Visions Before Midnight: Witchcraft, Folklore and the Prehistory of the Abduction Phenomenon. David Sivier

Ever since Vallee and Keel put pen, or typewriter ribbon to paper in the 1970s, it’s been an axiom among proponents of the psychosocial hypothesis that the UFO phenomenon is merely the modern variant of a range of paranormal encounters and visitations by supernatural others. Despite their technological trappings, modern UFO sightings are merely the scientistic expression of deep religious and mystical impulses from within the human psyche, impulses, which have given rise to previous ages’ myths of encounters with angels, demons, elves and ghosts. Far from being encounters with objectively real, nuts and bolts extraterrestrial spacecraft, UFO visitations, and much of the culture surrounding them, is a twentieth century technological religious experience. This is, and always has been, explicit in the case of UFO religions such as the Aetherius Society of George King and the Unarius sect founded by Ruth Norman in California. Although King and Adamski have passed on, the era of the Contactee with his or her extraterrestrial message for mankind still continues, with channelled messages about impending ecological and planetary catastrophe from 9-foot tall Pleiadian reptilians, Ashtar Space Command and any number of communicating entities, or given to those unfortunates who believe, or are led to believe, that they have been abducted and medically tortured by the aliens aboard the spacecraft.

Furthermore, attempts to interpret and communicate with the underlying entities by occult means are still carried out today. One of the most notorious examples of this is arguably Allen H. Greenfield’s Secret Cipher of the Ufonauts, which used Qabalistic numerological systems derived from Aleister Crowley to plumb the cosmic mysteries behind the phenomenon. (1) Thomas Bullard’s research into the ‘Old Hag’ phenomenon, and Persinger’s now notorious hypothesis that such encounters originate in disturbances of the brain’s temporal lobes have added further weight to the psychosocial view that alien encounters are essentially an internal, psychological experience, despite Bullard’s own view that the Old Hag phenomenon is an objectively real, rather than folkloric experience.

Although the above short summary of the psychosocial position is now so well known as to appear trite, particularly to its opponents, it’s not often appreciated how closely the UFO and Abduction experiences come to their traditional predecessors in religion and folklore. The lengthy comparisons of a few years ago of alien abduction investigators and medieval witch-hunters by James Pontolillo and others, while immensely controversial, were almost literally accurate in their analysis of the relationship between the two. In itself, this was not particular revolutionary. Janet and Colin Bord in the 1970s researched the similarities between the entities reported from UFOs, and the demons of medieval theology, based on their reading of Nicholas of Remy’s sixteenth century Demonlatry. In confirmation of their research, they note that during a conversation with six alien beings that a composer from Malvesi, in Narbonne, France, had on 12 December 1987, one of the beings in answer to his question `So you’re extraterrestrials then?’ replied ‘ciel, demon’ (sky, demon). ‘The use of the word demon goes some way towards confirming what some researchers have long suspected: that the UFO entity phenomenon is not peculiar to the twentieth century but has occurred throughout history, the origins and intentions of the entities being understood in accordance with the dominant beliefs of the age.’ (2)

Pontolillo, however, took the comparison one step further to include the conduct of the abduction researchers themselves, presenting an image of their activities, including the willingness to inflict emotional pain on the victims of such supernatural visitations, which the abduction researchers naturally found abhorrent. Nevertheless, the similarities between these witch-hunters, past and present, are very strong and can provide profound insights into the nature of the phenomenon. For example, the writings of John Sterne, the friend and fellow witchfinder of the notorious Matthew Hopkins, contains numerous cases of witchcraft they discovered during their reign of terror in East Anglia during the Interregnum, cases which parallel the contemporary abduction experience, though with the obvious difference that these lack the technological imagery characteristic of the Twentieth century.

