; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Witch Legends and Real-Life Encounters II

In keeping with the Halloween spirit, I have found a few additional witchcraft related posts from the past years. The previous installment is posted at Witch Legends and Real-Life Encounters:

Witch Conjures Demon to Dwell in Church

10/8/09 - A witch who plans to open an occult centre in Cambridge says he has conjured up a demon - in the city's Catholic Church.

Magus Lynius Shadee says the demon could possess parishioners and drive them to suicide.

He claims to have instructed the evil spirit to "dwell" in the famous church to "cleanse it".

The occultist, who calls himself the King of All Witches, says he let loose the entity to prey on worshippers at the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Hills Road.

Fr Dick Healey has branded the occultist "twisted" and plans to report him to the police for practising witchcraft in a church.

He said: "He should be reported to the police. It's as if someone came into your home and performed some sort of magic trick without your permission.

"He's obviously a bit twisted to perform witchcraft in a church.

"We will not be performing an exorcism, but I will consider reporting him to the police."

Mr Shadee, a Frenchman with an occult centre in Normandy, claims to have made the "incantation" to evoke the demon on a visit to the city to look for a site for his occult centre, which he plans to open on December 24.

He said: "It's an element, a hunter that will attach itself to an individual, then try to take the person, either send them insane and make them depressed, and the worst is to cause them to take their physical life.

"I did not speak to the priest, just performed a visual ritual format, an incantation, to bring in an element to dwell within the building.

"When I perform, unless it's within the confines of a ritual room, most of my work is on my own with associates observing."

Fr David Paul, of St Laurence's Roman Catholic Church in Milton Road, fears the occultist's move into the city is to target university students, as the News reported.

Now the witch hopes to "convert" the priest.

He said: "I will have to visit Mr David Paul's church and perform a ritual for him - perhaps he will be converted."

Police said a potential crime under the Public Order Act could have been committed if anyone was in the church at the time of the ritual and was alarmed or distressed by it.


Wicca...Not Wicked

11/15/09 - Deborah Snavely cackled wildly when asked if she had a flying broom. For Snavely, a British traditional Wiccan priestess for 13 years, witchcraft is no matter of Hollywood hocus-pocus — it’s a reality.

“Any system of divination is simply a means of accessing a part of our awareness that doesn’t work with the logical brain,” Snavely said, arguing that witchcraft is no more ridiculous than any other religion.

Having begun her spiritual life at her mother’s Episcopal church, Snavely recalls staring out the window during Sunday service, longing for the shade and ambience of the woods.

“That was a very restful and healing place for me to be. There were very clear presences,” she said.

In her teens, Snavely abandoned church and began exploring alternative spiritual philosophies. Now she is a member of the Wiccan priesthood, a denomination of witchcraft whose lineage can be traced back to the 16th century, and whose more ancient descendants were meeting in sacred groves even hundreds of years before that.

“There are bits and pieces that survive. Our modern practices are quite simple,” Snavely said.

K.C. Anton of Veneta, Ore., is also a Christian-turned-Wiccan. Always a spiritual person, the idea of God was very real for Anton, but he remained skeptical.

“Most folks didn’t have a practice that answered to me. You had to take a lot of things on faith,” Anton said.

Now a teacher of Wiccan rituals, Anton has studied the practice for more than 20 years. For him, Wicca has been the path to happiness and self-improvement.

“I felt the awe-ful presence of deity. I felt something inside me,” Anton said. “The control and response of your life is in your hands,” he said, to distinguish Wicca from
other religions.

There are many similarities as well.

“Christians have prayers, we have spells,” Anton said. Spells and magic are often misunderstood, he explained.

“A spell is making your intent go out into the world,” said Anton, who explained that desire for success and love are the two main things that people use spells for.

healing spell can be as simple as saying a few words over and over. Snavely invented her own spell, which she calls “the only spell I will ever give away.” To work this magic, one must look into the mirror each night from new moon to new moon for a month and say,

“I love and respect you.”

“People will cry trying to do that,” Snavely said.

Other times, spells are more akin to what people are accustomed to reading about in fairy tales. To draw someone to you through a love spell, one can use an actual physical part of that person, such as their hair, and create a mental picture.

The idea is to create the strongest thing one can do to bring about the desired change. Anton said his last two girlfriends have both been brought to him through spells. His first came when he was focused on becoming a writer and he found a woman who was also a writer.

