Sacred Flesh

"But this dark is deep: now I warm you with my blood, listen to this flesh. It is far truer than poems." -- Marina Tsvetaya


Witches of Olde walk the Earth Again

Bewitched in Salem
By Thomas Doherty

AS BOTH a longtime Salem resident and a sometime television scholar, I believe I can claim the requisite credentials to weigh in on the momentous controversy currently roiling our community: whether a statue of actress Elizabeth Montgomery should be erected in town to honor her performance as the proboscis-twitching witch Samantha on the television series ''Bewitched."

The proposed bronze monument to the perky blonde is a publicity scheme concocted by the cable network TV Land, which has already mounted video-inspired statues of characters from beloved (or just regularly syndicated) series such as ''The Honeymooners" (Ralph Kramden at the New York bus terminal), ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (Mary Richards in Minneapolis), and ''The Andy Griffith Show" (Andy and Opie in Raleigh, N.C.)

Salem's Mayor Stanley J. Usovicz thinks a statue of Samantha is a grand way to sucker in tourists more likely to know their reruns than their Hawthorne. Other Salemites believe that devoting prime real estate to a faux witch from a minor league sitcom that was, not incidentally, set in Hartford, trivializes the memory of the legal murders committed during the Salem witch trials of 1692, a spasm of judicial activism that made the city a byword for intolerance and hysteria.

Contrary to popular perception, no witches were burned in Salem. Nineteen accused witches were hanged, and one, the taciturn Giles Cory, was pressed to death with stones. His eloquent last words: ''More weight."

For a city whose official emblem is a smiling witch sitting astride a broomstick, it may be wise not to tut-tut too loudly about the crass commercialism and bogus historicity of a ''Bewitched" homage. After all, local hucksters have been milking the ancillary marketing opportunities from the Salem witch trials since Cotton Mather knocked off a true crime tie-in entitled ''The Wonders of the Invisible World" in 1693. ''I shall no longer detain my reader from his expected entertainment," writes Mather in the prologue, eager to get down to the good stuff like spectral evidence and blood oaths with Satan.

From the time of Mather to Nathaniel Hawthorne's ''The Scarlet Letter" and down through Arthur Miller's ''The Crucible," the Salem witch trials have been grist for all kinds of literary and cultural annexations.

In ''Salem: Place, Myth, and Memory," a recent collection of essays edited by Salem State College professors Dane Anthony Morrison and Nancy Lusignan Schultz, Salem emerges as ground zero for a constellation of meanings and metaphors that live far beyond its modest tax base. ''The witch trials have so seized the American imagination," conclude the authors, ''that the event has come to stand for the place itself, consecrating Salem as a civic shrine."

Or a civic bacchanalia. In 1992, upon the 300th anniversary of the Salem witch trials, an unprecedented orgy of festivities, parades, and commemorations blasted the usual exploitation into a whole new level of raucous notoriety.

Now, every October, in a real devil's bargain, the city unleashes ''Haunted Happenings," an open invitation for battalions of Goth kids and Halloween revelers to turn the town into a chilly version of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, only without the great cuisine and exposed breasts. Two alternative visions of Salem -- solemn shrine to a grim past and open-air block party boogalooing down Derby Street -- have been at war ever since.

Hence, the brouhaha over ''Bewitched." Telecast on ABC from 1964 to 1972, the show was the most Nielsen-friendly of a weird subspecies of the sitcom genre that TV critic David Marc has dubbed the ''magicom" (see also, ''My Favorite Martian").

On ''Bewitched," however, the supernatural shenanigans were laced with generous doses of down-to-earth sexism. Every week, Samantha's prig of a husband Darrin insisted she clean and cook like any mortal housewife rather than escape the drudgery by wrinkling her nose.

''Here's a woman with unimaginable magical power, and she uses it entirely to shore up her husband's ego, make him look good, help him keep his job, beat down his enemies," complained science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, his own nose bent out of joint.

Yet even in the retrograde realm of the 1960s sitcom, Samantha's indentured servitude incited a gendered insurrection in the form of her troublemaking mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead), who regularly materialized to torment Darrin and get Samantha back in touch with her rhinoplasticity. Aficionados of the show also relish the episodes featuring Samantha's impish, mini-skirted cousin Serena.

