear herself. The investigating body would feel disgraced if it
acquitted a woman; once arrested and in chains, she has to be guilty, by
fair means or foul." 7
This might be contrasted with the old law of the Ripuarian Franks
that any man who killed a woman for any reason whatever must pay a
fine so heavy that it obligated his descendants for three generations. 8
Motherhood was a distinct liability for those who fell into inquisi-
tors' hands. Bodin recommended that children, if "craftily handled,"
could be depended on to inform against their mothers. Children were
also highly susceptible to torture; so a rule was made that children
could be tortured at once, without any waiting period. Elicited by
torture or by craft, the testimony of "infants" meaning children
under 10 was acceptable to the Inquisition and could convict their
mothers of witchcraft, even though such testimony was not accepted
in other kinds of trials. 9
Rules for the persecution of witches allowed no revocation of
confessions after torture. Those who tried to retract their confessions Torture
were taken back to the torture chamber and tortured again; once to
purge themselves of the retraction, and once again to elicit a "true" ^^^^^^^^^^^ m
confession. Any display of fear was proof of guilt. So was denunciation
by another tortured victim. In 1 597 a 69-year-old woman named
Clara Geissler manage to resist the thumbscrew, but confessed every-
thing she had been asked after racking and crushing of her feet.
When those she named had been arrested and similarly tortured, Clara
was returned to the torture chamber to confirm their confessions. She
was tortured with "the utmost severity," and died. The record stated
that the devil had wrung her neck. 10
In some cases of retracted confessions, the court automatically
assumed that the confession was true, and the retraction a perjury.
The victim was then declared a relapsed impenitent, and handed over to
the stake. 11
Inquisitors were instructed by their handbooks to give false prom-
ises of mercy for the sake of compliance and confession. 12 There was
no need to keep any promises to an accused witch. If a victim confessed
everything, abjured her heresy, and threw herself on the court's
mercy, her sentence was carried out anyway, on two counts: (1) for the
"temporal injuries" she had caused, and (2) for the worthlessness of
her confession which was made "from fear of death" rather than from
true repentance. 15 The same "worthless" confession, though, was a
legal basis for execution.
Denial of guilt was useless, even if it could be maintained against
tortures. Le Sieur Bouvet declared that "denial of guilt by a prisoner
was an especially good reason why torture should be continued."
Limborch's History of the Inquisition said it was a simple matter to
extort confession by torture from "such as are most innocent." Accord-
ing to Cornelius Loos, "Wretched creatures are compelled by the
severity of the torture to confess things they have never done, and so by
cruel butchery innocent lives are taken and by a new alchemy gold
and silver coined from human blood." Von Spee wrote, "The most
robust who have thus suffered have affirmed to me that no crime can
be imagined which they would not at once confess, if it would bring
ever so little relief, and they would welcome ten deaths to escape a
Records of the Spanish Inquisition at Toledo show that some
victims were prevented from confessing until the lust of their tormen-
tors had been gratified. Their torture went on for days or weeks beyond
the point where they had wholly broken down, and pleaded to be told
what to say, so they could say it. 15 Such evidence shows that the
Inquisition really was a system of formalized sadism. The fact that the
vast majority of its victims were women points to crypto-sexual motiva-
tions engendered by repression on a massive scale.
Pope Alexander III said in an encyclical letter that confessions
should not be forced by torture. His successors took it upon themselves
Torture to explain that what Alexander really meant was that torture must not
be used against clergymen by lay persons; but it could be used by the
^^^^^ clergy against laymen. When Innocent IV adopted torture for eccle-
^ siastical trials, he said it should "stop short of loss of life or limb," but thi:
was a mere formality, since limbs were broken or crushed routinely in
the torture chamber. When a victim died under torture, inquisitors were
authorized by Pope Urban IV to absolve each other from guilt, to be
innocent in the sight of God. 16
Many semantic devices were used to convey an official impression
that the inquisitors were not monsters of cruelty. Records often said
confessions were given freely, sine tortura et extra locum torturae
"without torture and even out of sight of the instruments of torture."
This meant that after the victims were tortured, they were carried into
another room and given the choice of confessing "freely" or being
taken back to the torture chamber. 17
When victims managed to kill themselves in prison, or died of thei
injuries, they were said to have been slain by the devil. One victim
who succeeded in cutting his own throat was described by Friar Guazzc
as "tempted by a demon," which carried away his soul, "for so did
Divine Justice dispose." 18 Few victims were allowed an opportunity to
kill themselves, for they were closely chained at night; but they could
easily be devoured by the rats and other prison-infesting vermin attract-
ed by the smell of blood and suppurating wounds. 19
Most victims pleaded for death sooner or later, but pious ones
were further tormented by visions of the hellfire that awaited them,
dying with lies on their lips. A housewife named Rebecca Lemp ser
letters from prison to her husband and six children, showing radical
alterations in her attitude before and after torture. At first she was
confident: "My dearly beloved Husband, be not troubled. Were I to be
charged by thousands of accusations, I am innocent, else may all the
demons in hell come and tear me to pieces. Were they to pulverize me,
cut me in a thousand pieces, I could not confess anything. Therefore
do not be alarmed; before my conscience and before my soul I am
innocent. Will I be tortured? I don't believe it, since I am not guilty
After she had been tortured five times, and had confessed every
enormity her tormentors suggested to her, Rebecca wrote again to
her husband: "O thou, the chosen of my heart, must I be parted from
thee, though entirely innocent? If so, may God be followed through-
out eternity by my reproaches. They force one and make one confess;
they have so tortured me. . . . Husband, send me something that I
may die, or I must expire under the torture. . . . Send me something,
else may I peril even my soul." 20
Another letter smuggled out of the Bamberg prison in 1628 was
written by a man of means, Burgomaster Johannes Junius, whose
property was taken by the inquisitors:
Many hundred thousand good-nights, dearly beloved daughter Veronica.
Innocent have I come into prison, innocent have I been tortured, Torture
innocent must I die. For whoever comes into the witch prison must
become a witch or be tortured until he invents something out of his ^^^^^^^^^^^^m
head and God pity him bethinks him of something. I will tell you how
it has gone with me. . . . The executioner put the thumb screws on me,
both hands bound together, so that the blood ran out at the nails and
everywhere, so that for four weeks I could not use my hands, as you
can see from the writing .... Thereafter they first stripped me, bound my
hands behind me, and drew me up in the torture. Then I thought
heaven and earth were at an end; eight times did they draw me up and let
me fall again, so that I suffered terrible agony. The executioner said,
"Sir, I beg you, for God's sake confess something, whether it be true or
not. Invent something, for you cannot endure the torture which you
will be put to, and even if you bear it all, yet you will not escape. "...
Now, dear child, here you have all my confession, for which I must die.
And they are sheer lies and made-up things, so help me God. For all this I
was forced to say through fear of the torture which was threatened
beyond what I had already endured. For they never leave off with the
torture till one confesses something; be he never so good, he must be a
witch. Nobody escapes. . . . Dear child, keep this letter secret so that
people do not find it, else I shall be tortured most piteously and the
jailers will be beheaded. So strictly is it forbidden. . . . I have taken several
days to write this; my hands are both lame. lam in a sad plight. Good
night, for your father Johannes Junius will never see you more. . . . Dear
child, six have confessed against me at once . . . all false, through
compulsion, as they told me, and begged my forgiveness in God's name
before they were executed. 2 '
Torture was euphemistically called "the Question." Making a
show of mercy, handbooks of the Inquisition recommended that the
accused be questioned at first "lightly, without shedding of blood." 22
Sometimes this elicited full confessions. A witch in the diocese of
Constance confessed to having raised a hailstorm by pouring water
into a small hole in the ground after she "had at first been exposed to
the very gentlest questions, being suspended hardly clear of the
ground by her thumbs." 25
Other methods, not quite so gentle, included the rack, thumb-
screw, bootscrew, whips, branding irons, pincers for twisting off
gobbets of flesh, ropes to wind the extremities until blood spurted from
under the nails. A favorite of the judges was the hoist or strappado, a
pulley to haul the victim into the air by her arms bound behind her
back, jerking her up and down until the shoulders were dislocated.
The water torture was also common. This consisted of forcing gallons of
water into the belly through a funnel put down the throat, sometimes
also forcing down and pulling up long strips of linen along with the
water, or paddling the distended belly with sticks. Feet or hands
might be basted with boiling fat and roasted over a brazier. 24 Most of the
instruments were inscribed with the pious motto: Soli Deo Gloria,
Glory be only to God. 25
Dr. Johann Meyfarth witnessed hundreds of witch trials in the
Torture 1 7th century and wrote that he would have given a thousand thalers
to be able to forget what he had seen: "feet wrenched off legs, and eyes
^^^^^^^^^ torn from their sockets, and the prisoner burned with brimstone and
^ ^^^ m basted with oil. He had seen torturers apply flaming balls of brimstone to
the genitals of a woman while she was hanging in strappado. He had
watched them revel in horror until their victims confessed or died
(strangled by the Devil, the judges explained)." 26
Execution was still another torture, sometimes miserably protract-
ed, as in Spain where half-burned heretics were snatched from the
flames, still alive, and allowed to suffer for hours before being returned
to the fire. At the "Witches' Tower" in Hesse, victims were hung 1 5
feet above ground in niches, and slowly baked to death over a low fire.
Numerous burned bones and skulls were found buried at the base of
the tower. 27 Oddly enough, the tower later became the property of the
novelist Sacher-Masoch, who gave his name to the perversion known
as masochism. 28
A significant detail, speaking psychologically, was that inquisitors
seemed very anxious to make women cry. It was their rule that a
witch was proved guilty if she didn't shed tears during torture. The
judge adjured her to weep, "by the loving tears shed by Christ on the
cross." If she did weep, though, she went to the stake anyway, for it
proved the devil had given her the gift of tears to mislead the
judges. 29 If she didn't weep, she was convicted of "taciturnity," a crime
punishable by burning. In England, the punishment for taciturnity
was peine fort et dure pressing to death. 30
England didn't import the engines of torture used on the conti-
nent, but Scotland did. English witch-finders used informal or
bloodless tortures like starvation, "swimming the witch," or "walking
the witch" (preventing her from sleeping until a confession was
made). 31 Various binding tortures were used. An accused witch might
be stripped and bound cross-legged on a table, sometimes with ropes
around the neck attached to the four corners of the room, and left in
that position until she confessed. Sometimes, accused witches were so
tightly manacled in jail while awaiting trial, that they came to the
courtroom with limbs rotted by gangrene. Many died of "gaol fever"
(typhus) before they could be tried at all.
Swimming the witch was a relic of the ordeal by water. With
thumbs bound to the opposite big toes, the victim was lowered into a
stream or pond by men holding ropes, one on each bank. If the body
floated, witchcraft was proved, on the theory that water rejected a
witch. If the body sank, the accused was innocent, although frequently
dead of drowning. The decision was largely dependent on the men
who held the ropes.
Peasant mobs often invented their own tortures for suspected
witches. At Catton in Suffolk in 1603, a mob of men tossed an 80-
year-old woman up in the air, punched her, flashed gunpowder in her
face, and "having prepared a stool in the which they had stuck
daggers and knives with sharp points upwards, they often times struck Torture
her down upon the same stool whereby she was sore pricked and
grievously hurt." 32 ^^^^^im
"Pricking" was the favorite technique of witch-finders who
claimed to locate the giveaway witch mark or "devil's mark" on a
witch's body by sticking a three-inch awl into her flesh. The devil's mark
was supposed to be a numb spot, so the pricking would produce no
pain. Most witch-finders used a trick instrument with a retractable blade,
like a stage dagger, to find the "painless" spot. 33 Scottish prickers
formed a regular guild. Among the more famous of them were John
Bain, John Balfour, John Kincaid the "common pricker," and Mat-
thew Hopkins, who pricked hundreds of old women in the country of
Suffolk, and soon announced that the entire area was infested with
The search for the mark was not necessarily definitive, if it failed.
When the Bavarian witch-finder Jorg Abriel couldn't find the mark
on a woman, he simply said she looked like a witch to him, and went on
to torture her into admitting it. 35
Grim Calvinist Scotland instituted tortures as nasty as the conti-
nental ones, though the persecution was less, because the church
made no profit from it. Perhaps the most famous Scottish witch trial was
conducted in the presence of King James VI (James 1 of England),
who was convinced the witches had caused a storm at sea that nearly
wrecked his ship, and badly frightened him. The record said they had
done it by throwing a dead cat into the sea. They also set sail on the sea
in a sieve. 36
The alleged ringleader of the "coven" was Dr. John Fian, a
schoolmaster, who displayed exemplary courage in the face of multi-
ple tortures, but his courage did him no good. "His nails upon all his
fingers were riven and pulled off with an instrument called in Scottish
a turkas, which in England we call a pair of pincers, and under every
nail there was thrust in two needles." He was subjected to "thrawing"
(binding the head tightly with a rope), tongue-pricking, and three
sessions in the boots. He "did abide so many blows in them, that his
legs were crushed and beaten together as small as might be, and the
bones and flesh so bruised, that the blood and marrow spouted forth
in great abundance, whereby they were made unserviceable for ever." 37
He was carried to the stake on a cart. 38
The memory of this martyr to superstition was sullied by a
rather bawdy tale that arose after his death. Dr. Fian was said to have
craved the love of a village maiden, and bribed her brother to obtain
three of her pubic hairs for a love charm. The boy was caught by his
mother, who substituted three hairs from a cow's udder. Dr. Fian
accepted these and made his love charm, after which he was pursued
through the village by a roaring, lovesick cow. 39
Through its history, western civilization has been disgraced by
spectacles of formalized infliction of pain upon the helpless. Such
Torture spectacles are even artificially contrived in modern "entertainment,"
such as films. G. B. Shaw remarked, "A public flogging will always
____^^_^_ draw a crowd; and there will be in that crowd plenty of manifestations of
a horrible passional ecstasy in the spectacle of laceration and suffer-
ing."' 40 Sometimes it was so blatant as to embarrass even participants.
When Protestants abolished the bloody sport of bear-baiting in
England, they gave as their reason not that it was cruel to bears and
dogs, but that it afforded too much pleasure to the spectators. 41
Animals and women were perennial victims, even equated with
one another by churchmen who claimed both were devoid of souls.
Among the most savagely tormented were women suspected of enjoy-
ing their sexuality witches, whores, adulteresses. The latter received
public floggings in colonial America: "Public whippings yielded a
vicarious sexual experience a mixture of sadism and mass voyeur-
ism cloaked in righteous disapproval. . . . They gathered on such
occasions to watch as a woman convicted of uncontrolled desire
bared her back down to the waist and was whipped by a man with a kind
of erotic violence later made notorious by the Comte de Sade." 42
Western civilization came to choose pain over pleasure: to think
pain-giving permissible, fit for public display, even pious, whereas
pleasure-giving of the physical sort was suspect, hidden, "evil." The two
types of behavior seem to be inversely related. If a society suppresses
one, the other will flourish. Studies with laboratory animals show that
individuals conditioned to be highly aggressive have below-normal
sex drive and display little interest in copulation. It has also been
observed among human beings that angry, hostile individuals have
little sexual appetite. 43
Sexually repressed individuals abounded in western society, espe-
cially in the church, which spawned the Inquisition. There were also
less extreme manifestations of the evil. Doctors lauded the salutary
effects of pain. Paullini's Flagellum Salutis ( 1 698) recommended
severe beatings for "quick and easy cures" of such disorders as melan-
cholia, paralysis, toothache, sleepwalking, deafness, and
nymphomania. Professor Cullen at Edinburgh taught that "stripes and
blows about the body" help cure maniacs. John Battie, another expert
on the care of the insane, wrote: "Body pain may be excited to purpose
and without the least danger. Beating is often serviceable." 44
Among the most curious manifestations of western man's pain-
obsession was its projection upon women as the givers of pain, almost
as if man collectively sought punishment for his historical offenses
against females. Flagellation was remarkably popular among Victori-
an "puritans." Publisher George Cannon called flagellation "a letch
which has existed from time immemorial, and is so extensively
indulged in London at this day that no less than twenty splendid
establishments are supported entirely by its practice." 45 One writer
said, "Lovers of the birch ... are almost as common as the lovers of
But it was Venus who wielded the birch: usually a mother image, Torture
stepmother, aunt, governess, housekeeper, or a large, imposing sort
of courtesan. Swinburne said, "One of the great charms of birching lies ^^^^^^^^^^^
in the sentiment that the floggee is the powerless victim of the furious
rage of a beautiful woman." St. George H. Stock wrote: "When an
elegant high bred woman wields the birch with dignity of mein and
grace of attitude, then both the practice and suffering becomes a real
pleasure." Dugdale published a pornographic book entitled Betsy
Thoughtless, "a most spicey [sic] and piquant Narrative of a Young Girl
obliged to excoriate her sweetheart's bum before he could ravish her
Maidenhead." 47 A typical passage of Victorian "spice" ran:
Martinet meanwhile had taken off her loose morning wrapper, and armed
herself with a rod, formed, not of canes and cuttings like the rest, but of
stout birch stems with innumerable branches, like a tree in miniature.
With this weapon in her hand, how terrible she appeared! Juno
deprived of the apple might have looked like her. Her splendid neck and
arms were bare, her cheeks flamed, her huge breasts were heaving.
Speech was too weak, the graces of birching were ignored, nothing short
of savage beating would satisfy her present need of vengeance. * 8
Was this a vision of woman wronged or Goddess ignored
through centuries of oppression, surfacing in pornography which by
its very simplicity may give expression to genuinely archetypal imag-
ery? These books were written by men, not women. They presented
fantasies that men wanted to see in the mind's eye. In one porno-
graphic work, a young man was beaten for insulting his mother, by an
older woman presented as a "nurse" ordinarily, a nurturer or
caretaker. Her bizarre speech ran: "The young gentleman thought, I
dare swear, there was no one could break him of those crimes, but I'll
whip this bold backside of his till I strip every bit of skin off it, or I'll work
an amendment in him." The youth pleaded, "Try me this once, my
dearest mistress! Oh gracious! Try me! Oh, I'm killed! let me down! let
me down! nurse! nurse! nurse!" She answered, "You may roar, and
cry, and kick, and plunge, and implore, my pretty gentleman, but all will
not do; I'll whip you till the blood runs to your heels! You shall feel
the tuition of this excellent rod!" 49
William Gladstone, four times prime minister of England, regular-
ly indulged in flagellation and patronized brothels for the purpose, as
was discovered when his diaries were published in 1975. 50 Of course,
English public-school customs of hazing and caning created many
unfortunates whose sexual drives were warped into a confusion between
pleasure and pain; the poet Swinburne presents a well-known exam-
ple. But a tradition even older had predisposed all Christendom to this
kind of confusion. The sense of sin and guilt attached to all forms of
sexuality; the ubiquitous image of a tortured Christ revered for his
suffering (inflicted on him by Father); the generally accepted theory
that children must be trained to "fear God" through painful punish-
ments many such things together established a culture of cruelty,
Transubstantiation where men often judged their own success in life by their level of ability
to make others suffer. This was the real meaning of power.
_^^^^^^^^^_ Psychologically, men who obviously enjoyed torturing women anc
children revealed their own incapacity to inspire love. Sadists find
sadistic behavior satisfying because it can elicit strong emotional re-
sponses from people who would otherwise pay no attention to them.
A sadist doesn't know how to be lovable. This feeling of powerlessness
can be transformed into a feeling of power if he can torture. He can
even achieve something like a sense of bravery or daring, despite the
fact that the victim has no opportunity to retaliate. To subject others
to any violent physical attack is to defy their rage. When such rage is
made completely helpless to express itself, as in the case of a prisoner,
the victim becomes an object of total control which is precisely what
men yearned to make of women ever since patriarchal thought
introduced the possibility.
Sadism has been called the religion of psychical cripples. 51 It was
also a religion of sexual cripples. Unable to reconcile their concept of
sin with the tenderness and affection that good sexual relatedness
requires, Christians turned to perverted obsessions with pain and
punishment. Western historians were fond of describing the barbarian
cruelties of the ancient pagan world, as contrasted with a "Christian"
morality of kindness. However, it might appear that of the two ap-
proaches to morality, paganism was the kinder one on the whole. At
least its cruelty was never so mercilessly efficient as that of western
civilization, extending from the Inquisition to the wars and concen-
tration camps of the 20th century.
1. Lea, 1 17. 2. Robbins, 500, 540. 3. Haining, 103. 4. Summers, H. W, 69.
5.Robbins,501. 6. J.B.Russell, 43. 7.Robbins, 102. 8.Bullough, 154. 9.Scot, 15, 16,21.
10. Robbins, 43, 104, 503. 11. Lea, 125. 12. Kramer & Sprenger, 226, 125.
13. H.Smith, 290. 14. Robbins, 103,482-83,309. 15.Plaidy, 157. 16. Coulton, 154-55.
17. J.B.Russell, 221. 18. Robbins, 18, 508. 19. H. Smith, 287. 20. Robbins, 303-4.
21. Ewen, 122-23. 22. H. Smith, 285. 23. Kramer & Sprenger, 149. 24. Plaidy, ch. 8.
25. H. Smith, 286. 26. Robbins, 346. 27. Summers, G.W., 496-97. 28. Robbins, 450.
29. Daly, 64. 30. Robbins, 506. 31. Ewen, 124. 32. Robbins, 509. 33. W. Scott, 240.
34. H. Smith, 294. 35. Robbins, 42. 36. H. Smith, 293; Robbins, 196. 37. Robbins, 198.
38. Rosen, 201. 39. Seth, 39-40. 40. Pearsall, N.B.A., 181. 41. Woods, 141.
42. Rugoff, 22-23. 43. Fromm, 190, 193. 44. Bromberg, 53, 102.
45. Pearsall, N.B.A., 257. 46. Weintraub, 163. 47. Marcus, 255; Pearsall, N.B.A., 258-63.
48. Marcus, 258. 49. Marcus, 256-57. 50. Sadock, Kaplan & Freedman, 62.
51. Fromm, 288-90.
Catholics claim by the doctrine of transubstantiation that the bread
and wine of the Eucharist is entirely transformed into Jesus's flesh and
blood, a doctrine as old as primitive cannibalistic blood-sacrifices
when the "symbol" was real because the dying god was in fact eaten.
The Satapatha Brahmana says the first sacrifice most acceptable to
the gods was a man; then a horse was substituted, then a bull, ram, or
goat, and at last "it was found that the gods were most pleased" with
offerings of grain. 1
Mystery cults of the early Christian era sacrificed and ate their gods Transubstantiation
in the form of bread and wine, whether the "savior" was Osiris,
Mithra, Attis, Dionysus, or Orpheus. Rationalists like Cicero objected to ^^^^^^^^^^
the practice: "When we call the corn Ceres and the wine Bacchus we
use a common figure of speech; but do you imagine that any one is so
insane as to believe that the thing he feeds upon is a god?" Yet the
vulgar did indeed believe it, transforming the ancient omophagia into
grain-flesh and wine-blood of the god who might carry them into
heaven when he became a part of them. Jesus repeated the same claim
as all other savior gods: "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my
blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." 2
The theory behind transubstantiation was the most primitive kind
of magic, "the echo of some prehistoric cannibalistic religion. . . .
The flesh and blood consumed becomes an innate part of the diner.
Thus, if a man feeds on a stag, some measure of the animal's
swiftness becomes a part of his own skill; if he drinks the blood of a
warrior, he acquires the warrior's power and strength." 3 If he eats a
god, he becomes godlike.
Literal belief in the conversion of bread and wine into Jesus's flesh
and blood was essential to the idea of salvation, which Christianity
shared with the pagan Mysteries. Doubt on this point was not tolerated.
St. Gregory the Great told of a woman who dared laugh at the
Eucharist, explaining to Gregory, "I laughed because you called this
morsel of bread, which I kneaded with my own hands, the 'Body of
Christ.'" Gregory then prayed, and caused the host lying on the altar to
be changed into "a piece of flesh in the form of a finger." This
convinced the woman, who then ate the bread she had just seen turned
into a finger, and came back to the faith. 4
Even today, those who tried to reinterpret the Eucharist as a purely
symbolic act have been rebuked ex cathedra by the pope. The 1965
encyclical Mysterium Fidei once again insisted on "the marvelous
change of the whole of the bread's substance into Christ's body and
the whole of the wine's substance into his blood." Having never
wavered on this point, churchmen were curiously inconsistent, to say
the least, in condemning converted Mexican Indians for secretly con-
tinuing their "great heresy and abominable sin," which consisted of
making "dough images of their god which were distributed and eaten." 5
Transubstantiation was one of the primary doctrinal causes of the
Protestant Reformation. John Huss and his colleague Jerome of
Prague went to the stake for denying it, but their martyrdom set off the
war between the papacy and the Bohemian heretics, which ended
with the church's loss of all Bohemia and the foundation of the
independent Moravian church. 6 Protestants eventually developed
contempt for Catholic "God-eaters." Heath's 1610 Epigrammes called
them worse than cannibals, who committed only the lesser sin of
eating man's flesh. 7 Both factions, perhaps dimly recalling pagan ver-
sions of transubstantiation, viewed witches as cannibals. "Where the
Transvestism basic internal social divisions are between the generations or sexes,
women and children are often cast as witches and cannibals by the
^^^^^^^^^^^ dominant males." 8
There was much satisfaction in pagan communion feasts where
the god was incarnate in an edible animal and distributed even to the
poor, who seldom enjoyed any meat of their own. But the church came
to regard this kind of feast as too expensive. "The point that really
merits attention is that the nutritive value of the communion feast is
virtually zero, whether there is transubstantiation or not. . . . What
the end of animal sacrifice really signified was the end of ecclesiastical
redistributive feasting." 9
1. Robertson, 27. 2. H. Smith, 168, 200. 3. Jobes, 219. 4. de Voragine, 185.
5. Arens, 67, 161. 6. H. Smith, 319. 7. Hazlitt, 594-95. 8. Arens, 1 58.
9.M. Harris, 119.
When men began to seek a share of religious and magical knowledge,
formerly the property of women, their original objective was to make
themselves resemble women so the spirits would find them accept-
able. A common method was to put on women's clothes.
Transvestism is found in a majority of ancient priesthoods. Tacitus
said the priests of Germanic tribes were muliebri ornatu, men dressed
up as women. 1 Norse priests of sunrise and sunset rituals in honor of the
Haddingjar (Heavenly Twins) were men whose office demanded that
they wear the dress and hair styles of women. 2 Even Thor, the thunder
god, received his magic hammer and was filled with power only after
he put on the garments of the Goddess Freya and pretended to be a
At the ancient Argive "Feast of Wantonness" (Hubristika) men
became women by wearing women's dresses and veils, temporarily
assuming feminine powers in violation of a specific taboo. 4 Cretan
priests of Leukippe, the White-Mare-Mother, always wore female
dress. So did priests of Heracles, ostensibly in memory of their god's
service (in female dress) to the Lydian Goddess Omphale, personifi-
cation of the omphalos} The Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides
said men in his day put on women's clothing to invoke the aid of the
Goddess Venus. 6
Roman priests of the Magna Mater dressed as women, and
transvestism figured prominently in Roman rites of the Lupercalia
and the Ides of January. The custom was still prevalent in the time of St.
Augustine, who inveighed against men who clothed themselves in
women's garments at the feast of Janus. He said such men could not
attain salvation, even if they were otherwise good Christians. Before
his conversion to Christianity, St. Jerome even participated in ritual
transvestism, though his biographers tried to pretend that he had
worn women's clothes by mistake. 7
Despite Augustine and other church fathers, ritual transvestism Transvestism
continued. Men dressed in women's clothes at religious festivals at
Amasea in the 5 th century, and again or still at the Kalends of ^^^^^^^^i
January in the 10th century. Balsamon said in the 12th century even
the clergy participated in pagan rites in the nave of the church, wearing
masks and female dress. 8 Gregory of Tours, bishop of Auvergne in
Merovingian times, was forced to give up his church to a crowd of
"demons," their leader dressed as a woman and seated on the
episcopal throne. 9 The inquisitor Jean Bodin asserted that male and
female witches actually changed their sex by changing clothes with
one another. 10
Men's transvestism was rooted in the ancient desire to imitate
female magic. In the Celebes, religious rituals remained in the hands
of women, assisted by an order of priests who wore female dress and
were called tjalabai, "imitation women." The same word was applied
in Arabia to the robe that men copied from women, djallaba. n Among
the northern Batak the shaman is always a woman, and the office is
hereditary in the female line, because there was no transvestism. 12 In
Borneo, magicians are required to wear female clothing. Siberian
shamans often wore women's clothes. Considered greatest were those
shamans who could "change their sex" and become female, taking
husbands and living as homosexual wives. 13
Similarly, American Indians viewed the homosexual or berdache
as a gifted medicine man. He claimed to receive an order from the
Moon-goddess in a dream, to the effect that he must turn female and
become one of her own. He was accepted by the tribe as the woman
he wanted to be, was allowed to wear women's clothes, joined the
women's craft guilds and dance societies. Eliade says, "Ritual and
symbolic transformation into a woman is probably explained by an
ideology derived from the archaic matriarchy." H
An observer in Maiaya said it was "more than likely that manang-
ism (shamanism) was originally a profession of women, and that men
were gradually admitted to it, at first only by becoming as much like
women as possible." 15 The manang or shaman put on female
clothing after initiation, and remained a transvestite for life. A Dyak
manang still wears women's dress and follows women's occupations.
