The Witchcraft Collection Volume Two
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The Witchcraft Collection Volume Two

Dictionary of Mysticism, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, and Dictionary of Magic

Frank Gaynor, Edwin Radford, Mona A. Radford, Harry E. Wedeck

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eBook - ePub

The Witchcraft Collection Volume Two

Dictionary of Mysticism, Encyclopedia of Superstitions, and Dictionary of Magic

Frank Gaynor, Edwin Radford, Mona A. Radford, Harry E. Wedeck

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Three authoritative yet accessible reference books covering the esoteric terms, concepts, and histories of magical practices and mystical thought. Dictionary of Mysticism offers concise definitions for more than 2, 200 terms used in a number of mystical traditions and fields of study, including esoteric philosophy, occultism, psychical research, spiritualism, alchemy, astrology, and demonology. It also covers the studies of Buddhism, Brahmanism, Sufism, Lamaism, Zoroastrianism, Theosophy, and Cabbalism. Encyclopedia of Superstitions is a wide-ranging and authoritative reference book that explores the origins and influences of various superstitions from a number of cultural traditions. It contains enlightening information about charms, spells, fairy lore and legend, folk remedies, and customs of birth, marriage, and death. In Dictionary of Magic, occult expert Harry E. Wedeck offers a broad understanding of witchcraft, necromancy, paganism, the occult, and many of magic's other manifestations. This A-to-Z reference book provides in-depth information on essential concepts, practices, and vocabulary, and covers many notable wizards and demonographers.

