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Author Topic: Ancestor Veneration in Witchcraft?  (Read 5667 times)
Malkin
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« Topic Start: July 02, 2011, 07:05:13 pm »

It occurred to me yesterday, while considering all the accounts of historical witchcraft I've studied, that I don't know of any European witchcraft practices involving ancestral powers. There are accounts of necromancy and the defiling of graves, but I don't know of anything comparable to, say, the Caribbean practice of divining with your ancestor's finger bones, or the use of tools passed down from a predecessor. Sometimes spirits of the dead would willingly aid witches or act as familiars, but I don't know of any examples where the spirit had a blood-tie to the witch in question. Ancestor veneration is fairly popular among witches and Wiccans today, so now I'm wondering where we got the idea. (Granted, most of the witches I know who practice this incorporate other paths/practices with clear traditions of ancestor veneration into their own, such as Heathenry or Vodou. So maybe that's it.)

Have I been overlooking anything? My focus has always been on witchcraft in the British Isles, but maybe there are some examples of this in Stregheria, or somewhere else?
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Thessaly: It's time to draw down the moon.
Foxglove: We did this. Or something like this. We had water and salt, not blood. We invoked the goddess in her aspect as the moon. We called down her power...
Thessaly: Did she answer you?
Foxglove: Well, it felt good at the time. Empowering.
Thessaly: Hmph.

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« Reply #1: July 02, 2011, 08:02:49 pm »

It occurred to me yesterday, while considering all the accounts of historical witchcraft I've studied, that I don't know of any European witchcraft practices involving ancestral powers. There are accounts of necromancy and the defiling of graves, but I don't know of anything comparable to, say, the Caribbean practice of divining with your ancestor's finger bones, or the use of tools passed down from a predecessor. Sometimes spirits of the dead would willingly aid witches or act as familiars, but I don't know of any examples where the spirit had a blood-tie to the witch in question. Ancestor veneration is fairly popular among witches and Wiccans today, so now I'm wondering where we got the idea. (Granted, most of the witches I know who practice this incorporate other paths/practices with clear traditions of ancestor veneration into their own, such as Heathenry or Vodou. So maybe that's it.)

Have I been overlooking anything? My focus has always been on witchcraft in the British Isles, but maybe there are some examples of this in Stregheria, or somewhere else?

I'm not sure about British Witchcraft and ancestor veneration but ADF includes ancestors as one of the three Kindreds and as a pan Indo-European focused organization it includes the British Isles.
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Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. - Thomas Jefferson

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. - Thomas Jefferson
Juniperberry
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« Reply #2: July 03, 2011, 12:48:02 am »

It occurred to me yesterday, while considering all the accounts of historical witchcraft I've studied, that I don't know of any European witchcraft practices involving ancestral powers. There are accounts of necromancy and the defiling of graves, but I don't know of anything comparable to, say, the Caribbean practice of divining with your ancestor's finger bones, or the use of tools passed down from a predecessor. Sometimes spirits of the dead would willingly aid witches or act as familiars, but I don't know of any examples where the spirit had a blood-tie to the witch in question. Ancestor veneration is fairly popular among witches and Wiccans today, so now I'm wondering where we got the idea. (Granted, most of the witches I know who practice this incorporate other paths/practices with clear traditions of ancestor veneration into their own, such as Heathenry or Vodou. So maybe that's it.)

Have I been overlooking anything? My focus has always been on witchcraft in the British Isles, but maybe there are some examples of this in Stregheria, or somewhere else?

I'm not quite clear on what you're asking but the ancestors in heathenry were believed to give the families continued assistance and advice. They weren't only honored but were also relied upon to interact with the living and the land. Archaeological evidence shows that the bones of the dead were regularly handled at one point, and recently a celtic skull cup ( theorized to be drank from during ritual) was discovered. Early graves were a passageway and not a barrow, said passage ways containing the dead with firepits in the middle.  At some point in the future these passageway morgues became blocked with stones in what's believed to have been a rising fear in the waking dead/restless dead.

Ancestors would visit in dreams, would be called upon by the seeress, and volvas were the dead that could be called upon for answers. I imagine that most knew the dead they were contacting, rather than summoning any ol' dead person, but that's just a guess. *shrug* Also, some grave sites had a cup carved into the stone so that the living could leave offerings of drink. This may be connected to asking for assistance of the landwights and elves.

Anyway, I think there's a long history of the dead assisting the living with earthly concerns.
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« Reply #3: July 03, 2011, 04:06:42 am »

I'm not quite clear on what you're asking but the ancestors in heathenry were believed to give the families continued assistance and advice. They weren't only honored but were also relied upon to interact with the living and the land. Archaeological evidence shows that the bones of the dead were regularly handled at one point, and recently a celtic skull cup ( theorized to be drank from during ritual) was discovered. Early graves were a passageway and not a barrow, said passage ways containing the dead with firepits in the middle.  At some point in the future these passageway morgues became blocked with stones in what's believed to have been a rising fear in the waking dead/restless dead.

