Announcing Western Mass Paranormal now covering Tri-State area

WESTERN MASS PARANORMAL NOW COVERING TRI-STATE AREA

We just can’t get enough of New England or its mysteries. We want to invite all of our loyal followers to explore more of it with us and welcome new friends

from the ENTIRE MASSACHUSETTS, CONNECTICUT, AND RHODE ISLAND AREA.

We’d like to invite you to share your thoughts and/or questions with us.  Is there a location you’ve heard about and would like more information on?  Do you have an interest in us investigation something special to you?  We’d love to have your input, suggestions, and your stories, if you’d like to share them with us.
Please contact us at:  ashantaofthelema@gmail.com
Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing.
     – ashanta
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Witches & Witchcraft

(This is a bit lengthy, but it is Halloween Season…)

In an anthropological, religious, and mythological context, witchcraft is the alleged practice of using magickal powers to either help or harm another person and/or his possessions.

But – how did all this start?

Witchcraft, as all the other earth-based nature religions of Paganism have their origins in pre-history.  Small communities and other groupings of people lived in harmony with nature and the earth was considered to be nurturing – thus the concept of Mother Nature was assumed.  The earth fed, clothed, and sheltered her own.  The Goddess was born,  a figure to express the divine seen and experienced in the natural world.

The Goddess expressed one aspect of Nature’s fertility and being natural – her Consort – the Great Horned Father symbolized the other aspect of nature’s fecundity.  He is also represented as the Green Man, or Robin of the Wood.  Both God & Goddess had as many  names as there were people communing with them.  These gods/goddesses weren’t thought to be above humanity – they resembled humanity.  Just as we have both good and bad sides – so did they.

Paganism is generally henotheistic –   there is more than one god/dess  even though only one is worshipped at a time.  There were generally 8 major celebrations or festivals that took place in spots that were considered sacred.  Nature was all around and natural cycles and rhythms  were the things revered.

There were no rule books, there was no bible, there were no written rites, but these people more than likely had a better relationship with their world and others in it than  we do today.

So what happened?

 The man-made religion of Christianity happened.  While Nature Religions are Matriarchal, Christianity is not and Patriarchy was trying to be pushed at everyone who could be rounded up.

Christianity spread through towns and villages before it reached the more rural areas.  And – contrary to the widespread belief that conversions were immediate, they were not.  With the progression of the church hierarchy demanding pagans convert whole countries were classified as Christian.  In actuality only the rulers had adopted the new monotheism and some only half-heartedly.  The church made many deals with many rulers to sway them to their side.  It took over 1000 years for The Old Religion to be pushed back out of peoples minds and practices.

In a further attempt to manipulate and control the masses, around the turn of the 7th century,  Pope Gregory the Great ordered his bishops to smash any pagan idols they could find and sprinkle holy water on the sacred sites of the Old Religion.  He felt if he built his Churches on the sacred places of the heretics, more people would attend the new church.

And that wasn’t the only attempt at substitution Christians resorted to….they also assumed pagan celebration days and symbols from the heathen.

Of course the builders, woodcarvers, and stonemasons the church used to build their new edifices were adherents to the old ways and they weren’t as stupid as Pope Gregory might have hoped.  These artisans incorporated images of their own deities in the decorating of the new churches and worshiped their own during Mass.

Pagans of every kind became the enemies of Christianity.  So the Church set out to destroy it’s rival.  As it has been said, “The Gods of an old religion become the Devils of the new.”, and so it was with the burgeoning Christian movement.  The Great Horned Father became the newly personified Satan.  And as we know from the Deviled Ham Wrapper – the Devil has horns!   Therefore all Pagans must be devil-worshippers. And so the thread of fear started to be woven.

By the way – Horns are a symbol of Wisdom.  There is a statue of Moses at the Vatican with Horns and a few pictures that have been painted of him in the same way.

Another aside while we’re at it….Satan is a device created by the Church to instill fear.  Fear makes control easier to attain.  Capital letter “S” Satan doesn’t appear in the Bible until the New Testament.  There are references to ‘the satans’ in the Old Testament, but the translation of the word Small letter “s” satans is “adversary” or “tempter”.  The satans tested people to make sure their faith was good.

