The Joy of Hex – Part Two -Witchcraft

From prehistoric times some form of ‘witchcraft’ has existed, but then, unlike now, the casting of spells was more to do with the art of healing than any association with devilry. Most ‘witches’ were herbalists, wise women, or, ‘cunning folk’, who were adept at making potions to cure a range of illnesses. Often providing charms and offerings alongside incantations to protect livestock from predators by using these ‘blessings’ to keep them safe.

The belief in the power of magic has existed since mankind created social settlements where large numbers of people lived and worked. Fearing the forces of nature, inevitably, someone would try to make the unknown less scary by using rituals and spells to ward off evil spirits, whether natural or supernatural. Cave drawings often show people dancing wearing animal costumes alongside images of a ‘witch’ as seen in the photograph below.

Once, such ‘magical’ folk were revered, but as time went on people became wary of these magicians that could seemingly perform supernatural feats. From the 7th century, attitudes changed and terms such as ‘black magic’ spread fear into the hearts of god-fearing folk. With Christianity taking over from paganism as the main religion, it wasn’t long before the church found such powerful shaman a threat. Witch hunts in the name of God became a way to frighten people into turning against their own to preserve the status quo and get rid of annoying, possibly subversive women and men in the community. These poor people didn’t stand a chance against the prejudices and hatred from fanatics who turned communities against someone who was not quite like everyone else. So began the long centuries of demonising the innocent.

During medieval times being accused of witchcraft was a death sentence. Anyone who had a black cat, a mole, some kind of physical tick or blemish, and could conjure up an effective poultice for a wound or boil, would be suspected of being in league with the devil. The caricature of the old hag with a broomstick became the norm.  Wise women in a village were the subject of scorn and accused of evil deeds.

 In the UK, The Witch Finder General, Matthew Hopkins, made it his life’s work to seek out and destroy those accused of witchcraft. Through gruesome torture, he and his allies gained forced confessions from terrified men and women who would often be accused of the crime by friends or family. From the 15th to the 16h century over 100,000 people were hanged or burned at the stake for being witches.

This fear of sorcery lasted well into the eighteenth century when the cruel and unjust system of identifying a witch was abolished, courtesy of – The Enlightenment. A period in history which advocated the use of reason over superstition, and in 1736 the laws against witchcraft were repealed.

Witches and warlocks exist to this day but are no longer seen as dangerous. Often known as Wiccans, these people regard themselves as spiritual folk following pagan beliefs, incorporating mystical sorcery such as divination, herbalism and, Tarot reading. Casting spells not to summon demons or ghouls but to help find a true love, get promoted at work, or simply to engage more with nature and the universe.

You can read more about Wiccan magic in this article:

 https://wiccanspells.info/wiccan-pagan-articles/different-types-magick/

The idea of possessing supernatural powers is deep-rooted within our psyche. Whether it comes from a religious source or from the belief in our own need to connect with natural forces, magic and the casting of spells will never go away. Now, we accept it as part of our everyday world, whether it is reading our astrological predictions or buying Himalayan Salt Lamps, we need to believe that we are more than the sum of our parts, and can control the elements to do our bidding. Does it work? It might. The power is in the belief that it will.

Go to this blog to find out how to cast spells for good luck here:

Since it is Halloween, I thought I’d post an extract from one of my ghostly horror short stories – Daub – it’s in my anthology Glimmer, which just happens to be on offer for only 99c! You can purchase a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H89AN1M

From Daub:

Isabelle fell back onto her ankles and covered her mouth with her hands. She heard a muffled sobbing come from the place where she had seen the child squatting the night before, and shuffled away. She looked at the wall. The yellowing plaster moved in and out like sickly lungs and Isabelle saw a small mouth appear. It opened and closed as if trying to suck in air and said, ‘When can I come out?’

‘What? Who’s speaking?’

‘It’s me mama, Roland. Can I come out now, it’s too hot and I can’t breathe. Mama? Mama, where are you? Mama!’ The child’s voice became hysterical and it shrieked the last, ‘Mama’ so loud that Isabelle thought her eardrums would bleed. She felt something tickle her wrist, looked down and saw the imprints of five small fingers on her skin.

