Praise for Old World Witchcraft“Grimassi's approach to witchcraft brings a vitality and vibrancy to this book. He writes withknowledge, the voice of experience, and the exuberance of a passionate belief. Historical beliefs andpractices are seamlessly woven into the fabric of contemporary potential. This is a wonderful book,and I have enjoyed it.”—Rev. Paul Beyerl, author of The Master Book of Herbalism“Old World Witchcraft opens an exciting new window on the whole subject of witchcraft, revealingsuch concepts as the organic memory of the earth and veneration of the plant kingdom. This is arefreshing book of new yet ancient wisdom that should not be missed. A true delight.”—Raymond Buckland, author of The Witch Book“Raven Grimassi has single-handedly put the witch back into the Craft with this book. Old WorldWitchcraft is real magic for real witches—and a must have for every serious practitioner!”—Dorothy Morrison, author of Utterly Wicked“Exposing the Old World witch is no easy task, but after meticulousness research, Grimassi uncoversthe real historical witch behind the modern day image. Misconceptions are washed away as the witchof the past is unveiled—a common member of society with uncommon skills and an exceptionalunderstanding of the world about. The inclusion of a modern grimoire embellishes this work andbrings to the forefront modern practices of significantly older beliefs. Old World Witchcraft is agenerous introduction to a modern practice and its ancient origins.”—Andrew Theitic, editor of The Witches' Almanac“Old World Witchcraft is destined to be a classic and an agent of change that helps witchcraft regainits position of respect and honor in Paganism and the general community. It is intellectual andspiritual water extinguishing the burning-time flames of hypocrisy. In this amazing book, Ravenintroduces the reader to the original image of the powerful, respected, and feared witch whiledetangling the centuries of false illusions, hysteria, and ‘spiritual ethnocide.’ Read and take a trip intothe true soul of the witch.”—Orion Foxwood, co-founder of the House of Brigh Faery Seership Institute and author of TheTree of Enchantment“Any worker of magic/k will find much inspiration in Raven Grimassi's Old World Witchcraft . Thechapter ‘Witches: The Plant People’ is especially intriguing. If the aspiring Green Witch only adoptsusing ‘charged water’ for her plants, or establishes a ‘Shadow Garden’—a kind of magical compostheap of non-toxic organic materials left over from rituals—or meditates on Grimassi's reflections onmortar and pestle magic/k, she will have more than recouped the price of the book.”—Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, author of The Weiser Concise Guide to Herbal Magick
“In Old World Witchcraft , Raven Grimassi effectively strips away the thin veneer of the Wiccanrevival to give us credible insight into the truth about the practice of real witches. From a deepunderstanding of the secret powers of nature, to the ancient magical powers of the moon, tocommunion with otherworldly beings and the spirits of the dead, the witch is a timeless andmysterious creature. Within these pages, Grimassi opens the doorway to the witch's cottage, hiddendeep within the forest of our consciousness, that we may be blessed by the witch's wisdom oncemore.”—Christian Day, Salem warlock and author of The Witches' Book of the Dead“It is important for witches to understand our origins, especially as we facilitate the dawning of a newage. This wise book can help us appreciate who we are. Exquisitely researched, it also thoroughlyrefutes the ridiculous charges that have historically been made against us.”—Eileen Holland, author of The Wicca Handbook and The Spellcaster's Reference“I admire bravery and creativity, and Raven Grimassi's Old World Witchcraft has both in abundance.In a time when many practitioners fawn over the so-called fickle truth of academic perspectives onwitchcraft, Raven brings forth mythic truth on what it is to be a witch. This book was written for thosewho have a vocation to be witches and wish for a path that is modern but whose roots are watered withthe essence of the old lore. Old World Witchcraft is a perfect remedy for the disenchanted seeker whois lost in the world of the literalists and looking for the path home to mystery.”—Ivo Dominguez, author of Spirit Speak and Casting Sacred Space“Grimassi brings together an impressive array of threads from folklore, scholarly literature, history,and experience, gifting us with a tapes-try—a vibrant picture of the Old Craft of the Wise.”—T. Thorn Coyle, teacher and author of Kissing the Limitless“On a journey to our magickal past in the Old World to create our future, I can think of no better guidethan Raven Grimassi. His experience, scholarship, and, most importantly, wisdom shines throughthese pages, illuminating anyone's serious practice of witchcraft.”—Christopher Penczak, author of the Temple of Witchcraft series and The Plant Spirit Familiar