"This transvestism, with all the changes that it involved, is accepted
after a supernatural command has been thrice received in dreams: to
refuse would be to seek death. This combination of elements shows
clear traces of a feminine magic and a matriarchal mythology, which
must formerly have dominated the shamanism of the Sea Dyak; almost
all the spirits are invoked by the manang under the name of Ini
('Great Mother')." 16
The Krishna cult as currently practiced in India still demands ritual
transvestism for men who adore the feminine principle by identifying
themselves with Krishna's Gopis. They wear the clothes and ornaments
of women and even observe a "menstrual period" of a few days'
Tretuilngid retirement each month. According to their theological doctrine, "all
Triangle souls are feminine to God." ,7
^^___^^^_^_ 1 Tacitus, 730. 2. Turville-Petre, 219. 3. Oxenstierna, 206. 4. Lederer, 145.
^^^^^^^^"^ 5 Gaster 316 6. King, 50. 7.deVoragine,83,588. 8. Lawson, 222-23. 9.deGivry, 139.
10 Scot 71 11. Gaster, 3 17. 1 2. Eliade, S., 346-47. 13.Hays,416. 14.Eliade,S.,258.
15 Briffault 2, 526-27. 16. Eliade, S., 351-52. 17. Rawson, A.T., 109.
Irish god of the trefoil (shamrock), known as Triple Bearer of the
Triple Key, the same as Shiva the "trident-bearer," referring to a triple
phallus designed to fertilize the Triple Goddess. The shamrock-god
was assimilated to St. Patrick, another bearer of the trefoil, whose name
meant "father" like that of any tribal begetter. Old legends said the
Irish god's trefoil produced apple, nut, and oak trees, as well as the five
mystic trees representing the five senses. 1 See Shamrock; Trident.
1. Graves, W.G., 518.
"Three Ways," a Roman title of Hecate as Goddess of three-way
crossroads, where her three-faced images received offerings of cake,
fruit, or money. She also ruled springs and fountains. Money is still
offered to the Roman fountain that bears her name, Trevi.
The modern meaning of "trivia" may be related to early attempts
to belittle the cult of the Goddess and render unimportant the old
custom of offering gifts to her image for protection on journeys.
Tantric tradition said the triangle was the Primordial Image, or the
female Triangle of Life. 1 It was known as the Kali Yantra, representing
Kali as Cunti, or else as the Yoni Yantra, or sign of the vulva. 2 In
Egypt the triangle was a hieroglyphic sign for "woman," and it carried
the same meaning among the gypsies, who brought it from their
original home in Hindustan. 3 In the Greek sacred alphabet, the delta or
triangle stood for the Holy Door, vulva of the All-Mother Demeter
Most ancient symbol systems recognized the triangle as a sign of
the Goddess's Virgin-Mother-Crone trinity and at the same time as
her genital "holy place," source of all life. The triangle represented the
Virgin Moon Goddess called Men-Nefer, archaic deity of the first
Mother-city of Memphis. 4 The triangle itself was worshipped in much
the same way that modern Christians worship the cross. Concerning
this, Oriental sages said: "The object of the worship of the Yantra is to
attain unity with the Mother of the Universe in Her forms as Mind,
Life, and Matter . . . preparatory to Yoga union with Her as She is in
herself as Pure Consciousness." 5
The triangle was everywhere connected with the female trinity,
and a frequent component of monograms of Goddesses. To the
Gnostics, the triangle signified "creative intellect." 6
1. Silberer, 170. 2. Muhnnirvanntuntrn, 127. 3. Lederer, 141. 4. Book of the Dead, 204.
5. Avalon, 428. 6. Koch, 8-9, 54.
Symbol of the triple phallus displayed by any god whose function it
was to mate with the Triple Goddess; a masculine counterpart of the
triangle. In India, the "trident-bearer" was Shiva, bridegroom of
threefold Kali. 1 In the west, the trident passed to such underground or
abyssal gods as Hades, Pluto, Neptune, and Poseidon, and after them
to the Christian devil, their composite descendant.
Celtic myth retained the original phallic significance of the Triple
Key to the Holy Door. Like Shiva, the primitive Irish shamrock-god
Trefuilngid Tre-Eochair was a "bearer of the triple key." Symbol of
his Door was the trefoil that the Arabs called shamrakh and the
Hindus worshipped as an emblem of Kali thousands of years before the
first Aryans came to Ireland. 2 The Irish god was quaintly assimilated
to Christianity by a Middle Irish text claiming that he appeared to
Fintan, king of Tara, on the day of Christ's death, bearing a sacred
branch with three fruits, and stone tablets of Celtic property law. 5
Because the trident was generally recognized as a phallus in pagan
tradition, Renaissance "devils" were often pictured with three-
pronged or forked penises. A devil "cum membro bifurcate" was
mentioned in 1 520, and a number of inquisitorial judges said witches
copulated with devils whose phalli had two or more points. 4
l.O'Flaherty, 130. 2. Encyc. Brit, "Indus Valley Civilization." 3. Graves, W.G., 518.
4. Robbins, 466.
Christian transformation of the Triple Goddess, Diana Triformis, in
Scotland. Triduana was the Three Dianas, a threefold Lady of the
Moon. She was credited with the same legend of eye-sacrifice as St.
Lucy, the Christian transformation of Juno Lucina (see Lucy, Saint).
Triduana's shrine at Restalrig was destroyed in 1 560 by a church
arder that declared it "a monument of idolatry." ' So, even as a saint,
jhe proved to be unacceptable to the church that canonized her.
Kali in India, Egypt's
primal mother Mut
had three heads and
three names. An ar-
chaic name for Egypt,
Khem, with a femi-
nine ending formed the
word for "three"
From the earliest ages, the concept of the Great Goddess was a trinity
and the model for all subsequent trinities, female, male, or mixed.
Anatolian villages in the 7th millenium b.c. worshipped a Goddess in
three aspects as a young woman, a birth-giving matron, and an old
woman. 1 This typical Virgin-Mother-Crone combination was Par-
vati-Durga-Uma (Kali) in India, Ana-Babd-Macha (the Morrigan) in
Ireland, or in Greece Hebe-Hera-Hecate, the three Moerae, the
three Gorgons, the three Graeae, the three Horae, etc. Among the
Vikings, the threefold Goddess appeared as the Norns; among the
Romans, as the Fates or Fortunae; among the druids, as Diana
Triformis. The Triple Goddess had more than three: she had
hundreds of forms.
Pre-Roman Latium worshipped her as the Capitoline Triad under
the collective name of Uni, "The One," a cognate olyoni. Her three
personae were Juventas the Virgin, Juno the Mother, and Menarva or
Minerva the wise Crone. Under the empire, Juventas was ousted to
make room for a masculine member of the trinity, Jupiter. 2 Some
modern scholars refer to the two-female, one-male Capitoline Triad
of the later period as "three gods" as if they might describe a group of
two women and one man as "three men." 3
Cumont says, "Oriental theologians developed the idea that the
world forms a trinity; it is three in one and one in three." 5 The
masculine scholar substitutes the neuter "world" for "Goddess," though
they were in a sense synonymous. It was she who established the
trinitarian form of Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer. Even though
Brahmans evolved a male trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva to
play these parts, Tantric scriptures insisted that the Triple Goddess had
created these three gods in the first place. 6
The three aspects of the Goddess were personified on earth by
three kinds of priestesses: Yogini, Matri, Dakini nubile virgins,
mothers, and elder women. These were sometimes called "deities of
nature." Manifestations of the Triple Goddess were known as The
Three Most Precious Ones. 7
Negritos of the Malay Peninsula remembered the Goddess as Kari,
a virgin who conceived the first man and woman by eating her own
lotus; yet she was also a trinity called the "three grandmothers under the
Even in pre-Columbian Mexico the Virgin Goddess who gave
birth to the Savior Quetzalcoatl was a trinity, one of "three divine
sisters." Like the Semitic Mary, she was a birth-giver, mother, and
death-bringer all at once, for she was also known as the Precious
Stone of Sacrifice, apparently represented by the altar on which her
savior-son's blood was poured out. 9
Mother of the Greek gods was a trinity composed of Virgin Hebe,
Mother Hera, and Crone Hecate; at Stymphalus she was wor-
shipped as Child, Bride, and Widow. 10 Each of her personae could be a
trinity again, so she could be the Muses or the Ninefold Goddess. Trinity
Hecate was called Triformis and shown with three faces, each a lunar
phase. 11 Among the Irish she was the Triple Morrigan, or Morgan, ^^^^^^^^^^^
sometimes multiplied into "nine sisters" who kept the Cauldron of
Regeneration and ruled the western isle of the dead. 12
The Goddess Triformis ruled heaven as Virgin, earth as Mother,
and the underworld as Crone, or Hel, or Queen of the Shades. This
was remembered even in Chaucer's time, for his Palamon invoked her
"Three Forms," Luna in heaven, Diana on earth, Proserpine in
hell. 13 The old name of Sicily, Trinacria, invoked her as a "center of the
earth" with three realms.
Bardic romances abounded in manifestations of the Triple God-
dess. Wayland the Smith married her, after she first appeared to him
as three magic doves. 14 King Arthur went to Avalon with her. The
triadic Guinevere was another version of her. Sir Marhaus (Mars)
encountered her as the Three Damosels at their magic fountain: the
eldest "threescore winters of age, wearing a garland of gold; the
second thirty winters of age, wearing a circlet of gold; the youngest
fifteen winters of age, wearing a wreath of flowers." 15 Fifteen was the
number of the pagan Virgin Kore, the pentacle in the apple. Mythic
virgin mothers, like that of Zoroaster, typically gave birth at the age of
1 5. Double that was the Mother's age, double again the age of the
The Middle East had many trinities, most originally female. As
time went on, one or two members of the triad turned male. The
usual pattern was Father-Mother-Son, the Son figure envisioned as a
The notion of a trinity appeared during the 14th century B.C.
among the Hatti and Mitanni. In the 5th century B.C., a popular
Babylonian trinity was composed of Shamash, Sin, and Ishtar Sun,
Moon, and Star. In Greece this was repeated as Helios the sun,
Selene the moon, and Aphrodite the star. A Father-Mother-Son trinity
was worshipped at Costopitum as Jupiter Dolichenus, Celestial
Brigantia, and Sal us. 17
Gnostic versions of the trinity followed the Father-Mother-Son
patterns of the contemporary east, with the Holy Ghost recognized as
a female Sophia, the Dove, worshipped as the Great Goddess in
Constantinople, and viewed by most Gnostics as the Shakti of God.
The Christian God was originally modeled on Far-Eastern heaven-
fathers, such as Brahma and Dyaus Pitar, all of whom needed their
female sources of "Power," or else they could not act. 18 Therefore, a
female member of the triad was essential even to God. Among
Arabian Christians there was apparently a holy trinity of God, Mary,
and Jesus, worshipped as an interchangeable replacement for the
Egyptian trinity of Osiris, Isis, and Horus. 19
During the Christian era, all-male trinities became popular among
Germanic tribes. Woden, Thor, and Saxnot were worshipped together
Triptotemus by Saxons of the 8th and 9th centuries. Norsemen called them Odin,
Tristan Tyr, and Frey. According to a certain fragmentary myth, the Triple
^^^^^^^^^^ Goddess seems to have been burned as a witch. She had to be burned
to ashes three times. Afterward, youth, beauty, and love in the person of
Freya departed from Asgard; and there was war in heaven. 20
Like many other remnants of paganism, the female trinity is still
associated with marriage. Breton wedding ceremonies celebrated the
three phases of the bride's life, impersonating her first by a little girl,
then by the mistress of a house, then by an old grandmother. 21
Modern weddings still retain the flower girl and the matron of honor,
but significantly the Crone figure has vanished.
August Comte nearly revived the female trinity in his vision of
woman as mediator between man and the guiding moral spirit.
Mother, wife, and daughter were to represent man's unity with past,
present, and future; also with what Comte called the three altruistic
instincts: veneration, attachment, benevolence. 22 In plainer words, these
were what women want from men: respect, love, kindness.
1. Stone, 17. 2. Dumezil, 1 16. 3. Carter, 26. 4. Budge, G.E. 1,317.
5. Cumont, A.R.G.R., 69. 6. de Riencourt, 167. 7. Waddell, 129, 169.
8. Hays, 352. 9. Campbell, P.M., 458. 10. Graves, G.M. 1, 52. 1 1 . d'Alviella, 183.
12. Graves, W.G., 406; Rees, 193. 13. Chaucer, 81, 51 1. 14. Keightley, 215.
15. Malory 1,115. 16. Briffault 3, 96. 17. Lindsay, O.A., 1 12, 328, 375; Norman, 71.
18.Zimmer,25. 19. Ashe, 206. 20. Branston, 112, 213-14. 21. Crawley 2, 51.
22. H.Smith, 401.
"Three Plowings," name or title of the young god with whom
Demeter lay three times in the plowed fields of Crete, before he was
slain. He mated three times with the Triple Goddess (naturally) to
fertilize each of her; he was not Pluto, the god of the trident, able to do
it all at once. Triptolemus's other names were Iasius or Iasion,
cognates of Jesus and Jason. 1
1. Graves, G.M. 1,89,93.
Cult hero of the courtly-love movement; a wizard, poet, dragon-
slayer, lover, and perhaps also a Tantric adept. When he met his Shakti
in the form of Iseult, he reversed the syllables of his name and
introduced himself as Tantris, which may have been a secret bardic pun
or "recognition sign." ' Though Iseult was the wife of King Mark of
Cornwall, the poets called King Mark a "felon" for trying to prevent her
from choosing her own lover. As a faithful votary of the Goddess of
Love, Tristan was said to have been reincarnated in another of her
votaries, Thomas Rhymer.
Athenians claimed their Goddess Athene was born from Zeus's head,
but her real origin was North African, in "an epoch when fatherhood ^^"^^^^^^^"
was not recognized." Her Libyan mother was Tritone, the Third
Queen, and her birthplace was Lake Tritonis, "the Three Queens." .
Herodotus said Athene's dress and the attributes of her cult were
borrowed from those of Libyan women. 1 See Athene; Neith.
1. Graves, G.M. 1,44.
Earth-demons, called Trulli in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy}
The word "trull," a loose woman, grew from the same root; thus the
Troll was probably at first one of the pagan Hags or earth-priestesses.
Norse folklore said trolls commonly sat under bridges, waiting to
seize and eat those who crossed the bridge without making them an
offering. Association with bridges suggests the Valkyries who guarded
Bifrdst, the Bridge of Heaven; they too were "trulls" or "trolls." The
Angels of Death were said to congregate at a divine Sabbat called the
1 . Wedeck, 107. 2. J.B. Russell, 48.
Egyptian word for the underworld; sometimes a uterine cavity,
sometimes a great snake around the world's outer rim, the same as the
Tuatha De Danann
"People of the Goddess Dana," early matriarchal settlers of Ireland,
later called fairies who dwelt in their barrow-graves and sacred mounds.
Dana, Danu, Ana, Dinah, Diana, and other such names designated
the Aryan Great Goddess worshipped by Danes, Celts, Saxons, and
many other tribes in Europe and the Middle East.
Legendary eponymous founder of the Turkish nation, suckled and
brought up like Romulus by a divine She- Wolf, whom he later
married. 1 See Dog.
Twins "Goddess of the City," title of any divine Mother who took a
^^^^m^mmm particular town under her protection. Her emblem was the mural
crown, signifying that everything within the city walls was held in her
thought. Medieval kings copied the crown.
Phallic god of Roman weddings; another name for Priapus. Brides
deflowered themselves on the erect penis of the god's statue, in order
that the god, not a man, should "open the matrix" as the biblical
phrase goes, and the firstborn child could be considered God-begotten. 1
Any woman thus deflowered was described as a Virgin Bride of God.
The god himself was a Christos, "anointed," because his phallus was
anointed with chrism or holy oil. The custom was still common in the
4th century a.d. See Firstborn.
1. Simons, p. 77.
Dylan and Lieu, twin powers of darkness and light, were born
simultaneously from the womb of Arianrhod, Celtic Goddess of the
star- wheel. 1
Castor and Pollux, twin gods of the morning and evening star,
were born simultaneously from the womb of Leda, or Latona, primal
mother of the World Egg in Greek myth. 2
Shaher and Shalem, twin gods of the morning and evening star in
Canaan, were born simultaneously from the womb of Helel, the Pit,
a dark yonic aspect of the Goddess Asherah, she who swallowed the
Father-god El. 3
Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, God and the devil, were twins born
simultaneously from the womb of Zurvan, the primal two-faced an-
drogynous being who personified Infinite Time to the Persians. The
event is shown on a famous silver plaque from Luristan, dated in the
8th century b.c. 4
American Indians said the White Manitu or Lord of Life and the
Black Manitu or Lord of Death were twins, born simultaneously from
the womb of the Moon-goddess, called The Old Woman Who Never
Dies, the real ruler of all gods and men. 5
Gnostics said the sun god Sol, Helios, or Apollo had a dark twin,
known as Sol Niger (Black Sun), king of the nether world. The
Chaldeans called him Aciel. 6 The light god was transformed into the
dark god when he entered into conjunction with their common mother,
Throughout all mythologies the same pair can be found: twins of
light and darkness, born from the Great Mother. Every dualistic Tyche
religion-such as Zoroastrianism-opposing a principle of evil to a princi- Typhon
pie of good had to begin with the two principles personified as offspring ^^^^^^^^^^^^
of the primordial womb. Hence the medieval heretics' claim that God
and the devil were twin brothers; for if there were no dark twin, then
God had to be made responsible for evil. See Devil.
1. Squire, 261. 2. Graves, CM. 1, 246. 3. Hooke, M.E.M., 93. 4. Larousse, 323.
5. Briffault 2, 729-32. 6. Jung & von Franz, 200.
Greek "Fortune," also called Dike or Moera; the Goddess of Destiny
either for the universe, or for the individual soul. 1 Tyche Basileos was
the title of the "female soul" or Fortune-goddess of a king. No ruler
had any power to act unless the Goddess Tyche looked upon him with
favor. See Fortune.
Greek name of the Egyptian ass god Set, whose breath was the hot
wind supposed to bring pestilence (typhus). The name was pan-Asiatic:
t'aifung in China, tufan in Arabia, "typhoon" in southeastern Asia.
This god of winds was probably based on the Vedic ass god Ravana. In
all the ancient world, a hot desert wind that brought pestilence was
called the Breath of the Ass. See Ass.
'-akJU . i-
Mary is the West's most
famous virgin, but
unmarried maidens ap-
ancient and medieval
history and mythol-
ogy. This carved and
painted wood panel,
"Christ in the Virgin's
Womb," is German,
The Roman venus is
best known as a love
goddess, but she was
much more, including
goddess of birth and
death. This early 19th
century school-girl paint-
ing is called "Venus
Drawn by Doves," but
the artist and title are
The Saxon goddess Ur-
sel, the She-Bear, was
fied into SAINT URSULA
by the Christian fathers.
She was so smart,
pretty, and pure that to
marry her, Prince
Conon of England met
her every whim:
1 1 ,000 virgin handmaid-
ens, a three-year
pilgrimage to holy
shrines, and Conon's
own conversion in the
bargain. Conon and
the 11,000 were dis-
patched by the Huns,
and since Ursula refused
to marry their leader,
he shot her with three
Gozzoli; painting on
wood; Florence, 1 5th
UKte "Weepers," title of sacred harlots of Ishtar, whose duty it was to make
m^mi^m^m formal lamentations for the dead. 1 They also wailed for the dead savior
Tammuz in the temple of Jerusalem, where Ishtar was worshipped as
Mari, Queen of Heaven (Ezekiel 8:14). Their title was related to
Egyptian Utchatti or Udjatti, Divine Eyes, sacred to the Goddess
Maat as the All-Seeing Eye, whose hieroglyphic eye emblem later
became associated with the cult of Horus. 2
1 . Assyr. & Bub. Lit, 413.2. Budge, A.T., 360.
Kali's Destroyer or Crone aspect, also known as Prisni, mother of the
dark season and of the "demon" Maruts and Rudras. In the Skanda
Purana, Uma appeared as a demoness with a vagina dentata: "hard
teeth like thunderbolts with sharp tips inside the vagina." l Sometimes
Uma was called Daughter of the Mountains, or Daughter of Heav-
en that is, of Himalaya, which meant both mountain and heaven. As
the wife of Shiva, Uma was a patroness of yogic asceticism. In most of
her forms she was recognizable as Mother Death.
"Shade," the shadow-soul that Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Semites,
and other ancient peoples believed in. After death, the umbra went to
the Land of Shades, to live a dark, bloodless pseudo-life. See
Title of Assyrian priestesses, meaning "mothers of creation," for
umm was the Semitic version of the Om or Creative Word attributed tc
Kali in India. To be admitted to the Holy of Holies, a woman had to
have borne children to prove she had the spirit of fertility and the
"wisdom of motherhood."
Before recognition of physical fatherhood, and even for a long time
after it, most people viewed a mother's brother as a child's nearest male
relative, because he was united with the mother and the mother's
mother by the all-important matrilineal blood bond. Hawaiians still use
the same word for "father" and "uncle" because formerly they made Uni
no distinction between them. 1 Unicorn
Tacitus said Germanic barbarians regarded the relationship be- ^^^^^^^^^^^^
tween sister's sons and maternal uncles as "more sacred and binding"
than the relationship between sons and fathers. 2 The same was true of
the Celts. Early Christian missionaries in Ireland had to call Christ
"our sister's son," because that was the only masculine relationship held
sacred by the people. J
Malory said the whole purpose of introducing Christianity into
Britain was to establish laws of patrilineal succession and the authority
of father. Among the pagans, fathers and sons cared nothing for one
another. 4 Only nephews and maternal uncles had a true blood bond.
More recently among the Semang, enlightened sages and prophets
were known as nephews of God, not sons of God. 5
Fathers were of no significance in family relationships among the
matrilineal clans of early Latium. Inheriting this tradition, even
patriarchal Romans distinguished between a father's brother, patruus,
and a mother's brother, avunculus derived from avus, "ancestor."
The patruus was unimportant and usually ignored. 6 The avunculus was
the true uncle, as shown by the very word "uncle" which descended
from his title, and "avuncular" which implies a benevolent interest.
Europe still retains a linguistic memory of the dual-uncle system. A
father's brother is just an uncle; but a mother's brother is called "own
Systems of uncle relationships were always older than those of
paternity, having descended from the matriarchal period when father-
hood was not understood. See Motherhood.
l.Farb.W.R, 194. 2. Tacitus, 719. 3. Rees, 145.
4. Malory 2, 179, 199. 5. Eliade, S., 337. 6. M. Harris, 80.
Uili var. Unial
Etruscan name for the Great Mother's holy trinity, a "three-in-one"
Goddess who gave birth to the uni-verse. She was represented by the
sign of female genitals; Uni was a cognate of "yoni." In Rome, the
three were worshipped as the early Capitoline Triad of Virgin-Mother-
Crone (Juventas, Juno, Minerva); but in Imperial times the virgin
Goddess was removed to make room for Jupiter. 1 The name of Uni
evolved into Iune, or Juno.
1. Hays, 181.
Classic symbol of the phallic horse deity, or sacred king incarnate in a
horned horse. According to medieval legend, the unicorn could be
captured only by a virgin girl, because his irresistible desire was to lay
his "horn" in a maiden's lap. While thus engaged, he was incapable of
resisting capture. (However, no unicorns were ever captured.)
The unicorn was a secret phallic consort of the virgin Mary, shown
inside her "enclosed garden" of virginity, in many examples of
Christian mystical art. At times he was identified with the Savior. A
medieval hymn called Christ "the wild wild unicorn whom the
Virgin caught and tamed." '
A source of the unicorn myth may have been the Babylonian
dragon-beast made up of a horselike body with lion's forelegs, scales,
a snakelike neck and a flat horned head with a single spike growing from
the center of the nose. 2 One theory proposes that the unicorn was
originally the bull of spring, rearing up and struggling with the lion of
summer. Babylonian art showed both animals in profile, so the bull
appeared to have only one horn. The British coat of arms still has "the
lion and the unicorn" contending in just such a manner. 3
Explorers thought they found the legendary unicorn in the African
rhinoceros. Because of the unicorn's phallic significance, powdered
rhinoceros horn became a highly popular "remedy" for impotence, and
is so used even today. 4
1. Harding, 51. 2. Hooke, S.P., 135. 3. Jobes, 254. 4. Woods, 176.
Egyptian serpent symbol, a hieroglyphic sign for "Goddess," suggest-
ing that in pre-dynastic times it was thought all serpents were female
and divine. The serpent-mother was one of Egypt's oldest divinities,
and her uraeus-snake idol signified healing. Moses copied this Egyptian
magic with his "brazen serpent" (Numbers 21:9). Egyptian rulers
wore the uraeus-snake in the form of a rearing cobra on the forehead,
representing the "third eye" of mystical insight. Despite patriarchal
opposition to the symbol of the she-serpent Uraeus, among later
Gnostic Christians her name became one of the "secret names of
God." See Serpent.
"Celestial One," title of Aphrodite as Queen of Heaven. Her former
consort Uranus was transformed into her castrated "father" in classical
myth; Uranus's patricidal son threw his severed genitals into the sea,
and the sea-womb brought forth Aphrodite. Actually, Celestial Aphrodi-
te and the sea-womb were one and the same: manifestations of the
Triple Goddess. The castrated dying god was her ubiquitous son-lover
who died, fertilized her by his death, and begot himself again.
Uranus was a western form of Varuna, a deity of indeterminate
sex, sometimes a male-turned-female like Hermes or Teiresias. To
the Persians he was varan, a spirit of sexual intercourse like the Hindu Urd
Kama. His name came from vr, to envelop a female function and Urine
he performed female-imitative miracles, such as turning water into ^^^^^^^^^^^^
blood, giving birth to the sun, and measuring the earth. 1 From the
Asian precedents it may be assumed that Urania and Uranus were the
same primal androgyne as Jana-Janus, Diana-Dianus, etc.
1. Campbell, Or.M, 177.
Urd var. Urth
One of the Norse names of Mother Earth, in addition to Urtha,
Erda, Eartha, Wyrd, Wurd, Word, Weird, etc. Urd was usually called
the divine fount of wisdom tended by the three Norns (Fates) under
the root of the World Tree; it was also the name of the oldest Norn, an
Earth Goddess who knew everything, past, present, and future. The
gods couldn't render judgment unless they gathered at the fount of Urd,
because they were helpless without the wisdom imparted by the
Urdarbrunnr, "Stream of Urd," which gave life and mind. Old mythol-
ogies held that the fount of wisdom was female, and without it
neither men nor gods could know anything. 1 Another name for the
fountain was Mimir, which means "Mother," although the same
name was given later to Odin's maternal uncle, who brought him back
to life with fluid from the Mother-spring and taught him the wisdom
of the runes.
1 . Branston, 76.
Urim and Thummim
Divinatory knucklebones or "dice" used by Jewish priests, probably
copied from the oracular knucklebones said to have been invented by
Hermes. Kings of Israel governed their acts by the prophecies of the
Urim and Thummim (1 Samuel 28:6). Levitical law directed that these
articles be carried in the high priest's "breastplate of judgment"
whenever he entered the tabernacle, so the mana of the holy place
would enter into them and yield correct prophecies (Exodus 28:30).
rom Uranus, "Father Heaven," whose magical urine, semen, or
ilood came down as rain to fertilize Mother Earth. Primitive myths
resent all three fluids as the fertilizing principle. Zeus came down as
'golden rain" of urine to fertilize Danae, the Earth, whose priestesses
le Danaids performed rain charms by carrying water in a sieve.
ccording to Aristophanes, rain was caused by Zeus urinating through a
Ursu| ^ Sjint s i eve . Aristotle mentioned the general belief that "Zeus does not rain
in order to make the crops grow, but from necessity," suggesting that
^^ Zeus rained for the same reason men urinated because he had to. 1
^" The Danaids founded the Eleusinian rite of Thesmophoria, when
the severed genitals of the sacred king were offered to the Goddess,
just as the severed genitals of Uranus were given to the sea-womb. The
real genitals of a real victim were eventually replaced by symbolic
substitutes: serpents and phallus-shaped loaves of bread. But the mean-
ing was the same a summoning of the god's urine, semen, or
Aeschylus said of the Danaids' performance: "Rain falling from
the bridegroom sky makes pregnant the Earth. Then brings she forth
for mortals pasture of flocks and corn, Demeter's gift, and the fruitful-
ness of trees is brought to completion by the dew of their marriage."
As the Goddess was both Earth and Sea, the rain-urine-seed-blood, etc.,
fell on both. The priestesses looked up to the sky and cried, "Rain! "
Then they looked down to the earth and cried, "Conceive! " ?
Rain-making was a chief function of Heavenly Fathers every-
where. Rome's begetting god was Jupiter Pluvius,
Jupiter-Who-Makes-Rain, another version of Zeus, who was in turn a
replacement for Uranus. Even after the essential fluid was definitely
identified as semen, the other fluids were not forgotten. Urine remained
a popular rain charm. Shamans in Siberia used to bring rain by
"making water" on the naked body of a woman who represented the
earth. 4 In Iraq, when rain was wanted, a female dummy called the
Bride of God was placed in a field, in the hope that God would "make
water" on her. 5
1. Guthrie, 38. 2. Graves, CM. 1,202,205. 3. Guthrie, 54. 4. Frazer.G.B., 80-81.
Christianized form of the Saxon Goddess Ursel, or Horsel, the
"Ercel" of Thomas Rhymer's Erceldoune, and the Venus of the
Horselberg-Venusberg. Ursel means "She-Bear," the title of Artemis
Calliste, the same as the Helvetian Goddess Artio, in the guise of Ursa
Major, the Great Bear (Big Dipper), whose constellation circles the
pole star without disappearing into the sea. The ancients said Artemis
the She-Bear ruled all the stars until Zeus usurped her place. 1
The mythical St. Ursula was accompanied by eleven thousand
virgins, a common pagan image of the Moon-goddess accompanied
by her children, the stars. One of the Goddess's foremost shrines was
Cologne, where "Ursel" was converted into a Christian heroine to
account for the reverence paid to her by the local people.
