As darkness fell, witches sneaked out of their houses to mount broomsticks, fire-rakes, cats or even hypnotised human beings, their destination was the sabbath or sabbat, the witches’ orgy. The Sabbath was a mixture of flames and feasting, with toads lurking in the undergrowth and owls dipping soundlessly overhead joined by the odd screech from a bat.
The witches definitely knew how to throw a feasting party on a budget! For most part, the food was stolen. But there was a carefully made cake for the centre piece. It was a grand, round, black ceremonial creation.
Sometimes there were black candles or alternatively an eerie funnel of flickering lights.
Witches would also dance to the high-pitched sound of chanting, jerking and contorting their bodies as though they were evoking the devil.
Although the witches’ sabbaths were lurid, licentious and horribly frightening, special meetings, unlike their low-key weekly meet ups, it is likely none ever really took place.
If the witches’ sabbath never happened, then where does the term come from?
The descriptions of sabbaths came from the trials of witches accused in the 14th century.
Forced to go under various torture methods the so called witches used their wildest imaginations to satisfy the morbid lust and sadistic leanings of the inquisitors, who themselves further exaggerated the stories.
Like a snowball, tales about the sabbath grew. Each person would add a little bit of their own imaginative ideas before passing it on to the next.
Before long, nearly every interrogator was keen to know the details of how, when and where the victims marked the sabbath.
Each time the torture would become more twisted, also, many different vile instruments were brandished for the sessions. As a result, very few inquisitors were disappointed by the detailed descriptions of the witches.
The inquisitors believed that dancing was evil because it could induce high emotion and even sexual excitement. This is quite possibly how the folklore of the witches’ ritual dance came into being. Sex was a huge taboo for the church, which chose celibacy for its priests. The sexual element was intended to further demonise those involved. Year’s later psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud noted the enormous size of the penis in most depictions of the devil at a sabbath and observed that sexual repression certainly played a part in the witch craze of the Middle-Ages.
Naturally, the brief of the inquisitors was to make their helpless prey appear as ferocious and evil as possible.
For some reason, it seemed essential to people that the fictional Sabbaths involved hags, demons, imps, familiars and, not forgetting, Satan himself.
Around 1608, a popular writer by the name of Guazzo, wrote about a European sabbath in which the Devil initiated an apprentice, accepted a kiss on his ass by his followers and danced frantically amongst them. Who could doubt the extreme and inhumane measures taken against witches in the face of such evil? On top of that, just for the pure reason to arouse more dread among the population, the practise of the sabbath became a parody of the Catholic Holy Church.
Another explanation for the sabbaths which was favoured in later years by the level-headed Lutherans and others was the suggestion that witches travelled to sabbaths only in spirit form while their earth bound bodies lay at home, sleeping.
In 1668 the people of Mora and Elfdale in Sweden were horrified to see their children fall into nightly trances. The whisper around the villages became a shout – the youngsters had become the tools, the slaves, the play-things of witches.
An investigation took place and evidence was heard from worried parents. But the most sensational of tales stemmed from the children themselves. One after the other, they would tell how they had been carried to a witches’ sabbath at a place called Blakolla to the presence of a plump, jovial devil by the name of Locyta who gave them the ability to fly on broomsticks. The children were then initiated by Locyta and learned spells, feasted and danced. When they revealed their incredible stories to the stunned investigators it was in a deadpan and uniform way. One of the children accused, a young girl, explained how her spirit flew to the sabbath, while her body remained in bed.
As they were convinced that witches were at work, the judges were extremely harsh in their sentencing. Fifteen of the children aged between nine and sixteen were executed. A further sixty of them were forced to endure a birching and a weekly caning for a year.
Nowadays, looking back, it seems as though the children could have been nothing more but innocent victims of mass hypnosis, or just suffered as a result from a hallucinatory drug. The identity of this mystical ‘Pied Piper’ who was responsible for depriving the children of Mora and Elfdale of their minds was never revealed.
Reginald Scot, who was one of the first sceptics to through doubt upon the very existence of witches in his book ‘Discoverie of Witchcraft’ in 1583, certainly believed that the witches’ sabbath was nothing more than a figment of imagination and festering minds; ‘…he is too much a fool and a blockhead, that supposeth those things to be done indeed, and corporally, which are by such persons fantastically imagined’.
In : History
Tags: occult charmed witches sabbath ritual curse spell
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