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.

I’ve got to say, when I first realised I’d upset some witches earlier this year, I was a bit panicked!  I mean, it’s not every day you get a duo of witches telling you they are pissed off with what you’ve written about their craft, is it?  Well that’s what happened to me – and quite rightly too.  Dark Dundee loves everything dark, including witches, but it’s safe to say that witches get a pretty bad deal, and they have done for a long, long time.  Witches are bad and evil and cast spells, right?  There’s hardly any “good” witches, right? Well you’re wrong.  Oh, so wrong.

Amidst some friendly banter (and a few thinly veiled threats to turn me into a toad or a frog or suchlike), I agreed to meet with the witches and hear their side of the story.  I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t apprehensive, but I diligently made a list of questions I wanted to ask them; not stupid questions, but honest, genuine questions that I thought would help shed some light onto the stigma surrounding witchcraft and what it really means.

We met at a local coffee house in town – I arrived first, armed with my questions, and totally bricking it as to what I was getting myself into.  And then the witches arrived.  No, there was no puff of smoke, no cackling (well there was, but that’s a whole different story), and there were certainly no broomsticks or capes.  They just walked, like everyone else.  Weird eh?  Who would have thought?

What struck me about them was that they were genuinely warm and caring women, with no airs, graces or pretension.  We grabbed coffees and sat down and the conversation flowed so naturally between us all that time had no meaning at all.  I asked questions and listened as the women talked about their craft, completely absorbed in what they had to say.  In the few hours that I spent in their company, I felt like I had known them forever.  In fact, we talked so much that we ended up getting chucked out of the coffee house for staying well past their closing time!  They were open, receptive and very willing to share their experiences with me.

 

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All my fears and apprehensions were gone, and I realised that the crafts these women followed were nothing for me to be fearful of any more so than I would be fearful of someone who attended a church, mosque or any other place of worship.  They teach love, compassion and inner strength; they follow patterns of lunar and solar cycles, greeting the morning each day with a prayer (where time allows) and enjoying everything the natural world has to offer.  This is nothing to be fearful of, and, in fact, is somewhat inspiring.  How many of us take the time to be truly thankful for what we have and what we’ve achieved?  Don’t we always just want more of everything?

These women don’t even demand the respect they deserve, because they believe everyone has a right to believe whatever they want, even if that right isn’t exercised towards themselves.  They are not out to do harm.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as they believe that whatever you do will come back to you threefold, so to put out bad energy would not be advisable.  I’m not saying they are saints by any stretch of the imagination – I reckon they’ve got a pretty good right hook on them – but they don’t believe in putting any bad vibes into the world intentionally.

We talked so much that I didn’t take a single note, but they have agreed to answer my questions and get back to me so that I can update the witchcraft and occult section with a more balanced approach to witchcraft in Dundee.  When it boils down to it, you should never judge a book by its cover – or indeed a witch by preconceived stigmas.  Perhaps we should take a leaf from their book and learn a bit more tolerance for others as well as things we don’t necessarily have the first clue about.  Instead of making judgements, maybe we should be seeking to ask questions and listen to the answers before we go jumping to conclusions.

These “witches” weren’t wicked, evil or in any way disingenuous. I thought they were great, intelligent women with a brilliant sense of humour and real zest for life.  I think they liked me too as I haven’t been turned into a frog…yet!

I’ll let you know as soon as the full interview is available online – you won’t want to miss it.

I should also note here that men can be witches too, as you’ll see when the interview is released; it just so happened I was lucky enough to have a date with 3 spectacular ladies.  Maybe wishes do come true, after all.

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Grissell Jaffray is undoubtedly the most famous witch of Dundee, having been the last witch to be executed in Dundee, but Dundee’s superstitious side was still alive and well in the 19th century, when Janet Kindy, or ‘Hurkle Jean’, was believed to be responsible for a number of afflictions that allegedly beset the town. Sickness in cattle and children was attributed to the evil presence of Hurkle Jean. Sadly for Janet, her deformed appearance only served as more fuel to the fire for the townsfolk, and thus, another legend was born. Belief in Hurkle Jean’s demonic abilities was so ardent, that, by the time it had reached its peak, effigies were being burned and exorcisms performed!

 

Thankfully with the repeal of the witchcraft acts in 1735, Janet was protected from persecution by law; but this didn’t prevent her neighbours from demonising her all the same, as a letter from one of her close neighbours “M.G.”, submitted to the Edinburgh Magazine in 1818 tells us:

“Mr Editor,

Dundee, as you know, was the last place in Scotland where the public execution of a witch took place; and the witch burnt there was neither so old, so ugly, nor so poor, as these unfortunate persons usually are. That Grizzel Jamfre [sic] was not poor, however, was probably the cause of her death; for the lawyers who could prove the crime of witchcraft against any person, were rewarded by great part, if not the whole, of what the convict died possessed of, – no small temptation to use diligence. But though the modern capital of Angus is thus distinguished in the annals of demonology, I did not expect to find the belief in witchcraft so general among the lower classes, as you will perceive it is from the following account, the heroine of which is my very near neighbour.