“She was part of the answer,” Anton said.

Another fairly classical spell is to physically white out a pay stub and write in a new number.

“Think of it as a recipe, but it still needs to be personalized,” Anton said.

After mastering the basics, there are more advanced techniques such as sounding, toning, meditation and use of other languages.

Anton was always skeptical, and at first he tested the spells by setting time limits and comparing the results with those of Christian prayers.

“It was like in the laboratory,” Anton said.

Snavely has also seen magic in the works. She recalled an incident in which a man was hospitalized with an intestinal rupture and was in critical condition. Snavely and 10 others held a healing ritual for the man, and within a few days the man was released from the hospital.

Pagan celebrations often take place during full moons, and witches work with the four or five — if they count the spirit — elements. Halloween, the Celtic New Year with many names, purposes and even dates, is an active time for witches as it is one of eight major solar holidays or Sabbaths. This is a time to communicate with the dead elders and say goodbye to the old year. The festival is one for the fire element, as jack-o’-lanterns guide good spirits to relatives’ doorsteps and keep the bad spirits away.

On such a night, Wiccans like Anton and Snavely gather in a sacred, circular space. Placing a drop or two of fine-smelling oil, they “dress” the candles they will use to focus their intent in four directions. Living things have an energy field that people perceive in various ways, but witches operate outside of our official defined five senses. They gather in a circle to contain energy, then raise the energy by dancing, singing and using their bodies. “We are between worlds, the energy world and the tangible,” Snavely said, adding that this is why it is bad to bring watches into the circle.

The priestess directs the ritual to a crescendo, and everyone focuses on transferring the energy into a physical object such as a necklace or a worry stone meant for a son going to Iraq.

“We simply raise energy as a gift of the gods,” Snavely said. The physical sensation is an expansion of yourself, a natural high, she explained.

Snavely is a stroke survivor, and she gave her boyfriend consent for a similar ritual when she was hospitalized. Through an e-mail list, there were circles being done all over the country to help her and she attests that it made a difference. Although she has a permanent disability, she was able to retain her speech and her recovery went relatively smoothly.

“I am not permanently disabled to not function as priestess, thank goddess!” she said.

Paganism contains a broad category of nature-based religions such as shamans, druids and witches who observe natural energies and the powers of the mind.

“Awareness of nature is more than looking at a forest through an automobile window while you speed by. It is actually getting out there and being able to be a part of that forest,” said Eugene Witches leader Jeff Orendorff. “A nature-based individual can simply be in contact with nature and through that nature be in contact with what made that nature.”

Witchcraft tends to have more of a female goddess orientation, and some Wiccans do not allow men to work in their groups. However, what they all have in common is the idea that what happens in your little world affects everything else in some way. Kindness is spread by being kind to others. For this reason, it is prohibited to do witchcraft against someone else’s will or to manipulate someone. For this, there is the rule of three — whatever you put out comes back to you in a greater magnitude.

In Old English, Wicca means to bend or alter.

Anton explained that if you’re really firm like some trees, then you can snap when life starts pressuring you.

“That’s our magical idea,” Anton said. “Do what you want as long as you don’t harm anyone.”

Wicca is the most practiced pagan religion in Eugene. Most practitioners are eclectics, which means that they pull together from various sources. Anton said that the popularity of earth-based religion has multiplied greatly in the last 20 years and that the Eugene area probably has somewhere between 1,500 to 3,000 practicing pagans.

Yet a stereotype remains in the general public’s eye that witchcraft is somehow associated with evil.

“The word has been grabbed by other folks. What witchcraft means now for a lot of religions is a negative thing because it’s been turned around,” Anton said.

Snavely said a big reason for this misunderstanding is 1,500 years of churches preaching against witchcraft. When Gerald Gardner, an English witch who is considered to be the biggest influence on modern witchcraft, began writing about witchcraft it was still illegal. Laws prohibiting witchcraft were finally repealed in 1951.

Today, “witch” is still a powerful word that turns heads and has even caused parents to lose custody of their children.

Even people who know Snavely well have their prejudices. Snavely said she had to decide between being a “closet” witch or an “out” witch. She is mindful of this and sometimes has to censor herself in social and professional settings.

