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The Curated Witch July 30



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I’m always amused when religious or political conservatives claim that the United States or the West or the whole world is “becoming Pagan again.” They show their ignorance about Paganism, both ancient and modern. What they usually mean is that their part of the world is becoming more tolerant and accepting, and that their version of Christianity is losing its cultural dominance.


I wish all the people who are leaving Christianity were becoming Pagan. They aren’t. They’re becoming “none of the above” – neither Christian nor Pagan nor atheist, but something highly individual and unaffiliated. So be it.




Enter the rustic kitchen at the Daniels House and step through a portal into late 1600s Salem, Mass., known then as Salem Town. Ritual protection marks are etched into the wood of the heavy kitchen door to protect the house and those who lived within its walls from evil spirits.


The fire in the massive open-hearth fireplace would have burned round the clock, licking at heavy pots and kettles. The house, built over 350 years ago by a sea captain, sheltered its occupants from sun and rain, but it was sweltering in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. When night fell, the room plunged into darkness, the only light source being the flames of the candles burning down in their candle stands.


“If you want to know what it was like to live in Salem during the witch trials of 1692, this room is it,” said Vijay Joyce, whose background is in architectural history and historic preservation.


[Warner Bros Discovery]


The goddess-queen Inanna is an ancient Sumerian fertility goddess and principal character in the first story written by an author who signed her name in human history. Two thousand years before the common era, a woman named Enheduanna committed to clay tablets the story of traveling to the underworld. This story has many versions, many translations, and the original meanings are somewhat obscure to us across the gulf of time.


The most recent version of this story is Greta Gerwig’s new film, Barbie.



Tuesday, August 1 is the next holy day on the modern Pagan Wheel of the Year. For me and many others it’s called Lughnasadh, named for the Irish God Lugh and celebrated in honor of His foster mother Tailtiu. For some it’s called Lammas, from the Anglo-Saxon “hlaef-mass” or “loaf mass.” Whatever you call it, it’s the first of three harvest festivals, a tradition that began in ancient times and continued into the modern era with county fairs and such.


This is not the most popular Pagan festival. When Jason Mankey ranked the sabbats in 2019, Lammas came in at #6. When I did a similar analysis, it came in #8 out of 8. It’s the middle of summer and people are out doing things before returning to school and other routines in September. More importantly, Lughnasadh has no mainstream correspondence, like Halloween with Samhain or Christmas with the Winter Solstice.



The pond foundation at Sir Henry's pub restaurant, Aveley (Image: EssexLive/ReachPLC)


The restaurant's history stretches back to the 13th century and its popular beer garden pond fountain was supposedly used to prosecute accused witches.


Many pubs in Essex have an extensive history, dating back many centuries ago. Although some of these sites have been modernised in one way or another, they still hold tight onto their long and fascinating history in one way or another.


This could be said for Sir Henry's in Aveley. The building, on Romford Road, has been in Essex for over 700 years since it was built in 1290 and the pub was named after former Lord of the Manor, sheriff, and executioner of Essex Henry Gernet.





“WHERE’S YOUR WHITE SAGE NOW, WICCAAAAAN?!” Kelden Mercury screamed at Thorn Mooney, while Cory Hutcheson wrestled him into a chokehold and Nicholas Pearson flung curses at the lot of them.


Y’all. I am so very happy to confirm that I’m not making any of this up.


Granted, the whole thing was staged for a TikTok video. But it was still an excellent highlight of my Mystic South experience, in that someone was like, “You know what would be funny?” And then a group of witches who’d only just met a few minutes before threw themselves into an impromptu social media production.



Photo BelleDeesse 29 Jan 2015


Witchcraft has also become a multibillion-dollar business. As a sociologist who has been researching this religion for more than 30 years, I have witnessed this growing commercialization: Witch kits are sold by large companies and in stores – something unheard of when I began my research in 1986.


This surge in popularity has changed these communities in some subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Groups called covens were the norm when I began my research, but as my own research shows, most Pagans now are solitary practitioners. Even while the Goddess continues to be revered, the practitioners’ connection to the natural world, at least for many, is also changing.




A famous pagan leader called Daddy Witch lived in a small cottage in Horseheath in the 1800s and witches came far and wide to dance in the fields with them


It's well known that Cambridgeshire has quite a strong history with witchcraft, known perhaps best for the famous witch trials of the Witches of Warboys. But one unassuming village in the Cambridgeshire countryside has a more fascinating history with witchcraft, housing one of the biggest and most fascinating witch covens in the area.


After the early 18th century, communities were no longer as superstitious as they once were and witchcraft trials and executions were not supported by the British government. The last person executed for witchcraft in the UK was in 1727.


But this does not mean that witchcraft disappeared.

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