by Robin Le Fay

roots1 warriorWitchcraft has it origins in the heathen religions of our European ancestors. Traditional village wisecraft is the survival of fragmented pagan beliefs from the archaic period, but not the survival of an organized universal cult with a priesthood or even covens. (The term coven was an invention of the Inquisition to create the illusion of a powerful anti-Christian organization.) Pagan festivals and observances lingered and merged with those of the Christians. Many worshipped in hybrid forms of religion, following ancient customs and retaining the animistic aspects of the former faiths. For example, there are several folk prayers from Anglo-Saxon England and Scandinavia honoring both Mother Earth and the Christian God. The evidence suggests that during this transitional period, dual faith beliefs, practiced by the masses, co-existed peacefully with specialized individuals who were known as witches.

Read more: Roots & Bones 1: Witchcraft's Germanic Roots

by Robin Le Fay

Greek eye, detailWitchcraft, though primarily of Celto-Teutonic origin, also draws from aspects of Romano animism. Roman culture influenced both the Gallic people they conquered and the Germanic tribes who overran their empire in the 3rd through 5th centuries, C.E. In Italy, France, and Spain, Latin culture was adopted by the new rulers and continued in expression and development. Christianity became the dominant religion, replacing the high gods and goddesses of the former faiths, but it was not able to fill the everyday needs of the material world which the oldest animistic powers provided.

Read more: Roots & Bones 2: Early Roman Religion and Witchcraft

by Robin Le Fay

celtic knotWhat role did the Celts play in the development of Witchcraft and in the survival of Pagan beliefs and practices after the beginning of the Christian era?

The Celtic People and Their Religion

In the light of the romanticism surrounding the Celts in popular publications, many readers are left with a simplified or exaggerated account. The word “Celtic” itself is misleading, for as a shorthand term it creates a convenient though inaccurate perception of a unified culture instead of the diverse group of tribes that had similarities in social structure, languages, and spiritual expressions.

Read more: Roots & Bones 3: The Celtic Roots of Witchcraft, Part 1

by Rowan

This article originally appeared in the 1997/1998 Yule/Imbolc issue of Lady Letter. E'Star is a respected elder of the Albuquerque, NM pagan community who grew up in the Craft. Rowan interviewed her in November 1997. 

Most of us found the Craft after we were adults. We may look with envy at the children we see running around at festivals with their pagan parents. What would it have been like, we think, to be raised in this path, to know it from the very beginning, rather than finding it later after years of searching? To answer that question, I interviewed Garthenia E'Star, elder of the Albuquerque community, who was raised in the Craft in northern New Mexico in the 1940's and '50's. My preconceived notions, as usual, didn't fit reality very well.

Read more: E'Star's Story: An Interview with a Wiccan Elder

by Robin Le Fay

DagdaAs mentioned in part one of this two-part series, the actual roots of Celtic Witchcraft are obscured by numerous cultural influences over long time periods. Furthermore, the lack of thorough details concerning the beliefs of the pagan Celts complicates matters. Left with the accounts of Christian writers and the commentaries of the Greeks and Romans, we catch only a glimpse of the faith practiced by these people from the mists. Considering the surviving seasonal celebrations, the pagan nature of various folk customs, and the confessions of Irish and Scots accused of Witchcraft, perhaps the remnants of our Celtic heritage may shine through, albeit in a light different than that of the mythos modern pagans have proposed, allowing for a greater richness in the development of Celtic cosmology and our understanding of our Celtic roots and bones.

Read more: Roots & Bones 4: The Celtic Roots of Witchcraft, Part 2

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