The Devils Dozen.
Gareth J. Medway

 

witches sabbath

This article originally published in Magonia 91, February 2006

In Magonia 88 David Sivier criticised the theory of Stan Gooch, first published in his book Guardians of the Ancient Wisdom in 1979 [1], that Christianity originated with a secret lunar cult, Whilst I agree with most of what he says, I must dispute his explanation of why there are said to be thirteen in a witch coven. Mediaeval religious orders were arranged into groups of thirteen, in imitation of Christ and his twelve disciples: so. Sivier suggests, since witchcraft was supposed to be a blasphemous parody of Christianity, witches would have been imagined to, do the same.

He cites the authority of Elliot Rose’s A Razor for a Goat, though the same idea had previously been stated, as if it. were a proven fact. by Rossell Hope Robbins: “Inasmuch as witchcraft was viewed as an obscene parody of Christianity. and since a common form of monastic organization was (as Chaucer noted) the “convent” of thirteen (in commemoration of Christ and the apostles), the demonologists finally invented a corresponding “convent” or “coven” of thirteen witches .” [2] Robbins does not provide any evidence for this claim, however. Rose’s book makes a number of dubious assertions, such as that: “Thirteen in itself has no great mystic significance for mankind at large: there are those who insist on looking back to a hypothetical race of ancients who counted the year as thirteen Customs of Women instead of the more usual twelve lunations, but this is an aberration of perverse ingenuity unbacked by concrete examples.” [3] Here is one of the pieces of evidence he thinks to be nonexistent:

But how many months be in the year?
There are thirteen I say
[4]

In Europe, belief in witchcraft goes back to prehistory, and is mentioned in some of the earliest law codes. such as the Twelve Tablets of Rome. which date from centuries before the Christian era. The early Church tried to discourage it, and prescribed penances for women who believed that they flew about at night with the Goddess Diana. Charlemagne made it a capital offence to kill someone on the grounds that he or she was a witch, specifying this to be a Pagan custom. [5] Around 1400 they did a sudden aboutturn, the Inquisition started promoting belief in witchcraft, and organised persecutions of their own. Thus began the ‘Burning Times’, which lasted for some three hundred years.

When modern historians began to study the subject, they chose to focus on the Burning Times, which are very well documented, as opposed to the earlier periods, for which there is only limited evidence. Accordingly, writers such as Henry Charles Lea sought the origins of witchcraft beliefs within Christian theology alone. [6] This gave the impression that witchcraft was a purely Christian invention, a view no doubt encouraged by the fact that many of those historians were anticlerical.

Whether these beliefs were actually true need not detain us; Brian Appleyard, in his recent book Aliens: Why They Are Here [7], observes that whether or not there are nuts and bolts UFOs, the aliens are certainly here in the sense that they have become part of our culture, and the same was the case with witchcraft. The point is that to some extent it is possible to separate the prehistoric beliefs from the Christian ones. Obviously, before the time of the Gospels, it cannot have been thought that witches recited the Lord’s Prayer backwards. On the other hand the practice of removing a curse by drawing blood from the woman who laid it did not have any basis, so far as I can discover, in theology, and was no doubt an archaic folk custom.

As to there being thirteen in a coven, though this is routinely stated by modem authors, there are actually only three primary sources that I am aware of, two from British trial records, and one from folklore; I must observe straightaway that none of these is the work of a demonologist, as implied by Robbins. Isobel Gowdie, a Scotswoman who was tried in 1662, confessed: “There are thirteen persons in ilk Coven”. Though I have said it does not matter here if these meetings really occurred, it is evident that Gowdie was delusional, as she stated that the witches would ride on the souls of dead men, and that “All the coven did fly like cats, jackdaws, hares and rooks, etc., but Barbara Ronald, in Brightmanney, and I always rode on a horse, which we would make of a straw or ,a bean-stalk.” [8]

A decade later, a maidservant named Anne Armstrong, of Northumberland, claimed in court that a woman named Anne Forster had come to her at night, put a magic bridle on her which changed her into a horse, and ridden her to a witches’ meeting: she said that there “were five coveys consisting of thirteen person in every covey”. But she also said that they were “every thirteen with a divell, who called every one to account, and those that did most evill he made most of.” [9] The devil was not one of the thirteen, and if he is counted as a member – and after all, he was the leader – then there were fourteen present in each ‘covey’.

Though it is not discussed by any modern author that I have seen, there seems to have been a general belief that a witch could turn a human into a horse and ride it, as the allegation occurred in two other seventeenth century cases [10] and was casually alluded to by Samuel Butler [11]

The Body feels Spur and Switch,
As if ’twere ridden Post by Witch’
twenty miles, an hour pace …

It survives to this day in the term ‘hag-ridden’. It is certainly an ancient belief, as it is not mentioned by the demonologists (some discuss animal metamorphosis, but not riding), yet it occurs in the plot of the Old Norse Eyrbyggja Saga [12]

Since Armstrong had almost certainly never heard of Gowdie, the organisation of witches into covens of thirteen, must also have been a matter of common knowledge. in the same way that everyone nowadays knows what happens when you get abducted by aliens, and it has perhaps indirectly survived in the Scots phrase “the Devil’s dozen”. Yet it is not known to occur in any contemporary published source (the trial records were only printed in the nineteenth century). Indeed, I know of only one printed use of the word ‘coven’ from this period [13] This suggests that it was a piece of popular rather than learned lore.

‘The Witch-ride’, an Icelandic folktale [14], tells how a young man became employed as a servant by a vicar. On Christmas Eve the vicar’s wife suddenly put a bridle on him, and rode him through the air to a little house where she tethered him to the wall. He was able to look inside, and see twelve women being instructed by a mysterious man. It turned out that the women were all vicar’s wives, and the man “the Fiend himself.” A very similar Scottish legend, though does not mention the number of the witches, concerns a blacksmith’s wife who regularly turned an apprentice into a horse by touching him with a wand. [15]

In both stories, the youth was eventually able to slip, the bridle and put it on his mistress, who was later executed. Probably both are of Norse origin, having brought to Scotland and Iceland by Viking settlers. Since covens of thirteen were known in Protestant areas, it is unlikely that they have any connection with the organisation of the Catholic Church.

More likely, we should look to northern European folklore. Though I recognise that analogies can be misleading, a clue to the original identity of the Icelandic ‘Fiend’ may be found in the Dutch miracle play Mary of Nimmeeen, written circa 1500 about a woman who lived with the devil for seven nears. Strangely enough. Mary is the heroine suggesting another story of pre-Christian origins. What confirms this is that it is said that, though the devil changed himself into approximately human form, he had only one eye, because “the dyvell can never turne hym in the lykenes of a man… [16] the real reason, clearly, is that he is actually the one-eyed God Odin, or the Dutch equivalent which I think was Wodan. In pagan times. clearly, a woman who had a god as a lover would have been a heroine. So the devil who taught witchcraft to vicar’s wives may also have been Odin.

In that case, the witches may well have been his companions the Valkyries. who were usually said to have been twelve or thirteen in number, which would make for covens of thirteen or fourteen when the leader was included. As Brian Branston remarked: “… it may be suggestive that Grímnísmal, listing thirteen Valkyries by name should make up the same number as the witches coven. [17] It is a fact that, in early Rnglish, the equivalent term walkyrie was used as a synonym for witch. In 1014 Wufstan, the Archbishop of York delivered a sermon about how the country was overrun with sinners, mentioning that ‘her syndan wiccan and waelcyrian’. i.e. “here are witches. and walkyries”. [18]

Nor was this an isolated example, for the fourteenth century alliterative poem Cleanness says “Wyches and walkyries wonnen to that sale”. i.e. “Witches and walkyries went to that hall”. [19] Perhaps walkyries were also identified with vicar’s wives.

I do not claim to have proved conclusively that covens of thirteen are derived from Odin and the Valkyries, but it seems to me to be at least as plausible as the equally unproven Christian parody view expressed by Robbins, Rose and Siviers. Margaret Murray’s the Witch Cult in Western Europe quoted the Gowdie and Armstrong trials, suggesting that this was the normal method of organisation.

Thereby, the notion of covens, which had completely died out. was revived in the public imagination. Murray’s theory that witchcraft was a survival from Pagan times has been heavily criticised, mainly on the grounds that the Sabbats were not real events, but even if they were not a survival of Pagan practice, they did somehow preserve elements of pagan belief. At the present day witch covens, that certainly have a real existence, regard thirteen as the ideal number, but this does not happen often as it proves too difficult to arrange.

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REFERENCES

1. Stan Gooch, Guardians of the Ancient Wisdom?, Fontana, 1980,(1st Wildwood House, 1979).
2. Rossell Hope Bobbins, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology; Peter Nevill, 1959, p.117.
3. Elliot Rose, A Razor for a Goat, University of Toronto Press. 1989, pp.160.
4. ‘Robin Hood and the Curtail Friar’, The Oxford Book of Ballads, Oxford University Press. 1946. p.600.
5. Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons. Granada, 1976, p.208.
6. Henry Charles Lea, Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft. University of Pennsylvania Press. Philadelphia. 1939, mainly volume 1. He even missed some Christian sources, such as Voragine’s Golden Legend, which was the main inspiration for belief in the pact with the devil.
7. Scribner. London, 2005.
8. Robert Pitcairn. Ancient Criminal Trials In Scotland, Edinburgh, 1833, Vol.111; pp.606, 613.
9. Depositions from the Castle of York relating to offences committed in the Northern Counties in the seventeenth century. Surtees Society. 1861, pp-193, 195. Other supposed examples of covens do not stand up to scrutiny, for example, Janet Howat of Forfar testified in 1661 that at the first meeting she attended there were witches “to the number of 13 of all”; but she went on to say that at her second meeting were “about 20″ – George Kinloch, ReliEurae Antiquiae Scoticae. Edinburgh, 1848, p.124.
10. The second Pendle case of 1633, for which see John Webster, The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, London, 1677, pp347-48, and the trial described in Strange & Terrible Newes from Cambridge, London, 1659. The first of these collapsed after the principle witness admitted to having lied: so probably did the second, for the pamphlet was soon followed by a counterblast. A Lying Wonder Discovered, and The Strange and Terrible News from Cambridge proved false, 1659.
11. Samuel Butler, Hudibras, edited by John Wilders. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1967, First Part, Canto 11, lines 1157-59.
12. Translated by Hermann Palson & Paul Edwards, Southside Publishers, Edinburgh, 1973.
13. An Apology for M Antonio Bourignon, 1699, p.293. Though this was published in London, the author was probably a Scotsman, suggesting that the word was only known in the north of Britain.
14. Ghosts, Witchcraft and the Other World, translated by Alan Boucher, Iceland Review Library, Reykjavik, 1981, pp.20-22.
15. Thomas Davidson, Rowan Tree and Red Thread; Edinburgh, 1949, pp 85-6.
16. Mary of Nimmegen, Harvard University Press. Cambridge. Massachusetts’, 1932, a facsimile of an English chapbook version of the story from about 1518, Sig.A4r. The original play was translated by Harry Morgan Ayres as A Marvelous History of Mary of Nimmegen. Martians Nijhoff, The Hague, 1924. The devil having one eye is mentioned on p.12 of the latter.
17. Brian Branston, Gods of the North, Thames & Hudson, London, 1980, p.191.
18. Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Reader, fifteenth edition. Oxford University Press, 1979, p.91.
19. Line 1577, in Pearl. Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, edited by A. C. Cawley & J J. Anderson. Everyman’s Library. 1983.

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Satanism and Class Conflict
David Sivier

magonia-66From Magonia 66, March 1999

One of the aspects of the Satanism scare that is least commented on is the part class antagonism and stereotypes seem to play in the construction of the archetypal Satanist. Although the victims of the modern Satanism scare, like their predecessors in the European witch craze, may come from any social class and part of society, the stereotypical Satanist according to rumour legends and the professionals and clergy engaged in hunting them belong to two extremes of – the social spectrum.

They are young people from working class families, drawn into the occult either through such Satanic influences as Hard and Gothic rock music, or else they are wealthy businessmen. It was in Magonia 51, that Roger Sandell (‘Still Seeking Satan’) noted that the therapists seeking out the Satanic abusers had declared that most cases of ritual abuse came from families on council estates, especially those in which children are “shouted at rather than talked to”. At the opposite social pole are wealthy businessmen, using their power and influence to corrupt society and preserve their immunity from prosecution for their crimes.

proctor-gambleThe quintessential example of this latter Satanic group is the American company, Proctor and Gamble, whose logo of the Man in the Moon surrounded by 13 stars was popularly considered to indicate the company’s Luciferian inclinations. If looked at carefully, the number of the Beast in Revelations, 666, could allegedly be found in the curls of the old man’s hair, while the 13 stars obviously represented the number of members in a black coven. Proctor and Gamble naturally vigorously deny any such allegations. Their logo evolved over a number of years and with differing numbers of stars since the company’s founding over a hundred years ago. The 13 stars actually represent, according to their public relations staff, the 13 founding colonies of the USA. Nevertheless, they have been forced to redesign it to remove any possible Satanic symbolism, which largely meant straightening out the Old Man’s hair so that the offending numeral can no longer be seen. Despite this, the rumour is remarkably persistent amongst Christians of all denominations and geographical areas, and the company has resorted to a policy of vigorous prosecution in order to restore its tarnished image.

Beyond this are rumours of organised Satanic groups such as ‘Scorpio’, long the target of parliamentarians such as the late Geoffrey Dickens, who allegedly abduct and kill young children as part of Satanic orgies. I have even heard stories from those with connection to the Class War anarchist group that Anarchist subversives have saved several children from death by decapitation at the hands of such groups. These gangs, allegedly, killed their victims in such a way as to make demons speak through the children’s violated bodies. I have to say that beyond this rumour I have neither seen nor heard anything to corroborate the story. It seems significant, however, that this myth of Satanic covens of businessmen is believed passionately both by Conservatives such as Dickens, and anarchist radicals.

The immediate justification for such suspicion and rumours among Christian groups is rooted strongly in the Bible. A certain antipathy towards the state and the wealthy and powerful has always formed a strong component of Christianity. Christ may have admired the faith of the centurion whose servant he cured, (1) and declared “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, give to God what is God’s”, (2) and St Paul urged good Christians to obey the authorities, (3) yet the central message of the Gospels was aimed strongly at the poor and oppressed. Parables such as the story of the rich man and Lazarus (4) and Christ’s meeting with the rich young ruler (5) exalt the humble against the wealthy, a position made clear in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you who are poor” (6) and “But woe to you who are rich”. (7) This identification of Christianity with the poor was explicit in the names and attitudes of a number of Christian sects, such as the Ebionites, who took their name from the Hebrew word meaning “poor”, and the Waldensians, who, when they emerged in the 12th century, were called the Poor Men of Lyons after their town of origin.

Such attitudes have played a large part in popular rebellions against unjust rulers from the time of the Circumcellions’ revolt against Rome in fourth-century Africa onwards. It’s also played a very large part in socialist movements since the Digger communities of the Interregnum. Against this is the identification in the Bible of Satan as the lord of this world. Thus, those who are most closely connected with worldly affairs, such as business, risk guilt by association with its master.

This populist attitude is not limited to Christianity, however.  A common African proverb, often seen displayed on lorries, is “no king as God”. (8) Some Islamic sects, such as the Druze, believe that they are condemned to poverty and suffering until the wrath of God overturns the present order and makes their former oppressors their slaves, an attitude that permeates much of the millenarism in modern radical Islamic movements. More recently, some members of new religious movements such as the Wiccans have constructed a mythology of the ‘burning times’ by which they represent an indigenous folk religion oppressed by the wealthy Christian elite. The best example of this attitude is in Leland’s Aradia, the gospel of the witches. In this Aradia, Diana’s daughter by Lucifer, is sent by her mother to bring her rites and gospel to the escaped slaves of the rich, who are explicitly identified with the Christian nobility and clergy. This seems to borrow much from popular Albigensiansim, especially as in its later heretical forms such as Luciferianism in which the Devil was explicitly worshipped in the hope that those participating in the rites would also take part in his kingdom when he was restored to power.

Sects are primarily protest movements, and these early heresies with their stress on poverty and abstinence represented a popular protest by the poor peasantry and burgers against the worldliness of the medieval church. This aside, modern witches take great pains to dissociate themselves from Satanists, viewing themselves as survivals of a pre-Christian native religion distinct from Christianity, rather than a competing Christian heresy. Modern pagans, according to the Occult Census collected by Christopher Bray and his staff at the occult shop, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, are predominantly young, between twenty and thirty-nine years old, whose political alignments tended to be towards the Green and Liberal Democrat parties. Most were comfortably off. Only 10% were unemployed. (9) They are thus very far from the historical stereotype of the witch as a poor, lonely old woman.

It is, however, problematic as to the extent the European witch movements represented popular peasant religious traditions and how far they were creations of the witch founders’ own fantasies. Practically the only cases where the evidence is unambiguous are the case of La Voisin, who celebrated black masses for one of Louis IV’s mistresses in 1680, and the aristocratic occultism of the fin de siecle Decadence. Decadence, and the related Symbolist movement, were largely snobbish aristocratic cults, which, following the theories of Paul Bourget, saw literary genius as a type of madness. This madness was the result of the gradual enervation of the aristocracy through in-breeding as the civilisation they founded moved towards its inevitable decline.

This pessimistic view of society, taken from Montesquieu’s essay on the fall of Rome, Considerations sur les Causes de la Grandeur des Romains et de leur Decadence, encouraged those convinced of their civilisation’s decline to adopt a cynical, hedonistic lifestyle in which every fevered and forbidden pleasure was to be indulged. Decadent literature, beginning with Les Fleurs du Mal, exalted the joys of drugs, sexual perversion, luxury and artifice. Many of its members also experimented with Satanism. Baudelaire wrote his Litany to Satan, Felicien Rops produced his etchings Les Sataniques, and the great theorist of Decadence, Joris-Karel Huysmans, explored its aristocratic underworld in La Bas (the Lower Depths).

huysmans

The great theorist of Decadence, Joris-Karel Huysmans,

Huysmans himself had been a follower of the Abbe Boullan, a perverted priest widely believed to be a Satanist. This Satanic strain in literature even reached pre-Revolutionary Russia, where some of its greatest exponents included the poets Zinaida Hippius and Fyodor Sologub. There it probably performed the same service that the novels of De Sade and other works of dire pornography had done in France on the eve of their Revolution in promoting the image of the bloated, corrupt aristocrat.

The social elevation of the Satanist from impoverished crone to wealthy aristocrat parallels the same treatment of the vampire. Before Polidori’s novel The Vampyre of 1816, the vampire was conceived generally as the corpse of a peasant called back from death to prey on his former neighbours. After Polidori, the vampire became, at least in literature, an aristocrat. This social elevation was no doubt intended to appeal to the aristocratic milieu which read and wrote such fiction. Polidori, remember, wrote the novel as his entry in the competition between himself, Byron and Mary Shelley which produced Frankenstein. Byron himself was a member of the aristocracy, and Polidori’s vampire may well have taken on the aristocratic origin of this “great, bad man”.

