Matthew Hopkins & the Essex Witch Craze

While the Inquisition had been prosecuting and executing witches for centuries, the witch craze never really took off in England until the reign of James I. If anything, magic had an everyday place in English lives during the Tudor dynasty. This is not to say that witchcraft (then differentiated from magic) was free from scrutiny. But from the court-sanctioned experimentations of Dr. John Dee and other Christological magicians, the coastal witches who warded off the Spanish Armada with the help of Sir Francis Drake, to the rustic cures and spells offered by the cunning men and women, as well as the fantasy magical elements featured in popular culture such as Marlowe’s Faustus or Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream or The Tempest—magic was everywhere!

John Dee & Edward Kelley employing a magic circle to invoke a spirit. The Astrologer of the 19th Century, 1825

During the height of witch persecution on the Continent, there were no large-scale witch trials in England for a number of reasons. The ecclesial separation from other areas of Christian Europe meant that the English church had its own priorities, e.g. the persecution and removal of the treacherous papists! There was also a lack of any desire from authorities to conduct a witch hunt in the first place. The final decline of witch trials came at the latter half of the 17th century as a result of the rise of new scientific thought and the works of natural philosophers like Isaac Newton who were now able to explain the universe in mechanical ways, causing a decline in the belief in the possibility of magic to influence the world.
In English witchcraft trials, it is odd to see any reference to making a pact with the Devil. There are no witches’ sabbats, no sex with devils, nor did English witches fly. They did however have imps and familiars. Ursula Kemp was alleged to have four familiars: two cats, a toad called Piggen, and a lamb named Tiffin. Witches were usually only condemned for maleficium. These trials were rarely issued from above. English court records feature a lot of individual prosecutions from below by the alleged victims of witchcraft seeking redress in the courts. Trials against witchcraft were generally few and far between, except in the counties surrounding London.

Woodcut of witches flying. Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World, 1689

Cases of witchcraft were coming predominantly from Essex. During the reign of Elizabeth I, for example, Hertfordshire only produced 24 cases, Sussex only 14, yet Essex produced 172 cases! Between 1560 and 1580, 270 individuals were prosecuted for witchcraft in Essex alone. Most of these trials took place in the last quarter of the 16th century, and became very rare everywhere after 1620. This decline can be explained by the fact that by the 1580’s judges were becoming very worried about the difficulties of proving witchcraft. This doesn’t mean necessarily that they were skeptical—many likely still believed that witchcraft was possible. But how could you prove witchcraft unless they confessed? In English law, torture was not used except in state trials when authorized by the Privy Council. It was routinely used in Scotland and the Continent. How could prosecutors root out natural causes of these alleged injuries? And if it were actually witchcraft, who did it? In cases of witchcraft, the normal rules of evidence could not apply.

Elizabeth I, after the Darnley pattern, c. 1585

With an increasing level of methodical jurisprudence, why they was there also a rise in the concerns against witchcraft in the 17th century? The dominant explanations offered by Thomas[1] and Macfarlane[2] show that witches were frequently elderly women who were accused of bewitching neighbors, not strangers, and who were often poorer than their victims. This suggests that accusations were rising as a result of tensions between poorer women and their competitive neighbors. While it is possible that some of those accused did practice magic and believe they had the power to harm, or that they responded to these accusations by playing the part of the witch given to them by reputation, there must have been some incident serious enough to start an honest investigation into witchcraft. In Essex, there was an average of four witnesses per accused witch. Witchcraft accusations could arise as a result of personal rivalries in local politics, used to discredit others and so on.
Thomas suggests that this peak period of witchcraft anxiety came with the rising concern in the loss of belief in the power of ecclesial protection and counter-magic, and secondly because that period was one of unusual tensions within village societies. Economic distress caused a declining position for the poor and widows. Poor Laws had not yet been put into effect for this population. The decline in charity among neighbors meant that accusing one of witchcraft could become a means to severing responsibility for the poor, and transferring this guilt to an accused witch.
Why were the Witchcraft Acts passed in the first place, and why did so many cases arise in Essex? Why were other counties similar to Essex not so affected? It’s worth considering that these laws were passed when they were for two reasons. Both were passed at the beginning of two monarchical regimes (Elizabeth I, then James I). This suggests that elements of symbolism or propaganda were being set up to confirm the legitimacy and uprightness of the monarch, who would be seen opposing certain subversive (yet harmless) acts. Another element was the perceived threats against the monarch. In 1561, two years before the 1563 act passed, a plot was discovered where sorcery was being used against Elizabeth. William Cecil discovered then that there were no acts preventing these crimes. The 1604 Act followed the succession of James I to the throne. He was a man with profound interest in witchcraft, having written his treatise Daemonologie after a group of witches were uncovered attempting to kill him in a shipwreck. The witchcraft acts of England and Scotland were then overhauled and combined.