First published in 2011 by Weiser Books, an imprint ofRed Wheel/Weiser, LLC665 Third Street, Suite 400San Francisco, CA 94107www.redwheelweiser.comCopyright 2011 by Raven GrimassiAll rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or byany means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any informationstorage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. Reviewersmay quote brief passages.ISBN: 978-1-57863-505-4Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.Cover design: Jim WarnerCover photograph: Mandragora officinarum by Benjamin A. Vierling / www.bvierling.comInterior: Jane HagamanIllustrations on pp. 81, 97, 127, 133, 213–216, 229, and 231by Diane Haynes.Plant illustrations on pp. 113–120, 143, and 217 Dover.Witch's Mark illustration on p. 155 and plant spirit symbols on p. 209by Raven Grimassi.Altar photo on p. 163 and apple talisman photo on p. 221by Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi.Typeset in Goudy Oldstyle, Trajan, and ChantillyPrinted in CanadaTCP10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American NationalStandard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials Z39.48-1992(R1997).
Dedicated to all who suffered torment, pain, or death for what they believed, or for what othersbelieved about them.
ContentsPREFACEINTRODUCTIONCHAPTER ONEHUSHED VOICES OF THE PASTCHAPTER TWOCONCOCTING A WITCHCHAPTER THREEUNEARTHING THE WITCHCHAPTER FOURWITCHES: THE PLANT PEOPLECHAPTER FIVETHE BOOKS OF WITCHCRAFT: A WITCH'S GRIMOIREAPPENDIX ATHE INVISIBLE GOD OF WITCHCRAFTAPPENDIX BTHE FIVE-THORNED PATHNOTESBIBLIOGRAPHY
PrefaceThis book is a departure from the familiar theme of arguing for witchcraft as the survival of an ancienttradition. The system presented in the following chapters is not that of the pacifist adhering to theWiccan guidelines of the “harm none” Rede. Then what is this book about? Simply stated, it is aboutold forms of witchcraft traceable through aged European roots. But it is also about the mystical OldWorld and the witches who lived it and live it still.I will touch on themes that appear in modern witchcraft and Wicca such as a goddess and godfigure. In doing so I am only examining references past and present in a search for equilibrium. I amnot trying to make a case for witchcraft as a pre-Gardnerian religion that survived into modern times.If you simply follow along to discover where I take things (without assuming anything in advance),then pleasant surprises await. I will not lure you into becoming entangled in the brambles; instead wewill walk the path together for a midnight visit in the old witches' garden.This book is written in the belief that witches have existed as real people for countless centuries.But these are not the witches of Neo-Pagan romantic ideas, and they are not the stereotypes of thediabolical witch in league with the Devil of Judeo-Christian theology. In many ways the witchappearing in this book is one about whom very little has been written at all.It is my view that no official history of witchcraft truly exists. This is because the “history”presented by the academic community is not the depiction of any real society of people known aswitches. Instead it is the study of non-witches and their views about what they referred to as witchcraftand witches. Academic history in this field is the story of how superstition influenced popular beliefsabout imaginary witches and witchcraft, and how theologians further invented ideas about the subject.This is a make-believe witchcraft of fantasy themes, and not an ethnographical study of a real cultureof people who were witches. If we are to call this history, then I feel we need to note that it is amythical history at best.It is possible, of course, that some people were involved in diabolical practices involving satanicworship, but could they have numbered in the tens of thousands across all of Europe? This seemsunlikely. If we are to regard the number of people charged with witchcraft over the centuries as anaccurate reflection of the sect's numbers, however, then we must say yes. But what we are saying“yes” to is the portrayal of witches by people who believed witches could fly, change into animalform, and frolic in person with demons. How credible can these “authorities” be in such a light?Personally, I have to question their ability to reason and therefore their aptitude for understanding thefacts and fantasies regarding the matter before them.In contrast to the “learned view” of the authorities, I believe that looking at the folkloric witch ofthe “uneducated people” brings us one step closer to uncovering the witch (free of themes that supportan agenda). The problem here is that what we are looking at is superstition and how fear instead ofreality shapes the belief of a people. The academic presentation is the view of witches by people whofeared and hated them. It is not the account of people who actually knew authentic witches in theircommunity and conversed with them about their beliefs and practices. Oddly, it is the beliefs ofoutsiders that scholars draw upon to present the history of witches and witchcraft.Anything compared against the academic picture of witchcraft that does not comply is calledpseudo-history, but how can we have a fake history of witchcraft when we do not possess a factualone? Many Neo-Pagan writers, myself included, have been charged with creating pseudo-history whenwriting about views related to the roots of modern witchcraft and Wicca. Some writers believe in the