It has also been suggested that the vampire may also be a symbolic treatment of contemporary social conditions. As an aristocrat, he literally and metaphorically sucks the blood of his victims. Gothic literature was a favourite of the French Decadents, so its image of the supernaturally depraved aristocrat may well have influenced their own inclinations towards such pleasures. Regardless of their precise literary origins, these images are remarkably persistent. They inform such characters as the debauched Jarvis of Newman and Baddiel comedy fame, while those from a privileged background are still suspected of having indulged homosexual impulses, at least at public school. This latter is the result of descriptions of public school bullying and homosexuality in books as diverse as Tom Brown’s Schooldays and Brideshead Revisited, spiced up with scandals reported in newspapers such as the News of the World. From sexually debauched aristocrat it is only a short step to the image of a Satanically depraved aristo, especially as this century has seen a gradual decline in traditional religious observance and a resurgence of heterodox beliefs including occultism.

Although many Christians were active in the early socialist movements, socialism, at least in the early 19th century, contained a powerful secularist, anti-Christian component. Robert Owen was a spiritualist, and many of his political disciples also adopted his religious beliefs. Thomas Spence, another Utopian theorist, had moved from Christianity to deism, while the Communists, even before Marx, had a militantly atheist weltanschauung. British Socialism never achieved the status of continental Social Democracy, which between the 1890s and the 1930s formed an alternative society (10) in Germany and Austria, but did tend “to become a complete way of life, which largely superseded the churches in their social role”. (11) The political inclinations of the urban working class can, however, be overstated. Socialism was always a minority creed in the 19th century, and the long reign of Mrs Thatcher, among others, has shown that a large number, even the majority, of the working class voted Conservative.

There is a distinct social break between town and country which has informed many rightwing movements this century. The Nazis’ earliest electoral victory was in the rural area of Schleswig-Holstein where they represented the grievances of the farming community hit by the agricultural crisis of the 1920s. To them, the Nazis presented the image of upright German peasants bringing healthy village values to socialist Babylons such as Berlin. In Italy Fascism had earlier gained massive support in primarily agricultural areas such as Ferrara for similar reasons. Although it would be wrong to equate Evangelicalism and Christian Fundamentalism with Fascism, they do have certain traits in common. In the Satanism scare, both represent beleaguered social groups seeking simple, emotional solutions to complex problems, and fear and hostility towards organised labour has become a marked feature of American Evangelicalism and forms a strong component of their political beliefs.

Any discussion of the Satanism scare has to include the American dimension. Evangelicals are far more likely to view Satan as a concrete, tangible being, in contrast to more mainstream Christians who may regard Auld Clootie as an impersonal force or a metaphor for evil acts and impulses at the personal level. Much Evangelical literature and ideology is American in origin, exported through tapes and the comics produced by the notorious Chick Publications, amongst others. Here, the class nature of much of the Evangelicals’ world view is quite clear. There’s a marked hostility to big business, especially the global financial capital as personified by the Rothschilds, while working-class movements such as trade unions, socialism, communism and anarchism are also denounced as part of Satan’s dominion.

Although these attitudes are more commonly associated with the Protestant white supremacist component in the militia movement, politically Evangelicalism is markedly conservative. The heartland of American Evangelicalism is, of course, in the Deep South, and it was primarily a creed of poor whites. Before the 1970s, 43.7% of Evangelicals lived in towns with fewer than 2,500 inhabitants, (12) and in 1978, 25.3% of them earned less than $4,000 a year. (13) This agrarian background strongly influences their political conceptions. Most still seem to see the world in essentially 17th-century terms. The ideal communities are those like their own, small towns run by paternalistic industrialists or self-reliant farmers which feel threatened by big business on the one hand and organised labour on the other. Many of the sects originally settled in America to escape persecution in Europe, and the poverty of their members would ensure that they absorbed the Biblical hostility to the wealthy and powerful without necessarily turning towards secular ideologies such as socialism. This base in America’s agrarian heartland may also contribute a deep-seated suspicion of urban politics which may, in its turn, account for the conception of Satanism as especially prevalent amongst the urban poor.

Despite the occult trappings of the Satanism scare, it is poverty, especially urban poverty, that forms the motor for the panic. Roger Sandell’s article mentioned above noted the similarity between the modern witch hunters’ attitudes to the urban poor and that of the Victorian missionaries to their slums. The continuity of such ideas reflects both concerns with urban decay and the similarity of housing policies in Britain and America, as opposed to continental Europe. The post-war response to the housing crisis in Britai and America has been to build estates of reasonably well provided suburbs while leaving the inner cities to decay. Continental countries, however, conceived the suburbs in terms of solely providing housing, concentrating amenities and industry in the centre of towns. Thus, discussions of urban poverty in Britain almost invariably centre around inner-city decline, in contrast to the Continent, where it is the banlieu which are the deprived areas.

This similarity, however superficial, between Britain and America could partially explain why the Satanism scare, although certainly not unknown on the Continent, has translated most easily into the British context. In these terms, the Satanic panic represents a confrontation between traditional, agrarian values and those of the modern, secular, urban environment.

The Satanism scare gained prominence in the early 1980s after the publication of the book Michelle Remembers and a gestation period in the 1970s when, as all good Magonians will recall, Satanists and other occult groups were held responsible for the cattle mutilations plaguing the Midwest. It is not coincidental that these panics began when the West was entering a period of economic crisis which result in political and economic retrenchment. Most of those holding traditional moral views in America come from the same background as the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, the membership of both groups overlapping to a large extent.

They are generally people from the small towns and bluecollar areas of the big cities, frequently poorly educated, and “at greatest risk of losing their jobs due to economic dislocation”. (14) These people feel powerless against a political order dominated by the wealthy and powerful. These feelings of alienation have been growing steadily since the 1960s. In 1986, 60 per cent of Americans expressed feelings of powerlessness in contrast to only 29 per cent in 1966. (15) Periods of economic stagnation produce a powerful need among people to find a scapegoat for their problems.

Racism is a typical example of this need. It has, for example, been noted that the areas of America which have a higher incidence of racist behaviour are those where there is a great disparity of income amongst the white population. In the parts of the country where there is less difference in income, racist incidents are far less frequent. (16)

And the gap between rich and poor in America and Europe is increasing. Faced with economic and military challenges from outside, the West is once again turning in on itself seeking scapegoats for its decline. The political and economic elites against whom so much animosity is focused are especially suitable for this role as their ethical values are frequently at variance with those of the majority of the working class, especially over issues such as abortion, sexual permissiveness and homosexuality. The Financial Times noted some time ago that large sections of the American population had still not caught up with the sixties. In Britain newspapers like the Daily Mail regularly attack the “liberal establishment” for promoting, among other things, homosexuality and the decline of family values.

The result is that there is a general, widespread belief in the moral decline of society. According to Gallup polls, the percentage of Americans expressing dissatisfaction with current standards of behaviour in 1987 was 71 per cent, a massive jump from the 58 per cent who held the same views in 1963. (17) Economic hardship can produce marital strife and family breakdown, but the Evangelicals’ belief in the innate virtue of the free market and that morals are purely a matter of private responsibility divorced from social or economic influences prevents them from taking a pragmatic approach to these problems based on state intervention. A scapegoat in the form of a Satanic other becomes a necessity as they are unable to countenance any failing in free-market economics as a system.

By and large, the Evangelicals still preach a prosperity gospel which would have been familiar to the Victorian missionaries, in which economic wellbeing follows as a result of God’s favour to His followers. If this does not occur, then it can only be that the worshipper is either being punished for his sins, an explanation some Evangelicals found for the Great Depression, or that there are Satanic enemies working against them. In the cultural sphere, this increased distrust of big business is particularly clear.

The square jawed heroes firm in body and values played by Cary Grant and James Stewart were honest businessmen. Now those days are gone, and businessmen are now frequently the villains, such as the corrupt executives of OCP in RoboCop, and the Company in Alien. In Dracula (1972) they’re explicitly Satanic. This memorable little flick from the Hammer stable had Dracula himself as the leader of a multinational corporation leading a Satanic cabal of businessmen dedicated to the extermination of humanity. If ever there was an explicit metaphor for contemporary attitudes, it was that. The rumours surrounding many big companies appeared after that little epic, however.

The rumours by and large began as a response to concrete concerns about the influence of various new religious movements which first emerged in the sixties. The rumour about Proctor and Gamble first emerged in the mid eighties, with the difference that the cult running the company was supposed to be the Unification Church (‘Moonies’), which had a more obvious logic considering the company’s logo is a Man in the Moon. This then evolved into the far more powerful and persistent version which dogs the company today. Other rumours about companies include the belief that Marlboro cigarettes are involved in the Ku Klux Klan, and that McDonalds’ supports the IRA. The IRA does indeed turn up in the deductions on their American staff’s payslips, but it’s a pension scheme called Individual Retirement Account rather than any Irish terrorist group.

These rumours are expressions of distrust of big business, but the link to secular organisations has allowed them to escape accusations of Satanism, while, of course, being part of the climate which makes such accusations plausible.

It was the 1980s which saw a number of financial scandals tarnish the reputation of American big business. These included the Savings and Loans scandals under the Reagan administrafion, and the deregulation of the banking system which led to many farmers in the mid-West facing bankruptcy. These events are paralleled in Britain by the numerous “fat cat” managers attacked in the press, who have awarded themselves colossal pay rises after closing down factories and sacking many of their work force.

The Satanism scare’s historical precedents in medieval anti-Semitism and 19th-century panics about Freemasonry are particularly significant. The Jews in medieval Europe formed an urban, mercantile class amongst primarily agricultural societies. Hatred of the Jews was present throughout the Middle Ages, but became particularly vehement during periods of economic and social crisis, such as the Black Death when they were accused of poisoning the wells. As the magnates’ consumption exceeded their income from taxation, many became indebted to Jewish moneylenders. In the 16th and 17th centuries the schuetzjuden, or protected Jews, were a feature of many German noble courts. The image of the Jews as a demonic force corrupting Christendom through its control of financial capital became a strong one.

This prejudice swiftly became passed to the Freemasons after the French Revolution. The first publications to point a finger at them were the Abbe Barruel’s Memoirs of the History of Jacobinism and Proofs of a Conspiracy, published at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th respectively. Freemasonry was an obvious suspect as the secrecy of its meetings meant that it became the conduit for dangerously subversive ideas, such as democracy and freedom of conscience. The alleged subversive nature of Freemasonry was given a verisimilitude with the attempts by Adam Weishaupt’s Illuminati to infiltrate them in the late 18th century. Although this conspiracy was stamped out, suspicions of its survival continue, largely as a result of it being used as a term of abuse by some of the American Founding Fathers for their political opponents.

webster.jpg

Nesta Webster declared that the Freemasons were the true successors to the Jewish threat as at their core were the mystic secrets of the Jewish cabbalah and the Jewish programme to destroy the Christian, aristocratic order and replace it with bourgeois, atheistic democracy.

To Nesta Webster, a novelist who contributed much to British and American Fascist ideology, the relationships between Judaism, Freemasonry and the French and Russian Revolutions were obvious. Partly drawing on information given to her by the Duc d’Orleans (despite him being dead for over a hundred years) she declared that the Freemasons were the true successors to the Jewish threat as at their core were the mystic secrets of the Jewish cabbalah and the Jewish programme to destroy the Christian, aristocratic order and replace it with bourgeois, atheistic democracy.

Although it’s easy to dismiss such fears as nonsense, they are remarkably persistent. The past decade has seen a resurgence of fears surrounding Freemasonry, beginning with the murder of Roberto Calvi and the publication of books such as Inside the Brotherhood. There have even been claims that Masons are secretly Satanists, the god they worship being allegedly YahBulOn, a mixture of the Hebrew Yahweh, the Egyptian god On, and the Semitic Baal, the origin of the Beelzebub of the Bible. Initiation into the upper levels of Freemasonry is supposed to involve the ritual inversion and breaking of a cross as in admission to a Satanist coven. Freemasonry is thus popularly perceived as a Satanic cult.

From that point on, it is only a short step to the gangs of Satanic businessmen conjured up by the Satan hunters. More justified concerns over undue influence of the Freemasons in the business community, judiciary and police force are still very much part of contemporary British politics and are the subject of parliamentary enquiry before which several prominent Freemasons have appeared. Finally, in the extreme theorising of the American Right, both financial capital and labour movements are linked in a Satanic conspiracy. Noting the Rothschilds were important backers of the United Nations, and that many big industrialists, such as Armand Hammer, have shown some sympathy for left-wing causes, it’s now argued, following Hitler, that the Rothschilds are using labour movements to create the one world state, under Satan’s direction, of course. Other permutations of this tale involve the Vatican, but the story is, lamentably, much the same.

Regardless of this, it appears that the main forces driving the Satanism scare are economic pressures as they affect an impoverished, rural mittelstand which, in the absence of an appropriate secular ideology, uses the Bible to articulate its intense discontent. This explains its hostility to both organised labour movements and suspicion of extreme wealth, the images of which are appropriated ultimately from both the French Decadence and propaganda material from the French Revolution.

This scare has become plausible owing to recent government scandals, such as Watergate, economic decline due to globalisation of capital and the clandestine activities of fringe religious organisations. Other groups have been able to seize on aspects of it as American and Western culture breaks down into a collection of competing social and ideological communities motivated by the ‘culture of complaint’. Secular feminists, for example, may reject the religious aspect of the Satanism scare, but be convinced by the tales of paedophilia and rape through the concern with male violence against women and children.

These economic and social pressures, extend far outside the milieu of American Evangelism. The rock and occult groups, by no means synonymous, have also felt them. Much of the panic revolves around youths corrupted by ‘Devil’ rock, by which is meant Black Metal and Gothic Rock, which is permeated with demonic and vampiric imagery. This is a curious parallel to their own movements, a sort of Jungian shadow of American Evangelism. It’s been noted that as a symbol of hostility to authority, “it is during the periods of greatest social flux that the vampire – especially the woman vampire – seems to thrive”. (18) The problem is to channel this discontent into more constructive ideologies.

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References

  1. Matthew, 8:10
  2. Matthew, 22:21
  3. Romans, 13:1-8
  4. Luke, 16:19-31
  5. Matthew, 18:18-30
  6. Luke, 6:20
  7. Luke, 6:24
  8. Parrinder, G. African Mythology, Hamlyn, 1967, 35
  9. Hough, P. Witchcraft: A Strange Conflict, Lutterworth, 1991, 191
  10. McLeod, H. Religion and the Working Class in Nineteenth Century Britain, MacMillan, 1984, 56
  11. Ibid.
  12. Kepel, G. The Revenge of God, Polity Press, 1994, 123
  13. Ibid.
  14. Victor, J.S. Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend, Open Court, 1993, 193
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid., 199
  17. Ibid., 187
  18. Serif, C. The Vampire in 19th Century Literature, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988, 151, cited in Smith, P. (ed.) Contemporary Legend, Vol. 3, Hisarlik Press, 1993, 151

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Delusions.
Manfred Cassirer

From Magonia 36, May 1990.

‘Delusion’, says the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is a process that entails elements of ‘imposing or being imposed on’; a ‘false impression’ or an unfounded ‘opinion’ There is a distinct feeling of malaise.

So what about `illusions’, with which they are often confounded? These are supposed to have an underlyingg physical stimulus, though the dictionary suggests that here also `deception’of some kind, if not the very same delusive process, may be at work. At the very least illusions trigger off a false belief regarding the nature of the object perceived.

Ecstatics and mystics, who are are prone to such alleged deviations from sanity have not always been good news for the Church. The more spectasuilar antics of saints who insisted on disruptive activities like flying about during Divine service were frowned upon rather than encouraged by their superiors: the whole whole business was more embarrassing than edifying.

A crucial aspect of the scenario was one of doubt, since there was a strong suspicion in the minds of theologians of diabolic involvement. Well might the enlightened Renaissance Jesuit von Spee wonder how the poor judge was expected to “distinguish between the vision and reality”. At a psychological level, scholars were aware that one could easiy be tricked by hysterics and mountebanks. Joseph of Copertina (whom we have previously discussed (Magonia 28, January 1988) was as above suspicion as was, proverbially, Caesar’s wife. As an accredited candidate for canonisation he could be excused for floating about the choir (even if looked on askance by the vergers), whereas Magdalena Crucia of Cordova rising above her station – in an as too literal sense – narrowly escaped the stake [1]

Mental balance is not inconsistent with occasional misperceptions among otherwise healthy people; in extreme cases they may turn out to be as weird and unrealistic as green angels or cats of the same colour, and phantasmal sights can be triggered off by obscure processes. They am usually the visionary’s `private property’, but some (e.g. at Fatima) are shared. The exclusiverxss of UFO abductions is familiar ground. Historically witches felt threatened by demonic apparitions to which third parties (like their judges) were insensible. Remy did not consider this a good reason for disbelief since they would still ccomplain of demonic affliction when on the point of being burnt. [2] But Remy denied that they could raise the dead, who only appeared to be alive. [3]

Int post-mediaeval England and America ‘spectral evidence’ was the judicial linch-pin in trials for sorcery. It was twofold either evidence that the accused had actually been seen at the striacium or ‘witches Sabbath; or evidence of someone having
appeared in spectral form to do harm, usually in the guise of an animal-shaped imp. If in human likeness it recalls the ‘phantasms of the living’ of psychical research, but with the additional element of malice aforethought – an example of premeditated crime rare in modern accounts.

Entranced and possessed, the victim might show surprising paranormal powers. Uncorroborated accussations, however ludicrous, were taken seriously with dire consequences. But conscientious judges were uneasy about contradictory testimony that the supposed culprit had been seen at the striacium while asleep at home! It was conflicting evidence of this kind that gave rise to misgivings on the part of the judiciary.

To fuel the confusion it was feared that the untiring Agent of all that dismays and misleads honest men and women could with his limitless cunning fabricate a ‘sulphurous’ impersonation by the temporary creation of a convincing lay-figure defying detection. At the most primitive level of deception that notorious servant of the Lower Region, the canny Isobel Gowrie, put a broom into her conjugal bed to take her place whilst she was absent elsewhere! Such infantile tricks delighted the simple, but evoked derision in more sophisticated quarters. Among the religious, “Theresa Higginson was persuaded that her
outward form was assumed not only by her guardian angel but on several occasions by the devil.” [4}

Increase Mother would have it that 'The devil makeswitches to dream strange dreams of themselves and others". This is not a far cry from Lewis Caroll's Red Queen. nor indeed (shorn of its mythological trappings) from Schrenck-Notzing's 'exteriorised dreams' by which his physical mediums brought into temporary existence phantom figures more or less tangible.

On the debit side it was argued that the whole sorry business be dismissed with costs as a delusion and confabulation. Thus the good and humane Bishop Hutchinson complained of folk being tricked by an 'internal image' devoid of objective existence: a theory to please Tyrell, the great champion of the nonphysicality of apparitions, had he ever delved into the murky waters of witchcraft.

One salient point at issues was as usual a theological one: whether the Almighty would permit the guiltless to be 'framed'; and much of the incident discussion is pertinent to the quest for the physical component of phantom figures, whether manifesting as spontaneous phenomena - in which case the data do not favour it - or of the embodied entities of yesterday's seance-room for materialisation, where the evidence pouts in that drectian.[5] An Elizabethan narrative illustrates some of the problems of our main theme.

