Switch Has An Itch For A Witch

Now this one was interesting over at Switch’s Silliness:

switch interested in witchcraft

Strangely enough, one of us happens to have a near exhaustive interest in the various British Isles forms of witchcraft despite being a practicing Christian (and tends to get rather pissed off with other ‘Christians’ who start babbling the witchcraft = Satan lie).

You don’t have to believe or practice something to have an academic interest in it, and witchcraft’s always an excellent one to see where parts of our culture, our science, our academic learning came from.

For those of you who dismiss it as all ‘eye of newt, wing of bat’ – to say nothing of the behaviour of certain self-professed witches in the Simming world – remember that modern medicine was largely down to the work of Swiss witchcraft practitioner Paracelsus, who (like Martin Luther early in his career) was saved from the gallows c/o religious zealots and quack medical practitioners thanks to the protection of the Catholic academic Erasmus, who knew the furtherance of knowledge was more important than the protection of vested interests.

Here in the British Isles, apart from places like Canewdon in Essex, the New Forest, Cornwall and of course the Isle of Man, anyone practicing witchcraft did so very much in secret until the Golden Dawn appeared in the late 19th and early 20th century saw members of the ‘respectable’ classes take an academic interest in the paranormal and the occult now that – ironically – modern science and technological advances had removed much of the taboos surrounding research into them.

From the Golden Dawn came arguably the two most important figures in lifting the taboos surrounding witchcraft in the UK – Violet Mary Firth aka Dion Fortune and Alistair Crowley (albeit like Harry Price proved to be for academic paranormal research, Crowley was more trouble than he was worth…). They as well as fellow travellers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame), children’s author E. Nesbit, Sax Rohmer (of Fu Manchu fame), Pamela Colman Smith (illustrator of the famous Rider-Waite traditional Tarot deck) and poet W.B. Yeats all did their bit to make interest in the occult – and therefore paganism in general – no longer meaning instant social ostracisation (although you could still be technically prosecuted under the Witchcraft Act until 1951, it was last used in 1944 only to put a stop to the charletan Helen ‘Cheesecloth’ Duncan exploiting grieving relatives of the HMS Barham disaster).

As for modern witchcraft in the British Isles in general, it’s Alexander Saunders (Alexandrian Wicca) and Gerard Gardner (Gardnerian Wicca) we have to thank largely for the two main branches of witchcraft over here – centred around the Earth Goddess and the Horned God (the latter often deliberately misinterpreted by opponents as the Devil largely from the popular ‘penny dreadful’ figure of the Goat of Mendes to represent Satan).

It’s all fairly straightforward – get onto the internet, do some research, and while away a few merry hours cooing ‘Oh, so that’s where my favourite TV show/book pinched that from!’



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