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If you want to know more about my work, visit my website: 

or my Amazon page: 

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The Joy of Hex

Part one: The Power of Words

Today and tomorrow I will be publishing some witchy-type posts especially for Halloween.

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Ever since mankind created language, words have been used to manipulate, enlighten and confuse. So it is little wonder that words should also prove to be powerful weapons in the form of spells, hexes and incantations. Even prayers and hymns have special supernatural powers as they are a way to grab the attention of a god, or gods. Most religions encourage these invocations to create a sense of spiritualisation and ceremony that help the devotee contact their inner soul becoming closer to nature, God, and themselves.

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Certain words have become magical, imbibed with a power that if spoken or written down, can be used as a charm to ward off evil, or cause an adversary to come to harm. The most familiar of these is Abracadabra. Although known as a stage magicians phrase, the word dates back to Roman times and is thought to come from the Hebrew words for the Father, son and Holy Spirit – ‘ab, ben, ruach hakodesh’. Which some say is derived from, Abraxas. This word has special powers as according to Greek numerology, it adds up to 365 which is the number of days in a year.

These words become even more potent if written or said repeatedly. As in the case of Abracadabra, when it is in a pyramid shape and used as a Medicinal charm:

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When mankind began to write words, such magical incantations could now be stored and used at the discretion of the owner. The earliest ‘spell’ comes from ancient Mesopotamia etched onto cuneiform clay tablets found in the city of Uruk somewhere between the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

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Books of magic spells have been around since ancient times and have been used not only for religious purposes but also for science. Alchemists used magic to find The Philosopher’s Stone and turn base metal into gold. Witch doctors and wise women, used words to help heal the sick, and don’t forget early scientists had numerous books for predicting the future through astrology.

In Ancient Egypt, magic and spells were a part of everyday life. The symbolic use of words was very important. Used for protection, to summon gods and demons, and to help loved ones live a happy afterlife. These words are often found etched onto tombs, pillars, and even embalming shrouds, showing just how important magical words were to these superstitious people.

Ancient Egyptian priests used many magic books such as The Book of the Dead, to help those who have died pass on to the next life. The most potent of all was The Book of Dreams. This book allowed people, through incantations, to fall into a dream-like state to travel through time, space, and even to the realm of the dead.

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Papyri Graecae Magicae, or The Greek Magical Papyri is the name for scrolls from Graeco-Roman Egypt, that contain magical spells, formulae, hymns, and rituals dating as far back as the 100s BC to the 400s AD. For use by travelling magicians, scholars and medical practitioners, these ‘books’ have detailed descriptions on how to cast spells, invoke spirts, demons, and even how to create love charms.

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A similar Jewish papyri dating back to ancient Egyptian times, seems to be rooted in performing religious ceremonies to interact with spirits in order gain advantage over another. Names are also important in Jewish magical traditions. In the creation of man, God summons life after a series of ‘speech acts’. Mentioning one of God’s many names can be a powerful tool to finding love or as with Joshua, demolishing the walls of Jericho.

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Later, more textbooks on magic came into existence, such as The Grimoire, or Spell books, which are still used today.

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These books give precise instructions on how to cast a spell and how to create magical amulets and talisman. You can read more about them in this article: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/apr/08/history

So for authors, using spells as part of their story, is a natural choice when writing in genres such as fantasy and magic realism. The power of such words evokes a sense of otherworldliness and spirituality that helps a reader to become wholly engaged in what they are reading.

Books, therefore, are magic!

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If you want to learn more about my work, visit my website:

www.oddlybooks.com 

or my Amazon page where all books in my Sci-fi/dystopian series – The Song of Forgetfulness – are on offer for only 99c each!!

https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S/

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Watch out for part two – Witches and Witchcraft

WANT SOME FREE SCARY BOOKS FOR HALLOWEEN?

What makes your flesh crawl?

Spiders?

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flies?

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Creepy crawlies?

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If you enjoy a good scare then this Scare-alicious collection of YA tales will give you the chills. As the spooky season approaches wouldn’t it be gruesomely fun to have some creepy reads? If you like horror, eerie, sinister and strange, then this selection of books and stories are for you. Plus they are all FREE!!!