Since there had been a series of crimes in a certain house defying explanation, a night-vigil was kept. In the early hours of the morning a ‘revered matron’, the ‘most noble lady of the town’ was prevented in the nick of time from murdering a cradled infant. There was no question of mistaken identity. In view of her status this could clearly be none other than a case of impersonation: a diabolic trick to implicate an innocent party, [6]

Anglo-Saxon victims of witchcraft seem anyway to have quite a flair for identifying phantasmagorical simuacra during hysterical seizures, and in naming their physical counterparts even when blindfolded. Yhey knew ‘all about’ their supposed tormentors, but Hutchinson questioned the legality of such evidence, which he dismissed as the ‘fantastic notions’ and ‘sickly visitations’ of ‘crack-brained girls who left the lives of innocent men naked without defence.’

Notwithstanding the steady decline of belief in demonology in the course of the eighteenth century, [7] there were even half-way old-fashioned scientists like Jean Pontes who “could not wholly cast aside the authority of the past.”(8) In as far as hallucinations and delusions were acknowledged, they were considered to be supernaturally induced rather than as natural states of temporary psychological aberration.

witch-toads

Bridget Bishop, a malicious and terrifying crone who practised the Black Arts

The Restoration scholar and writer Joseph Glanvill still clung to a false dichotomy of ‘ghosts’ as either the shades of the dead (i.e. revenants) or the ‘deceits of a ludicrous demon’, and some of the statements to the courts cannot fail to raise a wry smile at the expense of the simp’white and black rope’ – no laughing matter as far as the inhabitant of that cottage was concerned. [9] Stil, there is always the curious episode relating to that archetypal witch Bridget Bishop, a malicious and terrifying crone who practised the Black Arts. Richard Coman testified that she, together with another, had invaded his bedchamber. Coman was in bed with his wife and, since a light was burning, presumably still awake. These two uninvited and uninviting spectres made themselves available for a repeat performance the next night when, as in the case of an ordinary haunting the poor man was almost thrown out of bed.

A relative of his then joined the fun to observe at first hand. Not, it is true, without some verbal suggestion the newcomer was strangely affected and suffered a spell of aphasia. The fact that the experience was shared (there was still another witness) reinforces the validity of the observations, such visitations being then invariably attributed to sinister causes. [10]

The phenomenal aspects of this account are worth considering. Except in haunted houses or places, apparitions are usually seen once only, and to be favoured with the sight of more than one phantom at any tine is rare outside the UFO-related encounter. The SPR Census of Hallucinations of 1894 concludes that where there are two or more persons present, about one third share the experience – with the surprising proviso that the vision is most probably an illusion inspired by a ‘real’ object. [11]

The immediate stimulus may be, it was thought, either mental suggestion or verbal suggstion. The investigators favoured mental suggestion on the grounds that there is experimental evidence for telepathically produced hallucinations.

In a recent study by Green and McCreery, apparitions show occasional divergence with regard to the ‘object’ in view. This also, as we shall presently see, happened in the case of Joseph Bailey and his wife, whose psychic experiences, characteristically contaminated with demonic features, are nonetheless instructive. On their way to Boston, Mass., the couple approached the residence of one John Procter, then in prison on a charge of witchcraft, when Bailey catches sight of the said Procter (or his double?) looking out of the window and Mrs Procter standing in the doorway. However, all Mrs Bailey sees is “a little maid at the door”. Still en route the husband comes across an unidentified female, again invisible to his spouse.

Hansen rightly insists on the quality of the evidence, apparently given in all good faith, with due attention to detail and without glossing over discrepancies. Were it not for the hallucinated(?) figure of the girl seen by Mrs Bailey her husband’s adventure in the paranormal could be attributed to a morbid condition, of which there is some indication in the narrative. Of course his faailure to see the girl (if physically present) might be due to an altered perception. The spectral woman who approaches him later turns into a cow; a transmogrification that agrees with seventeenth century – but much less with present day – belief structures. Even so, similar things are alleged to happen closer to our own timess in an SPR account. Mr John Barrett is amazed by a sheep-like creature evaporating before his very eyes in bright sunlight. Elsewhere one hears of a calf with glowing eyes that simply fades away like an old soldier, and of a canine looking beast turning into a black donkey. [12]

 In 1853 a most unorthodox white rabbit was seen in the West Country. Given an unkind kick it prudently dematerialised at the double, but “the old woman who was suspected was laid up in bed for three days afterwards unable to walk about.” [13]

The African explorer Harry B. Wright was fairly sure that he had witnessed lycanthropy. [14] Earlier Mirandola had defied popular opinion by disbelieving in something so patently absurd, just as Remy was to disown expressions of mythomania like metamorphosis of man into wolf (Wright’s had involved leopards). But whereas Mirandola envisaged “deceits of the devil”, Remy explicitly denounced hellish “sensory delusion and glamour”, liable to “disrupt human perception” to the point at which men were sure that they had actually seen and heard what was purely imaginary.

In the notorious Malleus Malificarum the authors denounce the ‘heresy’ that “the imagination of some men is so vivid that they actually see figures and appearances which are but the reflection of their thoughts, and then they are believed to be appartitions of evil spirits or even spectres of witches.” Experience shows that visions of this kind are spontaneously generated and scholars like Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82)) realized that those most eager to sea them are by and large the least likely to do so [15] just as the misguided simpleton who tries to attract Satan’s attention is almost bound to be unsuccessful. On the other hand, the Fiend has an unpleasant habit of forcing himself on the good and saintly by inducing horrid shapes and nightmares on their virginal field of vision. [16]

Squire Mompeson can be quoted as an example. A man of upright character he became the innocent victim of an exasperatingly tedious geist who played ‘unlucky tricks’ on him and his family. [17] Doors opened of their own accord “with a noise as if half a dozen had come in and pressed who should come in first, and walk about the house.” This insubstantial cavalcade, imperceptible to sight, one might be inclined to dismiss as an auditory aberration foisted by a persistent syndrome of paranormal impressions, were it not that at another time the same household was afflicted by a regular invasion of half-seen phantoms consisting of “a great Body with two glaring Eyes, which for some time were flared (upon a servant) and at last disappeared”, evidently to everyone’s considerable relief.

If this is considered too weird, then what are we to make of Cotton Mother’s spectral jig one Christmas Day? A patient of his, Mercy Short, is said to have been taken unawares by a company or troop of spirits who “said that they were going to have a dance, and immediately those who were attending her most plainly heard and felt a dance as of bare-foot people upon the floor, whereof they are ready to make oath before any lawful authority.” [18]

It is clear from Mather’s additional note that he is not just telling a tall story. In fact there is a close parallel from modern times. [19] Together with similar strange but well-attested material it suggests a diminishing line of demarcation between delusioms and hallucinations on the one hand and a more objective and tangible mystery on the other. This borderline element, hard to embrace even within the semi-miraculous realm of the paranormal, is one which, in my opinion it would be arbitrary to reject out of hand.

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References:

1. Lea, H. C. History of Witchcraft. Yoseloff, New York, 1957, p.563.
2. Ibid., p.263
3. Ibid., p.610
4. Thurston, H. Surprising Mystics, Burns Oates, 1951, p.179
5. Cassirer, Manfred. The Evidence for Materialisation. (unpub. MS), 1983
6. Kittredge, G. L. Witchcraft in Old and New England, Harvard 1928, p.223. This could be accounted for in terms of dual personality, if this unsubstatiated and uncorroborated tale is to be credited.
7. Scarre, G. Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Europe, Macmillan, 1987, pp.54ff.
8. Lea, H. op. cit., p.1376
9. Gurney, E. Phantasms of the Living. Truebner, 1886, p.174
10. Baine, R. M. Daniel Defoe and the Supernatural. University of Georgia, 1968, p.88
11. Proceedings of the SPR, Vol. X.
12. Moss, P. Ghosts Over Britain. Elm Tree Books, 1977, p.160.
13. Davis, R. T. Four Centuries of Witchcraft. Methuen, 1947, p.196
14. Wright, H. B. Witness to Witchcraft. Transworld, 1964, p.117
15. Davis. op. cit., p.109
16. Thurston, op. cit., p.180
17. Hansen, C. Witchcraft at Salem. Arrow, 1971. p.205
18. Mather, C. The Wonders of the Invisible World. J. R. Smith, 1862.
19. Schrenk-Notzing records an even more ridiculous inciedent (a skeleton that danced the tango) in Shreck-Notzing, A. Phenomena of Materialisation, Kegan Paul, 1920. Maurice Barbanell, the well-known founder and life-long editor of Psychic News narrates how he danced with a materialised figure which he knew not to be the medium.

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Strange Fruit: Ozark Folklore and the Continuation of Traditional Witch Beliefs in the Modern Satanism Scare.
David Sivier

From Magonia 91, February 2006 

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One of the major problems presented by the Satanism scare of the 1980s and 1990s is the apparent reappearance of a set of beliefs and a persecuting mindset little different from the magic and superstition of previous centuries in the economically and technologically developed world. Indeed, the problem is particularly acute in the case of America, one of the most important crucibles for the forging of the Satanism scare, and a nation that has prided itself on its scientific and technological modernity

In searching for the origins of the modern Satanism scare, historians and sociologists have necessarily paid most attention to the contemporary societal factors stimulating its rise, like the increasingly irrational ideologies permeating psychotherapy, victim culture and the drive to identify as pathological an increasingly wide range of human behaviour seen as shocking or deviant, such as ‘emotional incest’ or ‘sex addiction’, the emphasis of certain sections of American social reformers and some feminists in demands for the children of the poor to be taken into state care, and the breakdown of a moral consensus on issues such as sexual morality, which has allowed Satanic Child Abuse to become an issue that can unite conservative Christian Evangelicals and Feminists and left-wing groups in a moral crusade. [1]

The genesis of the modern witchcraft accusations in the demonology of Middle Ages, including the Blood Libel myth directed at the Jews has been recognised and explored by a number of researchers, and comparisons drawn between the great witch-hunts of the past, such as those directed against the Bogomils in the ninth and tenth centuries, and the great witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. [2]

These have all been identified as having a common origin in the breakdown in the wider Christian community, such as between Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic for the earlier persecution, and Roman Catholic and Protestant for the latter.[3] However, while some historians have effectively demonstrated the origins of modern allegations of satanic ritual abuse in nineteenth century anti-Satanist and anti-occultist propaganda, such as Gareth Medway in his The Lure of the Sinister, few seem to have considered that there may also have been operating an unbroken tradition of witch beliefs that may also have fed into and stimulated the Satanism scare of the last twenty years.

Contemporary sceptical researchers into the Satanism scare have instead traced its roots in the narratives of adult survivors, often converts to Christianity, such as Doreen Irvine and June Johns in the 1960s and 1970s. These authors “presented Satanism (not distinguished much from Wicca) in turns of kinky adult sex, homosexuality, drug taking and suburban wife-swapping, with the now largely vanished phenomenon of the desecration of churches”. [4] The motif of child abuse, however, only entered these narratives because, “as society became more permissive and secular this repertoire ceased to conjure up images of ultimate decadence and evil” [5]

Yet while contemporary historians, such as Dr. Ronald Hutton in his The Triumph of the Moon, have effectively refuted the idea of a Palaeolithic cult of a horned god continuing unbroken into the twentieth century, it is however quite possible that some elements of a witch-cult, in so far as it was believed to exist in socially backward, agricultural communities in America, continued to exist from the sixteenth century onwards to inspire the Satan hunters of the late twentieth century. Indeed, the Canadian historian, Elliot Rose, in discussing the existence of a ‘witch-society’ in the Ozark country of the US, as described by the American folklorist, Vance Randolph, drew explicit comparisons between it and the descriptions of contemporary witchcraft practices by Gerald Gardner. He concluded that “I think we can see in this Ozark testimony the traces of the cult stripped to what its unlearned members considered its essentials, after persecution and enlightened scepticism between them had deprived it of both learned leadership and true continuity of tradition.” [6]

Randolph’s study of Ozark folklore is valuable for the insight it gives on a number of Fortean topics, not just witchcraft. For example, his description of the appearance of spectral lights along the ‘Devil’s Promenade’, a lonely stretch of road in Oklahoma, fourteen miles from Joplin, Missouri, is interesting not just for its description of the lights themselves, but also for the explanations offered for them. These include not only the supernatural – that they are the spirits of a murdered Osage chief, or a Quapaw woman who killed herself after the death of her husband in battle, but also for the scientific and pseudo-scientific. Thus it is suggested that the lights are those of cars driving on Highway 66 five miles away, are marsh gas or “that the effect is produced somehow by electrical action of the mineral deposits in the ground.” [7] 

Randolph’s book was originally published in 1947, about the same time the UFO myth was gestating, and although this explanation for strange lights seems to have been forgotten until proposed in the 1970s by Persinger and Paul Devereaux, its recording by Randolph suggests that the piezo-electrical explanation for such unexplained lights has its basis in the folkloric rationalisations offered for such phenomena, rather than the cold, detached theorising of a laboratory researcher.

The points of contact and contrast between Gardnerian and Ozark witchcraft discussed by Rose was the appearance in both cults of nudity and ritual sex, and instruction in the cult’s mysteries of an initiate by a parent or other family member. In the Ozarks the novice witch was taught the cult’s traditions by a parent of the same sex, while they were inducted into the cult by a member of the opposite sex in ritual coition in front of a naked coven. For Gardner, however, instruction had to be carried out by a member of the opposite sex, and although initiation was – performed naked, it did not involve sex. [8]

Beyond the similarities and differences between the two cults is the question of the similarities of both to the incestuous, satanic cults described in Michele Remembers. In this conception of a modern, satanic cult, as formulated by the social worker, Maribeth Kaye, and criminal psychologist, Lawrence Klein, “membership is transmitted primarily through families” and “sexual child abuse and torture is deliberately employed by Satanist families as a technique to brainwash and program children to confuse evil with virtue, so that they will follow instructions to commit Satanic evil acts without feeling any guilt.” [9]This is similar in concept to the Ozark belief that “the secret doctrines must pass only between blood relatives, or between persons who have been united in sexual intercourse. Thus it is that every witch obtains her unholy wisdom either from a lover or a male relative … A mother can transmit the secret work to her son, and he could pass it on to his wife, and she might tell one of her male cousins, and so on.” [10]

While the transmission of the secrets between family members is not necessarily incestuous, and there were rituals that could transform a woman into a witch which did not involve sex, such as repeating the Lord’s Prayer backwards and firing seven silver bullets at the moon, the important element nevertheless in consecrating the witch in her unholy career was sex: “A virgin may possess some of the secrets of ‘bedevilment’ imparted by her father or her uncle, but she cannot be genuine witch, for good and sufficient reasons.”[11]

According to the tradition, this sexual initiation took place at the family burial ground, at midnight at the dark of the moon, over three consecutive nights. Devils and the spirits of the evil dead did appear, conjured up by the blasphemous incantations of the witches and the recital of the Lord’s Prayer backwards, the person initiating the witch was another mortal human being, not Satan himself. In this respect it differed from some of the medieval and early modern witch narratives, in which the witch copulated with Satan or a demon, [12] but was similar to the recovered memories of survivors of Satanic Ritual Abuse, who were sexually abused by their fellow humans, although the Devil and other demons nevertheless also appeared during the ceremonies. It thus appears that, amidst the basis of such fears of child ritual abuse in the concern over all too real cases of incest and child abuse that were appearing in the 1970s, the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare also drew on traditional stories of witch families and sexual initiation, and conflated the two elements according to the fears of the times.

Appearing with the motifs of multi-generational witch families and satanic sex also was the belief that witches burned the body of newborn children in order acquire further magical powers, and that the ashes were used to make luck charms. [13] While this element of the myth ultimately derives from Inquisitor’s allegation against a group of heretics at Orleans in 1022, that they burned the bodies of children born from their orgies to Satan and used the ashes in a blasphemous parody of the Christian Eucharist, [14] it is also of the same type as the allegations in the modern Satanism scare that women were being used as ‘brood mares’ to supply children for sacrifice to Satan.

This folklore, although fantastic to those raised in a more sceptical environment, was responsible for several Satanism scares even before the appearance of the moral panics several decades later. Randolph knew three women who were not only believed to be witches, but also believed themselves to be witches. [15] One panic concerning an alleged ‘Witches’ Sabbath’ supposedly occurred when a group of young people were photographed dancing nude at the side of a road outside a cemetery, apparently conforming to the pattern of a witches’ Sabbath. Randolph himself considered that they were just drunken young people, and that the photograph of a similar gathering at Forsyth, Missouri, showed a group of Holy Roller religious fanatics outside their camp on the White River, accompanied by thrill-seeking young men from nearby villages. [16] If nudity, either in a Christian ecstatic ritual context or simply done for less elevated pleasures was practiced in backwoods Missouri, then it might explain why the Venusians who contacted Buck Nelson were similarly naked when they landed on his farm and walked into his farmhouse carrying their coveralls. [17]

The supposedly satanic activities carried out in Missouri were not necessarily so spectacular. Even something as relatively harmless as teaching schoolchildren to say their times tables backwards as a learning aid, in such an atmosphere of superstition and fear, could be construed as suspiciously antichristian because of its similarity to the witches’ supposed practice of repeating the Lord’s Prayer backwards. According to Randolph, one ‘pious Baptist lady’ in McDonald County, Missouri, denounced the local schoolteacher for teaching the girls in her care their multiplication tables in such a way, because of the danger that ‘they’ll be a-sayin’ somethin’ else back-lards tomorrow.’ [18]

Again, there’s a remarkable similarity to modern conflicts and attempt to maintain supposed Christian education in schools. This has included not only the topical debate about evolution, but also the campaign by American Fundamentalist Christian organisations against then use of the Impressions curriculum in school. Although designed to introduce primary school children to literature, it has been attacked for encouraging violence, Satanism, occultism, cannibalism and cultural relativism, in tones strongly reminiscent of the earlier concern about teaching the Lord’s Prayer backwards: “We believe there is a desensitisation effect here … Pretty soon, casting and chanting spells will seem so commonplace to kids that, when they’re confronted with the advances of satanic groups on a darker level, it will seem more acceptable.” [19]

At the time Randolph was writing, it was felt that witches were extremely common, with one informant telling him that “witches are thicker than seed ticks”, but that “it’s all under cover nowadays.” [20] A major cause of the growth in witchcraft was the increasingly immoral behaviour of the young, who lived ‘too fast and heedless’. [21] Despite this pervading climate of fear, suspicion and violence – Randolph gives several instances where people were shot or otherwise assaulted as suspected witches – nevertheless the country seemed placid and untroubled to outsiders: “Things happen in these hills which are never mentioned in the newspapers, never reported to the sheriff at the county seat. The casual tourist sees nothing to suggest the current of savage hatred that flows beneath the
 genial hospitality of our Ozark villages.” [22]

Since the days of the pioneering folklorists of the nineteenth century, the folk traditions of backwoods Appalachia have been of interest to folklorists because of the way they have independently preserved British folklore, including traditions that may have become extinct in the mother country. Certainly much Ozark folklore is remarkably ancient. The incidents recorded by Randolph of hill people who believed they had been changed into horses and ridden by witches are of the same type as the seventeenth century British allegations against witches and other heterodox religious groups, like Quakers, such as those made by Margaret Pryor of Long Stanton in 1657. [23] It thus seems likely that the Ozark beliefs about witches represent the persistence of sixteenth and seventeenth century British and European traditional ideas about witchcraft, as adapted by conditions in the frontier settlements of the New World. This is significant, because, as historians of witchcraft have pointed out, popular belief in witchcraft did not die out with the triumph of scepticism amongst the ruling elite in the eighteenth eentury, but still persisted into the twentieth century in some parts of Britain, France and the Netherlands, for example. [24]

It’s something of a truism that the heartland of American Fundamentalist Christianity, with its heavy emphasis on deliverance ministry and spiritual warfare against demons and the human agents of Satan is the traditionally economically backward rural south, and its possible that the ~ appearance and growth of Charismatic Evangelical Christian ministries nationwide during the 80s transmitted traditional southern lore about witches to a broader national audience as mediated by the Evangelists’ own emphasis on the literal truth of Scripture. In this atmosphere, where archaic, premodern ideas exist alongside a parallel, and contradictory belief in technology and progress, it’s fair to say that modern America is indeed a ‘medieval society with modern technology’, a situation ready for the spread of VERY similar medieval irrational fears and superstitions. [25]

It thus appears that the ultimate genesis of the Satanism scare in America was not the concern over new religious movements and cults in the late 1960s and 1970s, such as the Manson ‘Family’ and the activities of various devil worshippers, such as the Church of Satan, but traditional rural witchlore in the rural Deep South. While the rest of America was economically buoyant and felt morally and culturally secure, this folklore was largely confined to that area. With the growth of new religious movements in the 60s and the economic and social dislocation of the 1980s, the social climate nationally became more favourable to the spread of irrational fears of secret satanic conspiracies, lent verisimilitude by the existence of explicitly satanic religious movements like the Church of Satan and Temple of Set, and non-Satanist religions like Wicca, which claimed descent from the medieval witches but did not involve the worship of Satan.

