by the crow's feather
in his cap.
"I am the man in black,"
he will say.
“Do you know who I am?”
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Let us recall the kings who died for corn:
red bread and red drink at Lúnasa of the harvest.
We were discussing the previous night's old-style witches' sabbat. (“Old Style” as in “just like the woodcuts.”)
Of the housel*—the feasting on the god's flesh and blood—someone suggested provision of a gluten-free option next time around.
Sometimes, I think, we need to be wise enough to listen to the wisdom of other traditions.
In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas poses the question: If the body of Christ is present in the consecrated host, just what part of Christ's body is present there? The head? The heart? The phallus?
I can't remember who first told me that not only was this song sung and played at the witches' sabbat Back When, but that, in fact, it actually describes the uncanny goings-on there.
The reason for the song's witchy reputation is unclear. The sheer unreality of the scenario? The implied masquerade? The tune's leering allusion to the plainchant Dies Irae?
Well, whether witches capered to this tune in the old days or not, we certainly do now. In fact, we'll be singing and dancing it at the upcoming Midwest Grand Sabbat this year. With luck, the Devil's Piper himself will be there to play.
Of the many different versions of this song that exist, what follows is the oldest known to me, given in Medieval French, English translation, and singable English lyrics.
Grab your bagpipe and play along.
Yeah, yeah, I've read the books, I've heard the arguments, I know all about flawed methodology and bogus historiography. Who takes Murray seriously these days, anyway?
An important element is missing here. People believed Murray's theories for years because they're convincing. They have the ring of likeliness to them.
OK, here we are, medieval peasants. Life is hard. We work our butts off sun-up to sun-down nearly every day, and in a good year we raise enough to get us through to the next harvest. Often enough, we don't, and then we starve. Even in good years, the seigneur and the priest have automatic authority over pretty much every aspect of our lives.
We grew up hearing fireside stories, half-remembered, about the Old Ways and the Guy with the Horns. Yeah, I know Father Guillemet says he's bad, but the priest doesn't know everything, anyone can see that. He's a priest, what does he know about real life?
What is more likely than that on the old days you'd go off to the bonfire in the woods, get drunk, dance and screw your neighbor's wife (or husband) in the bushes? Pleasure is rare enough in life, and you have to take it when you can get it. And part of the fun is poking fun at Authority, especially Authority—like the church—about which you really can't help but feel a certain amount of ambivalence. Mix bits and pieces of decayed paganism with the only rituals that you know—those of the church—and voilà: spontaneous folk-diabolism.
Here in the Midwestern US, 2015 is a sabbatic year. At the beginning of harvest, the tribe of Witches will once again foregather in immemorial Grand Sabbat.
But while the adults are busy kissing the Devil's ass (makes the herds fertile), having promiscuous sex (makes the crops grow), and eating ragoût de bébé non baptisé (tastes great), what about the kids? Once they've been presented to the Devil but before they're old enough to join in the fun, what to do? Kids and rituals: the perennial problem.
When in doubt, consult ancestral precedent. The Basque witches came up with a neat solution.
As I'm sure I don't need to tell you, after the Devil f**ks the bejesus out of you and nips your shoulder, to seal the deal he gives you your very own toad to be your intimate familiar. You suckle it (blood's OK if you don't happen to be lactating at the time) and sew little outfits for it, and in return it helps out with all your spells.
Warning: Contains material some readers may find offensive.
You've heard the stories. Do you know what those wacky-ass witches do at their sabbats? They actually kiss the Devil's hairy bung-hole: the Kiss in tergo, as the chroniclers coyly put it.
Ah, yes: the osculum infame, “the notorious kiss,” as it's known. You might think that this is one of the parts of medieval witchery that didn't quite make it to the modern witchcraft revival, but I think that you'd be wrong on that count. Twelve'll get you thirteen that the good old Kiss from Behind is ancestral to the Book of Shadows' Fivefold Kiss. Breathes there a Wiccan who would admit it, though?
Holidays are not my thing. If you come to my house, you won’t see cute fall leaves (unless they are on the ground) or other holiday decorations. It has never been my thing. It seems like a lot of effort for little meaning or return.
Halloween has a lot of mischief, candy, horror movies, and bad images for witches. Even as a child I didn’t like this holiday. As an adult and a Pagan, I’ve found other ways to honor the season....