The origin of some demonic encounters in visions during a hypnopogic state is apparently born out in Sterne’s description of Anne Boreham’s initiation into their company. Boreham ‘confessed that as she awoke out of a dreame she saw uglie men (as she thought) a fighting, and asked them why they fought, who answered that they would fight for all her, and then one vanished away, and then came to her into bed, and had the use of her body.’ (3) There are obviously problems to accepting such statements, along with other confessions from the accused at face value, due to the immense physical and psychological stresses under which those accused were placed by their judicial tormentors in order to extract confessions of guilt. Although torture was not used in England, and so the number of witchcraft cases was consequently small, nevertheless coercive measures such as walking and watching – by which Hopkins and his cohorts denied the accused witches of sleep – as well as leading questions and the unbearable psychological pressures to confess, means that it’s possible that some, at least, of the testimony obtained from suspected witches was formed, consciously or unconsciously, to conform to the witchfinders’ own prejudices and expectations. Nevertheless, Boreham’s statement, along with other ‘spectral evidence’, certainly suggests the origins of some witchcraft cases in encounters with sexually predatory incubi and succubi, demonic encounters of much the same type with the equally sexually predatory aliens, which also rape their human victims. The only difference here is that these latter incubi violate their victims on high-tech dissection tables, rather than their own beds. Even the statements given by the violating entities as explanations are essentially the same. Boreham’s statement that they fought ‘for all of her’ certainly compares with Streiber’s statement that they ‘did have a right’ to carry out their experiments, and indeed Fort’s own oft-repeated dictum of an putative alien presence on Earth, ‘I think we are property.’

The parallels with the Greys of the abduction phenomenon become even closer when one considers that the familiars who accompanied these witches were similarly diminutive. Elizabeth Hubbard confessed that ‘she had three things’ come to her in the likeness of children’, (4) while Edward Wright similarly possessed two imps like little boys. (5) Of course, elves had long been imagined to be diminutive in size, and Lord Berners’ 1534 translation of the fourteenth century French Huon of Bordeaux describes Oberon, the fairy king as about the ‘but of iii fote’ in height. (6)

Given the association between fairies and witchcraft, it was to be expected that the attendant imps should similarly be envisaged as lacking adult human stature. Even the paradoxically asexual nature of the attacking entities themselves is described in Sterne’s case studies, just as modern abduction narratives describe similar highly sexed, but curiously sexless aliens. One of Sterne’s victims, Bush of Banton, confessed that Satan appeared by her bedside as a young black man – traditionally the colour of evil, but not yet the Grey of the abductionists -’but could not perform nature as man’, (7) while Anne Crick stated that ‘the Devill had the use of her body, but she said she could not tell whether he performed nature or not.’ (8) This latter, though, could have been due to the strong social pressures against confessing intimate – and in this case, unnatural – sexual activities in public, as Crick stated clearly that ‘she could not confess before much company.’ (9) Although these encounters probably didn’t arise from the deliberate use of hallucinogens as a means of altering consciousness, nevertheless they bear a strong similarity to the ‘machine elves’ produced by the DMT experience, suggesting that they may indeed be autonomous, but alienated sections of the human psyche, rather than objective, corporeal entities. (10)

As for the confused, and often tortured emotional state of many abductees, this too is paralleled by Sterne’s description of the motivations of the purported witches victimised by himself and Hopkins. According to Sterne, the Devil carefully observed his victims to entrap them when they were psychologically most vulnerable, ‘as when any fall into a passionate sorrow, accompanied with solitarinesse for some losse, a husband, wife, children or such like, the Devil offers himself to comfort such in their sorrowfull melancholy mood.’ (11) Of course, to contemporary Christian fundamentalists searching for real, present day servants of Satan, such melancholy behaviour and the avoidance of human company is very much a symptom of occult involvement, rather than a symptom of a disturbed emotional state that may make an already vulnerable person particular susceptible to the delusion that he or she has been violated and entrapped by predatory supernatural beings.

Here Sterne also has a few valuable lessons for today’s Satan hunters, though his comments, from the background of an explicit believer in the reality of the Devil’s agents on Earth, actually corroborate instead the conclusions of the sceptics. Rather than demonstrating the fire-and-brimstone sermon as a true path to Christian salvation, Sterne describes instances where it has had the opposite effect on its audience: ‘For I have heard many of them say, that the Devil hath inticed them to witchcraft by some sermons they have preached; as when ministers will preach of the power of the devil, and his tormenting the wicked’ after which the Devil approached the novice witch, ‘asking them, How do you think to be saved?’ before promising them that if they gave their soul to him, he would free them of the torments of hell. As a result of this, according to Sterne, ‘(i)gnorant people have been thus seduced.’ (12)

