As we mentioned in our ‘Black Magic & The Occult’ section, rumours have been rife for decades about witchcraft and black magic rituals being undertaken in various locations around the city such as ruined castles, parklands and gloomy, wooded areas.  If we look at the rumours on a national scale, the stories of witchcraft, devilment and sorcery all seem to blend into one; the only notable exception being the location of the proposed rituals.  Whilst of course, some of these practices are indeed happening up and down the country (sometimes with deadly consequences), the majority of people who class themselves as “witches” are very far removed from what public opinion would have us believe as dark magic-wielding hags who consort with the devil and aid his workings on us mere mortals. The idea of a “black mass” or dark ritual is abhorrent to them, and is not a path on which they walk.  There is no “evil” deity, and there is certainly no worship of it.  The misconception of Satan as someone with who they communicate is founded in complete fallacy, and is reserved for those known as “Satanists”.  Association with the devil is exactly the stigma that witches do not want – it is unwarranted, unfounded, and grossly damaging.  Of course, as with any walk of life, there will be those for whom the lines are blurred, but, for the many who practise witchcraft today, the life of a witch has absolutely nothing to do with malevolent evil or devil worshipping.

This damaged perception over the centuries has claimed countless lives. Those seen as witches were hunted, tortured and murdered on a mass scale during the witch-hunting eras. Here, in our own town, we burned Grissell Jaffray as a witch, and put a burning effigy of Hurkle Jean on a boat out to sea. We have such a fear associated with the word “witch” that we resort to savagery, closed-mindedness and the perpetuating of myth thousands of years old. With this in mind, we set about trying to wade through the good, the bad and the ugly – separating the myth from the reality to see what was really behind the mask of “witchcraft”.  It was one of our toughest challenges yet, and without the help of a pair of witches who were more than happy to help, we would have had a difficult time separating fact from fiction.  Kymmy and Ffyona agreed to answer a few of our questions so that we could show witchcraft in our city in a more positive light, and hopefully dispel one or two myths associated with the words “witch” and “witchcraft”.  If you don’t know these women, you clearly haven’t read my blog post on my time with them.  You should read that now if you haven’t already.

Read my interview with them below – there’s lots of great information and links for anyone who wishes to investigate this a bit more for themselves.  Please also remember to be respectful of everyone’s belief system – the world outside is a lot more diverse than just you and I.

Could you explain what a real Witch is and also what it means to you as an individual?

K – To me a REAL witch is someone who believes firmly in their Craft and has an affinity with it. Personally my Craft is very important to me, as important as going to Church is to a Catholic person. It’s a way of life for me.

F – A real witch to me is someone who lives their beliefs and lives their life in the now. Someone who takes personal responsibility for all their actions in this world.  A person who follows the lunar cycle and the cycle of the seasons and feels the changes as the Wheel turns.

What type of witchcraft do you practise?

K -I practice an eclectic mix of witchcraft, involving Wicca, Druidry, Buddhism and many more. I like to call myself a Patchwork Pagan, whatever works for me, I will go with.

F – I practice in my own way.  I have a fairly eclectic base as my beliefs are Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) combined with the cycle of the seasons here where I live. I also borrow stuff from books to use in ritual, if it works brilliant, if not then I don’t use it again.

How long have you been a witch, and what drew you to it?

K- Like I said at our meeting, I was attracted to The Craft after being involved with the local Spiritualist Church or “Spookies”, I briefly ventured into Christianity but it really wasn’t for me, I’ve always been drawn to the Craft since my early teens.

F – I went looking for something to believe in when I was 14. I was brought up a catholic and it just didn’t work for me.  I found a book on Wicca and the things I read made more sense to me than anything I had heard before. I liked the equality of it all as it wasn’t patriarchal and had a Goddess as a central figure. This made more sense than the women playing almost a supporting role as if it were not for women man wouldn’t even be born.  I started practicing my Craft when I was around 20. I have drifted off my path for short times and always got back on.  I also like the fact that if you asked 10 Witches what they believe you would get 10 different answers and none of them would even think of telling the others they were wrong.

Does it bother you that there are still stigmas attached to the words “Witch” and “Witchcraft”?

K – It does.  Witch can be such a negative word, when really we are quite positive folks. It’s absolutely awful that there is still witch-hunting going on in this day and age.

F – It irritates me slightly that companies like Disney are still portraying witches as the” bad guys” I have no problem with identifying myself as a Witch to my friends and family. I would not put it down on a job application nor would I introduce myself to a new person as one just because there is still a stigma.  In this day where more people are turning to the Nature religions, you would think people would be more accepting but we can hope it will happen in time.

Does Dundee have a particularly high magical population?

K – I believe it does have a fairly large population, although most witches, don’t go around bragging or broadcasting their beliefs, we don’t proselytise either.

F – Dundee is an extremely powerful place. The energy coursing through the land around here is so varied it is amazing. People wise I know a good few Witches/Shaman/Druids/Heathens and others, they know others that I do not. Am sure for every one I do know there are more that I don’t due to the perceived stigma.

What dates are important in your magical calendar?  Why?  How do you celebrate them?

K – I celebrate the Wheel of the Year, which has 8 Sabbats. Previously I stuck to the traditional dates on the calendar, but I now prefer to “FEEL” for the changes in my surroundings that tell me what’s happening, like the smell of spring, the full on pulse of high summer, the melancholy yet abundant autumn, and the nestling down of winter. I do still celebrate the traditional pagan dates of Samhain (31st October), Yule or Winter Solstice (21st December), Imbolc (Feb 1st or 2nd), Ostara or Spring Equinox (on or around March 21st), Beltane (May 1st), Litha or Summer Solstice (21st June), Lughnasadh or Lammas (Aug 1st), Mabon or Autumn Equinox (on or around 21st September), but these celebrations tend to be with likeminded friends or as part of our local moot, I do my own private celebrations. We celebrate the seasons and what’s we see happening around us and give thanks to The Goddess and God for the ever changing Wheel and for the abundance the Earth provides to sustain us all. I also celebrate the cycle of the Moon, I observe each of the phases from New to full and back to Dark again. I find great comfort from the Moon which isn’t surprising as humans are made primarily from water and the moon pulls on the tides, seems only right she should have the same effect on us.

