A Brief Summary of the Wicca Religion

I have always taken an interest in nature and witchcraft, and Wicca is a combination of the two. In this blog post I will attempt to give an informative history/ summary/ explanation of the Wicca religion and all it encompasses. I am fairly new to learning about the religion so I apologise if some of the facts stated are not 100% true or fully explained. I also encourage everyone to do research of their own because this is beyond fascinating!

In short, Wicca is a form of Pagan witchcraft and part of the contemporary pagan new religious movement. It was originally developed in England by Gerald Gardner who was a retired British civil servant. The religion is duo-theistic which means Wiccans worship to both a God and a Goddess (the Moon Goddess and the horned God). The horned God is associated with animals and the natural world but also with the afterlife and is viewed as an ideal role for men. Similarly, the moon goddess or mother goddess symbolises life, fertility and the springtime and is also considered an ideal role model for women. I suppose it could be argued that Wicca symbolises equality much more than other religions as they worship both to man and woman. Unlike Christian religion where God is always seen as taking the form of a man. As well as this, Wicca encompasses theists, atheists as well as agnostics, demonstrating that no one gets left behind (like my Lilo and stitch reference there). Like most religions, Wicca celebrates a number of holidays and festivities. With a huge emphasis placed on nature it is not surprising that many celebrations encompass the cycle of the moon which is known as Esbats.

Many people have huge misconceptions about the Wicca religion because it is so closely related to the practice of witchcraft. It doesn’t help that misconceptions of witchcraft have been present since the beginning of time during the early modern period and even now in every corner of popular culture. It’s also a bit ridiculous because Wicca and witchcraft are separate and different, and it is very possible to be one without the other. Ultimately, you can be a witch without being a Wiccan. Wicca is a religion, witchcraft is not.  Even though Wicca involves ritual practices of magic, spells and charms it is not a necessity to be a Wiccan. Magic should be thought of as a way to strengthen ones Wiccan beliefs and is not something that the religion is simply centered around. As a result of the misconceptions brought forward, many Christians argue that it should not be labelled a religion but as a spirituality or a way of life. While I respect and understand this belief it seems to me as thought stripping the label of religion from Wicca would be hugely problematic for hundreds of thousands of practicing Wiccans. For the majority of those who do practice it, it is not unreasonable to say that they give their whole lives to Wicca, breathing and living it. Doing everything in their power to continue their Wiccan journey and their beliefs, sounds like any other religion to me?

I find the history of Wicca to be one of the most interesting. The modern English term Wicca is actually derived from the old English wicca and wicce. Wicca is the masculine term for wizard or sorcerer and wicce is the feminine term for witch that was used in Anglo-Saxon England. When the term was adopted for modern usage Wiccans were helping to cement their connection to the ancient pre-Christian past in a way that was symbolic as well as using a word that was generally less controversial than witchcraft.

It is common belief that human beings have a spirit or soul that survives bodily death. Of course, every Wiccan is different. Some believe you can come back as an animal, another human or even come back as part of nature. As a result of this they highly believe in the law of threefold. This is pretty similar to Karma in the Buddhist religion if you would like a comparison. It basically means that if you do something bad it will find its way back to you and will be three times worse than what you originally did. After all, a wiccan’s primary belief is to harm none within and without your practice.

I think Wicca is one of the most interesting religions I’ve come across and can’t wait to continue learning and reading about it. Things I have included in this blog post only scratch the surface of this wide and varied religion so please bear that in mind, otherwise I would go on for days! I hope you enjoyed this post and would love to know your thoughts on anything and everything Wicca!

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Salem Witch Trials

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The Court of Oyer and Terminer

Ah the Salem Witch Trials…who doesn’t love a good bit of witchcraft with a backdrop of general paranoia and utter despair? If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts you will know that the topic of witchcraft has fascinated me for a very long time and I am very excited to be talking about one of the most interesting and controversial trials, Salem!

The Salem Witch Trials took place in colonial Massachusetts from 1692-1693. During this time hundreds of people were accused of witchcraft and in turn resulted in twenty individuals being executed as a result. One of the most interesting things about these trials is that they started to take heed when the rest of Europe was decreasing in their amount of witch trials. This suggests that Salem succeeded in going against the grain of what was considered the norm during this time. It could be argued that this was not suspicious at all because it was in America where things were ultimately done differently. However, there is no denying the fact that it is rather odd that witch trials should peek when most places were depleting.