Thus, the witch-hunts and panics Randolph reported in the 1940s became both the model and the precursor for the national and international panics four decades later, though this time led by people from backgrounds often very different from superstitious rural poor of the backwoods hill country.

—————————————–

REFERENCES

  1. Sandell, R., Review of Mark Prendergast, Victims of Memory: Incest Accusations and Shattered Lives, Hinesburg, Upper Access 1995, Magonia 53, August 1995, pp. 22-3.

  2. Victor, J.S., Satanic Panic: The Creation of Contemporary Legend, Chicago, Open Court, 1994, pp. 273-90; Sandell, ibid, p. 23.

  3. Sandell, ‘Victims’, p. 23.

  4. Harney, J., Review of Jean La Fontaine, Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 1988, in Magonia no. 64, August 1998, p. 17.

  5. Harney, J., ‘Devil’, p. 17.

  6. Rose, E., A Razor for a Goat: Problems in the History of Witchcraft and Diabolism, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1989, p. 213.

  7. Randolph, V. Ozark Magic and Folklore (New York, Dover 1964), p. 234.

  8. Rose, E., ‘Razor’, p. 212.

  9. Victor, J.F., Satanic Panic: The Creation of Contemporary Legend, Chicago, Open Court, 1994, p. 97.

  10. Randolph, V., Ozark Magic and Folklore, New York, Dover 1964, p. 266.

  11. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 267.

  12. See, for example, the description of a sabbat in the Memoires of Jacques du Clercq, in P.G. Maxwell-Stuart, The Occult in Medieval Europe (Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan 2005), p. 126; also J.B. Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca, Cornell University Press 1972), pp. 144-5.

  13. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 281.

  14. Russell, Middle Ages, p. 87.

  15. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 265.

  16. Randolph, Ozark Magic, pp. 267-8.

  17. Bord, l. and C., Life Beyond Planet Earth: Man’s Contacts with Space People (London, Grafton 1991), p. 135.

  18. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 266.

  19. Concerned parent quoted in “Trouble’s Brewing Over Witch in School Reader,” Buffalo News, March 10, 1991, pp. A1, A14, cited in Victor, op. cit., p. 158.

  20. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 264.

  21. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 264.

  22. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 300.

  23. Randolph, Ozark Magic, p. 279, ‘Long Stanton’, in Folklore, Myths and Legends, London, Readers Digest 1973, p. 242.

  24. See Davies, O., Witchcraft, Magic and Culture 1736-1951, Manchester, Manchester University Press 1995.

  25. Porter, B., review of M. Northcott, An Angel Directs the Storm: Apocalyptic Religion and American Empire, London, LB. Tauris 2004, Lobster 49, Summer 2005, p. 35

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  1.  

Victims of Memory.
Roger Sandell and John Rimmer

From Magonia 53, August 1995 

Like many other parents in Britain and the USA in the past decade Mark Pendergrast has been accused of child abuse on the basis of recovered memories. However he is a professional non-fiction writer, and instead of writing a ‘personal testament’ or confronting his accusers on a TV talk-show, he has written a wide-ranging survey of the whole phenomenon. [1]

Recently a number of sceptical books have appeared in the USA on the subject of recovered memories, some academic, some popular in approach. Pendergrast’s however scores over all the others by the breadth of his social and historical perspective. Seeking the origins of, and analogies for, recovered memory stories he touches on many topics of interest to Magonia readers, including UFO abductions, reincarnation claims, Satanic cults, urban legends, hypnotism, ‘bedroom visitor’ stories and the witch mania.

Many matters dealt with in this book were new to me. There is a section on ‘facilitated communication, a technique alleged to assist autistic children to communicate by holding their hands over a keyboard and picking out characters. The technique has obvious analogies with Ouija boards and the experiments conducted earlier in the twentieth century in which animals were alleged to be capable of producing messages by picking out letter cards. When a high proportion of ‘facilitated communications’ turn out to be allegations of abuse, further experiments produced clear evidence of subconscious cueing by the facilitators.

Even more bizarre are the claims of multiple-personality disorder (MPD). According to MPD specialists victims of abuse become so traumatised that they distance themselves by splitting into separate personalities, which lie dormant and can be recovered by therapists. Some patients turn out to have a hundred or more personalities, who like American TV wrestlers seem to each have one stereotyped characteristic, and answer to names such as ‘The Zombie’ and ‘Mean Joe Green’. Some therapists think the Satanists deliberately induce MPD so that their victims will carry out activities which they will not remember afterwards, such as murder, gun-running or prostitution. Others think it is the CIA, Mafia or Ku Klux Klan that are responsible. Pendergrast notes the similarity of all this to older demonic possession traditions, but does not note its closest parallel with another contemporary American fad, channelling or claiming to be the voice of some dead figure dispensing cryptic wisdom.

To the best of my knowledge MPD has not, at least so far, been a feature of British recovered memory or Satanic abuse cases, a pretty clear indication of its status as a purely cultural artifact. Its origins probably lie in images from film versions oof Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde and similar stories. One wonders if the popular misuse of the term ‘schizophrenia’ has contributed. This word, literally meaning ‘split mind’ is often misunderstood to mean having two minds rather than simply meaning ‘shattered mind’ (it is slightly regrettable that Pendergrast himself uses the term in the incorrect colloquial sense).

These beliefs are not confined to an occultist influenced fringe, but are signs that psychiatry in the U.S.A. is widely affected by what may be a terminal climate of irrationality

Pendergrast makes it clear that such beliefs as recovered memory are part of a wider climate of irrational therapy. Some therapist believe that their patients have been traumatised by sex abuse in past lives (a development that Peter Rogerson predicted in an earlier Magonia). Others believe that traumas can be traced to memories of experiences while in the womb (a belief that formed the basis of L Ran Hubbard’s pseudo-science of Dianetics in the 1950s).

These beliefs arc not confined to an occultist influenced fringe, but are signs that psychiatry in the U.S.A. is widely affected by what may be a terminal climate of irrationality. One study suggests that about a quarter of qualified therapists accept the validity of past-life regression tales. Other qualified psychiatrists have written books endorsing belief in demonic possession and exorcism, and containing accounts of ‘recovered’ memories of early embryonic stages of development.

After this over-all survey, Pendergrast devotes a major section of his book to interviews with therapists, accused and accusers. This is a grim section, but comic relief comes in an interview with a therapist who not only deals with abuse memories, past lives and UFO abductions, but pregresses her patients into their future lives. Pendergrast may of course be accused of deliberately seeking those who can be held up to ridicule, but my own reading elsewhere supports his claim that, if he had wished to do so, he could have found far more bizarre therapists than those he actually quotes.

Particularly interesting are the interviews with ‘retractors’, the increasingly large group who have repudiated earlier allegations and now, like the accusers, seem to be forming a quasi-religious group with its own networks, counsellors and personal testimonies. One wonders perhaps whether some of the retractors may be over-keen to emphasis the part played by their therapists in the emergence of their stories, and to minimise their own responsibility. As with the stories of the accused and accusers it seems best to suspend judgement on a number of aspects of these cases where more detailed information is not available.

One quoted retractor, in particular, makes serious accusations against a therapist and the most that can be said is that some recent cases Pendergrast relates of scandals involving therapists mean that this story is not necessarily implausible. (When, one wonders, are the first retractor UFO abductees going to appear?)

Pendergrast then looks at the history of psychology, seeking the background to these allegations. He finds many historical parallels 18th and 19th century beliefs in imaginary mental ailments and bizarre treatments. Sigmund Freud emerges from this section as one very much influenced by some of these ideas, and his heritage has meant that their influence has lasted to the present day.

Pendergrast’s examination of the social roots of the child abuse panic highlight the part played by specific factors such as the interactions between private medicine and the U.S. insurance companies that provide a major source of income for therapists, and wider issues such as current obsessions with victim status and the drive to pathologise an increasingly wide range of human behaviour under terms such as ‘co-dependency’, ‘emotional incest’ or ‘sex addiction’.

Of particular interest is the section of ‘survivorship as religion’, which sees many forms of therapy as amounting to a quasi-religious movement based on the worship of self, an analysis which certainly explains the apparent contradictory alliance of mental health professionals, New Agers and Christian evangelicals in the Recovery movement.

The increasing breakdown of any overall consensus on sexual morality suggests another line of analysis, in which child-abuse provides a rare example of practices that different sides in cultural wars can unite to condemn. As a historical parallel, the mediaeval persecution of the Bogomils, the first Christian heretics to be accused of worshiping the devil and participating in orgies, not only came after a similar breakdown, the rift between Greek and Roman Christianity, but occurred right in the contested territories. The 16th century disruption of Christendom preceded the witch mania which provided an issue uniting Protestants and Catholics.

One can extend the socio-political analysis of the child abuse panic in other directions. The role played by some sections of the women’s movement in fuelling the panic is reminiscent of earlier social reform movements in the USA which, in the 19th and early 20th century moved from support for slave emancipation, workers’ rights and universal suffrage, to supporting authoritarian measures such as Prohibition and the taking of the children of the poor into state care (an activity that was frequently attacked by early film-makers, not merely in melodramas such as D. W. Griffiths’ Intolerance, but in comedies such as Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid and Laurel and Hardy’s Pack Up Your Troubles).

Peter Rogerson has suggested that now American youth culture has become too de-politicised and commercially dominated to express any revolt against established values, child abuse allegations have emerged as purely individual anti-parental gestures.

Pendergrast ends with a section of advice and recommendations both for individuals caught up in recovered memory cases and for legislative action. Sensible and helpful as this section is, it is hard to believe that calls for licensing of therapists will achieve much since those with genuine academic qualifications have played as dubious a part in the controversy as those with none.

My final verdict is that it is hard to recommend this book too highly. It is essential reading not merely for anyone concerned with this particular controversy but concerned about contemporary culture and society as a whole.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

The Father’s Tale: 

Apart from whatever insight it gives into the phenomenon of false memory, and the illumination it throws on the medical, social and historical context of the contemporary controversy, this book is also an intensely moving account of a personal tragedy. It recounts in harrowing terms the estrangement of first one, then both, of Pendergrast’s daughters as a result of ‘memories’ recovered through therapy. However his account is not, as perhaps one would expect, a bitter condemnation of the therapists involved, nor an unqualified protestation of his own innocence. Instead he reexamines with almost painful honesty his relationships with his daughters and his ex-wife, and seeks out those aspects of his behaviour and attitudes which may have led to his current plight, to the extent that many readers might think that he is over self-critical. The account he provides of the childhood and adolescence of his daughters may perhaps reinforce the suggestion that some abuse accusations ore an aspect of a repressed, late developing revolt against parental authority. Certainly Pendergrast’s children, like some of the other children described in the individual accounts, seem to have had remarkably rebellion-free adolescence. More than most other books on the topic this book reveals the personal tragedies behind the sociological and legalistic descriptions. — John Rimmer.

————————————————————————————————————————————

[1] Mark Pendergrast. Victims of Memory: Incest Accusations and Shattered Lives. HarperCollins (rev. edition), 1997.

Click on the cover image to order this book from Amazon

 

It Never RAINS but it Pours: Reporting on the Satan Hunters. Basil Humphreys

 satanic

Although there have been no recent high profile cases like Rochdale or Orkney, the Satanism hunters have not gone away.

BASIL HUMPHREYS reports on recent activity.

From Magonia 59, April 1997

The claims of Satanic Child Abuse hunters are seldom given space in the press nowadays, yet they are as busy as ever. The RAINS (Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support) conference at Warwick University on 13-14 September 1996 had an attendance of two hundred (two-thirds of them women), mostly professional carers of some kind, along with a few vicars, some survivors of Ritual Abuse, and a couple of sceptics who were careful to keep their views to themselves. An informal survey conducted by one of the lecturers revealed that all but about ten of those present claimed to have first hand experience of a Ritual Abuse case, and most said they had several. The speakers included Catherine Could, an American therapist who had had patients recalling Satanic rituals ever since the McMartin case was first publicised in 1984; Valerie Sinason, editor of Treating Survivals of Satanist Abuse; and Tim Tate, who was the researcher for the notorious Cook Report on Satanism in 1989. 

No doubt for security reasons, tape recorders were forbidden, and the only journalist allowed was believer Andrew Boyd. Sceptical Mail on Sunday reporters were given a press conference in a room away from the rest, mainly rhetoric from Valerie Sinason. 

The words ‘Satanic’ and ‘Satanism’ were not actually used. Rather, people tended to refer ominously to ‘them’, leaving it tacit who ‘they’ were, One woman explained the necessity for RAINS like this: “They’re networked to one another, so we have to fight them with their own weapons.” Just how far does she intend to take this principle? 

The words Satanic and Satanism were not actually used, rather, people tended to refer ominously to them, leaving it tacit who they were

The emphasis is now on ‘Multiple Personality Disorder’, This condition was not even recognised until fairly recently, and was at first assumed to be a reaction to extreme trauma. Yet it is now assumed that it is deliberately induced by the cults as a form of mind control. So far as one could tell, it was usually taken for granted that survivors of Satanism would not remember their experiences until they recalled them under therapy or hypnosis. 

That the Satanists can wield mind control to this extent is used to explain away the lack of evidence. Valerie Sinason mentioned a case where police searched for evidence to back a survivor’s story, and found none: she said they had “interviewed the wrong alter [personality]“. Two policemen from Congleton in Cheshire, who have had several Ritual Abuse cases in their town, have repeatedly dug up gardens where Ritual Abuse survivors told them the bodies of sacrificial victims were buried (I feel sorry for the gardeners of Congleton), but mysteriously enough, they have never found anything. It has not occurred to them that the survivors might be telling porky-pies: rather, there must be an incredibly efficient conspiracy to conceal the truth, Were some of their fellow police amongst the ranks of ‘them’? Masonic conspiracies, inevitably, were mooted. Then another possibility was suggested: the survivors have been subjected to cult mind-control which is still operating. After giving information to the police, the survivors are programmed to telephone ‘them’ immediately and repeat it, so that ‘they’ are able to remove the evidence before the police can get there. 

A similar point was made by Catherine Gould: patients may move to another part of the country, but the Satanists manage to find them. One reason is that: “some alters are programmed to telephone the cult and tell them their new whereabouts when they move home.” 

All this was illustrated by the Californian therapist Caryn Stardancer, editor of Survivorship, who is herself a survivor of ritual abuse and “a member of a multiple-self system”. Having announced herself as such, she briefly slipped into one of her little girl alters. She kept two stuffed toys on the front of the podium as she talked, which apparently were so useful in her therapy that she now takes them everywhere. 

It is a myth, Stardancer said, that “survivors are neurotic people with empty lives who invent stories to get attention”; in fact, they haven’t got the attention that False Memory Syndrome has (everyone in this field thinks that it is only their opponents who are getting the media attention). She knows it is a myth because she herself suffered, back in the 1940s and 1950s when she was a small child, and the hands of an inter-generational, multi-perpetrator cult, actually at least five cults who were conspiring together. These included: a Satanic Cabal hiding under the cover of a Fundamentalist church; a Dionysiac group (who had survived underground ever since the days of ancient Rome) who “specialise in political manipulation through crime and blackmail”; a feminist Pagan coven; a youth gang who used Satanic imagery; and military mind-control experts who were affiliated with the Masons. She was able to bring in several other favourite conspiracy theories by giving them as part of the alleged cult’s teachings: she says they claim the cult hierarchy dates back to Hermes Trismegistus, an early Grand Master, they built the pyramids, and they are in touch with extra-terrestrials, as is proved by the eye in the pyramid on the US dollar bill. Many survivors, she says, are programmed to believe that social unrest at the turn of the millennium will enable the group they are in to take control. 

This talk won a minute’s standing ovation, In response to a question from the audience, she said she was given the surname Stardancer twenty years ago by an Indian medicine man she met at a conference on adolescent schizophrenia. 

Curiously, some of the patients supposedly continue in Satanism even while in therapy. Joan Coleman’s first survivor once had to postpone her sessions by two days because she had been summoned to a Satanic court in France, When she got to the delayed sessions she described how two ‘hoods’ had taken her to a chateau, where a black cockerel was sacrificed, she was urinated on, smeared with excrement, and all the usual stuff, questioned, then apparently let off. Valerie Sinason has a Multiple Personality Disorder patient who, as a child, was made Satan’s daughter and had “a goat’s horn shoved up her bum”. Her ‘adult alter’ still goes to rituals, returning with injuries, and she is now in a wheelchair. Though Sinason and her colleague Rob Hale at the Portman Clinic were doing an NHS-funded study of SRA, asking “what corroboration?”, it did not seem to occur to her that surveillance of such a patient could readily provide proof, if her story were true. 

Sinason also stated that certain crimes are committed at the full moon, mentioning the horse mutilations of a few years ago. Presumably this is meant to prove that they occur on cult holy days, yet the same observation has also been taken as proof that astrology is true. The first thing that ought to be investigated is whether or not some crimes really are committed more often at the full moon.

