Earth Magic – photography of witches at play and at ritual


Their vision of the witch is rooted in tales of cunning folk and (sometimes) faulty anthropology regarding the existence of pre-Christian horned deity cults whose practices remained hidden, but very much alive, through the centuries.

“Sometimes” faulty? Come now. Gardner and Sanders and Margaret Murray pretty much made up their hobby from scratch.


From crooked nosed hags to sexy dark nymphs it seems, maybe in the future we’ll see a more common looking witch and who knows maybe a Lammily witch in contrast to Monster High dolls.


“nor filk-playing neo-pagans”

I just want to say that I love Fulgur, they do good work, and no doubt this book is lovely, but this kind of more-realer-than-thou authenticity stuff is unnecessary. Just give us the amazing work, no need to tell us that you don’t like filk or hippies (for the record, I don’t like filk either, but that’s neither here nor there).


As opposed to all those other not-made-up religions?


The gallery of pics was very small, so perhaps it is not representative. But nude young women cavorting in the woods looks pretty ‘hippie-neo-pagan’ to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


Good to see we’ve been able to cast aside the mistaken perception of witches as the “consort of the devil, brewing wicked and foul smelling potions in a cast-iron pot, and eating children”, and replace it with the more flattering image of “something young middle class women do to disappoint their parents”.


Good point.
Afterthought… making up and ret-conning “ancient submerged half-forgotten traditions” is itself a long-standing tradition.

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I think part of the problem is that the word witch[y] refers to past religious traditions, but because we can’t agree on the etymology of witch[y], we can’t agree on which religious traditions.

So far I’ve seen:

Germanic from *witan, to know.

Germanic from *weihaz, sacred. E.g. Gothic “weihnai namo þein” in the Atta Unsar.

Celtic via Hwicce, the land of the Dubonnii.

The earliest English substantive forms are wicce and wicca, iirc. That doesn’t fit in with the first etymology, but might fit in with the second.


Did anyone actually refer to themselves as “witches” before those legends cemented the popular image of witches in our minds? Obviously people have long slapped the “witch” label on others but I haven’t seen any documentation of groups that self-identified that way which date back earlier than the 1950s. That means that the Wicked Witch from the film version of The Wizard of Oz had been part of the popular culture for well over a decade before Wicca embraced the term for themselves.

People should be able to call themselves whatever they want, but if I referred to the adherents of my new religion as “Jedi” then it would only be fair to expect some confusion with the Star Wars franchise.


Except that wicce and wicca are the same word as witch. Just earlier forms.

Fine, but same question: did anyone self-identify as that term before it was already widely associated with pointy-hatted broom-riding sorceresses?

Nonsense! And it’s sheer coincidence that every coven was one man “initiating” a group of young women. The Goddess told them to, that’s all.

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I don’t know.

It depends how far back you want to go, which legends you want to include, and when these legends were associated with the word witch. Checking Wikipedia, the earliest surviving association of the word with the accusations and the persecutions dates to about 890.

If witch derives from *weihaz or from *witan, both of these are attested by 383. Wulfila [d. 383] uses the adjective weihs to mean sacred and the substantive weiha to mean a Jewish high priest, but there are no Christian priests in that sense, and other terms appear for Christian clergy [in the letters, martyrologies, and church documents]. And the Paternoster of St. Gall [taq. 800] uses uuih to mean sacred. And the substitution of *hailagaz for *weihaz could reflect the different connotations of each.

If witch derives from Hwicce, then the the Tribal Hidage [c. 700?] refers to Hwinca, which may be Hwicce.

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A very good point - and despite being made-up and retconned, something of value can still emerge. Not guaranteed, of course (I’m thinking of L. Ron).

I’m not even sure that they’re earlier - perhaps a modern term, derived from the same older root?

Those are the instances that attract mainstream prurient attention, yes; you may or may not be surprised that the opposite is equally common. Which is to say, not very - but common enough that almost everyone who moves in those circles (pun intended) can cite an example… I’m more familiar with women taking advantage of their authority in this way, than with men. But in both instances it’s a minority and restricted generally to persistent rumours around groups within a few degrees (pun intended) of separation from Gerald Gardner or Alexander Sanders. I wouldn’t be surprised if much was made up, just a facet of cack-handed politicking between covens that have passed their zenith.

I didn’t think it was a statement of authenticity, just the intention of discarding the cheesy cultural baggage.

The article is about popular images of witches, not the etymology of the word. In this context, I don’t know if it matters what they call themselves. Even before the 1950s resurgence of Wicca there were people doing similar things identifying themselves with Druids or other indigenous European practices.

When I was ordained by Universal Life, I recall that they did offer to ordain people as Jedi if they so chose. As of a few years ago, there were a few hundred thousand people who self-identified as practicing Jedi.