Friday, March 1, 2013

the witches - 3. a digression and a dream

by rosalind montmorency-st winifred

illustrated by rhoda penmarq and roy dismas

there are perhaps no subjects which have so exercised the imagination of fearful humanity, and about which so much has been written, and so little known, as witches and witchcraft. those learned authorities who have pondered and studied the subjects, and discoursed and written on them at length, begin by disagreeing, in the most extreme manner, on the extent that they have ever existed. the learned friar h-------------, resident scholar of the abbey of p----------, in the century of otto the great, averred confidently, not only that witchcraft has existed in all human societies since adam and eve were banished from the garden, but that as many as seventy-five percent of all eve's daughters have been initiates of the dark arts since that event (an event the culpability for which he ascribes entirely to adam's unfortunate helpmate).

the modern reader, heir to what he perceives as centuries of "enlightenment", will no doubt smile at the monk's conclusions, and might smile even more, if he were to take the time to peruse his arguments, derived about equally from scripture and from the recorded lives of such heroes as alexander and charlemagne. the most opposite, and most aggressively argued opposite view is found, somewhat surprisingly, not in the most recent scholarship, which tends to the view that belief at least fostered some attempt to justify the beliefs, but from the perhaps unjustifiably obscure writings of the erudite abbess s------------,

a contemporary of gervase of tilbury and rudolf von ems, who took the stance that the very notion of the black arts was a canard to be ascribed to the sages of the early christian era, particularly the "pagans" who sought to question the validity of the new society coming into being under the twin aegises of the church fathers, and constantine and his imperial successors. a modern reader, thinking from my description to find a kindred spirit in this learned lady, should be forewarned that no small part of her arguments derive from the study of astrology, which was just then beginning to be reintroduced into europe from the moorish world.

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