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Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Anglo Saxon Witchcraft

Anglo Saxon Witchcraft Cover

Book: Anglo Saxon Witchcraft by Swain Wodening

"What was Anglo-Saxon witchcraft?" is a very difficult question to answer. Our sources are primarily laws against the practice of witchcraft. These laws unfortuantely lump a whole lot of Heathen practices together so that it is difficult to tell whether galderes "charm speakers," seers, and leechs "healers" were counted as witches, or if these were counted as seperate types of magic users much like the difference made in Germany between the modern Hexen and Hexmeister. However when faced with many of the law codes, as well as words commonly used in conjunction with wicce or wicca, we begin to see a pattern somewhat confirmed by folklore about the witches or Hexen on the continent.

The following paragraphs from Aelfric's Homilies parallels many of the folktales about the witches in the Hartz Mountains: "Nu cwyth sum wiglere thaet wiccan oft secgath swa swa hit agaeth mid sothum thincge. Nu secge we to sothan thaet se ungesewenlica deofol the flyhth geond thas woruld and fela thincg gesihth geswutelath thaera wiccan hwaet heo secge mannum thaet tha beon fordone the thaene drycraeft secath".

A few modern Wiccans try to trace their magic practices back to Anglo-Saxon practices. The sad truth is however, Anglo-Saxon witchcraft and modern Wiccan practice have little to do with each other. With the exception of some kitchen witchery and other such practices, there is no evidence of an unbroken tradition of organized witchcraft from the Elder Heathen Period until now. For one thing, the ancient Anglo-Saxon witches certainly did not worship a God and Goddess, not in the sense that Wiccans do today (they worshipped gods and goddesses like Woden, Thunor, and Frige of the Germanic pantheon). Nor did they have anything like the Wiccan Rede. Modern Wiccan magic practice largely owes its orgins to Masonic ritual and the practices of High Ritual Magic groups formed in the early 20th century like the Golden Dawn with bits and pieces of kitchen witchcraft thrown in. The Old English words for witch, wicce "a female witch" or wicca "a male witch" in no way means "wise one," by the way.

Download Swain Wodening's eBook: Anglo Saxon Witchcraft

Suggested free e-books to read:

George Lyman Kittredge - Notes On Witchcraft
Swain Wodening - Anglo Saxon Witchcraft