You will have to sign up to the author’s newsletter to get them, but hey, would that be so bad? Who knows you may just find a new author to follow.

My novelette Changeling Fog part of The Song of Forgetfulness Sci-fi/dystopian series, is there for you to enjoy.

So, why not click on the  link below to get your gnarled fingers on some truly spine-tingling reads.

https://books.bookfunnel.com/scarealiciousya

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If you want more strange and  weird stories, check out my anthologies:

Glimmer: myBook.to/Glimmer

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Crow Bones:  myBook.to/CrowBones

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Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween – to celebrate a snippet from ‘Marauders of the Missing Mummies’

I have just finished writing my children’s book Marauders of the Missing Mummies. Phew! It still needs tweaking and the like, but it is done. So I thought I’d post the first few paragraphs as a taster. If anyone wants to give any feedback, that would be so very helpful. What do you think about the cover? It needs work, but is it in the right direction?

Hope you enjoy it and Happy Halloween.

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Chapter 1: We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative. Deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. A sound so sad that Cleo had to cover her ears with her hands. But it was no use. The moans and low murmurs continued, floating around her like tired moths. She tried to struggle on, but the wails tugged at her legs and she stopped. Intrigued by the muffled chatter, she dropped her hands and listened. Voices low and raspy swirled and scuttled inside her head.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“ Ah, what a wait we’ve had; so many years spent lying in a state of half remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips, and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-hair unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

She called again, but no answer came. There was a smell of rot so strong that Cleo nearly vomited, but it disappeared and she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall, shrugged, and said, “The dark is just an absence of light.” She shook the torch that was gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

“I thought I’d lost you.”

“Mother, don’t creep up on me like that.”

“I can’t very well do anything else, can I? It’s darker than a black hole in here.”

“I know. I can’t see a froggin’ thing.”

“What do you expect? We are half way down a pyramid. And don’t say ‘froggin’’ I know what it really means.”

Cleo mouthed the word again, and then once more, just because she could. A small sound like the noise from an un-tuned radio station buzzed through her ears. She put her fingers into her lugholes and wiggled them until the static din ceased. “Are you sure we are the only ones in here?”

“Apart from the mummies? Yes. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, nothing, I thought that…”

“What?”

“You didn’t just walk past me and say something, did you?”

“No, I crept up behind you, remember?”

“Weird. I thought I heard someone say something.”

There was a long pause and Cleo reached behind her. She felt her mother’s hand and grabbed onto it. Her palms were sweaty and hot and she felt a tightening in her chest. A gasp, not form her own throat, swept across her forehead and down her neck. She squeezed her mother’s fingers and felt her mother squeeze back.

“What was that?”

“I don’t know Cleo, but it wasn’t a breeze from a window. Okay, we need light and quick.”

“Sorry.”

“Now is not the time.”

“But it’s my fault the torch won’t work. I didn’t change the batteries, sorry. Of course, if you’d brought wind-up torches instead of battery operated ones, then we wouldn’t be in this mess, would we, mum?”

“Oh, so now it’s my fault?”

A throaty groan billowed past their open mouths. Cleo swivelled round, buried her head into her mother’s chest and waited for the horrible noise to go away. It did not. She felt familiar arms wrap around her and press her close. But despite the comforting warmth from her mother’s body, the gurgling, growling continued. Growing louder until her ears almost hurt. “Why won’t it stop?”

“It has.”

“No it hasn’t. Can’t you hear it?”

“That’s my stomach.”

“What? Your stomach?”

“Yes. Because you slept in, again, we missed breakfast.”

“Oh, right, sorry.”

“Don’t sniffle. Come on, we can’t let some stale air that we’ve disturbed frighten us away. That’s what they want.”

“That’s what who want?” Cleo said and pulled away from her mother’s tight grip.

“The architects who built the pyramids. They were clever. They used all sorts of booby traps to scare looters away. All this noise and freezing wind, it’s a just a ploy to put us of the scent. Come on, let’s carry on.”

“Okay, but can you light a match at least? I really can’t see where I’m going.”

