In his book about Balkan Traditional Witchcraft Radomir Ristic gives us evocative imageries of the nature of the witch as someone who has a relationship or liaison with some spirit vested in demonic clothing. The connection with this spirit enables the spirit to make marvels and wonders, to fly out at night and behave in ways that sets him or her apart from the ordinary world. He or she is someone who sees beyond the veils of day and night and see what is. Ristic is also adamant in disclosing that at the root the idea of the witch we find a Bogomil theological concept. The Bogomils believed in One God, but they also believed in his emissary and vicar, Satanael. Hence we have the concept of the two Tzar’s, the golden Tzar of Heaven and the silver Tzar of Earth. His exposition on these mysteries also found its way to the anthology of Traditional Witchcraft, Serpent Songs where he concludes that the Bogomil influence made the ‘ways of the grandmothers’ to survive – it was this way that was known as witchcraft.
This field between Heaven and Earth is important, as it is here we find the witch as the keeper of the two keys that makes he or she liminal, forbidden and illuminated – an accursed blessing it is... but the witch stood still strong between two worlds and was visible and invisible in a flash of ambiguity and dread. As Mikael Häll comments in his doctoral thesis:
“.... the pre-modern world and its inhabitants existed in a field of tension between God and the Devil...The magic of common folk, for instance, was explained as a deviation from the right faith that would lead towards God and instead directed the practitioner towards the Devil.... “ (Skogsrået, näcken och djävulen, Malört forlag, 2013: 72, 73, my translation)
I recall in reading this Elias Ashmole’s encounters with the denizens of the other side that shared with him secret knowledge he took further into his mastery of alchemy and the theurgic arts and I remember Bessie Dunlop and her otherworldly friend, Tom Reid, whom she claimed was the source of all her knowledge. Giving the fact that she knew too much she was convicted for being a witch and suffered death in 1576 after being tried for sorcery and witchcraft and found guilty. (see Emma Wilby: Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits, Sussex academic press, 2005).
And yes, the witch is dangerous, because she knows too much. When you know too much you will not fall for shadow plays and puppet shows, your ability of discernment will kick in and you will see clearly. You will see with the clarity of dark matter or the brimstones of a thousand suns and you will reject any attempt of casting a rope around you. Any council, federation or organization will be perceived as a sickness not even worthy of ridicule, because the witch knows too much and in this she or he knows... With the key of heaven she opens for angels and heavenly hell and with the key of silver she opens for the language of nature to enter into communion as she flies in between as a bird of miracle sowing tragedy, comedy and harmony...
The witch is a lover of life and of truth, she is a seer and a knower – and because of this she can hide in broad daylight and blaze like a firefly in the night. She is He and knows the limits of all boundaries – and this is why she challenges and provokes. Her very being is of the marrow of the Devil – as we know it...
Because the Devil is indeed an opposer, but not an enemy, unless you declare him to be so and invite a different game to enter your life, because we are always our own enemy – so if anything, the Devil plays the enemy game back upon you and challenges you to watch your ways, steps and flights.
The Devil, the Davul, the Man at the Crossroad, the coal black smith, the stranger, St. Nicholas, St. Peter, the summit of your fears, the inconsistent one, the Dragon, King of Earth, Man at the Bridge and many more are the names referring to this icon of ‘The Devil’ as the gate to the other side that would welcome a select few... Witches are not pagans, but some pagans might be witches. Old forms of cult and religion have no worth for the witch unless is adds to her Fate as the odd one out and thus a landscape is explained. The witch renounces dogma, but embraces often doctrine – and this is always thorn in the spiritual blind eye of religious bodies – because the witch is a force of nature that makes love with nature and its denizens as much as she fights them to maintain the crossroad of its own being. This stance is diabolical, at least from the perspective of dogmatic religion, present or prehistoric. The witch will always be the outsider of cunning that refuses dogma but adheres to the doctrine that makes the world a plethora of enigmas we can follow to all seven corners of the world. Roper Lyndal recounts the following:
“In 1670, Regina Bartholome confessed that she had lived with the Devil as man and wife. Aged 21 when she was interrogated by the Augsburg Council, she had met the Devil five years before. She recalled that the Devil was clad in silken hose with boots and spurs and that he looked like a nobleman. They enjoyed trysts twice weekly at a tavern-bakery in Pfersee, a nearby village where Jews lived. The Devil ordered lung sausage, roast pork and beer for her and the two ate with relish alone in the inn parlour. He promised her money, but she had received barely 6 Kreuzer from him, and even that had turned out to be bad coin. In return for this meagre reward, Regina had signed a pact with the Devil for the term of seven years. She had forsworn God and the Trinity, and she had taken the Devil — her lover — as her father in God’s stead.” (Oedipus and the Devil, Routledge, 1994: 228)
In this we find the common idea of witchcraft being opposed to Christianity, but it is not so. The witch is someone who lives in the tension between God and the Devil, she is by definition ambiguous and knows them both. The Devil lives in the riddles and details of the cosmic design – and so does the witch....