But does any of this deserve to be set in bronze on the streets of Salem? Figuring that the Puritan fathers who presided over the courtroom drama of 1692 would be more appalled by a statue of a spectral witch than by a purist fidelity to Salem tradition, I have to side with the pro-Samantha coven. Just as long as they don't try to erect a statue to either of those guys who played Darrin.

Thomas Doherty is chairman of the Film Studies Program at Brandeis University.

The Truth About Magick

by Lady Abigail

Is Magick Real?

I would venture to say almost every Witch has had this question placed before them. Yet, what many do not understand is that the answer is as diverse as the Witch asked. Whether magick is real or not is a matter of your heart and faith, and how you see magick. There comes a moment in time that each of us realizes we must define what magick is for ourselves. Magick is extremely personal. It is that part of your life for which only you can find the truth within.

"Magick" is that element of our spirit held deep within each of us, that secret part of a natural knowing, not always understood. Just because others do not see the truth in magick does not preclude the truth that magick exists.

True Magick Happens . . .Whenever You Believe...

The magick I am talking about is not the generally accepted concept of Witchcraft or the supernatural. It is a gift of life and an important guiding force within each of us. This magick is found within our emotional and instinctive understandings. We are each filled with endless possibilities; each of us can be as powerful as we desire with true magick.

You have felt the energy stirring within your soul, perhaps when you were a child. It is that special power that runs through the fiber of your being with the approach of a coming storm. But, unfortunately, many were told as children that magick wasn't possible and that such things were not to be believed. How strange that as children we just knew that magick was all around us.

You must seek that knowledge, that energy from inside your own spirit, that force held deep within your very being. You must learn to trust that power. Yes, you have power. It goes far beyond the candles you use or the herbs you burn; the magick comes from within you.

Everything in life and magick is interrelated. In reclaiming the magick and power you have, you must understand that all things have a connection further than what can be easily seen. The universe is all encompassing and never ending. So is the range of magick, for the universe is filled with magick.

A simple description of the interrelations of energy can be found within the elements and nature. For example, the green of earth needs rain to grow and survive but that same rain can destroy the earth by flood. Yet, that same flood feeds and replenishes life held within the waters and leaves behind a richer earth for new life.

Magick is finding your personal connection to the universe, Earth, and all that is natural and alive. It binds all that exists together.

Magick is an existence or personal path of self-consciousness and awareness. It comes in the understanding that you not only carry the key, you are the key. This comes from practice and self-discipline, strength of mind in accepting that your magick will work, and learning to overcome personal fear, sometimes even a fear of succeeding.

Magick is learning to focus “ALL” toward an “EXPECTED” desire by using your powers of determination and motivation. Give credence to your emotions, for emotions are a valid part of magick. Both bring about change. The most important change is found within you.

The Power Within “MAGICK”

Magick is living in balance within the flow of life and knowing that you are a vital force within that flow. Magick is everywhere and in everything. Magick is that moment that changes tears to laughter. Magick is that part of nature that calls the warmth of the Sun to trigger life in a hardened seed. Magick is the Earth, Moon, and Stars held within the endless blue sky. Simply put, magick is the wonder of all and the truth found in all.

Magick is neither cruel nor the power to control others. Magick does not place you above others; it allows you to know where we are within all things. Magick is a sincere and natural part of all creation.

Magick is the mystery that lies in the secret soul of time and space. It is the essence of conception. What we visualize, we have the power to create.

Magick is “EMOTIONAL." I once had someone tell me that they were surprised I became so emotional when working magick. They thought that experience would put one above such things. Not true and the reason is straightforward: Emotions carry power. You have felt the extreme energy held within love, hate, joy, fear, and desire. All these emotions create great force. Magick, energy, force, and power come from emotions, and extreme emotions bring on extreme power. But, that power is wasted without control.

MAGICK IS WITHIN YOU. With it, you can create your dreams, heal your world, love your life, and find the peace that lives in every human heart.

I become somewhat frustrated when I hear those on a magickal path make statements like, “Magick is only a way of prayer, " then follow up with the statement, “Sometimes you don’t get what you're asking for.” Since the term "prayer" means "to plea or request something, " that kind of attitude toward the art of magick is not going to bring about much of a result. How can anyone expect their magick or spell to work if they don’t truly believe it will?