Under the Churches guidance the 2 sides of man became 2 opposing forces: one of good and one of evil….God vs. Satan and the battle was on.

As time passed the idea that anyone who was not a Christian was the Devil’s own grew in strength and the ardor of those in the Church to eradicate anyone not like themselves grew to fever pitch.   In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII  published his Bull against Witches.  2 years later Heinrich Kramer and Jakob Sprenger, both monks, wrote the Malleus Maleficarum – The Witch’s Hammer  and with this large tome of instructions on how to torture and punish witches – the hunt was on.

Between 1480 and 1700 over 100,000 men and women were tortured, crushed, burned, hanged, drowned, and in several instances drawn and quartered.   Some estimates quote the number at closer to 9 million.

Within this time-frame, immigration to the new land had started.  The Puritans, The Pilgrims were creating their settlements and larger numbers kept coming to get a new start.  New starts, however, do not imply New Ways, so these people brought there old beliefs with them.  They were a superstitious people and they faced a hostile native population,  their crops failed, they suffered starvation, and disease.  Prayer and fasting didn’t mitigate their harsh conditions and they wanted these bad things to stop and soon.

With all that negativity surely some of the witches must have followed them to the new land.  They also still got into feuds with their neighbors – so perhaps one of them could be the sorcerer.

The Protestant ministers of New England didn’t follow the tenets of the Catholic Church, but they still felt themselves to be God’s Chosen.  They preached fire and brimstone and blamed The Devil for all the ills of their people.  Fear among the people was rampant and as it spread the Clergy found itself with a lot of power to wield among those less wise  and worthy than themselves.

Cotton Mather, one of the most famous Men-of-the-Cloth, preached that his people should “fight a holy war against the army of devils who are ready to strike a any moment.”.

In 1692 the Salem Witch hunts began.  The Rev. Samuel Paris had become the parson of the Village of Salem and he wasn’t too well liked by the people.  At the suggestion of his daughter Betsy and niece Abagail, the Paris’ West Indian slave Tituba was accused of dabbling in magick.   And – she confessed.  The hysteria had started.

The courts decided that Spectral information would be allowed at trial.  Spectral information involved ghosts appearing to the accusers to give them information on the victims they were turning in to the court.  When someone was accused of being a witch, the accuser’s word was taken as truth without question.    No other evidence mattered.

200 men and women in New England were accused of being a witch.  24 of them were tortured and killed.   95 Percent of all witch executions happened in New England.  Until the horror at Salem, only 5 people were brought up for trial.  They were all acquitted and 2 of the men filed slander and libel charges against their accuser’s and won.

The straw that broke the back of hysteria in Salem ended when the Rev. George Burroughs was executed.  Prior to his hanging, he recited the Lord’s Prayer – something, as it was known, no witch could ever do.  The court had sentenced him to death – however – so the lynching went on.

Five years after these trials occurred it was determined that the court system was inadequate.  It was then that “Innocent until Proven Guilty” was established.

In 1951 the last Witchcraft Act from 1735 and the Fraudulent Medium Act were repealed in England making the discussion, practice, and interest in Witchcraft legal.  Gerald Gardner, a practicing coven member from a group in New Forest, England wrote 2 books that were published there and abroad.  He published Witchcraft Today in 1954 and The Meaning of Witchcraft in 1959.   With his new Neo-Wiccan Bible for Christians-in-Denial came a tremendous interest in the practice of bending the laws of physics to achieve what one wills.  New Age Covens sprang up everywhere and a new order of witchcraft was born.

Today, half a century later, there are active covens all over our 50 states, but there are a lot more people practicing the Old Religion, who revere Nature, who practice as solitaries.  These people today are  no more Satanists than those that were persecuted before them.