Contemporary sceptical opponents of the Satanism scare have come to similar conclusions, noting that children with low self-esteem may similarly become involved in pseudo-Satanic crime through an overwhelming belief in their own evil derived from an authoritarian, punitive background in which religious threats are used to humiliate and control them. The American sceptical sociologist, Jeffrey S. Victor, noted that ‘Adolescents who see themselves as being “evil” create a psychological environment consistent with their self-concept. They see the world as they see themselves, a place where malicious evil is more genuine than compassion.’ (13) One example where a belief in their own evil has led to the development of pseudo-Satanic beliefs, is that of Christina who used ‘satanism (sic) to rebel against her parents’ religion … When her mother asked her directly about her satanic beliefs, Christina told her mother that there was nothing good in the world that was why she liked satanism (sic).’ (14) Moreover, Victor elsewhere records instances where suspected Satanic criminals have been captured using material from the manuals produced by the Satan hunters themselves as the basis for their perverted beliefs. The conclusion to be drawn here seems to be that an exaggerated, repressive emphasis on Satan and the power of evil, far from drawing people to the saving power of Christ, produces its demonic opposite. As a result, Christian ministers would be best advised to avoid too much hell-fire and damnation preaching in favour of other, more positive aspects of the religion. Unfortunately it’s a message the fundamentalist Satan hunters don’t seem to have received, particularly those fixated on the supposedly demonic influence of Harry Potter.

Back in the world of Ufology, although no doubt the abduction researchers currently interrogating their percipients for details of their supernatural assaults would be shocked and deny the comparison, nevertheless they do seem to be recapitulating the aims and approach of the medieval witch hunters in their pursuit of technological incubi. The main difference between the two groups of inquisitors is that the medieval and Early Modern witch hunters acted as the agents of a persecuting culture attempting to re-establish threatened societal and religious norms. The abductionists, on the other hand, far from being the agents of the state or established church, perceive themselves as essentially opposed, or at least marginalized, by the establishment, and in the case of ‘Dark Side’ ufology with its mythology of government complicity and alien conspiracies, are on the contrary deliberately acting against its interests to expose it as a manipulative and persecuting order.

As for the abductees themselves, their experiences also recapitulate the experiences of the medieval saints, some of whose torments also seem to have arisen from sleep paralysis. The 1438 English translation of the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, describes such a nocturnal Satanic assault on Saint Edmund. One night the saint fell asleep at his books before he could meditate on the Passion of Christ. As a result, ‘the feende that had gret envy to hym laye so hevye on Seynt Edmond that he had no power to blesse hym with the ryght honde ner with the lyft honde.’ (15) Nevertheless, the saint was able to triumph over the adversary when he finally remembered, by the grace of God, Christ’s passion, at which the Devil ‘fylle downe anone fro hym.’ (16) Furthermore, the saint was able to gain from the Devil information on how best to defend himself from further Satanic assault. This was indeed meditation on the Passion, which granted anyone so occupied immunity from the Devil’s attacks. (17)

It has been stated that the abduction phenomenon has part of its origins in late Twentieth – early Twenty-first century victim culture, and there is also an element of this in the cult of the medieval saints. Apart from the severe asceticism practiced by them, their saintliness was also vindicated by the spiritual and psychological privations they experienced, such as demonic assault. Although such assaults could continue throughout the saint’s life, his sanctity guaranteed that he would be able to fend them off, and even provide comfort and exorcism to those who also suffered. Indeed, his ability to protect himself from such attacks through his personal religious devotion itself vindicated his saintliness, marking him out as one of the elect rather than a demoniac requiring the mystical aid of a true saint.