The trials all started with a group of young girls who claimed to have been possessed by the Devil and went on to accuse several local women of witchcraft. And so the mass hysteria began. The trials were similar to that of the method of drowning used to determine whether the accused was innocent or guilty. If the victim was guilty then they would float, and eventually be killed. If however they were innocent they sunk, and also killed. Ultimately, you died whether you were innocent or guilty, there was no way out. With the trials, if you denied that evil existed at all and that it was all a hoax then you were deemed a heretic and would probably, eventually be killed. Cotton Mather, who was part of the infamous trials tried to prove that, ‘demons were alive’. With a huge emphasis on religion and God (Salem was a Puritan community) during this time it is not unreasonable to argue that Mather almost encouraged the victims to recount their ‘experiences’ with the Devil and prove their guilt.

It may be helpful to give some context as a way of explanation for the tragic events that took place. The Puritan community was still recovering from the effects of the British war with France in the American colonies which took place in 1689. As well as this there was a recent smallpox epidemic overshadowed by a constant fear of attacks from neighbouring American tribes. With all of this in mind it is easier to understand why a community would react to these witch trials in such a hysterical and over dramatic way.

Because conditions were so fraught and many of the accused were at risk of being executed, they began to name other individuals in the community, blaming them. The metaphor of the domino effect is very apt here. Those who were accused were now accusing others, and so, conditions began to spiral out of control until every man and their dog were being accused of witchcraft (which is stupid y’know, not everyone can be a witch?)

As this continued, public opinion began to turn against the trials. Without the support of the public the court really had already lost the battle and so they later annulled guilty verdicts against the accused and granted indemnities to their families. Even though they did this, there was still a sense of bitterness and anger sprawled throughout the community and morphed into a legacy that is still heavily prominent today.

I think the Salem Witch Trials are a perfect example of what can happen when one group of girls claim to be possessed by the Devil without thinking of the implications it would eventually have. The mind also has an important part to play and if individuals want to believe something is true, then they will.

I would love to know your thoughts on this interesting and very thought provoking topic!

The Misogyny of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and where it originated

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What it looks like to have the female as the dominant.

One of the most controversial and yet hugely popular novels to be published. Fifty Shades of Grey succeeds in keeping the reader entertained while demonstrating a plethora of complications with its content. In this blog post I am going to be talking about what occurs as a result of this book/ film being in the media andhow ultimately domination of the woman has and always has been more sexually arousing then if the roles were reversed. 

A recent study was conducted that proved that men considered a woman who was in a submissive role was more sexually arousing then if she were the dominant individual. There are many reasons for this. One possibility is that the amount of sexual attitudes and behaviours we are exposed to as a society accounts for a huge way in which we view sexuality. I.E. constantly being exposed to material such as fifty shades will only end up in individuals believing that this is the correct way to act and the correct relationship to have with sex, sexuality and above all, women. Content which has the habit of regarding women as sexually passive, such as fifty shades could lead people to believe that women are meant to be passive in the bedroom as well as in society. Another reason why content such as fifty shades could be extremely damaging.

Another suggestion made by scholars goes back to the traditional notion of Victorian gender roles. During this time men and women fit very neatly into separate boxes. The women, the matriarch was in charge of operating the household while looking after the children. The men were the breadwinners and spent the days working hard in order to provide for their family. It was a good little system until people realised there was more to life. Those who didn’t fit into this role were considered a rebel or social outcast and weren’t considered a proper lady or be it gentlemen. So, back to my original point. Men ultimately had control over their wives, financial control, emotional control and basically exercised control in every aspect, sounding familiar? This is where the idea of the submissive and the dominant we see so heavily themed in fifty shades comes into play. It has been suggested that the men feel a sense of masculinity in having complete control over their wives whether that be in the home, or in this case, the bedroom. It also feeds into the theme of the woman giving herself completely to the man without hesitation, because it was the right and proper thing to do. Once you were married you were no longer your own person, you were your husband’s property.