Janet Kindy, otherwise Hurkle Jean, is poor, old, and deformed; her evil eye is so dreaded in this neighbourhood that the sickness of children and cattle is often attributed to it, and if she happen to cross a fisherman’s path as he goes to his boat, the fishing is invariably spoiled for that day. I verily believe that nothing but the feat of the law prevents the tragedy of the witches of Pittenweem from being acted over again, so convinced are her neighbours of her supernatural powers, and so inveterate is their hatred against her. Six years ago, a boat having been for some months unfortunate in fishing, a council of war was held among the elder fishers, and it was agreed that the boat should be exorcised, and that Janet was the spirit which tormented it. Accordingly, the ceremony of exorcism was performed as follows. In each boat there is a cavity called the tap-hole; on this occasion the hollow was filled with a particular kind of water, furnished by the mistress of the boat, a straw effigy of poor Jane was placed over it, and had they dared to touch her life, Janet herself would have been there. The boat was then rowed out to sea before sunrise, and, to use the technical expression, the figure was burnt between the sun and the sky, i.e. after daylight appeared, but before the sun rose above the horizon, while the master called aloud ‘Avoid ye Satan!’. The boat was then brought home, and since that time has been fortunate as any belonging to the village.

M.G. goes on to describe an account of another witch who transformed into a hare, and a necromancer from Forfar called William Grey…but those are stories for another day.

(Letter taken from – https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=QF0AAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s)

 

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…

 

 

Grissell Jaffray is famous in Dundee history for the crime of being a witch. She was choked and burned at the stake in a public execution and is the last person to have been burned in Dundee for the crime of witchcraft. Much of the truth is unknown about Grissell Jaffray, with some believing her to be the wife of local man James Butchart, whilst others maintain that she was the spouse of Thomas Buchart or Boutchard.  What is known about Grissell is that she was burned in Dundee’s town centre in 1669 (which just happens to be the year that both Mount Etna and Volcano Etna erupted, killing over 30,000 people – no relevance, we just thought you’d like to know).  Grissell Jaffray was incarcerated in the Tollbooth before being accused of witchcraft and cavorting with the devil himself. Suspiciously, the records pertaining to Grissell’s crimes were destroyed in a fire, so nobody really knows what she stood trial for, or indeed why.

Leading ministers in the Presbytery of Dundee were held responsible for the barbaric murder of Grissell Jaffray, namely, Harry Scrymsour, John Guthrie and William Rait. In times such as those that Grissell lived, it was not uncommon for women to be “outed” as a witch by their peers over petty things such as gossip-mongering, paranoia, blame-shifting and jealousy. For those fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be given a trial, eye witness testimonials played a heavy part in the prosecution. Accused witches stood by as their own townsfolk laid waste to their credibility, desperate to rid their town of anyone they perceived to be dabbling in the black arts. In other witch trials, the accused would be “tried by water”, whereby they were forced under the water in the belief that Satan would not allow his daughter to be harmed, and she would continue to breathe. Naturally, the witches drowned, thus rendering the exercise pointless and needlessly barbaric.

 

Rather than change this practice, the belief was that those who were not witches and died by this method would be welcomed in heaven. Artifacts such as herbs and decorated bowls would be used as evidence in convicting women of witchcraft. Some women stood accused based on the fact that they had an unusual mole or skin tag, which was referred to as a witch’s teat. The accused were stripped naked and their bodies thoroughly searched for these “devil’s marks” (moles). The saying “as cold as a witch’s teat” comes from the fact that, during their trial, when the mole or skin tag was pierced, if it did not bleed or if no pain was expressed by the defendant, she was deemed a witch.

There is no record of what happened to Grissell during her time in the Tollbooth, or of the events leading up to her incarceration, but one theory seems to suggest that her death was no more than a “religious assassination” in a time of great religious unrest.
Unlike their English counterparts, witches tried in Scotland were routinely tortured for their confessions, so it is highly likely that Grissell was tortured in an attempt to evoke her admission of guilt.

The Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563 made the practice of witchcraft and the consorting with witches, punishable as a capital offence. By the middle of the 17th century, amidst religious and political tensions, the Act was amended to include the words “devils and familiar spirits” – the sentence being death. By this definition, anyone deemed to be a witch was seen to be cavorting with the devil himself, acting as a human vessel from which to perform his nefarious deeds. Watch our Grissell Jaffray info video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuZFb2SbGns

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