Supernatural Season 3, Episodes 9-11 cover the Malleus Maleficarum, African dream root, tricksters and hex bags.
S3E9: “Malleus Maleficarum”
Where it’s from: All over the world, including the Middle East, Europe and America
Description: While they sometimes are depicted as being hideous, with long, warty noses and greenish skin, witches are just ordinary people. In fact, many, if not most, of those accused of witchcraft during the medieval Inquisition in Europe were simply natural healers, who fell victim to the patriarchy’s refusal to allow women in influential roles.
One of the first mentions of a witch is the Witch of Endor, in 1 Samuel in the Bible, believed to have been written between 931 and 721 BCE, according to History. King Saul convinces the witch to call up the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel to help him defeat the Philistine army. She’s reluctant to help, as practicing witchcraft at the time was punishable by death. But Saul assures her she’s safe, so she performs her dark arts, and Samuel’s ghost appears.
Things don’t work out too well for Saul, though. Samuel is all doom and gloom, and sure enough, the next day Saul’s sons perish in the battle. Saul, in despair, commits suicide.
Even though the Witch of Endor isn’t depicted as a villain — in fact, you could argue that she performs God’s work — there’s another Old Testament verse, Exodus 22:18, which decrees, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
The name of this episode of Supernatural refers to a medieval treatise, the Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for The Hammer of Witches) by Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer (and possibly Jacob Sprenger). Published in Germany in 1487, it instructed magistrates how to identify, interrogate and convict witches. The writers endorsed executing witches.
The book was a hit — it was the second-bestselling book, behind the Bible, for almost 200 years.
What it does: “I hate witches,” Dean whines. “They’re always spewing their bodily fluids everywhere.”
On Supernatural, a coven is masquerading as a book club. They cast some Arabic-sounding spells, cut their hand, drip blood onto a victim’s toothbrush — and her teeth fall out and she dies.
Hex bags are used to curse people. On the show, they’re relics of Old World black magic, containing bird bones, rabbit teeth and something the victim owned. Here are a couple of other versions:
How to Make a Hex Bag
Gather four symbolic items to include in the hex bag.
1. Intent: One ingredient that represents the purpose of the hex bag.
After the bag is created, you can “feed” more of these items to it to strengthen its power.
2. Spirit: Something that belongs to the possessor of the hex bag — and has never belonged to someone else.
3. Life: A plant, herb, seed or natural oil associated with the intended purpose of the bag. You can also use once-living items, like bone, hair, fur, antlers, claws or snake skin.
4. Sacrifice: One item that shows what you’re willing to offer to have the bag do its work.
Source: Sorcery and Shamanism
Black Magic Hex Bag
Small black fabric bag
Pieces of dragon blood resin
Dried rue, basil, wormwood and nettle
A pentacle made of metal or wood
Focus on your target as you put the items into the bag.
Ideally, bury the hex bag outside their home, but if this isn’t possible, put it in their locker, desk or somewhere close to them.
Source: Spells of Magic
How to defeat it: Burning the hex bag negates its power.
S3E10: “Dream a Little Dream of Me”
Where it’s from: South Africa
Description: Xhosa shamans of the river valleys on the eastern cape of South Africa are said to possess the power to enter other people’s dreams.
What it does: The Winchester Brothers’ buddy Bobby is trapped in a dream. Someone’s entering people’s dreams (dreamwalking) and killing them. As the saying goes, if you die in your dream, you die in your sleep. It’s all very A Nightmare on Elm Street.
How does one dreamwalk? It can be surprisingly easy.
A white flower called undlela zimhlophe, which translates to “white paths,” grows in South Africa. Its blooms only open at night, emitting a mesmerizing aroma. The plant, more commonly known as African dream root (Silene capensis), induces psychedelic, prophetic dreams.
For the Xhosa, dreams are seen as gifts from the ancestors, characterized as drifting white winds or ghosts, in which they impart healing guidance or other knowledge to their descendants, according to World of Lucid Dreaming.
“This dream root is some serious mojo,” Sam says. “You take enough of it, with practice, you can become a regular Freddy Krueger.”
So how do they find this homicidal Sandman? Dean wants to know.
To control someone’s dream, you need to drink part of their body. The boys put in some of Bobby’s hair. Eww.
Bobby’s being tormented by a woman in a white nightgown with holes in her chest — who turns out to be his wife. He had to kill her — she was possessed, rabid. This horrific experience is what got him into hunting.
The villain turns out to be Jeremy, one of the subjects of a medical experiment — he’s basically a god in the dream world.
How to defeat it: Enter the dream and confront the dreamwalker. Remember, he’s dreaming, too. Use his subconscious fears against him.
S3E11: “Mystery Spot”
Where it’s from: Various parts of the world, though the Greek god Hermes and the Norse deity Loki are two of the best known
Description: There’ve been some strange goings-on at the Broward County Mystery Spot.
What it does: These mystery spots are popular roadside attractions in the U.S. They’re said to defy the laws of physics, where gravity doesn’t work, and perspective is skewed.
Dean’s not having any of it: “Sam, joints like this are only tourist traps, right? I mean, you know, balls rolling uphill, furniture nailed to the ceiling — they’re only dangerous to your wallet.”
But Sam thinks locations that bend space and time are a distinct possibility: “There are spots in the world where holes open up and swallow people.” He mentions the Bermuda Triangle, part of the Atlantic Ocean between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico, where dozens of ships and airplanes have disappeared, as well as the Oregon Vortex, one of the most famous mystery spots.
What it does: Sam’s living his own personal Groundhog Day. Could you imagine a more frightening way to repeatedly start each day than your alarm going off to Asia’s “Heat of the Moment”?
Poor Dean keeps dying: He gets shot by the owner of the Mystery Spot; he’s run down at a crosswalk; then he’s smashed by a falling piano. And that’s just the start. This cycle goes on for over 100 days.
It turns out to be the work of a trickster. A man who recently disappeared didn’t believe in wormholes — so the naughty god thought it’d be fitting to throw him in one.
Bobby says they’ll have to perform a summoning ritual. They’ll just need a gallon of human blood. Sam coldly agrees to kill someone for it — but then stakes Bobby. He knows his hunter buddy would never suggest such a bloodthirsty plan. And sure enough, the trickster god reveals himself.
How to defeat it: Beg. The trickster, in his sick and twisted way, is actually trying to get Sam to accept life without Dean. But Sam doesn’t want to imagine that (awww!), so the trickster lets Sam leave his virtual hell. –Wally