James I & VI of England & Scotland, after John de Critz, 1606

As a result of these acts, the political and ecclesiastical elite had a bigger role in managing cases of witchcraft. It is possible then that Essex was peculiarly conscious of threats of witchcraft. The use of criminal law against witches had terrible publicity there. Three group trials took place in 1566, 1582 and 1589. In each case, an initial accusation was vigorously pursued by justices who had a particular concern against witchcraft. These trials were then publicized in pamphlets, which may have had the effect of heightening the sense of threat people felt, or even a moral panic. This paved the way then in 1644 for Matthew Hopkins, the self-appointed Witchfinder General.

Woodcut of Matthew Hopkins from his book, The Discovery of Witches…, 1647

Between 1644 and 1647, Matthew Hopkins traveled throughout East Anglia and hired himself out as a consultant for the discovery of witches. He came to have gained his experience by accidentally encountering a meeting of witches in Manningtree, Essex. The witches met and offered sacrifices to the Devil, and gave commands to their familiars to do harm. English prosecutions until then had been sporadic, except in Anglia where they then came in great waves. With the Witchcraft Acts of Elizabeth and James now making witchcraft a felony, Hopkins was free to pursue witches as state criminals and so use extreme acts to gain his confessions. Though torture was still illegal, one method he employed was in keeping the accused witch awake for days at a time until they would confess[3]. Another means of torture which he employed was the infamous trial by dunking in water. The aim of Hopkins was not to prove a witch guilty of committing maleficium, rather of having consorted with Satan, and thus being a heretic. During this time, Hopkins is suspected of executing 300 alleged witches, or 60% of all cases in a period of 300 years of English history. His 1647 account of witch-finding, The Discovery of Witches would later influence the witch craze in New England, including the madness that was the Salem witch hysteria of 1692-1693.

Ducking stool. 18th century drawing reproduced in Chap-books of the 18th Century by John Ashton, 1834

[1] Thomas, K. (1971). Religion and the decline of magic: Studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth-century England.
[2] Macfarlane, A. (1970). Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A regional and comparative study.
[3] Hopkins, M. (1647). The discovery of witches: in answer to severall queries, lately delivered to the judges of assize for the county of Norfolk. And now published by Matthew Hopkins Witch-finder, for the benefit of the whole kingdome.

The Sword of Malice

Hello again. As promised now that my thesis has been submitted and I am set to graduate, I have so much more time again to dedicate to other readings, writings and magical experiments. I am very excited for what’s soon to be entered into The Book of Faustus.

***

Any regular reader knows about my intense hatred for the Orange Fool currently occupying the White House. You’ll also then know about the monthly mass-binding which members of the magical community have been undertaking for the past three years. I still maintain that this action is working to contain what immense social and ecological evil lies in the infirm mind of His Rotundity. But now that impeachment proceedings are well under way (not that I realistically expect The Bloated One to be convicted by the GOP controlled Senate, let’s be frank), I don’t feel like binding is enough anymore.
So from now on I’m putting aside the sword of justice and picking up (literally) the Sword of Malice, and magically swinging it against the neck of Cheeto Mussolini. In the ritual chamber, my wrath is palpable. I can almost feel it thickening the atmosphere with indignant, wild rage. After these spells are released, I am experiencing deep cathartic relief. The problem is that almost every day the headlines fill me up with anger again. So, I have been performing these curses frequently. I am fully ready to admit that confirmation bias is a real thing, but as soon as I started this curse sequence, Trumple-Thin-Skin spent the weekend in hospital. Just saying.
One positive outcome of the presidency of the Tiny-Handed Tornado is that it has invigorated my magical practice! When I think back on the stories of witches past, who rose up against evil in the darkest hour, I can’t help but feel sympathy and solidarity with them.
We are living in some fucked up times.

