Folk-Lore/Volume 28/Witchcraft in Great Britain

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Witchcraft in Great Britain.

(Ante, pp. 228-258.)

It is a matter of much regret to me that I was unable to hear Miss Murray’s striking paper on the Organization of Witches in Great Britain, on the 18th April last. Miss Murray’s evidence of the existence of secret societies for the practice of pagan cults entirely accords with Grimm’s ascription of the origin of mediaeval witchcraft to the secret practice of heathen rites by persons who remained true to the ancient faith. (Deutsche Mythologie. 1007.) The suffix craft itself implies an organized society for the performance of “mysteries,” whether merely technical or quasi-religious.

With regard to Miss Murray’s last paragraph on page 248, may I draw her attention to Sir John Rhys’s discussion of the ancient Celtic seasonal year, in his Hibbert Lectures (1886). Sir James Frazer’s deduction that this division of the year dates from a period “when the Celts were mainly a pastoral people dependent for their subsistence on their herds,” is natural and probable. The same division still affects rustic life in many ways. Especially does it regulate the life of the cattle, who migrate from stall to pasture and from pasture to stall at the beginning of May and the beginning of November respectively, even in England at the present day.