Magick is a natural and psychical force of nature; it is as real as you or me standing on Mother Earth. The influence and power possible are as unimaginable as nature herself. Once you have felt the energy come from deep within you, it is like the electrical energy you feel watching lighting flash from the sky and hit the tree standing before you. It’s somewhat mind-boggling, miraculous, amazing, empowering, frightening and wonderful, all at the same time.

Nevertheless, as with all things, you don’t just wake up one day and decided you will move a car with your mind. Yes, magick is very real, but it takes practice and commitment. Doctors don’t start med school and begin operating on patients the same day. They study, work, watch, practice, and learn. Then they study, learn, and practice some more until, hopefully, they have the understanding to do it right.

As you practice and learn to use your magick, understand that it is work that will never end. If you quit practicing, then you will become rusty and your energy within will become equally rusty. Magick is not a quick fix; it is a gift that only a few will truly learn and understand. This is not because magick is not real or possible, but because people become lazy and don’t want to put the endless effort forward. Magick, as a force unto itself, is not easily understood or desired within a world that thinks it has all the answers.

The Powers Within

Have you ever stood in a swimming pool filled with water, totally alone, with absolutely no movement? The pool is motionless and so clear it gives a magnified look to what is underneath the crystal sheet of water.

When you make any movement within this stillness, the motion causes a ripple in the water's surface. This ripple moves gently across the pool, hitting the sides and then bouncing back again until you have a rippling effect within the pool. This is the effect of centrifugal force, the force and power we use to direct magick.

The dictionary says: "Centrifugal - moving or directed away from a center or axis. Operated by means of centrifugal force."

Now, what if, while standing there, you practiced movement without movement, a bringing of the forces held naturally within the water under your direction or command, your power. As you push out with your hands, watch how the natural energy within the water follows your hands' paths and then, even as your hands stop moving, the force of movement from within the water's power will go beyond where your hands stop. That is how the powers within magick are directed forward.

Within this practice of pushing and directing your energy, you can see that there are some actions that will cause a greater transfer of enhanced power and force than others. Simply pointing your finger at the side of the pool will give little movement. In fact, it will cause the natural centrifugal energies to flow in all directions with nothing going where you are sending it. Yet, if you slowly move your arm around from the side, as if releasing a softball, you can see the energy within the flow follow your hand's motion, and when you release the motion and you hand stops moving, the power goes way beyond.

There are different methods and ways that will be best for you to direct your own personal energy. One person's way is not necessarily the best for another. Practice many different techniques and forms until you find within yourself what is best and empowers you.

Remember the one small ripple going forward in the pool and how that one ripple would hit the side of the pool and return back to you many times over from many directions. Magick works in the same way, be it the three-fold law or karma: What you send out returns upon you. So, know what you are doing. Magick is not a game or something to do to amuse your friends or prove yourself to others. The power comes from within, not from whether someone believes in you. The only person on this Earth that needs to believe in you is you.

Magick is a power that comes from deep within you. It is an ancient mystery calling you home. Listen to it, for it is the miracle of magick hidden deep inside you. It is a foreknowledge older than time, an endowment from the Gods found within the infinite universe.

You can only have true magick when you truly believe. You must learn to let go of every logical thought that could possibly stop the power hidden within your soul. Stop doubting, stop reasoning, stop asking. You are the power within yourself; accept it and be grateful.

Ancient Magick and Power

Endlessly, across the seas of time, Witches strove to find a place of magick, a dwelling within this reality and yet beyond. Faith is the only bridge that expands the seas of existence. We have come from beyond, and forever we shall travel on. Life is magick and therein power is found, for within life, power and magick create all reality. Not just our reality, but all that is around us, as well.

As you stand upon this crest of a new horizon, know you are standing among the Witches of old. You are not here just to witness the colors held within the horizon; you are a part of it, as well. You are in a place of kindred spirits, where truth and love shall always guide you.

Magick is letting go of your fears and seeking beyond the veils of this existence. Once you can truly look within yourself, you will find paradise before you. You will find Magick.

Eir: The Handmaiden of Healing

by Heilsa

Her face hides itself in watching. It is her hands I see, on a forehead or grinding herbs in her mortar and pestle. A small sickle she has to take cuttings of herbs each in their season.

I see her snap a yarrow twig. She wears crisp white. She wears a tunic and ties a scarf about her head. She carries a white tote made of thick linen.