There are some good tenets to Paganism:    “that it hurt no one – so mote it be”

“love is the law – love under will”

whatever one does to someone else – the energy will return to the sender by the power of 3  and scrying techniques are utilized for the betterment of the user…..   gazing balls, tarot cards, astrology charts, to name a few are techniques employed to grow, as an individual, to a higher spiritual level.  Trying to attain spiritual compatability with the Creator doesn’t sound evil to me. And the use of sigils, symbolism, and magickal instruments to attempt to connect with a higher energy to be used for the good of all shouldn’t be damned.

–  ashanta

We would like to invite anyone who would like to contact us, share a story, comment on anything, or just keep in  touch to reach us at:

ashantaofthelema@gmail.com                                Thank you!!

Ghosts

New England is a region rich with the lore and legend of our ancestors. All it takes is a peek beneath the surface of the thrifty, hardworking, and no-nonsense Yankee to see the superstition and wild imagination that, undoubtedly, has helped make our region so interesting and, occasionally, down right creepy.

 

Spiritualism, put simply, is the belief that the spirit continues to exist after physical death and that it can be scientifically studied through interaction with the spirit via seance, which is made possible through the use of a medium, or person who possesses the ability to contact and channel spirit energies. The purpose of this is to learn about the afterlife and the spirit world. There are still Spiritualist Churches in existence today including On-I-Set-Wigwam Spiritualist Camp in Onset, Massachusetts.(On the Cape near Wareham.) {Spiritualists believe in the Christian God and see the existence of the human soul as proof of passages in the bible}

 

The American Spiritualist Movement came into being in March 1848 in Hydesville, New York. The Fox family; John Fox, his wife, and their daughters Margaret and Katie moved to New York from Canada. They took temporary residence in a house that had been abandoned and was reported to be haunted. John Fox paid no heed to the rumors of strange activity and instead looked for physical answers to the thumps and knocks that their family was hearing. Every night he would go around the house and knock on walls and look for loose floor boards and other things that may be causing the noises. His daughters, however, had no problem believing that there was a spirit in the house and had even given him a nickname (Mr. Splitfoot).

 

One evening as their father was performing his checks Kate noticed that when her father would knock on a wall the knocks would be repeated back in the same number. This led to the invention of a system where a certain number of knocks would be “yes” and a different number would mean “no”. They also had different knocks for the letters in the alphabet. Using this system allowed the Fox sister’s to “communicate” with the spirit. Soon the neighbors of the Fox family were coming to see the girls use their mediumistic powers and question the spirits. By 1849 Margaret and Kate were performing all over New England to crowds of people both eager to see thier talents or to see evidence that the sisters were a sham.

 

Although the sisters did engage in some questionable lines of performance no one was ever able to prove that their abilities were fake despite being bound around the ankles and wrists and even submitting to having their underwear checked. In 1904, years after both the Fox sister’s were dead, some children were playing in the basement of their old Hydesville home when a wall collapsed nearly killing one child. When the structure was investigated it was found to be a poorly constructed false partition and upon it’s excavation the skeletal remains of a man were unearthed.

 

The Fox sisters really launched the American Spiritualist Movement. Soon after they began performing for the public all sorts of other people were discovering that they too had mediumistic powers. The idea that the soul could survive physical death appealed to a great many people. To truly understand the appeal and popularity of the Movement we must consider the social climate of Victorian times.

 

The Victorians held themselves to very strict codes of social conduct and dress. Women were considered to be fare, frail, and submissive to men. Men were the head of the household and expected to maintain their families respectability. Both men and women were expected to be extremely sexually prude. Not even written expressions of emotion or sexuality were considered permissible. To maintain this respectability Victorians even went to the extreme of not using any words with even a miniscule sexual connotation (“indelicate” words) or coming up with euphemisms for them. For example the word “leg” was replaced by “limb” as it was considered less offensive. Women’s and men’s lives were considered to be and expected to be maintained within different spheres.

