The Information below comes for the book of the shadows
History of Witchcraft
As I am trying to put this all together, I hope to bring about an understanding that Witchcraft, like any religion, has undergone it's changes throughout the centuries. It is my Personal feeling, however, that the religion of Witchcraft has undergone far fewer changes than any other in history. As the song sung by Neil Diamond starts: " Where it began, I can't begin to knowin..."
Witchcraft, sorcery, magic, whatever can only begin to find its roots when we go back as far as Mesopotamia. With their deities for all types of disasters, such as Utug - the Dweller of the Desert waiting to take you away if you wandered to far, and Telal - the Bull Demon, Alal - the destroyer, Namtar - Pestilence, Idpa - fever, and Maskim - the snaresetter; the days of superstitution were well underway.
It was believed that the pharaohs, kings, etc. all imbued Some power of the gods, and even the slightest movement they made would cause an action to occur. It was believed that a picture, or statue also carried the spirit of the person. This is one of the reasons that they were carried from place to place, and also explains why you see so many pictures and statues of these persons with their hands straight to their sides.
In the Bible, we find reference to "The Tower of Babel" or The ziggurat in Genesis 11. "Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar (Babylonia) and settled there. They said to each other, `Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly.' They used brick instead of stone, and tar instead of mortar. Then they said, `Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.' But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The Lord said,`If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.'" It goes on to say that the tower was never finished.
In other references, we find that the "Tower" was in fact finished, and that it was a tower that represented the "stages" between earth and heaven (not a tower stretching to the heaven in the literal sense.) From this reference, it was a tower built in steps. A hierarchy on which heaven and hell were based. It was actually a miniature world representing the Mountain of Earth. Each stage was dedicated to a planet, with its angles symbolizing the four corners of the world. They pointed to Akkad, Saburtu, Elam, and the western lands. The seven steps of the tower were painted in different colors which corresponded to the planets. The "Great Misfortune:, Saturn, was black. The second was white, the color of Jupiter. The third, brick-red, the color of Mercury, followed by blue, Venus; yellow, Mars, gray or silver for the moon. These colors boded good or evil, like their planets.
For the first time, numbers expressed the world order. A legend depicts Pythagoras traveling to Babylon where he is taught the mystery of numbers, their magical significance and power. The seven steps often appear in magical philosophy.
The seven steps are: stones, fire, plants, animals, man, the starry heavens, and the angels. Starting with the study of stones, the man of wisdom will attain higher and higher degrees of knowledge, until he will be able to apprehend the sublime, and the eternal. Through ascending these steps, a man would attain the knowledge of God, whose name is at the eighth degree, the threshold of God's heavenly dwelling. The square was also a "mystical" symbol in these times, and though divided into seven, was still respected. This correlated the old tradition of a fourfold world being reconciled with the seven heavens of later times. It is thought that here was the start to numerology, but for this to have developed to the point where they had taken into consideration the square as the fourfold world, it would have had to have developed prior to this. From Mesopotamia lets move over to Persia
Unlike the Mesopotamians, and Egyptians, who believed that all was done with either the favor or lack thereof of the Gods, the Chaldean star religion taught that luck and disaster were no chance events, but were controlled from the heavenly bodies (planets/stars) which send good and bad according to mathematical laws. It was their belief that man was incapable of fighting the will of the planet divinities. Though, the more this system evolved, the more the wise men read ethical values into man's fate. The will of the stars was not completely separate from man's behaviors. The stars were important, but not omnipotent in deciding man's fate. It was believed that the star Sirius would carry messages to the higher gods and he returned to announce their will.
Around the 7th Century B.C. Zoroaster, the Median prophet was preaching the doctrines that evil could be avoided and defeated. He brought about the principles of the good and evil spirits. Below, we will look at the beliefs and influences of this man's life which created the religion named after him.
The first of the belief structure had to do with Ormazd (Ahura-Mazda) king of light, and his twin brother Ahriman (Anro-Mainyu) prince of darkness. Zoroaster brought about the belief in the "holy war" (that between good and evil.) In this faith, the archangels (the spirits of Divine Wisdom, Righteousness, Dominion, Devotion, Totality, and Salvation) and the demons (the spirits of Anarchy, Apostasy, Presumption, Destruction, Decay, and Fury) were constantly at battle with one another. The archangels were controlled by Ormazd and the demons by Ahriman. This religion had it's belief that in the end, Ormazd and his demons would prevail, but until then, Ormazd would keep the world safe.
It is interesting that the last of the demons (the demon of Fury) holds such a hard and fast thought that it was incorporated into the Hebrew and Christian belief structure. The last archdemon's name is Aeshma Daeva also know to the Hebrews as Ashmadai and to Christians as Asmodeus. Asmodeus was the "chief of the fourth hierarchy of evil demons", called "the avengers of wickedness, crimes and misdeeds." He appears with three heads, a bull's, human, and a ram. He has goose feet, and a snake's tail. To appear more frightening, he also exhales fire and rides upon a dragon of hell.
It is said that Asmodeus is not to be feared. When you say to him: "In truth thou art Asmodeus," he will give you a wonderful ring. He will teach you geometry, arithmetic, astronomy and mechanics. When questioned, he answers truthfully. The other demons tempt people away from the true worship of Mazda. They are Paromaiti - Arrogance, Mitox - The Falsely Spoken Word, Zaurvan - Decrepitude, Akatasa - Meddlesomeness, Vereno - Lust.
