Witchcraft of the British Isles – An Ancient Science

Witchcraft Imagery Witchcraft Museum
Witchcraft Imagery Witchcraft Museum

Witchcraft Museum, Boscastle, North Cornwall

It is interesting to note that the ancient teachings of witchcraft, wiccan, or any other name pertaining to the preservation and practice ancient wisdom, is very much with us in the UK, and despite suffering around a thousand years of persecution from the politicised Christian church, it has always been present in one form or another. This is because witchcraft – beyond the imagination of the Hollywood film industry – has neither adhered to dogmatic definitions of itself, or limited its practice through dogma. Just as the immensity of nature cannot be reduced to an ‘ism’ and retain any vestige of truth, just so is witchcraft, which is, after-all, the human expression of the reflection of nature in all its multitudinous diversity and variation. There is no ‘one’ witchcraft that holds the keys of orthodoxy – as such destructive notions of desolation, alienation, and disjointedness remain solely within the foreign importation to these ancient isles of the Romanised Judeo-Christian tradition. Prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066 (which was backed by the Pope to clear the British Isles of Paganism), the much older Celtic Christianity (found on the western fringes of the British Isles) had peacefully co-existed in the UK for hundreds of years with the local beliefs and spiritual customs without coming into conflict, or developing a dogmatic policy of deliberate persecution toward non-Christians. Even the Pope in Rome had to admit that this much more ‘tolerant’ Christianity had arrived in Britain at a much earlier time and date that the Roman Catholic Church had no record of.

This Celtic Christianity, unpoliticised as it was, centred around peaceful monastic communities and encouraged its adherents to quietly ‘look within’ whilst living in remote, weather beaten areas of Britain’s west coastal areas, and to practice directly the teaching of Jesus Christ as found in the Sermon on the Mount – teachings that are not incompatible with the nature loving, indigenous belief systems of the British peoples. The problems began for the Wiccan people when the Roman Catholic Church arrived on the British Isles – with instructions from its ‘king’ the Pope – to eradicate any belief system that contradicted Roman Catholic theology. This divinely authorised persecution of other faiths involved a Christian church that had firmly taken hold of the reins of political power, and which used all civil institutions to pursue its destructive aims. This persecution was aimed at other lineages of Christianity (for example, the Cathers in France – a Christian school that believed in reincarnation – all 5 million were eventually killed), followers of Judaism, and the adherents of various forms of folklore – including witchcraft. Conservative estimates assert that around 10 million men, women and children died in these religiously inspired persecutions in Europe over a thousand year period; but when the Christian church spread through imperialist expansion into the Americas, Africa and Asia, the attacking of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and others began.

Preserved in the Museum of Witchcraft (in Boscastle, North Cornwall), and elsewhere in libraries and on the internet, are the disturbing court records telling the stories of humble men, women, and children who were tortured by the judicial authorities of the Catholic and (later) Protestant churches, before eventually being put to death by crushing, hanging, drowning, or burning. Many women were murdered in these so-called ‘witch hunts’ for practicing ‘midwifery’, that is the assisting and caring for pregnant women when giving birth in the villages where no medical knowledge or supplies – in the modern sense – existed. Indeed, so strong is the witchcraft tradition of midwifery in the UK that it still exists today within Britain’s modern National Health Service (NHS), as a highly respected profession – although in the USA – the tradition has all but died out, with obstetricians taking the place of midwives. It is disturbing to read that individuals were hurt and killed by a church whose founder advocated the practice of universal love – for what amounted to helping others – as Christ suggested. Even today, this logic that exposes the history of theological hypocrisy is lost on the modern church that refuses to acknowledge its crimes against humanity, committed in the name of its distorted and highly politicised theology – a theology that collaborated with anti-Jewish pogroms of Nazi Germany during WWII.