The tale on which Ursula's canonization was based was first
invented about the 9th century a.d.; then, "During the 12th century
this pious romance was preposterously elaborated through the mistakes Ursula, Saint
of imaginative visionaries; a public burial-ground uncovered at Co-
logne was taken to be the grave of the martyrs, false relics came into ^^^^^^^^^ mK ^
circulation and forged epitaphs of non-existent persons were
The churchmen claimed that St. Ursula was a Breton princess
betrothed to Conon, prince of England, in the 5th century a.d. Prior
to her marriage, she took her eleven thousand virgins on a pilgrimage.
While passing through Cologne, they were attacked and slaughtered
by the Huns, at the instigation of two Roman generals who feared the
Christian ladies' exemplary piety would convert all the northern
barbarians to Christ. 3
This fable was intended to Christianize the lunar bear-goddess
worshipped at Cologne, the same who was Artio, the Helvetian
"Mother of Animals," with another cult center at Berne ("She-Bear"),
where her portrait still appears on the Bernese coat of arms. 4 Ursel
and Artio were alternate names of the triple Artemis who took the
"bear-king" Arthur to paradise. The Greeks said Artemis Calliste,
"Fairest One," was associated with both the moon and the constellation
of the Great Bear. In Britain, Ursa Major was often called "Mistress
Ursula," at first a title ofthe Goddess, later transferred to the saint. 5
Artemis the She-Bear was so widely recognized as the Mother
of Animals that the island once sacred to her, Callista, is still called
Thera, "She-Beast." 6 Arcadians traced their descent from her son
Areas, the Little Bear (Ursa Minor), a bear-god like the Celtic Arthur.
Hellenic mythographers pretended that Arcas's mother was a mere
nymph, Calliste, who was punished for losing her virginity by receiving
the form of a bear, along with her child; but Artemis took pity on
them and placed them in the stars as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. This
version ofthe myth was invented "to account for the traditional
connection between Artemis and the Great Bear." 7 The Christian
version was invented for different reasons, but with the same ultimate
aim: to mortalize the Goddess.
Some memory of Ursula the Moon-goddess seems to haunt the
foundation ofthe Ursuline order of nuns, by St. Angela Merici in
1506. Catholic authorities now claim the Ursulines were the oldest
order of teaching nuns. But most convents were centers of learning
for women until the church forbade women's education in the 1 3th
century. 8 The Ursulines were perhaps the only order of teaching
nuns who remained obedient to the papacy, and so were permitted to
Yet the Ursulines began under a cloud of suspicion. Angela Merici
was a native of Brescia, which Pope Calixtus III described as a hotbed
of witches. 9 Angela's first group of sisters numbered exactly 28, the
lunar number. They made their first devotion in a church dedicated
to another mythical saint who was only another transformation ofthe
Goddess, St. Afra or Aphra (Aphrodite). 10 Angela was not allowed to
U^jert establish her holy society of teachers until forty years had passed since
her original vision, which she received not in a church but in an open
^^ field under the moon. She and her women had no religious habit, no
vows, no communal life. They went to their pupils' homes to teach,
like itinerant governesses.
The church was not interested in Angela until she underwent
"popular" canonization in her home territory. Two centuries later,
the church decided to take advantage of the popularity of her cult by
declaring her Blessed. Finally in 1807 she was canonized by Pope
Pius VII. 11 But she is still almost as vague and dim as the Ursuline lunar
She-Bear that the people of Brescia once worshipped. A 20th-
century Catholic scholar mentioned her with one of those curious slips
of the pen so common among patriarchal writers; he said the
Ursuline order was founded by "Bishop Angela of Brescia." n
1. Graves, G.M. 1,86. 2. Attwater, 333-34. 3. Guerber, L.R., 66. 4. Larousse, 226.
5. Jobes, 266. 6. Herodotus, 251. 7. Graves, G.M. 1, 84, 86. 8. Bullough, 160.
9. M. Harrison, 240. 10. Attwater, 46. 11. Encyc. Brit, "Angela Merici."
12. Brewster, 459.
Greatest legendary treasure of medieval Hermetic magic, after the
Elixir of Life and the Philosopher's Stone. The Ur-text was supposed to
be a magical grammar of the primordial tongue, whose words God
pronounced at creation in order to bring forth the things themselves;
that is, the words could create, just by being spoken. The idea was
based on eastern notions of the creative power of Sanskrit, the Mother-
language. 1 Another development of the idea was the Neoplatonic
Logos or "Seminal Word," which was adopted as a Christian dogma.
Presumably the Ur-text emanated from Abraham's "Ur of the
Chaldees," famous as the home of magic and astrology. The medi-
eval theory was that all words and names exerted some influence over
their objects, hence the efficacy of both magic spells and liturgies. But
in all known languages, the power of the word was slightly displaced
from the true essence of the thing, as the calendar was slightly
displaced from the sidereal year. In the Ur-text, words were precisely
aligned with essences or "souls," so the words could control things
and events absolutely.
The implications were the same as in the Hindu idea of the "holy
language" of Sanskrit. Knowledge of the Ur-text would give a man
absolute power over the universe; whatever he said would come true at
Many magicians identified the Ur-text with the equally wonderful
Book ofThoth, named after the Egyptian god of magic and men-
tioned in very old Egyptian folk tales as a written version of Thoth's
technique for creating by the power of the Word. One story claimed
the book was found by a sage named Satni-Khamois in a Memphite Ur-Text
tomb. It contained only two formulae but they were great hekau
(words of power) : ^^^^^^^^^^^
The two formulae that are written there, if thou recitest the first of them,
thou shalt charm the heaven, the earth, the world of the night, the
mountains, the waters; thou shalt understand what all the birds of heaven
and the reptiles say, as many as there are. Thou shalt behold the fish,
for a divine power will bring them to the surface of the water. If thou
readest the second formula, even when thou art in the tomb, thou shalt
resume the form thou hadst on earth; thou shalt also behold the sun rising
in the heavens, and his cycle of gods, also the moon in the form that
she has when she appears. 2
The first beneficiaries of this wondrous magic became immortal,
not by reading the book but by eating the papyrus it was written on al-
though the book continued to exist, hidden in underwater vessels
guarded by the Great Serpent. 5 Eating instead of reading a piece of
magical literature was a common Oriental method of absorbing the
virtue of magic words even when one is unable to read. In Tibet,
Madagascar, China, and Japan it was customary to cure diseases by
writing the curative charm on paper and eating the paper, or its ashes. 4
Tartar lamas wrote the names of medicines on paper and made the
patient swallow the prescription; for they believed "To swallow the
name of a remedy, or the remedy itself . . . comes to precisely the
same thing." 5
The same notion was often found in the west. The modern
pharmacist's Rx began as a curative symbol of Saturn, written on
paper and eaten by the patient. 6 A common medieval prescription for
toothache was a paper bearing the magic words by which Jesus
removed a worm from St. Peter's tooth. 7 The Venerable Bede declared
that scrapings from the pages of "books that were brought out of
Ireland," when drunk in water, instantly cured snakebite. 8
With so many different kinds of credulity in regard to the written
words especially among the majority to whom all writing was a
mysterious, unknown magic it is hardly surprising that belief in the
Book of Books, the Ur-text, survived. Some of the beliefs concerning
the Ur-text became attached to the Latin Bible, which the medieval
church would not allow to be translated into any other language,
even though the readings from the pulpit were quite incomprehensible
to most congregations. The theory was that Latin was the language of
St. Peter's Roman see, and God intended the Bible to be written in that
language and no other; for the magic efficacy of the words lay in their
sound, which would be lost if they were rendered in another tongue.
Thus, out of superstitious belief in the power of the Word, the
church kept the "dead" language of Latin alive within its own in-group
for over 1 500 years.
1. Mahanirvanatantra, cvii. 2. Maspero, 118. 3. Maspero, 129. 4. Gaster, 299.
5. Wedeck, 1 12. 6. Waddell, 401. 7. Leland, 38. 8. de Paor, 18.
Vagina Dentata Babylonian prototype of Noah: the flood hero who carried progeni-
mbm^^^mmm tors of all creatures through the Deluge on his ark. He was the only man
to become immortal, because he married the Goddess who dispensed
shiba, the fluid of life. See Gilgamesh.
"Powerful One," in Jewish traditions, a rebellious angel who stole
divine secrets of magic and revealed them to Eve. Originally, a title of
the Arabian Moon-goddess, Al-Uzza, the Powerful One probably a
version of the Crone. See Arabia.
The "Voice" that pronounced the first creative Word, Om; a Hindu
Goddess described in the Rig Veda as the First, the Queen, the
Greatest of All Deities. 1 See Logos.
"Toothed vagina," the classic symbol of men's fear of sex, expressing
the unconscious belief that a woman may eat or castrate her partner
during intercourse. Freud said, "Probably no male human being is
spared the terrifying shock of threatened castration at the sight of the
female genitals." l But he had the reason wrong. The real reason for
this "terrifying shock" is mouth-symbolism, now recognized universally
in myth and fantasy: "It is well known in psychiatry that both males
and females fantasize as a mouth the female's entranceway to the
The more patriarchal the society, the more fear seems to be
aroused by the fantasy. Men of Malekula, having overthrown their
matriarchate, were haunted by a yonic spirit called "that which draws us
to It so that It may devour us." 3 The Yanomamo said one of the first
beings on earth was a woman whose vagina became a toothed mouth
and bit off her consort's penis. Chinese patriarchs said women's
genitals were not only gateways to immortality but also "executioners of
men." 4 Moslem aphorisms said: "Three things are insatiable: the
desert, the grave, and a woman's vulva." 5 Polynesians said the savior- Vagina Dentata
god Maui tried to find eternal life by crawling into the mouth (or
vagina) of his mother Hina, in effect trying to return to the womb of the ^^^^^^^^^^^^
Creatress; but she bit him in two and killed him. 6
Stories of the devouring Mother are ubiquitous in myths, repre-
senting the death-fear which the male psyche often transformed into
a sex-fear. Ancient writings describe the male sexuarfunction not as
"taking" or "possessing" the female, but rather "being taken," or
"putting forth." 7 Ejaculation was viewed as a loss of a man's vital force,
which was "eaten" by a woman. The Greek sema or "semen" meant
both "seed" and "food." Sexual "consummation" was the same as
"consuming" (the male). Many savages still have the same imagery.
The Yanomamo word for pregnant also means satiated or full-fed; and
"to eat" is the same as "to copulate." 8
Distinction between mouths and female genitals was blurred by
the Greek idea of the lamiae lustful she-demons, born of the
Libyan snake-goddess Lamia. Their name meant either "lecherous
vaginas" or "gluttonous gullets." 9 Lamia was a Greek name for the
divine female serpent called Kundalini in India, Uraeus or Per-Uatchet
in Egypt, and Lamashtu in Babylon. Her Babylonian consort was
Pazuzu, he of the serpent penis. Lamia's legend, with its notion that
males are born to be eaten, led to Pliny's report on the sexual life of
snakes that was widely believed throughout Europe even up to the 20th
century: a male snake fertilizes the female snake by putting his head
into her mouth and allowing himself to be eaten. 10
Sioux Indians told a tale similar to that of the Lamia. A beautiful
seductive woman accepted the love of a young warrior and united
with him inside a cloud. When the cloud lifted, the woman stood alone.
The man was a heap of bones being gnawed by snakes at her feet. 11
Mouth and vulva were equated in many Egyptian myths. Ma-Nu,
the western gate whereby the sun god daily re-entered his Mother,
was sometimes a "cleft" (yoni), and sometimes a "mouth." 12 Priestesses
of Bast, representing the Goddess, drew up their skirts to display their
genitals during religious processions. 13 To the Greeks, such a display
was frightening. Bellerophon fled in terror from Lycian women
advancing on him with genitals exposed, and even the sea god Poseidon
retreated, for fear they might swallow him. 14
According to Philostratus, magical women "by arousing sexual
lesire seek to devour whom they wish." 15 To the patriarchal Persians
ind Moslems this seemed a distinct possibility. Viewing women's
nouths as either obscene, dangerous, or overly seductive, they
nsisted on veiling them. Yet men's mouths, which look no different,
vere not viewed as threatening.
"Mouth" comes from the same root as "mother" Anglo-Saxon
nuth, also related to the Egyptian Goddess Mut. Vulvas have labiae,
lips," and many men have believed that behind the lips lie teeth.
Christian authorities of the Middle Ages taught that certain witches,
Vagina Dentata with the help of the moon and magic spells, could grow fangs in their
vaginas. They likened women's genitals to the "yawning" mouth of
__ hell, though this was hardly original; the underworld gate had always
been the yoni of Mother Hel. It had always "yawned" from Middle
English yonen, another derivative of "yoni." A German vulgarity
meaning "cunt," Fotze, in parts of Bavaria meant simply "mouth." 16
To Christian ascetics, Hell-mouth and the vagina drew upon the
same ancient symbolism. Both were equated with the womb-symbol
of the whale that swallowed Jonah; according to this "prophecy" the
Hell-mouth swallowed Christ (as Hina swallowed her son Maui) and
kept him for three days. Visionary trips to hell often read like "a
description of the experience of being born, but in reverse, as if the
child was being drawn into the womb and destroyed there, instead of
being formed and given life." St. Teresa of Avila said her vision of a
visit to hell was "an oppression, a suffocation, and an affliction so
agonizing, and accompanied by such a hopeless and distressing
misery that no words I could find would adequately describe it. To say
that it was as if my soul were being continuously torn from my body
is as nothing." 17
The archetypal image of "devouring" female genitals seems unde-
niably alive even in the modern world. "Males in our culture are so
afraid of direct contact with female genitalia, and are even afraid of
referring to these genitalia themselves; they largely displace their
feelings to the accessory sex organs the hips, legs, breasts, buttocks, et
cetera and they give these accessory organs an exaggerated interest
and desirability." 18 Even here, the male scholar inexplicably "displaces'
the words sex organ onto structures that have nothing to do with
Looking into, touching, entering the female orifice seems fraught
with hidden fears, signified by the confusion of sex with death in
overwhelming numbers of male minds and myths. Psychiatrists say sex
is perceived by the male unconscious as dying: "Every orgasm is a
little death: the death of 'the little man,' the penis." 19 Here indeed is the
root of ascetic religions that equated the denial of death with denial of
Moslems attributed all kinds of dread powers to a vulva. It could
"bite off" a man's eye-beam, resulting in blindness for any man who
looked into its cavity. A sultan of Damascus was said to have lost his
sight in his manner. Christian legend claimed he went to Sardinia to
be cured of his blindness by a miraculous idol of the virgin Mary who,
being eternally virgin, had her door-mouth permanently closed by a
Apparently Freud was wrong in assuming that men's fear of
female genitals was based on the idea that the female had been
castrated. The fear was much less empathetic, and more personal: a fear
of being devoured, of experiencing the birth trauma in reverse. A
Catholic scholar's curious description of the Hell-mouth as a womb
inadvertently reveals this idea: "When we think of man entering hell Vajra
we think of him as establishing contact with the most intrinsic, unified, Valentine, Saint
ultimate and deepest level of the reality of the world." 21 ^^^^^^^^^^^^
1. Becker, D.D., 223. 2. Farb, W.P., 93. 3. Neumann, CM., 174.
4. Rawson, E.A., 260. 5. Edwardes,45. 6. Briffault 2, 657-58.
7. Assyr. & Bab. Lit, 338-39. 8. Chagnon, 47. 9. Graves, G.M. 1, 206.
10. Briffault 2, 667. 1 1 . Campbell, F.W.G., 78. 12. Maspero, lx.
13. Budge, G.E. 1,448. 14. Bachofen, 123. 15. Wedeck, 153. 16. Young, 47.
17. Cavendish, P.E., 1 57-58. 18. Ellis, 239-40. 19. Lederer, 126.
20. Gifford, 143. 21. Cavendish, P.E., 160.
Sanskrit "jewel," "phallus," or "lightning" images of the Jewel in
the Lotus, male spirit enclosed in the female, graphically represented by
the lingam-yoni. Vajrasana meant the "diamond seat" of the Tantric
yogi, a mystic state of psychosexual union with the Goddess. As a
diamond shape was an archaic symbol of the clitoris, it may be that
the vajra was recognized as an enlarged male version of the same thing.
Zyrian "Mother of Waters," worshipped throughout the Middle
Ages as a powerful Goddess whose displeasure could cause catastro-
phes. 1 See Water.
1 . Lurousse, 307.
The original Valentine's Day in the ides of February was Rome's
Lupercalia, a festival of sexual license. Young men chose partners for
erotic games by drawing "billets" small papers with women's
names on them. Christians denounced these prototypical valentines as
"heathens' lewd customs." l Churchmen tried to substitute saints'
names and short sermons on the billets, but people soon reverted to the
old love-notes. 2 February was sacred to Juno Februata, Goddess of
the "fever" (febris) of love. The church replaced her with a mythical
martyr, St. Valentine, who was endowed with several contradictory
biographies. One of them made him a handsome Roman youth,
executed at the very moment when his sweetheart received his billet
of love. 3
St. Valentine became a patron of lovers perforce, because the
festival remained dedicated to lovers despite all official efforts to
change it. Even in its Christianized form, the Valentinian festival
involved secret sex worship, called "a rite of spiritual marriage with
angels in a nuptial chamber." 4 Ordinary human beings engaged before
witnesses in an act of sexual intercourse described as the marriage of
Sophia and the Redeemer. A spoken formula said, in part, "Let the see<
of light descend into thy bridal chamber, receive the bridegroom . . .
open thine arms to embrace him. Behold, grace has descended upon
During the Middle Ages, St. Valentine was much invoked in love
charms and potions, since he was a sketchily Christianized version of
such love-gods as Eros, Cupid, Kama, Priapus, or Pan.
1. Brewster. 104. 2. Hazlitt, 608. 3.deLys,358. 4. Angus, 116. 5. Seligmann,65.
Norse death angels who hovered over battlefields and took the souls
of brave warriors to Odin's heaven, Valhalla according to the classic
picture. Previously, the Valkyries seem to have been Amazonian
priestesses who ruled the gates of death, and in the most primitive times
even cannibalized the dead to give them rebirth.
Valkyries were northern counterparts of the funerary vulture-
priestesses of Egypt, often decking themselves in feathers. Like
angelic Hindu apsaras, they wore swan feathers; or, in funerary aspect,
they appeared as carrion crows (ravens). Dead warriors were known
in skaldic verse as hrafengrennir, "raven-feeders," and the blood of slain
men was called "the raven's drink." l In Old Saxon the Valkyries
were walcyries or waelceasig, "corpse-eaters," defined as "man-eating
women" during the 1 1th century a.d. 2
Valkyries in their black raven-feathers were called Kraken, or
"crows." In the Middle East also, ravens were spirits of the lunar
sphere of death and rebirth, symbolically preserved in Mithraic religion
as the Raven who led the initiate into the first stage of mystical
hierarchy, the sphere of the Moon. 3 Similar connotations were still
attached to ravens in 1613 a.d., when Perkins's Witchcraft said if a
raven stands on a high place (lunar sphere), "and looks a particular way
and cries," death can be expected to come from that direction. 4
Swans, ravens, crows, or hawks represented Valkyries in old
ballads, such as "The Maiden Transformed into a Bird," who was
fond of eating her true-love's flesh. This was beneficial to him, for after
sacrificing his flesh to her, he attained a state of paradise in her arms. 5
Eliade says, "The Valkyries are psychopomps and sometimes play the
role of the 'celestial wives' or 'spirit wives' of the Siberian shamans. .
. . [T]his later complex extends beyond the sphere of shamanism and
has elements both of the mythology of Woman and the mythology of
The Valkyries were also totemized as mare-women, like the
ancient horse-masked priestesses of Demeter. In Sweden, a mare-
woman was a volva, meaning Goddess, priestess, or a witch who could
turn into a mare and carry a man away to death. A cognate was vala, Vampire
a holy woman, with Slavic and central Asian counterparts in the Vilas,
Wilas, or Wilis, possibly derived from vilasa, the heavenly bliss ^ m
dispensed by Hindu nymphs of paradise in the service of the Goddess. 7
Such spirits were sometimes called Samovila or Samodiva: "death-
goddess." 8 Some claimed that death in the arms of a Vila was a blissful
passage into a fairy paradise. Others said it was cruel torment. 9
Naturally, this was a mythic expression of various ways of dying. See
The Grimnismal lists 13 Valkyries, the number of a witches'
coven; other sources said there were only nine, the number of the
Muses. From the 10th to the 14th centuries, Valkyries and witches
were considered identical; both were also mystic swan-maidens and
fairies. 10 Earthly priestesses who played the Valkyrie role in pagan
funerals were described by churchmen as either Vilas or witches. 11
Valhalla or Valholl was the death-realm of Hel, the Great Vala.
Though it was taken over by new gods led by Father Odin, its archaic
feminine name remained. Later myths made it a paradise reserved
solely for warriors and war-kings, members of the military caste who
shared the opinions of Japanese samurai and Moslem "soldiers of
Allah," that heavenly bliss belonged only to those who died fighting
Radbod, king of the Frisians, refused to abandon this faith when a
Christian missionary informed him that Valhalla was the same as the
Christians' hell. Where were his own ancestors, Radbod wanted to
know, if there was no Valhalla? He was told they were burning in hell
because they were heathens. "Dastardly priest!" Radbod cried. "How
dare you say my ancestors have gone to hell? I would rather yes, by
their god, the great Woden, I swear I would ten thousand times rather
join those heroes in their hell, than be with you in your heaven of
1. Turville-Petre, 58. 2. Woods, 156. 3. Campbell, Oc.M., 255, 4. Scot, 546.
5. Steenstrup, 53-54. 6. Eliade.S., 381-82. 7. Avalon, 199. 8. Leland,67.
9. Uwusst, 292-93. 10. Branston, 191-92. 11. Leland, 143. 12. Guerber, L.R.,9.
The primal notion that all life depends on the magic of menstrual
blood or "the blood of Moon," as some primitives say evolved a
corresponding notion that the dead crave blood in order to make
themselves live again. 1 Greeks believed the shades of the dead could be
recalled from the underworld by offerings of blood, which they
greatly desired; therefore blood was the essential ingredient of necro-
mancy. Homer's Odysseus consulted the dead with a necromantic
ceremony: "I took the sheep and cut their throats over the trench, and
the dark blood flowed forth, and lo, the spirits of the dead that be
departed gathered them from out of Erebus." 2
The Greek word for
a vampire was sarco-
menos, "flesh made
by the moon."' The
word "vampire" was
Slavic, possibly trace-
able to central Asia,
thence to India. The Si-
amese still call a
lunar sabbath day vam-
pra. As in early
Greece, there were two
vampra sabbaths in
each lunar month, at
the new moon and
full moon, with lesser
sabbaths on the quar-
ters to make four
seven-day weeks.' 1
Ever since Homer's time, western nations had the fixed idea that
blood could recall the dead to life, at least temporarily. Regular
supplies of blood would impart a kind of life to the "un-dead," that is,
vampires. They were called forth by the moon, their original Mother,
who also called forth the blood that made the living. Since the moon
was the original home of the dead and the source of rebirth, it was
closely associated with vampires. Breton churchmen, still not altogether
certain of the physiology of conception in the Middle Ages, claimed
that a woman who exposed her naked body to moonlight would
conceive and bear a vampire child. 5 Yet common folk continued to
express in their customs the older belief that the souls of all children
waited in the moon to be reborn. Scottish girls refused to be married
at any time except during the full moon, for fear they otherwise might
not have children. New brides in the Orkneys went to a circle of
megalithic stones locally called the Temple of the Moon to pray for
The idea that the moon provided vital force for both the living and
the dead persisted through the centuries, and reappeared as emphati-
cally as ever in popular vampire literature only a hundred years ago.
Boucicault's The Vampire instructed his servants to carry his body to
a high mountain where it could be touched by the first rays of the rising
moon. When this was done, the vampire sprang back to life, saying,
"Fountain of my life: once more thy rays restore me. Death! I defy
thee!" 7 An English friar once said, "The moon is the mother of all
humors," and the body's most important life-giving "humor" was
Therefore, vampires walked wherever the moon shone and they
might find blood; the church taught this, and no laymen dared to
doubt it. Balkan countries had certain wizards who specialized in
bottling vampires, a technique they probably learned from Arabian
magicians who put djinn (Latin genii) into bottles or lamps, like the
lamp of Aladdin. When a Bulgarian village panicked over a purport-
ed outbreak of vampirism, the specialist was called. He would solemnly
identify the offender's grave, bait his bottle with blood, catch the
restless spirit, cork him up, and burn the bottle. 9
The Rev. Montague Summers mentions a sure cure for vampir-
ism, which would have been simple, and eliminated all the dramatic,
time-consuming, ultimately ineffective classical measures such as exor-
cisms, crucifixes, garlic, silver bullets, stakes through hearts, and so
on. This simple solution was to place a consecrated host in a vampire's
grave, which would immobilize him forever. However, Summers
said, this remedy "was not to be essayed, since it savors of rashness and
profanation of God's Body." 10 Summers, an earnest believer, evi-
dently thought it was better to let a community be ravaged by
marauding vampires than to profane Eucharistic bread.
Summers also attacked the rational doubts of Dom Calmet,
who wrestled with the physical improbabilities of vampirism two
centuries earlier, asking questions that no one ever bothered to answer: Vampire
How can a corpse which is covered with four or five feet of earth, which
has no room even to move or to stretch a limb, which is wrapped in mi^mmmmmmimmmmmm
linen cerements, enclosed in a coffin of wood, how can it, I say, seek the
upper air and return to the world walking upon the earth so as to cause
those extraordinary effects which are attributed to it? And after all that
how can it go back again into the grave, when it will be found fresh,
incorrupt, full of blood exactly like a living body? Can it be maintained
that these corpses pass through the earth without disturbing it, just as
water and the damps which penetrate the soil or which exhale therefrom
without perceptibly dividing or cleaving the ground? It were indeed to
be wished that in the histories of the Return of Vampires which have been
related, a certain amount of attention had been given to this point, and
that the difficulty had been something elucidated. "
Rev. Summers quickly disposed of Dom Calmet's questions in
the accepted theological manner, not by answering them but by
denouncing the asking of them:
These difficulties which Dom Calmet with little perception has raised . . .
are not only superficial but also smack of heterodoxy. . . . [OJne can
hardly brush aside the vast vampire tradition. . . . Can the Devil endow a
body with those qualities ofsubtilty, rarification, increase, and diminish-
ing, so that it may pass through doors and windows? I answer that there is
no doubt the Demon can do this, and to deny the proposition is hardly
orthodox. ' 2
From the church's "vast vampire tradition," Summers conclud-
ed: "There can be no doubt that the vampire does act under satanic
influence and by satanic direction." 1? This assertion was made not in
the 12th or 13th century, but in the year 1928.
A thinly disguised reason for the never-failing popularity of vam-
pire stories was, of course, their suggestion of sinful sex. Kissing and
biting ran close together in both mental and actual behavior; and the
attack of a male or female vampire on a victim of the opposite sex
surely bore some resemblance to a love-bite. One of the all-time classics
of vampire literature, Prest's Varneythe Vampire, titillated Victorian
male readers with scenes more suggestive of rape than of demonology:
That young and beautiful girl exposed to so much terror . . . . Her
beautiful rounded limbs quivered with the agony of her soul. The
glassy horrible eyes of the figure ran over that angelic form with a hideous
satisfaction horrible profanation. He drags her head to the bed's edge.
He forces it back by the long hair still entwined in his grasp. With a plunge
he seizes her neck in his fanglike teeth. M
The church sanctioned vampire superstitions in order to draw
converts through fear, and church rituals officially established the
burning or piercing of suspected vampires in their graves. Even in the
present century this was still done by priests in the Balkans. 15 Jean-
Jacques Rousseau showed the evidence for the existence of vampires
resting on much the same foundations as the evidence for the existence
of God: "If there ever was in the world a warranted and proven
history, it is that of vampires; nothing is lacking, official reports,
testimonials of persons of standing, of surgeons, of clergymen, of
judges; the judicial evidence is all-embracing." ,6
The most famous fictional vampire of them all, Count Dracula,
did have a real history. He was a feudal baron of sadistic tempera-
ment, Vlad the Impaler, of the Little Dragon clan: that is, Dracule. He
liked to impale his enemies on stakes, while he cut, roasted, and ate
pieces of flesh from their still-living bodies. 17 The fear engendered by
this monster was such that his serfs believed he would return to
plague them even after his death. Of course no such revenant has ever
reappeared, but the Count's clan nickname, at least, seems truly
1. Chagnon, 38. 2. Homer, 163. 3. Summers., V, 19. 4. Briffault 2, 425.
5. Summers, V, 238. 6. Briffault 2, 587-88. 7. Summers, V, 316. 8. Briffault 2, 782.
9.Tannahill, 124. 10. Summers, V, 106. 11. Summers, V, 171. 12.Summers, V, 174.
