Middle Earth Magic: Inspired Ideas and Seasonal Spells for Your Enchanted Life

I grew up on a farm in West Virginia and learned much about herbs, trees, animals, gardening, foraging  and so much about nature. I incorporate this wisdom I learned from elders in my family into my spellwork. When I finally left the farm, I majored in Medieval Studies, my attempt to emulate my idol, J.R.R. Tolkien. All these influences led me to my own blended brew which I call "middle earth magic," containing a mix of the modern and the time-tested "old ways." 

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Honoring Our Pagan Past: The Burning Times

In 1992, on the 300th anniversary of the Salem witch trials, the largest number of witches in history congregated to “reclaim” Salem.  Many stayed and have become model citizens and business people with retail outlets, bookstores, workshops, and all manner of successful enterprises.  This footnote to our pagan history reflects our high regard for our religious history and how it matters today more than ever.

Another dramatic time in what I call “Witchstory” or Witch history” took place in colonial America.  When two adolescent girls began having seizures and screaming out, the local doctors immediately declared the ailing girls to be Satan’s handmaidens and said that the entire community needed to fast and pray for the two fallen girls.  One of the cures for this affliction was “Witch Cake”, a hideous concoction of rye meal mixed with the urine of the two girls.  This supposedly would cause the girls to reveal the origin of their misfortune.  With the entire village of Salem putting pressure on for a confession, nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris and eleven-year-old Abigail Williams broke down and named three women they knew to be witches who had them under a spell: Sarah Osborne, Sarah Good, and Tituba, the Caribbean Indian slave of the Parris family.  While both Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good pled their innocence, Tituba was tortured and “confessed” that there was a coven of witches at work in Salem.

A trial took place, lasting weeks and many of the villagers confessed to having been under the spell of the witches.  In 1692, community leaders declared the need for a “witch hunt”, and while they were at it, they took the opportunity to clean up the local riffraff.  Again, women were under special scrutiny, and even those not under any suspicion at all were at the mercy of the judiciary, especially women with property ripe for confiscation by greedy public officials.  As always, the desired confession was gained under pain of torture.  The first to be found guilty of witchcraft was Bridget Bishop; the sentence was hanging.  A sort of “witch fever” spread throughout New England, followed by the Andover witch trials.  Fortunately, people began to gather round to protect each other and signed petitions asserting the innocence of the accused.  Finally, the newly established superior court, founded one year after the hanging of Bridget Bishop, put a stop to the conviction of witches.  Unfortunately, the superior court did not act until twenty people had been executed on trumped-up charges.

Donna Read, in her masterful documentary film The Burning Times, explores the history of the Dark Ages, when an estimated 3 million women were burned as suspected witches.* This ongoing torture and murder of millions of women begs the question: Why are women so threatening to men in power?  We have seen it time and time again over the millennia, beginning with Eve being blamed for the introduction of evil (read: knowledge) into the world.  The sacred feminine is mysterious, with a dark and unknowable aspect that can be threatening to those in power.  Women’s wisdom, born from women’s intuition, springs from the well of the sacred feminine.  This frightens people who don’t understand or embrace it.  Women who spoke their mind, who challenged authority, and who espoused spirituality outside the codified rules of any church were considered a danger to strict social order.  The unknown and unknowable intimidates and is a menace to the status quo.  Thus, it had to be silenced.  This silencing cost millions of lives.

While we have progressed in so many ways since 1692, persecution can still happen.  In May 2005, a young woman in England was dunked repeatedly in the river and nearly drowned because her family and neighbors believed she was practicing witchcraft.  So while we believe these dark times are over, we must be ever vigilant.  We must never forget.


I meant to find her when I came

Death had the same design.

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,

One need not be a house;

The brain has corridors surpassing

Material place.

––Emily Dickinson


Today’s pagan culture embraces women’s wisdom, and in its essence is a celebration of the Sacred Feminine.  If you look at magical culture, men also embrace their feminine sides and fully express them.  It is important to remember the Burning Times and the ties of torture and negation of the female spirit.  Let us know express what was once silenced. Blessed be.

 *Editorial note: More recent scholarly estimates place the number of victims at 40,000-60,000 during the Early Modern period (15th-18th centuries), the height of the witch panic in Europe.

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    Cerridwen Greenleaf has worked with many of the leading lights of the spirituality world including Starhawk, Z Budapest, John Michael Greer, Christopher Penczak, Raymond Buckland, Luisah Teish, and many more. She gives herbal, crystal and candle magic workshops throughout North America. Greenleaf's graduate work in medieval studies has given her deep knowledge she utilizes in her work, making her work unique in the field. A bestselling author, her books include Moon Spell Magic, The Book of Kitchen Witchery, The Magic of Gems and Crystals and the Witch’s Spell Book series.  She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.  


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