The weekend was rounded off by Marjorie Orr, the astrologer and founder of ‘Accuracy About Abuse’, who devoted her talk to attacking belief in ‘false memory syndrome’, which she says has led to the silencing of adult survivors, and is in danger of wrecking psychotherapy. There may be “a little exaggeration” on the part of survivors (those who describe mass murder, perhaps), but no more. The British False Memory Society, she considers, is an umbrella group for organised paedophile rings. 

It is likely that such conferences as this are self-propagating. One presenter related how in 1994 she went to a study day at Southampton University presented by Valerie Sinason: ‘Ritual Abuse: Does it Exist.’ At first she felt “total disbelief” at what she was hearing, but by the end of the day she believed in ritual abuse. The following years one of her patients started ‘disclosing’ having been made to take part in Satanic rituals (during which devils and humans flew about in the air), hence by the time of this conference she was herself an authority on the subject. 

Finally, it may be remarked that one piece of actual physical evidence was produced in the course of the weekend, A woman who was in the process of remembering the Satanic rituals she had been made to attend as a child awoke one morning, so she said, to find a box of voodoo dolls on her doorstep, obviously a curse placed there by the Satanists to warn her to keep her mouth shut, The voodoo dolls were shown, They were Guatemalan ‘Worry Dolls’, as sold at charity shops all over the country. 

Some recent developments:

Several recent news items have shown that the debate over ‘Satanic’ abuse and ‘False Memory’ is no closer to resolution. The Daily Telegraph (March 25, 1997, p.6) reports that the British Association of Counselling has issued guidelines to its 14,000 members warning them of the dangers of creating false memories in therapy. Chairman Alex McGuire is quoted as saying that the number of people with recovered memories which proved false was low, “but we don’t know what `low’ means. It could be tens, hundreds or even thousands. There is no doubt that it is a genuine hazard.” 

The Observer, (March 2, 1997) reports on a case where a 38 year old woman, Susan Lees, is sung the NSPCC and Birmingham Social Services for withholding evidence of abuse she suffered as a very young child at the hands of her father. She was taken into care and adopted at the age of five, and claims that memories of the abuse returned after hearing news reports of torture in Bosnia, then obtained Social Services records which confirm much of her story. Critics of False Memory Syndrome are claiming that this demonstrates that victims can forget their abuse then recover the memories much later, However this case seems to have little in common with others reported. The abuse happened when Ms Lees was a baby, stopped when she was adopted, and did not continue over many years, even into adulthood, as is alleged in SRA claims. 

In the Guardian‘s Saturday magazine section (March 15, 1997) a writer who appears to have links with the relevant Social Services department mounts a criticism of the action taken by a judge in Scotland in dismissing a ritual abuse prosecution in Ayrshire. Not having seen court reports it is difficult to know what happened in the case, and to what extent ‘recovered memory’ played a part. The implication in the article is that serious abuse did occur (an allegation which would presumably be impossible to make without the anonymity of individuals in such cases) but that prosecutors and judges were unwilling to accept the ‘Ritual’ elements, so the case fell. As in the conference reported above, mention of ‘Satanic’ abuse is carefully avoided. It is also apparent that the Guardian’s writer disapproves of the lifestyle of the family concerned – ‘travellers’ who can afford a large house through exporting expensive cars to Thailand and the Far East, The fact that Thailand is a centre for paedophile pornography is carefully pointed out. 

The recurrence of cases like these serves to emphasise the concerns expressed in Magonia by John Harney and Kevin McClure about the dangers of involving children in alien abduction stories. –  John Rimmer

 

Still Seeking Satan, Part 1. Roger Sandell

First published in Magonia 51, February 1995.

Part One

Among several recent books on the subject of Satanism, Lawrence Wright’s Remembering Satan fills a notable gap by giving a detailed account of one particular Satanism case, the Olympia, Washington State, case of 1988-89.

Even by the standards of such cases the story he has to tell is bizarre and grotesque. The two teenage daughters of Sheriff Paul Ingram, an evangelical Christian, attend a church summer-camp where a speaker ‘prophecies’ that someone in the audience has been a victim of child sex abuse. the daughters respond by having flash-back memories of abuse by their father. When arrested, Ingram has his own flashbacks where he sees himself sexually abusing his children, and immediately confesses.

The charges escalate until Ingram is no longer merely a sexual pervert but the leader of a gang of Satanists carrying out human sacrifices. Two other police officers are arrested as cult members, but protest their innocence.

Throughout all of this Ingram continues to supply flashback memories of any suggestion put to him, including deliberately false ones put by a sceptical psychologist to test the validity of his confessions. the bottomless credulity of the investigating officers survives this revelation, as it does a claim by one of his daughters to have been raped by police dogs and the discovery that she has forged a letter to herself purporting to be a threat from Satanists. Finally Ingram, now repudiating his confessions, is sentenced to life imprisonment while his co-accused are acquitted. [1]

Lawrence Wright tells this story with the help of transcripts of police interviews which reveal a series of abuses that make it extremely surprising that they were ever accepted as evidence. Leading questions are asked; Ingram is told that if he does not make a full confession his daughters may kill themselves, and a potential witness is told he will be able to take out a profitable claim for compensation.

Interestingly there are hints at some points of tales that might have been interpreted in a completely different way. Ingram’s son when first interviewed by police remembers no abuse, but when pressed further to recall odd happenings in his childhood tells of a dream of little men floating through his bedroom window and standing round his bed. This story, which would have immediately been seized on by UFO abduction believers,is interpreted by police as a cover memory disguising child abuse.

The problems of ‘flashback memories’, ‘cover memories’ and ‘false memories’, which Wright also explores, have in the last few months been the subject of a number of reports in the British press and television. The False Memory Society, a US group of parents who claim to be the victims of false memories of abuse planted in adult offspring by dubious therapists, now has a British branch. Although none of the British cases have yet ended up in court, some of them also involve tales of Satanism and human sacrifices. Another British group recently founded is Accuracy About Abuse, which champions the validity of work done by therapists to recover memories of abuse. However, Marjorie Orr, the founder of this organisation is scarcely likely to dispel doubts about therapists since, although described as one, she is better known as the writer of the Daily Express’s horoscope column and the voice on a recorded message fortune-telling by phone service – activities which some evangelical. Christian promoters of the Satanism scare would regard as ‘Satanic’ themselves.

Wright shows that both sides in the memory controversy can point to evidence in their favour. Loftus and Ganaway, two sceptical psychologists, have conducted experiments claiming to show that children will endorse and elaborate on totally imaginary events which they are told happened to them in the past. A survey conducted at an American school where a deranged gunman had fired on children showed that several months after children who were absent on that day gave accounts of allegedly seeing the gunman. [2]

On the other hand a recent survey of adults who were child victims of sex offenders allegedly showed that up to 38% had no memory of the incident. However, this survey has come under attack for including former victims who were very young at the time of the assault. One wonders also whether in some cases `don’t remember’ actually means ‘don’t want to discuss with a complete stranger after twenty years’. And did the survey make any distinction between former victims of systematic, long-term abuse and those where the abuse had been a single incident? The distinction is a vital one since there is a very big difference between repressing the memory of a brief trauma – which is known to happen after involvement in accidents or disasters – and the alleged repression of memories of long passages of one’s life.

There are wider questions, too, than can easily be settled by surveys and experiments. Is the model of the human memory propounded by the therapists who gradually uncover memories of Satanism one that is simply based on the not uncommon film plot device in which the audience is initially shown a brief unexplained flashback to a character’s memory which is gradually expanded on as the narrative progresses? (A well-known example is Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective, shown on BBC-TV) [3]

Another aspect of the controversy which deserves more sceptical scrutiny than it has received is the use by both sides of the term ‘brainwashing’, which is variously depicted as a means whereby evil Satanists force victims to forget their abuse or commit crimes, or as a means whereby evil therapists force sinister memories on unsuspecting patients.

In each case the model for explanation is a dubious one. The term first appeared during the Korean War, when it was used to explain why large numbers of US prisoners of the Chinese and North Koreans were prepared to collaborate and publicly denounce US policy. According to the brainwashing model of explanation they had been the victims of a combination of advanced and sinister mind-control techniques devised by Soviet psychologists, and fiendish Oriental tortures. This belief was partly responsible for setting off a mind-control arms race between Soviet and US intelligence services in which innocent people suffered as unknowing guinea-pigs, and – like the rather similar ESP race – exaggerated reports of each side’s capabilities led the other to make frantic attempts to catch up. The film The Manchurian Candidate depicted some of the alleged capabilities of brainwashing to plant memories of imaginary events, and transform people into robot assassins, to be activated at a given signal. [4]

manchurian-candidate

Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey in The ‘Manchurian Candidate’, the film that helped to establish the popular conception if brainwashing. Harvey (right) who is being programmed as an assassin, is shown shooting a fellow PoW.

Little of this stands up to scrutiny. The mysterious and sinister techniques allegedly used somehow failed to re-surface in Vietnam. The lower rate of collaboration amongst British POWs in Korea and its total absence among the Turks (the next largest UN contingent) suggests that low US army morale and motivation had more of an influence on the behaviour of American troops in captivity. However the belief in the existence of sinister techniques to control directly the human mind has been an enduring one.

Equally suspect is the idea implied by some sceptics that it might be possible to isolate some kind of ‘False Memory Syndrome’ as a specific medical condition that might explain claimed memories of bizarre and highly improbable events. This would indeed be convenient portmanteau explanation but it is probably more accurate to see these tales emerging as part of a wider interaction involving both social and psychological factors as well as group dynamics, and no more have one single explanation than all false confessions to the police or all false claims to be the victims of crimes. Individual Satanist cases probably have a variety of roots, including family tensions (which can be glimpsed in Wright’s account of the Ingram case), the very existence of ‘survivor’ groups that foster a climate of self-reinforcing fantasy, and the subconscious desire of those who have paid large amounts of money to therapists to come up with recovered memories sensational enough to justify the expense.

The fact remains, however, that the ranks of American therapists include many bizarre and sinister practitioners. Just how bizarre can be seen by reading Daniel Ryder’s Breaking the Circle of Satanic Abuse, a book so eccentric that one might dismiss it as a product of the lunatic fringe were it not for the fact that its author is a licensed social worker, and the cover contains endorsements from police officers, psychologists and child welfare groups. It appears to be a product of the so-called ‘Christian Counselling’ movement, a synthesis that makes clear the similarities between evangelical Christianity and ‘recovery therapy’. Notably their common emphasis on confession and rebirth, and emphasis on individual evil rather than social factors as an explanation for people’s problems. Thus Ryder’s accounts of work with alleged ritual abuse victims alternate between exhortations to remember that Jesus has been victorious over Satan, and passages of psychobabble that defy parody:

Tim, who’s a 37 year old computer programmer guesses that his inner child is six. Tim’s next task was to do some activities appropriate for a six year old. He got some coloring books for his inner child. He was also doing daily affirmations holding a teddy-bear and talking into a mirror. Bianca, a 40 year old manager was doing some experimental inner-child work. She was skeptical until she found herself too late for a corporate conference because she had found herself engrossed with a dolls house she was playing with.

If these methods fail to produce memories of Satanic abuse, apparently the therapist should go on a fishing expedition through any memories that are the slightest bit out of the ordinary:

If the client is ready there are other ways to jog memories. One is to go back to the neighbourhood one grew up in. Walk around if possible, remembering the adults, remember-ing the children. What were their personalities like? Did anything ever seem odd? Do you remember any adults who seemed especially sadistic or overtly sexual? What’s happened to some of the children who lived in the neighbourhood? Did some develop psychiatric disorders?

Ryder’s therapy produces Satanic cult tales that one might think would test the credulity of the most gullible believers (but to judge by the book’s endorsements have not done so). His Satanists have paranormal powers and, it seems, that they may use these to make evidence vanish. Thus neatly explaining why no-one ever finds any. Demons and non-human monsters are present at ceremonies, according to Ryder.

Tales like this underline another problem that the Satanic cult memories share with memories of alien abductions and past lives. Not only do different therapists not only keep on finding lots of whichever of the above is their speciality but never anything else, but also each finds a particular sub-type of their speciality unique to themselves. Thus Budd Hopkins’ alien abductors are rather different from John Mack’s, and reincarnation researchers tell tales about the process which completely contradict each other. Similarly, Ryder’s cult stories are very different from those found by more secular investigators. But Ryder also reports a new type of abuse which he claims to find emerging:

A certified therapist who requested anonymity for safety reasons said that some clients had memories of being abused in laboratory type settings. This laboratory abuse is seen as experimental. This therapist said survivors have remembered being hooked on to electrodes. [Another therapist] said survivors report having memories of surgical procedures. [She] also reported more than one of these survivors claim they remember being programmed to assassinate powerful people if cued.

Such stories seem to be becoming more common, and Ryder’s version of them is not the most bizarre. Cary Hammond is the producer of a video on Satanic abuse used by various American police departments, who, according to Lawrence Wright, claims:

Such cults were developed by Satanic Nazi scientists who were captured by the CIA after the war and brought to the US. The main figure was a Hasidic Jew, Dr. Greenbaum who saved himself from the gas chambers by assisting his Nazi captors and instructing them in the secrets of the Cabala.

Dr Hammond is quoted as saying:

People say what’s the purpose of it? My best guess is they want an army of Manchurian Candidates, tens of thousands of mental robots who will smuggle drugs, engage in arms smuggling, very lucrative things, and eventually, the megalomaniacs at the top believe, create a Satanic order that will rule the world.

For writers like Bill Cooper and John Lear, UFO retrieval tales have linked with themes such as drug barons and ‘treason in high places’, now the Satanic cult stories are linking up with abductee-type medical experiments, political assassinations, Nazis-in-America conspiracy theories and Jewish ritual murder tales.

NOTES:

1. A historical equivalent of Sheriff Ingram might be major weir, the former Cromwellian officer, who in 1670 made an unprompted confession to a lifetime of witchcraft and bizarre sex crimes.

2. A recent case involving demonstrably false memories is that of Roald Dahl who claimed in his autobiography to have been beaten by Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, the future Archbishop of Canterbury whilst attending Repton school. In fact Dr. Fisher was not a Repton master at the time Dahl was there. [See also The Strange Case of Mr Esther Rantzen and the Demon Headmaster]

3. Similarly, the current image of ghosts as transparent figures seems to rest not on witness accounts, but early cinema trick photography.

4. Tim Tate, the leading British journalistic proponent of the Satanic abuse scare also scripted the 1994 Channel 4 documentary claiming that Sirhan Sirhan had been brainwashed by the CIA 

For Part Two, and bibliographical notes continue HERE

 

Still Seeking Satan, Part 2. Roger Sandell

Still Seeking Satan, by Roger Sandell. From Magonia 51, 1995

Part Two

Two new collections of essays on Satanist abuse, mostly by health professionals, are Out of Darkness from the USA, and Treating Survivors of Satanic Abuse from Britain. Since their formats are similar, it is easiest to deal with the together, using their initials to locate individual essays. Most of the contributors to both books work in the public sector and so avoid some of the more extreme claims that come from therapists in private practice. However each book contains one essay indicating clearly that impressive qualifications and prestige jobs are no guarantee against writing total absurdities.

Catherine Gould of the Los Angeles Ritual Abuse Task Force writes on `Diagnosis and Treatment of Ritually Abused Children’ (OOD), a large part of which consists of a quite ludicrous checklist of symptoms of Satanic abuse which includes items such as ‘child refuses to worship God’, ‘child resists authority’ and ‘child is extremely controlling with other children, constantly playing chase games’.

A notable feature of this catalogue is that it includes a large number of contradictory items, which cause practically any type of behaviour to become evidence of Satanic abuse, including both ‘child is afraid to separate from parents, cannot be alone and clings’, as well as ‘child seems distant from parents avoiding close physical contact’.

‘Satanic Cult Practices’ (TSSA) by Dr Joan Coleman, a psychiatrist, relates uncritically the most extreme claims. Satanists include ‘police, politicians, ambassadors and aristocrats’. They carry out human sacrifices, burying bodies on the country estates of wealthy cultists. Their leaders hold regular meetings at a national level to plan activities such as gun-running and drug dealing. They are divided into local groups of eighty or so members which are run by a group of officials whose titles include Scribe, High Priestess and Thane. (In fact the word thane has no connection with any form of magic or supernatural belief but was simply the title of a village headman in Anglo-Saxon England. Has Dr Coleman become confused by Macbeth which has both thanes and witches?)

One authority which she cites for all of this is Satan’s Underground by ‘Laurel Stratford’, a US `survivor’ story which has been proved to be a hoax. Apart from this she cites alleged testimonies from her own patients. The first patient to describe apparent Satanic abuse told of witnessing the sacrifice of three Vietnamese children around 1976 “brought to Southampton from the USA, among the first Boat People”. Readers may remember that Boat People were initially housed in centres such as disused army camps and were closely supervised by the social services. That the disappearance of three such children could have gone un-noticed by the authorities seems very unlikely. Did the parents report it, or were they Satanists too?

Dr Coleman is impressed, like many abduction researchers with the apparent unanimity of the witnesses. One example is that apparently witnesses agree that the altar used in ceremonies will have a sword, a skull, a chalice or a book on it. Given that one would expect a Satanist altar to have something sinister and suitably archaic on it one would hardly expect claims that the altar was decorated with a mobile phone or a pop-up toaster!

Equally credulous is a piece by a member of the team responsible for the 1992 Channel 4 programme, Blasphemous Rumours (TSSA). This programme featured irrelevant, manipulative images such as shots of an empty children’s playground filmed in polarised light and accompanied by discordant music. It gave credence to manifestly absurd claims such as one interviewee who recounted being present at a ceremony in a specially constructed underground chamber where hundreds of people were present. The documentary makers made no attempt to check out matters which could have been investigated, such as a claim to have been in a Satanic temple that was a windowless building in London’s Docklands.

It is enlightening to compare this programme with one broadcast on Channel 4 in 1994 in which a woman claimed that she and her children had been sexually abused while members of the Children of Godgroup. While flawed in some respects – notably its use of the dubious ‘brainwashing cult’ model of explanation – it centred on witnesses who told their stories directly to camera, showed photographs of themselves with other cult members, and produced old letters and internal documentation: the kinds of details which are conspicuously absent from the Satanism cases.

The producers of the Satanism documentary seemed impressed by the nearly two hundred calls Channel 4′s switchboard received after transmission, telling tales of Satanist abuse. One wonders what they would have made of the several hundred calls received after the recent British radio appearance of UFO abduction writer John Mack.

Both books attempt to take some kind of historical perspective. Brett Kahr, a psychotherapy lecturer, contributes an essay ‘The Historical Foundation of Ritual Abuse’ (TSSA) which argues that modem Satanism cases are a continuation of child sacrifice which he contends was widespread in ancient times. He can point to the Tophet cult in the ancient middle east as a genuine example of such practices. Beyond this he shows how little historical understanding he has. He cites the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, and the Greek legend of Medea as evidence for widespread child sacrifices. In each case the story was set about a thousand years before it was written down, at an era which even the original audience would consider remote and barbarous. Moreover, the tone of each tale is evidence, not for the popularity of human sacrifice, but for the universal abhorrence it inspired.