F – The dates that are important in my magical calendar mark the changing of the seasons and the solar festivals of the Equinoxes.  We celebrate them to mark the turning of the Wheel and the changes that happen in nature. I also celebrate the lunar cycle and use this to work spells if I feel that one is required for something or have possibly been asked to perform one for someone.  The celebration itself usually involves some kind of ritual from a really complicated one that takes a lot of planning to one that might just involve sitting under the full moon and soaking up the power.

What is your personal view on death and the afterlife?

K – Hmm I would like to hope I don’t just STOP and that there is an afterlife, I think we become part of all life, that our conscious permeates everything. I also think our “SOUL” has to rest and reflect on the life we have lived and then be reincarnated into another “life” I have stated that I want to be buried in an eco-coffin when I die and that I want no embalming, I want to go back to the Earth as pure as I can be and that a fruit tree be planted on top of me, so that my family and friends can eat the fruit that my body has helped to nourish. None of us truly knows what happens when we die so here’s hoping it’s wonderful.

F – I believe that when you die you essence or soul travels to the Summerlands and there you reflect on your past life and learn any lessons you lived through, see any karmic debt you may have incurred and to whom.  When you have learned all you can from the life you just lived then you are reborn to the next life to continue your travels on the Wheel and continue to learn.

Where could an interested party get involved with the magical community?

K – There are loads of online sites to connect with other magical groups and most big cities have Moots and other Pagan friendly events. It’s really just about asking around and looking out for flyers etc. The Scottish Pagan Federation is a great source of information and help also The Children of Artemis.

F – Well a first point of contact locally would be Dundee Pagan Moot. We have a Facebook page, website and a YouTube channel. We also have a monthly meeting on the last Sunday of every month.  There is also the Scottish Pagan Federation. They too have a facebook page, website and a youtube channel.  In most towns and cities in Scotland there will be some kind of a pagan moot or meeting on a regular basis. There may even be a shop that will advertise things like that. This shop will usually sell things like crystals, statues, candles, incense etc. All are things that can be used magically.

Any dark or creepy stories to tell us?

K – Gods where do I begin? Well, when I was wee, my Granny was a great teller of creepy stories (bless her) and one night we were sitting in front of her coal fire and she told us about the night my Dad was out drinking down the Perth Road with a bunch of friends, he was totally bladdered and decided to walk home through Balgay, en route to Dryburgh where my Gran lived, this was before I was born apparently. On walking through Balgay, he became aware of a strange footstep behind him, kind of a “THUMP” “SCRAPE” kind of noise, he looked around but no one was there, this continued all the way through the park and he was getting a bit worried by this time. He began to pick up his pace as best he could in his inebriated state but still the strange footsteps continued, all the way through Lochee and right up to my Granny’s front door when they disappeared suddenly. He got in and told my Gran what had happened and she told him that would have been your Dad making sure you got home ok as he had been carrying a flick knife in his pocket. My Grandad had passed years before, had a limp and scraped his boot when he walked apparently.  I was well creeped out.  Another Balgay story; I was about 3 years old and my Mum had taken me and my wee brother who was in a pram at the time for a walk up Lochee Park and into Balgay, I was holding mums hand as you do and she was pushing the pram with the other. She let go my hand to see to my wee brother and right about where the Jewish graveyard is I turned round to see a wee tiny man dressed on green clothes, he was beckoning me to come over to him, I stood staring at him and tugged on mums coat unable to speak, she was too busy with my brother to see what was going on he kept on beckoning and smiling at me. I began walking towards him and suddenly mum noticed me wandering off and shouted on me, he disappeared instantly and I told her about him, she says I imagined it, but to this day I KNOW I saw him. One more…We used to stay in Lochee High Street when we were really wee and we had an outside lavvy at the time, mum had safety pinned my wee brother and I to the couch so she could go to the loo (yes they actually did that) so we were babbling away to each other on the couch I reckon I was about 5 and my brother about 4 at the time, when from the room to our right a strange figure walked past us. It was human in form but completely see though. I could see the outline of the body kind of like the “Ready Brek” man used to look, but there was a lot of lights right up the centre of the body, it walked right past us into the next room. We told mum when she came up the stairs and she said we were being daftys, my Dad believed us though but never said what he thought it was, to this day my brother and I will swear we saw this and that to us it was totally real.  I also saw my Dead uncle a week after he died, again I must’ve been about 5. I came out of our closey on to the High Street in Lochee and he was standing there it a black suit, white shirt with a red carnation in his pocket, he smiled at me and kept walking. I ran upstairs to tell mum I had just saw Uncle Jim and that he might be on the way to the pub, she sat me down and told me that he had died the previous week and that I couldn’t have seen him. I told her what he was wearing and only when I was older did she tell me that those were the clothes he was buried in. Creepy eh?

F – Not really. I have had a few encounters with the Spirits of Place (Genus Locii) and a couple of encounters with spirits in old places but not anything that creeped me out.

Booksworld.com recently reported the release of “The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca. What’s all the fuss about, you ask? Isn’t it just someone trying to sell a book?

