Thursday, 27 September 2012

Witchcraft

We are used to the idea that, when Europe became Christian, Paganism became witchcraft. Poul and Karen Anderson show this happening in their King of Ys tetralogy. However, by Poul Anderson's own account, for example in Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973), Pagans had already feared witchcraft. There is mention of a king suspected of unwholesome practices and there are:

" '...uncanny beings...fens from which many a man or child has never come back...barrows where heatless fires and walking shapes are seen after dark...' " (p. 124)

Hrolf's sister's foster father tells Hrolf:

" 'Wise folk give such things wide berth. I fear Skuld does not...What frets me most is how she's taken to what looks like spellcraft.' " (pp. 124-125)

Later, a fisherman sees Queen Skuld on a headland at dusk:

"Wildly streamed her gown and unbound locks. She had raised a pole whereon was a horse's skull, the worst kind of ill-wishing, and pointed the empty eyes toward Zealand. That way too did she shake her fist and yell forth curses, while she wept for sheer wrath." (p. 144)

Thus, when Christian priests taught that witches could summon evil Powers, they did not contradict existing beliefs.

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