Kahr’s ignorance is also clearly indicated by the fact that he seems impressed by the ridiculous and misleading ‘historical survey’ in Tim Tate’s Children for the Devil which I analysed in detail in an earlier review.

Martin Katchen’s ‘History of Satanic Religions’ (OOD) is no better. Most of his historical ‘evidence’ relates to tales told about medieval heretics by their enemies, and allegations made by the clerical anti-Masonic movement in the nineteenth century. Both these essays share certain characteristics with most historical writings on Satanism by believers: there is no reference to works on witchcraft by mainstream historians such as Hugh Trevor-Roper, Keith Thomas and most particularly Norman Cohn. Cohn has discussed in detail how medieval heretics became associated with tales of orgies and human sacrifice. There is no attempt to analyse the main legend of human sacrifice, that even the writers here would presumably agree to be baseless, that of Jewish ritual murder (the US book devotes on throw-away sentence to this point in its introduction, while the British one’s silence is surprising since its editor, Valerie Sinason, is Jewish).

 rituals

Moreover, one wonders exactly what point these essays are supposed to be making? By exactly what process were grim ancient rituals transmitted to proprietors of Californian day-care centres and semi-literate families on British council estates? Did they exist underground for centuries unsuspected by contemporary social commentators or later historians? Ryder claims that “various forms of occult practices, including Satanism”, were brought to America from “European countries, Africa and Australia” (Australia??) but beyond this there is no explanation.

A second essay by Katchen, ‘Satanic Belief and Practices’ (OOD) attempts to make sense of Satanic cults in terms of sociology, anthropology and comparative religion. He sees the brutalities allegedly inflicted by such groups as analogous to US Marine Corps training in which abuse and harshness is used to form group loyalties. This attempt is unconvincing. there are certainly cultures, both amongst tribal peoples and in advanced societies in which initiation into the group is a brutal process, but in all of these the brutality leads up to a final initiation – like a coming-of-age or a passing out ceremony – when it stops and the newcomer is recognised as a member of the group. At what point does this happen with the Satanists? No survivor tale gives us any clue. Once again, there are many cultures and sub cultures that practice and reward extreme brutality against outsiders. What is inexplicable about the Satanic cult stories is the way cults that are alleged to be trans-generational supposedly practice, on those who are to be the carriers of the tradition, grotesque and meaningless brutalities that could hardly be endured without total traumatisation that would make normal functioning, even within the cult, very difficult.

Any attempt to apply any sociological analysis to these groups also breaks down in the total failure of those telling the stories to give any account of their day to day functioning – something which might be comprehensible in the case of children but not with adults. Do different groups choose their own leaders, or are the imposed from Satanist National Headquarters? Are there ever any internal disagreements of schisms? What impact has AIDS had on Satanism? Have the cults been devastated as one would expect from groups whose rituals involve sex orgies and drinking blood? Have they changed any rituals as a result? On all of these points there is silence, and in fact on any description of the minutae of day to day life there is silence. Lawrence Wright’s book illustrates this very well. At one point Sheriff Ingrain is providing his interrogators with a detailed description of a horrific Satanist rite. However a sceptical; psychiatrists intervenes to ask what sort of things the cultists talked about when the ritual was over. This reduces Ingram to incoherence, totally unable to provide a reply to this sort of mundane query.

The contents of the two books under consideration are not wholly credulous. There is a contribution by Kenneth Lanning, an FBI specialist in child abuse cases (OOD) that makes an impressive and informed sceptical case, not denying the possibility of satanic abuse, but pointing out the many problems involved in the evidence so far presented (18th-century magistrates’ manuals recommended a similar strategy, saying that magistrates faced with accusations of witchcraft should not deny the existence of witches, but point out the problems involved in proving an allegation). Lanning points out the complete discontinuity of Satanism cases with other cases of child sex rings, where features such as the involvement of women and allegations of the victimisation of adults as well as children, are practically unknown.

An interesting comparison which Lanning does not explore is with the other wave of child sex allegations currently rife in the US – those against Roman Catholic priests, some of which, like the day-care cases, involve allegations of whole institutions incorporating cultures of child sex abuse. However the similarity stops here. The cases involving priests have resulted in many guilty pleas and supporting evidence in the form of long histories of allegations against individuals before action was taken. There are no tales of the involvement of women (in spite of many institutions where nuns look after children) or of murder, or of paraphernalia that is never found in searches. Recovered memories rarely form the basis for such allegations and there are certainly no ‘experts’ alleging these cases validate anti-Catholic tales of past centuries. [5]

Another writer, George B. Greaves, a forensic psychologist, contributes an essay ‘Alternative Hypotheses Regarding Claims of Satanic Cult Activity’ (OOD). While faulting believers for their methodology, he ultimately argues for the reality of Satanic cults, rejecting folklore-bases explanations on grounds very similar to those advanced by Eddie Bullard for rejecting folklore explanations of UFO abduction tales. He argues that Satanic cult stories are not like urban legends – structured narratives leading to a climax in the same manner as jokes.

This is however to take an over-restrictive view of the nature of urban legends. To illustrate urban legends to his readers he gives the example of a cat killed by being placed in a microwave cooker. In fact, just such tales of babies being killed in microwaves have appeared in Satanism allegations!

Valerie Sinason, the editor of the British book, seems to take a rather ambiguous position. In spite of accepting the reality of Satanist abuse she contributes an introduction to the Lawrence Wright book, accepting, somewhat grudgingly, that a miscarriage of justice occurred. Her introduction thanks for her suggestions, Dr Sherrill Mulhearn, the anthropologist and leading Satanism sceptic, although any input by Dr Mulhearn into the book is not evident.

Her own essay, ‘Internal and External Evidence’ at least has the merit of being frank about the fantastic content of some survivor stories:

Malcolm, aged 27, a lawyer, could clearly describe the expensive furnishings in the place where he was ritually abused. However, whilst in a trance state he spoke about being in a huge palace where everyone, including some famous people, could fly.

However, she concludes that the Satanist may use drugs to implant false memories in their victims, and, bizarrely, that these stories are the fault of investigators who do not believe everything they are told. [6]

Where patients correctly experience another’s response as irrational disbelief they can then unconsciously fabricate to a point where everything is disbelieved: this makes them angrily in control of further rejection. By the same action they have also protected their allegiance to the cult.

The one first-hand survivor account she includes in her book is hard to assess. the author claims to have been abused in a residential centre, a setting which is easily exploited for sexual abuse. He claims to have been the victim of a child sex ring whose members were Freemasons, who chose his as their boy god, and made him the centre of their rituals: a procedure which bears no relation to other survivor tales. There is a reference to human sacrifice, but the claimant states that his abusers gave him drugs, and as a result he is uncertain about what was and was not real. A puzzling and inconclusive story made even more so by the absence of any information about whether any attempt has been made to report it to the police or other authorities.

It is a relief to turn from these books to the official report The Extent and Nature of Ritual Abuse, by Professor Jean La Fontaine. The version currently available is merely a 35-page summary of main findings, with a more detailed report to follow. Even so its summing up of some eighty British allegations, few of which were reported in the press, is full of interest. First of all the claim made by many believers that there are a large number of separate cases with similar details supporting each other is shown to be false; many allegations are unique to individual cases. Even basic features of the image of ritual abuse, such as the use of robes or costumes only feature in about a third of the allegations.

A particularly significant section of the report is ‘The Class Context of Allegations of Ritual Abuse’, which looks at the people who face these charges.

There were 203 adults (111 men and 92 women) reported. Of the men only 35 were reported as being in work. Six had casual labouring jobs, eight had more skilled manual jobs, and three had middle-class jobs. The work of the other 18 employed men was not specified in the files but there were indications that they were low paid. Few women were working, all but one in manual work. In 12 out of 38 cases the poverty of the children’s parents was referred to. Only one man owned the house he lived in. Run-down urban estates were mentioned in twelve cases.

A similar picture is given in an essay in the Sinason book; ‘A Systematic Approach’, by Aaron Ben-tovim and Marianne Tranter, which gives the case history of a family accused of taking their children to a ‘Satanic Church’ to be abused by figures:

The details of the case reports indicated the children had always been subject to poor standards of hygiene and the results of poor financial management. Clothing was poor and inappropriate to prevailing climatic conditions. Diet was adequate but of poor quality… It was extremely difficult for the social worker to describe the chaos within the household. Children as they grew older became more unruly, left to fend for themselves beyond the mother’s control. the mother yelled rather than talked, school attendance became poorer, social isolation became marked… Dental and personal hygiene was non-existent. The children were left unsupervised on the estate and there was regular concern and complaints from other families… acts of vandalism, bullying, stoning elderly people begging and burglary, although always unproven, [Note the way the writers solemnly record allegations of vandalism as unproven while accepting allegations of Satanic abuse.]

nesbitt

In Britain allegations of Satanic abuse have become part of a wider social issue, where housing estates inhabited by Rab C. Nesbitt ‘underclass’ figures are now seen as a ‘Dark Continent’ awash with idolatry and witchcraft

Here we are clearly a world away from Joan Coleman’s fantasies of wealthy Satanists burying their victims on private estates, or from the US cases featuring expensive therapists or middle-class day care centres. What seems to be happening in Britain is that allegations of Satanism have become part of a wider social image, that of the ‘underclass’. As employment has collapsed in many communities there are arguments amongst policy-makers as to whether or not the poor are a violent, threatening rabble, responding only to authoritarian measures. Images of the underclass move from such discussions to mass audience images including TV characters such as the Jackson family on EastEnders, Rab C. Nesbitt, and Harry Enfield’s Wayne Slob. Now it seems housing estates are seen as a 1990′s equivalent of a ‘Dark Continent’ awash with idolatry and witchcraft.

Writers such as Tim Tate have attacked the Fontaine Report for allegedly making light of the eight or so cases of ritual abuse that have resulted in convictions. Fontaine argues that these have all involved either an individual or a group of at the most four, and that they have not involved any of the bizarre features such as human sacrifice. However it seems to me that she is on less secure ground in arguing that the rituals were only incidental to the abuse, as a means to intimidate the children.

Motives are not always easy to assess, and to see how the cases she mentions fit in it is useful to adopt the typology of the believers in satanic abuse. Several of them divide types of Satanists as follows:

  •  
    • 1- Public Satanists. These are followers of groups such as Anton LeVey’s Church of Satan, who, as even the anti-Satanist concede, are rarely involved in criminal offences.
    • 2- Teenage Dabblers. Young people with an interest in the occult derived from such sources as heavy-metal music and horror films. In Britain few of these have been involved in any crimes more serious than minor church vandalism, but in the US, anti-Satanists can point to dabblers involved in more serious crimes including murder. However when these cases are examined drugs and the wide availability of firearms seem to be more significant causes than occultism. Ironically some of those involved in such cases have been from evangelical Christian households, and have adopted Satanist symbols as a sign of rebellion. [7]
    • 3- Psycbopathic Satanists. Unbalanced individuals obsessed with the idea of Satan either acting alone or with a small number of accomplices. Here again there is a well-authenticated history of such cases with the most famous being the Manson gang.
    • 4- Transgenerational Satanist – Satanic Cults. This is the category on which the controversy centres: the existence of large, highly organised and well-equipped groups, including groups carrying out elaborate ceremonies involving crimes such as murder, and involved in a variety of criminal conspiracies to support their activities.

When these categories are adopted it becomes clear that all of the authenticated cases discussed by Fontaine fall into the third category. By contrast, Valerie Sinason, who has also responded critically to the Fontaine Report, cites as examples of Satanism, cases that have little to do with any of the categories. Thus her book includes a case of a girl sexually abused by an elder brother who claimed to be possessed by spirits, and a case where an abused child states “Daddy eats poo”, a very different matter from allegations that children are being forced to eat excrement as part of ceremonies where they are tortured.

It may well be wise to bear this typology in mind while considering both recent press coverage of Satanism allegations, and possible coverage in the near future. When these allegations first surfaced in Britain in 1989-1990 they were for a time treated uncritically by the press, a position which soon moved to general disbelief, unaccompanied by detailed investigations (except in the cases of the Independent on Sunday and Mail on Sunday) and this attitude was reflected in coverage of the Fontaine report. However some tabloid coverage of the extraordinary Gloucestershire ‘House of Horror’ mass murder case currently awaiting trial has hinted at some occult motivation, and if this claim is vindicated by the trial it will no doubt be taken as vindicating the Satanic cult tales, in spite of fitting, on the worst interpretation, into the category of psychopathic Satanist. [The Fred and Rosemary West trial referred to here concluded with guilty verdicts, and no suggestion of Satanic activity was introduced into the evidence - JR]

In spite of the increasing number of studies into the Satanism panic, credulous and sceptical, there still seems to be no single overall historical account of its growth. I was therefore interested to see Michael Newton’s Raising Hell, The A-Z of Satanic Crime. Unfortunately the book is flawed in many ways, including its authors credulousness, and its use of an alphabetical case-by-case format which makes it hard to refer to unless one is already familiar with the cases. The accounts of the British cases, and the history of witchcraft, are extremely inaccurate, making it hard to rely on the book’s accounts of other cases I am not familiar with. However it does cover a wide range of US cases and so provides some overall perspectives. Apart from summarising a number of the most prominent day-care centre and Teenage Dabbler cases, it gives some indication of other components of the myth. It looks at some of the magical practices that are current among some Latin and Caribbean migrants to the USA which, although they have perhaps contributed to the wider fear of Satanism, have little overlap with any of the major anti-Satanist allegations, in which an interesting but little remarked feature is the almost complete absence of black people as either accused or accusers.

It also looks at various occult groups which formed part of the ‘sixties underground, such as the Process Church of the Final Judgement. Such groups were certainly involved in some nasty activities, as sections of the underground declined into a drug-laced morass of squalor, irrationality, violence and sexual exploitation, just as fringe political groups such as the Symbionese Liberation Army did. However the claim that they gave birth to Satanist cults now stalking America is unconvincing.

What this book does suggest is that rumours and urban legends concerning sinister occultists were a part of the underground culture and later spread to the wider American scare. Another example of the same process is the way ‘sixties tales about great secrets hidden in the music or designs of Beatles albums have been transmuted into tales of sinister Satanic messages in rock songs.

One interesting feature of Newton’s book is that it makes clear the origins of the anti-Satanist panic in the cattle mutilation scare of the early ‘seventies. Sixties films such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Devil Rides Out had established the image of Satanism. As a result of the US release of the latter film, the original novel appeared as a US paperback, the first Dennis Wheatley title ever to be published in America, giving the image further visibility. Consequently Satanism was seen as one frame of reference for the cattle mutilation reports. Tales were told, similar to UFO occupant stories, of mysterious hooded figures seen by night-time motorists in the South Western states (like aliens, Satanists, with a whole desert to choose from, seem always to stand where they will be seen). Kenneth Bankston, a Kansas convict, told a widely reported hoax tale of his membership of a cult of Satanic cattle mutilators.

The film Race With the Devil demonstrates that the main components of the Satanism scare were already in place in 1975. In this film the heroes, played by Peter Fonda and Warren Oates, stumble on robed figures carrying out open-air nocturnal rituals. As the cultists pursue them, apparently respectable individuals turn out to be secret Satanists. Thus a piece of fiction anticipated many of the details that were to reappear in subsequent, allegedly factual, stories, just as many elements from UFO abduction accounts appear in earlier fictions. [8]

The cattle mutilation panic did not merely provide the origins of the Satanism myth; attempts to link the mutilations with UFOs were a major factor in the dominance of US ufology by abduction and conspiracy theories. A process which has now gone so far that actual unidentified flying objects seem hardly to figure in most American UFO publications at all. The mutilation panic also coincided with the Watergate scandal and a new interest in the JFK assassination on its tenth anniversary. This coincidence influenced theories of the mutilations as being the result of sinister government experiments, setting the pattern for many subsequent government conspiracy tales.

Seen in isolation the Satanism panic is one of the most extraordinary events in late twentieth century US social history. In a wider context it forms part of a more prevalent and alarming abandonment of rationality.

—————————————————————-

NOTES:

5. One exception is the allegations of child abuse against Cardinal Bernadine of Chicago, a cleric who has been active in ending the cover-up on these matters. These allegations were made by a complainant undergoing regression therapy and who later withdrew them. The therapist involved had no qualifications except one awarded by ‘John-Roger’, the New Age guru who has been accused by the American press if influencing Arianna Stassinopolus-Huffington, wife of Michael Huffington, the right-wing Republican candidate in recent US elections.

6. Although administration of drugs as part of sex abuse is not improbable, mystery drinks feature both in Satanic abuse and UFO abduction stories. Peter Rogerson has reminded me that in some reincarnation accounts the claimants state that between lives they were given a ‘drink of forgetting by a supernatural figure but somehow avoided taking it.

7. The use of Satanic imagery by heavy-metal bands seems to have increased following the evangelical anti-heavy-metal campaign. A new development has been the appearance in Scandinavia of ‘Death Metal’, a sub-genre linked with a skinhead-style racism. Britain’s first death Metal fanzine has recently appeared – Harsh reality, an ugly publication combining music reviews with occultism and Holocaust revisionism.

8. Logically one should consider the possibility that by now a real cult might have merged deliberately aping the stereotype that has become established, just as groups like Anton LaVey’s ‘Church of Satan’ were influenced by films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Devil Rides Out. However this would explain little, since many of the survivor storys relate to Satanic activities allegedly occurring in the 1960s, 1950s and even 1940s

BOOKS REVIEWED IN TEXT:

LaFontaine, Jean. The Extent and Nature of Ritual Abuse: Research Findings. HMSO, 1994
Newton, Michael. Raising Hell: the A-Z of Satanic Crime. Warner, 1994.
Sakheim, David and Susan Devine (eds.). Out of Darkness: Exploring Satanism and Ritual Abuse. Lexington Books, 1992.
Sinason, Valerie. Treating Survivors of Satanic Abuse. Routledge, 1994
Wright, Lawrence. Remembering Satan. Serpents Tail, 1994

 

Flying Saucers From Hell. Bill Ellis

Alien Abductions and Satanic Cult Abductions

from Magonia 40, August 1991

There are unquestionably, as John Rimmer states, ‘disturbing parallels’ between UFO abduction research and Satan-hunting. And folklorists are good at finding parallels among widely separated stories and traditions. We can suggest ways in which these coherences represent common human responses to stresses or represent revivals of motifs from the past. But we should also be aware of why we are looking for such continuities. By discussing such stories as folklore, are we explaining or explaining away?

The late 1980s brought many Americans’ attention to two similar claims: people were being abducted and abused by extraterrestrials, and ‘cult survivors’ had been abducted and abused as children by devil-worshippers. Budd Hopkins (1) uncovered and detailed several puzzling cases in which witnesses reported a close encounter with a glowing light, then found they could not account for a period of ‘missing time’. Regressive hypnosis often filled in this gap with experiences in which the witnesses were levitated inside some kind of craft, given medical examinations, then returned to where they had been.