No, apparently it’s not – the book is available completely free, under a creative commons license, which allows anyone to freely share and republish its contents without having to worry about copyright issues. From a spiritual point of view, we’re sure many people tuned into this way of life will find it an absolute boon. If it sounds a bit out of your depth, we hear that there’s a lot more to this book than just the release of a few spells and chants, so you may just be surprised.

Quote from www.broadwayworld.com:

“The book is a gift,” said Rev. Don Lewis, a Wiccan Arch Priest and one of the authors featured in the Common Book, “it is freely given to all, to use as they see fit. All of the contributors have given their work, without limitation, as an act of love toward the world. The work is meant to used, meant to be shared.”

“The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca” includes a total of 400 pages of articles, chants, and poems dealing with Witchcraft and Wiccan spirituality, ranging from creation and the nature of the soul to magical manipulation of time. There are also biographies of famous Witches and Pagans from history.

Authors featured in the “Common Book” include Pagan luminaries such as Oberon Zell-Ravenheart of the Church of All Worlds and the Grey School of Wizardry, Rev. Don Lewis of the Correllian Nativist Tradition of Wicca, Abby Willowroot of Spiral Goddess Grove, Raven Digitalis, Arch Priestess Stephanie Leon Neal, Alan Salmi, and A. C. Fisher-Aldag, among others.

“The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca” has been published via Eschaton Books by Witch School International (www.WitchSchool.com), the world’s premier school of Witchcraft, which is itself no stranger to controversy. Asked if he understood why some might find “The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca” controversial, Rev. Lewis replied:

“Of course it’s controversial – it’s about major social change. We live in a time of great unrest. People are marching in the streets. The whole world’s on fire. Old answers aren’t working any more. Old religions aren’t working any more. The world needs new answers and new ways of thinking. The old religions are drowning in blood and war and killing the earth as they kill themselves. Only a new religion, only a new way of seeing the world and interacting with it, can save the future for our children. That is what ‘The Common Book of Witchcraft and Wicca’ is about.”

Let us know what you think, if you do decide to read it. With all the other reading and writing we’ve got to do, we doubt we’ll get round it any time soon, but it’s definitely going into our “maybe” pile…

 

 

Welcome to our section on real-life tales of the unexpected, where things go bump in the night, and all sorts of creepy and weird things come crawling out from the darkness.  Here, we have taken a selection of stories as given to us by our fans, based on their own personal experiences of the paranormal, and some of them are hair-raising to say the least.  If you have your own story to tell, please get in touch and we will feature you.  You can remain anonymous if you want – it’s entirely up to you…but if you have a story, you’ve almost got an obligation to tell it!

The most local ghost story I heard was from my Mum not quite in Dundee but close enough, at the Muirdrum. It was in the 70s before I was born. My mum and dad were driving to Arbroath and through the Muirdrum this was back when the road was single lanes and the Muirdrum had a couple of horrid bends. Dad was driving and it was pretty horrendous weather when they saw a car come up behind them driving really erratic on both sides of the road. Dad realised the car wasn’t going to slow down and plough into them so pulled off the road onto the kerb. There was a 73 bus in front of them and the driver must have clocked the driver too, as he stopped and Dad saw him shouting at the passengers to start getting off the bus as the guy was clearly going to crash into them. The car did go straight into the back of the bus and disappeared. Mum says everyone out on the pavement just kind of went quiet and were starring in disbelief at what they had just seen, then they got back on the bus and Mum and Dad went back to the car and went on their way. Mum said that the car was an old sedan type and was completely solid and they could clearly see a male driver and passenger. Very odd & would love to know if anyone else knows anything about sightings of a ghost car at Muirdrum. Mum can only assume there must have been a fatal crash at some point on the bends; maybe now the bends have gone, it’s no more; maybe it was the weather that brought it on..?

– Laura Milne, Dundee

I heard a story when I was fairly young, maybe about 10 or 11, about a neighbour of mine using a Ouija board whilst camping out with her friends in her granny’s back garden.  They were a few years older than me, but this particular girl was a bit of a show-off and loved to tell everyone her business, so we used to talk all the time (she mostly talked and I mostly listened).  She told me that the board said that her granny was going to die, and it totally freaked her out.  I remember her crying as she told me, and I got upset and scared by it, so I told my Mum, and she went over and told the girl’s granny, who was understandably furious.  The girl didn’t speak to me all week, and I felt really bad for getting her into trouble.  The following Sunday morning, I remember as clear as day.  We were woken early in the morning, maybe about 4 or 5.  It was still dark outside, but there were lights flashing in the windows and a lot of commotion.  My Mum and I watched from the window as someone was taken from the house on a stretcher, fully covered, and put into the back of an ambulance.  We found out later that it was the girl’s granny who had died suddenly, and I still get chills thinking about the message the girl said she got from the Ouija board almost a week earlier.

– Kim W, Dundee

When I worked in Mains castle approximately 10 to 15 years ago, a lot of strange things would happen. I remember one day I was asked to go in on a Sunday morning after there had been a wedding party the night before. I was in the castle alone, as the owner was away running some errands and I was just cleaning up from the night before, getting on with my job and minding my own business. I was in the bar area and I heard the big, heavy oak door from the toilet downstairs opening, and then slamming shut!! I assumed the owner was back so went downstairs and there was nobody there and the hallway was in total darkness! That’s the one major story I always remember about my time at Mains castle. Also, there would be times myself or other members of staff would go up to the top floor where the silver service cutlery was kept, and, as we walked across the room, a dark shadow would quickly move across the floor and up the fireplace.  It could be quite a scary place to work!