The abduction culture also stresses its adherents’ status as the valorous victims of supernatural assault, during which they may also receive messages of spiritual import. Moreover, as with the ‘holy anorexia’ and demonic torments of the medieval saints, some researchers into the abduction phenomenon have detected a similar aetiology behind their supernatural persecutions in hysteria and various dissociative disorders, often expressed in trickery, such as those of poltergeists, fraudulent mediums or shamans. In this view, such experiences are symptomatic of a spectrum of hysterical disorders of which Multiple Personality Disorder and Munchausen’s Syndrome are the most extreme. The classic example of the latter in conventional Western religion is probably Benedetta Carlini, a seventeenth century Italian nun who wounded herself in order to fake the stigmata, as well as suffering demonic attack, as well as possession by Jesus Christ and a cherub, Splenditello. (18) There is one difference, however. The abductees are condemned to be perpetual, passive victims of their tormentors, unable to prevent or defend themselves from their assaults, unlike their medieval predecessors, though some writers on abductions have produced their own solutions to this abject state, ranging from the caricature hats in tinfoil, to Greenfield’s suggested magical techniques for warding off their attacks. (19)

Elsewhere, Kevin and Sue McClure have discussed parallels between nineteenth century religious experience and that of contemporary ufology in his analysis of the 1905 Welsh religious revival, Stars and Rumours of Stars, in which stars were seen to accompany the preaching of Mrs. Mary Jones, ‘the Welsh seeress’ in Egryn. It is possible, however, to find episodes in nineteenth century folklore, which also prefigure the ‘interrupted journey’ of the abduction narratives and encounters with sexually alluring, but dangerous, supernatural entities. In nineteenth century Shetland, for example, the fairies, as well as being short, were described as dressing uniformly in dark grey, (20) a feature shared by the machine elves of the contemporary technological psyche. Unlike these later creatures, however, they were somewhat more colourful, with yellow complexions, red eyes, green teeth and natural brown wool mittens. (21) The yellowish complexions also provide a further similarity with some of the early ufonauts, who were often described as having a swarthy or oriental appearance.

Furthermore, in the 1870s two young men, C. and S., from Deerness in Orkney were returning to the farm where they worked one night through a low valley when they met two girls wearing what looked like white night dresses. When they attempted to embrace them, however, the two girls vanished, one appearing to evaporate into thin air, while the other melted into the ground. Another evening, when they were again passing through the same valley, a bright star, or ball of fire, came towards them. As it passed over their heads, they heard a voice coming from it, saying ‘I’m sent.’ This vision was so terrifying that C. collapsed to the ground, and took some time to recover. Thinking about it afterwards, however, the two young men considered it a sign ‘not to associate with certain girls of dubious reputation.’ (22) While the clerics of the Middle Ages would probably conclude that the vision of the two girls in their night attire were succubi, intent on using their sexual allure to ensure the young men’s damnation, it’s also possible to see them as prefiguring the similarly glamorous alien women of the contactee era, such as Aura Rhanes.

Moreover, while the appearance of the flying light is clearly related to the visions of stars documented in the Welsh revival, it is also curiously reminiscent of the UFO visions of the twentieth century, such as the flying light apparently produced by Paul Solem before reporters in Prescott, Arizona, in 1969. Solem had experienced his own extraterrestrial epiphany in 1948 when he heard the mental message, ‘We are from another planet. You will hear from us later’, as three flying discs flew over his head. This initial telepathic contact was succeeded by a later meeting with a ‘Venusian angel.’ Unlike the two Orkneymen, who felt this was a personal message meant only for themselves, Solem believed his experience was of far wider import and began addressing Indian meetings during which he prophesied an approaching Day of Purification, in which the faithful would be taken by the aliens to safety and happiness on other worlds, while those not so fortunate would perish on Earth. (23) The similarities between this, and other revivalist messages of an approaching apocalypse, are not coincidental, both deriving from an essentially religious impulse.

Other contactees whose experiences paralleled that of the two Orkneymen included the Sicilian, Eugenio Siragusa, who heard an inner voice informing him of the ‘mysteries of creation’ after being struck by a brilliant ray of light emitted by a glowing object in 1951. After eleven years of this mental instruction, he was finally motivated in 1962 to drive to Mount Etna to meet two silver clad figures with long blond hair who gave him a message of intergalactic love, fraternity and justice. Significantly, Siragusa received his extraterrestrial revelation while waiting at the bus stop for the morning trip to work. (24) The gender of the extraterrestrials isn’t noted, but it is significant that many of them, whatever their sex, wore their hair long and blond, or had a peculiar feminine appearance, a further parallel to the spectral girls seen by the Orkneymen.