Michelle Smith reconstructed an influential cult abuse story with the help of her psychiatrist (and husband-to-be) Lawrence Pazder. (2] She described in detail how she had been taken by her devil-worshipping mother to many gruesome rituals during which babies were murdered, animal blood drunk, and children forced to lie in graves with dead animals. She was followed by several other dramatic ‘survivors’ who claimed to have been the victims of similar cults. This claim, in fact, has become accepted as standard among many fully accredited psychiatrists treating patients with multiple-personality disorder, now widely assumed to be caused by satanic ritual abuse during childhood. (3)

These scenarios share many motifs with older Anglo-American beliefs and legends focusing on abductions, and they can be historically linked to each other and to older folk traditions. But are they identical claims? If the dynamics and the content of alien abductions and satanic survivor stories are structurally identical, isn’t it reasonable to assume that they are reflections of a similar cultural process that produces or encourages delusions? I believe that the differences between the two types of claim are more important than the parallels: one is empirical, the other is mythological. And this distinction, in social and political terms, is hardly trivial.

Satanic abuse and UFO abductions do have much in common, particularly the contexts out of which they arise. Generally speaking, both kinds of abductees do not initially recall any unusual event. Most UFO abductees recall only seeing a bright light, followed by disorientating nightmares and flashbacks. Likewise, cult survivors ‘present’ with generalised feelings of anxiety and recurring dreams, like Michelle Smith’s vision (familiar to urban legend scholars) of an itchy boil that, when lanced, proves to be full of little spiders. (4) In both cases, the

abduction or ritual abuse is reconstructed with the help of a therapist, often using regressive hypnosis. And in many instances, the moment of ‘recall’ is marked by a cathartic moment of screaming – as in the case of Michelle Smith and Whitley Strieber. (5) And in both instances, follow-up therapy sessions recall these stories in increasing detail. The internal consistency and sincerity of such accounts lend both kinds of accounts credibility, and in both fine details from one victim’s story are apparently corroborated by others interviewed independently. (6)

But we must also admit significant contrasts. UFO abductees generally focus attention, at least initially, on a recent puzzling encounter that can be to some extent corroborated by others present: the glowing light and other puzzling sounds or traces do apparently point to some specific event that occurred in some specific place. By contrast. satanic abuses are more frequently placed in a distant past, and survivors frequently concede that they have no direct witnesses or physical proof that would link their experiences to any specific time or place. This need not be taken as proof that UFOs landed in Whitley Strieber’s backyard: only that the apparent abduction was linked to some identifiable incident in his and his acquaintances’ immediate past; by contrast, Michelle Smith’s ritual abuse took place more than twenty years before she sought medical help and was corroborated in no way by her friends and relatives.

Despite elaborate efforts to connect their stories to abnormal psychological patterns, UFO abductees stubbornly test in the normal range. Experienced psychologists like Rima Laibow and John P. Wilson have noted that such patients do often show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, but this seems a reaction to the apparent abduction rather than a cause of it. (6) And integration into a support group of fellow ‘abductees’ and sympathetic researchers seems to have been therapeutic rather than destructive: the detailed survey conducted by Kenneth Ring and Christopher J. Rosing among UFO abductees shows that ‘on the whole it has made a positive difference in their lives’. (7)

Satanic cult abductees arrive at their ritual abuse memories only after a long string of previous extravagant claims have been tried and found wanting

By contrast, satanic cult survivors normally appear with long histories of psychosis: substance abuse, self-mutilation, previous fantasies, and so on. ‘Lauren Stratford’, or Laurel Rose Willson, one of the most visible American ‘survivors’, arrived at her story of being a cult ‘breeder’ after impressing a series of pastors and church members with detailed stories of abuse and personal illness. Her acquaintances recalled numerous times when she faked suicide attempts, making superficial cuts on her arms, to provoke sympathy. In fact, before she was adopted by the anti-Satanist network, she was living on total state disability benefit due to her mental problems. (8) Alien abductees, in short, construct their experiences as the explanation of a recent, intense state of disorientation; satanic cult abductees, on the other hand, arrive at their ritual abuse memories only after a long string of previous extravagant claims have been tried and found wanting.

Likewise, the contents of these ‘experiences’ show interesting but superficial parallels. Both show victims incapacitated in same way – a drug, a strange ray, perhaps even brainwashing – that reduces their will to resist. They are removed to another place: Michelle recalls being put on a bed and ‘flying’; other witnesses recall ‘mystery planes’ or ‘tunnels’ that took them into some mysterious place, where some kind of symbolic or actual rape took place. Strieber, like many others, recalls being levitated into a small room, where, among other discomforts, he was subjected to some kind of anal probe. Both victims return, frequently with some mysterious mark on their bodies, besides which there is no physical sign of the abductors’ presence. Among cult survivors, the killing of a baby seems the most common climax to such events; a growing number of UFO abductees sense that sperm or ova – even a developing foetus – had been removed by aliens as a personal sacrifice to some scientific purpose. We could say that the one is a technological transformation of the other.

These parallels noted, the obvious difference remains: alien abductions are caused by superhumans; cult abuse is carried out by humans. True, satanists show nearly superhuman powers in the way they can carry out the most gruesome ceremonies without leaving any physical evidence. And since many of the survivors’ accounts include demonic manifestations caused by the cultists, we could say that the difference is academic. But is it? I think not, if we put the two phenomena in full historical perspective.

Since space aliens by definition do not inhabit the same world as humans, abductees must deal with them as part of a mythical otherworld. The main problem, as expressed by many victims, is not merely how to avoid further contacts, but to accept them as genuine but unbelievable experiences. Such a process obviously puts pressure on abduction victims to reduce their experiences to good form. By forming networks to exchange ideas or perceptions of the aliens, abductees follow a pattern of group therapy similar to that studied by folklorists as women’s ‘rap groups’. (9) Whether the trauma of the abduction is empirical or imagined, the folk process that it initiates is essentially one that integrates members into a self-supportive group.

Alien abduction, as many commentators have noted, is a modern cognate to earlier supernatural attack traditions, most notably fairy kidnaps. These bodies of lore also focused on queer experiences in which individuals were ‘taken away’ into another plane of existence in which normal time was disordered. But they were self-regulating, including also a broad range of ritualistic activities intended to keep away these unwelcome guests or limit their power over humans: carrying cold iron, whistling, turning pockets inside out, a broom placed in the chimney upside down. (10) As I noted in an earlier essay on UFO abductions, the common Old Hag or ‘bedroom visitor’ experience has much in common with abductions, (11) and indeed Budd Hopkins took on a person who had had such a ‘hagging’, repeatedly regressing him until the witness eventually produced a suitable abduction memory. [12) But while the Old Hag generally could be kept at bay by sleeping with a sharp knife under the pillow, I expressed fears that abduction researchers might not provide any proper 'superstitions' to dispel fears of aliens.

But now it appears that the network is generating these new folk beliefs. Fetishistic or ritualistic ways are emerging to control the threat of abduction. In Transformation, Strieber describes a series of personal and communal rituals that he participated in as part of his acceptance of 'the visitors': these ranged from refraining from certain foods (chocolate in particular) to holding a group invocation in a Wiccan or neo-pagan sanctuary. (13)

Another 'new age' channeler has circulated the useful knowledge that, if aliens are really after our 'glandular secretions', then we can defeat them by eating things that they don't like, specifically 'sugar, sweet foods, and spinach and rhubarb, hot spicy foods, such as chili peppers'. (14) Even Philip Klass ends his debunking of abduction research by telling readers that ufonauts will never abduct a 'True UFO-Skeptic': 'To assure that you are a TUFOS, and thereby completely protected against ufonaut abduction, it is suggested that you read my earlier book[s])…’ (15) Though a jest, Klass’s remark points to an insight shared by several folklorists examining cultural responses to the paranormal – that the sceptical response frequently mirrors the uncritical reasoning of believers. (16)

Supernatural attack traditions are responses to a specific, directly remembered psychological crisis. Certainly the details of this crisis, as reconstructed in memory and shared with others rely on acceptable cultural models. But are abductions simply subsets of of popular culture antecedents like alien invasion movies and comic strips? (17) The direction taken by most abductees, as with those who have experienced near-death experiences, has been to challenge and move outside of mainstream institutions like organised sciences and religions. To that extent, UFO abductions marginalise victims, but living in the margins also impels many of them to create novel myths and rituals to reorder their world views. These alternative world views may offend mainstreamers, but the fact remains: abductees form their own alternative networks and resist being subsumed by mass-culture movements.

Satanic cult survivors, by contrast, assume that the actions they have witnessed have occurred in real time and in the real world, not in some otherworldly fairy hill. This is why police and vigilantes have, on several occasions, gone so far as to excavate sites named by survivors, looking for graves or signs of secret tunnels. (18) The agents of ritual abuse, even if they have superhuman powers given them by the devil, are still mortals who live in the same community as we do. This point is made quite clear by the Satan hunters: ‘A coven … is set up so that no one knows more than one or two members involved at the next level of its hierarchy … And because many of the people involved hold respectable positions in the community, few are willing to believe what often are considered ravings from a troubled mind.’ (19)

salemwitchtrial-e

Witches could not hide when they were pointed out by afflicted girls or professional witch-finders executing the will of God almighty

Alien abductees may report real-time contacts with strange ‘men in black’. but these characters often betray their extrahuman natures by their odd appearance and tendency to vanish. The cult members who harass survivors, on the other hand, are assumed by therapists to be real people who can be identified and arrested. In fact, the Satanists cannot vanish; however secretive they may be, they can and must be disarmed by decisive social action. And the actions projected by the two groups’ beliefs point in quite different directions. At worst, the UFO abduction camp demands respect for non-standard myths and beliefs; the satanic abduction camp, on the other hand, wants to hurt the people responsible for their experiences. By its nature, the cult mythology is reactionary and aggressive. It exorcises a generalised, poorly defined fear by projecting it outward on to other members of the community.

Its proper cognate is not fairy lore but witch-hunting. Witches, too, had superhuman abilities given them by the devil: they could enter people’s dreams, afflict their bodies, kill their children and cattle. But they could not hide when they were pointed out by afflicted girls or professional witch-finders, executing the will of God almighty. Susanna Martin, one of the accused witches in the Salem, Massachusetts, panic of 1692, took one farmer, Joseph Ring, from his bed, flew him to a nearby field, and forced him to take part in black sabbats. Before returning, she would ‘strike him dumb’ so that he could not tell of what he had seen. This continued for more than two years, but by the grace of God he recovered his memories in time to participate in the testimony that put Goody Martin’s head in the noose. (20)

In many cultures and times, witch-hunts have led to acts of violence against marginal classes – women, Jews, Gypsies, African Americans, Socialists, any group who can serve as ready targets for the generalised fears of the mainstream. In short, alien abductees seek to create a marginal world view; satanic cult abductees seek to eliminate marginality.

Is it surprising that the two bodies of information share motifs? Both grew organically out of the cattle mutilation panics of the 1970s, which were widely linked to devil-worship ceremonies. The abduction scenario received an infusion of new blood from two simultaneous abduction mutilation experiences elicited by ufologist Leo Sprinkle through hypnotic regression. These recollections, helpfully reprinted in extenso by Linda Moulton Howe, include a number of motifs common to satanic cult lore, including aliens in cult lore, including aliens in black hooded robes and with eyes ‘red, like the devil’, who bathe in tubs of blood and excised organs. (21) It should also be noted that Michelle Remembers was published at the height of Canada’s own cattle mutilation panic of 1979-80, which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police openly attributed to a sinister cult called ‘Sons in the Service of Satan’ or ‘S.I.S.S.’ (22)

The ‘missing children’ moral crusade likewise took hold in the early 1980s, while psychopathic mass murderers, according to the media, haunted neighbourhoods and roamed the Interstates. (23) And this crusade has hardly been confined to Americans but affected the Communist Bloc: while cattle mutilators roamed Colorado in the 1970s, strangers in a mysterious black car prowled Russia and Poland, abducting children to drain out their blood or pluck out their eyeballs and vital organs. (24) This kind of story is a universal cultural myth, found in some form in nearly every continent, especially when Europeans were perceived as a threat to Africans, Asians, or Latin Americans. (25) Overall, such patterns indicate broad bodies of cultural language, that would affect any anomalous claim.

Is one simply a more sophisticated form of the other? Michael Goss implies this when he notes that ‘The Georgians, and the Victorians after them, were too sophisticated to fear that their children might be kidnapped by fairies. But as they had nomadic gypsy bands the loss was not felt’. This comment seems close in spirit to Jan Harold Brunvand’s confident explanation that when ballads containing references to fairies, ghosts and the like where brought over from England to the US, Americans dropped out the supernatural elements, ‘presumably because they (Americans) are hard-headed and practical’. (26)

A close reading of Hilary Evans’s Intrusions (27) would show that the Victorian period was an extraordinarily active period for supernatural beliefs and research at the most sophisticated scientific levels. Spiritualism, table-tapping, and ESP were seriously entertained by figures of no less import than William James, Sir William Crookes, and Sir Arthur Coma Doyle (whose arguments for the existence of fairies continue to mystify the hard-headed American fans of Sherlock Holmes). In fact, sociologists have recently noted, the outbreak of the witchcraft hysterics in Europe matched precisely the emergence of modern scientific methods that removed fairies as a ‘sensible’ explanation for phenomena later used to burn witches. (28)

Supernatural attack claims and witch-hunts have coexisted at every cultural period, however ‘sophisticated’ it might have been. Romans believed in lamia that might snatch children’s spirits to the underworld, and they also believed in Christians that kidnapped babies and ate them during their love feasts. They appeased the former and burned the latter. The medieval English believed in fairies that might abduct children or adults into underground neverlands; they also could be convincedthat Jews were using Christian babies as a Passover sacrifice. Bowls of milk were left out for the fairies; the Jews were dispossessed and burned.

And in our own time alien abductions and satanic cult abductions emerge, both equally drawing on contemporary beliefs and concepts to refurbish equally ancient structures. ‘But doesn’t it scare you that abductees are forming these networks?’ one popular press reporter demanded during a phone interview. No, I responded: the marginality of ufology in general and doubly marginal place abductionology holds even there, it seems unlikely that it will ever have the clout to appeal to more than a minority of New Age seekers. True, Edith Fiore blatantly uses hypnosis to cure Californians’ anxieties by helping them construct satisfying ‘abduction experiences’ and gives the reader helpful hints on building your own UFO experience by dangling a crystal over your wrist while asking it leading questions. (29) But like past-life therapy (in which Fiore also dabbles), such tactics may offend sceptics’ sense of logic, but they do produce cures (like shamanism) when the therapist and patient share similar world views and when the patient expects the therapy to make him better. (30)

The question is: how much social damage can abductee networks cause? Anecdotal accounts circulate about victims who consider suicide and murders to keep themselves and children from being abducted by extraterrestrials. These ‘horror stories’, however, have not yet been accompanied by names and dates. On the other hand, the satanic abduction network has the desire to damage individuals and institutions and possesses the clout of academic and political institutions. Consider the coalition as we have experienced it in the United States: the producers of ABC-TV’s 20-20 News programme, the members of the American Psychiatric Association who organised and participated in the international conferences on Multiple Personality/Dissociative States; at least three archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church; the District Attorney of Los Angeles, who pursued the McMartin Preschool satanic abuse case despite a lack of objective evidence, even, for several years, the US Government’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And to what positive end? The MPD/satanism therapy, like others, works when therapist and patient agree on the reality of cults. Many ‘survivors’ find relief from their psychoses in becoming widely demanded ‘experts’ on ritual abuse. But the benefit of the patient must be balanced against the staggering cost of careers and reputations damaged by innuendo, And, as Mulhern has pointed out, many patients diagnosed as victims of ritual abuse, are further traumatised by being convinced that they are in continual danger from real-life Satanists. Given the role that Michelle Remembers played in initiating the McMartin prosecution in Los Angeles (the model for Rochdale), Michelle Smith could have done a lot worse than contact Budd Hopkins. And, ironically, the saddest toll must be numbered in real child victims, which can be documented by name and date.

Angela Palmer, 4, burned to death in an oven in Lewiston, Maine, 27 October 1984: Her mother’s boyfriend was trying to exorcise a demonic image from the mother, put there by her father who had abused her as a child. The exorcism went awry when Lucifer manifested himself in the child. (31)

Kimberly Jackson, 4, died of starvation in Milton, Florida, 8 February 1987: her mother, concerned about her daughter’s ‘defiance’, had consulted an evangelist, who ordered her to punish her child by beating and starving her, and forcing her to sleep under black blankets representing the death of the soul. (32)

Eric Cottam, 14, died of starvation near Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 4 January 1989: their parents, afraid that the children were being subjected to satanic abuse in a local Seventh-Day Adventist school, took their children to psychiatrists at a Pittsburgh children’s hospital, who elicited detailed accounts of animal sacrifices and sexual abuse. After the specialists determined that it was ‘reasonably realistic that those acts did occur’, the Cottams fled into seclusion and, lacking money, waited for God to save them from the satanists. (33)

Folklorists can’t decide if extraterrestrials exist or if any given accusation of ritual abuse is valid or not, but they can and should help people keep phenomena like this in perspective. History repeats for those unwilling to learn it.

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References:

1. See his Intruders, Ballantine, 1987, and Missing Time, Ballantine 1988

2. Michelle Remembers, Pocket Books, 1981.

3. Particularly influential among these has been; Stratford, Lauren; Satan’s Underground, Harvest House, 1988. For further background see: Mulhern, Sherrill, ‘Satanism and psychotherapy: a Rumor in Search of an Inquisition’, in The Satanism Scare

4. Smith and Padzer, p.9. See Brunvand, Jan harold, The Mexican Pet, Norton, 1986, pp. 76-77. ‘The spider bite’, he notes has been a popular urban legend in North America and Europe since the mid-1960s

5. Smith and Padzer, pp. 22-23, Communion, p. 54.

6. For this claim on ritual abuse see: Mulhern and victor; for a similar claim for abductions see: Bullard, Thomas E., ‘Hypnosis and UFO Abductions; a troubled relationship’, in Journal of UFO Studies, 1, 1989, pp 3-40.

7. Laibow, quoted in Conroy, Ed., Report on Communion, Morrow 1989; Wilson, ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Experience Anomalous Trauma (EAT): similarities in reported UFO abductions and exposure to invisible toxix contaminants’, Jornal of UFO Studies, 2, 1990, pp.1-18; Ring, Kenneth and Rosing, Christopher, ‘The Omega Project: a psychological survey of people reporting abductions and other UFO encounters’, Journal of UFO Studies, 2, 1990, p.82. Ring and Rosing, while admitting that their data cannot resolve the empirical status of abduction experiences suggest that a psychosocial explanation is the most likely.

8. Passantino, Gretchen and bob, and Trott, John, ‘Satan’s Sideshow’, Cornerstone, 18: 90, 8 December 1989, pp.24-28.

9. See particularly Kalcik, Susan, “…like Ann’s gynaeocologist or the time I was almost raped”, personal narratives in ‘Women’s Rap Groups’ Journal of American Folklore 88, 1975, pp3-11. About twice as many women as men are willing to admit an abduction experience, although hard data on this are laking. See Ring and Rosing, p.65.