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Encyclopedia of Superstitions
Edwin and Mona A. Radford
FOREWORD
HAVING had the opportunity of examining the typescript of this latest compilation of Mr. and Mrs. Radford, it gives me pleasure to say a word by way of appreciation of an excellent idea well carried out. There was need for some such work of reference on superstitions, covering the whole world in an encyclopædic way, rather than a cyclopaedia of beliefs peculiar to one country or one people. For although there have been many odd volumes touching the subject in haphazard fashion, and one can find a good deal about superstitions in the celebrated compilations of Dr. Brewer, his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, for instance, in Chambers’s Book of Days, with its many occasional references, in general encyclopaedias without number, books devoted to the explanation of curious customs, and so forth, I think this is, if not the first encyclopædia devoted entirely to its specific subject, certainly the first that has come under my notice.
The most noteworthy feature of the Radfords’ book is the skill with which its compilers have succeeded in observing the rather fine distinction between superstition and custom. Having myself edited a considerable work some years ago on Manners and Customs of Mankind, I did not then take any particular care to exclude superstitions where these underlie or are the remote origins of the multitude of customs which are observed by different peoples all over the world, customs which in many instances can be traced and related to others in widely separated regions of the globe.
But while no difficulty is presented to an editor whose main concern is to bring together a large and representative selection of manners and customs, a very real difficulty does present itself to editors who aim at assembling a really comprehensive record of the superstitions, and nothing but the superstitions, still prevailing amongst the races of mankind to-day, and especially to identify their existence and observance with totally unrelated groups of the human race.
To judge to a nicety where a superstition is the prime cause of custom and to concentrate upon the prime cause rather than upon the resulting custom must have involved a very considerable amount of judgment in making many of the decisions as to what should become an entry in an encyclopaedia so highly specialized. This judgment is very successfully exemplified in the volume now before the reader. And the skilful manner in which the method of presentation for ready reference has been here effected will scarcely be denied.
To the reader who is unskilled in the study of superstition this work will, in my opinion, come as a surprise on his discovering the widespread diffusion of superstitious beliefs still obtaining at this day in every aspect of social life among both the civilized and the savage, and to those who have given any thought to the origins of superstitions this work cannot fail to prove of real value as a reference book; but whether it be regarded as an orderly collection of reading for the curious which will provide much entertainment as well as instruction, or as a work of reference, I feel sure the general opinion will be that the compilers have hit the mark they aimed at, and have achieved a skilful and valuable piece of work on which they are to be congratulated.
J. A. HAMMERTON
PREFACE
SOME years ago the idea occurred to us that there was need for a work containing as complete a collection as possible of British superstitions presented in encyclopædic form, giving easy and quick reference to the reader.
There were, and are, in existence many excellent books on Folklore which review customs and superstitions of our people, but none containing in one volume a comprehensive catalogue. Moreover, all have a laborious indexing system necessitating voluminous notes and research.
We accordingly began collecting and authenticating all the superstitions we could trace. The task occupied more than four years, and is brought to a conclusion with the presentation of this volume, containing more than two thousand superstitions of Britain ranging over the past six hundred years, and extending down to the present day.
Individual classification has been carried out, and the title headings enable the reader to obtain within a few minutes the list of beliefs attached to any one subject—and, where it is possible to present it, the origin, or possible origin, of the belief.
Care has been taken to distinguish between superstition and custom. Except in one or two instances, where the line of demarcation is barely distinguishable, customs have been omitted as lacking any spiritual origin. The “maypole” is an exception since, though more of a custom than a superstition, its origin, in all probability, lies in the ancient worship of the Tree Spirits by our people.
Early in our examination of beliefs prevalent in Britain, and of superstitions as a whole, we were confronted with a succession of coincidences in the form of exactly similar spiritual remedies for disease in these islands and in countries which, at the time, were uncivilized judged by Western standards. Deeper research was undertaken; as a result several hundred examples of this correlated belief are given in this volume.
They raise a topic of peculiar and fascinating interest—whether, indeed, there are such things as “British” superstitions, or whether, on the contrary, those superstitions are world-wide, inherent in all peoples of the world in exactly identical forms of fear, of avoidance, and of remedial measures?
Take, as an example, childbirth. To ensure easy labour for a woman it was the custom in North-west Argyllshire, Scotland, to open every lock in the house. Regard this in the light of the Roman custom of presenting women in labour with a key as a charm for easy delivery. The Argyllshire custom could be stretched into a corruption of the Roman key by reason of the occupation of these islands by the Romans, and the consequent copying of custom and beliefs; but what can be said in explanation of the beliefs of the natives of the Island of Salsette, near Bombay, and of parts of Java, or Chittagong in the East Indies where, from the earliest times, all doors were opened to ease a mother in her labour?
Equally with the days following the birth. Ancient Scottish belief, dating beyond the sixteenth century, entailed that the closest watch had to be maintained over the babe lest evil spirits wreaked their will; and no person must pass between the infant and the fire during the first eight days of its life. The Greeks held that a child must not be left alone for eight days after birth; the Danes that fires in the house must not be extinguished for eight days.
When Western man penetrated into the island of Saparoca and Hanockoe, and in Nyassaland, and delved into their ancient superstitions, it was found that so long as native memory had existed the people at childbirth had known that a light must be kept burning until the eighth day of a new-born babe’s life in order that the spirits should not harm the infant.
Even more marked are the examples of homœopathic magic. In Britain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries superstition encouraged the belief that a child could be relieved of whooping cough by its elders passing it through an arch of brambles formed by one branch of the parent stem having made root in the earth. The peoples of the area round about Lake Nyassa had, at the same period, a cure for such ailment of the chest: the sufferer was made to pass through an arch formed by bending down a branch of a bush and inserting the free end in the ground.
A child with a rupture was, in Britain, at one time passed three times through a sapling, the stem of which had been cleft longitudinally with an axe, and the halves of which were held apart for the ceremony. In Uganda, the Medicine Man from time immemorial had split a tree stem and held the two halves apart while a sufferer stepped through the opening.
The M’Bengas of Western Africa on the birth of twins planted two trees; henceforth, it was believed, the lives of the children were bound up with the trees; if the trees withered and died, the children withered and died with them. In Britain the belief existed in strong measure that the health, and even the life, of a child passed through a cleft tree for rupture depended upon the p...

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