13. Summers, V, 32. 14. Cohen, N.H.U.T., 53. 15. Hyde, 182-83. 16.Seligmann,302.
17. See McNally & Florescu.
Scandinavian elder deities: peace-loving, matriarchal, agricultural
nature spirits led by Mother Earth and by Freya, "the Lady," called
Vanadis or Matriarch of the Vanir. The warlike Aesir led by Father
Odin moved into the territory of the Vanir and made war against them,
beginning with an act of cruelty: the Aesir seized and tortured their
holy sorceress, Gullveig. 1 In the end the Vanir were conquered, but
many generations remained in awe of their miraculous powers. They
were said to have accomplished everything by magic, and invented all
the knowledge that the new gods learned. 2
Whether the Vanir were described as elder gods, giants, elves,
matriarchs, or "primal ancestresses," they seem to have represented
pre-patriarchal farming cultures who were forced to give way to nomad-
ic Aryan invaders.
1. Larousse, 270. 2. Turville-Petre, 159, 176.
Son of the Hindu sun-goddess Aditi, Varuna was an archaic god of
Protean forms: lord of the sky, of waters, of law, of winds, of seasons,
and of death. He was sometimes female, sometimes an androgyne
representing sexual union. In this guise, he-she probably became the
Persian Varan, a "spirit of concupiscence." Varuna was paired with
Mitra, a similar entity, a sister or male twin; from this deity evolved the
Persians' wholly masculinized Mithra.
1 . Lxroussc, 328.
Vas Hermeticum, Vas Spirituale
Alchemical terms for the symbolic Grail, signifying the womb of
matter, a universal vessel of all transformations. The original symbol was
the "Vase" of life and death representing the womb of the Great
Goddess Rhea Pandora. Among Christian mystics, Vas Spirituale was a
common title of the virgin Mary.
Roman name for the Great Goddess in her sexual aspect, derived
from the eponymous mother of Venetian tribes of the Adriatic, after
whom the city of Venice was also named. "Veneration" and "ven-
ery" were further derivatives. Venery used to mean hunting; for, like
her eastern counterpart Artemis, Venus was once a Lady of Animals,
and her Horned God Adonis, both the hunter and the sacrificial
stag became venison, which meant "Venus's son." J
Early Christian fathers denounced the temples "dedicated to the
foul devil who goes by the name of Venus a school of wickedness
for all the votaries of unchasteness." 2 What this meant was that they
were schools of instruction in sexual techniques, under the tutelage of
the veneriiox harlot-priestesses. 3 They taught an approach to spiritual
grace, called venia, through sexual exercises like those of Tantrism. 4
Like Tantric yogis, educated Romans envisioned the moment of
death as a culminating sexual union, a final act of the sacred marriage
promised by the religion of Venus. Ovid, an initiate, said he wished to
die while making love: "Let me go in the act of coming to Venus; in
more senses than one let my last dying be done." 5 Centuries later, in
Shakespeare's time, "to die" was still a common metaphor for sexual
orgasm. 6 An English treatise on interpretation of dreams said if a sick
man dreamed of marrying a lovely maiden, it meant death. 7 When
Christians said to die was to be gathered to the bosom of Christ or
Abraham, they unwittingly based the concept on the ancient female
Modern interpretations of classical mythology tend to picture
Venus as a sex goddess only. Her birth-giving and death-giving
aspects have been suppressed; but they were equally important in her
cult. As Queen of the Shades she was identified with Proserpine, but
went by the name of Libitina. Plutarch said Libitina was only another
name for Venus, "the goddess of generation." 8
During the early Middle Ages, Venus became the ruling Fairy
Queen of the magic mountains called Venusbergs. She also became
a Christian saint, St. Venerina, who never existed in human form but
only as a cult figure continuing the worship of the Goddess in
Calabria. 9 In the Balkans she was called St. Venere, and is still invoked
as a patron of marriage by young girls making a wish that they might
find good husbands. 10 The magic rhyme addressed to the planet Venus
Sign of Venus
Venus Observa | as Evening Star still echoes down the centuries: "Star light, star
Veronica, Saint bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish
^^^^^^^^^^^ I wish tonight."
^^"^^^^^ Venus the Evening Star was also Stella Maris, Star of the Sea. In
her sacred city of Venice, on Ascension Day each year, the Duke of
Venice ceremonially married her by throwing a gold wedding ring into
the sea. 11 This practice continued through Renaissance times, even
when the title of Stella Maris was assimilated to Mary.
1 Potter & Sargent, 209. 2. J.H. Smith, C.G., 287. 3. Massa, 101. 4. Dumezil, 94.
5 Cavendish, P.E., 51.6. Sadock, Kaplan & Freedman, 544. 7. Hazlitt, 190.
8 Knight, D.W.P., 73. 9. Hughes, 52. 10. Hyde, 84. 11. Scot, 173.
Technical term for the male-superior sexual position, which Adam
tried and failed to impose on Lilith, and which the Catholic church
designated the only legal position for marital intercourse, since it
afforded the least pleasure to the wife. 1 Patriarchal societies generally
opposed such female-superior sexual positions as those favored by the
worshippers of Shiva and Hecate, and by medieval witches who, as the
nursery rhyme says, rode on top of their "cock-horses."
Christian missionaries throughout the world usually insisted that
their native flocks must abandon any sexual variations they might be
accustomed to, and adopt the Venus observa posture exclusively, for
anything else was sinful. Thus it came to be known as the "mission-
ary position," and native couples often made fun of it in secret.
1. Graves & Patai, 67.
St. Veronica was not a person but only a contraction of two Latin
words, vera iconica, "the true image." In 8th-century Rome, a cloth
imprinted with a man's face appeared in St. Peter's basilica and was
advertised as the vera iconica of Christ. The legend invented to accoun
for it was that, as Jesus was carrying his cross, a woman named
Veronica wiped the sweat from his face with her veil, which miraculous
ly took the image of the divine face. 1
Such stories were not uncommon in the ancient world. An old
Greek tale told of Pandarus the Thessalian, who had "shameful
letters" on his brow until the god Asclepius miraculously removed then
to a scarf that Pandarus bound on his forehead. 2 Another pagan tale
was adapted to the Veronican legends: the king of Edessa sent an artist
to paint Jesus's portrait; but the artist couldn't see Jesus's face because
of its blinding sunlike brightness. So he merely pressed a cloth to the
divine features, and the imprint rendered a perfect portrait. Another
impossible story claimed that Veronica's veil cured the emperor Tiberi-
us of sickness, so he carried it to Rome on a road entirely spread with
silk and installed it in the shrine where it was "found" eight centuries
St. Veronica's act of veil-imprinting is still included in the Stations
of the Cross, though some churchmen recommended its elimination
on the ground that the legend's transparent fakery is becoming too well
1. Brewster, 65. 2. Frazer, F.O.T., 227. 3. de Voragine, 215, 634. 4. Attwater, 335.
Second of the three Norns venerated by Norsemen. Verthandi
signified the present, while her sisters Urth and Skuld stood for the past
and future. 1 As the Weird Sisters, or Mothers of Fate (wyrd), they
corresponded to the Greek Moerae, Latin Fortunae, and other versions
of the Triple Goddess. Verthandi also governed motherhood and the
phases of the moon, like Kali the Preserver.
"Vessel of the Fish," a common yonic symbol, the pointed oval,
named from the ancients' claim that female genitals smelled like fish.
Mother Kali herself appeared in a Hindu story as "a virgin named
Fishy Smell, whose real name was Truth," like Egypt's Goddess Maat. 1
Egyptians said Abtu, the Abyss, was "a fish who swallowed the penis
of Osiris," but this abyss was also "The Fish of Isis," therefore a sexual
metaphor. Aphrodite's principal rites at Paphos took place under the
sign of Pisces, the Fish. Aphrodite, Isis, Freya, and other forms of the
Goddess in sexual aspect appeared veiled in fish nets. 2 See Fish.
The vesica piscis was an unequivocally genital sign of the sheila-
na-gig figures of old Irish churches. The squatting naked Goddess
displayed her vulva as a vesica, as did the temple-door images of Kali in
India. 3 One of the old pagan ideograms of sexual union was adopted
by the church to represent the Feast of St. Nicholas on the runic
calendar: a vesica piscis enveloping a male furka. 4
The pointed-oval fish sign was even used by early Christians to
represent the mystery of God's union with his mother-bride which
is why Jesus was called "the little Fish" in the Virgin's fountain. 5
This female enclosure was much used in Christian art, especially
as a superimposition on Mary's belly, with her child within. Some-
times Christ at his ascension was shown rising into a heavenly vesica, as
if returning to the Mother-symbol. The vesica was also shown as a
frame for figures of Jesus, God, and saints.
Another name for the same sign was mandorla, "almond," which
also represented a yoni. In the cult of the Magna Mater, an almond
was the feminine conception-charm for the virgin birth of Attis.
I. Campbell, CM., 13. 2. Knight, S.L., 296. 3. G.R.Scott, 239-43. 4. Brewster, 13.
5. Harding, 58.
Sign of Vesta
Priestesses of Rome's oldest Goddess-matriarch, Vesta, who was the
same as the Greeks' Hestia. Descendants of an ancient order of holy
women who guarded the public hearth and altar, the Vestals were
entrusted with keeping alight the perpetual fire that was the mystic heart
of the empire.
Vestals were vkgines, i.e., women who vowed never to marry
because they were brides of the spirit of Rome, in the same sense that
Christian nuns were brides of Christ. Vestals underwent the same
ceremony that was later applied to nuns, to limit their magic female
powers: they had their hair shaved off. 1 In an earlier era, however, they
were not so restricted. Like all other ancient priestesses who ruled by
virtue of magic and motherhood, the Vestals used to be the governing
sisterhood of Latium.
Rhea Silvia or "Rhea of the Woodland" was called the First
Vestal; she was actually the Goddess Rhea transplanted to the Latin
colonies. According to Roman legend, she gave birth to Romulus and
Remus, the founders of Rome. Their midwife, Acca Larentia,
another Vestal described as a "courtesan," gave birth to all the ancestral
spirits the Romans called lares. (See Akka.)
The Vestals were never altogether virginal in the physical sense.
Their marriage to the phallic deity of the Palladium was physically
consummated in Vesta's temple, under conditions of great secrecy. The
ceremony was performed by a priest called the Pontifex Maximus,
"great maker of the pons," which meant a bridge, a path, or a way. The
Pontifex Maximus had what Dumezil calls "an obscure, now un-
known duty" toward the Vestal Virgins. 2 One might suppose that his
"way" was something like the Way of eastern sex-sacraments; that is,
he built the "bridge" between Father Heaven and Mother Earth
The office of Pontifex was adopted by Christians, and became a
"pontiff," synonymous with "pope." The Vestals however were
emphatically not adopted by Christians, although several of the details
of their habit and lifestyle passed on to Christian convents. Pagans
revered the Vestals and were horrified by the way they were treated by
Christian regimes in the 4th and 5th centuries. In 382 a.d., the
endowments of all the pagan temples were withdrawn, including that of
Vesta's 600-year-old Mother-hearth. "Worst of all in the opinion of
some traditionalists, the fire on Vesta's hearth was to be permitted to go
out: the Vestal Virgins were to lose their endowments and immunity
from taxation, and all their privileges were to be taken away. The tiny
order of six Vestals was particularly hated by the Christians. . . . Their Vida
Christian enemies feared them as mysterious and magical: they did not Vila
understand them and did not want to do so; they wanted only to see m^^^^^^^^^mmt
them destroyed." 3
1. Graves, W.G., 396. 2. Dumezil, 583. 3. J.H. Smith, D.C.P., 149.
Norse skald's word for the sacred poetry setting forth religious tales;
cognate with the Hindu Vedas. Vida might be traced back to the elder
race of giants called risi, from Sanskrit rishi, an Enlightened One or
sage, such as the early collectors of the Vedas were supposed to be. 1
"Wisdom," a Tantric term for a woman acting as sexual partner of a
man in the magic circle; another epithet of the enlightenment-bringing
Spirit of the Way, or Shakti.
Ancestor of the Vikings; a legendary king of Norway, sacrificially
slain by the priests of Odin, enabled to beget tribes by the blood he shed
on the maternal earth.
Vila var. Will
Slavic witch-spirit associated with water; cognate of the Scandinavian
Vala or Valkyrie. Russian Vilas were sometimes known as Rusalki,
daughters of Holy Mother Russia (Earth). Like Valkyries, the Vilas
of old had charge of the rites of death and the guiding of souls.
Sometimes, especially favored men were invited to join the Vilas
for a while, usually seven years. A man would be invited into a cave
or hollow tree, and find himself in fairyland. He was "one who has won
the love of a Vila," and his title was Krstnik, a "Christ," which meant
both an Anointed One and an Accursed One. 1 That is, he was the
Slavic version of the Enchanted Hunter (Chasseur Maudit), or
Thomas Rhymer, Tannhauser, etc.
In Dalmatia, a man associated with the Vilas was called Macieh,
Messiah." He took the form of a youth in a Phrygian cap, like the
Indo-Iranian sun-hero Mithra. 2 The female spirits he lived with were
also called krstaca, "crossed ones," from krst, a cross cognate with
both the Greek Christos and the Saxon "curst." The female spirits were
also known as Rogulja, "Horned Ones." 3
Virginal, Ice Queen
Vilas or Wilis came to be feared as angry, dangerous "souls of
drowned women" who dwelt in water, perhaps because so many
"witches" were drowned. Like Sirens, they were supposed to draw into
the waters any heedless wayfarer who happened to see them dance by
moonlight. They still dance on modern stages in the classical ballet
Giselle; the old fear of them resides in such phrases as "it gives me
the willies." A cold shudder was said to be a prophetic touch from a
Wili's deathly hand. However, traces of the priestesses' former
benevolence are found in the legend that where they danced on the
nights of the old pagan festivals, there the grass grew thicker and the
wheat flourished more abundantly. 4
1. Leland, 145-46. 2. Keightley, 494. 3. Leland, 66. 4. Larousse, 292-93.
von Franz Modern
collaborator and friend
of Carl Jung.
Virginal the Ice Queen
Medieval European version of the high-mountain Goddess, known
in India as Durga the Inaccessible. She lived in the high Himalayas, an<
sometimes came down to form alliances with men; but always she
returned to her lonely glaciers. In European folk tales, Virginal the Ice
Queen lived alone in the pure upper snowfields of the mountains,
but once she descended to a valley to become the bride of a minstrel-
wizard, Dietrich von Bern. Soon, however, she wearied of the
lowlands and of him, and went back to her inviolable mountaintop,
where "she still rules supreme." '
The Norse version of Durga- Virginal was the death-goddess
Skadi, who married the god Njord but grew tired of living with him
in the lowlands by the sea, so she returned alone to her mountains.
Some say she became the evil Snow Queen who would kidnap
children from their homes and take away their souls.
Since snow-covered mountains were widely associated with the
milk-giving breasts of Mother Earth, it is possible that Durga the
Inaccessible and similar Ice Queens represented the nursing Goddess,
in the period when lactating human females, like lactating animal
females, were literally inaccessible to the male. Preoccupied with
motherhood, the Goddess became "virgin" again in her refusal to
tolerate male attentions. She "withdrew" from her marriage and went
away to a place where no man could follow. There was an archetypal
element in these stories. As M.-L. von Franz has said, "One may
suddenly find oneself up against something in a woman that is
obstinate, cold, and completely inaccessible." 2
I. Guerber, L.M.A., 115. 2. Jung, MRS., 189.
"Holy Virgin" was the title of harlot-priestesses of Ishtar, Asherah, or
Aphrodite. The title didn't mean physical virginity; it meant simply
"unmarried." The function of such "holy virgins" was to dispense
the Mother's grace through sexual worship; to heal; to prophesy; to
perform sacred dances; to wail for the dead; and to become Brides of
Children born of such temple women were called by the Semites
bathur, by the Greeks parthenioi, "virgin-born." ' According to the
Protoevangelium, the Virgin Mary was a kadesha and perhaps married
to one of that class of priests known as "fathers of the god." 2 See
Mary's impregnation was similar to Persephone's. In her Virgin
guise, Persephone sat in a holy cave and began to weave the great
tapestry of the universe, when Zeus appeared as a phallic serpent, to
beget the savior Dionysus on her. 3 Mary sat in the temple and began
to spin a blood-red thread, representing Life in the tapestry of fate,
when the angel Gabriel "came in unto her" (Luke 1:28), the biblical
phrase for sexual intercourse. Gabriel's name means literally "divine
Hebrew Gospels designated Mary by the word almah, mistakenly
translated "virgin," but really meaning "young woman." 5 It was
derived from Persian Al-Mah, the unmated Moon-goddess. 6 Another
cognate was Latin alma, "living soul of the world," virtually identical
to Greek psyche, Sanskrit shakti. The Holy Virgins or temple-harlots
were "soul-teachers" or "soul-mothers" the alma mater.
Christian translators insisted on rendering Mary's title as "virgin,"
which saddled their religion with an embarrassing article of faith.
Even today, theologians like Karl Barth declare that "It is essential to the
true Christian faith to accept the doctrine of the virgin birth" thus
drastically reducing the number of people who can be called true
Early Christians demanded a virgin birth for their Savior out of
simple imitativeness. All the other Saviors had one, for they were
born of the Goddess incarnate in a chosen "virgin of the temple,"
whose business it was to bear Saviors. The notion that mortal women
were impregnated by gods or spirits was a matter of everyday acceptance
throughout the ancient world. Even the Old Testament says the
archaic "giants" (ancestral heroes) were born of mortal women impreg-
nated by spirits that came from God (Genesis 6:4).
Zoroaster, Sargon, Perseus, Jason, Miletus, Minos, Asclepius, and
dozens of others were God-begotten and virgin-born. Even Zeus, the
Heavenly Father who begot many other "virgin-born" heroes, was
himself called Zeus Mamas, "Virgin-born Zeus." 8 Plutarch noted
among the Egyptians the common belief that the spirit of God was
capable of sexual intercourse with mortal women. 9
Heracles was born of another almah, the Virgin Alcmene, whose
name means Power of the Moon. 10 Her husband also, like the
biblical Joseph, kept away from her bed during her pregnancy. The
same tale was told of Plato, whose nephew affirmed that he was
The temple hiero-
dules were called
virgines or venerii in
Rome, horae in Greece,
kadishtu, qadesh, or
kadesha in Babylon, Ca-
naan, and Palestine.
St. Justin Martyr
Christian apologist of
the 2nd century,
born of pagan parents
and trained in philos-
ophy before his
conversion. In addi-
tion to his Apologia and
anonymous later works
were falsely attribut-
ed to his pen.
begotten by the god Apollo, his earthly parents having no sexual
relations until after his birth. 11 Christians believed this, and solemnly
attested that Plato was a virgin-born son of the sun god. 12
After Christianity was established as the official religion of the
Roman empire, however, church fathers tried to discredit all other
virgin births by claiming that the devil had devised them, and malicious-
ly placed them in a past time, so they would pre-date the real Savior.
Justin Martyr wrote, "When I am told that Perseus was born of a virgin
I realize that here again is a case in which the serpent and deceiver
has imitated our religion." 1?
Despite the efforts of church fathers, the virgin birth of Jesus was
neither the first nor the last such miracle given credence by Chris-
tians. Priapic idols of antiquity, credited with the power to father
children, actually fathered other priapic idols who became saints like
Foutin, Gurtlichon, Gilles, Regnaud, and Guignole; these were credit-
ed with the same power of fertilization and were much adored by
women who desired offspring. 14 Women of Tuscany and Portugal
thought they could become pregnant by eating apples specially
consecrated by a priest. Spaniards remembered the virgin birth of Mars,
and thought any woman could conceive like Mars's mother Juno, by
eating a lily. It was believed that souls could enter a woman's body in
the form of flies, worms, or serpents, to cause impregnation. Cases
were solemnly documented, like that of a Scot named Gillie Downak
Chravolick, conceived when his mother raised her skirts on an old
battlefield and received into her "private member" some ashes from the
burned bones of dead warriors. 15 As impregnation by a god used to be
the "acceptable explanation for pregnancy in most pagan countries
where the sexual act was part of the fertility rites," so Christians
thought impregnation by spirits was still credible, whether the alleged
father was a dead hero, a devil, an incubus, or even in some sects
the Holy Ghost again. 16
Such an untenable belief survived because it was important to
men. The impossible virgin mother was everyman's longed-for reso-
lution of Oedipal conflicts: pure maternity, never distracted from her
devotion by sexual desires. Churchmen unwittingly showed their
anxiety by denying even the evidence of their own Gospels that Jesus
had brothers and sisters. St. Ambrose insisted that Mary never
conceived again, since God couldn't have chosen for his mother-bride
"a woman who would defile the heavenly chamber with the seed of a
Theologians in effect severed the two halves of the pagan God-
dess, whose realistic femininity combined abundant sexuality and
maternity. One half was labeled harlot and temptress, the other a female
ascetic even in motherhood. The Goddess's old title, Sancta Ma-
trona Holy Mother was added to the canon of saints as a phony St.
Matrona, whose pseudo-biography made her a "hermitess." 18
The primitive naivete of the virgin-birth concept was dressed in Virgo
pretentious verbiage, purporting to explain it, while actually hiding it Virtue
from prying eyes. "A shadow is formed by light falling upon a body. ^^^^^^^^^^^^
The Virgin, as a human being, could not hold the fulness of divinity;
but the power of the most High overshadowed her, while the incorpore-
al light of the godhead took a human body within her, and so she was
able to bear God." 19
Churchmen often presented the doctrine of the virgin birth as
"ennobling" to women, since they viewed women's natural sexuality
as degrading. Seldom were female sexuality and motherhood perceived
as component parts of the same whole. Some women were astute
enough to see that the doctrine effectively degraded real womanhood by
exalting a never-attainable ideal. At the end of the 19th century one
/ think that the doctrine of the Virgin birth as something higher, sweeter,
nobler than ordinary motherhood, is a slur on all the natural mother-
hood of the world. . . . Out of this doctrine, and that which is akin to it,
have sprung all the monasteries and nuns of the world, which have
disgraced and distorted and demoralized manhood and womanhood for a
thousand years. I place beside this false, monkish, unnatural claim . . .
my mother, who was as holy in her motherhood as was Mary herself. 20
l.Briffault3, 169-70. 2. Budge, D.N., 169. 3. Campbell, P.M., 101. 4. Augstein, 302.
5. Brasch, 25. 6. Lamusse, 3 1 1 . 7. Augstein, 38. 8. Graves, W.G., 320. 9. Angus, 113.
10. Graves, G.M. 2, 378. 11. H.Smith, 183. 12.Shumaker, 152. 13. H.Smith, 183.
14. Knight, D.W.P., 141. 15. BrifFault 2, 452. 16.Holmes,35. 17.Ashe,182.
18. Boulding, 370. 19. de Voragine, 206. 20. Stanton, 1 14.
Virgil said the constellation Virgo (the Virgin) was Erigone, Goddess
of Justice, also known as Astraea or "Starry One." l She identified with
Libera, or Libra, the Lady of the Scales, judge of men and ruler of
their fates. Renaissance poets still called her Astraea: "She is that royal
and great goddess by whom cities and empires are preserved in pride;
without her no kingdom can long endure. This is she who makes them
all secure." 2
1 . Lindsay, O.A., 277. 2. Moakley, 111.
Latin virtu was derived from vir, "man," and originally meant
masculinity, impregnating power, semen, or male magic, like Germanic
heill. Patriarchal thinkers defined manliness as good and womanliness
as bad, therefore virtu became synonymous with morality or godliness,
along with other synonyms hinting at male sexuality: erectness,
vishnu uprightness, rectitude, upstandingness, etc. As the Old Testament said,
Vitus, Saint "Praise is comely for the upright" (Psalms 33:1).
^^^^^^^^^^ Old phallic connotations of "virtue" may have been hidden in the
"^ Gospels' description of Jesus's miraculous cure of the woman with an
issue of blood. When she touched Jesus, he felt "virtue" go out of him,
"and straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up" (Mark
5:29-30). According to ancient systems of sacred kingship, it was
important for the king-victim to give proof of virility, which meant
impregnating a specially chosen priestess, so that the "fountain of her
blood" might cease.
Vedic god representing both the sacrificial boar and the phallus. His
name meant "he who embraces, pervades, or penetrates"; he was
known as "the expander," and "he who excites men." l His emblem
was a lingam-yoni composed of a male cross with a female circle, called
the sign Kiakra: "When held by Vishnu, it signifies his power to
penetrate heaven and earth." 2
Vishnu insisted that his flesh and blood, poured out on the
sacrificial altar, preserved the whole world, creatures and gods alike.
When he transformed himself into the boar, he became the Universal
Savior. For the sake of the world he gave himself up to death, and
was sacrificed by "gods saying Om." ?
The boar's tusk was identified with his phallus, because it was the
tusk that effected Vishnu's mating with the primal Goddess Earth:
"He uprose bearing on his tusk the fair goddess Earth, shedding in all
directions the brine of the cosmic sea." 4 Boars' tusks often represent-
ed phalli in Oceanic and Far-Eastern cultures.
1. Campbell, M.I., 480-81; O'Flaherty, 357. 2. Baring-Gould, C.M.M.A., 374.
3. O'Flaherty, 196-97. 4. Campbell, M.I.,481.
Imaginary saint dimly associated with Sicily, possibly based on a Latin
word carved on an ancient healing shrine: Vitus ("life"). An emblem of
the Moon-goddess entered into the fabrication of St. Vitus as his
alleged "nurse," Crescentia.
Vitus was especially venerated in Westphalia, where bones said to
be his had rested since the 9th century a.d., though his legend
assigned him to the time of Diocletian, six hundred years earlier. The
bones were credited with the ability to cure many diseases, especially
chorea, the so-called St. Vitus's Dance. 1
Viviana, Saint Viviana, Saint
Canonized form of the pagan Goddess Viviane, whose name meant
Life. It seems to have been nothing more than a word on the Goddess's i
temple on the Esquiline Hill in Rome. Probably an image of the
Goddess, so labeled, was deliberately re-interpreted as the image of a
"virgin martyr." 1
Among early medieval Celtic poets, Viviane was the name of the
Lady of the Lake, who reappeared in Arthurian myths as another
form of Nimue, the "Nemesis" of Merlin.
"Horse's Penis," a title of Odin as the castrated royal horse, whose
amputated member became the ancestor of the Volsungs. Welsh
equivalents were the Waelsings, sons of Waels, who later became
"the god Wales." Waels also meant "the Corpse," for the dead god was
always resurrected and became the usual Lord of Death, like Shiva's
corpse-form Shava. See Horse.
Latin lightning- or volcano-god derived from Cretan Velchanos,
identical with Hephaestus. Vulcan's forges were said to lie under Mt.
Etna or Mt. Vesuvius. See Lightning; Smith. He evolved into the
medieval "Volund the Smith," a divine wizard whom the British called
One of the oldest totems of the Great Mother in Egypt was the
vulture, eater of the dead. Vultures who devoured corpses were regard-
ed as her angels of death, since they carried the dead piecemeal to
heaven. In Neolithic times it was a common practice to expose dead
bodies to carrion birds, who embodied the Mother's spirit. For this
reason even the Greeks and Romans fostered a belief that all vultures
are female. 1 On the Stele of the Vultures from Catal Huyuk, 7th
millenium B.C., dead bodies are carried off by vultures in a time and
place where only the female principle was worshipped. 2
Ancient Iranians didn't bury their dead, but exposed them to
vultures in open-topped "towers of silence" called dakhmas, many of
which still stand today. Such towers were built when Iranians wor-
shipped the Moon-goddess Mah, the Mother, and believed that
Vulture vultures carried the deceased to her heavenly realm. 5 Even after burial
was instituted in Persia, a dead body couldn't be interred until it was
^ ^^^ Im first torn by vultures.*
Egyptians worshipped the vulture-headed Mother as the origin of
all things, calling her Mut, Isis, or Nekhbet. 5 In combination with the
serpent goddess Buto (Per-Uatchet), the vulture-mother gave rise to the
Two Mistresses, guardians of royal dynastic clans, and nurses of
deceased kings in the after-life. Temples had special chapels for the
Two Mistresses: on the east, the serpent Goddess brought the sun to
birth; on the west, the vulture Goddess daily ordained his death. 6
Sometimes both Goddesses appeared as vultures on the sacred mount
of Sehseh, where the deceased pharaoh became an eternal infant at
their breasts. 7
Egypt's oldest oracle was the shrine of the vulture goddess Nekh-
bet at Nekhen (modern Al-Kab), the original "necropolis" or city of
the dead. Because it was a birth shrine as well as a death shrine, Greeks
called it Ilithyiaspolis after their own Great Mother of childbirth,
Aphrodite Ilithyia. 8 Romans called it Civitas Lucinae, the city of Juno
Lucina, Goddess of childbirth. 9
Egypt's symbol for "grandmother" was the vulture goddess bear-
ing a flail of authority: a totemic form of the pre-dynastic clan
matriarch. 10 The word "mother" was written in hieroglyphics with the
sign of the vulture. 11 Nekhbet the Vulture once ruled all of Upper
Egypt, wearing the white crown in token of sovereignty. As Isis, she
appeared in vulture form on mummy-pillows, crowned with a vulture
skin and bearing in each claw the ankh or Cross of Life. 12 As a vulture
she devoured her dead consort Osiris, just as Kali devoured her dead
Shiva. 13 Then she reincarnated him in her body, and gave him rebirth
as a new Holy Child, Horus.
