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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

 By: Alex Rigel
 Source: "An ABC of Witchcraft", Doreen Valiente, 1973, Phoenix
          publishing inc., Wash. pp.203-4.
      When witchcraft became an underground organisation, the Craft of
 the Wise, it shared a characteristic common to all secret societies.
 Admission to it was by initiation.
      Such initiation required the newly admitted member to swear a
 solemn oath of loyalty. When witchcraft was punishable by torture and
 death, such an oath was a serious metter. Today, when witchcraft has
 become like Freemasonry, not a secret society but a society with
 secrets, the idea of initiationj still remains.
      Initiations into witch circles nowadays take varying forms, as they
 probably always did. However, the old idea that initiation must pass
 from the male to the female, and from the female to the male, still
 persists. A male with must be initiated by a woman, and a female witch
 by a man. This belief may be found in other forms, in traditional
 folklore. For instance, the words of healing charms are often required
 to be passed on from a man to a woman, or from a woman to a man.
 Otherwise, the charm will have no potency.
      There is also an old and deep-seated belief, both in Britian and in
 Italy, that witches cannot die until they have passed on thier power to
 someone else. This belief in itself shows that witchcraft has been for
 centuries an initiatory organisation, in which a tradition was handed on
 from one person to another.
      The exception to the rule that a person must be initiated by one of
 the opposite sex, occurs in the case of a witch's own children. A mother
 may initiate her daughter, or a father his son.
      In general, for their own protection, covens have made a rule that
 they will not accept anyone as a member under the age of 21. Witches'
 children are presented as babies to the Old Gods, and then not admitted
 to coven membership until they have reached their majority.
      This rule became general in the terms of persecution. Secrecy upon
 which people's lives depended was too great a burden for children's
 shoulders to bear. It is evident, from the stories of witch
 persecutions, that witch-hunters realised how witchcraft was handed down
 in families. Any blood relative of a convicted witch was suspect.
      The witch-hunting friar, Francesco-Maria Guazzo, in his 'Compendium
 Maleficarum' (Milan, 1608, 1626; English translation edited Montague
 Summers, London, 1929), tells us that "it is one among many sure and
 certain indications against those accused of witchcraft, if one of their
 parents were founded guilty of this crime". When the infamous Matthew
 Hopkins started his career as Witch-Finder General, the first victim he
 seized upon was an old woman whose mother had been hanged as a witch.
      There are a number of fragmentary accounts of old-time witch
 initiations, and from these a composite picture can be built up. The
 whole-hearted acceptance of the witch religion, and the oath of loyalty,
 were the main features. There was also the giving of a new name, or
 nick-name, by which the novice was henceforth to be known in the novice
 was given a certain amount of instruction, and, if the initiation took
 place at a Sabbat, as it often did, they were permitted to join in the
 feast and dancing that followed.
      In some cases, in the days of really fierce persecuation, a
 candidate was also required to make a formal renunciation of the
 official faith of the Christian Church, and to fortify this by some
 ritual act, such as trampling on a cross. This was to ensure that the
 postulant was no hypocritical spy; because such a one would not dare to
 commit an act which he or she would believe to be a mortal sin. Once the
 postulant had formally done such an act, they had in the eyes of the
 Church damned themselves, and abandoned themselves to hellfire; so it
 was a real test of sincerity, and an effective deterrent to those who
 wanted to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Such acts are not,
 however, to my knowledge, required of witches today.
      One of the ritual acts recorded as being part of a witch initiation
 is that described by Sir George Mackenzie, writing in 1699 about
 witchcraft in Scotland, in his book 'Laws and Customs of Scotland"
 (Edinburgh, 1699): "The Slemnity confest by our Witches, is the putting
 one hand to the crown of the Head, and another to the sole of the Foot,
 renouncing thier Baptism in that posture." Joseph Glanvill's book
 'Sadducismus Triumphatus' (London, 1726), had a frontispiece of pictures
 illustrating various stories of mysterious happenings, and one of these
 old woodcuts shows a witch in the act of doing this.
      Her initiation is taking place out of doors, in some lonely spot
 between two big trees. With her are three other women, one of whom seems
 to be presenting her to the devil, who appears as the conventional
 figure of a horned and winged demon. In practice, however, the devil of
 the coven was a man dressed in black, who was sometimes called the Man
 in Black, for this reason. The "grand array" of the horned mask, etc,
 was only assumed upon special occasions.
      A variant of this ritual was for the Man in Black to lay his hand
 upon the new witch's head, and bid her to "give over all to him that
 was under his hand". This, too, is recorded from Scotland, in 1661.
      Information about the initiation of men into witchcraft is much
 less than that referring to women. However, here is an account from
 the record of the trial of William Barton at Edinburgh, about 1655,
 evidently partly in his words and partly in those of his accusers, which
 tells how a young woman witch took a fancy to him, and initiated him:
         One day, says he, going from my own house in Kirkliston, to the
       Queens Ferry, I overtook in Dalmeny Muire, a young Gentlewoman,  
     as to appearance beautiful and comely. I drew near to her, but she
       shunned my company, and when I insisted, she became angry and
       very nyce. Said I, we are both going one way, be pleased to accept
       of a convoy. At last after much entreaty she grew better natured,
       and at length came to that Familiarity, that she suffered me to
       embrace her, and to do that which Christian ears ought not to hear
       of. At this time I parted with her very joyful. The next night,
       she appeared to him in that very same place, and after that which
       should not be named, he became sensible, that it was the devil.
       Here he renounced his baptism, and gave up himself to her service,
       and she called him her beloved and gave him this new name of John
       Baptist, and recieved the Mark.
      The Devil's amke was made much of by professional witch-hunters,
 being supposed to be an indelible make given by the devil in person to
 each witch, upon his or her initiation. However, it would surely have
 been very foolish of the devil to have marked his followers in this way,
 and thus indicated a means by which they mightalways be known. From the
 confused descriptions given at various times and places, it seems
 evident that the witch-hunters knew there was some ceremony of marking,
 but did not know what it was.
      In witchcraft ceremonies today, the new initiate is marked with
 oil, wine, or some pigment, such as charcoil. However, as Margaret
 Murray has pointed out, there is a possibility, judging by the many old
 accounts of small red or blue markings being given, the infliction of
 which was painful but healed after a while, that this may have been a
 tattoo mark. Ritual tattooing is a very old practice; and some relics of
 this survive today, in the fact that people have themselves tattooed
 with various designs 'for luck'. However, when persecution became very
 severe, it would have been unwise to continue this form of marking.
      The most up-to-date instance I have heard, of the marking of new
 initiates, is the practice of a certain coven in Britian today, which
 uses eyeshadow for this purpose; because it is available in pleasing
 colours, is easily washed off, and does no harm to the skin. One wonders
 what old-time witches would think of it!

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