existence of a pre-Christian religion of witches who venerated a goddess such as Diana, and one thatsurvived in some fashion well into the Christian era. Critics respond that if such a thing existed therewould be evidence in the witch trials.References to venerating Diana and other goddesses do show up in trial records and those of theInquisition.1 Therefore we have no absence of the concept (not to mention the existence of an ancientliterary tradition associating goddesses with witchcraft). This, by itself, is not proof of goddessworship among the accused, but neither is it something to completely dismiss if we are to be fair andbalanced. The figure of a goddess does appear in witch trials throughout Europe. Why is that?My purpose in this book is not to argue for the survival of a witches' religion from pre-Christiantimes. Instead the goal of this book is to allow what I call the “Old Ways” witch figure to emerge byclearing away the large mounds of debris that surround it. There is difficulty in offering a finitedefinition of what I believe constitutes such a witch. A witch uses magic, but so too does a sorceressor ceremonial magician. Divination is one of the arts of witchcraft, but there are people who usedivination and are not witches. A witch can believe in many deities and spirits, but this is alsocommon among pagans. Pagans are not witches. Witches use herbs for magical purposes but so too donon-witches.My personal belief is that what separates the witch from non-witches is the mystical alignment ofthe witch. It is in the “enchanted worldview” of the witch that we can find a definition for her or him.Here we see that the witch believes in a consciousness that inhabits all things. Rocks, plants, and treeshave consciousness, or they are shelters for a variety of sentient spirit beings. This is evidenced in thebelief that objects possess specific power that can be used in a spell or ritual. From this perspectivethe witch works with an occult set of correspondences. If objects possessed only raw power, then anysingle one would serve any spell. The fact that a particular object delivers a specialized effectindicates that the object possesses a consciousness of its nature that allows it to do so (or such is theoccult tenet).Continuing with the definition of the witch, she or he has a rapport with spirits or other nonmaterialbeings. The witch works intimately with the “Otherworld” and can communicate with souls of thedead. One specific group of beings that witches work with is the Faery race. These are not cute littlefairies of popular children's tales; they are ancient and powerful beings who reportedly existed longbefore humankind.Perhaps more so than any other single marker, the art of magic denotes the witch. This magic islunar in nature and is associated with the night. Naturally the magic of the witch is not limited to thenighttime; it can be performed under a sunny sky as well. However, the moon is essential to the witch,and without this primary component, a person is not a witch in the traditional sense or in the OldWays understanding.The last part of my definition of the witch points to the forest or woodlands. This is the primalhome of the witch. From the deep dark places of the forest arose the spiritual-mindedness of the witch.If we can say that the witch possesses a theology, then it lies in the experience of the forest. Here notonly grow the traditional plants of witchcraft, but it is from the forest that primitive ideas about thewitches' deities first formed. This is covered in full detail later in the book.In the following pages we will uncover what I call the “Old Ways Witch.” I am not claiming that heor she is the survivor of an unbroken tradition passed down intact from ancient times. What I intend todemonstrate is that the ways of witchcraft described in this book are very old. Their age is notimportant, but what they represent is of value because they are part of the spiritual lineage of thosewitches who today practice a rooted form of witchcraft.I think of the Craft as a great old tree. The roots nourish a tree, and they hold the tree in place tosecure it against forces that would otherwise topple it. The new growth on the tree and its buds,
flowers, and seeds come forth to allow for a new generation of trees. The DNA is the soul of the tree,and the Old Ways witch is the bearer of this vital strand.What follows in this book is what I believe about witches and witchcraft and the reasons why Ibelieve what I do. It is not my story alone, for I impart what many Old Ways witches have shared withme over the years. For me these ways are the things worthy of preserving and passing on.