Osiris was dismembered, which was the funerary custom of primi-
tive Egypt, dating from a remote time when the dead probably were
eaten, after the manner of primitive Greece's omophagia. Funerary
magic lay in the hands of dancing priestesses called muu, "mothers,"
who may have worn costumes of vulture feathers to represent "eaters"
and, like Isis, reconstitute the dead in their own bodies. The Book of
Ani said the first gate of the uterine underworld was guarded by the
vulture Goddess, whose tearing beak could admit the dead to the
place whence they rose again. 14
The vulture-mother was known also in northern Europe and Asia.
Valkyries were "corpse-eaters" to the Saxons and often took the form
of carrion-eating birds such as crows or ravens. In Siberia, each shaman
had a "Bird-of-Prey Mother" who appeared twice in his life, at his
spiritual death-and-rebirth like the Dove-mother appearing at Jesus's
baptismal ceremony and again at his physical death. This spirit-
mother was a large carrion bird "with an iron beak, hooked claws, and a
long tail." 15
Funerary priestesses came to be called "dirty" in classic myths, as
they appear in the tale of the vulture-feathered Harpies. However, Vulture
the ancient claim that all vultures are female was believed well into the
Christian era. Church fathers cited, in defense of the Virgin Birth, ^ ^ m M
the "fact" that vultures conceived their eggs only because they were
fertilized by spirits of the wind. 16
l.Budge,G.E.2,372. 2. de Riencourt, 24. 3. La/misve, 31 1,314. 4. Herodotus, 56.
5. Lamusse, 34. 6. Budge, G.E. 1, 440. 7. Neumann, A.C.U., 13; Erman, 9.
8. Book of the Dead. 493. 9. Budge, G.E. 1 , 438. 1 0. Budge, G.E. 1 , 286.
11. Neumann, A.C.U., 12. 12. Bcx>k of the Dead, 623. 13.Hays,257.
14. B<x,k of the Dead, 272, 289. 1 5. Eliade, S., 36. 16. Neumann, A.C.U., 65.
W X Y Z
yama, Hindu Lord of
Death, with his spiri-
tual side, Yami. He peers
into his karmic mirror
to espy the victims' good
and evil deeds before
butchering them. Tibet;
Matthew Hopkins, self-
appointed scourge of
witchcraft, wrote The
Discovery of Witches
in 1647 and used this
himself with two witches
and their familiar
zeus was Father of
Heaven, but he did not
create human life nor
dispense the laws of the
universe. He could
only send lightning and
rain to fructify Moth-
er Earth and let her
bring forth life. This
detail is from a statue of
the god in his Roman
aspect, Jove; now in the
var. Saint Walburga
Christianization of the pagan Goddess of Walpurgisnacht (May
Eve), the orgiastic festival of the springtime sacred marriage. Walpurga
was the May Queen whose cult remained so popular in Germany
that the church had to adopt her in its usual way, by a spurious
canonization. According to the canonical legend, she was an English-
woman who became supreme abbess of the double monastery of
Heidenheim during the 8th century; but there were no contemporary
records of the time when this "abbess" was supposed to have lived and
In the 8th century, however, double monasteries largely perpetuat-
ed the pagan traditions of the "colleges" of priests and priestesses
living together under a female ruler, and apparently carrying on the
ancient sex rites under a thin veil of Christian-pagan syncretism. 2
(See Convent.) The name of Walpurga's monastery means literally
"home of heathens."
The medieval church produced and sold vast quantities of an
allegedly miraculous Oil of St. Walpurga, which exuded so it was
claimed from the holy rock under which the saint's bones lay, and
which was highly recommended for the purpose of healing many
kinds of diseases. 3
The saint's day was transferred from May Eve to February,
possibly in an attempt to discourage the Walpurgisnacht revels; but
"witches" celebrated the original date of the marriage-festival anyway,
in honor of Walpurga. Therefore the church had to claim that May
Eve commemorated the transfer of St. Walpurga's relics to Eichstatt so
the processions and dances and songs would seem to be associated
with the progress of a revered reliquary. 4 May Eve, however, remained
a prime festival of witches throughout all Europe.
1. Attwater, 339. 2. Encyc. Brit, "Women in Religious Orders." 3. Wilkins, 61.
4. Attwater, 339.
A primary patriarchal contribution to culture, almost entirely absent
from the matriarchal societies of the Neolithic and early Bronze Ages. 1
Even when Goddess-worship was beginning to give way to cults of
aggressive gods, for a long time the appearance of the Goddess imposed
peace on all hostile groups. Among Germanic tribes in Europe,
Tacitus said, whenever the Goddess moved in her chariot at certain
seasons to certain sacred places, the people "do not go to battle or
wear arms; every weapon is under lock; peace and quiet are known and
welcomed." 2 In later centuries, one of the reasons for the devaluation
of women in feudal Europe was that the feudal system was based on
war, in which women played no part except as victims. 3
Patriarchal gods tended to be warlike from their inception
including, or even particularly, the Judeo-Christian God. Stanton
observed that the Old Testament's account of God's nature, purpose,
and activities on behalf of his Chosen People boils down to "a long
painful record of war, corruption, rapine, and lust. Why Christians who
wished to convert the heathen to our religion should send them these
books, passes all understanding." 4
But Christianity was never a pacifist religion. The church placed
warfare in its armory of persecution as soon as its political power
made this possible. Pope Innocent I (d. 417) proclaimed that God gave
the church the right to kill, and permitted papal armies to employ the
sword "for the punishment of the guilty," which meant massacre of the
nonorthodox. 5 The warfare of Christian sect against Christian sect
was unremitting, so that pagan observers said Christians behaved toward
each other with the ferocity of wild beasts. 6 These trends continued
throughout the Christian era, under the headings of holy wars, crusades,
conquests, and conversions by the sword. All-male Christianity was
disseminated by violence. 7
Meanwhile, with the decline of their religious power and the
obliteration of their Goddess, women helplessly disapproved, as many
do today. An American black woman recently said:
/ don 't think a few should control everything. I don 't think it's right that
women lay down and bear sons and then you have a few rich people
that tell your sons they have to go and die for their country. They're not
dying for their country. They're dying for the few to stay on top. I don 't
think that's necessary. I'm just tired of this type of thing. I just think we
ought to be just human. s
In contrast to these sentiments, there was a more masculine
opinion published in Marinetti's "manifesto of futurism" in the follow-
ing terms: "we want to extol the love of danger. . . . There is no
beauty apart from conflict. There are no masterpieces without aggres-
sion. . . . We want to extol war the world's only hygiene
militarism, patriotism, the anarchist's destructive gesture, the glorious,
death-giving ideas and contempt for women!" 9
Some women accepted the contempt and tamely submitted to the
God and the man who extolled war, even giving up their children
without protest, like housewife Jesusita Novarro:
I pray a lot. I pray to God to give me strength. If He should take a child
away from me, to have the strength to accept it. It's His kid. He just
borrowed him to me. . . .
These kids don 't ask to be born these kids are gonna grow up and
give their lives one day. . . . There will always be war. Why? I really
don 't know. Nobody has ever told me. . . . I wish I knew. I guess the big
shots decided the war. ,0
More articulate women have spoken out against the "big shots"
who seem to leave the life-affirming interests of women out of their
plans for the future, calling their power-mania gynocidal and therefore
Italian founder of the
literary Futurist move-
ment; supporter of
as a "mystic of
genocidal. 11 It is often implied that only women can take on the
responsibility of defying the war machines, to save their children; but
again women are placed in a no-win situation when they have no
power to enforce their defiance.
With the advance of technological civilization, as everyone
knows, wars have become deadlier than ever, as if the mind of man
becomes less "civilized" as his tools become more so. Some have
doubted that man is capable of constructing a stable, peaceful world.
Becker remarked, "It seems that the experiment of man may well
prove to be an evolutionary dead end, an impossible animal." n Jules
Is there nothing in life in an achieving culture but constant war war
against the outside as the fullest expression of the drive, and war on the
inside to contain and transform it? The grisly history of achieving cultures
does not permit anything but the affirmation: No, there is nothing
more. Though the inner and the outer war continue, the outer has so far
been most successful, and the history of the achievement drive shows
that Homo sapiens has been dying of success and will probably fail as a
species because of it. n
Teilhard de Chardin wondered whether some historical error
might have brought man to a wrong turning in the path of progress, so
that violence of the modern world betrays "a certain excess, inexpli-
cable to our reason, as if to the normal effect of evolution is added the
extraordinary effect of some catastrophe or primordial deviation." H It
is not difficult to find such a deviation in the contrast between "matrist"
and "patrist" societies, especially in their respective valuations of
elemental caring behavior.
The fundamental problem of mankind is to develop a culture where the
needs of the individual are always complementary to those around him;
a culture in which a child is not slapped for crying; a culture in which
sorrow always is met by the complementary need to be compassionate;
where fear is always met by the complementary need in others to give
reassurance; where the need to be loved is met by a need to give love in
the way it is wanted, at the time it is wanted and as much as it is wanted.
This is not an American view, for the American makes conflict into a
god; and although sociology swells its chest with a thousand "conflict
theories, "it has none on compassion. . . . Life without conflict seems
stale to the American elites; and compassion, which is a low-paid motiva-
tion, has been relegated to the fringes of the low-paid segments of the
culture, and has never been a subject for research. ,s
The highest-paid pursuits of the modern age tend to exploit
violence either directly or in symbol, as Arthur Miller observed:
There is violence because we have daily honored violence. Any half-
educated man in a good suit can make his fortune by concocting a
television show whose brutality is photographed in sufficiently monstrous
detail. Who produces these shows, who pays to sponsor, who is
honored for acting in them? Are these people delinquent psychopaths
slinking along tenement streets? No, they are the pillars of society, our War
honored men, our exemplars of success and social attainment. We must
begin to feel the shame and contrition we have earned before we can ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
begin to sensibly construct a peaceful society, let alone a peaceful world. A
country where people cannot walk safely in their own streets has not
earned the right to tell any other people how to govern itself, let alone to
bomb and burn that people. 16
Some observers of the modern scene fear that the symbolism of
violence, so prevalent in what passes for "entertainment" in our
aggressive society, will actually create its social counterpart because of
man's propensity to model his behavior on symbolic forms. Mumford
Power and order, pushed to their final limit, lead to their self-destructive
inversion: disorganization, violence, mental aberration, subjective
chaos. This tendency is already expressed in America through the motion
picture, the television screen, and children 's comic books. These forms
of amusement are all increasingly committed to enactments of cold-
blooded brutality and physical violence: pedagogical preparations for
the practical use of homicide and genocide. . . . Was it not in the country
most disciplined by militarism, absolutism, and physical science that
systematic torture in the form of "scientific experiments" was undertaken?
Did not Germany produce the nauseating horrors of the extermination
camps? In the combination of cold scientific rationalism with criminal
irrationalism the fatal poison produced its equally fatal antidote. ' 7
The rise of Hitler's Germany provides an interesting case in
point, showing a nation swept by militaristic sentiment coupled with a
sense of divine mission. The churches accepted Hitler's warmonger-
ing with religious joy. In April 1937, a Christian organization in the
Rhineland passed a resolution that Hitler's word was the law of God
and possessed "divine authority." Reichsminister for Church Affairs
Hans Kerrl announced: "There has arisen a new authority as to what
Christ and Christianity really are that is Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler
is the true Holy Ghost." 18 And so the pious gave him their blessing, and
the churches gave him God's. "Organized religion has always man-
aged to provide prayers and thanks for victories in bloody wars. ... In
more recent history, is there any evidence that organized religion
anywhere did anything but bless the battlers on both sides?" 19
In fact, Nazism was not the creation of Hitler alone, nor even of
Germany alone. The Nazi myth of "pure Aryanism" began not with
a German but with a Frenchman, Comte de Gobineau, who claimed in
1853 that the divinely chosen Master Race, of Teutonic stock, had
been defiled by admixtures of inferior, swarthy peoples: Latins, Ne-
groes, Semites. Teutons would "naturally" rule the world once these
inferior strains were purged from their Aryan bloodlines.
Germans founded Gobineau societies all over their country, and
developed a new nationalistic pride out of the myth of the Teutonic
Ubermensch. The myth was further elaborated by an Englishman,
H. S. Chamberlain, who wrote The Foundation of the Nineteenth
Century in 1899, giving a "scientific" rationale for the awful conse-
quences of racial mixture, especially the contamination of "exalted
Aryans" by Semitic blood. Chamberlain married Wagner's daughter
Eva, and became a German citizen. Kaiser Wilhelm praised him, and
called Chamberlain's book his favorite reading. Clearly, it was also a
favorite of Hitler's.
The Gobineau-Chamberlain-Hitler theory of the Ubermensch
shows one of the most common underlying causes of war: man's
propensity to view himself and his own group as superior to others, who
therefore deserve destruction because they are substandard. Once the
propaganda machine begins to work, there is no limit to the depravity it
can impute to the enemy not wholly without reason, for war
corrupts everyone including one's own troops, though this fact is
invariably overlooked. War is an outstanding example of the We-
They syndrome: the Saved versus the Damned, the Chosen People
versus the heathen, God's champions against the forces of evil (even
when God is on both sides). Hitler succeeded brilliantly in convincing
his followers that his political enemies were subhumans (Untermens-
chen), therefore it was only reasonable to exterminate them. 20
In a sense this indoctrination can extend even to the enemy's
homeland, which can be seen as a non-country whereas according
to the patriotic ideal one's own country is the most superior spot on
Mother Earth's body, the essential cunnus as primitives believed, a
paradise on earth. Such maternal symbolism has even been used to good
effect in developing desirable sentiments of aggression in wartime, as
shown by the writing of a California superintendent of schools:
The good citizen stands in relation to his country as the good son to his
He obeys her because she is his elder, because she conjoins within
herself the vision of many, and because he owes to her his begetting
and his nurturing.
He honors her above all others, placing her in a special niche within
his secret heart, in front of which the candles of respect and admiration
are forever kept alight.
He defends her against all enemies, and counts his life well lost in
her behalf 21
Such utilization of the powerful Mother-symbol on behalf of
militarism tends to conceal the real aggressors from their real victims. As
women seem to know almost instinctively, the former are the "big
shots" mature men in positions of power. The latter are the younger,
handsomer, more virile rivals the sons who can be made obedient
soldiers and sent off to be destroyed, which may defuse the Oedipal
jealousy. In effect, war is a gentlemen's agreement between the
authority figures on both sides that they will kill off each other's youths,
and even win social approval or adulation for doing so. 22
Patriarchal males have always shown hostility to the young, who War
divert the attention of females, either as mates or mothers. In the
west, male aggression against the young is sometimes projected onto ^^^mm^^ma^^m
women: for example, accusing women of murder in the case of
abortion, or of crime in the case of birth control. Both these measures
tended to diminish the patriarchs' supply of cannon fodder. Margaret
Sanger thought women could end war by "cutting off the surplus
people. Of course military states always clamor for more children,
first to defend the Fatherland, and when the population soars, to
conquer more territory for the added millions." 23 But the goals of a
militaristic state would not be served by women who deliberately denied
it the necessary population base; the state wanted quantity, not
Religion of the patriarchal sort was, and is, always on the side of
the patriarchs. Vetter says, "There is little to choose between the
head-hunting which keeps down the number of people to be supported
by the game produced in a given area, and the periodic wholesale
slaughter engaged in by 'civilized' peoples in their battles for the control
of equally vital economic resources, and for which slaughters the
blessings of our religions have never failed to be forthcoming." 24
Wars are begun by elite males and carried out by those of lower
status, while priesthoods bless the effort. "It is a fair estimate that 100
million people have been killed by war since 1900. Responsibility for
this mass slaughter rests directly upon the male members of the
species." 25 Yet war is never reasonable, as males imagine their actions to
be. "Destruction of the world by a small group of white men in order
to achieve more wealth than they can ever possibly use does not make
sense. We are talking here about a drive for power, a need for
domination that must be examined. ... In squelching female energy,
patriarchy creates a culture that is destructive and death-oriented." 26
Today "we see the threat of nuclear annihilation more serious than ever
after two decades of disarmament efforts. We realize that science and
technology cannot save us, at least not as currently administered by
men. The design for disaster we currently face was not planned by
In the Tantric morality which probably was planned by women, at
least in part, war is entirely unacceptable. The adept may not
participate in fighting or in the manufacture of weapons; he must not
glorify soldiers' bravery, nor praise killing in a hunt or a battle. These
"constitute a worse form of murder since they incite others to do it, thus
harming their spiritual growth." 28 With modern films and television
still trying to glorify violence, it seems the Tantric sages had already
achieved a deeper understanding of human nature than those of our
"enlightened" modern world.
l.Fromm, 158. 2. Tacitus, 728. 3.J.B.Russell,281. 4. Stanton, 66. 5. Bullough, 122.
6. Gibbon 1, 719-22. 7. Campbell, CM., 390; Reinach, 295. 8. Terkel, 461.
9 Wolff, 258. 10. Terkel, 402. 11. Daly, 184. 12. Becker, E.E., 153. 13. Henry, 348.
Waste Land H JA Harris 2 24. 15. Henry, 197. 16. T.A. Harris, 262. 17. Mumford, 385.
18^Langer,63. ' 19. Vetter, 513. 20. Fromm, 121. 21. T.A. Harris, 246. 22.Fromm, 178.
23' E. Douglas, 137. 24. Vetter, 485. 25. Lewis, xiii. 26. Spretnak,401.
^mmmmhmmm 27. Boulding, 76 1 . 28. Tatz & Kent, 3 1 .
The recurrent threatening theme of medieval romances was the
Waste Land motif, especially in the Holy Grail cycle. Like the Grail
legends themselves," the Waste Land motif probably came from the
Middle East, where European travelers and crusaders had seen a true
Waste Land: the great desert which eastern mystics attributed to
Islam's renunciation of the fertile Great Mother. Western pagans also
maintained that if the Mother should be offended or neglected, she
might curse the land with the same desperate barrenness that could be
seen in Arabia Deserta and north Africa. (See Grail, Holy.)
One of the Grail stories said a king of England (Logres) once
committed a mortal sin by raping one of the Goddess's priestesses
and stealing her golden cup, symbol of her love, which must not be
stolen but only given. Afterward, priestesses of the sacred springs no
longer welcomed wayfarers with food and drink. 1 The Peace of the
Goddess was destroyed, for the women no longer trusted men. "The
land went to waste. The trees lost their leaves, grass and flowers
withered, and the water receded more and more. ... [A] wrong
against a feminine being and a plundering of nature were perpetrated. . . .
[T]he origin of the trouble was looked upon as an offense committed
against the fairy world, i.e., actually against nature. . . . The growth of
masculine consciousness and of the patriarchal logos principle of the
Christian outlook are concerned in no small measure with this
The Goddess appeared in several myths of the Grail cycle as a
great lady disinherited, or a queen robbed of her possessions and
reduced to penury, like La Reine de la Terre Gaste (Queen of the
Waste Land) in the Cistercian romance of the Queste del Saint Graal}
Many tales speak of groups of women deprived of their former property
rights and gathered together in "castles of damsels," under three rulers
personifying the Goddess: a queen, her daughter, and her
Hoping to keep their enemies at bay by magic spells, the woman
waited for a champion to defend their cause, as the Grail knights were
supposed to do. The queen employed a certain learned astronomer
whose wizardry kept away from the castle any knight likely to fail
through cowardice, envy, greed, or any other weakness of character.
The ladies waited for the coming of their savior, the Desired Knight,
perfect in his honesty and bravery: one who could destroy all their
enemies and restore their lands and possessions, which had been taken
from them by various robber barons. "Orphaned maidens," deprived of
their inheritance by new patrilineal laws, also took refuge in such castles Waste Land
of women; so did older widows who were no longer permitted to inherit
property as under the former laws of mother-right. 4 m ^^^ mt ^ m ^^^ mm
Legends of the coming of the Desired Knight may have been
promulgated by women, or by bards seeking to please women with a
favorite theme. But there was more than this to the image of the Waste
Land. It haunted a society in which, "Under the autocratic regime of
persecuting Christianity during the Middle Ages of Europe, Christian
dogma was indeed accepted nominally by great intellects, but it was
accepted under duress and with a reservation. . . . The men of highest
intellect were compelled to express the faith that was in them in the
most guarded language." 5 Often, the language was symbolism the
most guarded of all, since its true meaning could always be denied. The
symbolic Waste Land was "a landscape of spiritual death," where
religious concepts were dissociated from the feelings and life experi-
ences of ordinary people, and imposed upon a confused, reluctant
public only by authoritarian indoctrination. 6
This could well describe Europe in the 1 2th century, when the
coming of the Desired Knight was vaguely identified with the second
coming of Christ or Merlin, Arthur, Frederick, etc. Many oppressed
people despairingly yearned for a powerful hero to defy the oppressors
on their behalf. The Waste Land theme invoked the collective fear of
every agricultural society since the Stone Age: the fear that Mother
Earth's cyclic miracle of food production might fail. But it meant more
than that. It also stood for collective devitalization and depression in a
society perceived by its members as lacking spiritual roots.
A famous modern application of the Waste Land theme is, of
course, T.S. Eliot's poem, based not only on western applications of
Grail symbolism but also on the Hindu tale of the hopeless quest for the
true Word of Power, as recounted in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
The Hindu version ran like this:
Gods, men, and demons went to Shiva-Prajapati in the guise of
Lord of Thunder, to find out from him the ultimate word that is, the
word signifying the goal and end of all things, as Om signified their
beginning. But the Thunder, being thunder, was not able to say any
word except one: Da.
Men, hearing this word, thought it meant datta, meaning "give" or
"fertilize," because begetting was the only divine thing they could do,
and charitable giving was the only way they knew to seek blessedness.
Demons, hearing this word, thought it meant dayadhvam, meaning
"sympathize" or "be compassionate"; in the Oriental context demons
were not evil spirits but deities of the old matriarchal religion, who
preached karuna, mother-love. Gods, hearing this word, thought it
meant damyata, meaning "control," the secret of their success; by self-
control they became divine, and by divinity they achieved power to
control all the others.
But the Lord of Thunder couldn't distinguish one word from
Water another. He only repeated mindlessly the only word he knew: "Da! Da!
Weird Sisters Da!" 7
1 Spence 138. 2. Jung & von Franz, 202, 204. 3. Campbell, CM., 543.
^^^"^^^^ i. Jung &'von Franz, 229. 5. Shirley, 3 1-32. 6. Campbell, CM., 5-6, 373, 388.
7. Upanishads, 112.
First of the elements, according to the philosophers of ancient
Miletus; the Arche, mother of all things. 1 Water gave birth to "spirit,"
supposedly a male principle; hence the idea of baptismal rebirth that
Christians copied from the pagans involved both water (feminine) and
spirit (masculine). The baptismal font was described as a "womb,"
specifically the womb of Mary, whose name was that of all the ancient
Sea-goddesses. 2 Most myths placed the primary impulse of creation
in a watery womb of chaos or "formlessness" representing the Great
Mother (Tiamat, Kali, Ma-Nu, Themis, etc.), an image really drawn
from the lack of differentiation between self and other or self and
mother experienced by the infant in the womb and subconsciously
remembered throughout life as an archetypal image. The Mother-letter
M (Ma) was an ideogram for waves of water.
"Students of mythology find that when the feminine principle is
subjected to sustained attack, as it was from the medieval Christian
authorities, it often quietly submerges. Under the water (where organic
life began) it swims through the subconscious of the dominant male
society, occasionally bobbing to the surface to offer a glimpse of the
rejected harmony." 3
Correspondence between "water" and "mother" was so universal
even in the Middle Ages, when the maternal principle was theoreti-
cally squelched, that the Hermetic magicians and other "philosophers"
claimed souls were created not by God, but by the maternal earth and
maternal waters. 4 Goddess-shrines were nearly always associated with
wells, springs, lakes, or seas. 5 The Lady of the Lake was identical with
Minne/Aphrodite, the Minnesingers' Goddess of Love, who appeared
as a mermaid and was assumed to have a "nature of water." Often,
water was a metaphor for love itself. Like water, love stayed with the
man who held it loosely, as in an open, cupped hand; but the man
who tried to grip it hard, in his fist, found that it flowed away and left
him gripping nothing. And water, like love, was essential to the life-
forces of fertility and creativity, without which the psychic world as well
as the material world would become an arid desert, the Waste Land.
1. Campbell, P.M., 64. 2. Neumann, CM., 31 1. 3. Dames, 152-53.
4. Agrippa, 43, 49. 5. Dames, 1 54.
The three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth were called Weird
Sisters after the three Fates, or Norns, corresponding to the Greek
Moerae and the Celtic Morrigan; that is, the Triple Goddess of past, Wells
present, and future. Weird was a Saxon name of the death-goddess or
Crone, who often stood for the whole trinity. Her name was variously ^^^^^^^^^^^^
given as Wyrd, or Wurd, or Urd, meaning both "Earth" and the Word
of Fate's immutable law. 1 As Beowulf said, "Every man in this life
will go lay him down on the bed where Wyrd has decided to nail him." 2
This passage from an early Saxon romance might throw light on
the eastern yogi's celebrated bed of nails, symbol of his submission to
the Goddess. Devotion to the Fates and their decrees often brought
forth a "passionate surrender" in both eastern and western mystics:
"This eagerness to submit to divine Fate inspired certain souls in days of
old with feelings so fervent as to recall the rapture of Christian
devotion, which burns to subject itself to the will of God." 3 Fate was
karma, a concept virtually identical with that of Weird.
Beowulf was written in a pagan era, but it received later Christian
additions. For instance, Beowulf said once that the Goddess Wyrd
would determine the outcome of his battle; then he said that God
would. The Triple Goddess was much opposed by churchmen of the
time. A 12th-century Bishop of Exeter scolded his people for inviting
the Three Sisters into the house after a birth, to cast a good destiny
for the newborn, and making offerings to them on a table prepared
"with three knives for the service of the fairies." 4
Nevertheless, the Fairy Godmothers or Weird Sisters continued to
be invited. Four centuries later in Tudor England, they were still
prayed to appear at the cradle of a newborn infant, "for to set to the
babe what shall befall to him." 5
1. Campbell, Oc.M., 485. 2. Goodrich, 18, 32. 3. Cumont, A.R.G.R., 86.
4. Cavendish, P.E., 74, 82. 5. Hazlirt, 379.
Springs, fountains, ponds, wells were always female symbols in
archaic religions, often considered water-passages to the underground
womb, in northern Europe associated with Mother Hel, whose name
also gave rise to "holy" and "healing." Many pagan sacred springs
throughout England received the name of Helen's Well during
Christian times, and churchmen claimed all these wells were named
after Empress Helena, Constantine's sainted mother. But the real
"Helen" was Hel, or Dame Holle, whose water-womb was called the
source of all the children on earth. 1
There were also many wells named after the Goddesses Morgan
and Brigit. Coventina, "Mother of the Covens," was associated with
healing wells. Margaret, a traditional witch name, also designated wells
and springs. Lancashire legend speaks of a statue called Peg o' the
Well beside a formerly holy spring in Ribblesdale, said to claim a human
sacrifice every seven years. 2 Ecclesiastical canons of the 10th century
expressly forbade "well-worshippings," but they continued
The Danish poem Water of Life drew on the pagan tradition of
resurrection through the Mother-symbol of a sacred well called
Hileva (Hel-Eve). With this magic water, a divine queen put her
dismembered lover back together and made him live again, as Isis did
for Osiris. 4 The grotto and fountain of Lourdes once had a similar
pagan tradition, now revamped to the service of the church.
In 1770 a curate of Brpmlield forbade pagan ceremonies, wakes,
and fairs at a spring calle<rHellywell (Hel's Well), to which site the
ceremonies had been moved after they were evicted from the church-
yard at a still earlier date. 5 The ceremonies had been going on for a
very long time. A medieval Life of St. Columba mentioned them in
connection with a fountain-shrine "famous among this heathen
people, which foolish men, blinded by the devil, worshipped as a
1. Rank, 73. 2. Phillips, 1 12, 160. 3. M. Harrison, 143. 4. Steenstrup, 186.
5. Hazlitt, 78. 6. Joyce 1 , 366.
traveler and geographer
of the 2nd century
a.d. Living in a time of
declining culture, he
was inspired by a desire
to describe the an-
cient sacred sites for
Belief in the werewolf, or "spirit-wolf," probably began with early-
medieval wolf clans who worshipped their totemic gods in wolf form, as
did some people of the Greco-Roman world centuries earlier. Zeus
Lycaeus, or Lycaeon, was a Pelasgian wolf-king who reigned in a nine-
year cycle as spouse of the Ninefold Goddess, Nonacris. 1 Virgil said
the first werewolf was Moeris, spouse of the trinitarian Fate-goddess
(Moera), from whom he learned secrets of magic, including the
necromantic knack of calling up the dead from their tombs. 2
Lycanthropy (werewolfism) was named for Apollo Lycaeus,
"Wolfish Apollo," who used to be worshipped in the famous Ly-
ceum or "Wolf-temple" where Socrates taught. 3 Apollo was mated to
Artemis as a divine Wolf Bitch at Troezen, where she purified
Orestes with the blood of nine sacrificial victims. 4 Pausanias said Apollo
was originally an Egyptian deity, deriving his name from Up-Uat
(Ap-ol), a very ancient name of Anubis. 5 (See Dog.)