“You practice it like any other religion,” Anton said. “What you think affects the world around. It’s a very simple concept.”


Was Moll Dyer Real or a Legend?

1/19/10 - The story of Moll Dyer, a witch who was driven from her home south of Leonardtown more than 300 years ago, is well known and often repeated in St. Mary's County.

But was she ever real? There are no records of her existence. However, there is a road and stream named after her south of Leonardtown and lands there bore her name since the 1890s.

A large rock, said to be the last resting place of Moll Dyer where she left imprints of her knees and hand on the stone, was moved in 1972 to the front of the circuit courthouse in Leonardtown. The area of Moll Dyer Road was purported to be haunted.

Tradition has it that Moll Dyer was an outcast in the small community between Leonardtown and Redgate. Though she lived in a hut, she survived via the generosity of others through the alms house, located where Leonardtown Middle School is now.

The winter of 1697 was extraordinarily harsh. On March 27 the Council of Maryland proceedings in Annapolis commented on the bad weather: "It hath pleased God that this winter hath been the longest that hath been known in the memory of man, for it began about the middle of November, and little sign of any spring yet. It was very uncertain weather, several frosts and snows, one of which was the greatest hath been known."

Witchcraft was often blamed for such calamitous times. In St. Mary's that year, the legend goes, Moll Dyer fit the description of a witch — a strange old hag.

Witches weren't common, but it was still widely believed they did exist then.

In June 1654, the crew of the ship Charity on route to Maryland from England testified about the hanging of passenger Mary Lee for suspicion of practicing witchcraft, according to the Proceedings of the Council of Maryland.

On Oct. 4, 1659, Edward Prescott was acquitted for "one Elizabeth Richardson hanged in his ship" for witchcraft, according to the proceedings of the Provincial Court. Plaintiff John Washington of Virginia couldn't attend court that day and because there was no testimony, Prescott was released. He blamed John Greene, captain of the ship, for the execution.

In 1674, John Cowman of St. Mary's County was arraigned, convicted and condemned for witchcraft, conjuration or enchantment upon the body of Eliza Goodall, according to an 1885 edition of the Baltimore Times. Cowman was pardoned by Charles Calvert.

On Oct. 9, 1685, Rebecca Fowler of Calvert County was hanged for practicing witchcraft. She was the only person executed in Maryland for witchcraft, according to the 1938 book "Crime and Punishment in Early Maryland."

One story about Moll Dyer says there was careful consultation as Dyer's neighbors decided to force her away after their crops were ruined and their livestock died. Another account says the decision was fueled by binge drinking at the alms house. Both stories say countrymen bore down on Dyer's hut with torches on a cold February night in 1697. Her house set ablaze, Dyer sought refuge in the surrounding woods and the men did not pursue her.

"Nothing was heard of her for several days, until a boy hunting for his cattle in the woods espied her kneeling on a stone with one hand resting thereon and the other raised as if in prayer, or to curse her tormentors, wrote Joseph Morgan of Leonardtown in the 1890s.

"Her life had gone out in the dark, cold night, and she still rested in her suppliant position, frozen stiff with the Winter's cold. The story runs that she offered a prayer to be avenged on her persecutors and that a curse be put on them and their lands," he wrote.

The Beacon newspaper of Sept. 12, 1901, reported the experience of a young man returning to Leonardtown on horseback in the dead of night. "At Moll Dyer's run he stopped to water his horse. He says he noticed that another traveler was at the run and thinking he knew who it was, asked it to move. No attention was paid to the request and it was repeated somewhat more harshly. Surprised at the fright manifested by his horse, he turned and noted that the horseman he thought he knew was riding a headless animal, and while gazing at this unusual appearance he distinctly saw the spectral horse part in the middle and the horseman disappear between the two disjointed ends."

Moll Dyer's Run was cited in a deed from 1857. There were five houses around the run, according to a May 1854 survey of the area, on the east side of Clay Hill Road, which is today's Route 5. The road that later became Moll Dyer Road was already there.

By 1895, 60 acres of land near Clay Hill Road was called Moll Dyer's Hill, just north of Redgate.

In 1968, Philip Love, an editor for The Evening Star, began searching for Moll Dyer's rock. He and his wife found what was supposed to be that rock in the woods of Stephen Foxwell's farm, a farm that is today home of Lil' Margaret's Bluegrass Festival.