Full Moon Ritual of Friday 13

Friday, September 13th
Full ☾ in ♓️

This weekend in the northern hemisphere we were all treated to an auspicious occurrence of a full moon in Pisces. This placement to me indicates a great magnification of spiritual movement, intellectual flow and inward creativity. Retrograde Neptune which governs this lunation may cause it to seem like the spiritual seeker is trying to swim upstream–there is struggle but determination in his efforts.
The day of the 13th, Sage, the priestess of our coven, invited me to join her in a full moon ritual. Despite being tired from all the crazy shit going on in my professional life right now, I decided that a full moon on Friday the 13th just cannot be overlooked. So we gathered!
Here in the south it is still hot at night but a passing tropical storm across the state thankfully provided some breeze and ambiance to the surroundings. This night was full of life as all the trees swayed, the crickets sang and a large and invisible family of frogs were calling out to each other as the moon passed silently overhead. To prepare we set up a working table outside. We took a lot of time before starting anything to ground ourselves and discern what need there was for working under this moon. It would be a night for divination and spirit travel! Not having a proper crossroads to work in, we decided instead to get cross-faded with an inebriating combination of alcohol, cannabis, kinnikkinnik, and the last dregs of my vision potion (the jury is finally out on this BTW. It is very inspiring).
We purified ourselves to start, cast the circle with the LBRP and called the elements together. We opened our ritual by drawing down the power of the moon into our space. Then we took out the Black Mirror. This mirror was built by me, consecrated to the moon, and since then has never touched the light of day. Sage took her dive into the depths of the mirror as I stood watch. By now all the potions and fumes from earlier were keeping me relaxed but deeply focused. I couldn’t tell you what Sage saw in the Mirror. That is for her to tell. But when I went in next, I had a profound, almost psychedelic experience.
My intention when starting this divination was to discern whether there was any hope in the future for the human species. As I opened the veil and entered into the Mirror’s fathomless depths, my mind’s eye briefly caught a glimpse of the anthropological story of homo sapiens from the last major Ice Age, to perhaps a not-too-distant future of human space exploration. But before gleaning too much about my intended question, a cosmic voice interjected…
“You’re asking the most boring question ever”, it said. And suddenly my vision transformed into an ever-expanding, multi-dimensional, fractalizing space. It was a universe beyond our own. It was the world of forms and it was the world of the formless at the same time. This multiverse of possibilities, endless endless combinations, opened up to me like a book in an alien script. “Is this the Askashic record?!!”, I thought to myself. No answer. Only the fast whizzing of ineffable words, images and feelings which were beyond my understanding. It was too much to contain. My mind was spinning and then somehow I spiraled back into my normal time and place, outside the Mirror, and outside still under the light of the moon. The lesson from my seemingly idiotic question? The human condition is an illusion of permanence. My human consciousness is a mere drop of water temporarily separated from an immense ocean of Mind. In some ways this is disturbing. In other ways it is comforting.
After this we had to stand up, move around, stretch and breathe. We then sat down for a mutual astral voyage up to the sphere of the moon, to explore its powers, denizens and structures. But that is a highly detailed story for another time. Finally we set up a small telescope which we used to focus moonlight into a singular point. We took turns charging our ritual objects with this favorable lunar energy, and blessing ourselves with its light. We also prepared a lovely urn of moon water, which we will use in the coming days.

The fullness of this moon also serves to remind me how full my life is. It is a blessing to have the means to explore the path of the spiritual seeker. And it is truly a blessing to have companions to explore the path together.