Another Roman version of the wolf god was Dis Pater, Soranus, or
Feronius, consort of the Sabine underground Goddess Feronia,
"Mother of Wolves." A certain Roman family claimed descent from
her Sabine priestesses, and annually demonstrated her power by
walking barefoot over glowing coals during the festival of the Feronia. 6
She was also identified with Lupa the She- Wolf, whose spirit purified
Palatine towns through the agency of young men in wolfskins,
consecrated by participating in the Lupercalia or Festival of the She-
The She- Wolf was another aspect of the Triple Goddess, as
shown by her triadic motherhood. She gave three souls to her son, Werewolf
the legendary King Erulus or Herulus, so that when he was overthrown
by Evander, he had to be killed three times. 8 The Amazons, who ^^^^^^^^^^^
worshipped the Triple Goddess, incorporated a tribe called the Neuri,
who "turned themselves into wolves" for a few days each year during
their main religious festival, presumably by wearing wolf skins and
masks. 9 The same story was told of a certain Irish tribe in Ossory,
who became wolf-people when attending their Yuletide feast, devouring
the flesh of cattle as wolves, and afterward regaining their human
shape. "Giraldus Cambrensis relates this great wonder in detail, as in
operation in his own time, and believed every word of it." 10
The heathens' devotion to ancestral wolf gods in Teutonic Europe
is evinced by the popularity of such names as Wolf, Wulf, Wolfram,
Wolfburg, Aethelwulf, Wolfstein, etc. "Beowulf son of Beowulf," hero
of the Anglo-Saxon epic, was called Scyld by the Danes, who said he
came from the waters in a basket like Romulus and Remus, foster-sons
of the She- Wolf. 11
Irish tribes said their spiritual fathers were wolves, and for that
reason they wore wolf skins and used wolves' teeth for healing
amulets. Celtic folksongs tell of children or wives transformed into
wolves. One whole tribe was said to assume wolf shape very seventh
year. 12 As Germanic "berserkers" could become bears by donning
bearskins, so it was thought people could become wolves by donning
wolf pelts. 1?
In Mercia during the 10th century a.d. there was a revival of
pagan learning under two druidic priests, one of whom was named
Werwulf. 14 This name of "spirit-wolf " seems to have been applied to
opponents of Christianity in general. About 1000 a.d., the word
"werewolf" was taken to mean an outlaw. 15
South Slavs used to pass a newborn child through a wolfskin,
saying it was thus born of the She- Wolf. After their conversion to
Christianity, the people claimed this ceremony would protect the child
from witches. But its real purpose, obviously, was to assimilate the
child to the wolf totem via a second birth from the wolf. 16
Livonians said witches routinely transformed themselves into
wolves by passing through a certain magic pool, another instance of
baptismal rebirth in animal form. 17 Polish legend said a witch could
transform a bride and groom into wolves by laying a girdle of human
skin across the threshold at their wedding feast. Later they would
receive dresses of fur and would regain their human shape at will. 18
Against such totemic ceremonies the 7th-century Council of Toledo
issued severe denunciations of people who put on the heads of beasts,
or "make themselves into wild animals." 19
Italian peasants still say a man who sleeps outdoors on Friday
under a full moon will be attacked by a werewolf, or will become one
himself. Friday was the night of the Goddess, and the warning against
her lunar influence probably dated back to the myth of Endymion
The werewolf was
known to every Indo-
Danish var-ulf, Gothic
vaira-ulf, Old Nor-
man wargus, Servian
vlkodhk, Russian waw-
loup-garou, Italian lupo
from volkhvi, a title of
the shamans who
held important positions
in tribal life before
are German Volk,
"people," and Russian
indicating that were-
wolves were people:
totemic healers in wolf
masks. 24 Similar
"medicine men" are
still found among all
("Seduced Moon-Man"), who fell asleep on her holy moon-mountain
and became her enchanted bridegroom, never to wake up again, so
the Goddess could shower her kisses on him each night. 20
Another story traceable to wolf-clan traditions was "Little Red
Riding Hood." The giveaway details are the red garment, the
offering of food to a "grandmother" in the deep woods a grandmother
who wore a wolfskin and the cannibalistic motif of devouring and
resurrection. In Britain, "a red woven hood" was the distinguishing
mark of a prophetess or priestess. 21 The story's original victim would
have been not the red-clad Virgin but the hunter, as Lord of the Hunt.
Like Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood was part of a Virgin-
Mother-Crone trinity, wearing the same red garment that Virgin Kali
wore; as the red moon of a lunar eclipse she prophesied catastrophe
and inspired much fear. Romanian churchmen declared that the
eclipsed moon was reddened by her own blood, shed when her
wolves attacked her, to "make men repent and turn from evil." 22
The Gaulish Diana had numerous wolf-cultists among her vota-
ries, in both ancient and medieval times. Under her totemic name of
Lupa she was a Mother of wild animals, and certain women seem to
have impersonated her in southern France. A Provencal troubadour
named Pierre Vidal wrote a love poem to a lady of Carcassonne, whose
name was Loba, "She- Wolf ":
When loup-garou the rabble call me,
When vagrant shepherds hoot,
Pursue, and buffet me to boot,
It doth not for a moment gall me,
I seek not palaces nor halls,
Or refuge when the winter falls;
Exposed to winds and frosts at night,
My soul is ravaged with delight.
Me claims my she-wolf so divine;
And justly she that claim prefers,
For, by my troth, my life is hers
More than another's, more than mine. 25
Lovers of the She- Wolf sometimes found her on a holy moun-
tain, which the gypsies called Monte Lupo, Wolf-Mountain. Young
men could learn the secrets of magic by celebrating the sacred
marriage: masturbating over the Goddess's statue and ejecting semen on
it. She would guide and protect them, provided they never again set
foot in a Christian church. 26 Her votaries' shape-shifting followed the
phases of the moon, which was another form of the Goddess herself.
In the 12th century, Gervais of Tilbury noted: "In England we often
see men changed into wolves at the changes of the moon." 27
Sacharow quoted an old Russian charm, to be spoken by one who
wished to invoke the Moon-goddess and become a werewolf:
On the sea, on the ocean, on the island, on Bujan, on the empty pasture
gleams the moon, on an ashstock lying in a green wood, in a gloomy
vale. Toward the stock wandereth a shaggy wolf, horned cattle seeking for Werewolf
his sharp white fangs; but the wolf enters not the forest, but the wolf
dives not into the shadowy vale. Moon, moon, gold-horned moon, check ^^_^^^_^^^^^
the flight of bullets, blunt the hunters' knives, break the shepherds'
cudgels, cast wild fear upon all cattle, on men, on all creeping things, that
they may not catch the gray wolf, that they may not rend his warm
skin! My word is binding, more binding than sleep, more binding than the
promise of a hero. 28
This charm has a ring of peasant magic, suggesting a hungry
poacher hoping to steal some fresh meat from the baron's herds, under
the protection of a wolfskin. Poaching the overlord's cattle or game
was punishable by death, which may account for the cruelty meted out
to those accused of lycanthropy. One captured "werewolf" in France
was so mauled that, a witness said, "he bore hardly any resemblance to a
man, and struck with horror those who looked at him." The inquisi-
tor, Pierre Boguet, explained that terrible injuries were common among
werewolves, due to the many lacerations they suffered while running
through bramble bushes. 29
Another werewolf captured by the Inquisition in 1 598 was "pos-
sessed by a demon" while in prison, which gave him such a thirst that
he drank a large tubful of water, so his belly was "distended and hard."
He refused to eat or drink any more, and soon died. 30 Translating this
official report into its probable reality, one would assume the unlucky
werewolf was subjected to the water torture and died of a ruptured
Another unfortunate werewolf was Peter Stubb of Cologne, tor-
tured until he confessed having transformed himself into a wolf by a
magic girdle given him by the devil. The judges couldn't find the girdle
where Stubb said he hid it, but they explained this by saying it had
"gone to the Devil whence it came, so that it was not to be found."
Though his case was unproved, Stubb was nastily executed for the
crime of lycanthropy: he was sentenced to have the flesh pulled off his
bones in ten places with red-hot pincers, then to have his legs and
arms broken with a wooden axe; finally to be beheaded and burned. 31
Yet another werewolf in 1 541 never even lasted long enough to go
to prison. His captors hacked off his arms and legs, claiming to be
searching for the wolf-hair that he wore on the inside of his skin. The
hair was not found, so the victim was declared innocent of lycan-
thropy which did him little good, as he was already dead. 32
An often-repeated story concerned a lone man attacked at night by
a lone wolf, which he wounded, usually by cutting off a forepaw.
Next day a woman would be found with her hand missing, which
identified her as the werewolf. Such an incident was reported as fact
by Jean de Nynauld in 161 5; the woman in the case was burned alive. 33
The story probably recommended itself to some men as a perfect way
to dispose of a woman they had mistreated, such as a rape victim.
On December 14, 1 598, a tailor of Chalons was sentenced to
death for lycanthropy, having confessed to luring children into his
shop, murdering and eating them. Methods by which these confessions
were extracted from the man can only be guessed, because the judges
ordered the court records burned. In 1 521 at Poligny, three men were
induced by torture to say they had made themselves wolves with a
magic salve given them by the devil, and in wolf shape they had eaten
several children, and enjoyed sexual relations with wild she-wolves. 34
Gilles Gamier was a famous "lycanthrope" caught by the Inquisition,
tortured and executed for having devoured children. The charge was
not murder or cannibalism, but lycanthropy. 35 Whatever was left of the
pagan wolf cults, it seems the Christian church molded the material
into the enduring legend of the werewolf.
1. Graves, W.G., 406. 2. Lawson, 250. 3. Summers, W, 144.
4 Graves, G.M. 1, 201; 2, 66. 5. Baring-Gould, C.M.M.A., 129. 6. Larousse, 210.
7 Wedeck, 174. 8. Dumezil, 244. 9. Herodotus, 244. 10. Joyce, 299. 11. Rank, 63.
12 H Smith, 275. 13. Wedeck, 173. 14. Wainwright, 70. 15. Robbins, 325.
16 J E. Harrison, 131. 17. Scot, 72. 18. Baring-Gould, C.M.M.A., 152-53.
19 H. Smith, 270. 20. Graves, G.M. 1,211. 21. Goodrich, 180. 22. A. Masters, 93.
23 Baring-Gould, W, 48-49. 24.Spinka,9. 25. Baring-Gould, W, 64. 26. Leland, 206.
27. Robbins, 327. 28. Baring-Gould, W., 117. 29. Cohen, N.H.U.T., 49.
30. Baring-Gould, W., 83. 31. Robbins, 490. 32. Cohen, N.H.U.T., 44.
33. Robbins, 326. 34. Robbins, 324, 537. 35. Summers. G.W., 23-24.
A primary Oriental symbol of the Goddess as ruler of Fate was the
karmic wheel, often identified with the wheel of the galaxy, the Milky
Way, or zodiac, circling the outer reaches of the universe around the
Goddess's yoni or omphalos (navel), her earth-centered hub. Tantric
tradition showed the wheel as a mandala centering on the three
totems of the Triple Goddess, the dove (Virgin-Creatress), serpent
(Mother-Preserver), and sow (Crone-Destroyer). 1 This mandala es-
tablished "the six realms of the round of being," the sacred Hexagram.
Celts worshipped the karmic star-wheel as the emblem of Mother
Arianrhod, ancestress of "Aryans." Some said it was a great silver
wheel that dipped into the sea, on which heroes rode to Emania, the
Moon's land of death. 2
In Ethiopia the Goddess's image was placed in the center of a
wheel of flames, like Indian images of Kali. Christian myths depict
the early missionaries' destruction of her idol, which was called an old
woman with the power of the evil eye and with feet "like unto a
wheel of fire." Jesus commanded: "Take this woman of the evil eye,
and make up a fire, and carry her thereto, and throw her into it and
burn her." 3 Her ashes were to be scattered to the wind, for people
believed she might be resurrected from them, like the Phoenix, if
they remained in one place.
Destruction of the Wheel-goddess's image was the probable basis
for the legend of St. Catherine, supposedly martyred on a wheel of
fire, the famous "Catherine Wheel." There was no real St. Catherine,
but there was a Goddess as Dancer of the Fiery Wheel, performing Wheel
Kathakali Kali's "dance of time" at the hub of the universe. The
Kalacakra Tantra (Wheel of Time), which presents this image, is still ^^^^^^^^
the most revered text in India and Tibet, "coming at the head of the
tannic section of the sacred canon." 4 See Catherine.
Catherine was not the only medieval manifestation of the Goddess
of the Wheel of Time, which was also the Wheel of Fortune
manipulated by the trinitarian Mother of Fate, Fortuna. In ancient
Rome she was one of the emanations of Juno Februata, whose
festival was Christianized as St. Valentine's Day. Its symbol was a wheel
of six spokes formed of yonic mandorlas, in the Asiatic manner. 5 The
six spokes remained a sign of Juno well into the Christian era. 6
In the 1 2th century, the Goddess and her wheel appeared in the
Hortus deliciarum (Garden of Delights). Wheel windows of cathe-
drals were connected with her, some showing human figures rising on
one side of the wheel and falling on the other, like the Rota Fortuna
at the center of the Tarot's Major Trumps. "In these cathedral churches
and royal abbeys is Dame Fortune who turns topsy-turvy faster than a
windmill." Honorius of Autun said, "Philosophers tell us of a woman Wheel of Fortune
fastened to a wheel which turns perpetually, so that they say she is
sometimes rising and sometimes falling with its movement. . . . The
woman fastened to the wheel is Fortune, whose head alternately rises
and falls." Here was the real St. Catherine: the Fate-goddess, wor-
shipped by builders who incorporated their own secret symbols into
the churches they built. Hugo pointed out that "Sometimes a porch, a
facade, or a whole church presents a symbolic meaning entirely
foreign to worship, even inimical to the Church." 7
Boethius, a Gnostic philosopher whose writings were too popular
to be ignored, was claimed as a Christian theologian; but his major
work made no mention of Christ. He found his Consolation of
Philosophy in the visitation of his guardian Goddesses, Philosophia
and Fortuna. The latter taught him her doctrine of the karmic wheel: "I
cause a rapid wheel to turn; I love to raise the fallen and abase the
proud. Mount, then, if thou wilt, but on condition that thou dost not
wax indignant when the law that presides at my Games demands that
thou shalt descend." 8
Fortuna, Goddess of the Wheel, may have been derived from a
pre-Roman Vortumna, "She Who Turns the Year." 9 Fate and
Time were always linked in the thought of the ancients. Later Roman
writers tried to masculinize this Goddess as a seasonal god, Vertum-
nus; but they gave away "his" original character by saying he appeared
in the guise of an old woman. The Goddess was worshipped in both
beneficent and maleficent aspects as Bona Fortuna or Mala Fortuna,
represented in her temple on the Esquiline as an All-Seeing Eye in
the form of a wheel. 10
As Fortuna Primigeneia, the Goddess of the Wheel was called the
firstborn of the primal Mother Juno, and revered as the Virgin "who
bestows on her worshippers every grace of body and every beauty of
soul." n She was identified with the Mazdean "Glory." From her, as
the Fortuna Augusti, Caesars drew their divine right to rule.
Her fiery wheel was associated with kingship in a more primitive,
direct way during the early Bronze Age, when sacred kings died
within the wheel of rebirth, as shown by the legend of Ixion, a ruler of
the Thessalian Lapiths. 12 Ixion was killed at the end of his term of
office, when he was rolled downhill, fastened inside a fiery wheel that
signified the sun. This sacred-king figure might be compared with the
Norse deity Kris Kringle, a "Christ of the Wheel," personifying the
dying and reborn sun of the winter solstice hence his later connec-
tion with Christmas, even identification with Santa Claus. 13
Northern Europeans believed the mystic wheels of existence
stopped turning at the crucial transition from one year to the next,
during the darkest days of winter, when the sun came to its nadir. At this
time, during the season of Yule, all rotating motions were taboo. Cart
wheels were not allowed to roll; butter could not be churned. 14 Yet at
the winter solstice and its corresponding point at the other side of the
rolling year, Midsummer Eve, fiery fate-wheels were set rolling from
British hilltops as late as the 19th century. "The Pagan rites of this
festival at the summer solstice, may be considered as a counterpart of
those used at the winter solstice at Yule-tide. . . . [T]he people imag-
ine that all their ill-luck rolls away from them together with this
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, a 6th-century Christian mystic
who pretended to be a lst-century bishop of Athens and was believed
authentic for many centuries, declared that the class of angels called
Thrones were really Wheels, having the name of Gel, "which in the
Hebrew tongue signifies revolutions and revelations." 16 This image was
Oriental, drawn from the vision of eastern temples as gigantic world-
chariots, complete with wheels, in which the god was enthroned. In his
chariot the god participated in the Carnival of Existence, carrying the
world along with all its teeming life forms: animals, plants, mountains,
rivers. Upon identification with the god, the sages said, "He who has
seen his true self looks down upon transmigrating existence as upon a
rolling chariot-wheel." 17
Medieval processions sometimes took a circular form and went
round and round a public square or courtyard, this exhibition being
known as a carrousel, "a wheel of chariots." 18 The inclusion of its
model in the proceedings of carnivals and fairs bears out the probabil-
ity of its pagan origin, for most of the traditional trappings of fairs were
left over from the Old Religion, including the wheel of Fortune.
The very name of the Carnival came from old festivals of the
Goddess Carna, mother of "re-in-Carnations," the same cycles
controlled by Kali's wheel of karma. The roulette or "little wheel"
evolved from the eastern prayer wheel. Its spirit was not only Dame
Fortune, but also Lady Luck, from Sanskrit Loka, a Divine Midwife
guarding one of the planetary spheres or "ascending light planes of Whisper
experience." 19 Whistling
Another carnival manifestation of the wheel was the Ferris Wheel, ^^^^^^^^^^^
a form of the Fairies' Wheel, descended from the Celtic Wheel of
Arianrhod. Riders of the Wheel represented pre-Christian "fairy folk"
whose souls were involved in karmic cycles. The Dream of King
Arthur describes a Fairies' Wheel closely resembling the modern Ferris
1. Campbell, CM., 416. 2. Spence, 152-53. 3. Gifford, 57. 4. Tatz & Kent, 1 8.
5. Brewster, 104. 6. Koch, 54. 7. Male, 95-97, 395. 8. Male, 96. 9. Graves, G.M. 1, 126.
lO.Elworthy, 195. 11. Cumont, M.M., 1 1 1. 12. Campbell, CM., 422.
13.Wainwright,245. 14. Oxenstierna, 214. 15. Hazlitt, 346. 16. Hughes, 29.
17. Rawson, AT., 193. 18. Moakley, 44. 19. Avalon, 40. 20. B. Butler, 147.
The ancients believed that ghosts and spirits would speak in whispers.
Having been deprived of flesh, the dead spoke without laryngeal sound.
Nearly all supernatural beings were supposed to be identifiable by
their whisper-voices, even God, according to 1 Kings 19:12 the "still
small voice" of God speaking to Elijah was a mistranslation of a phase
meaning literally "a thin whisper." l
Other biblical parallels are Job 4:16, the same word "whisper"
translated as a still voice; and Isaiah 29:4: "Thy voice shall be as one
that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall
whisper out of the dust." These passages indicate the practice of
ancient "spirit mediums" when purporting to be in communication
with the dead. Impersonating the spirit, they whispered, so the voice
couldn't be identified.
In a medieval German legend, the Triple Goddess presided over a
land of the dead called Wisperthal (Valley of Whispers) centering on
an enchanted Hall of Mirrors perhaps related to the fairy-tale Crystal
Mountain. Three innocent youths once trespassed in the valley, met
various aspects of the Goddess as three beautiful maidens, three terrible
hags, and three black death-ravens. They barely escaped with their
lives from the eerie place and vowed never to return. 2
1. Hoolce, S.P., 57. 2. Guerber, L.R., 219.
An old rhyme says "Whistling girls and crowing hens never come to
any good ends." It was true; women who whistled were suspected of
witchcraft. Whistling was a piece of sympathetic magic used to raise a
wind. Becalmed sailors were allowed to "whistle for the wind," but
whistling women were believed to cause destructive storms. 1 There-
fore it became "unladylike" for girls to whistle.
Counterclockwise, the direction of the moon, or "left-hand path" of
pagan dances (still prevalent in folk tradition). To open the door of a
fairy hill, one must walk around it three times widdershins, as Childe
Rowland did, calling, "Open door!" The same Open Sesame appears in
other ballads: "Thrice went fair Agnes the mountain round, and
entered the cave beneath the ground." l As sacred caves once served as
pagan temples, the medieval church forbade their use and claimed
that walking or turning one's self widdershins was an indicium of
witchcraft. 2 See Left Hand.
1. Wimberly, 363, 367. 2. Robbins, 209, 421 .
Water and willows represented the Goddess Helice, "Willow," virgin
form of Hecate with her willow-withe grain-basket. 1 Willow wands
invoked the Muses, whose mountain was encircled by the Helicon,
"Willow-stream." The Dionysian thyrsus, like the later witch's wand,
was willow. As Dionysus was once a major god of Jerusalem, the
willow figured prominently in municipal ceremonies there. A "Great
Day" of the Feast of Tabernacles was known as the Day of Willows,
with rites honoring fire and water. 2 Willow wands gave protection in the
underworld, where Orpheus carried one to show the way. 3 Willow
wands were sacred to the Moon-goddess as late as the 1 7th century a.d.,
when an English herbal said the moon owns the willow.
Witches used willow bark to treat rheumatism and fevers; it was
the source of salicylic acid (aspirin), one of Hecate's cures. Some said
wicca or "witchcraft" evolved from a word meaning willow, cognate
with "wicker" (willow-withe weaving). Magic cats were supposed to
grow from pussy-willows or "catkins," to become witches' malkins
(familiars): hence the saying that all cats were gray in the beginning.
The catkins were harbingers of spring, appearing on the willow as
graymalkins. (See Cat.)
1. Graves, CM. 1,115. 2. Graves, W.G., 47. 3. Pepper & Wilcock, 57.
There were many other words for witches, such as Incantatrix,
Lamia, Saga, Maga, Malefica, Sortilega, Strix, Venefica. 3 In Italy a
witch was a Strega or Janara, an old title of a priestess of Jana (Juno). 4
English writers called witches both "hags" and "fairies," words which
were once synonymous. 5 Witches had metaphoric titles: bacularia,
"stick-rider"; fascinatrix, "one with the evil eye"; herberia, "one who
gathers herbs"; strix, "screech-owl"; pixidria, "keeper of an ointment-
box"; femina saga, "wise- woman"; lamia, "night-monster"; incantator,
"worker of charms"; magus, "wise-man"; sortiariae mulier, "seeress";
veneficia, "poisoner"; maliarda, "evil-doer." Latin treatises called witch-
es anispex, auguris, divinator, januatica, ligator, mascara, phitonissa,
Dalmatian witches were krstaca, "crossed ones," a derivative of the
Greek Christos. 1 In Holland a witch was wijsseggher, "wise-sayer,"
from which came the English "wiseacre." 8 The biblical passage that
supported centuries of persecution, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to
live" (Exodus 22:18), used the Hebrew word kasaph, translated "witch"
although it means a seer or diviner. 9
Early medieval England had female clan-leaders who exercised
matriarchal rights in lawgiving and law enforcement; the Magna
Carta of Chester called them iudices de wich judges who were
witches. 10 Female elders once had political power among the clans,
but patriarchal religion and law gradually took it away from them and
called them witches in order to dispose of them. In 1711 Addison
observed that "When an old woman begins to doat and grow chargeable
to a Parish, she is generally turned into a witch." u
Scot remarked that the fate of a witch might be directly proportion-
al to her fortune. The pope made saints out of rich witches, but poor
witches were burned. 12 Among many examples tending to support this
opinion was the famous French Chambre Ardente affair, which
involved many members of the aristocracy and the upper-class clergy in
a witch cult. Numerous male and female servants were tortured and
burned for assisting their masters in working witchcraft; but in all the
four years the affair dragged on, no noble person was tortured or
Illogically enough, the authorities persecuted poor, outcast folk as
witches, yet professed to believe witches could provide themselves
with all the wealth anyone could want. Reginald Scot, a disbeliever,
scornfully observed that witches were said to "transfer their neigh-
bors' corn into their own ground, and yet are perpetual beggars, and
cannot enrich themselves, either with money or otherwise: who is so
foolish as to remain longer in doubt of their supernatural powers? " H
Witchcraft brought so little profit to Helen Jenkenson of Northants,
hanged in 1612 for bewitching a child, that the record of her execution
said: "Thus ended this woman her miserable life, after she had lived
many years poor, wretched, scorned and forsaken of the world." 15
The nursery-rhyme stereotype of the witch owed much to Scot's
Women which be commonly old, lame, blear-eyed, pale, foul, and full of
wrinkles; poor, sullen, superstitious, and papists; or such as know no
religion; in whose drowsy minds the devil hath gotten a fine seat; so as,
what mischief, mischance, calamity, or slaughter is brought to pass,
they are easily persuaded the same is done by themselves. . . . They are
"witch" from medi-
eval English wicche,
on wicca, masculine, or
wicce, feminine: a
corruption of witga,
short form of witega,
a seer or diviner; from
to see, to know. Similar-
ly, Icelandic vitki, a
witch, came from vita,
to know; or vizkr,
clever or knowing one.
Wizard came from
Norman French wis-
chard, Old French
guiscart, sagacious one. 1
The surname Whit-
taker came from
Witakarlege, a wiz-
ard or a witch. 2 The
words "wit" and
"wisdom" came from
the same roots.
lean and deformed, showing melancholy in their faces, to the horror of
all that see them. They are doting, scolds, mad, devilish; and not much
differing from them that are thought to be possessed with spirits. ' 6
Persecutors said it was heretical to consider witches harmless.
Even in England, where witches were not burned but hanged, some
authorities fearfully cited the "received opinion" that a witch's body
should be burned to ashes to prevent ill effects arising from her blood. 1 '
Churchmen assured the arresting officers that a witch's power was
lost the instant she was touched by an employee of the Inquisition; but
the employees themselves were not so sure. 18
Numerous stories depict the persecutors' fear of their victims. It
was said in the Black Forest that a witch blew in her executioner's
face, promising him his reward; the next day he was afflicted with a fate
leprosy. Inquisitors' handbooks directed them to wear at all times a
bag of salt consecrated on Palm Sunday; to avoid looking in a witch's
eyes; and to cross themselves constantly in the witches' prison. Peter
of Berne forgot this precaution, and a captive witch by enchantment
made him fall down a flight of stairs which he proved later by
torturing her until she confirmed it. 19
Any unusual ability in a woman instantly raised a charge of
witchcraft. The so-called Witch of Newbury was murdered by a
group of soldiers because she knew how to go "surfing" on the river.
Soldiers of the Earl of Essex saw her doing it, and were "as much
astonished as they could be," seeing that "to and fro she fleeted on the
board standing firm bolt upright . . . turning and winding it which
way she pleased, making it pastime to her, as little thinking who
perceived her tricks, or that she did imagine that they were the last
she ever should show." Most of the soldiers were afraid to touch her,
but a few brave souls ambushed the board-rider as she came to shore,
slashed her head, beat her, and shot her, leaving her "detested carcass fo
the worms." 20
From ruthlessly organized persecutions on the continent, witch-
hunts in England became largely cases of village feuds and petty
spite. If crops failed, horses ran away, cattle sickened, wagons broke,
women miscarried, or butter wouldn't come in the churn, a witch
was always found to blame. Marion Cumlaquoy of Orkney was burned
in 1643 for turning herself three times widdershins, to make her
neighbor's barley crop rot. A tailor's wife was executed for quarrelling
with her neighbor, who afterward saw a snake on his property, and his
children fell sick. One witch was condemned for arguing with a
drunkard in an alehouse. After drinking himself into paroxysms of
vomiting, he accused her of bewitching him, and he was believed. 21
A woman was convicted of witchcraft for having caused a neigh-
bor's lameness by pulling off her stockings. Another was executed
for having admired a neighbor's baby, which afterward fell out of its
cradle and died. Two Glasgow witches were hanged for treating a
sick child, even though the treatment succeeded and the child was
cured. Joan Cason of Kent went to the gallows in 1 586 for having dry
thatch on her roof. Her neighbor, whose child was sick, was told by an
unidentified traveler that the child was bewitched, and it could be
proved by stealing a bit of thatch from the witch's roof and throwing it
on the fire. If it crackled and sparked, witchcraft was assured. The test
came out positive, and the court was satisfied enough to convict poor
Witches were convenient scapegoats for doctors who failed to cure
their patients, for it was the "received" belief that witch-caused
illnesses were incurable. Weyer said, "Ignorant and clumsy physicians
blame all sicknesses which they are unable to cure or which they have
treated wrongly, on witchery." There were also priests and monks who
"claim to understand the healing art and they lie to those who seek
help that their sicknesses are derived from witchery." 23 Most real witch
persecutions reflect "no erotic orgies, no Sabbats or elaborate rituals;
merely the hatreds and spites of narrow peasant life assisted by vicious
Witches provided a focus for sexist hatred in male-dominated
society, as Stanton pointed out:
The spirit of the Church in its contempt for women, as shown in the
Scriptures, in Paul's epistles and the Pentateuch, the hatred of the
fathers, manifested in their ecclesiastical canons, and in the doctrines of
asceticism, celibacy, and witchcraft, destroyed man 's respect for woman
and legalized the burning, drowning, and torturing of women. . . .
Women and their duties became objects of hatred to the Christian
missionaries and of alternate scorn and fear to pious ascetics and
monks. The priestess mother became something impure, associated with
the devil, and her lore an infernal incantation, her very cooking a
brewing of poison, nay, her very existence a source of sin to man. Thus
woman, as mother and priestess, became woman as witch. . . .