But Love was not the first to claim finding the infamous rock. "In a clearing up on Clover Lot, Mr. John T. Yates found in a gully, not far from the run, the legendary ‘Moll Dyer's stone.' The knee prints on the stone are still visible," according to the Beacon of April 13, 1911. According to land records, Clover Lot was then part of Foxwell's farm and is today located at 42660 Moll Dyer Road, home of William and Alice Holly. Next door is Elizabeth Holly, who moved to the first house on the left in 1968.

On Oct. 14, 1972, the local National Guard, which was housed in today's Leonardtown library, hauled the 875-pound rock up from the Clover Lot to the old county jail, owned by the St. Mary's County Historical Society, in front of the circuit courthouse where it rests today.

Elizabeth Holly said she was at work the day they moved the rock, which tore up her driveway in the process. She heard the story of Moll Dyer when she and her husband moved in and was aware of the rock's story, but said recently of the witch, "She ain't bothered us."

NOTE: The Moll Dyer mystery will most likely never be solved. I have heard of the apparitions that haunt the rock and courthouse, but is it Moll Dyer. Witchcraft is a Maryland legacy...so much of our history and legends are the result of people who practiced or were accused of practicing the 'craft'. Though I'm a transplanted Marylander, I was raised just across the Mason-Dixon line in Pennsylvania and accustomed to the craft for healing through my ancestors and others who kept the tradition intact...Lon



Witchcraft trials and executions were facts of life in colonial Maryland.

From Southern Maryland to the Eastern Shore and as far north as Anne Arundel County, historians have documented at least 12 cases of persons prosecuted or persecuted in the 1600s and early 1700s because of accusations that they practiced witchcraft.

There wasn't the same sort of hysteria in Maryland that there was in Massachusetts, where 19 men and women were executed and many imprisoned for witchcraft in 1692.

But Maryland and neighboring Pennsylvania and Virginia all had witchcraft trials, according to Hagerstown-based historian John Nelson.

Two of the earliest witchcraft cases in the Maryland State Archives involve executions aboard ships bound for Maryland from England.

Two men who recently had arrived on the Charity of London told colonial officials in St. Mary's City in 1654 that the ship's crew had hanged an old woman named Mary Lee after she was accused of sorcery.

Her supposed crime: summoning a relentless storm that some on board blamed on "the malevolence of witches."

The second shipboard execution involved George Washington's great-grandfather, John Washington of Westmoreland County, Va. He accused ship owner Edward Prescott in 1659 of hanging Elizabeth Richardson as a witch.

Prescott acknowledged the hanging at his trial but was acquitted after he said the ship's captain, John Green, was the one responsible. The trial was in Patuxent, in either Anne Arundel or Charles counties.

Maryland's only recorded execution for witchcraft on land occurred Oct. 9, 1685, in Calvert County. Rebecca Fowler was hanged after a jury found her guilty of "certain evil and diabolical arts called witchcrafts, enchantments, charms [and] sorceries."

Hannah Edwards, also of Calvert County, was acquitted in 1686 of similar charges.

St. Mary's County is rich in witchcraft history, with three cases in the historical record and a folk tale that is perhaps Maryland's best-known bit of witch lore.

There is no historical record of Moll Dyer, but her legend is as enduring as the 875-pound boulder in front of the Old Jail Museum in Leonardtown that supposedly bears her hand print.

The reported witch is said to have been driven from her home on the coldest night of the year by townsfolk who burned her cabin. Dyer died of exposure and was found with her hand frozen to the rock, the story goes.

Maryland's last recorded witchcraft trial was held in Annapolis in 1712. A jury acquitted Virtue Violl of Talbot County of using witchcraft to harm the health of an invalid neighbor.


North Carolina Conjurer 'Dr. Possum'

newbernsj.com - 8/18/09 - Six or seven years ago, three women came to Doctor Possum’s home wanting the Celtic witch and root doctor to tell them if their husbands were cheating on them.

Douglas Helvie, who goes by “Doctor Possum” for his work practicing the African-inspired magical practice of hoodoo, looked to his Norse runes to help see the truth. The 24 symbols carved into chips of rock help the conjureman tap into his psychic consciousness, he said.

What he saw about two of the women gave him pause.

