Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion — new book

Swa wiccan taeca∂ ::: “as the witches teach”…

A thousand years ago, an Old English scribe condemned people who “bring their offerings to earth-­fast stone and to trees and wellsprings, as the witches teach.” So this translator contextualized a Frankish bishop’s description of pagan offerings in natural sanctuaries. The animist sacraments that he alluded to contradict everything we have been told about witches.   His editorializing comment lays bare the witches’ intimate association with animist, earth-based ceremonies, contradicting the culturally-engrained idea of their “wickedness.”

Three Wyrds on the book's cover, from the Franks casket, ca. 700
Three Wyrds on the book’s cover, from the Franks casket, carved whalebone, ca. 700

This book pulls the covers off repressed cultural heritages in a compelling exploration of language, archaeology, medieval literature and art. It shows that the old ethnic names for “witch” meant “knower,” “prophetess,” “healer,” “enchantress”… The webs of Wyrd, staff-women, herb-chanters, and women who go by night with the Goddess: all this and much more is in this sourcebook, 40 years in the making.

Witches and Pagans fleshes out the spiritual culture of the Norse völur (“staff-women”), with their oracular ceremonies, incantations, and “sitting-out” on the land for vision. It examines archaeological finds of women’s ritual staffs, many of which symbolize the distaff, a spinning tool that connects with broader European themes of goddesses, fates, witches, and female power.

These aspects of European women’s spiritual culture survived state conversions to Christianity, as did folk goddesses including Mother Earth who appears at the margins of Christian psalters (see carving below for one of several featured in the book).

Witches and Pagans gathers together treasures of the old ways, strands of folk wisdom, to reweave the ripped webs of European women’s culture. 408 pages, with 140 illustrations, endnotes and bibliography.

The preface, seven chapter excerpts, and a detailed table of contents are open source on the Veleda Press page. Index, glossary and commentaries will be posted later. The commentaries will contain extra information, images, and links. I hope to integrate an option for people to post and dialogue on that page once i figure out how to code that.

Soon a directory to the entire series Secret History of the Witches (of which this first published volume is Vol. VII) will be

Mother Earth with snake and herbs, northern France ca 835
Mother Earth with snake and herbs, northern France ca 835

linked on the page too. But here’s an advance peek at the series contents.

The book is at the printers, and will arrive the last week of July. Pre-orders are now being accepted.

For those within reach of the San Francisco Bay Area, you are all invited to the book release party on Sat July 30, 7 pm, at the Berkeley Unitarians (1924 Cedar at Bonita), with readings and special guests including Evelie Sales Posch and Matú Feliciano. No charge, but donations requested for the BFUU Social Justice Committee who is hosting the event in their space.

Peace and justice to this world.

Max Dashu

Glenys L.

Max I went to order mine today, but the shipping to Australia plus the exchange rate made the price formidable for me at the moment ($AUD61). I hope the exchange rate might improve soon … or I may just have to work out a way … a bake sale? 🙂