10, See my ‘Abduction’, in Hand, Wayland, The Encyclopedia of AmericanFolk Beliefs and Superstition, University of California Press.

11. ‘The Varieties of Alien Experience’, The Skeptical Inquirer, 12,3, Spring 1988, pp. 263-269. See also, Hufford, David, The Terror That Comes in the Night, University of Pennsylvania, 1982.

12. Missing Time, pp. 145-175

13. Streiber, Transformation, Avon, 1988, pp.242-244

14. Nevada Aerial Research group, The Leading Edge, November 1990, p.26. One suspects that garlic too might be effective.

15. Klass, p. UFO Abductions, a Dangersour Game, Prometheus Books, 1988, p.194

16 – 19. These referenves to be confirmed.

20. Starkey, Marlon, L. The Devil in Massechusetts, Anchor, 1969.

21. An Alien Harves, Linda Moulton howe prods., 1989, pp247, 371

22. See: Adams, Thomas A., ‘The Cult Connection’, Stigmata, 11, 1980, pp10-13, and Kagan, David and Summers, Ian, Mute Evidence, Bantam 1983.

23. A useful introduction to this crusade is: Best, Joel, Threatened Children, University of Chicago press, 1990.

24. Czubala, Dionizjusz, ‘The Black Volga’. Foaftale News, 21. 1991. See also: Stilo, Guiseppi, and Toselli, Paolo. ‘Gli Arcchiappa-bambini e l’Ambulanza Nera’, Tutte Storia, 1,1, March 1991, pp9-11. The same story was circulating in Southern italy in November 1990.

25. See: Campion-Vincente, Véronique, ‘The Baby-Parts Story’, Western Folklore, 49, 1990, pp.9-25; and Stevens, Phillip,’The demonology of Satanism’, The Satanism scare.

26. The Study of American folklore, 3rd. edition, Norton, 1986, p.258

27. Routledge and kegan Paul, 1982.

28. Ankarloo, Bengt, and Henningson, Gustav (eds.). Early Modern European Witchcraft, Centres and Peripheries, Clarendon Press, 1990.

29. Encounters, Macmillan, 1989.

30. See: Rogo, D. Scott, the search for Yesterday, Prentice-Hall, 1985.

31. UPI release, October 1984; Portoland (ME) Press-Herald, 27 November 1985. These cuttings were made available to me by the kindness of CHILD Inc., Sioux City, IA., America’s leading advocates of childrens’ right in the face of genuine religious abuse, mainly committed in the name of recognised religions.

32. FOAFtale News, no. 17, p.12.

33. FOAFtale News, n0. 15, p.7

Transvection and Ufology. Manfred Cassirer

From Magonia 28, January 1988

The archetypal midnight hag on her broomstick has a comic Disney touch about her, a fact which did not always escape earlier students who were not above lampooning it. But at one time she was a grim reality, even if there was the occasional judge who ruled that nocturnal flights were not illegal.

We are talking about the supposed phenomenon of ‘transvection’, which is closely related, if at all distinguishable, to a whole variety of other subjects (no less controversial) for which there is yet reasonably good evidence. They include: traction, levitation, teleportation, bilocation, out-of-the-body experiences, and UFO abductions.

witches

At an early date (10th century) the enlightened Canon Episcopi denied the existence of transvection, as a heretical throwback to heathenism. It explicitly denounced “wicked women … who profess that in the dead of night they ride upon certain beasts with the pagan goddess Diana, and fly over vast tracts of country”.

Such things, to be sure, are “only done in the spirit”, and foolish indeed is he who believes that such fond dreams involve actual bodily activity. However, it was taken quite literally by post-mediaeval demonologists. Guazzo in 1626 voiced the opinion that “Sometimes witches are really conveyed from one place to another by the Devil, in the bodily likeness of a goat or some other fantastic animal, and are indeed physically present at their nefarious Sabbaths”. It was, he added, a view “commonly held by theologians and lawyer among Catholics of Italy, Spain and Germany. It should however be noted that none of these ideas are indigenous to this country”. (Mexican magicians, according to the 16th century write Acosta, were also credited with aerial flights, metamorphosis at will into any shape, and ESP (Lawrence, p.67).

These ideas did not however meet with general acceptance even in the European countries of their origin, but it was argued in some quarters that even if only a illusion or dream, transvection was still to be construed as a crime of intent, deserving of summary punishment – in spite of St Augustine’s expresses relief at not being responsible for his dreams!

Tartoretti in 1749 objected that participants in the sabbath, “if they feasted at their meetings … ought to come back surfeited and happy, instead of hungry and tired” and again, that they should be “able to escape from prison” with the same ease as they apparently left their bedrooms at night (Gurney, p.175, n.6). Tartoretti evidently failed to take into account the well-known fact that the Devil’s food is worse than useless; in the words of one of the Pendle witches “… although they did eat, they were never the fuller nor better for the same.” (Anglo, p.237)

Late mediaeval writers like Ulrich Molitor enforced the idea that the Adversary could, even in one’s waking state, induce vivid hallucinations like nocturnal flights. As in saintly bilocation “at the precise moment that at man is in one place, nevertheless he is able to appear in spirit in another”.It mattered little to this argument, if such it can be called, whether the prospective travellers made their way on the traditional broomstick or some equally improbable implement (cleft stick, distaff or shovel) or even on an animal’s back.

Meanwhile the application of an ointment is frequently mentioned. A fifteenth century prince, as ‘illustrious’ as anonymous, persuaded at witch to apply it experimentally. Predictably “nothing unusual happened (Kitteridge, p.166) in spite of liberal helpings of the supposedly magical substance, although the woman professed great faith in its efficacy. In the case of Elizabeth Style, on the other hand, the flying ointment was said to have been effective in 1665.

Had not Jesus been carried to the top of a high mountain by the tempter, and was not Ezekiel taken up by his hair to be conveyed a long distance, to say nothing of Habbakkuk? Many divines – Luther, Bodin, Melanchton – though that this should not be taken too literally, and that one’s spirit only went to the sabbatha.

In 1560 Giambattista Porta once more demonstrated that the customary preparations for a trance-like state failed to dislodge the resting subject, while Dr Gassendi at least produced the illusion of transvection by administering drugs to a control-group. Among those with first-hand experience was Paulus Grillandus, the author of the influential Tractatus de Hereticis et Sortilegiis (1536), who had actually handled the ointment (Hoyt, p.61).

With regard to the subject of this study, one has to agree with Owen that there is no logical objection to the possibility of traction of the human body granted there is a force capable of moving inanimate static bodies. At its most effective level it may amount to actual levitation. In an extreme case Christina of Stommeln was with difficulty rescued from suffocation when a cloud suddenly descended on her while at prayer indoors and she found herself taken to a disused and muddy reservoir. The cover story was to put the blame on the Devil (who else?) trying to kill her by drowning (Thurston, p.13). Twice she is said to have been dragged from her bed, conveyed out of doors and tied to a tree.In the Bromley Poltergeist Case a certain Mr Elms was twice involuntary propelled forward in this writer’s direction by an intangible force (Cassirer).

In 1647 the Devil in the shape of a Master of Arts carried away a scholar of St John’s Cambridge; his gown was recovered from the river and he was never heard of again (Notestein, p.362).

When a man named Harrison mysteriously vanished in 1664, no one had yet heard of UFO abductions. Three people were hanged for his murder – rather prematurely as it turned out, since two years later the ‘dead’ man returned from Turkey, whence he had been spirited away by witchcraft. About the same time James Barrow of Southwark could not be apprehended by any means as he used to fade from the midst of his would-be captors like some latter day Elijah.

Towards the beginning of the twentieth century a mediumistically gifted boy in Iceland, Indri Indriasson, was thrown from his bed after first being lifted up and pulled down to the floor. In the next stage he was forced “head foremost through the door and along the floor in the outer room”; this in spite of clutching at everything in site and being firmly secured by his legs by two men. This form of violent traction was exceptional, but of short duration. The data are regarded as satisfactory by Owen (Owen, p.207).

The dividing line between traction and levitation is a thin one, and in the Icelandic case actual levitation is indicated when it is stated that the boy was “balancing” in the air with his feet towards the window”.

A mistaken belief in levitation can sometimes be induced by an illusion shared by saints, witches and mediums among others. Still, one feels that Cotton Mather’s subject, Margaret Rule, is too hastily dismissed by Owen on account of alleged ‘vagueness’ in detail of the data. Apparently she was afflicted with veritable bouts of levitation: “One of her tormentors pulled her up to the ceiling of the chamber and held her there before a very numerous company of spectators, who found it as much as they could all do to pull her down again.” (Hansen, p.217)

This seems therefore to have been a bona fide instance of the phenomenon for which Mather had gone to the trouble of collecting signed statements. Since none of her bodily parts were in contact with the bedstead, the raising of her body extending “a great way towards the top of the room”, is precluded from being diagnosed as an arc de cercle in a hysterical fit.

Levitation is also associated with physical mediumship, and one need only mention the names of Stainton Moses, D. D. Home, Mirabelli, and the Schneiders. The evidence in connection with Home is virtually unassailable and testified to by Crookes.Among Catholic saints, St Joseph of Copertino is outstanding, and the data relating to his levitating feats are convincing, and were a source of embarrassment to the Church in his lifetime.
“Alleged flights through the air to and from the witches convention may be set on one side as fictive”, warns Owen in his discussion of teleportation.
His point is well taken. Bozzano, however, quotes an apparently trustworthy report by a missionary about a witchdoctor whose “spirit traversed a very considerable distance at night. While his body remained in a cataleptic state, a mysterious ‘something’ impinged realistically on the consciousness of a far-away native, and a pertinent message was conveyed.Transvection was sometimes dismissed on the grounds that the experient’s physical body was observed to be asleep or entranced concomitant with the reported adventure in time and space.

Once more on the borderline of the various themes, the alleged suspension in space must perhaps be sometimes ascribed to skillful gymnastics. In certain cases of ‘hystero-demonopathic’ epidemics young girls emulated the agility of squirrels.Mary Longdon was hexed in 1661 according to Glanville’s Modern Relations. She was sometimes “removed out of her bed into another room”, apparently paranormally, or even carried to the top of the house”. Typical associated poltergeist phenomena suggest that this may have been a genuine case, though Owen has reservations.

With regard to the subject of this study, one has to agree with Owen that there is no logical objection to the possibility of traction of the human body granted there is a force capable of moving inanimate static bodies. At its most effective level it may amount to actual levitation. In an extreme case Christina of Stommeln was with difficulty rescued from suffocation when a cloud suddenly descended on her while at prayer indoors and she found herself taken to a disused and muddy reservoir. The cover story was to put the blame on the Devil (who else?) trying to kill her by drowning (Thurston, p.13). Twice she is said to have been dragged from her bed, conveyed out of doors and tied to a tree.In the Bromley Poltergeist Case a certain Mr Elms was twice involuntary propelled forward in this writer’s direction by an intangible force (Cassirer).

In 1647 the Devil in the shape of a Master of Arts carried away a scholar of St John’s Cambridge; his gown was recovered from the river and he was never heard of again (Notestein, p.362).

When a man named Harrison mysteriously vanished in 1664, no one had yet heard of UFO abductions. Three people were hanged for his murder – rather prematurely as it turned out, since two years later the ‘dead’ man returned from Turkey, whence he had been spirited away by witchcraft. About the same time James Barrow of Southwark could not be apprehended by any means as he used to fade from the midst of his would-be captors like some latter day Elijah.

Towards the beginning of the twentieth century a mediumistically gifted boy in Iceland, Indri Indriasson, was thrown from his bed after first being lifted up and pulled down to the floor. In the next stage he was forced “head foremost through the door and along the floor in the outer room”; this in spite of clutching at everything in site and being firmly secured by his legs by two men. This form of violent traction was exceptional, but of short duration. The data are regarded as satisfactory by Owen (Owen, p.207).

The dividing line between traction and levitation is a thin one, and in the Icelandic case actual levitation is indicated when it is stated that the boy was “balancing” in the air with his feet towards the window”.

A mistaken belief in levitation
can sometimes be induced by an illusion shared by saints, witches and mediums among others. Still, one feels that Cotton Mather’s subject, Margaret Rule, is too hastily dismissed by Owen on account of alleged ‘vagueness’ in detail of the data. Apparently she was afflicted with veritable bouts of levitation: “One of her tormentors pulled her up to the ceiling of the chamber and held her there before a very numerous company of spectators, who found it as much as they could all do to pull her down again.” (Hansen, p.217)

This seems therefore to have been a bona fide instance of the phenomenon for which Mather had gone to the trouble of collecting signed statements. Since none of her bodily parts were in contact with the bedstead, the raising of her body extending “a great way towards the top of the room”, is precluded from being diagnosed as an arc de cercle in a hysterical fit.

Levitation is also associated with physical mediumship, and one need only mention the names of Stainton Moses, D. D. Home, Mirabelli, and the Schneiders. The evidence in connection with Home is virtually unassailable and testified to by Crookes. Among Catholic saints, St Joseph of Copertino is outstanding, and the data relating to his levitating feats are convincing, and were a source of embarrassment to the Church in his lifetime.

“Alleged flights through the air to and from the witches convention may be set on one side as fictive”, warns Owen in his discussion of teleportation.

His point is well taken. Bozzano, however, quotes an apparently trustworthy report by a missionary about a witchdoctor whose “spirit traversed a very considerable distance at night. While his body remained in a cataleptic state, a mysterious ‘something’ impinged realistically on the consciousness of a far-away native, and a pertinent message was conveyed. Transvection was sometimes dismissed on the grounds that the experient’s physical body was observed to be asleep or entranced concomitant with the reported adventure in time and space.

Once more on the borderline of the various themes, the alleged suspension in space must perhaps be sometimes ascribed to skilful gymnastics. In certain cases of ‘hystero-demonopathic’ epidemics young girls emulated the agility of squirrels. Mary Longdon was hexed in 1661 according to Glanville’s Modern Relations. She was sometimes “removed out of her bed into another room”, apparently paranormally, or even carried to the top of the house”. Typical associated poltergeist phenomena suggest that this may have been a genuine case, though Owen has reservations.

An official report about a hexed girl, Francoise Fontain, asserts that she indulged in repeated flights of up to four feet, and

that it required the joint efforts of several men to bring her down. The circumstantial nature of the account makes a good impression. Summing up the evidence. Fodor says. “Transportation of human bodies through closed doors and over a distance is a comparatively rare but fairly well authenticated occurrence.”

Though most parapsychologists would stop short of wholehearted agreement with Fodor’s confident assessment, he is pointing the right way in describing it as “a composite phenomenon between levitation and apport”, for both of which there is valid evidence.

Modern sceptics may doubt that the Revd. Robert Kirke of Aberfoyle was truly carried off by fairies in revenge for revealing their secrets. It was believed that those abducted sometimes returned as ghosts. Witches, of course, had no difficulty in overcoming the physical barriers of their homes, and Vallée, referring to “the archives of the Roman Catholic Church”, surmises that “many accusations of witchcraft stemmed from the belief in strange beings who could fly through the air and approach humans at dusk or at night.” (Vallee, p.62) Collective sightings even in daylight of weird configurations are neither rare nor necessarily extorted by torture-chamber confessions, nor confined to any one age.

Did not the Prince of Apostles (very much unlike the witches) thwart every effort to keep him in prison? In more modern times miracles of this kind are still alleged in some numbers. The Davenport brothers, for example, were “transported a distance of miles”, while other mediums such as Mrs, Guppy, Williams Hearne, Lottie Fowler and ‘Dr.’ Monk did at least as well several times.Anthropological data lend credence to the seemingly incredible. The above mentioned African witch-doctor successfully contacted a native hundreds of miles away through rough terrain. De W De Windt knew of a medicine-man who disappeared from his tent while being watched, only to be found unconscious half a mile distant (Fodor).

Bilocation must be taken into consideration in spite of its apparent violation of natural law. Fodor defines it as “the simultaneous presence in two different places”, with the proviso “mostly in histories of saints. Under this heading we may include the adventures of the Ven. Domenica del Paradiso who escaped to a cave where she spent two nights (Thurston, p.1014). However, her absence failed to attract attention, as she was impersonated by an angel!

More amazing, yet at the same time better attested, are the feats of Sor Maria de Agreda who bilocated no less than 500 times (!) as far afield as Mexico, where she converted a native tribe and distributed rosaries (which as a matter of fact, had all vanished from her cell). There were moreover other supporting indications that her visits to distant lands were not mere flights of fancy (Thurston, p.127)

Fodor elsewhere relates the phenomenon of the doppelganger, a ‘double’ considered by him the “etheric counterpart of the physical body which, when out of coincidence, may temporarily move about in space in comparative freedom and appear in various degrees of density to others.”

Perhaps this accounts for the fact that Alphonse de Liguori was able in 1774 to attend at the death-bed of Clement XIV according to witnesses while being imprisoned at Arezzo. If one can accept Aksakov’s famous tale of the bilocation of Miss Sagée the school-mistress, this would amount to irrefutable evidence in favour of the syndrome. Closely related to this phenomenon are out-of-the-body experiences which traditionally least involve the concept of an ‘etheric double’ or ‘astral body’ supposedly “an exact replica of the physical body but composed of finer matter” (Fodor).

More objective evidence for such an idea is provided by the data for materialisation. If witches ever did traverse long distances (and one would dearly like to hear concrete evidence for this belief), an alternative incarnation would provide the ideal vehicle. Col. de Rochas conducted some suggestive experiments in this field in which a plastic phantom form was created. Induced projection of the ‘double’ is said to have succeeded in early tests, and more recently the modern output on the subject is extensive and a comprehensive critique may be found in the work of of Dr Blackmore.

The idea was ably championed by Ochorowicz: “The hypothesis of a ‘fluid double’ (astral body) which, under certain conditions detaches itself from the body .. appears necessary (my italics) to explain the greater part of the phenomena. Henri de Siemiraski, artist and scientist, also spoke of the pragmatic necessity arising from his experience of the “hypothesis of the duplication (dédoublement) of the medium” (ibid. p.137).

We have come at last to the aspect of the greatest importance to ufology: abductions by UFOs. This subject has become of increasing interest and significance. Recent monographs by Scott Rogo (1980) and John Rimmer (1984) have been devoted to it. Here the flight is of an involuntary kind, over which the subject has no control apart from possible acquiescence. “With ever-increasing frequency”, says C E Lorenzen (Story, p.2) “UFO researchers are encountering witnesses who claim not only to have sighted a UFO and its occupants, but to have been taken aboard”.

This strange experience, which seems to be subjectively psychogenetic follows a predictably stereotyped pattern, unaccountably anticipated by science fiction. Its innocent victims are subjected to traumatic and at the same time mystic happenings under bizarre circumstances with alleged time-losses, possibly triggered off by geophysical or even quite trivial stimuli. Teleported to a strangely unrealistic environment. Betty Andreasson has encounters with non-human beings in a religiously inspired setting.

NOTES

  1. For the most recent discussion of this enigma, see the Unexplained, 108, p 1250ff.
  2. De Rochas, p,170, Julian Ochrowicz, a most experienced researcher, was referring to the physical effects observed by him in his investigation of Palladino

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