Ancestors would visit in dreams, would be called upon by the seeress, and volvas were the dead that could be called upon for answers. I imagine that most knew the dead they were contacting, rather than summoning any ol' dead person, but that's just a guess. *shrug* Also, some grave sites had a cup carved into the stone so that the living could leave offerings of drink. This may be connected to asking for assistance of the landwights and elves.

Anyway, I think there's a long history of the dead assisting the living with earthly concerns.


are we really talking spell craft type witchcraft? or are you talking about the spirituality that involves ancestor worship?
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« Reply #4: July 03, 2011, 01:18:10 pm »

are we really talking spell craft type witchcraft? or are you talking about the spirituality that involves ancestor worship?

Well, that's why I think answering this question is difficult. Aside from necromancy and veneration what sort of spellcraft are we asking about here? The spells people tend to cast today are different than the spells they would have cast in yester-year. The Northern European tribes didn't cast spells for money, they didn't cast spells for employment. Love spells may have occured, but romantic love wasn't as much an issue then as it is today. Any sort of love spell would also fall under the main aspect of seidr which would be "to affect the mind, with forgetfulness, delusion, illusion, or fear, a sudden mental or even a physical fog". Sigurd drink the potion and  forgets Brunnhild. Queen Grunhild gives Hrutr a bracelet and renders him impotent for another woman.

The methods of these spells aren't fully explained- they could have made use of some physical remains of an ancestor, but we don't know. It seems as though it was generally a form of hyponosis, as covering the head of the witch would render her powerless.  Weather magic occured, especially to help one in battle and I think the gods and ancestors were called upon. There were fertility rituals and traditions (passing a horse penis around) but as far as spell-crafting as we know it, I think they're two different things.

If the question is where did this history of ancestor veneration or assistance in magic came from then, yes, I think there is a long history of the dead being able to interact with and influence the living. I can't speak for voodooism, that's a separate culture, but in Europe it's been fairly well documented. However this transformed into the dead in modern spellcraft, I don't know.
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« Reply #5: July 03, 2011, 07:08:27 pm »


 There were fertility rituals and traditions (passing a horse penis around) but as far as spell-crafting as we know it, I think they're two different things.

 

I was just reading some of the pre-prints for the 14th ISC and there was a quick mention about the connection between the horse phallus and Mimir's head. In both instances Odin and the Husfreyja rubbed herbs on the dismembered body part to preserve it and then chanted over the object to bring it back to some form of reanimation. Mimir's head was used to give Odin wisdom and the phallus was presumably used to aid in fertility rites. Whether or not deceased ancestors (or their bodies) were treated in the same manner isn't clear. So...kinda gross, but a little more info. Smiley
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Asch
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« Reply #6: July 03, 2011, 07:49:08 pm »

I was just reading some of the pre-prints for the 14th ISC and there was a quick mention about the connection between the horse phallus and Mimir's head. In both instances Odin and the Husfreyja rubbed herbs on the dismembered body part to preserve it and then chanted over the object to bring it back to some form of reanimation. Mimir's head was used to give Odin wisdom and the phallus was presumably used to aid in fertility rites. Whether or not deceased ancestors (or their bodies) were treated in the same manner isn't clear. So...kinda gross, but a little more info. Smiley

You don't want to know what my mental picture is regarding the horse penis.... *blargh*

>_>
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Check out my blog http://therealrantingash.blogspot.com WARNING here be naughty words and snark!

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Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. - Thomas Jefferson

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. - Thomas Jefferson
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« Reply #7: July 03, 2011, 08:15:49 pm »

You don't want to know what my mental picture is regarding the horse penis.... *blargh*

>_>

Ha! Well, one thing for sure is that the phallus could stand on its own. And you guys thought Tyr's dismembered hand was creepy. * laughs*
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Malkin
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« Reply #8: July 04, 2011, 06:30:07 am »

are we really talking spell craft type witchcraft? or are you talking about the spirituality that involves ancestor worship?

Well, that's why I think answering this question is difficult. Aside from necromancy and veneration what sort of spellcraft are we asking about here? The spells people tend to cast today are different than the spells they would have cast in yester-year.

You know what? Forget everything else I said - it's not important.

This is my question: Do you know of any instances of historical witchcraft that involved the summoning or the aid of a witch's own, direct ancestor(s)?
« Last Edit: July 04, 2011, 06:32:29 am by Malkin » Logged

Thessaly: It's time to draw down the moon.
Foxglove: We did this. Or something like this. We had water and salt, not blood. We invoked the goddess in her aspect as the moon. We called down her power...
Thessaly: Did she answer you?
Foxglove: Well, it felt good at the time. Empowering.
Thessaly: Hmph.
Juniperberry
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« Reply #9: July 04, 2011, 04:25:44 pm »

You know what? Forget everything else I said - it's not important.

This is my question: Do you know of any instances of historical witchcraft that involved the summoning or the aid of a witch's own, direct ancestor(s)?

I'll see if I can find some references. I have some ideas.
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