She is ever-moving, but stops in what others would call mid step. That implies being startled. She is not startled. She is stoic and practical. She stops to heal a wounded lamb, (next year's wool for Frigga to spin). She has eyes blue as a healing candle, blue as Summer skies that call to a sick child, "Be well, the green world is waiting..."

Her hand is a most accurate thermometer; she is mother, hands cool on fevered head. Eir walks barefoot to bless the herb bed. She raises energy with silence. She takes a breath and blows three times in one to blow away the sickness.

Holy Healer, touch this pain
Hale and Whole, your child remains
Thread and stone
Flesh and bone
Strength and beauty your child regains
And her health shall e'r remain

Using red thread to clear away the harm, using your healer's stone to lift the illness, learning herbs and chants and runes that heal; these link you to the Healer, the Handmaiden, Eir.

If you don't have a Healer's stone, you can ask the Universe to send you a stone and one will find you and it will be just right for you to use in healing yourself and others. I found mine one day after discovering the grave of an ancestor in Madison County, North Carolina. I saw the grave of Nora Peek. She died, only 17 years old. I saw that she had fallen into a creek and took a chill and from that chill, died. The same creek gave me my healing stone. It is dark, rounded on top and flat on the bottom. A gift from my ancestor?

With the healing stone, touch the forehead of the sick one – your left hand points to the floor, palm flat or fingers pointing; spread your feet. Make sure the patient's feet are not crossed.

Use the charm above, which I wrote, or write your own. Hone your Healer's skills and add ever to them. When in need, call on Eir. She is a steadfast help in times of sickness. She will not turn away friend or foe.

Eir is one of the Handmaidens. With Goddess Frigga, they complete a circle full of help for those who need them. Frigga is the Norse Goddess of Hearth and Home and twelve Handmaidens, Goddesses in their own right, accompany her.

These are the twelve:

Syn, the Advocate;
Saga, the Story Keeper;
Vor, the Veiled One who makes us aware;
Snotra, the one who weaves frith, that is peaceful relations between us and our community;
Var, the one who hears oaths, and upholds them;
Sjofn, who ignites love within us;
Lofn, who gains permission to love for those to whom society refuses this right;
Gefion, the Gifting One who brings harvest;
Fulla, keeper of women’s mysteries;
Gna, the Messenger;
Hlin, who actively protects the children of the Goddess and who dries our tears as well;
And there is Eir, the Healer…

I met The Healer a little over a year ago when I was in need of healing. My first glimmer came in the form of two medicine poems. One called Threshold brought me slowly past the threshold, back into health and one gave promise that the future would guide me home. Home, for me, is the mountains where I was raised and part of keeping health means being able to live there.

Though my emotional body began to heal, I was still suffering the physical damage depression can bring. I had bronchitis and the cough would not go away. One day, I drifted off into a dream and in the dream I was standing in the French Broad Co-op in Asheville, North Carolina. I was standing in front of the many jars of herbs that are sold there and a voice told me, “Don’t forget your Heartsease.”

That was it, one of those sudden dreams that happen all in a half-second, and then I awoke. My husband and I went to the Co-op looking for Heartsease, but I didn’t know this herb, had never heard of it, though I know herbs pretty well. We didn’t find it, so I went on-line and looked for it. I found it then, by the name Viola Tricolor. My husband returned to the Co-op, found the herb by that name and I started taking the tea from Heartsease and continued taking it until all sign of illness was gone.

It may not have been Eir I met in that dream, for the Healer has many names, but I have met Her and Her sister-Handmaidens since. Once Frigga filled my hands with spindle and wool, and my mind with these Thirteen Goddesses, I’ve found life too full for heartbreak and illness.

So now, I honor Frigga and Her Handmaidens and learn as much about them as I can. There is very little written but it’s all there for us to regain. One way is through meditation. In this way we see them and ask of them who they are and in what ways they can help us live this life in the most magical of ways.

Well, now I’ve introduced you to the Healer, Eir. You can get acquainted with Eir. Simply ask. Write your own Healing story if you’ve already found it. If this finds you still in that initiation experience that illness sometimes brings, why not ask for a dream, a poem, a step toward wholeness? Ask and She’ll hear you. Eir never turns anyone away who asks for her healing hand.