IntroductionThe topic of witchcraft is quite a tangled ball of string. This applies to the views of scholars as well asthose of Neo-Pagans. Much “undoing” and “unlearning” is required in order to remove obstacles thatstand in the way of a balanced perspective. I do not personally believe that the truth about witchcraftand witches can be sorted out to everyone's satisfaction. But I do feel that we can and should movenow to higher ground for a clearer perspective.My own views about the subject of witchcraft have changed somewhat over time, and I am notembarrassed to admit it. Some people seem to keep an author frozen in time and do not allow forgrowth and maturity of vision over the years. That is an unfortunate fact, but I am optimistic that themajority of people welcome new insights from those of us who have been around longer than we careto think about.My own study of published materials about witchcraft began in the late 1960s. I have devoted thelast four decades of my life to in-depth study and research in this field. My approach has been to readacademic works, folkloric studies, ancient literature, occult writings, and a wide variety of books bypractitioners of witchcraft and Wiccan systems. My efforts have not involved working on my researchand study now and then as one might do in taking time for a favorite hobby. My work in the field ofwitchcraft always remained a priority. I can honestly say that no week ever passed over all these yearswithout countless hours of focused attention to my studies of witchcraft material.My devotion to witchcraft themes brought me into contact with many interesting people over theyears. Most of them are witches, but some are mystics, magicians, shamans, and Faery workers.Among the witches I have met, some of my most cherished times were spent with what I call “OldWorld” or “Old Ways” witches. They are difficult to describe in a way that distinguishes them fromother witches. It is more how their presence feels than it is specifically any one thing in particular. Inthe following chapters I will refer to the system as Old World witchcraft and to its practitioners as OldWays witches.The primary goal of this book is to share the beliefs and practices of Old World witchcraft. Iintentionally avoid calling this form “traditional witchcraft,” even though much may be shared incommon. Many people view traditional witchcraft as something pertaining to the British Isles, or so itseems from viewing Internet websites and forums. Others define it as having roots in the lore ofLilith, Cain, and Lucifer. With the exception of Lucifer (as a Roman god) these roots are not native toEurope. The Lucifer who appears in traditional witchcraft systems is a very different entity from theone originating in Southern Europe. Later we will look at the blending of witchcraft with Lucifer asviewed in certain systems.The Old World witchcraft that I present here embraces pre-Christian European themes and does notknowingly incorporate imported beliefs from the general Middle East region. I am not, however,claiming that the system in this book is a surviving tradition from ancient times. I am also not statingthat in the past this system was whole and complete in the manner depicted in this book. I simply wishto share a system I know to exist today whose practitioners believe is rooted in very old forms ofEuropean witchcraft practices and beliefs.In the forthcoming chapters I explore the depiction of the witch figure as presented in academicbooks with such titles as the “history of witchcraft” (in one region or another). In works like these wefind the stereotypical witch as an evil person practicing harmful magic. She or he is also engaged indiabolical acts, perverted rituals, and enters into pacts with the Devil. I do not believe that such a sect
of witches actually existed in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, which is where much of theinformation about these academic views of witchcraft is based. There may have been individualsinvolved in some form of practice resembling the diabolical rituals mentioned, but certainly not in thenumbers that would merit so many trials throughout all of Europe.We should note that witchcraft in the Christian era was essentially a crime of heresy, whichindicates that the people accused of witchcraft were considered to be Christian. The witches I writeabout in this book were not Christians and are not today (I refer to the absence of heartfelt Christianbeliefs and faith as opposed to putting on a veneer). Although the vast amount of people accused ofwitchcraft were not even ma
Witchcraft is real magic for real witches—and a must have for every serious practitioner!” —Dorothy Morrison, author of Utterly Wicked “Exposing the Old World witch is no easy task, but after meticulousness research, Grimassi uncovers the real historical witch behind the modern day image. Misconceptions are washed away as the witch of the past is unveiled—a common member of society .