Here is the reason why in all the Biblical researches and higher
criticism, the scholars never touch the position of women. 25
Men displayed a lively interest in the physical appearance of
witches, seeking to know how to recognize them as men also craved
rules for recognizing other types of women from their physical
appearance. It was generally agreed that any woman with dissimilar eyes
was a witch. Where most people had dark eyes and swarthy complex-
ions, as in Spain and Italy, pale blue eyes were associated with
witchcraft. Many claimed any woman with red hair was a witch. 26
This may have been because red-haired people are usually freck-
led, and freckles were often identified as "witch marks," as were
moles, warts, birthmarks, pimples, pockmarks, cysts, liver spots, wens, or
any other blemish. Some witch-finders said the mark could resemble
an insect bite or an ulcer. 27
No one ever explained how the witch mark differed from an
ordinary blemish. Since few bodies were unblemished, the search for
the mark seldom failed. Thomas Ady recognized this, and wrote: "Very
Thomas Ady One
of the few 17th-century
English debunkers of
the witchcraft craze; au-
thor of A Perfect
Discovery of Witches
Church British clergy-
man, author of St.
few people in the world are without privy marks upon their bodies, as
moles or stains, even such as witchmongers call the devil's privy
marks." 28 But no one paid attention to this.
Trials were conducted with as much injustice as possible. In 1629
Isobel Young was accused of crippling by magic a man who had
quarrelled with her, and causing a water mill to break down. She
protested that the man was lame before their quarrel, and water mills
can break down through neglect. The prosecutor, Sir Thomas Hope,
threw out her defense on the ground that it was "contrary to the
libel," that is, it contradicted the charge. 29 When a witch is on trial, Scot
said, any "equivocal or doubtful answer is taken for a confession." 30
On the other hand, no answer at all was a confession too.
Witches who refused to speak were condemned: "Witchcraft proved by
silence of the accused." 31 Sometimes mere playfulness "proved"
witchcraft, as in the case of Mary Spencer, accused in 1634 because she
merrily set her bucket rolling downhill and ran before it, calling it to
follow her. 32 Sometimes women were stigmatized as witches when they
were in fact victims of unfair laws, such as the law that accepted any
man's word in court ahead of any number of women's. A butcher in
Germany stole some silver vessels from women, then had them
prosecuted for witchcraft by claiming that he found the vessels in the
woods where the women were attending a witches' sabbat. 33
Sometimes the accusation of witchcraft was a form of punishment
for women who were too vocal about their disillusionment with men
and their preference for living alone. Historical literature has many
references to "the joy with which women after widowhood set up
their own households, and to the vigor with which they resisted being
courted by amorous widowers." 34 The solitary life, however, left a
woman even more vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft, since men
usually thought she must be somehow controlled.
Those who tortured the unfortunate defendant into admitting
witchcraft used a euphemistic language that showed the victim was
condemned a priori. One Anne Marie de Georgel denied making a
devil's pact, until by torture she was "justly forced to give an account
of herself," the record said. Catherine Delort was "forced to confess by
the means we have power to use to make people speak the truth,"
and she was "convicted of all the crimes we suspected her of commit-
ting, although she protested her innocence for a long time." The
inquisitor Nicholas Remy professed a pious astonishment at the great
number of witches who expressed a "positive desire for death,"
pretending not to notice that they had been brought to this desire by
innumerable savage tortures. 35 See Torture.
The extent to which pagan religion, as such, actually survived
among the witches of the 16th and 17th centuries has been much
discussed but never decided. Dean Church said, "Society was a long
time unlearning heathenism; it has not done so yet; but it had hardly
begun, at any rate it was only just beginning, to imagine the possibility
of such a thing in the eleventh century." In 1 5th-century Bohemia it Witchcraft
was still common practice at Christmas and other holidays to make
offerings to "the gods," rather than to God. 35 European villages still ^^^^^^^^^^
had many "wise-women" who acted as priestesses officially or unoffi-
cially. Since church fathers declared Christian priestesses
unthinkable, all functions of the priestess were associated with pagan-
ism. 37 Bishops described pagan gatherings in their dioceses, attended
by "devils ... in the form of men and women." 38 Pagan ceremonies
were allowed to survive in weddings, folk festivals, seasonal rites,
feasts of the dead, and so on. 39 But when women or Goddesses played
the leading role in such ceremonies, there was more determined
suppression. John of Salisbury wrote that it was the devil, "with God's
permission," who sent people to gatherings in honor of the Queen of
the Night, a priestess impersonating the Moon-goddess under the name
of Noctiluca or Herodiade. 40
The Catholic church applied the word "witch" to any woman who
criticized church policies. Women allied with the 14th-century
Reforming Franciscans, some of whom were burned for heresy, were
described as witches, daughters of Judas, and instigated of the Devil. 41
Writers of the Talmud similarly tended to view nearly all women as
witches. They said things like, "Women are naturally inclined to
witchcraft," and "The more women there are, the more witchcraft
there will be." 42
Probably there were few sincere practitioners, compared with the
multitudes who were railroaded into the ecclesiastical courts and
legally murdered despite their innocence. Yet it was obvious to even the
moderately intelligent that Christian society deliberately humiliated
and discriminated against women. Some may have been resentful
enough to become defiant. "Women have had no voice in the canon
law, the catechisms, the church creeds and discipline, and why should
they obey the behests of a strictly masculine religion, that places the
sex at a disadvantage in all life's emergencies?" 43 Possibilities for
expressing their frustration and defiance were severely limited; but
voluntary adoption of the witch's reputation and behavior was surely
among such possibilities.
l.Leland,66. 2. Wainwright, 238. 3. Wedeck, 140. 4. Elworthy, 353. 5. Scot, 550.
6. Robbins, 544. 7. Leland, 66. 8. Funk, 1 16. 9. J.B. Russell, 54. 10. Wainwright, 97.
11. Phillips, 180. 12.Scot,259. 13. Robbins, 84. H.Scot, 405. 15. Rosen, 354.
16. H. Smith, 269; Scot, 5. 17. Summers, V, 81. 18. Robbins, 334.
19. Lea unabridged, 815, 831. 20. Ewen, 251-53. 21. Rosen, 326-28.
22. Rosen, 163-64. 23. Bromberg, 59. 24. Maple, 49. 25. Daly, 69. 26. de Lys, 149.
27. Castiglioni, 243. 28. Robbins, 552. 29. Robbins, 456. 30. Scot, 19.
31.Baroja,202. 32. Holmes, 112. 33. Baroja, 124. 34. Boulding, 554.
35. Baroja, 85-86, 117. 36. Miles, 35, 183. 37. Boulding, 361. 38. Baroja, 64.
39. Miles, 161, 190-91. 40. Baroja, 62. 41. Beard, 277. 42. Baroja, 80. 43. Stanton, 74.
irly in the Middle Ages, almost anything women did could be
described as witchcraft because their daily lives invoked the Goddess
Witchcraft with a thousand small ceremonies as well as the larger ones connect-
ed with major holidays. Martin of Braga said women must be
^^^^^^^^^ condemned for "decorating tables, wearing laurels, taking omens
^^^^^^^"" from footsteps, putting fruit and wine on the log in the hearth, and
bread in the well, what are these but worship of the devil? For
women to call upon Minerva when they spin, and to observe the day of
Venus at weddings and to call upon her whenever they go out upon
the public highway, what is that but worship of the devil?" l
Outside the official religion, where they were kept, women passed
down their private family recipes and charms, curses and blessings,
telling traditional tales of the past and foretelling the future from omens
and "signs." The Dominican Johann Herolt declared: "Most women
belie their catholic faith with charms and spells, after the fashion of Eve
their first mother, who believed the devil speaking through the
serpent rather than God himself. . . . [A]ny woman by herself knows
more of such superstitions and charms than a hundred men." 2
Up to the 1 5th century, women's "charms and spells" were
virtually the only repository of practical medicine. Churchmen avoid-
ed doctoring, on the ground that all sickness came from demonic
possession, and the only permissible cure was exorcism. 3
Europe's traditional witch doctors were women: clan mothers,
priestesses of healing shrines, midwives, nurses, vilas. In pre-Christian
Gaul and Scandinavia, medicine was entirely in the hands of women. 4
Even in the Christian era, the village wise-woman was still every
peasant's family doctor. Paracelsus said witches taught him everything
he knew about healing. 5 Dr. Lambe, the Duke of Buckingham's
famous "devil," was said to have learned secrets of medicine by
consorting with witches. 6
In 1 570 the gaoler of Canterbury Castle released a condemned
witch, citing the popular opinion that she did more good for the sick
with her homely remedies than all the priests' prayers and exorcisms. 7
Agrippa von Nettesheim thought witches superior to male practitio-
ners: "Are not philosophers, mathematicians, and astrologers often
inferior to country women in their divinations and predictions, and
does not the old nurse very often beat the doctor?" 8 The men who
learned doctoring from witches were allowed to practice, but their
female teachers were persecuted. Scot observed that a male "conjurer"
was permitted to cure disease by magic arts, whereas a woman was
condemned to death for doing so. 9
Ordinary folk had no doctors. Physicians were available chiefly to
the rich. The poor took their troubles to the local witch. Irish farmers
still say a "fairy doctor" is needed for charms against the evil eye. In
Greece, "both priests and witches are available for emergencies
created by the evil eye. The priest burns incense and recites appropriate
prayers. The witch also burns incense as she recites appropriate
It wasn't unusual for the witches' healing charms to be preferred
to those of the church, or for the two to be regarded as identical in Witchcraft
essence. Ramesey wrote that the witches' cures were indistinguish-
able from the "magical and juggling cures" professed by the clergy, ^^^^^^^^^^^
including "saints, images, relics, holy-waters, shrines, avemarys, cru-
cifixes, benedictions, charms, characters, sigils of the planets, and of the
signs ... all such cures are rather to be ascribed to the forces of the
imagination, than any virtue in them." n
Officially, women were often forbidden to do any kind of healing.
In 1322 a woman named Jacoba Felicie was arrested and prosecuted
by the medical faculty of the University of Paris for practicing medicine,
although, the record said, "she was wiser in the art of surgery and
medicine than the greatest master or doctor in Paris." 12
Scot said witchmongers gave the witches as much power as Christ,
and even more, when they claimed witches could raise the dead, as
Christ raised Lazarus; they could turn water into other fluids, like wine
or milk; they could control the weather, the crops, animals, men; they
could see into the past and future. Reading of witches' trials, he said,
"you shall see such impossibilities confessed, as none, having his right
wits, will believe." n Loher also declared that the "sins" for which
witches were brought to the stake were such "that they could not
possibly commit." 14
Churchmen, however, viewed the impossibility of witches' mir-
acles as perfectly good ground for believing them, "because the
performance of the impossible proved that demons were at work." 15 It
was never explained how the performance of a miracle demonstrated
the intervention of a saint in one case and of a demon in another. For
example, Marie Bucaille was burned as a witch, though her "mir-
acles" were saintlike: she healed the sick, saw holy visions, displayed
stigmata, and performed many of the acts that led to canonization in
other cases. 16
The same acts were differently interpreted by churchmen in
different times. Witchcraft was allowed through the first half of the
Christian era. It was not called a "heresy" until the 14th century. In 500
a.d. the Franks' Salic Law recognized witches' right to practice. In
643, an edict declared it illegal to burn witches. 17 In 785, the Synod of
Paderborn said anyone who burned a witch must be sentenced to
death. 18 France's first trial to declare witchcraft a crime took place in
Up to a surprisingly late date, nobility and clergy alike employed
the services of witches. In 1382 the Count of Kyburg hired a witch to
stand on the battlements of his castle and raise a thunderstorm to
disperse an army of enemies. 20 This practice was soundly based on
theological opinion that witches could raise storms at will, "either upon
sea or land." 21 Churchmen said witches controlled the weather "with
God's permission," and they didn't begin to punish what God permitted
until the beginning of the Renaissance. 22
Witches were summoned to court by Louis d'Orleans to cure his
brother's madness, after priestly exorcisms had failed. (The witches
also failed.) Guichard, Bishop of Troyes, used the classic pierced-puppet
kind of witchcraft to kill his enemy, Queen Blanche of Navarre. 23
English law was fairly tolerant of witchcraft until the reign of
James I. As late as 1371 a male witch was arrested in Southwark for
possessing magical articles: a skull, a grimoire, and a corpse's head for
divination. He was released after he had promised not to do it again. 24
In 1 560, a lenient period, eight men confessed to conjuration and
sorcery, and were released with a reprimand. Only three years later the
same acts were made punishable by imprisonment or a death penalty. 25
The Council of Treves in 1 3 10 outlawed conjurations, divina-
tions, and love potions. 26 Further prohibitions seemed to be aimed at
supporting husbands who wished to cast off their wives. Stringent laws
threatened a witch to whom an abandoned wife might apply, for
revenge through malefica, since she had no recourse under law. 27
The church distinguished between sorcery, which was generally
acceptable, and witchcraft, which was heresy. Von Nettesheim's books
of sorcery were published under church auspices, accompanied by a
statement of ecclesiastical approval; indeed, his instructor in magic had
been John Trithemius, an abbot. What the distinction between sorcery
and witchcraft boiled down to was that men could practice magic,
women could not. 28
When the church discovered that common folk couldn't under-
stand the doctrinal subtleties of heresy and didn't care about theological
arguments, persecution was extended into areas that were accessible to
the public mind, so the church could maintain its control of that mind.
For example, in the region of Bonn a late spring frost of 1610 ruined
crops and was officially described as an act of God. Twenty years later,
after the witch judges came to the area, the same kind of natural
disasters were blamed exclusively on witches. 29
Churchmen fostered the public delusion that witches were en-
gaged in a vast secret plot, under the devil's guidance, to overthrow the
kingdom of God on earth. They created and embellished the concept of
the black mass, and made laymen believe it frequently occurred,
whereas it was largely a fraud supported only by spurious "evidence"
from the torture chamber. The Inquisition needed this public delusion,
because the work it was created for was finished when the Albigensian,
Waldensian, and other heretic groups of the south of France had been
finally crushed. In order to continue its profitable existence, the Inquisi-
tion needed new victims. The witchcraft mania was the solution to its
problem. 50 Whatever secular crimes the witches were supposed to have
committed, the one crime that was decisive in sending all of them to the
stake was the one crime of which all of them were completely innocent,
because it was impossible: the crime of collaborating with a real devil.
As for secret continuation of a pre-Christian religion: that was more
often done by the church itself, in the guise of saint-worship, festivals,
healing shrines, etc.
Scholars aren't sure how much pagan religion survived in the form
of actual group worship, at the beginning of the era of persecution. Pico
della Mirandola's La Strega (The Witch) described a cult in northern
Italy where a pagan Goddess presided over sexual orgies; she was said to
bear a close resemblance to the Mother of God. 31 Another group at
Arras was said to have centered on "a prostitute" called Demiselle, or
The Maiden. Her consort was the Abbot of Little Sense, otherwise
known as the Prince of Fools, a composer and singer of popular
songs in other words, it was a cult of minstrelsy. 52 (See Romance.)
There is a vast body of "information" about what went on at the
witches' Sabbat all of it worthless, because its source was the torture
chamber. The late Renaissance saw a frivolous interest in "black
masses" among the wealthy, who tried to model a new cult group on
what they had read of earlier trials. In 1610, Pierre de l'Ancre wrote of
"great Lords and Ladies and other rich and powerful ones who handle
the great matters of the Sabbath, where they appear cloaked, and the
women with masks, that they may keep themselves always hidden and
unknown." 33 In the reign of Louis XIV, half the Parisian clergy and
most of the court, including Madame de Montespan, were involved
with a society witch called La Voisin, who staged black masses for
them. 34 But their rituals were based on ecclesiastical literature, not on a
true folk tradition.
It has been claimed that witchcraft constituted a coherent under-
ground organization from the beginning, with well-defined chains of
command and communication. "Witch books" purporting to come
from the ancient tradition speak of a Brotherhood (not Sisterhood): "If
you are condemned, fear not, the Brotherhood is powerful, they will
help you to escape if you stand steadfast. ... Be sure, if steadfast you go
to the pyre, drugs will reach you, you will feel naught. You but go to
death and what lies beyond, the Ecstasy of the Goddess." 35 But during
the real persecutions, few witches seemed indifferent to their sufferings,
and virtually none escaped.
Monstrelet described a typical early example of persecution in
In this year, in the town of Arras and county of Artois, arose, through a
terrible and melancholy chance, an opinion called, I know not why, the
Religion of Vaudoisie. This sect consisted, it is said, of certain persons,
both men and women, who, under cloud of night, by the power of the
devil, repaired to some solitary spot, amid woods and deserts, where the
devil appeared before them in a human form save that his visage is
never perfectly visible to them read to the assembly a book of his
ordinances, informing them how he could be obeyed; distributed a very
little money and a plentiful meal, which was concluded by a scene of
general profligacy; after which each one of the party was conveyed home
to her or his own habitation.
On accusations of access to such acts of madness, several creditable
persons of the town of Arras were seized and imprisoned along with some
foolish women and persons of little consequence. These were so horribly
Marquise de Mon-
Mistress of Louis
XIV for 1 3 years, moth-
er of seven of his
children; court patron-
ess of Corneille,
Racine, and La
tortured that some of them admitted the truth of the whole accusations,
and said, besides, that they had seen and recognized in their nocturnal
assembly many persons of rank, prelates, seigneurs, and governors of
bailliages and cities, being such names as the examiners had suggested to
the persons examined, while they constrained them by torture to impeach
the persons to whom they belonged. Several of those who had been thus
informed against were arrested, thrown into prison, and tortured for so
long a time that they also were obliged to confess what was charged
against them. After this those of mean condition were executed and
inhumanly burnt, while the richer and more powerful of the accused
ransomed themselves by sums of money, to avoid the punishment and the
shame attending it. Many even of those also confessed being persuaded to
take that course by the interrogators, who promised them indemnity for
life and fortune. Some there were, of a truth, who suffered with marvel-
lous patience and constancy the torments inflicted on them, and would
confess nothing imputed to their charge; but they, too, had to give large
sums to the judges, who exacted that such of them as, notwithstanding
their mishandling, were still able to move, should banish themselves from
that part of the country. . . . fl]t ought not to be concealed that the whole
accusation was a strategem of wicked men for their own covetous
purposes, and in order, by these false accusations and forced confessions,
to destroy the life, fame, and fortune of wealthy persons. * 6
Those prisoners who found themselves condemned to death
immediately shrieked aloud that they had been tricked; they were
promised a light sentence, such as a pilgrimage, if they confessed as
the inquisitors wanted. 57
Witchcraft persecutions picked up momentum when inquisitors
were seeking new victims to keep their organization going. In 1375 a
French inquisitor lamented that all the rich heretics had been extermi-
nated; there were none left whose wealth could support the
Inquisition, and "it is a pity that so salutary an institution as ours should
be so uncertain of its future." Then Pope John XXII empowered the
Inquisition to prosecute anyone who worked magic, and "the Inquisi-
tion slowly and unevenly developed its concept of witchcraft." w
Soon the church was making sweeping claims, such as the claim that the
entire population of Navarre consisted of witches. 59
Witch hunting sustained itself because it became a major industry,
supporting the income of many. Local nobles, bishops, kings, judges,
courts, townships, magistrates, and other functionaries high and low all
received a share of the loot collected by inquisitors from their victims'
assets. Victims were charged for the very ropes that bound them and the
wood that burned them. Each procedure of torture carried its fee.
After the execution of a wealthy witch, officials usually treated them-
selves to a banquet at the expense of the victim's estate. 40
Inquisitors were no less zealous in wringing the last penny out of
their poorer victims than in helping themselves to the estates of the
rich. In 1256, a woman named Raymonde Barbaira died before her
sentence could be carried out, leaving to her heirs a chest of linens,
her clothes, several cows, and four sous in cash. The inquisitor demand- Witchcraft
ed from the heirs forty sous for all the property. "Such petty and
vulgar details," Lea said, "give us a clearer insight into the spirit and ^ ^^ m mmmmm
working of the Inquisition, and of the grinding oppression which it
exercised on the subject populations." 41
A history of the Inquisition written by a Catholic in 1909 had to
admit that it "invented the crime of witchcraft and . . . relied on torture
as the means of proving it." At first the Inquisition encountered
skepticism everywhere. Even theologians shocked the inquisitors by
attributing natural disasters to chance, or God, rather than to witch-
craft. The public disbelieved witches' confessions, saying they were
extracted only by torture. Peasants in some subalpine valleys broke
into open rebellion against the judges' wholesale burnings. It took
decades of ceaseless propagandizing, and ruthless measures to stop
the mouths of critics, before the persecution could be said to have won
public support. 42
Severe persecution dated from the bull of Pope Innocent VIII,
Summis desiderantes, wherein God's vicar "infallibly" declared that
witches could blast crops and domestic animals, cause disease, prevent
husbands and wives from copulating, and in general "outrage the
Divine Majesty and are a cause of scandal and danger to very many." 43
The Divine Majesty being apparently unable to look after its own
interests without human help, the churchmen took it upon themselves
to carry out God's vengeance, which developed into a "hideous
nightmare" as the church's mailed fist stretched over the western world
for five centuries. 44
The earlier Canon Episcopi ruled that witchcraft was nothing but
a delusion, and it was heresy to believe in it. But that was before the
church discovered how to profit from the witchcraft belief. After Pope
Innocent's reign, it was heresy not to believe in witchcraft. According
to Martin Del Rio, S.J., anyone who thought witchcraft was only a
deception must be suspected of being a witch. No one was allowed to
speak against the extermination of witches. Inquisitor Heinrich von
Schultheis said, "He who opposes the extermination of the witches
with one single word can not expect to remain unscathed." 45
Superstitious belief in the "evil" of witchcraft persisted to a very
late date. The last English witch trial took place in 1712. The last
official witch burning in Scotland was in 1727, with unofficial incidents
even later. Only a century ago, an elderly woman in the Russian
village of Wratschewe was locked in her cottage and set afire for
bewitching cattle. Her murderers were tried, and sentenced only to a
light ecclesiastical penance. 46 In January, 1928, a family of Hungarian
peasants beat an old woman to death, claiming she was a witch. A
court acquitted them, on the ground that they acted out of "irresistible
The real reason for persistence of the witchcraft idea was that
Christian authorities couldn't let it die, without admitting that God's
word was wrong, and God's servants had committed millions of legal
murders and tortured millions of helpless people without cause. Dr.
Blackstone, England's ultimate authority on jurisprudence, wrote: "To
deny the possibility, nay, actual existence of Witchcraft and Sorcery,
is at once flatly to contradict the revealed Word of God in various
passages both of the Old and New Testament; and the thing itself is a
truth to which every Nation in the World hath in its turn borne
testimony." When skepticism about witchcraft seemed to be on the
rise, John Wesley cried bitterly, "The giving up of witchcraft is in effect
the giving up of the Bible." 48 Calvin and Knox also protested that
denial of witchcraft meant denial of the Bible's authority. 49 Joseph
Glanvill, chaplain to Charles II, said all who disbelieved in witchcraft
were atheists. 50
Despite such protests, skepticism grew with the slow advance of
the Age of Enlightenment. In 1736, Scottish laws against the
"crime" of witchcraft were formally repealed. Yet the church refused to
keep pace with the law. Forty years later, ministers of the Associated
Presbytery passed a resolution declaring their unabated belief in witch-
craft. 51 As late as the 1920s a rector of four parishes in Norfolk could
still write: "If I were to take a census of opinion in all four villages I am
certain that I should find a majority of people seriously professing
belief in witchcraft, the policy of the 'evil eye,' and the efficacy of both
good and evil spells." 52 The churches wouldn't let these beliefs die.
Christianity, then, has been chiefly responsible for the survival and
growth of witchcraft as an article of faith. It seems so still. In the
1940s, Seabrook estimated that "half the literate white population in the
world today believe in witchcraft"; and the nonliterate nonwhite
population attains a much higher proportion. 53 A Gallup poll taken in
1978 showed that ten percent of all Americans believe in witches. 54
But what is meant by "believe in"? It could mean a belief that
there are people who call themselves witches; this is self-evident
enough. It could mean a belief that such people erroneously think they
have supernatural powers. It could mean a belief that such people
really do have supernatural powers. It could mean a belief that, as the
church has always maintained, witches are agents of the devil, seeking
to destroy the world out of sheer perversity. Or, it could mean a belief
that witches preserved an older and better religion based on worship
of Nature and the female principle.
Those who now call themselves witches usually uphold some
version of the latter belief. A modern witch, Leo Louis Martello,
We worship and identify with the Horned God, Lord of the Hunt and the
Underworld, and the Mother Goddess, especially the latter (Mother
Earth, Mother Nature). Without the female principle (women) man
wouldn 't be here. . . . Witchcraft is a pre-Christian faith. . . . It tends to
be matriarchal whereas both Christianity and Satanism are patriarchal and
male chauvinist. The latter two are merely opposite sides of the same Witchcraft
coin. Witchcraft, as the Old Religion, is a coin of a different vintage,
predating both. 55 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Asked how he feels about belonging to a heavily matriarchal
tradition, one male witch answered: "I'd rather be first mate on a ship
that is solid than captain on a ship that has a rotten hull, a ship that is
sinking. Patriarchy is such a ship." Witches have defined patriarchy as
"manipulative and domineering." The matriarchal world view, on
the other hand, values "feelings of connectedness and intuition . . .
nonauthoritarian and nondestructive power relationships." It is
claimed that witchcraft tends to correct what W. Holman Keith called
the fundamental religious error of our time: "to substitute force as the
divine and ruling principle in place of beauty and love, to make
destruction, in which the prowess of the male excels, more important
in life than the creativity of the female." 56
Certainly the history of witchcraft shows men persecuting women
in order to maintain a male monopoly of profitable enterprises, such
as medicine and magic. Women of outstanding reputation in any field
were at risk, since almost any woman's accomplishment could be
defined as witchcraft. When the church declared war on female healers,
healing became a crime punishable by death if it was practiced by a
woman. Women were forbidden to study medicine, and "if a woman
dare to cure without having studied, she is a witch and must die." 57
Doctors eagerly participated in witch hunts, to eliminate their competi-
tion. It was all done very deliberately. "Given the number of
instances in which the church combined with various economic groups
from doctors to lawyers to merchant guilds, not only to make
pronouncements about the incapacities of women, but often to accom-
plish the physical liquidation of women through witchcraft and heresy
trials, one can hardly say that it all happened without anyone intending
Churchmen who availed themselves of witches' services some-
times persecuted even those who helped them, in remarkable
examples of ingratitude. Alison Peirsoun of Byrehill was so famous as a
healing witch that the archbishop of St. Andrews sent for her when
he was sick, and she cured him. Later he not only refused to pay her fee,
but had her arrested, charged with witchcraft and burned. 59
The muddy illogic of persecutors' sexist thinking is nowhere better
illustrated than in the notion of the witch's "poppet," or wax doll,
which could be mistreated by piercing or melting in order to make a
human victim suffer corresponding stabbing pains, fevers, and other
troubles. When the witch destroyed the doll altogether, the victim
would die. Yet oddly enough, when male authorities discovered the
doll and destroyed it, the victim would not die but would recover. A
similar sexist attitude was apparent in the whole idea of traffic
between human beings and demons. Burton's Criminal Trials of
Witchcraft Scotland stated that a male sorcerer is the master of demons, but a
female witch is the slave of demons. 60 Yet her offense was usually
^^^^^^^^ i^^ considered more punishable than his.
Modern witches, male and female, seem inclined to restore the
sexual balance of old romances, where men's magical skills were
acquired under feminine instruction. 61 The witches appear to be recon-
structing an old religion in a new format, gradually working out a
theology that owes more to ancient Indo-European models than to the
"reverse Christianity" associated with the idea of Satanism. Important
points upon which this theology differs from Christianity are the
(1) The female principle is deified, equal to or greater than the
male. (2) Body and soul are seen as one and the same; one cannot ex-
ist without the other. (3) Nature is sacred, not to be abused or
"conquered." (4) The individual will has intrinsic value and is not to
be subordinated to the "revealed" will of a deity. (5) Time is circular
and repetitive; existence is cyclic; the figures of the Triple Goddess
symbolize constant repetitions of growth and decay. (6) There is no
original sin, and no hard-and-fast separation of "good" and "evil" (for
example, a feast of fresh beef is good for the feasters but evil for the
once-living main dish). (7) Sexuality, spontaneity, humor, and play
activities may be incorporated into ritual, where the experience of
pleasure is regarded as a positive force in life, rather than a temptation
or a sin. 62
The Goddess speaks to modern witches in somewhat the same
vein as the speeches drawn from her ancient scriptures:
Mine is the secret that opens upon the door of youth and mine is the Cup
of the Wine of Life and the Cauldron ofCerridwen, which is the Holy
Grail of Immortality. lam the Gracious Goddess who gives the gift of joy
unto the heart of man upon earth. I give the knowledge of the Spirit
Eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with
those that have gone before. . . . I who am the beauty of the Green
Earth, and the White Moon amongst the stars and the mystery of the
Waters, and the desire of the heart of man, I call unto thy soul to arise
and come unto me. For lam the Soul of Nature whogiveth life to the
universe; from me all things proceed and unto me all things must
return. . . . I have been with thee from the beginning, and lam that whici
is attained at the end of desire. 6i
1. J.H. Smith, D.C.P., 241. 2. Bullough, 177. 3. White 2, 36. 4. Briffault 1, 488.
5. Lederer, 1 50. 6. Rosen, 7. 7. Ewen, 69. 8. Agrippa, 270. 9. Scot, 20. 1 0. Gifford, 89.
ll.Hazlitt, 103. 12.Tuchman,216. 13. Scot, 43, 124, 141,403. 14. Robbins, 308.
1 5. Cavendish, P.E., 218. 16. Summers, G.W., 429-30. 17. Tannahill, 96-97.