Now to take this idea back even further I am going to introduce the idea of the one-sex two-sex theory. Is everyone still with me? So this goes back to the 1300’s and was an idea posed by Thomas Laqueur. The one sex theory was the idea that both men and women were exactly the same on the outside with the only difference being that a woman’s genitals were inverted, unlike a man’s. And this was an idea that circulated for a very long time where nobody questioned it.  So, you could argue that because men and women were seen as one and the same they were considered equal! As medical science began to progress, doctors began to realise that the male and female bodies were not as similar as they once thought. This then saw the introduction of the infamous gender roles. As mentioned earlier, the idea that men and women were designed to fit into neat little boxes and were meant to remain there until they died. As a result, this deemed the sexes as being unequal and have stayed that way ever since.

Another controversial argument given by scholars is that material such as fifty shades encourages and gives a demonstration of rape culture. Theorists believe that by viewing or reading erotica about women who enjoy sexual submission may reinforce the idea that women would also enjoy forced sex. It is almost an argument that says, where does the dominant persona end? How far is the dominant willing to go until he is committing an act of violence?

I hope you enjoyed this post and would love to know your thoughts. My intention is not to offend anybody but to share my love of history. 

Amsterdam Torture Museum 2017

In August I visited Amsterdam for a few days. While there were so many fabulous museums we went to, this one stood out. 

The museum was made to look like a dungeon and really succeeded in creating a spooky but fascinating atmosphere. In this blog post I will be showing you some of my favourite torture devices that were used (because I’m weird like that) with some background on the device too.

The first device we came across was ‘The Spanish Horse’. The victim would sit on the device like you would a horse and then the pain was increased to the limits of the bearable by means of weights. Spanish is a reference to the Spanish inquisition which was established in 1478 with an aim to subject ethnic and religious groups in the Spanish Empire to the central religious and political authority. This process was done in two stages. The first was the conversion of the Jews and Muslims. Following this would come the expulsion of heresy and witchcraft (something I am particularly interested in and will definitely be covering in blog posts to come!)

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The Spanish Horse

This next one isn’t so much a torture device in the way of pain but more in the sense of humiliation as is evident in its name, ‘The Flute of Shame’. In short, this was a punishment for so called ‘bad’ musicians. Worst case scenario resulted in an incompetent craftsmen being excluded from his guild. It was a way for showmen to receive some form of punishment for disturbing the public on the streets. However, it could get a tad more gruesome and sometimes the finger screws were tightened but I believe that they were there more as a deterrent then an actual from of punishment.

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The Flute of Shame

Our next one is something of a controversial nature. The infamous chastity belt has been around in popular culture and fairy tales for centuries and holds a somewhat rather negative connotation. But surprisingly, this instrument functioned as a way of protecting women from being raped during potentially hazardous travels (I know, I was shocked too). However, the positive aspect kind of ends there. They were also used so husbands could choose to secure marital fidelity too. So, they weren’t really a punishment or a torture device but really another way for women to be controlled (surprise surprise!)

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The Chastity Belt. Looks so comfy!

Next we have the very well known inquisition chair. I had to include this one because it was one of the most popular torture devices which was used on accused witches. Witchcraft was considered a total sin and the inquisition chair was ultimately used to secure a confession through means of torture. It was designed to subject the body to complete torment, to gain a confession but also as a form of punishment for the witches’ supposed interaction with the Devil. The executioner would gradually tighten the braces and the weight of the victim would pretty much do the rest. Many victims were convinced of their guilt because the torture was so brutal and ended up confessing despite their complete innocence.

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The Inquisition Chair

The Grill was another torture device used on accused witches. Because of the heavy theme of fire and hell within witchcraft, its torture devices were very reminiscent of this as a result. The accused would be tied down on the scalding grid and cold water was then poured or sprinkled over them. This was considered a way to purge and purify any evil forces and was also an attempt at saving the soul of the poor sinner.

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The Grill

Our last method of torture is the most commonly used, drowning. Again, this was a way of finding out whether the accused was guilty or innocent. If the accused remained afloat then it was considered a sign of guilt. However, if the accused sunk then he or she was innocent, but by this time the accused was probably already dead.

So, this concludes my weird and wonderful collection of torture devices. I really hope you enjoyed this post and would love to know your thoughts!

