“The witching gods are the gods who made the gods who made man.” I don’t know where I first heard it, but it rings true: our gods are old…some might say…old as balls.
Who are these eldritch forces of witchery? How did they come to be associated with witchcraft and witches? It is my belief that these old forces have been with us since the beginning, since man first became conscious of the spirits that roamed the universe, and were able to commune with them. The forces were those that struck us in the depths of our mind, mainly the forces of Life and Death, and some darker power behind both of these forces.
These forces were not always associated with witchcraft, of course. This came much later. Before this, they were great spirits of nature, usually worshipped outside of the established, civilized religion of a given society. They had their own folklore among the common people.
In modern traditional craft, these forces tend to be personified as the Devil of the witches, and the Faery Queen. The Devil is associated with death, initiation, transformation, ecstatic dancing and liberation. While the Faery Queen is associated with mirth, mystery, the moon, madness, illusion, divine drunkenness, prophecy, and sexuality. The Devil is usually depicted as a half man-half beastial figure, while the Faery Queen is a beautiful maiden, but sometimes also an old hag.
They have been known by many names throughout Europe and the British Isles. Sometimes these names are regional, and sometimes they relate to classical myth. Naturally, Christianity subsumed these names into quite simply the Devil, but earlier on the Catholics did keep records of some of the names given by the witches and heretics who went on night flights through the air with a host of spirits.
I shall take you through what I know about these gods. However, it is important to go out and meet these great spirits for yourself irrespective of what I write here.
That Spry Old Goat
The Devil of the Witches is the anthropomorphic spirit of death, transformation, and liberation. With his ever-erect phallus, he is also the god of sex, and the rising serpent power of the Land. He often appears as some black beast, most commonly as a goat, but also sometimes as a black dog or cat, and even a toad in certain bits of lore. He also appears with a flame shining between his horns.
He has many names, many of which you, dear reader, already know. Lucifer, Andras, Bucca, Old Horny, Nick, Scrat, Herne, Pan, Cernunnos. He makes his presence known by a whipping wind, and a winding horn, the baying of hounds and the creeping of flesh. When he touches those who pay him homage, one can not help but dance in ecstasy.
He is the Lord of Death. He dies to rise again, shedding his serpent skin, his horns, his leaves, and then returning resplendent when the sun shines bright. He is the Master Turncoat who is able to traverse through many different forms. He can not be caught for if caught he often turns into a pile of dead leaves.
He was there when we first crawled out of the caves, and drew his images on the rocky stones. He was there when we danced with strange nymphs in the hills Greece, dancing to his piping tunes. He was there when we were lifted out of our beds to dance about his effigy in a grand circle under threat of fire and rope. And he is here now. Calling to us, howling for us to join his Faery Rade across the night sky, to revel forever in the halls of the Sabbat Mound.
He is the Two-Faced Janus and Janicot who gazes into the past and to the future, his four horns branching off into the four winds. The Light Between His Horns he can give to his witches who play for him, filling them with his mastery over Death. The light crystallized in the blood so that they can be as gods and live forever.
Queen of the Fairies
The Queen of the Fairies is a major spirit in earlier witchcraft lore of Europe and Great Britain, but during the early modern period the focus of the leader of the witches shifted to simply the Devil. However, there are a few witches who mentioned her, such as Isobel Gowdie and the Andro Man. She is a spirit of the stars, the moon, illusion, sex, and the good folk. As the faery are often associated with the dead, she is also the Elfen Queen over the Dead. She lives within mountains and faery hills, and rides a white horse with silver bells.
Nicnevin is her name, and Diana, Titania, and Herodias, Habondia and Hulda, Anis, and Bride. She appears as a beautiful, alluring maiden whose skin is as white as the moon, and other times as a old hag, who is hollow when seen from behind. She is a tamer of wild beasts, and a granter of strange visions induced by soporific unguents. She makes love to mortal men, and snatches up dead knights whom she fancies.
She is the Lady of Fate, often associated with the noose tightening around our neck and dragging us into Hell. She is there when the red blossoms bloom on the trees, heralding the return of the summer and the time for planting. She is there when the first winds of winter begin to howl through the trees, turning all to death and decay. She is there when the stars shine, and when the moon moves through her phase. She is found in the sweet perfume of roses, and the rotting smell of henbane. She is there the draughts of love, and the poisons of despair. She is there in the sexual yearnings, urgings, and moanings. Every pleasurable orgasm is her delight.
Our Lady of Twilight is the protector, but also the all-devourer. She will consume your mind, and you will write poetry to her (or is it poetry to you?). She will grant you the power of prophecy, and the power to doom kings, and raise kingdoms. Hers is the screech of the owl, fortelling terror. She is also the beauty of the green earth, and the refreshment of the rippling waters. She is what IS at the end of Desire.