The islanders’ experience here and that of the ‘interrupted journey’ may have their origins in the stresses and psychological states induced by a long, nocturnal journey, those of contemporary Abductees, like the islanders in the tale, taking place at night. The psychological stresses of a long journey through monotonous terrain can produce disorientation and trance-like states in travellers – horizon fatigue – and is recognised as particular hazard affecting visitors to the wilder parts of the Australian outback. Although Orkney isn’t a barren, isolated, dangerous wilderness on a par with the Australian desert, the two Orkneymen were presumably also tired after a long day of hard agricultural work, and so may have been drifting towards a semi-trance-like state where unusual stimuli from their external environment could also generate bizarre imagery from within their own minds. The bright light they observed could have been a meteor, a briefly glimpsed part of the Aurora Borealis, or even an Earthlight, like those of Hessdalen on the other side of the North Sea, or perhaps the distorted light from a distant farm house. Whatever the precise origin, it may well be that this light, distorted by distance and fatigue, acted on the men’s minds to produce a vision of supernatural imagery and import. The phrase ‘I’m sent’ suggests its origin in traditional religious beliefs regarding celestial omens as things literally sent from Heaven, while stars themselves have always been symbols of the mystic and numinous, either directly through astrology or through images of the Star of Bethlehem in the story of the Nativity. Thus, to religious percipients of such celestial prodigies these phenomena may automatically generate numinous feelings and imagery, thus accounting for the mystical, or supernatural content, of their visions.

Despite the parallels with medieval magic and witchcraft, there is one important point where the contemporary abduction phenomenon differs considerably from its predecessors. While some contemporary ufologists and abduction researchers strongly resist the idea that UFOs are anything except concrete, objectively real extraterrestrial spacecraft piloted by corporeal, organic beings, the churchmen of the Middle Ages, on the contrary, considered that some demonic phenomena, at least, were illusory. The Canon Episcopi, for example, considered the belief that women rode out at night with Herodias as heretical, not that such a night flight objectively occurred. Similarly, the fifteenth century Munich occult manuscript contains spells to produce the illusion of a mighty castle, (25) while a twelfth century grimoire from Rheims included instructions for the summoning of an illusory boat or horse to convey the necromancer to whichever destination he desired. (26) It is possible here to speculate on possible connections between the sky ships of Magonia in eighth century France and these illusory vessels, crewed, according to the Munich manual, by spirits that were neither good nor evil, not in Hell or Heaven, (27) though it could simply come from the use of ships as a familiar and ready means of transport.

The medieval theologians formulated their views of the illusory nature of much supernatural phenomena for dogmatic reasons: demons, as God’s creations, could not be seen to usurp the creative power of the Almighty, no matter how powerful they may have appeared. Such theological niceties have left contradictions in the texts. For example, if the ships or horses were illusory, it could be asked how they could be expected to convey someone anywhere. The answer to that may be that the mortal traveller aboard them either suffered further illusions of the journey to his destination, or perhaps really did go there, but during a fugue state brought on by his occult experiments, similar to the dissociative states during which abuctees and other experiencers have travelled far across America during UFO flaps. The description of such vessels in the Munich manuscript does suggest that the necromancer writing it was thinking primarily in terms of a solid vessel, which he then piously tried to reconcile with the church’s doctrine of the illusory nature of demonic artefacts.

Nevertheless, regardless of the theological origins of their opinions, the medieval churchmen may have been substantially correct as to the illusory nature of many witches’ Sabbaths. Gustav Henningsen has discussed the Sicilian fairy cult of the ‘Ladies from Outside’ – Donas de Fueras – as arising from a dissociative state in which its members compensated for the privations of their poverty-stricken lives by imagining they travelled to feast with the Queen of the Fairies, in return gaining the power to heal, without objectively journeying to any such gathering. (28) This follows similar claims by Carlo Ginzburg in his study of the Benandanti in The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Even in the British Isles, some folk stories suggest this. The fifteenth century account of the exorcism of the fairy king Gwyn ap Nudd from Glastonbury Tor by the sixth-century saint Collen, which ends with the saint alone on the hill top, after Gwyn, his court and indeed his entire palace had vanished, suggests a visionary experience not unlike the grimoires’ description of illusory magical castles produced by demons. If the UFO is merely an updated version of these supernatural flying ships, whose appearance has been modified in line to produce a suitable technological image of an advanced vehicle in line with the scientistic culture of the twentieth century, then it is more than reasonable to suppose that, as the medieval churchmen partly recognised, it similarly shares these ships’ illusory nature.

