Witches: Part 1 (Part 2 below)
This is an episode of Lifetime's Intimate Portrait: Witches
This I believe aired around mid 90's. I don't remember when I taped it. It's a bit jumpy in a few parts. This was taped originally on VHS (remember them?!)
I cropped out the "Historical" parts. Many of the info is outdated. I tried mostly to get the interviews with Modern day Witches & Wiccans.
However I don't agree or support all of the info. I think this would be interesting for those who follow the teachings of Laurie Cabot, Z. Budapest and Janet Farrar.
The original 'Loose Ends: Valcamonica, Cernunnos, Wicca, Druids, and the Pentagram' was posted on March 5, 2009; and it has been the most popular post from this blog by a country mile! Out of over 10,500 page views, most of that fairly recent, that one post accounts for about 20% of the total. So I think it's only logical to update some of the knowledge. The original was an attempt to tie-in various concepts. It was more of a musing of the subjects. Maybe we can do better.
To start with, the "Cernic tradition"--after many centuries of often brutal state and church-sponsored religious condemnation--developed into what is referred to as "European witchcraft." The idea of "Wicca" is a recent development; and one which does not necessarily adhere to it's parent "Celtic paganism." By "Celtic" I mean the spiritual-traditions of the loosely-connected pre-Roman Celtic cultures who lived, at one time or another, from Ireland to Turkey and from Poland to Spain. It seems pretty clear that the Cernic spiritual hub was located in Gaul, and Cisalpine Gaul, but it may have sprung from the Hallstatt culture in what is today south Germany. Horned or antlered images can be traced back as far as 20,000 years ago in central Europe. It seems at least possible that the origins of this spiritual tradition may date back with the early proto-Europeans who predated other Indo-European peoples.
Recent archeology is showing more and more that the ancient Celts built roads which served as trade routes across Europe; from marketplace to marketplace; from community to community. Cernic spiritual concepts likely migrated in this way, and mixed with other spiritual traditions on those far off places. For example, the ancient Celts, in what is today England and Wales, apparently made no reference in art or symbology regarding Cernunnos; but they developed their own concept of the "horned god." It seems to be true that females, special females, were generally the high priestesses of this earth-based spiritual traditon. The forest was their church.
Sumeria. However, there are references to the pentagram within European witchcraft which can be traced back about five centuries. Having "borrowed" many things from other pagan religions worldwide, Wicca only vaguely resembles European witchcraft or Celtic paganism. For example, the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis had nothing whatsoever to do with Cernunnos. It's fun to compare certain traditions, but to splice them together only accomplishes to spoil their uniqueness. Also, modern politics are no place to inject religion; and many well-intentioned people are turned off by politically-minded people within any religion.
But getting back to the Cernic tradition of the ancient world; it's not entirely clear how this spiritual tradition interacted with the Druidic spiritual tradition which was also Celtic in origin. The Druids lived in ancient Gaul as well, although it appears that most of the high priests of Druidism were males. It was also an earth-based spiritual tradition, which also existed in what is now the British Isles. It appears that the Cernic traditions merged with the Teutonic Wotanist traditions in some areas. I haven't seen evidence of how Druidic ideas may have interacted with the Wotanists, but I would guess that all of these beliefs merged in some places. I don't think that today it's pragmatic to open up ancient feuds; but there is absolutely no doubt that Christianity fully replaced the Cernic, Druidic, Wotanist, and many other earth-based rites; either by coercion or force. It was not just the Romans who perpetrated this policy either.
It should be mentioned that Cernunnos was not the only Celto-Gaulish god, and that there were other gods and goddesses like there is in Odinism; but Cernunnos (pronounced as "KER-new-nos") was the chief one in most places (just as Odin is in Odinism). Some of the dark symbolism in European witchcraft is probably a result of it having to exist underground for so long; but some of it may have always existed. "Dark imagery" does not necessarily reflect "evil." The ancient forests were often dark places. It seems obvious to me that this is mainly just a reflection of nature. To the ancients, the night was a scary place; and they may have counted on Cernunnos to protect them. Any hike at night in a remote natural area will give us an instant connection to that world.
It seems obvious to me that the rightful daughters of Cern today, would be the most logical ones to access "Cernism" and serve as its high priestesses. To the ancient Cernic pagans, the family was at the heart of their culture; and the woman was the head of the household. Not the "head" like she was bossing around her husband, but boss of the "household" while he was away hunting, providing, or at war. This one element of their culture marginally found it's way into later Christian societies, which had entirely different views regarding men and women. The Cernic male represented "law"; while the Cernic female represented "justice." Cernic women were the spiritual leaders of their folk societies. They were at the center of everything.
Cernic women were very strong-women, not "Feminists," which is an entirely modern political construct which attempts to make females more masculine. There were "women warriors" in Cernic societies. They weren't like guys, but simply were just big strong gals, period. Obviously there are some women who could wipe the floor up with weaker men; and these women were pragmatically allowed to serve the tribe in battle. It was all about the family, clan, and tribe... maybe sometimes of a "tribal federation," or loosely their nation.
It's important to compare the Cernic societies with the Odinic societies. Of course, the Cernic culture had it's own mythology, just like Odinism. There are many similarities. Odinism may have developed a little more of a "heroic ethic," which seems to remind one a little more of "the masculine"; while Cernism, although in many ways a "warrior society," somehow seemed to be a little bit more "down to earth," and reminds one a little more of "the feminine." As to where the Druids fit into all of this, I don't know. Some Celtic societies seemed to be Druidic, while others seemed to have been Cernic. I think it's also very important to remember that Cernism influenced other tribal groups. For example, some ancient Norse seemed to be almost Cernic, or at least strongly influenced by them.
Obviously, the first 'Loose Ends" article was from the point of view of historical Camunian culture. The Camunians had not surrendered their native beliefs by the sixteenth century, which is pretty remarkable. However, the Val Camonica witch trials were just two of many such events in Europe during the Middle Ages, and after. In all of these tragic events, think of the great women and men who died. They were martyrs who aren't even given the proper status of martyrs. In the earlier article, I had stated that I believed that the witch trials were exaggerated; and they probably were in most locations in Europe and the American colonies. However, in some locations it was pretty extreme, as the last link above reflects in its 'Counting the Witch Hunt' graph by Ronald Hutton. It's hard to argue with those numbers.