Until next time!

Was Jane Austen a Feminist?

When I first thought about this question my immediate response was of course Austen was a feminist. But, after doing some research I’m not entirely sure anymore. I’m a huge fan of Austen’s work and know her novels pretty well. But even with this in mind this question has left me in an absolute muddle. I would love to know your thoughts!

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Jane Austen was an English novelist most famously known for her six major novels; Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Emma and Northanger Abbey. Each of her novels focussed on the British landed gentry during the end of the eighteenth century. Pride and Prejudice, in particular explored the dependance and pressure that was placed on young women to find a husband and marry during this time (preferably one that had good social standing and financial security). With this in mind, it sounds like the complete opposite of Feminism. However, bear in mind that this was a result of the time we are talking about and was not a reflection of Austen’s own personal views.

In many ways Austen’s novels were the first generation of romantic comedies. Her use of irony and realism with a backdrop of social commentary meant that she gained great historical importance to critics as well as scholars. Her works have inspired films such as ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ as well as ‘Clueless’ to name just two. If you look for them there are hints of Austen in all manner of pop culture in today’s society. It could be argued that because her works come under the category of romantic comedy in today’s society, that she is most certainly not a feminist. Because romantic comedies often portray the heroine as pathetic and lonely, pining for their Mr. Darcy while crying into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s (don’t get me wrong I love Bridget Jones, but you see where I’m coming from). However, I think it is important to keep in mind that these are just modern interpretations and we should probably stick to her original works to gain an understanding of whether she was feminist or not.

It has been argued that Emma was ‘revolutionary’ because its heroine is in a place of leisure, power and status and seeks to involve herself in other people’s lives while being completely deluded at the same time. And this is a theme throughout Austen’s novels, the women or heroines are ultimately in control; so is that not a form of feminism? For example, Elizabeth Bennet rejected Mr. Collins’ proposal, Emma took it upon herself to be a matchmaker, in a sense controlling other people’s lives (but still a form of control nevertheless). Finally, Marianne who made decisions not with her head but with her heart, but again was in control of making her own choices. It is true that each of these characters all felt the pressure to marry but I believe that that was a result of the time they were living in and nothing more. Jane Austen herself died a spinster, perhaps more proof that she was in fact a feminist? Many of us know the romantic relationship she had with Tom LeFroy which eventually amounted to nothing. Perhaps she chose not to marry in protest to the times she was living in (which certainly would make her a feminist). Or perhaps she never found the right person after Tom Lefroy.

Like every topic, there is an argument against this. It has been argued by many historians and scholars alike that: Yes, women did make their own decisions but all ended up fitting into what the patriarchal society expected of them. All of Austen’s heroines married men who were wealthy and of high status. In addition to this it has also been argued that women who don’t pertain to the ideal image of a woman are often punished. Marianne, for example who shows her emotions too freely and is far too flirtatious for the time ended up getting her heart broken by Willoughby.

Whether you believe Jane Austen was a feminist or not there is no denying her influence even in today’s society.  Her novels have resulted in sequels,prequels and adaptations from soft core pornography to fantasy (remember when I said elements of her work were hiding in every corner of popular culture). Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the most recent adaptation and I urge you to stay far far away from it. Poor Jane would be rolling in her grave.

I would love to know your thoughts on this so please leave me a comment! 

 

 

Charles Manson Vs. Hitler

 

When looking at both Manson and Hitler separately it cab be difficult to see the similarities they have. In this blog post I am going to be discussing just how similar these two individuals really were including not only their personal characteristics but also their wider aims and ideologies regarding the so called ‘perfect’ race they both envisioned.  