Image-1

Tools of the Craft

One area of my home is dedicated as a workshop for magical experiments. Once I bought an antique armoire, painted and gilded it, and then consecrated its use for magic. It serves not only as a permanent altar, but also a very useful storage space for my ever-growing collection of magical materials and artifacts. Since so many people who have seen it wonder what all I’ve got in there, let me give you a peak inside. Items marked with an * will have further details at the bottom

  1. The Red Book of S et L – My personal book of shadows. Essentially the true Book of Faustus.*
  2. Mortar and pestle
  3. Charcoal
  4. Railroad spikes*
  5. Bundle of sage
  6. Cauldron of Ogun*
  7. Shamanic rattle
  8. Fetish of Eleggua*  (I messed up and made two 8’s) 8. Deck prism
  9. Assorted candles, figurine candle
  10. Tarot
  11. Herb jars *
  12. Brick dust
  13. Chicken foot charm
  14. Book of Sigils*
  15. Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds
  16. Resin incenses
  17. Pipe
  18. Palo Santo
  19. Perfume vials
  20. Witches’ Flying Ointment (by Sarah Anne Lawless)
  21. Morning Glory seeds
  22. Cone incense
  23. Sacred jewelry, kept in a clay pot I made
  24. Vision potion herbal blend
  25. (Located underneath 26) Packets of baneful plant seeds. Henbane, atropa belladonna, cinquefoil and others.
  26. Hot plate for burning vessels

The altar level, which I decided not to release full photos of, contains many other items including the orisha Osun, ceremonial tools of the Golden Dawn, active spells, mojo bags, offerings, bells, wands and everything else.


Any magic mirror of mine needs to be fancy as fuck.


A proper cauldron. Not just for cooking but also for large potion batches–ayahuasca comes to mind…

Gays and their disposable income, what can I say?

***

1: One of my most prized possessions, The Red Book contains a record of my most interesting magical experiments, frequently used spells and ceremonies, correspondences, and spiritual writings. It is of course for my eyes only. Our coven has a separate Book of Shadows for common use.
4, 6, & 8: These Santeria/Yoruba items came to me purely by chance. When I used to work at a homeless shelter, people would come by with donations of all kinds. Sometimes they were useful things, sometimes they just wanted a place to drop their junk. One day a donation came in that was an old box full of strange objects that no one wanted to touch. When I opened the box, here was this head figurine, an iron cauldron, railroad spikes, a metal rooster, and another mysterious box with small animal bones, dust and a written spell. All these items were covered in grease and looked well used. Since fate determined that they would show up on my desk, I decided to take them home and maintain their dignified presence, rather than see them be thrown away.
11: About a dozen herbs are nicely bottled up off-camera here. They include things like wild lettuce, mugwort, damiana, High John, salvia divinorum, foxglove, rose petals, and others.
14: Similar to The Red Book, the less formal Sigil Book is a worksheet for sigil making and destroying. Some sigil drafts remain although their meanings are mostly forgotten by me when I look back. It is mainly a nostalgia piece.

Magical kolossos – 2nd or 3rd c. CE

Clay figure with 13 bronze pins, discovered with a lead tablet engraved with a binding spell. A Roman “love magic doll”, showing a nude female bound and stabbed with 13 pins. Found in Antinoopolis with a lead curse tablet, this artifact is likely dated to the 2nd or 3rd century C.E.
1. brain: only think about me;
2. eyes: only have eyes for me;
2. ears: only have ears for me;
1. mouth: only speak about me;
1. heart: only have feelings for me;
1. vagina: only have desire for me;
1. anus: only have desire for me;
2. hands: only work for me;
2. feet: never walk away from me…