– Anonymous, Dundee

About 8 years ago, I was walking my dog in Baxter Park. It was autumn and about 4:30pm, so it was beginning to get quite dark. I walked up the path closest to Baxter Park Terrace, as my dog (as usual) just ran about demented.  As I walked up the path in the direction of the pavilion, I saw a woman walking towards me pushing a pram. The woman appeared to be wearing grey clothes – a knee length skirt, grey woollen stockings, and a coat with some sort of snood or large hood on it, which was pulled up. The pram was definitely Victorian in design. It had 4 big wheels and a sprung buggy-carriage with a hood. As the woman walked towards me, I felt compelled to look at her and to look in the pram. I looked at her but could not see a face. This did not, at the time, seem odd, as she had her hood up and it was getting dark. The odd and a little disturbing (but not frightening) thing was that, as I looked in the pram, I saw nothingness. By this, I mean a complete void. It was like I could have leaned into the pram and fell into nothingness. Really odd. My dog and I walked past the woman and pram and I quickly turned around to see if she was behind us. She was gone.

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– Neil Sneddon, Dundee (images provided by Neil)

My parents moved me out of Dundee after a set of strange incidents happened in our house in the Nethergate in late 1938 or so.  My mother’s best friend was a clairvoyant, and she lived across the landing from us, so we were always in and out of each other’s houses.  My sisters and I played with her children, whilst she and my mother chatted and hosted séances with their friends.  We were allowed to play until very late at night, which was unusual for many families at that time, but such was the nature of my mother and her friend.  I would have been about 6 at the time – the youngest of them all, but I was still allowed to play until the same time as my two older sisters.  My father very rarely had an opinion on the matter, or any matter, to be honest, as my mother was quite a fiery character and never held her tongue (and she was quite handy with her fists too, but that’s another story).  This one night, as us girls played, we all heard this scream coming from the closed off sitting room where a séance was being held.  We never entered this room, but all ran to the door and listened as hard as we could.  We didn’t hear anything other than a few scuffles and bumps, and then the door was flung open and about 4 or 5 people were suddenly trying to escape the room all at once.  I remember my father shouting and swearing for them to calm down and not to knock us over and harm us.  We dashed out of the way, all crying and confused by what was going on and scared of getting trampled on.  Nobody spoke of it, and we were all sent to bed immediately.  We sat up for ages afterwards, listening to the grown-ups arguing before I must have dozed off.  During the following week, between our place and the one next door, we must have experienced at least twenty strange things happening.  Soft music would play in the air, with no obvious source; plates would suddenly fall off the table and smash to the floor; bedding would be removed from the bed and discarded in the corner, and my mother complained that food began to go stale as soon as it came into the house.  My mother suffered from excruciating headaches and terrible night tremors during this time, too.  The disturbances did eventually calm down until everything went back to normal.  Over the course of the next week or two, things became less intense until they eventually stopped, but the relationship between my mother and her friend never recovered, and neither did my mother’s peace of mind.  By the end of that same year, we had moved out of Dundee altogether, and my mother never again spoke of the incident that nearly made her lose her mind.

– Elizabeth Urqhuart, formerly Dundee (now Edinburgh)

It was August this year (2014), my daughter was home on leave from the Navy and we had been out in the afternoon. We missed the number 17 bus so decided to get a 28 and walk up the road from there. We got off at the stop just before Logie Cemetery.  On passing the cemetery, my daughter said that she didn’t even know it existed, despite having been brought up in the area. I told her it was said to be haunted and had quite a creepy history and she was intrigued. We ended up (after reading the plaque on the wall) going into the cemetery. Even in daylight it’s creepy…and it didn’t help much that one of the first graves we read said “I am not dead, only asleep”. We didn’t stay long because we were a bit spooked by the place even though we were really curious about it, and planned to come back another day. As the evening went on the subject of the Logie arose and as a dare really to each other, we thought it would be fun to go back at night and take some photographs. I don’t think either of us really wanted to go back there, but it seemed like a challenge – and neither of us wanted to admit we were actually terrified at the very idea! Another friend decided he would come with us. He thought it would be a bit of a hoot because I doubt very much if he believed in all the ghost stories about the place.  By the time we reached the cemetery, we were quite nervous but the brave man we were with strode right in and up the mound to try to read some of the graves and prove there are no such things as “ghosties”. Within around 5 minutes, things started happening. My daughter and I became cold to the point of shivering from the inside out, even though it wasn’t a cold night.  I became dizzy and off-balance and felt like I was being pushed around.  Then my daughter let out an awful squeal saying something had just felt her backside. All this time, our male friend was wandering around unaware of what we were experiencing when he suddenly shouted “What the f*ck was that?” He bounded towards us like he had seen a ghost (maybe he had) but never elaborated on what he had heard or seen or felt up there. We decided quickly to leave when, in our ears, there was a deep growling sound – I  can’t even begin to describe how scary it sounded, but it was enough to make 3 fully grown adults leg it as fast as we could out of there. I swore never ever to return, that was evil beyond belief. However today, I did return to take some photos during the day this time. I only stood on the inside of the gate to take my photos as just beyond there was where that growling thing was and I had no desire to go up there. Within minutes of entering the cemetery I got a banging headache, felt like I was going to be sick and my balance was all over the place.  I know it doesn’t sound particularly exciting or creepy, but when it happens to you, it really is. I know what that growl sounded like and I can almost guarantee that was not from anything that could possibly have any good intentions. I don’t know who is meant to haunt that place, but as far as I’m concerned they can haunt it all they want without any more visits from me! I know what we heard and what we felt that night in August and I know what I felt today standing just inside the gate of that place and I don’t intend risking another visit to that god forsaken place.

