The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Recognition of magic power was born from recognition and awe at the mysteries of the universe.
In order to even begin to comprehend this, one must attempt to look at the world with fresh eyes, like a child approaching something brand new and unexplored. Look around and appreciate the magic of the natural world. Look around and see how all these different magic powers interrelate with each other.
Go outside on a dark night and look at the beautiful moon as it rules the night sky. Go out on different nights and watch the moon change: the moon shifts continually and rhythmically, simultaneously unique and consistent.
Look at the tides: they move in harmony with the lunar phases. Temporarily, throw out all your scientific knowledge; think about the moon and tides and access your pre-scientific mind. Now ask yourself, “How does that happen?” The simple answer is, “By magic!” That answer remains true in addition to the scientific explanations now accepted. Scientific explanations don’t negate the mysterious magic of the process. They only enhance it.
Now, look at women.
Suddenly, in adolescence, women begin to bleed on schedule with the moon and tides. These days, menstruation is popularly perceived as, if not a curse, then at least a bother. Once upon a time, it was considered amazing.
Women bled from no wound, often with no pain, on schedule!
Women bled, for days at a time, without death as the end result.
Instead of death, women bring forth new life, as if by magic, just like Earth brings forth plants. Women were connected to the moon because of their cycles, but their fertility connected them to Earth.
Ancient ovens intended to bake loaves from grain were built in the form of women’s pregnant bellies. Mysteries of fertility stimulate the birth of magic and spirituality; these mysteries are never forgotten, even among the most sophisticated of alchemists.
The alchemist’s laboratory may be understood as the precursor to the modern infertility laboratory. Alchemical masters didn’t only want to produce the Philosopher’s Stone; they wanted to create the Homunculus too—a living being created not in a test tube but in an alchemist’s vessel, a vessel that was formed in the shape of a woman’s body. Female bodies inspired the creation of alchemical ovens, beakers, and other vessels.
Before these labs however, there were women’s mysteries: places where women congregated alone and shared the secrets of these mysteries to which only they were privy. (Don’t feel left out guys. Men had societies, too! Just think of all those werewolf cults.)
Women originally were not banished to red tents and menstrual huts, although as the balance of power shifted, eventually they would be. At first, based on mythology and artifacts, they seem to have gone willingly to these places, with joy and awe.
Spiritual traditions, women’s mystery religions, were based on these practices. When the spiritual traditions were banished, these mysteries lingered in but a few places—in birthing cambers and in spinning rooms. (Islamic women also had the haven of the hammam.)
Birthing chambers and spinning rooms, of course, are places where women openly congregated together: women’s attendance in these places was, in fact, often mandatory. However, other women’s meetings that focused on women’s mysteries were forbidden on pain of death, and thus held secretly in forests, caves, and on mountaintops.
Witches, as survivors and descendants of lunar priestesses, have the skill, ability and knowledge to access lunar power. The moon is believed able to control the reproductive capacity of humans, animals, and crops, as well as the tides, the sea’s harvest (fishing), weather conditions, and the human body—especially human sexuality and mental stability. It is no coincidence that lunacy derives from word for moon. Lunar animals include bats, cats, owls, and nightjars, all animals associated with witchcraft.