Antinoopolis was the pageant ground for a lavish and outrageous new mystery religion to rise up at the dawn of the new celestial epoch, the Age of Pisces. The priests of Antinous were supported and funded well by the state, and worshiped in great luxury and delight. Here, the Pax Deorum thrived as the cult of Antinous strived to commingle all the cultures and religions of the Empire. They were Greco-Roman Pagans trying to uphold Olympus in the middle of the Egyptian desert, surrounded by wild Gnostics, austere Catholics, genius Mathematicians and natural philosophers, the Roman garrison and every assortment of conjurer, and prophet of debauchery that could make his way up the Nile.
The Priests of Antinous venerated the beauty of young men, as living examples of Antinous, one superb manifestation of which was held to be the Divine Ephebe in living flesh, a boy of about nineteen years of age, perhaps the winner of the Antinoean Games, who was worshiped as the carnal and spiritual habitation of Antinous the God. We can be certain that the elegant priests were of the doctrine of the Libertines, placed as they were on the very edge of the world, surrounded by unknown Africa, clinging to the edge of the fertile Nile, with endless desert all around. The citizens of Antinoopolis must have felt as though they were not part of the world, that they were special, not subject to the normal rules and customs, and that they were the champions of civilization in the very extreme of barbarity.

After his deification, the constellation of Antinuous was regarded in the West until the re-classification of common constellations by the scientific authorities of the 20th century

The priests of Antinous kept the fire of the name of Antinous burning by reciting his ceremonies and oracles with a combination of Greek Chant and Egyptian bells. Flutes and harps accompanied the gestures of their ritual. The Christian Fathers tell us that all inflamed with drink, the priests fell upon each other in unholy lust. The Ancient Priests were also well-known for their magical spells, and a papyrus fragment bearing an Antinous Love Spell survives to this day. Thousands upon thousands of pilgrims came to Antinoopolis over five centuries to worship the beautiful god, and to hear the sayings of the oracle. Toward the end, as the Empire disintegrated, Antinoopolis became a place of magic and superstition, and the evidence from this period is that Antinoopolis had become a market for charlatans.

Osiris-Antinous, the Egyptianized form of the Roman God. Found in the villa of emperor Hadrian, now at the Vatican Museum

Planetary Hours & Days Calculator

Are you currently working with planetary powers, but you’re tired of mulling over all the arithmetic and calculations, the correspondences, and the timing of it all? Here is my gift to you (and myself)–The Planetary Hours and Days Calculator. Simply enter the day, sunrise and sunset of the time and place your working will occur, and presto-changeo, all the correspondence work is done for you. You can download this worksheet for free, at the link at the bottom.

To use this calculator, simply determine the time for sunrise and sunset at your location, then fill in the red fields at the top. Hours are numbered using a 24-hour clock. Using this tool, you can plan ahead to determine the appropriate time for your planetary working in advance. Click the HERE to download this worksheet.

A Spell of Astral Travel in the Italian Tradition

Italian traditional witchcraft, la stregheria, is an amalgamation of centuries of influence from all corners of the Mediterranean. By the Middle Ages, it had been re-planted in the Christian tradition. But its roots are massively ancient–built upon the remnants of the old religio romana, and infused during the days of the empire with elements from Grecian and Egyptian magical systems. I recently came across this clandestine rite intended to transport the magical practitioner to the Italian city of Benevento, known since the 13th century as an infamous gathering place for witches sabbats.

Witches’ Sabbath, Francisco Goya (1798)

As in other traditions, the crossroads is a typical place where the magician may encounter spirits with whom to do their working. Here he would place offerings to the dead and to the goddess Hecate. Mulled wine and grain, and the meat of a pig respectively. Once offered, the magician summons the goddess and asks that a portal be opened allowing passage between the worlds.
On the ground, he marks out a five-pointed star facing Westward. At each point placing a lit candle, and a skeleton key at the center. Gazing at the key unto the point of trance, gently he blows across each flame three times saying:

