Page:Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921).djvu/13

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INTRODUCTION

animals and only rarely for the benefit of the crops. The cross-quarter-days, February 2 and August 1, which were also kept as festivals, were probably of later date, as, though classed among the great festivals, they were not of so high an importance as the May and November Eves. To February 2, Candlemas Day, probably belongs the sun-charm of the burning wheel, formed by the whirling dancers, each carrying a blazing torch; but no special ceremony seems to be assigned to August 1, Lammas Day, a fact suggestive of a later introduction of this festival.

The organization of the hierarchy was the same throughout Western Europe, with the slight local differences which always occur in any organization. The same organization, when carried to America, caused Cotton Mather to say, ‘The witches are organized like Congregational Churches.’ This gives the clue at once. In each Congregational Church there is a body of elders who manage the affairs of the Church, and the minister who conducts the religious services and is the chief person in religious matters; and there may also be a specially appointed person to conduct the services in the minister’s absence; each Church is an independent entity and not necessarily connected with any other. In the same way there was among the witches a body of elders—the Coven—which managed the local affairs of the cult, and a man who, like the minister, held the chief place, though as God that place was infinitely higher in the eyes of the congregation than any held by a mere human being. In some of the larger congregations there was a person, inferior to the Chief, who took charge in the Chief’s absence. In Southern France, however, there seems to have been a Grand Master who was supreme over several districts.

The position of the chief woman in the cult is still somewhat obscure. Professor Pearson sees in her the Mother-Goddess worshipped chiefly by women. This is very probable, but at the time when the cult is recorded the worship of the male deity appears to have superseded that of the female, and it is only on rare occasions that the God appears in female form to receive the homage of the worshippers. As a general rule the woman’s position, when divine, is that of