book notes

Witchcraft Today: Chapter 4

Notes made while reading “Witchcraft Today” by G.B.G

Would-be witches, or those who attended heathen sabbats

  • intelligent classes, inc. craftsmen, soldiers, merchants, doctors, sailors, farmers and clerks
  • people seeking adventure
  • the ‘bright young things’ of the time
  • those looking for relief, aka ‘sexually unbalanced’
  • village wise-women
  • nobility: ‘inmates of castles and great houses’
  • presumably plus initiates

Here, GBG really tries to sell the myth of thousands at the sabbat before persecutions drove them underground, whereupon the witch-cult became more of a family tradition for initiates only, and survived by remaining hidden. His evidence for this is rites he’s not allowed to print, as well as the differences in witch practices from more public magics, like Kabbala.

Origins of the witches’ rites

  • Aleister Crowley: ‘the only man… who could have invented the rites’
  • GBG met Crowley and said he was a member, Crowley said ‘he had been inside when he was very young’ but didn’t say he had rewritten anything
  • GBG admits certain phrases etc sound like Crowley’s work but suggests either C. borrowed from the cult or someone borrowed from C.
  • suggests Kipling (!) as only writerly talent possible for creating the rites but says ideas would’ve been alien to K.
  • suggests he has evidence that present form of rites predate births of both K. and C. anyway (1865 & 1875 respectively)
  • others with knowledge & ability inc. members of the Golden Dawn, Hargrave Jennings, Francis Barrett, Francis Dashwood
  • possibly parts imported from Italy during Renaissance, added on to local cult
  • possibly certain practices have Druid & pre-Druid origin, Northern European cultures of Stone Age, Greek & Roman mysteries from Egypt

Witches vs. Church

  • hypothesis that witch cult became secret, family oriented during persecutions, and keeping of records began as rites were less common and known
  • includes initial concept of some of Gardner’s Old Laws (Ardanes) as warning here regarding keeping, guarding and destroying one’s Book, denying membership in the cult to non-members, staying loyal, having working tools that either look ordinary or can be destroyed easily, etc.


  • witches carrying staffs as walking sticks and/or weapons, then straddling them as approaching meeting place as sign of membership
  • riding in fertility dance (while wearing oil & soot), using broomsticks to explain dirty condition of rod

Anointing with oil or ointments

  • vervain or crushed mint steeped in olive oil or lard overnight then strained, and repeated 3 or 4 times until strong scent
  • rub oil into skin for warmth while naked
  • mix soot with oil for concealment at night
  • anointing oil as perfume for ladies, dabbed on shoulders & behind ears, gives scent when warmed while dancing
  • oiled bodies are slippery and hard to take prisoner
  • soldiers wary of grabbing naked girls (not in my experience!! -MJ)

Delicious tidbits

  • show the Powers what to do, then bind them with a rhyme
  • questions people ask about witches include: going to the sabbat, use of flying ointment, anointing, flying through the air on broomsticks, only practice witchcraft for pleasure & because superstitious
  • witches… “were great leg-pullers”

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