“Actually, there aren’t many left. We should save them. We’re going to need all the light we can when we find the hidden chamber and get inside the room. So, for now, you’ll just have to feel your way like me.”

Cleo ran her fingers over the wall and felt the uneven stone. It was dry and cool and smooth to the touch. Almost like skin. “Do you think anyone else knows about this hidden corridor?”

“I hope not. It took me almost a year to find out it existed.”

“So, there’s no one going to miss us and come looking?”

“Don’t worry, the guide didn’t notice us latch on to his tour, and I’m pretty certain that he didn’t notice us slip away.”

“Oh. And that’s a good thing?”

“Of course it is. Less chatter my girl and more moving. I don’t know about you, but I find this place somewhat scary.”

“I’m pretty creeped out.”

“Do you want to go back? You can if you want to?”

“No. I’m no quitter.”

“Well said.”

Cleo skimmed her feet along the rubble-strewn floor and continued to make her way forward. A wriggly thing landed on her bare forearm. She yelped and stumbled over something large and hard. “Ouch!”

“What’s the matter? Are you okay? Answer me!”

“I’ve bashed my froggin’ foot on something. It really hurts.” Cleo bent down and rubbed her big toe.

“You scared me when you called out. I thought…”

“What? That something dead had come to get me? A zombie mummy angry and mean because we dared to enter its domain,” Cleo said in a boomy voice, and then even louder, “Moohaha!” She expected a response, but when none came she coughed. “Stupid froggin’ pyramid. Should have some kind of lighting. They always do in the films.”

“Well, this isn’t a film and you should be more careful where you walk. I told you that there would be all sorts of things lying on the floor. And, I told you to wear walking boots, not those pink sandals. And stop saying ‘froggin’.”

Cleo screwed up her eyes and sucked air between her teeth. Her big toe throbbed and she struggled to keep back tears. But the pain was nothing compared to the agony of admitting that her mother was right. “I think it might be broken.”

“Can you move it?”

Cleo clenched her toes. “Ow! Yes, I can move it, but it hurts.”

“Well, it’s not broken, probably just a bit bruised. You’ll be fine. So, are you so terribly injured that you can’t go on? Because, if you can’t, you’ll have to stay here or go back up until I find the hidden chamber, all by myself. So, getting all the credit.”

Cleo shook her head. Then, realising that such a gesture in pitch darkness would be a waste of time, replied in haste, “No, I can walk.”

“ Are you sure? I don’t want you lagging behind and getting lost.”

“I won’t.”

“I don’t know. I shouldn’t have let you talk me into allowing you to come.”

“But, you said we were a team. You know, like you and dad used to be.”

Cleo felt the silence cover her like a blanket. Then the touch of her mothers hand on her arm. “Well, if you can walk, let’s carry on.”

“I think I need a plaster.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll strike a match,” Mrs Dalby did and the place exploded in a tiny glow from the burning stick of wood. “You’re not crying are you?”

Cleo wiped her nose. “No, I’m just sniffing.”

The smell of sulphur tickled her nose and in the flickering light, Cleo saw her mother crouch on the floor and rummage around in a rucksack. She pulled out a candle and lit it. Cleo smiled and her mother did too. “I’m sorry. I get carried away when I’m on an expedition and I’m not used to having a child…I mean, I’m used to being with your father. I wanted this to be a proper holiday, but after the phone call. Well, it felt like old times and you said that I should get back on the saddle.”

“I didn’t. I said that you should find the missing mummies because dad would have wanted you to. Plus, they are giving us a shed load of money.”

“You are your father’s daughter all right. Come here, let me have a look at that toe of yours.”

Cleo stuck her foot out and Mrs Dalby held the candle close to it. As her mother probed her flesh for signs of bruising or cuts, Cleo tried to see what it was that had tripped her in the gloom. “There is a cut under your toenail, so you’d best have a plaster to avoid infection. Who knows what kind of bacteria lurks amongst this ancient dust and sand. Now keep still while I put one on. Cleo, I said keep still. Stop wriggling.”

“There it is!” Cleo shouted.

“What?”

“The thing I tripped on.”

For more information about me and my stuff, go to:

http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com/