“What I’m seeing right here is you’re not being cheated on. What I’m seeing right here is you’re cheating on your significant other,” said Helvie, as he recalled the memory from inside his store “The Hex House,” recently opened in February of this year.

He sells herbs, candles, coffin nails and books on the occult in the store, located behind his home in Ernul.

A black leather top hat perched on his head and a silver pentagram hanging from his neck, Helvie said he saw that the second woman was cheating with two men. The color ran out of her face, he said, and she asked him how he knew.

“I see what I see,” Helvie said. “You come to me, you ask me to do this reading, I tell you what I’m going to see.”

The 48-year old has been doing psychic readings and other work for years, as he’s a believer in the Wicca faith and a practicing Celtic witch. Just recently, he was also trained in hoodoo.

He completed a mail-in course with Catherine Yronwode of the California-based Lucky Mojo Curio Co. on Feb. 10, and his certification hangs on the wall of The Hex House.

“The hoodoo is a magical practice, it’s not a religious practice,” he said. “It’s something that a person of any religion can practice, if they understand there are certain things it encompasses.”

He said that mostly women come to see him for psychic readings or to pick up a mojo hand — which is a small bag that he fills with herbs such as lavender, rose petal, myrrh, orange peel — for help with love or romance issues.

But there are some things he won’t do as a root doctor or conjureman, such as death spells, or magic to make a person fall in love.

“I won’t put a love spell on somebody for you,” he said. “I’m not going to cage anybody for you. I don’t want the karma, thank you very much.”

Helvie said he has, however, done spiritual healings (one time he said he helped clear out a person’s headache using meditation techniques), he’s done spells to help ward off “good old-fashioned bad luck,” and he’s done psychic readings. He also has small statues of bears, a cat and a dog in The Hex House to help a person’s pet.

“If somebody comes to me, like they have a pet that’s sick or seems to be having difficulties, I’ll do that for free,” he said.

When he works the magic, he said he draws on powers from different sources such as nature or realms beyond normal human consciousness.

“When I practice hoodoo, it’s not uncommon for me to draw on my pagan gods,” he said. “Having said that, I might be … calling blessings from the Buddha. It’s kind of open-ended and it’s got many facets.”

As for his background, Helvie says he’s always had an interest in the occult. He attributes part of his attraction to his astrological sign — he’s a Scorpio, which characterizes people of intensity and contradictions that often have an interest in the paranormal and other unknown mysteries, according to zodiac-signs-astrology.com.

From the age of eight until he was 25, Helvie said he was a practicing Satanist. “Not the puppy-killing, animal-sacrificing kind, but I had gotten involved in that behind my mother’s back as a youth for reasons that are very deeply personal,” he said.

By the time he left the religion, he had risen through the ranks to become a lord high priest. But he left Satanism, and “frankly didn’t look back,” realizing it was causing him to be more and more of a negative person.

Helvie found a group in New Bern practicing Wicca, which is a nature-based religion that recognizes that spirits exist in all things, he said, explaining his own interpretation of the religion. “Plants, trees, people, and animals, everything we believe has a spirit,” he said.

The religion also recognizes a male and a female deity, he said. “It’s not only a god or male deity that exists out there, but there’s a goddess, a female-equal, but separate deity that exists with the god.”

Helvie said he realized from the beginning that the religion was what he’d been looking for in his heart, and now he’s practiced Wicca going on 22 years. He has even started his own branch called Eternal Harvest, and he practices a form of Wicca that is an amalgamation of Germanic and Celtic techniques, he said.

He took the hoodoo course to become a root doctor and conjure man because he felt people, especially in the Southeast, would be more uncomfortable going to see someone who calls himself a witch.

“It’s kind of a social door opener,” he said.

As for why he’s called “Doctor Possum” — he explained the name’s origin came from one day working maintenance at the New Bern Golf & Country Club when he saw a possum on the grounds.

His co-workers, who knew his faith background, had nicknamed him “Doctor Buzzard” after several other root doctors, but he said he was warned in a dream that he couldn’t keep the name.

“‘You’re doing magic on the possum,’” said Helvie, recalling what his co-workers said.

“I’m just petting it!” he said he told them, but the name stuck.

And while Wicca gives him personal powers, its ethics and codes of conduct also guide his life.

“I’m amazed by the potential, how if a person really learns the ancient ways, they can empower their lives, and help them frankly be better people,” he said.