Not all hypnopogic visions are necessarily malign, however. There was one episode, recorded in the nineteenth century by the folklorist, Robert Hunt, in which a frail old lady in Penberth Cove, Cornwall, sadly rendered bedridden, was entertained throughout the day `day by day, and all day long’ by the Small Folk, who ‘were her only company.’ (29) ‘No sooner was the old woman left alone that in they came and began their frolics, dancing over the rafters and the key-beams, swinging by the cobwebs like rope-dancers, catching the mice and riding them in and out through the holes in the thatch. When one party got tired another party came, and by daylight, and even by moonlight, the old bedridden creature never wanted amusement.’ (30) The permanent confinement of the woman to her bed suggests that her visions were experienced, or partly experienced, while she was sleeping or dozing in hypnogogic state. It is possible here to catch a glimpse of a woman in very poor health, living in abject poverty, for whom, like the Donas de Fueras’ visits to their fairy banquets, the visionary games of her elfin companions were a welcome relief and compensation from the immense vicissitudes of a hard life.

It is a marked contrast to some of the other stories in which the fairies are responsible for the theft of goods and children from their mortal neighbours. Possibly the benign nature of the fairies, who came to entertain this poor lady resulted from the percipient’s own good nature. The woman herself is described as ‘a good old creature’ who, despite her privations, nevertheless enjoyed the support of her relations, ‘who dropped in once a day, rendered her the little aid she required, and left food by the bedside.’ (31) Certainly her recorded good nature, and those of the creatures she observed while in a trance state, who came to keep her company, suggest that the content and character of the creatures produced by the subconscious partake or are strongly informed by the character and the mental state of their unconscious creators. Kevin McClure has suggested in the past that if somehow the abduction hysteria, and social and psychological tensions and fears which inform and support it were somehow removed, then it’s possible that the close encounter experience itself would revert to its earlier form in which a traveller, late at night, encountered a spaceman on a lonely road with a message for humanity. The abduction experience is probably too far gone, too deeply entrenched in the contemporary psyche for this, and the matrix of contemporary fears and terrors too extreme for this too occur. Nevertheless, this episode, and others like it from traditional fairy lore do hold out the possibility of a return to a far more benign variety of ufological visionary experience.

It also suggests that Tibetan Buddhist doctrine as expressed in the Bardo Thodol also known in the West as The Book of the Dead (literal translation: Liberation by Hearing in the After-Death Plane) may also be substantially correct in ascribing the demons and monsters encountered after death not to objective spiritual entities, but as projections from the percipient’s own mind: ‘They terrify you beyond words, and yet it is you who have created them. Do not give in to your fright, resist your mental confusion! All this is unreal, and what you see are the contents of your own mind in conflict with itself.’ (32)

Although the state of the percipients in these circumstances differs considerably – those encountering witches, angels and ufonauts being very much alive, rather than dead or dying as in the case of the audience to whom the Bardo Thodol is addressed, nevertheless it suggests that these visions do originate in subconscious dissociative states. In the latter instance it may well have arisen in the further breakdown of neurological functions in the dying brain, as controversially suggested some years ago by Sue Blackmore. For Tibetan Buddhists, this revelation is liberating as seeing through the troubling visions they may face after death and recognising them for what they are offers the opportunity for the deceased to gain paradise: ‘What you see here is but the reflection of the contents of your own mind in the mirror of the Void. If at this point you should manage to understand that, the shock this insight will stun you, your subtle body will disperse into a rainbow, and you will find yourself in paradise among the angels’. (33) In the case of living, secular encounters with the supernatural, such spiritual advise may be of little help, though it does reinforce the suggestion that such visions can be altered or modified to a more benign version by the percipient mastering his or her internal states. Otherwise, it offers the comfort that however disturbing the visions and their attendant horrors are, they are nevertheless illusions, which will pass, leaving the victim to carry on with their life, hopefully unscarred by the incident.