18. Castiglioni, 233. 19. Robbins, 209. 20. Briffault 3, 12. 21. Hazlitt, 655.
22. Wedeck, 78. 23.deGivry, 193. 24. Lea unabridged, 786. 25. Robbins, 161.
26. Robbins, 547. 27. Hazlitt, 341. 28. Agrippa, Foreword. 29. Robbins, 330.
30. Robbins, 50, 207-8. 31. R.E.L. Masters, 27. 32. Knight, D.W.P., 207.
33. de Givry, 84-85. 34. Summers, G.W., 435. 35. Book of Shadows, 11.
36. W. Scott, 166-68. 37. Robbins, 105. 38. Robbins, 8. 39. Ravensdale & Morgan, 105.
40. Robbins, 1 11, 113. 41. Lea, 172. 42. Robbins, 9, 271. 43. Kramer & Sprenger, xliii.
44. R.E.L. Masters, xxvi. 45. Robbins, 108, 143. 46. Robbins, 169, 457, 336.
47. Summers, W, 87. 48. Summers, H.W.D., 63; G.W. 169. 49. H. Smith, 293.
50. Maple, 98. 51. Robbins, 457. 52. Summers, G.W., 181-82. 53. Bromberg, 179.
54. Newsweek, June 26, 1978, 32. 55. Cohen, N.B., 129-31. 56. Adler, 122, 188, 204.
57. Dreifus, 7. 58. Boulding, 427, 505. 59. Baroja, 126. 60. Wimberly, 159.
61. Wimberly, 219. 62. Goldenberg, 1 1 1-14. 63. Book of Shadows, 65-67.
Saxon and Frankish names of Odin, whom the Goths called Godan
(God), or Father Goth. The day sacred to him was Wednesday
Woden's Day. German churchmen eventually changed the name of
the day to Mittwoch, "mid-week," to prevent speaking of the heathen
Wednesday is Mercury's Day in Latin-based languages (Italian
mercoledi, French mercredi, Spanish miercoles), because Woden-
Odin was identified with the Roman Mercury (Hermes). As a
Conductor of Souls, Woden was associated with the cult of the dead,
who were formerly called "elves" in Scandinavia; therefore he evolved
into the Elven-king, Erl King, and leader of the Wild Hunt, when
ghosts rode through the sky at Halloween. As Hod, the slayer of the
year-god Balder, he appeared in his death mask and hood as a
malicious deity, Old Carl Hood, father of the greenwood-hero Robin. 1
Christians readily identified him with the devil because he was
already a fearful deity of death very like the Hindu Yama.
1. Wimberly, 200.
Sacred totem of many European clans during the Middle Ages, as
shown by the frequency of the name Wolf or Wulf in place names and
family surnames. The old Saxon year began with Wolf-monath
(Wolf Month). Wolf mothers or wolf nurses figured prominently in the
biographies of pagan heroes. An early version of Siegfried was nursed
by a divine she-wolf and was named Wolfdietrich. 1
Worship of the wolf among heathen clans led to innumerable
superstitions about wolf-demons and werewolves. Wolves were asso-
ciated with death and reincarnation, since they were carrion eaters,
formerly believed to carry the dead in their own bodies to the pagan
heavens and hells. See Dog; Werewolf.
1. Rank, 58.
The Sanskrit word for any temple or sanctuary was garbha-grha,
The great annual festival of Aphrodite in Argos was called Hyste-
Worid ^ The oldest oracle in Greece, sacred to the Great Mother of earth,
Wormwood sea, and sky, was named Delphi, from delphos, "womb."
Megalithic tombs and barrow-mounds were designed as "wombs"
" "^^^^^^" to give rebirth to the dead. Their vaginal entrance passages show that
Neolithic folk went to considerable trouble to devise imitations of
female anatomy in earth and stone. Tomb and womb were even
related linguistically. Greek tumbos, Latin tumulus were cognates of
tumere, to swell, to be pregnant. The word "tummy" is thought to
have come from the same root. 3
Womb-temples and womb-tombs point backward to the matriar-
chal age, when only feminine life-magic was thought efficacious.
Rebirth from the womb-tomb was the meaning of the domed funerary
stupa of the Far East, where the remains of the sainted dead lay
within a structure called garbha, the "womb." 4 The parallel with barro
graves, Mycenaean tholos tombs, cave temples, and other such
structures is now well known. Even a Christian cathedral centered on
the space called nave, originally meaning "belly." Caves and burial
chambers were said to be sunk in the "bowels" of the earth that is, of
Mother Earth. The biblical term for "birth" is "separation from the
Archetypal womb-symbolism is as common today as it ever was,
though not always recognized as such. Paul Klee said, "Which artist
would not wish to dwell at the central organ of all motion . . . from
which all functions derive their life? In the womb of nature, in the
primal ground of creation, where the secret key to all things lies
1. Campbell, CM., 168. 2. H.Smith, 126. 3. Potter & Sargent, 28. 4. Waddell, 262.
See Egg; see also Dioscuri; Goose; Swan.
"The Worm" or "The Worm That Never Dies" sometimes desig-
nated the Earth Goddess in her corpse-eating aspect. Her spirit was
thought to inhabit grave-worms (maggots), for which the Old Norse
word was mathkr, Old English matha both related to "mother." The
modern word descended from a Middle English derivative, mawke}
Linguistically related to these "worms" were the Goddess's familiars oi
mawkins. See Cat.
1. Potter & Sargent, 238.
Artemisia absinthium, wormwood, was sacred to the Great Mother.
Trevisa wrote in 1398: "Artemisia is called mother of herbs, and was
sometime hallowed to the goddess that hight [is named] Artemis." ' Wudu-Maer
In Russia, wormwood or absinth was called an "accursed herb" because Xipe Totec
it was sacred to the pagan nymphs (Vilas); but it had also protective ^^^^^^^^^^^
Wormwood was a corruption of Old English wermod, "spirit-
mother," which became German Wermut, French vermouth.
Absinthe was first prepared by French witches from artemisia, and
became a commercial product in the 1 8th century, though it proved
very dangerous. Wormwood is a habit-forming drug that can destroy
brain cells and cause delirium; furthermore, commercial absinthe was
68% alcohol by volume. 3 During the 19th century, the French govern-
ment outlawed its production. 4
1. Potter & Sargent, 274. 2. Larousse, 293. 3. Potter & Sargent, 275.
4. Encyc. Brit., "Absinthe."
"Forest-mother," literally "Wood-Mary"; Old Saxon for a nymph or
fairy of the sacred grove, a priestess of the Oak-goddess, or a female
druid. In Bavaria, the wudu-maerwere presented with offerings of
foodstuffs to court their goodwill; they were known as Little Wood
Women. 1 A similar concept of a forest priestess survived in English
legends of Maid Marian. See Robin.
Babylonian Tree of Heaven, emblem of Ishtar, spreading her
branches into the celestial and nether worlds, holding the Savior
Tammuz in her midst. 1 Moslems diabolized this Mother-tree and
mentioned her in the Koran as Zakkum, the Tree of Hell. 2 See Fig.
1. Harding, 48. 2. Campbell, Oc.M., 430.
"Our Lord the Flayed One" in pre-Columbian Mexico, impersonat-
ed by a man who was executed on the Hill of the Stars at the end of
each sacred 52-year cycle, at the moment when the Pleiades reached
the zenith. He was castrated and flayed, and the priest was clothed in his
bloody skin, signifying the god's rebirth. 1 People carried new fire
from his temple to re-kindle their household fires, believing that his
death staved off the end of the world, at least for one more cycle. 2
Xipe Totec was the son of the Demeter-like Corn-goddess Chico-
mecoatl. Like all gods of crops, he suffered in imitation of reaping
and grinding the grain. His flaying may have represented the husking of
the corn cobs.
The "Flayed One" bore a remarkable resemblance to the archaic
Hindu god Rudra, the Red One, or the Howler, or the Lord Who Is
Half Woman. Rudra too was associated mystically with the Pleiades,
called the Seven Mothers of the World, or Krittikas ("cutters"),
whose "cutting" function may have been castrating or even flaying
sacrificial gods. 3 -
1. Neumann, G.M., 192. 2. Tannahill, 82. 3. 0'Flaherty, 298, 346.
Mexican Aphrodite: a many-faceted Love Goddess, Moon-virgin,
fairy queen, and Madonna; a patroness of marriage and sacred harlots,
dance, songs, spinning, weaving, changes and transformations, magic,
and art. Like Syrian Adonis, her son-lover was a young vegetation god. 1
Her worshippers said Xochiquetzal was the mother of all races of
humanity after the primordial flood. Her many children were as
dumb as animals until her holy spirit in the form of a dove descended oi
them from the Tree of Heaven and gave them speech. In this way all
the world's languages were created. 2
In addition to the dove, another symbol Xochiquetzal shared with
the ancient Indo-European Goddesses was her sacred flower, the
marigold perhaps a New World version of the golden Thousand-
Petaled Lotus representing the Great Mother in India.
Xochiquetzal's paradise was located "above the nine heavens in a
very pleasant and delectable place, accompanied and guarded by
many people and waited on by other women of the rank of goddesses,
where are many delights of fountains, brooks, flower-gardens." 3 This
fairyland was available after death to those who faithfully served the
Goddess and lived according to her laws.
1. Neumann, G.M., 196-97. 2. Frazer, F.O.T., 107. 3. Summers, V, 260.
"Father-Mother," the Tantric coital posture in which gods mated
with the Goddess and men with their Shaktis, especially at the moment
of death when the Eternal Shakti brought everlasting bliss. 1 Unlike
western patriarchs, Oriental mystics said the most favorable position for
copulation was not Venus observa (male-superior), but Yab-Yum,
with both partners upright, face to face, and free to move.
l.Rawson.E.A., 170; pi. 103.
Hebrew name of God, a vocalization of the Tetragrammaton. It
was also rendered Yah, Yahu, Jahveh, Jahi, or Jehovah, and has been
related to the name of the Canaanite moon deity Yareah, possibly a Yama
female or androgynous form. A male Yahweh was married to the Yang and Yin
Canaanite mother goddess Anat at Elephantine. 1 ^^^^^^^^^^^
The name of God pronounced Jaho, Iao, or Ieuw was applied to
Zeus-Sabazius as the nocturnal sun: a Lord of Death under the earth,
like Saturn. Jews called him Sabbaoth, "Lord of Hosts.". His Latin name
came from the same roots: Iu-piter, "Father leu," that is, Jupiter or
Jahi was also a very ancient Goddess, appearing in Persian scrip-
tures as the maker and seducer of the first man. Like many other
Creatresses, she mated with the primal serpent; she also gave the
menstrual "blood of life" to Eve.
1. Hays, 85, 89. 2. Knight, D.W.P., 113.
Hindu Lord of Death, male counterpart of the Lady of Life, whose
name was his own in reversal: Ma-Ya. In classic Hindu myth, however,
Yama's consort was his twin sister Yami, a feminine form of himself.
The Fates ordained that he should mate with her, in the manner of the
Primal Androgyne (see Androgyne). But Yama refused, saying he
intended to keep himself pure. Because he detached himself from his
feminine half and renounced the life-supporting power of the female,
he became the first man to die. 1 He went into the underworld and
became its king.
This myth presents an interesting reversal of the Judeo-Christian
notion that the sin of woman and sex brought death into the world.
Here death came about through the sin of male asceticism; Yama
"died" because he refused to be a sexual being. His followers revered
him as a psychopomp, like Hermes after his detachment from Aphro-
dite: "Yama chose death, and he found out the path for many, and he
gives the souls of the dead a resting place." 2
As Lord of Death he took the title Samana, "the Leveller," and at
times he wore the fearsome aspect of a blue-skinned, bull-headed
demon, the same as Sammael, the Angel of Death in the Book of
Enoch. 3 Persians worshipped him as Yima the Splendid, the Good
Shepherd who gave men immortality. 4 In the ancient land of Canaan,
he became Yamm, Lord of the Abyss, annually cast down by Baal in
their eternal contest for the favors of Astarte.
1. Lamussc, 345. 2. Rees, 108. 3. Brandon, 362; F. Huxley, 45. 4. Larousse, 310.
Yang and Yin
Chinese mandala of light and dark, male and female, summer and
'inter, death and life, etc.: an S-curve dividing black and white halves of Yang and Yin
Yantra the circle, each half containing a spot of the opposite color. Though
now regarded as a bisexual emblem, the Yang and Yin symbol was onc<
wholly feminine. During the Sung period it referred to the cyclic
phases of the moon. 1 Yin, the female power in the mandala, was a
cognate of "yoni."
1. Campbell, Or.M., 24.
Tantric "meditation sign," the graphic or symbolic equivalent of a
mantra. Most important was the Sri Yantra or Great Yantra, a design of
two interlocking triangles representing time cycles and the union of
Goddess and God (see Hexagram). 1 Worship of the yantra was meant
to attain "unity with the Mother of the Universe." 2
1. Rawson, AT., 82. 2. Avalon, 428.
From Scandinavian gard or garth, "world," the earth. 1 The church-
yard descended from the old pagan tradition that a temple and its
environs constituted a model of the universe, and those buried in the
yard corresponding to the Greek koimeteria, "cemetery" automati-
cally entered paradise because they were already in its vicinity (i.e.,
close to the temple). This was the pagan belief underlying the Christian
habit of burying the pious in "consecrated ground" adjacent to the
church. Refusal of such burial to criminals, witches, and other outcasts
was tantamount to sending them to hell, for it was believed that
anyone buried in unhallowed ground was automatically damned.
"Terrible Horse," or "The Horse of Ygg [the Ogre]"; Norse name of
the World Ash Tree that became Odin's gallows tree a gallows being
poetically likened to a horse (drasil) on which men rode to Death.
Like Christ's cross, Yggdrasil was depicted as the axis mundi. Its roots
supported the earth, its trunk passed through the world's hub, its
branches stretched over heaven and were hung with the stars. Under its
roots by the Fount of Wisdom lived the three Fate-goddesses or
Norns. A mighty serpent constantly gnawed at the tree and at doomsday
would succeed in toppling the entire structure. All the worlds it
upheld Earth, heaven, Midgard, Asgard were destined to tumble
down and fall apart. See Doomsday; Odin.
Feminine life force, a Chinese cognate of "yoni "; usually represented om
as a fluid emanating from a female "Grotto of the White Tiger" ^^^^mmmm^mm^
(genitals). 1 According to the doctrines of Tao, the power of yin was
stronger than any male power; therefore men had to learn to take
feminine fluids into themselves, to gain wisdom and health.
1. Rawson, E.A., 253.
Teutonic giant who died to give life to the universe. His flesh became
the soil; his blood became rivers and seas; his skull was the dome of the
sky. The first couple of male-and-female beings emerged from the
sweat of his left armpit. The race of dwarves evolved from maggots that
bred in Ymir's rotting corpse. This pantheistic creation myth was
designed to give primordial significance to a sacrificial god; but Ymir
was not really the first of all creatures. He was brought to life and
nourished by the Cow-mother Audumla, "Creator of Earth."
Ymir's name has been related to the Sanskrit Yama, the oldest
underworld god in hermaphroditic guise as a producer of living
things. 2 As Odin was another form of Indra, so Ymir was the Yama
remembered by Aryan tribes in their westward migrations.
l.Urousse, 248. 2. H.R.E. Davidson, G.M.V.A., 151, 199.
Sanskrit yoga meant to link, join, or unite, like the English derivative
"yoke." It was the term for sexual union between the Tantric sadhu and
his yogini, or Shakti, in imitation of the union between Kali and
Shiva. As Kali's consort, Shiva bore the title of "Lord of Yoga." l
The practice of yoga was supposed to develop magic powers
collectively called siddhi in northern Europe, sidh or seidr, "mag-
ic." The fully developed sage could walk on water, change base metals
to gold, understand all languages, heal diseases, cast out demons, and
so on. 2 The Moors called such a person a sidi, "hero." In the myth
cycles of Moorish Spain, the title itself became a name of the greatest
known hero, El Cid. ?
1. Campbell, Or.M., 13. 2. Bardo Thodol, 158; Campbell, Or.M, 424.
3. Goodrich, 236.
"Vulva," the primary Tantric object of worship, symbolized variously
by a triangle, fish, double-pointed oval, horseshoe, egg, fruits, etc.
Personifying the yoni, the Goddess Kali bore the title of Cunti or
Kunda, root of the ubiquitous Indo-European word "cunt" and all its
relatives: cunnus, cunte, cunning, cunctipotent, ken, kin, country.
The Yoni Yantra or triangle was known as the Primordial Image,
representing the Great Mother as source of all life. 1 As the genital
focus of her divine energy, the Yantra was adored as a geometrical
symbol, as the cross was adored by Christians.
The ceremony of baptismal rebirth often involved being drawn
bodily through a giant yoni. Those who underwent this ceremony
were styled "twice-born." 2
1. Silberer, 170. 2. Frazer, G.B., 229.
A Hindu myth of the battle of the sexes told of a quarrel between the
Goddess Parvati (Kali) and the God Mahadeva (Shiva) over their rival
claims to the true parenthood of human beings. To decide the
question, each proposed to create a race of people without the aid of the
other. The God, spirit of the lingam or phallus, created the Lingajas,
who were weak and stupid, "dull of intellect, their bodies feeble, their
However, the Goddess created the Yonijas, spirits of the yoni or
vulva, who turned out to be excellent specimens: "well-shaped, with
sweet aspects and fine complexions." 1 The two races fought a war, and
the Yonijas won.
This may have been one of the earliest myths of conflict between
male and female divinities over the matter of who did the creating. It
was still a matriarchal age, as shown by the way the Mother made more
viable people than the Father could make.
1. Simons, 57.
var. Yul Yule
Norse solstitial festival, the season of the sun's rebirth, assimilated to
Christmas in the Middle Ages, along with its pagan trappings: holly, ivy,
pine boughs, lighted trees, wassail bowls, suckling pigs, Yule logs,
carols, gifts, and feasting.
Some said the god of Yule was Kris Kringle, i.e., a Christ of the
Orb, a new solar king. But most northern folk remembered the
reborn god as Frey. They said, "Yule is celebrated in honor of Frey." '
In France it was celebrated in honor of another phallic god, like
Cernunnos, whose phallus was identified with the festive log, called
the Noel Log. Provencal folk songs mention the fertility magic of the
Noel Log, the ashes of which were traditionally mixed with cows' Yu-Ti
fodder to help them calve. 2 Zalmoxis
1. Oxenstierna, 216. 2. Briffault 3, 101-2. ^^^^___^^__
Chinese Heavenly Father, consort of Mother Earth (Wang-Mu). He
was known as the August Personage of Jade, or August Supreme
Emperor of Jade. He lived in heaven in a palace exactly like the
earthly emperor's palace. He was said to have made the first human
beings out of clay, like other archaic gods whose "creating" took
place before the concept of begetting was understood. 1
Berber name for sacred dances performed in groups of thirteen, in
connection with the magic ceremony called "an occasion of power";
possible origin of the so-called witches' "sabbat." '
1. Shah, 210; Ravensdale & Morgan, 1 53.
Cretan bull-god and savior identified with both Dionysus the Son,
and Zeus the Father. Zagreus was slain by the Titans (pre-Hellenic
gods) as a sacrifice, then assimilated to his heavenly father and
resurrected as a new copy of himself, by rebirth through the Mother
Hebrew "male," from several ancient words for "penis." Zakar or
Zaqar was a phallic deity like Hermes in Babylon, where he was called a
messenger from the moon. Zekker, the Arabic word for "penis,"
came from a similar Egyptian root: Seker, the Lord of Death, i.e., Osiris
as the dead god (or phallus) hidden within the Mother's womb. See
Savior of Thrace, worshipped by the Getae and identified with
Orpheus. Zalmoxis promised eternal life to guests at his sacramental
Zar Last Supper. Then he went into the underworld, and rose again on
Zephyr the third day or, by some accounts, in the third year. He established
sacred Mysteries to teach the secrets of the after-life. Human sacri-
fices to him were impaled, like victims impersonating Tmolus in Lydia
(see Heracles). 1 Martyrdom as the spirit of Zalmoxis apparently was
coveted. If the victim survived after being hurled onto the points of
spears, he was rebuked and designated a "bad man"; and another was
chosen to die in his place. 2
1. Herodotus, 241-42. 2. Guthrie, 175.
Ethiopian demon, still worshipped by women as the spirit of their
voodoo-like cult of possession, to which they have recourse when
oppressed by their patriarchal society. The name Zar may be related
to an ancient name of Osiris, worshipped during the first dynasty at
Abydos as the god-king Zer, who became Lord of the Underworld.
Japanese system of controlled meditation, to master various skills,
especially the martial arts. Zen was a mispronunciation of Chinese
ch 'an, which was in turn a mispronunciation of Sanskrit dhyana,
"contemplation." ' Medieval knights of romance, who worshipped Di-
ana and followed a similar martial-arts cult, may have drawn their
tradition from the same Oriental source.
1. Campbell, M.T.L.B., 127; Or.M., 440.
Dynastic name of matriarchal queens of Palmyra. In their native
Aramaic, the name was Bath-Zabbai, or Bath-Sheba, meaning "Daugh-
ter of the Goddess." See Solomon and Sheba. The famous queen
Zenobia Septimia was the "seventh Bath-Sheba." x She had no official
consort. She named her son Wahab-Allath, "Gift of the Goddess
Allath." Allath was the same Semitic Moon-mother whom Islam later
masculinized as Allah. 2
1. Encyc. Brit., "Zenobia." 2. de Riencourt, 75.
Greek wind-spirit, capable of impregnating women or female ani-
mals, as Boreas the North Wind was thought to impregnate mares.
Greek phallic gods often appeared in carvings and amulets as "snake-
tailed winds." The idea that fatherhood resulted from sending air, Zeus
breath, or wind into a womb was not only a Greek idea. It was Ziusudra
common to early patriarchal religions, which taught the male Oversoul ^^^^^^^^^^
was nothing but air. See Soul.
Greek form of Sanskrit Dyauspitar, "Father Heaven," probably
linked with Babylonian myths of Zu the Storm-Bird, a thrower of
thunderbolts. The Romans called him Jupiter, or Jove; the Jews
called him Jehovah.
Unlike the Judeo-Christian God who assumed his attributes, Zeus
was not a creator of humanity, nor even a giver of laws. The real
Creator-lawgiver was the Goddess called either his mother or his wife:
Rhea, Hera, Gaea; in all her forms a "Virgin Mother of God." Zeus
was entitled Mamas, "Virgin-born Zeus." ' He was also identified with a
number of dying gods, such as Zeus-Sabazius, Zeus-Zagreus, Zeus-
Sabaoth. Like Lucifer, he "came down" as rain or lightning to fertilize
his Mother, the earth. As a god of the fructifying bolt, he was known
as Zeus Kataibates, "Zeus Who Descends." 2 He took over Mount
Olympus, former shrine of Gaea Olympia.
Zeus eventually became the Olympic-Platonic patriarch, even
claiming to give birth to Athene the ancient Libyan Goddess of
female wisdom from his own head. "With the spread of Platonic
philosophy the hitherto intellectually dominant Greek woman degen-
erated into an unpaid worker and breeder of children wherever Zeus
and Apollo were the ruling gods." 3
1. Graves, W.G., 320. 2. Guthrie, 38. 3. Graves, G.M. 1,117.
Babylonian "Mountain of Heaven," the pyramid that served as
temple and palace in Mesopotamian towns. At its summit, the king
consummated his sacred marriage with the Goddess, this being the
point of contact between heaven and earth. Nebuchadnezzar's ziggurat
was built in seven stages, representing the seven planetary spheres.
Beneath, seven nether pits represented the descent into the correspond-
ing seven spheres of the underworld. Such pits were used for
death-and-rebirth ceremonies of priestly initiations. See Mountain.
Sumerian prototype of Noah, the flood hero, carrying the seeds of a
new universe through watery Chaos between destruction of one world
and the birth of the next. Sometimes spelled Xisuthros. See Flood.
Zurvan "Life," a Gnostic name of Eve, comparable to the Teutonic All-
^^Ma^MBHHMB Mother Lif. ' Zoe was a daughter or emanation of the Gnostic Goddess,
Sophia, who gave Adam his soul. She also threw down to the Abyss
the unjust Creator, who had dared to curse her, and elevated the Lord
of Hosts to the seventh heaven, where she undertook to instruct him
about the eighth, the Great Mother's dwelling place. Gnostic Gospels
said Zoe's power alone animated the first clay man, after various gods
had tried to do it and failed. Therefore the man called her Mother of All
Living. 2 The canonical Bible kept her title, but eliminated her giving
of life to Adam.
1. Pagels, 30. 2. Robinson, 159, 166-69, 172-76.
var. Zarathustra Zoroaster
Patriarchal Persian prophet whose name was affixed to many anti-
female doctrines, such as the rule that no women could enter heaven
except those "submissive to control, who had considered their hus-
bands lords." ' Most women, of course, were destined to go to hell.
Along with much else, these sentiments were adopted from Zoroas-
trian teaching by the Jews and applied to the laws of Yahweh.
1. Campbell, Oc.M., 196, 199.
The "Three Fates" in Slavic myth. "Three little sisters, three little
Zorya: she of the Evening, she of Midnight, and she of Morning" i.e.,
of the old lunar calendars that figured the day from noon to noon.
Like the Norns, the Zorya kept the doomsday-wolf fettered to the pole
star: "Their duty is to guard a dog which is tied by an iron chain to
the constellation of the Little Bear. When the chain breaks it will be the
end of the world." l An Egyptian prototype of the triple Zorya was
the Goddess Reret, who kept the powers of destruction fettered by a
1. Lamusse, 285. 2. Budge, G.E. 2, 249.
Archaic Persian deity of Infinite Time, two-faced or two-sexed in
Zoroastrian symbolism. Zurvan must have been originally a manifesta-
tion of the Two Ladies of life and death, like Kali who united Virgin
and Crone aspects of female divinity. From the womb of Zurvan were
born the twins Ahura Mazda (God) and Ahriman (Satan). The
former twin became king of heaven because he made the right sacri-
fices. Ahriman's sacrifices were unacceptable, so he was banished to
the underworld and became the Great Serpent. 1
Zurvan Akarana was worshipped as the First Cause, or principle of
creation, linked with Time, Destiny, and Fate: three common
characterizations of the Goddess. 2 An ancient scripture said her divinity
could not even be addressed; it was "so incomprehensible to man that
we can but honor it in awed silence." ? Thus Zurvan was similar to the
Gnostic Goddess Sige, origin of all things in Silence. Ahura could
have been one of her early names. In Egypt, Ahura was feminine. 4
The Zoroastrian pantheon assigned Zurvan to the dark side of
divinity as a demon of decrepitude, very like the Crone Kali who
represented moribund old age. 5 Patriarchal thinkers characteristically
emphasized the negative aspects of the destroying-and-creating God-
dess, even when the primal character of the Mother of good, evil, time,
fate, and the universe was clearly discernible under the veneer of later
1. Lawusse, 323. 2. Cumont, A.R.G.R., 61. 3. Seligmann, 14.
4. Budge, E.M., 144. 5. Seligmann, 14.
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Acknowledgments Studs Terkel, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How
Photo credits The Y feel About What They Do. Copyright 1 972, 1 974 by Studs
Terkel. Reprinted by permission of Pantheon Books, a Division of Random
^^^^m^^^iMMB House, Inc.
George B. Vetter, Magic and Religion, by permission of Philosophical Library,
xii D.A. Harissiadis, Athens
1 top Alinari/Art Resource
1 bottom D.A. Harissiadis, Athens
83 top The Historical Society of York County, Pa.
83 bottom Art Resource
1 28 Tzouaras/Art Resource
129 top Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Ugolino Lorenzetti; National Gallery of Art,
Washington; Samuel H. Kress Collection
129 bottom The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, 1958, Fund from Various
204 Alinari/Art Resource
205 top Louvre
205 bottom Devil Bootjack, Maker unidentified. Ca. 1850-1875. Polychromed cast
iron figure. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Williamsburg, Va.
260 The Seattle Art Museum, Kress Collection
261 Photo Hirmer
296 The Bettmann Archive, Inc.
297 Scala/Art Resource
330 Scala/Art Resource
331 top Art Resource
3 3 1 bottom Berkson/Art Resource
364 Merseyside County Museums, Liverpool
365 Alinari/Art Resource
422 Alinari/Art Resource
423 top Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Louise and Walter Arensberg collection.
Photographed by Philadelphia Museum of Art
423 bottom Scala/Art Resource
520 left Library of Congress
520 right Alinari/Art Resource
521 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wildenstein Fund, 1 970
558 Scala/Art Resource
559 top The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1935
559 bottom Museo De Arte De Cataluna
704 Alinari/Art Resource
705 top Alinari/Art Resource
705 bottom Alinari/Art Resource
756 Alinari/Art Resource
757 top Alinari/Art Resource
757 bottom Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1957
834 Alinari/Art Resource
835 top The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1917-1918 Photo credits
835 bottom Alinari/Art Resource
872 Borromeo/Art Resource
873 Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequest of William H. Herriman, 1921 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^ m
968 Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
969 top Victoria and Albert Museum, London
969 bottom Alinari/Art Resource
1024 Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University
1 025 top Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Williamsburg, Virginia
1025 bottom Saint Ursula With Angels and Donor, Benozzo Gozzoli; National
Gallery of Art, Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection.
1056 Courtesy American Museum of Natural History (Photo: Leon Boltin)
1957 top Matthew Hopkins, Discoverie of Witches, 1647. Rare Book Division, The
New York Public Library
1057 bottom Alinari/Art Resource
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