Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath by Carlo Ginzburg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Records of the witches Sabbat reaches us in modern times through the stores and testimonies recorded by the biased inquisitors who tortured the suspected witches to get a confession from them. Historiean looking for the origin of these sabbats and trying to prove their veracity have come up against man y challenges. Some have thought the Sabbat to be nothing but invention of the inquisitors while others have believed that there was a factual basis to the reported Sabbat.
According to legend the witches Sabbat was when the witchews would anoint themselves with flying ointment and would ride a broomstick or an animal and fly to the Sabbat for frolicking with the devil. Now through out European history groups like the lepers, Jews and witches have been accused of poisoning wells, spreading plagues and eating live babies for rituals. The same accusations are repeated time and time again the only things that changes is the name of the group being accused.
Going back though historical memory there have been recorded night wandering with a Goddess called Diana or Herodia, Richella, or Oriente. She would lead a procession through the night stopping at houses to eat or drink if it was clean and offering were left for the riding company. She would have in her procession all sorts of followers, faeries and later on Demons. Now the Goddess occurred only in an area with a Celtic substratum. Places that were Norse or strictly Roman did not have this Goddess flying around.
Another source for this Sabbat or ecstasy would come groups like the Benadanti, Kressinski and Calusary. Based in Italy, Central Europe, and parts of Eurabia these dream warriors had the ability to shape shift into other animals, mostly wolves. The wolves or werewolves would fight against malevolent forces of the universe like witches and vampire in order to preserve the fertility of the land. Some like the Calusari followed Diana while others claimed to be servants of the Lord Jesus Christ like the Benadnati.
Some times there were groups of warriors who would fight for their town on the Astral plane to benefit their village against a rival village. These tnendencies tended to show up all over the place going from Europe, Eurasia all the way to china. The converging point comes from the Scythians who passed amny of these things on to Celtic Europeans and greeks. The Greeks had their ecstatic cult of Dionysus and the Eleusinian mysteries. The Scythians also had a goddess that was mistress of the beasts. Could this have passed on to the celts somehow and then to the rest of Europe.
The author then goes into the differing mythologies and makes note of how shamans had to have a near death experience and were often lamed in the foot somehow that marked them off. It was Shaman who did the healing and the fighting and the shapreshifting.
This book was fascinating. Carlo Ginzburg is not a neo-pagan or some wishy washy Wiccan he is a scholar and his work is based on solid research. Neo-Pagans should read material of this caliber.
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