Thus an analysis of the parallels between the contemporary Abduction phenomenon and its predecessors in medieval and Early Modern spirituality and magical beliefs strongly indicates that both share a common origin in internal experiences and hallucinations arising from dissociative or otherwise disturbed mental states. The theologians of these epochs partly recognised this, though their continued belief in objectively real occult forces responsible for these illusions, which were nevertheless capable of real corporeal and spiritual harm, resulted in the deaths of countless thousands accused of such crimes. While the worldview and methodologies adopted by contemporary Christian fundamentalist witch hunters and abduction researchers may differ from their medieval predecessors, nevertheless their activities recapitulate extremely closely the medieval and Early Modern inquisitors’ attempts to root out supernatural evil and their human victims and agents, the ‘women who copulate with the Devil’, in the words of the Anglo-Saxon witchcraft legislation. An awareness of the essentially illusory nature of the experience, and the dangers of emphasizing the power of evil, is a powerful weapon for combating the extremely harmful claims of both types of modem day witchfinders. Such an approach is no doubt disappointing to supporters of the ETH, for whom close encounters are evidence of objectively real encounters with alien entities, though it also suggests that such experiences, by virtue of their internal nature, thus partake of the rich and complex psychology at the heart of shamanic contact with the transcendent other.

***********************

1. See Moore, S., review of Secret Cipher of the Ufonauts, by Greenfield, A.H., Illuminet Press, Lilburn, 1995, in Fortean Times, no. 81, June-July 1995, p. 62.
2. Bord, J. and C., Hide Beyond Planet Earth? Man’s Contacts with Space People, Grafton, London 1991, p. 115.
3. Sterne, J., A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft, William Wisdom, Smithfield, 1648, reprinted University of Exeter, 1973, p. 32. 4. Sterne, op. cit., p. 26.
5. Sterne, op. cit., same page.
6. Edward, G., Hobgoblin and Sweet Puck: Fairy Names and Natures, Geoffrey Bles, London 1974, p. 168.
7. Sterne, op. cit., p.29.
8. Sterne, op. cit., p. 30
9. Sterne, op. cit., same page.
10. Sec Rickard, B., `Watch the Sky-Watchers’, review of Devereux, P., and
Brookesmith, P., UFOs and Ufology, Blandford/Cassell, London 1997, in
Fortean Times, 106, January 1998, p. 55.
11. Rickard, op. cit., p. 5. 12. Rickard, op. cit., p. 59.
13. Victor, J.S., Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend, Open
Court, Chicago and La Salle, 1993, pp. 148-9,
14. Victor, op. cit., p. 149, citing Speltz, A.M., `Treating Adolescent Satanism in
Art Therapy’, The Arts in Psychotherapy 17, Summer 1990, .pp. 147-155.
15. Blake, N.F., Middle English Religious Prose, Edward Arnold, London 1972 p.
168.
16. Blake, op. cit., same page.
17. Blake, op. cit., same page.
18. Schnabel, J., `The Munch Bunch’, in Fortean Times, no. 70, August/
September 1993, pp.23-29.
19. Moore, op.cit., p. 62.
20. Marwick, E. W., The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland, B.T. Batsford, London
1975, p. 42.
21. Marwick, op. cit., same page.
22. Marwick, op. cit., page 98. 23. Bord, op. cit., p. 185. 24. Bord, op. cit., p. 173.
25. Kieckhefer, R., Magic in the Middle Ages, CUP, Cambridge 1989, p.6.
26. Kieckhefer, op. cit., p. 158.
27. Kieckhefer, op. cit., p. 169.
28. Henningsen, G., “The Ladies from Outside’: An Archaic Pattern of the Witches’ Sabbath’, in Ankarloo, B., and Henningsen, G., eds., Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries, OUP, Oxford, 1990, pp. 191218.
29. Hunt, R., The Drolls, Traditions and Superstitions of Old Cornwall (Popular
Romances of the West of England): First Series: Giants, Fairies, Tregagle,
Mermaids, Rocks, Lost Cities, Fire Worship, Demons and Spectres, Llanerch
facsimile reprint of 1881 edition, Felinfach 1993, p. 120. 30. Hunt, op. cit., same page.
31. Hunt, op. cit., same page.
32. Conze, E., Buddhist Scriptures, Penguin, London 1959, p. 229. 33. Conze, op. cit., same page.

 

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