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– Ali Gee, Dundee (images provided by Ali)

I used to work in a High School in Dundee (a long time ago now) and one morning as I was cleaning the stairs, I felt someone touch me on the back.  I thought it was one of the other cleaners but when I turned around, nobody was there.  I didn’t think too much about it at first, but then a few minutes later it happened again, but this time, a lot harder, almost like someone had slapped my back.  I screamed out in surprise, and one of the other girls came to see what I was screaming at, and as soon as she did, she felt someone (or something) touch her on the back too.  We agreed there and then that we’d always clean the stairs together, just in case it happened again, but it never did – and I still have no idea what it was.

– Mary Walker, Perth, Australia

I always remember road trips on holidays with my grandparents when I was a young girl, and my granny always falling asleep in the car soon after any long drive started. Whenever we drove out from Dundee and took the A9 towards Glasgow, at some point between Perth and Stirling my granny would always wake, and say she had a shiver down her spine. My granddad told us she always woke at the same place on those drives, and it was where the last local witch was buried. I think he said it was near Dunning but I’ve never tried to corroborate the story.

– Louise Murphy, Dundee

I was quite young when I had this experience, so the memory of it is a bit faded, but I remember playing with my toys in the living room whilst my Mum was out of the room, and, whilst I was alone, something grabbed my shoulder from behind. It happened really fast, but I remember being confused by it and not scared, even though nobody was behind me. When I turned my head back, the same thing happened again, and, as before, nobody was there. I never bothered telling my Mum about it, and had probably forgotten about it not long after it happened, but I still think about that weird experience from time to time and wonder if someone was trying to tell me something from beyond the grave.

– Steve, Dundee

When I was younger, I used to run everywhere. I was in a running team and just loved it. One day when I was about 15, I was resting in a playground after a run. It was hot, and probably mid-afternoon. I noticed a bus coming along the road, and decided I would try and outrun it (as kids do), so I started to sprint as soon as it caught up to where I was resting. I was trying to go as fast as I could, when I swear I heard this voice say to me “You can run faster than this, go for it” as this strange, tribal noise starting battering in my ears. It was literally like I had a sound system blaring in my ears as I ran. The bus was pulling much further in front of me now, but I kept on running like a nutcase, thinking I could outrun the noise as well as the bus. I turned to my left and saw a young, coloured lad running along the road beside me. He could have been no more than 6 or 7, and he was laughing and whooping as he ran. I got such a fright, I stumbled and fell over my ankle, skinning my knees in the process. When I looked up, the boy had gone, and so had the music. This happened in Kirkton about 30-odd years ago. It only happened the once, and I never had the experience again.

– Anonymous

I know it’s not Dundee, but I thought I would share my experience anyway, I hope you don’t mind. My granddad used to be a carpenter and, about 10 years ago, he made me a detailed carving of a cross which I put on a wall in an upstairs bedroom of my house. My family and I went out one afternoon for lunch and, upon returning to our house we found the carving on the floor of the downstairs hallway – snapped in half! Our house was locked and we all left together and returned at the same time so it couldn’t have been any of us. To this day, we still have no idea how it happened. We still live in the same house, and we still have the broken cross, even though my granddad made me a new one (which is fine, by the way).

– Shelly, Perth

This story is about my Dad, but he won’t let me post his name, so I have to give this anonymously, sorry. When he was younger (he is nearly 60 now), he was out with his friend on their bikes, over the back of Whitfield, when they stopped at a field to cool off. An elderly man walked up to them and asked them for directions to Blair farm, or something like that. My dad says he and his pal looked at each other, and when they turned to tell the man they didn’t know where it was, he had vanished.

– Anonymous

Remembered my own wee story (not sure if this is true or not as I don’t remember at all!) I was 3 and had an imaginary friend called Tommy who had blond curly hair and wore a green velvet suit (I’m not sure you would know this at 3!) This was around 1976/7 and we lived in the tenements on Albert Street. Tommy had to get a place set at the table and I would scream don’t sit down Tommy is sitting there. So it turns out that while decorating and removing the layers of wallpaper, it revealed the words written on the wall “Tommy 1911 – 1914”! (I do remember playing on the landing with a tea set and no dolls or teddies for hours!).

– Lee Hill, Dundee

The Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of Witches”) is the classic Catholic text on witchcraft and was first published in 1487.  The Malleus Maleficarum was notorious for its use in the Witch-hunts which were started on a national scale across Europe.

Two Dominican inquisitors Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer compiled it and submitted the book to the University of Cologne’s Faculty of Theology for their approval on the 9th of May, 1487.  This is usually taken as the date of publication, although earlier editions may have been produced in 1485 or 1486.  It was published in a number of editions, thirteen times from 1487 to 1520 and revived another sixteen times from 1574 to 1669.  The book was popular throughout Europe with at least sixteen German editions, eleven French editions, two Italian editions and several English editions. The English editions, however, did not appear until much later.  For its time, the Malleus was the lead authority available to the masses on the subject of witchcraft, and soon became accepted by both Catholics and Protestants, adding to there’re already religious favours.

The work was originally prefaced by the papal bull ‘Summis desiderantes’, as issued by Pope Innocent VIII on the 5th of December 1484, and which remains the main Papal document on witchcraft.  It mentions Sprenger and Kramer by name and directs them to combat witchcraft in northern Germany.  The book itself was not specifically ordered by the Catholic Church, but was written to lend credence to and enforce the bull.  To help its credulity, the writers then attached a letter of approbation from the University of Cologne, signed by four of its professors.

The book is divided into three sections, the first proving witchcraft or sorcery existed, the second describing the forms of witchcraft and the third the detection, trial and total destruction of witches.  The first two sections are thought to have been the work of Sprenger, who as a distinguished theologian put together the theological and intellectual components of the book.  Section three and the practical components of the book is most likely is the work of Kramer, who had conducted a campaign in the Tirol during the early 1480’s and had gain much experience as a trial judge.

