Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Plus ça change: Éliphas Lévi on the witches of Greece

I read this today in Waite's 1922 translation of Lévi's 1860 Histoire de la magie.

Women are superior to men in sorcery because they are more easily transported by excess of passion. The word sorcerer clearly designates victims of chance and, so to speak, the poisonous muchrooms of fatality.

Greek sorcerers, but especially those of Thessaly, put horrible precepts to the proof and were given over to abominable rites. They were mostly women wasted by desires which they could no longer satisfy, antiquated courtesans, monsters of immorality and ugliness. . . . They were known as lamia, stryges, empusa; children were the objects of their envy and thus of their hared, and they sacrificed them for this reason. Some, like that Canidia who is mentioned by Horace, buried them as far as the head and left them to die of hunger, surrounded with food which they could not reach; others cut off the heads, hands and feet, boiled their fat and grease, in copper basins, to the consistence of an ointment, which they afterwards mixed with the juice of henbane, belladonna and black poppies. With this unguent they anointed the organ which was irritated unceasingly by their detestable desires; they rubbed also their temples and arm-pits, and then fell into a lethargy full of unbridled and luxurious dreams.

There is need to speak plainly -- these are the origins and this is the traditional practice of Black Magic; these are the secrets which were handed down to the middle ages; and such in fine are the pretended innocent victims whom public execration, far more than the sentence of inquisitors, condemned to the flames. . . .

Such is the woman who has sought to rise beyond the duties of her sex by familiarity with forbidden sciences. Men avoid her, children hide when she passes. She is devoid of reason, devoid of true love, and the stratagems of Nature in revolt against her are the ever-renewing torment of her pride.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about this account -- of "monsters of immorality and ugliness" who think the most gruesome child sacrifices a small price to pay for a barren simulacrum of the pleasures of the marital bed -- made me think of Current Events.

9 comments:

ben said...

The baby killing isn't a price to pay, it's the point for them.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

As Lévi also says.

ben said...

I think they kill their own babies to violate themselves, not primarily out of hatred or envy. It's like getting the jab or eating dark chocolate. The point is the violation of their own aversions, to erode their own humanity and to be entertained thereby. A lot of modern dysfunction can be explained in this way.

cae said...

Okay - I'm not saying it's not true...not saying such women didn't exist...

....just, it's important to remember that 1860 (when Levi was writing) is a pretty long way from "the middle ages" -

- and it would be worth knowing Levi's opinion of Joan of Arc (who would seem to be 'tarred' with the same 'brush' of that time-frame), before taking his words as utterly without exaggeration...

p.s. I meant to say after my July 3rd comment - I really like your new blog photo!!!

Ra1119bee said...


William,

As I'm sure you know, The Ritual of Sacrifice has always been part and parcel
of the human existence on this duality dimension, we call Earth.

Whether the victim is a baby in the womb, a young man sent to fight wars,
or a group of people targeted for culling via a fabricated famine (or not fabricated), Killing is killing, no matter the age or method or by whose hand.

You wrote; "I read this today in Waite's 1922 translation of Lévi's 1860 Histoire de la magie.

Women are superior to men in sorcery because they are more easily transported by excess of passion. The word sorcerer clearly designates victims of chance and, so to speak, the poisonous muchrooms of fatality."

My response;
All power sources on Earth can be used for evil as well as good.
That includes Magic/ Intuition and the Sacred Science Knowledge aka Occult.
Passion is an emotion which I personally don't see the connection to emotions and Intuition.

While I agree that the female, symbolic of water/moon energy, is probably more
closely connected to 'the other side', I wouldn't say nor do I personally believe
that females are more superior over men as far as 'sorcery' especially if the meaning of sorcery is associated exclusively with EVIL or Demonic or a nefarious act.

Besides, in order for intuition to have any power, those dreams, hunches, ideas, creativity etc, must be manifested into matter which requires Will, brute Force, warrior energy, rubber meets the Road, getting things done, putting food on the table, which is Fire Energy usually symbolic of the Male.