Much of the current day Christian beliefs were taken from this man's religion. (That of good and evil forces, the redemption, the "savior" factor, etc.) From here, let us move on to Egypt where we will look at other mystical symbols and more history of magic and the craft. The Sphinx was a mythological creature with lion's body and human head, an important image in Egyptian and Greek art and legend. The word sphinx was derived by Greek grammarians from the verb sphingein (to bind or squeeze), but the etymology is not related to the legend and is dubious. The winged sphinx of Boeotian Thebes, the most famous in legend, was said to have terrorized the people by demanding the answer to a riddle. If the person answered incorrectly, he or she was eaten by the sphinx. It is said that Oedipus answered properly where upon the sphinx killed herself. The earliest and most famous example in art is the colossal Sphinx at Giza, Egypt. It dates from the reign of King Khafre (4th king of 4th dynasty; c. 2550 b.c.)
The Sphinx did not occur in Mesopotamia until around 1500 b.c. when it was imported from the Levant. In appearance, the Asian sphinx differed from its Egyptian model mostly in the addition of wings to the leonine body. This feature continued through its history in Asia and the Greek world. Another version of the sphinx was that of the female. This appeared in the 15th century b.c. on seals, ivories and metalworkings. They were portrayed in the sitting position usually with one paw raised. Frequently, they were seen with a lion, griffin or another sphinx. The appearance of the sphinx on temples and the like eventually lead to a possible interpretation of the sphinx as a protective symbol as well as a philosophical one. The Sphinx rests at the foot of the 3 pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkure. It talons stretch over the city of the dead as it
guards its secrets.
The myth goes that a prince who later became Thutmose IV, took a nap in the shadow of the half-submerged Sphinx. As he slept, the Sun-god (whom the Sphinx represents, appeared to him in a dream. Speaking to him as a son, he told the prince that he would succeed to the throne and enjoy a long and happy reign. He urged the prince to have the Sphinx cleared of the sand. In his book on Isis and Osiris, Plutarch (A.D. 45-126) says that the Sphinx symbolizes the secret of occult wisdom, though Plutarch never unveiled the mysteries of the Sphinx. It is said that the magic of the Sphinx lies within the thousands of hands that chiseled at the rock. The thoughts of countless generations dwell in it; numberless conjurations and rites have built up in it a mighty protective spirit, a soul that still inhabits this time-scarred giant.
Another well know superstition of the peoples of Ancient Egypt was that regarding their dead. They believed that in the West lies the World of the Dead, where the Sun-god disappears every evening. The departed were referred to as "Westerners." It was believed that, disguised as birds, the dead soar into the sky where in his heavenly barge Ra, the Sun-god, awaits them and transforms them into stars to travel with him through the vault of the heavens.
The cult of the dead reached it's height when it incorporated the Osiris myth. Osiris was born to save mankind. At his nativity, a voice was heard proclaiming that the Lord had come into the world (sound familiar?). But his brother/father Seth shut him up in a chest which he carried to the sea by the Tanaitic mouth of the Nile. Isis brought him back to life. Seth then scattered his body all over the place. It is said that Isis fastened the limbs together with the help of the gods Nephtis, Thoth, and Horus, her son. Fanning the body with her wings, and through her magic, Osiris rose again to reign as king over the dead.
The Egyptian believed that a person had two souls. The soul known as Ba is the one that progressed into the afterlife while the Ka remains with the mummy. The Ka is believed to live a magical life within the grave. Thus the Egyptians placed miniature belongings of the deceased into the tomb. Such items as images, statuettes, imitation utensils, and miniature houses take the place of the real thing. They believed that the Ka would use these as the real item because the mortuary priests possessed magic that would make them real for the dead.
The priests believed that the gods could be deceived, menaced and forced into obedience. They had such trust in the power of magic, the virtue of the spoken word, the irresistibility of magic gestures and other ritual, that they hoped to bend even the good gods to their will. They would bring retribution to the deities who failed to deal leniently with the dead. They threatened to shoot lightning into the are of Shu, god of the air, who would then no longer be able to support the sky-goddess, and her star-sown body would collapse, disrupting the order of all things.
When Ikhnaton overthrew the Egyptian gods and demons, making the cult of the One God Aton, a state religion, he also suppressed mortuary magic. Ikhnaton did not believe in life after death. As Christianity became a part of this nation, there is much evidence to show where the Christians of the time, and the pagans lived peacefully together.
In theology, the differences between early Christians, Gnostics
(members - often Christian - of dualistic sects of the 2nd century a.d.), and pagan Hermeticists were slight. In the large Gnostic library discovered at Naj'Hammadi, in upper Egypt, in 1945, Hermetic writings were found side by side with Christian Gnostic texts. The doctrine of the soul taught in Gnostic communities was almost identical to that taught in the mysteries: the soul emanated from the Father, fell into the body, and had to return to its former home.
It was not until later in Rome that things took a change for the worse. Which moves us on to Greece.
The doctrinal similarity is exemplified in the case of the pagan writer and philosopher Synesius. When the people of Cyrene wanted the most able man of the city to be their bishop, they chose Synesius, a pagan. He was able to accept he election without sacrificing his intellectual honesty. In his pagan period, he wrote hymns that follow the fire theology of the Chaldean Oracles. Later he wrote hymns to Christ. The doctrine is almost identical.
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