Sotto aero e sopra vento
Sotto acqua e sotto vento
Menami la noce Benevento

Then he immediately picks up the key in his left hand, closing his eyes and slowly exhaling. While exhaling, he imagines the star opening as a doorway, allowing himself to enter into and move through the portal. The magician finds himself surrounded by the stars of the night sky, moving through them and flying over the land, the sea and the mountains. He finds a clearing lit by torches, and, exhaling, descends himself to rest near the walnut tree at Benevento. This is the gathering place of the witches who have come to feast and revel with the gods.
The magician, visualizing, sees a banquet table filled with food. Others come to join him. He continues feasting, making merry and observing all the goings-on around him. As torches process away, he sees in the distance an ornate throne sitting at the base of the walnut tree. Upon the throne is seated the Great Sabbatic Goat, the Horned One. The crown of his head is lit with a torch, and this is flanked by two great horns. This is the Lord of Nature, Pan himself. The banqueters gather around the one enthroned to dance, their vigor inflamed by the wine and food. The magician moves himself about, all the while dancing and watching around him as the dancing turns into a Bacchic frenzy.
Suddenly the magician sees a person standing behind the Black Goat, offering a fig to eat. This fig is the symbol of these hidden mysteries. He takes it and eats it, the culmination of this strange communion.

Description de L’Assemblee des Sorciers qu’on Appelle Sabbat (1735)

When he has decided the time has come to leave, the magician summons his five-pointed star portal again, and pronounces his enchantment to return:

Sotto aero e sopra vento
Sotto acqua e sotto vento
Portami via da Benevento

Again he perceives the opening of the stellar portal, and, slowly inhaling and lifting his arms aloft, is surrounded by the stars of night, his soul flying swiftly through the air and over the world below. Finally exhaling, his arms slowly lowered to the ground, he opens his eyes to his return back the crossroads from whence he first departed.

“To journey to the walnut tree is to awaken the Primal Conscious, through which the ancient forms reconnect. It is a return to the Old Ones known to our ancestors before the world was reshaped by human minds. In ancient times, the serpent was venerated at the site of the tree. The serpent has always been the revealer of truth, the enlightener, and the guardian of the seed of light. The seed that lies under the protection of the serpent gives way to the grand harvest. Thus are the cakes and wine featured at the Sabbat banquet. For it is here that one comes to know that within, which is of the eternal Gods.” – From To Fly By Night, The Craft of the Hedgewitch

Walpurgisnacht Eve MMXIX, A.S. LIII

Walpurgisnacht is here again! While chosen as the date of Anton LaVey’s Church of Satan, it has been known for centuries in Europe as Witches’ Night. On that night, the Satanic witches were said to gather in their Sabbats on mountaintops and other savage places to dance, revel and worship  the Devil their Lord.
This year, just as we did last year, we will celebrate The Black Mass of Desecration, only now in an even grander fashion. Thanks to the work on this site, as well as the foundation of the new coven, this year’s mass will be larger, more spectacular, and ever more indulgent!


Treasures of John Dee, The British Museum

My recent trip to London included many points of historical interest, especially the day I spent strolling through the British Museum. I had one object in mind, however, as I was searching through the Enlightenment Gallery, the magical shew-stone of John Dee. This piece of polished obsidian likely came to England after the exploits in Mexico of the conquistador Hernan Cortez.
Dr. John Dee (likely an inspiration for Shakespeare’s Prospero) was known across Europe both as the astrologer for Mary I and Elizabeth I, but also for his spirit work with the notorious Edward Kelley. Together they used their magical expertise to contact the Enochian spirits, whose language and alphabet Kelley scried and Dee transcribed. The Enochian language is said to contain great power and its full meaning remains mysterious even today. Still over the centuries many great magicians used Enochian magic in their work: Crowley, Mathers, and even Anton LaVey.
To look into this same mirror with my own eyes, to see my own reflection looking back through it, was a profound moment in my own life as a student and historian of magic–also as a disciple of John Dee!

John Dee’s mirror, and me, being touristy AF


The powerful Sigillum Dei Aemeth casually sitting in a display case among thousands of other treasures


Portrait of John Dee from the Wellcome Collection
Herbal Riot

A Scrapbook of Sin

Unearthly Delights

A Scrapbook of Sin

The Occult Gallery

A Scrapbook of Sin

Mirrors at Home..

A Scrapbook of Sin

Memento Mori

A Scrapbook of Sin

𖦹

A Scrapbook of Sin

Death & Mysticism

A Scrapbook of Sin

A Scrapbook of Sin

BLACK GOAT

A Scrapbook of Sin