 

It is during these times that great changes were occurring and competing with traditional Victorian vales. Evangelicalism was very popular as it emphasized moral conduct and humanitarian causes, but it was coexisting with utilitarianism- the belief in reason to solve problems, and empiricism – which aimed to have legislation to help improve men’s talents. It also promoted a series of reforms designed to improve the lives of the lower classes, such as free education, women’s emancipation, and the organization of trade unions. Scientific discovery, especially in geology and biology, was breaking new ground and scientific principals were gaining favoritism. Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species in 1859. The Women’s Right and Suffregate Movements were gaining popularity. All these changes and expectations were churning up the lives of these people and then Spiritualism came along.

 

Spiritualism offered a compromise between religion and science, it offered the hope that familial ties could transcend death, it offered a place where rigid social conduct and expectations could be relaxed for an evening. Spiritualism quickly became popular among all the social classes, although most formal seances were conducted within the Middle and Upper Classes. These seances became social passtimes and a place where men and women could relax and let their separate social spheres mingle. It is also important to note that, although there were male mediums and mesmerists, the Spiritualist Movement was dominated by women.

 

– Moonchild

Local Haunts

New England is a region rich with the lore and legend of our ancestors. All it takes is a peek beneath the surface of the thrifty, hard working, and no-nonsense Yankee to see the superstition and wild imagination that, undoubtedly, has helped make our region so interesting and, occasionally, down right creepy.

 Without a doubt QuabbinValley has it’s share of local legend. Take the four towns of Dana, Prescott, Enfield, and Greenwich which are now just ghosts of their former selves. In 1938 when the State of Massachusetts disincorporated these towns 2,500 people were displaced from their homes, livelihoods, and ancestral homesteads. The towns were dismantled and the dead disinterred (well, some of them), but their history, some cellar holes, old roads, and possibly some ghosts remain.

Asa Snow
Probably the best known ghost story from this area is that of Asa Snow. Asa was born in 1797 and came to reside at the junction roads between Petersham and Dana as of 1840. He was an eccentric man who lived a life that was odd for his time. The locals nicknamed him “Popcorn” because he was a vegetarian and was believed to subsist on popcorn and milk. He was also a bit of a loan shark and it was rumored that he buried money on his property. His first wife, Isabelle, suffered from mental instabilities and committed suicide in August of 1844. His daughter, Minerva, died the next year.

It is easy to see why Snow developed a fixation on death. In 1865 he constructed a family tomb and disinterred his wife and daughter, allowing “those who cared to look at them” to have a peek, and then re-interred them in his tomb. After that he arranged for a sturdy metal casket with a 10 inch plate glass viewing window to be constructed for him.  Snow also made arrangements with the undertaker to go look in on his body for 7 days after his death to make sure he really was dead.

On November 29, 1872 Asa Snow died of heart failure while carrying home a pig carcass. The undertaker kept his promise to check on Snow’s body, but after three days Snow’s second wife, Eunice, dismissed him from his duties.

Snow’s tomb was broken into shortly after his death and local children would dare each other to sneak in and look at his corpse. In 1912 (forty years later) a local paper ran an article about Snow’s tomb and the uncanny preservation of his corpse which had, “features as nearly natural as the day he was laid to rest.” The article also recounted a tale of one man whom upon a bet was to spend the night in the tomb and leave a bottle of whiskey there as proof. When the man entered the tomb his horse who he had tied to a tree outside became horribly spooked, broke free, and ran off. The man recovered his horse who was trembling and sweating a mile down the road. He returned to the tomb the next day with his friend to find the bottle of whiskey, his proof for payment, smashed.

It was also reported that two men had gone to Snow’s tomb to photograph it. When they stepped inside the tomb the door slammed shut leaving the men in complete darkness. They tried to light their flashes to see, but one man got burnt and dropped his lamp. They had to grope around in the dark on the floor, terrified and disorientated, to find their way out.

Shortly after the publication of the article the tomb was vandaled and police were sent to seal it. It remained undisturbed until 1944 when the Metropolitan Water Commission destroyed it. Snow’s home was taken down in 1936. The cellarhole is still visible and the metal door of the tomb that he built was on site until the 1980’s. But, who’s to say the spirit of Asa Snow isn’t still roaming around Quabbin angry at the destruction of his final resting place or perhaps just protecting the place where he laid to rest his beloved family.

–  Moonchild