Michelle Ann Kratts

A Genealogy of Witches

In Witchcraft on December 23, 2014 at 10:52 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

As a genealogist and librarian it really isn’t strange that I receive requests from people interested in finding their roots. Every single day the appeals come in. Morning, noon and night my phone lights up. But every so often, I receive a different kind of request….to help someone locate a very “special” kind of ancestor. These messages are always from young girls. They come to me from all over the world. These girls tell me—with urgency—about themselves and how they just know that they are “different.” They feel things. They can do things. And then, ultimately…it is always the same request:

Can you help me find if I am related to any witches?

First, I wondered why they chose to ask me. Several years ago I wrote a piece on a most interesting lineage society called the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches (ADEAW). So I think that this is how they find me—through the magic of Google and the internet. This very serious lineage and history-oriented society is mainly concerned with proving direct lineage to Colonial Era men and women who had been accused of witchcraft. I respond to these young women and I tell them that I can certainly help them complete their family tree. I ask them if they know of any possibility that their families had been in America during the 1600’s. I tell them this will be a great deal of work but we can do it together. And we start. I begin a file. We exchange some information and then…nothing. Somehow they drift away. It is too much work! I tell myself. They are young. Perhaps, they really aren’t all that interested. So many people begin this journey and then are tied up in their everyday lives and they stop. They put it away for when they have the time. So then I also put away their files and work on something else…until this week when a series of dreams beginning on the Winter Solstice set my mind to action. When I realized that I am not serving these young women as I should be serving them. In fact, I am finally willing to truly answer this question that they ask so regularly:

Can you help me find if I am related to any witches?

I know what it means to be different. I know what you are truly asking of me. It was hidden from me before. But now my eyes are open. You are the ones who feel everything. You have the beautiful voices. You are alight with creative powers. You have visions. You are a healer. Men are in love with you. Your hands bring a vitality to plants. You speak to the animals. You sing and you dance. You are moved by the sun and the stars and the moon. You speak their language. You are not just asking me if your ancestors are acceptable members of a lineage society such as ADEAW. For you know your people probably were not in America then. Maybe you are Polish, Lithuanian, African, Italian…Maybe you don’t even know where you came from at all. You are asking me simply if I can prove to you that you are a witch. And I believe that I can…with a little genealogy…if you are willing to do some inner searching.

This journey begins, first, with you. Tell me about yourself. Where have you come from? Who are your parents? Your grandparents? Know that there are people who came before you and that they were just like you. It will be like looking into a mirror. And they were witches. In fact, a lot of your ancestors were witches. Do you really know what a witch is? According to the dictionary a witch can be defined as a woman who is thought to have magic powers; a person who practices magic as part of a religion (such as Wicca). Are there women in your family history who practiced magic? Magic is defined as the use of supernatural powers…a power that seems mysterious. Are any of your ancestors witches? Did your grandmother make a soup that brought more than nourishment to your body? Did your grandmother mend birds’ wings? Did she sing like an angel? Did she contrive fairy tales and bedtime stories that followed you into your dreams? What about her garden? Was it teeming with life? Did she heal you and others? Did she touch you and everything was better? Did she pray with you? Was she devout? Did everyone come to her for advice? Did she know things?  Maybe there are little clues that we can find when we dig up her story. Historically witches were midwives, nurses, teachers and artists. Maybe they didn’t even know they were witches? They just did what came naturally. Sometimes the places where our ancestors came from explain the magic we feel in our lives today. Were there ancient traditions associated with the land and the people? Find your deepest ancestry and learn about their customs and their spiritual ways. You will probably have fireworks go off in your heart when you learn that you have always loved these ways. It will all seem right.

Sometimes churches were built upon ancient temples. This is a church called Santa Maria della Neve in Bugnara, Italy. It was once the site of a temple to the goddess Ceres. In fact the tiles from the ancient temple are still visible.

Unfortunately there were times in our world’s history that singing beautiful songs, dancing, healing, having men fall in love with you and celebrating these ancient beautiful places and traditions… were looked down upon as evil attributes. Mostly women were found guilty of being witches. From 1400-1700 an estimated 500,000 to one million people were burned as witches. History has forever supported the theory that women are inferior and foul beings. Women such as Eve and Pandora were said to have brought all of the evil into the world—according to some of our stories. However the Old Religion held the sacred female abilities of creation, healing, spirituality and beauty in esteem and personified these qualities into the figure of a goddess. The most harmful book ever written against womankind was a manual about witchcraft. Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer) blames all of the world’s ills on the female sex. I have this book and I have read it in all of its ugliness. It was an explicit guide for trying, condemning and executing witches. It is possible that most of today’s negative notions concerning women can be traced to this book. Basically it states that women who deviate from their humble positions as men’s servants are witches and should be executed. Women are dangerous, it purports, as they take away man’s generative powers. Women are intellectually like children. But the main theme of the Witches’ Hammer was this: All witchcraft comes from carnal lust which in women is insatiable. If you read of the history of the charges brought upon women you might be shocked. Some women went to death solely because they were beautiful and they caused men to desire them. Others danced in the woods or healed the sick. They were different. They stood out from the crowd. This was their magic and for this magic they were burned.

It is hard to believe there could be a society that would want to kill you because of your magic. There is magic everywhere. And what is more magical than life itself? We know that we don’t come from nothing. We come from something. Science tells us this. We are born of love and intimacy—of magic—between a man and a woman. There is a spark at conception. And of course, mothers know all about the magic of childbirth. There is nothing more beautiful in the universe than a new child. When I found myself just upon that moment of bringing new life into this world I could not stop thinking of all of the women before me who had also done this to bring another generation into the world. I thought of my grandmothers. It was almost as if they were all with me in that room. We are nothing but a long inseparable  line of those who came before us and of those who will come after us.

I have known that researching your family history is akin to magic. There are books about this. There’s actually a phenomenon called “Psychic Genealogy.” Those of us who research know all about it. The dead seem to guide us along. It is actually quite beautiful. Renewing these connections between past and present are often moments of intense energy. Of magic. So I invite all of you who wonder…who know that you are from a magical family to let me help you prove this.  History may not have documented your ancestors as witches…but you may find  women who were truly special and magical. And so are you.

 

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