A Merry Round: The Sabbat of the Witches
The Sabbat of the Witches is an old rite. I do not mean that the rites that we have passed down are old, rather that the concepts and imagery and effect the rite produces is very old: that of communing with the forces of life and death and the universe. The Sabbat is a convocation of spirits and man and beast. All is ONE within the Sabbat round. Call it a Bacchanale, a Sabbat, Communion, the effect is ONE.
The Sabbat was sometimes a physical event, and other times a visionary ritual. It has been my experience that both may occur at the same time. That is, if one is a Seer, they may See the One Sabbat occuring while one is performing the rites of the physical Sabbat.
What -is- the Sabbat? The Sabbat, as I have gathered, is a celebratory event of communion between witches and the gods. This consisted of offerings of wines, animals, as well as sexual intercourse and drug offerings (the ointment). Today, these Sabbats are usually (in a British context) held on one of the Old Festival days of Celtic origin. Now we also have added the four equinoxes which have festival occurrences in various cultures of antiquity. In my tradition, we are of both Celtic and Scandinavian descent, so we combine the two (any excuse for a party!).
I will now give a method for participating in the Sabbat based on various sources. I tried to make this as simple as possible, but of course you can make it as elaborate as you like. It is important to note that the imagery you use, the cultural milieu you’re accustomed to, and the folklore you study will affect any visions which appear to you. It is up to you to discern what is truth from these visions. While I write this for the use of one person, the ritual works all the better with more people involved.
A Ritual to Participate in the Sabbat
Lay a circle in whatever way you are familiar with. Have with you in the circle an instrument which you can easily handle while dancing, such as a drum or tambourine. If you’re inside, you might play some music that conjures up Sabbatic imagery to you, but I know a lot of witches who don’t like to use any modern technology in their circles, and that’s fine. Have with you also some representation of the witching gods, which can be either photographs which remind you of them, or statues, or even just a stone or horn to represent the Horned God of the Witches, and a mirror or sea shell to represent the Witch Queen. You can even draw sigils of them with flour on the ground. A traditional symbol for the God is a skull and crossbones, and for the goddess a symbol of the moon.
If you are using a flying ointment or some entheogen, make use of this now. As you do so, whisper an old transvection chant over the substance, such as: “Horse and haddock, horse and go, horse and pellatis, ho ho!”, “Emen hetan, emen hetan!” or “Tout tout a tout tout throughout and about.”
Lay the circle with a candle lit at the center (or, if you are outside, a fire), and when you’re ready to call up the gods of Witching, you might strip yourself of your clothing. This is not strictly necessary, but it certainly gives an old witch feeling to the rite, and hearkens to a time of dancing nude in the forest with strange gods. For me, it divests me of the “civilized” culture of man, and brings me closer to the beastial nature of reality.
There are some beautiful invocations of the gods which can be found in Doreen Valiente’s Witchcraft for Tomorrow, or you can make up your own. Or just simply say names of the gods which you are drawn to in a rhythmic way which may turn into a song you sing as you dance. As you say these invocations, light a candle before each representation of the witch god. Then dance around the icons of the gods you have placed in the center, howling up their names to the heavens. What follows are some traditional calls I know of:
Eko eko azarak
Eko eko zomelak
Eko eko KERNUNOS
Eko eko ARADIA!
O IO PAN
IA IA ARADIA
IO EVOE KERNUNO
IO EVOHE DIANA
IO DIO HU HAR HYA
Har har hou hou
Danse ici, danse la,
Joue ici, joue la,
SABBAT SABBAT HO!
Dance around the circle, or alternatively something I have found to help, as dancing alone can be rather tiring, sit down and sway in a circle or rock back and forth. This may give way to a visionary trance, and you may lay back and experience this, and possibly lift out of the body to fly to the Sabbat at which point the rest is up to you (you can return with the words I give below).
When you feel the gods and their attending spirits are potently with you (which may manifest as visions of being surrounded by other similarly dressed people upon a hill or mountain, or possibly inside of the hill or mountain. You may feel as though other people are with you, and you might hear other people talking with you. It can manifest in many ways I have discovered), you may begin to commune with them for a time. Share in the Red Meal, and pour the offerings over their icons. If you feel sexually aroused, you might offer your sexual fluids as an offering to the gods. After this sharing of the senses, you might dance again to celebrate your union, dancing and singing, or perhaps you take the time to perform some divinations, or some other form of magic.
You may end the rite with final offerings as you respectfully dismiss the gods and return to physical reality. Run once around the circle and leap over the fire with the words: “Rentum tormentum in the Devil’s name!” to return.
This simple ritual may be done on the full moons, the dark moons, Fridays are also traditional, or upon the traditional festival days. Find what works for you. The Sabbat is always occuring, it is we who join in the dance.