Yin/Yang (two sides of the same coin)

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

@Carol

Lévi was obviously not a trained historian, but I have a considerable degree of trust in his intuitive assessments of things. Here is what he has to say about Joan of Arc:

"The greatest magical prosecution to be found in history, after that of the Temple, was the trial of a maid who was, moreover, almost a saint. The Church, in this case, has been accused of subservience to the base resentment of a vanquished party, and it has been asked earnestly what anathemas of the Chair of St. Peter fell upon the assassins of Joan of Arc. To those who are really unacquainted, it may be said at once that Pierre Cauchon, the unworthy Bishop of Beauvais, struck suddenly with death by the hand of God, was excommunicated after death by Callixtus IV, his remains being taken from consecrated ground and cast into the public sewers. It was not therefore the Church which judged and condemned the Maid of Orleans, but a bad priest and an apostate. Charles VII, who gave up this noble girl to her destroyers, fell afterwards into the hands of an avenging providence; he died of self-starvation, through dread of being poisoned by his own son. Fear is the torment of the base."

Lévi calls her "almost" a saint because she would not be formally recognized as such by the Church until 1920. Elsewhere he distances her somewhat from the saints but still clearly sees her as a good person and certainly not a witch:

"In France it would seem that inspiration was attributed more especially to women; elves and fairies preceded saints, and the French saints have almost invariably something of the fairy character in their legend. . . . Joan of Arc is, however, rather of the fairy family than the hierarchy of holy women; she died like Hypatia, the victim of marvellous natural gifts and the martyr of her generous character."

I think that "something of the fairy character" is also an astute observation, and it is fitting that Joan was born on the Feast of Epiphany, when we celebrate the coming of the Magicians to Christ. Overall, I think Lévi is pretty solid on the subject of Joan of Arc -- much more so than, say, Shakespeare!

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

@Debbie

"Passion is an emotion which I personally don't see the connection to emotions and Intuition. While I agree that the female, symbolic of water/moon energy, is probably more
closely connected to 'the other side', I wouldn't say nor do I personally believe
that females are more superior over men as far as 'sorcery' especially if the meaning of sorcery is associated exclusively with EVIL or Demonic or a nefarious act."

Lévi (or his translator) uses the word sorcery to refer exclusively to a false and debased form of Magic (Black Magic or Goetia) which has little to do with intuition. As a practicing Magician and a Christian himself, Lévi obviously understood that not all Magic is evil. As for the role of passion (in sorcery, not in Magic properly so called), Lévi explains it thus:

"All excessive passion produces a factitious force of which will cannot be the master, but that force is obedient to the tyranny of passion. This is why Albertus Magnus counsels us to curse no one in our wrath. . . . Excessive passion is real madness, and the latter in turn is an intoxication or congestion of the Astral Light. This is why madness is contagious and why passions in general operate as a veritable witchcraft."

One might compare this with traditional belief (still current in much of Europe) in the "evil eye," which is nothing other than the passion of envy "operating as a veritable witchcraft."

Ra1119bee said...


William,

You wrote: One might compare this with traditional belief (still current in much of Europe) in the "evil eye," which is nothing other than the passion of envy "operating as a veritable witchcraft."

~~~~~~~~~~~
My response: I agree.
I would personally describe passion, envy and madness,
especially when it is excessive and unbalanced, as human flaws of the EGO (Evil), which as
I commented before, and in my opinion when we become unbalanced, and our EGO, pleasuring
and protecting the mortal body only, overshadows
our Soul, perhaps therein lies our demon ready to take the Helm.

cae said...

William, thanks for the in depth reply - I really enjoyed reading that!!

I find the idea of Magician (actual magic working, not stage ones) Christians very intriguing, and especially in considering God as not 'omni' - often wonder if 'magic' might have been somewhat of a spiritual gift, intended to be used co-creatively (i.e. along the lines of Nikolai Berdyaev's use of the term)..

They have a fight, Triangle wins, Triangle Man

A monster made of hundreds of tiny triangles