The book begins with a discussion of the nature of witchcraft and the need for administrators to thoroughly comprehend its enormity.  This generally comprised of:  the renunciation of the Catholic faith, devotion and homage to the Devil, the offering of unbaptized children and sexual intercourse with Incubi and/or Succubi.  It also “explains” why women by their weaker nature and inferior intellect were naturally more prone to the lure of Satan.  It then goes on to declare that some things confessed by witches, such as animal transformations, were mere delusions induced by the devil to ensnare them; other acts were real, such as flight, causing storms and destroying crops.  The book dwells at length on the licentious acts of witches and the question of whether demons could sire children with a witch.

Part II deals with the three types of maleficia and how these can be counteracted.  Here they sanction all the myths, fables and folklore about the doings of witches:  their pacts with the Devil, sexual relations with devils and demons, transvection, metamorphosis, injury to cattle and crops, and a whole range of subjects normally ascribed to sorcery.  (These were the accusations put upon Grissell Jaffray, Hurkle Jean, and, undoubtedly, many people of Dundee before and after them).

The last section deals with the practical details of detection, trial and destruction of witches.  It covers the rules for initiating legal action against witches, securing a conviction and the passing of sentences.  It concludes with how much belief to place in witnesses’ testimonies and the need to eliminate malicious accusations, but it also states that public rumour is sufficient to bring a person to trial and that a too vigorous defence is evidence that the defender is bewitched.  There are rules on how to prevent the authorities becoming bewitched and the reassurance, that as representatives of God, the witch can have no power over the investigators.  It covers details of how to elicit confessions, including the sequence of torture and questioning to be used, the use of a red-hot iron is recommended, as is the shaving of the entire body of the accused in search of tokens or marks of the Devil.

Do you want to know more about the history and the use of witchcraft in Scotland and Europe? You should definitely read The Malleus Maleficarum and
the construction of witchcraft: Theology and popular belief by Hans Peter Broedel – free to download below!

TMMPR

 

“Persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another individual or group. The most common forms are religious persecution, ethnic persecution and political persecution, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. The inflicting of suffering, harassment, isolation, imprisonment, internment, fear, or pain are all factors that may establish persecution. Even so, not all suffering will necessarily establish persecution. The suffering experienced by the victim must be sufficiently severe. The threshold level of severity has been a source of much debate.”

The 16th century was a time of religious upheaval caused, in part, by the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. As the shockwave of religious division extended across Europe, fear spread that the Day of Judgement had arrived. Catholics viewed the rift as a sign that the antichrist was increasing his presence in the world, while Protestants saw the corruption of the Catholic church as proof that the devil had infiltrated the land.

Rising concerns about the influence of magic and the devil were due the revolution of print, which saw an influx of texts from all over the world, such as the Malleus Maleficarum, urging people to take action in the battle with witches and magic.  No one was safe from an accusation of witchcraft, even clergymen. However, women bore the brunt of the accusations – particularly elderly spinsters, widows, and those living alone. In fact, 80% of those tried in Britain were women.  Begging, a standard method of survival, lay at the root of many witchcraft allegations, and beggars were often blamed for misfortunes that occurred after they were refused help. More often than not, accusations of witchcraft resulted from neighbourly disagreements, inextricably bound to a deep-rooted fear of malevolent magic and the devil.

Stories of continental witch trials spread, and, as the new witchcraft laws filtered down through society, some took it upon themselves to lead the witch hunts, gathering evidence before trial as self-proclaimed ‘witchfinder generals’. The most notorious of these in England was a Puritan called Matthew Hopkins who launched an unprecedented campaign of terror against suspected English witches during the 1640s.  These led to some 300 trials and the deaths of around 100 people in eastern England. Hopkins was by no means the only witch detector, but his reputation spread far and wide and he had a profound impact on those around him. One source from the time commented: “It is strange to tell what superstitious opinions, affections, relations, are generally risen amongst us, since the Witchfinders came into the Country.”

Although the use of torture to extract a confession was illegal in England, Ireland and Wales, it was permitted in Scotland, and less ‘formal’ types of torture were often used by men such as Hopkins at a local level, often presided over by a magistrate or local constable. One such method was sleep deprivation, whereby the accused would be forced to walk back and forth until exhausted and then denied rest. In Scotland, thumb screws and leg crushers were also used.  Another type of trial was ‘swimming’ the accused to prove their guilt. The victim’s right thumb would be tied to their left big toe and they would be thrown into a nearby pond or river. If they sank, they were innocent; if they floated, they had been rejected by the water as a servant of the devil, in a type of reverse baptism.

Scotland, which has traditionally been regarded as more zealous in its persecution of witches than its southern counterparts, and tried 2,500 people, with an execution rate of around 70%.  By the late 17th century – thanks to a combination of judicial scepticism, low prosecution rates and the costs of pursuing a case through the courts – the number of accusations of witchcraft had plummeted. Many people turned instead to ‘cunning folk’ (‘wise’ men and women who practised ‘good’ witchcraft) and healers to combat the malevolent forces they believed to be at large. Witchcraft was finally decriminalised in Britain in 1736 – though people were still being accused of it as late as the 19th century.

Here is a brief timeline we found at www.womenshistory.about.com showing persecution around the world towards witches and witchcraft in general.