Charles Manson was responsible for the creation of ‘The Family’. What started out as a friendly and fun loving group of people eventually turned into a cult based around murder and certain ideologies indoctrinated by their leader, Manson. Sound familiar? Manson spent his early life in and out of prison and never really finding his place. While in prison he became a follower of the scientology splinter sect called ‘The Process Church of the Final Judgement’. This was a sect that at the time worshipped Adolf Hitler and believed that its members were part of a saved group who were bound for ‘heaven’ and had a duty to hasten Armageddon. His family were very religious which contributed to his borderline obsession with religion and the Bible. Like Hitler he was a great orator and had the ability to captivate his audiences with his long talks. His followers greatly admired him and believed him to be both God and Satan. In a 1998 essay in Time magazine, it was stated that, ‘the fact is that Hitler was beloved by his people- not the military, at least not in the beginning but by the average Germans who pledged to him an affection, a tenderness and a fidelity that bordered on the irrational’.  While Hitler gained support through continuous propaganda and indoctrination Manson became emotionally and sexually involved with his followers. These encounters usually took place when the followers were severely drug induced so that Manson was free to reach their psyche and enter their sub conscious allowing him to control their every move. Manson also believed that he was a God like figure and was sent on this earth to prepare the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Similarly, Manson was angry with the Jews that refused to convert to Christianity.

Both Hitler and Manson shared the idea of creating a ‘perfect’ race. Hitler carried out this ideology by eliminating those deemed weak such as the Jewish, Gypsies, the disabled, homosexuals and many more. Manson however attempted to carry out this ideology by wiping out the blacks (Helter Skelter).  He was an incredibly racist individual and believed the black races to be a disadvantage to the world. As a result he attempted to ignite a ‘race war’. He did this by posing as black people when the horrific murders were carried out. Roman Polanski was in fact a Polish Jew who survived the Nazi holocaust in Poland further supporting the idea that he was in fact targeted. By doing this he believed it would move things along so that the white race could eventually conquer the black race so that there was no form of weakness left.

Manson has in fact declared that he was and probably still is a big admirer of Hitler. With a tattoo of a swastika plastered over his forehead it would not be unreasonable to argue that Hitler was a huge driving force and inspiration for the murders that were eventually carried out. The image of Manson has again, been likened to Jesus Christ as during the time of the family he wore his hair long and had a great bushy beard. While this is important we should also look at other comparisons that were drawn. It has been argued that in some photographs taken of Manson with his beard shaven, he resembled the Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels, perhaps another inspiration?

Ultimately, both Hitler and Manson were two incredibly intelligent individuals who used the power of manipulation, ideology, discrimination, loyalty, a clear objective and a distinct separation from normal society in order to carry out their twisted demands.

All thoughts and opinions are my own and are not meant to cause offence. These are only speculations and I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this!

 

 

Jack The Ripper Newspaper Reports

For as long as I can remember I have always had this huge fascination with Jack the Ripper and the idea of him as a serial killer.

In this post I will give you an insight into my thoughts and feelings regarding this infamous murderer. Since he is one of the most well known and notorious serial killers ever to have lived I’m going to assume that you already know the basics. Victorian England, he only killed prostitutes (the majorirty in a violent and gruesome manner) and ultimately, got away with it; he was never found. Of course there have been recent reports claiming that the identity of ‘Jack’ has been found out, but we will never know for sure. Besides, not ever knowing who he was adds to the mystery of it all and makes the history of him all the more compelling. Even though Jack the Ripper has been studied endlessly he is still a historian’s dream. With a plethora of material including newspaper reports, letters claiming to be from the criminal as well as photographic evidence of the victims he so brutally murdered.

What interests me most about Jack the Ripper is the newspaper reports that were done on him. These are readily available online if you would like to take a look yourself. The Times especially went into great detail on not only the victims with incredibly graphic descriptions but also specualted on who the criminal might be. The Victorians were sticklers for great detail and speculation, something we would never find in a newspaper today. As little information as possible is given in today’s newspapers in contrast with the Victorian ways of doing things. It could be argued that because the majority of his victims were prostitutes and many had no family it would not be deemed as insensitive to print such graphic details of what was remanining of their decrepit corpses. In this respect Jack the Ripper was certainly a very clever individual and many have claimed that he would have had some degree of medical knowledge as a result of the way he proceeded to mutilate these women, Mary Jane Kelley comes to mind.

I definitely like the idea of members of the public reading about these gruesome murders and speculating for themselves with the information the newspapers gave them. Amazingly, newspapers actually succeeded in giving more information to their readers then the police force did. That was surely a green light to tell the people that there simply were not enough police during this time to handle this huge case, a murderer that continued to murder.

I think I’ll definitely do another post on this topic, but for now I hope you enjoyed. Let me know your thoughts on the mastermind that was Jack the Ripper!