This attack on the minds and bodies of Britain’s witches and wizards is the history that must be understood today. Those who burned or drowned at the hands of an out of control Christian church are the true British heroes, for they went to their deaths safe in the knowledge that they understood the universe as it was, and although preferring not to die or suffer pain, they knew how to proceed through the fear and into the eternal embrace of the nature they so respected, admired and at times worshipped. Although many died for ‘witchcraft’ what exactly was it? Witchcraft is something akin to the modern notion of complexity science, which is a broad platform for the development and integration of many and diverse ways of looking at, and understanding the universe and existence. Nothing is excluded, and all is worked into a rich tapestry of co-operative functionality. Importantly, no one philosophy or view of life is given any superiority over any other – there is no need. There is the implicit understanding that individuals and groups take from nature and develop what they need when the time is right for them. Nothing is forced or contrived and everyone is free to move in whatever direction is right for them. The Christian distortion of witchcraft is that it is the dark side of Christian belief that worships the devil. This misrepresentation tells the researcher more about the psychology of embittered Christianity than it does about true Wiccan belief. It is the Christian that fears the devil – because Christian theology splits the world into the unnatural dichotomy of good and evil – a duality that trusts light but fears darkness. Of course, this is an absurdity that has no place even in the creation that the Christian god is supposed to have created – with one light day being followed by one dark night. Christian theology requires that its adherence remain terrified for one half of the day – whilst during daylight hours, they remain in awe of the church that controls every facet of their lives! No. Witchcraft does not adhere to this false dichotomy, but rather applies what might be termed as a ‘scientific’ approach to the analysis of nature. Spells and magic are not illogical or distorted ramblings of the pre-Christian insane, but rather the early application of the logical mind to the questions of existence. Spells and magic – when not distorted as being the ‘devil’s work’ – are in fact the practice of rationality and logic. The problem is that in much of what passes as popular entertainment today, witchcraft is still portrayed through the historically distorting rhetoric of Christian fear, paranoia, and profound ignorance. This gives the false impression that those who follow Wiccan beliefs are backward and barbaric, whilst those who follow the quite frankly bizarre belief system of Christianity are sane and the bringers of light! This is absurd, as the true preservers of the scientific analysis of nature has been the followers of the indigenous belief systems of the British Isles, and not its Christian invaders.

In the UK, students are taught that the development of modern scientific thinking emerged with the renaissance (in 14th century Italy), which culminated in the Enlightenment of Western Europe (17th century onwards). This intellectual movement away from the belief in ‘faith’ based theology and toward logic based enquiry, was premised upon the European rediscovery of ancient Greek philosophical texts that emphasised the use of reason, which were preserved in the Islamic libraries of Byzantine (and other places). Not only does this give another view of Islam as a religion that embraces the wisdom and knowledge of secular Greece – but it also presents a narrative that excludes witchcraft from science. Although it is true that Islam preserved ancient Greek texts that the Christian church banned for the content of the learning they contained, and that the European rediscovery of these texts ushered in a truly magnificent era in European scientific thought and cultural development, nevertheless, it is my contention that Europe’s early scientists were (and remain) the witches and wizards of witchcraft and Wiccan, and that it is these men and women who kept the flame of science alive during the dark times of the domination in Europe of politicised and distorted Christian theology. It is these men and women who suffered terribly at the hands of religious bigots, fundamentalists, and fanatics, who never gave-up their respect for nature, or their compassion for their fellow human beings. Alongside the Greeks, the Muslims (of Byzantine), the Renascence Italians, the Enlightened French, and the Industrialised English – should proudly stand the followers of witchcraft – who should be acknowledged as preserving the basis of science whilst suffering one of the greatest and sustained religiously based persecutions the world has ever seen. The thousands who were executed through state sanctioned trial should now be pardoned and modern British school children should be taught about the true heroes of their country’s past – who were not the religious bigots of Rome.

Everything known in the popular imagination about witchcraft is a lie. It is the product of a distortion of an inversion of the facts. When witchcraft is discussed, portrayed, or analysed, the tendency is to see how the indigenous belief systems of the British peoples looked through the psychology of the Roman Catholic Church – a psychology which ascribes to itself a monopoly upon everything ‘good’ – and which projects onto other belief systems everything that is ‘bad’. Therefore witchcraft – although embracing and reconciling the light and dark forces of nature, and which accepts without question all Christian beliefs – nevertheless has not been treated with the same respect and understanding. A few examples of medical witchcraft include the use of willow bark as a pain killer – as it contains aspirin – honey and lemon for sore throats, arnica (relieves muscular bruising and pain), ginger (for the relief of inflammation) and various mixtures of herbs to create medicinal compounds. This includes the use of foxglove which is the source of the modern heart drug digitalin. Needless to say, although the modern drug industries make millions of pounds out of the use of medicinal compounds, their discovery is attributed only to modern science and the fact that these medicines were known to practitioners of witchcraft is completely ignored and constitutes yet another example of the progressive nature of witchcraft being written out of history. This is as well as the immense psycho-spiritual work of witchcraft which is ‘holistic’ in its approach to human wellbeing and the relieving of psychological and physical suffering.


©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2014.





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