Witchcraft persecution timeline

B.C.E. The Hebrew Scriptures addressed witchcraft, including Exodus 22:17 and various verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
about 200 – 500 C.E. The Talmud described forms of punishments and execution for witchcraft
about 910 The Canon Episcopi was recorded by Regino of Prümm describing folk beliefs in Francia, just before the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. This text influenced later canon law. It condemned maleficium (bad-doing) and sorilegium (fortune-telling), but argued that most stories of these were fantasy, and also argued that those who believed they magically flew were suffering from delusions.
about 1140 Mater Gratian’s compilation of canon law, including the Canon Episcopi (see “about 910” above), also included writings from Hrabanus Maurus and excerpts from Augustine.
1154 John of Salisbury wrote of his skepticism about the reality of witches riding in the night.
1230s An Inquisition against heresy was established by the Roman Catholic Church.
1258 Pope Alexander IV accepted that sorcery and communication with demons was a kind of heresy. This opened the possibility of the Inquisition, concerned with heresy, being involved with witchcraft investigations.
late 13th century In his Summa Theologiae, and in other writings, Thomas Aquinas briefly addressed sorcery and magic. He assumed that consulting demons included making a pact with them, which was by definition, apostasy. He accepted that demons could assume the shapes of actual people; the demons’ acts are thus mistaken for those actual people’s.
1306 – 15 The Church moved to eliminate the Knights Templar. Among the charges were heresy, witchcraft and devil-worship.
316 – 1334 Pope John XII issued several bulls identifying sorcery with heresy and pacts with the devil.
1317 In France, a bishop was executed for using witchcraft in an attempt to kill Pope John XXII. This was one of several assassination plots around that time against the Pope or a King.
1340s Black Death swept through Europe, adding to the willingness of people to see conspiracies against Christendom.
about 1450 Errores Gazaziorum, a papal bull, identified witchcraft and heresy with the Cathars.
1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued Summis desiderantes affectibus, authorizing two German monks to investigate accusations of witchcraft as heresy, threatening those who interfered with their work.
1486 The Malleus Maleficarum was published.
1500-1560 Many historians point to this period as one in which witchcraft trials — and Protestantism — were rising
1532 Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, by Emperor Charles V, and affecting the whole Holy Roman Empire, declared that harmful witchcraft should be punished by death by fire; witchcraft that resulted in no harm was to be “punished otherwise.”
1542 English law made witchcraft a secular crime with the Witchcraft Act.
1552 Ivan IV of Russia issued the Decree of 1552, declaring witch trials were to be civil matters rather than church matters.
1560s and 1570s A wave of witch hunts were launched in southern Germany.
1563 Publication of De Praestiglis Daemonum by Johann Weyer, a physician to the Duke of Cleves. It argued that much of what was thought to be witchcraft was not supernatural at all, but just natural trickery.The second English Witchcraft Act was passed.
1580 – 1650 Many historians consider this the period with the largest number of witchcraft cases, with the period of 1610 – 1630 being a peak within this period.
1580s One of the periods of frequent witchcraft trials in England.
1584 Discoverie of Witchcraft was published by Reginald Scot of Kent, expressing skepticism of witchcraft claims.
1604 Act of James I expanded punishable offenses related to witchcraft.
1612 The Pendle witch trials in Lancashire, England, accused twelve witches. The charges included the murder of ten by witchcraft. Ten were found guilty and executed, one died in prison and one was found not guilty.
1618 A handbook for English judges on pursuing witches was published.
1634 Loudun witch trials in France. Ursuline nuns reported being possessed, victims of Father Urbain Grandier, who was convicted of sorcery. He was convicted despite refusing to confess even under torture. After Father Grandier was executed, the possessions continued until 1637.
1640s One of the periods of frequent witchcraft trials in England.
1660 Another wave of witch trials in northern Germany.
1682 King Louis XIV of France prohibited further witchcraft trials in that country.
1692 Salem witch trials
1717 The last English trial for witchcraft was held; the defendant was acquitted.
1736 The English Witchcraft Act was repealed, formally ending witch hunts and trials.
1755 Austria ended witchcraft trials.
1768 Hungary ended witchcraft trials.
1829 Histoire de l’Inquisition en Franceby Etienne Leon de Lamothe-Langon was published, a forgery claiming massive witchcraft executions in the 14th century. The evidence was, essentially, fiction.
1833 A Tennessee man was prosecuted for witchcraft.
1839 Matilda Joslyn Gage published Women, Church and State which included the figure of nine million executed as witches.
1862 French writer Jules Michelet advocated a return to goddess worship, and saw women’s “natural” inclination to witchcraft as positive. He depicted witch hunts as Catholic persecutions.
1921 Margaret Murray’s The Witch Cult in Western Europe was published, her account of the witch trials. She argued that witches represented a pre-Christian “old religion.” Among her arguments: the Plantagenet kings were protectors of the witches, and Joan of Arc was a pagan priestess.
1954 Gerald Gardner published Witchcraft Today, about witchcraft as a surviving pre-Christian pagan religion.
20th century Anthropologists look at the beliefs in different cultures on witchcraft, witches and sorcery.
1970s Modern women’s movement looks at the witchcraft persecutions using a feminist lens.
December 2011 Amina Bint Abdul Halim Nassar was beheaded in Saudi Arabia for practicing witchcraft.

For decades, there have been rumours about supposed black magic rituals being undertaken in well-known local sites such as Balgay hill, the Law, Ballumbie, Templeton Woods and Claypotts Castle, to name but a few. By day, these places appear tranquil and serene, but if the rumours are true, it’s a completely different world at night. Magic, as we have come to know it over the ages, covers a wide variety of topics, from healing and spiritualism right through to demonic possession and the undertaking of the Black Mass. White magic and black magic seem to have very different rules regarding their use, with white magic being predominantly used in the benefit of others, whilst black magic is used for selfish purposes. They are two very opposite sides of the same coin – each harnessing equal and opposing magical and mystical energies. Those who associate with white magic are usually selfless, loving, helpful people who are kind and giving and who promote healthy spiritual wellbeing. However, the practitioners of black magic tend to be those with dark, troubled pasts, who perhaps anger easily and look to channel the unseen forces of the negative spiritual energies in order for profit, gain or revenge. Witches have had a rough time throughout history – by now we should all be familiar with the tale of poor Grissell Jaffray – so, it’s no surprise that even those who practice white witchcraft are still relatively shy about coming forward. Although we may no longer burn our “witches”, there is still a certain social stigma about proclaiming oneself to be witch of any sort.

Dundee is no stranger to tales of the occult, and the vast array of local stories about fooling about with ouija boards and finding strange markings and evidence of rituals come across our desks more often than you could imagine – you lot are a strange bunch! Even Bonnie Dundee, Bloody Clavers himself, is reported to have made a deal with the devil to make him more robust in battle (although we all know how that worked out for him in the end). Black magic, worship of the devil and dark occultism have been around for millennia. Before science took a grip of the world, almost everyone believed in some form of higher power and the practise of witchcraft in some form or another. People engaged with each other by telling stories, and, as the story passed from person to person, it became more embellished and elaborate – a trait which is still dominant in us to this day. There is very little in the way of documented evidence showing demonic invocation, possession, necromancy, or even the healing powers of white magic, yet still it is a touchy subject for most of us. This is because the tales and stories we have heard touch us in a primal place of fear and unknowing which allows our darkest thoughts to take over. On the surface, we may not believe, but the feeling of walking into an empty basement covered with bizarre markings scrawled on the walls, used black candle remnants stuck to the floor and signs of fornication would be enough to put chills down anybody’s spine (as told to us by a woman who wishes to only be known as Tracy, from Dundee).

In October 1978, a Dundee warlock was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for fooling three young schoolgirls to take part in a Satanic ritual known as the “Oscular Inflame” or “Kiss of Shame”. The girls believed they were to be involved in a white magic ritual, but instead were subjected to the ritual in which each of them kissed with the warlock during the ceremony. The belief behind this practise is to show subservience to the will of the High Priest, as Satan’s presence on earth, initiating them into the coven of black witches and warlocks. The media at the time blamed social unrest, claiming that witchcraft itself was “the new religion of the bored residents of suburbia” (Glasgow Herald, 1978). It further went on to say that most witchcraft rituals were sexual in nature, and that said rituals were a means of satisfying a deviant sexual appetite. The “Kiss of Shame” involves kissing the High Priest or Priestess on 5 parts of their body – the feet, knees, genitals, breast and lips. In some rituals, an initiate would then be given forty lashes. After this, the initiate undertakes an oath of secrecy with the words “I, in the presence of the Mighty Ones do of my own free will and accord, most solemnly swear that I will ever keep secret and never reveal the secrets of the Art except it to be a proper person, properly prepared, with a circle such as this, and that I will never deny the secrets of the Art to such a person if he or she be vouched for by a Brother or Sister of the Art. All this I swear by my hopes of a future life mindful that my measure has been taken and may my magical weapons turn against me if I break this my solemn oath.” Finally the initiate is given various paraphernalia, including a ceremonial knife of power and welcomed to the coven. More often than not, these rituals take place behind closed doors, with a room acting as a makeshift temple, but sometimes, when the situation calls for it, rituals can take place outdoors in secluded wooded areas, or areas where there are caves or grottos to act as a makeshift temple. People claim to have seen evidence of rituals in and around Dundee, including concentric stone patterns, carvings on trees and even people in robes walking amongst the trees on Balgay hill. Whether you choose to believe or not, the fact remains that people are practising black magic all over the world, so, statistically, the chances are high that it’s happening right under our noses in our own city. There’s no smoke without fire, so maybe there is a shred or two of truth to the rumours after all (not that we’ll be going out to check).

occult2

Another theme that crops up in a lot of the stories we read from people, is the use of the Ouija board. The Ouija board or spirit board, is a means of communicating with the spirit world by using the letters and numbers on the board in association with a moving object such as a glass to help spell out the message. It was first released as a fun parlour game until a spiritualist by the name of Pearl Curran used it for divination during the First World War and rumours began about the board being a conduit to the spirit world. It’s worth noting here that the Ouija board is actually illegal in the UK. Under antiquated Witchcraft Laws, it is illegal to sell, own or use one. The Law is still in effect because it has never been challenged for repeal.

Robert Stamper recalls playing with a Ouija board: I invited a real horror into my house with a Ouija board once, when I was much, much younger. My brother and I got no results when we started to use the board, but suddenly the message indicator mysteriously began to move. The first thing the board told us was that the message was being sent by a male called Seth. Then I made the mistake of telling the board to prove it was real by doing something supernatural. The results were startling and scary. The board told us that the grandfather of one of my best friends would die in a week. The chandelier in the room began to shake violently and the chimes rang like pieces of metal being smashed together. The room became as cold as ice and we were shivering, even though the room was warm. A horrible smell filled the room and we couldn’t stop gagging and coughing. My brother and I looked at each other in terror. We opened the windows to get rid of the stink, and told each other we’d forget the whole thing. But a week later the grandfather of one of my best friends died just as the board has predicted! From time to time, that awful smell would return. We threw the board away and told my mother about the experience – as you could imagine, she went crazy and we were grounded for weeks afterwards.

The Ouija board and it’s use has come under extreme criticism and, like black magic, is something we do not wish to talk about in society, as it is deemed taboo, superstitious and very dangerous. Clinical trials of Ouija seances have shown that the users have, in fact, moved the board themselves using micro-movements they claim to have been unaware of. Where science tells them they have moved the object around the board themselves, they counter-argue that it is the spirit taking over their body. As this can neither be proved or disproved, the debate rages on. Either way, no good can come from playing with forces we know nothing about, and, in our opinion, the best course of action would be to steer well clear!