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Altered Reality: Witchcraft, Lucid Dreaming and Mystery Spots

Supernatural Season 3, Episodes 9-11 cover the Malleus Maleficarum, African dream root, tricksters and hex bags.

Don’t sabbaths look fun?!  Hexen , or  Witches , by Hans Baldrung, 1508

Don’t sabbaths look fun?! Hexen, or Witches, by Hans Baldrung, 1508

S3E9: “Malleus Maleficarum”

Monster: Witch

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.

Be careful what you wish for:  The Witch of Endor  by Martynov

Be careful what you wish for: The Witch of Endor by Martynov

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.

The trouble with predicting the future is that sometimes it sucks:  Saul and the Witch of Endor  by Edward Henry Corbould, 1860

The trouble with predicting the future is that sometimes it sucks: Saul and the Witch of Endor by Edward Henry Corbould, 1860

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.

This book, which tells you how to identify and exterminate witches, was all the rage in medieval times

This book, which tells you how to identify and exterminate witches, was all the rage in medieval times

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.

Witches cast spells to get their way and curse their enemies

Witches cast spells to get their way and curse their enemies



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

You’ll need:

  • 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.

This shaman might be dreamwalking, but he’s certainly tripping his balls off

This shaman might be dreamwalking, but he’s certainly tripping his balls off

S3E10: “Dream a Little Dream of Me”

Monster: Dreamwalker

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.

Some shamans can take over your dreams

Some shamans can take over your 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.

The horror icon Freddy Krueger killed people in their dreams, and they died in real life

The horror icon Freddy Krueger killed people in their dreams, and they died in real life

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.

African dream room, which helps you lucid dream, is available for sale. Wally knows what he’s asking for Christmas!

African dream room, which helps you lucid dream, is available for sale. Wally knows what he’s asking for Christmas!

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.

Mystery spots defy the laws of nature

Mystery spots defy the laws of nature

S3E11: “Mystery Spot”

Monster: Trickster

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.

Next time you’re at the Oregon Vortex, try the popular  Titanic  pose

Next time you’re at the Oregon Vortex, try the popular Titanic pose

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.

Numerous vessels have been lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle

Numerous vessels have been lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle

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.

Mischievous Mercury (the Roman equivalent of Hermes) lulls a watchman to sleep so he can steal a cow:  Mercury and Argos  by Abraham Hondius, late 1600s

Mischievous Mercury (the Roman equivalent of Hermes) lulls a watchman to sleep so he can steal a cow: Mercury and Argos by Abraham Hondius, late 1600s

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

The Monsters of “Supernatural,” Season 2, Episodes 10-12

Predictions from sibyls, psychics and the Oracle at Delphi. Hoodoo practices, including quincunx and voodoo doll spells. Plus, how to kill a werewolf.

 

One of the first recorded psychics in the world was the Oracle at Delphi, whose cryptic messages were much sought after

One of the first recorded psychics in the world was the Oracle at Delphi, whose cryptic messages were much sought after

S2E10: “Hunted”

Monster: Psychics

Someone's hunting the psychic young men and women whom the yellow-eyed demon is enlisting as soldiers in the coming war. Sam’s one, as is Ava, his new acquaintance, who has seen a horrific vision of things to come.

Are all the “special children” ticking timebombs, sure to turn evil at some point? Ava’s financé lying in a pool of blood with his throat slit seems to point to “yes.”

Where it’s from: Cultures from all around the world have believed in psychics, but perhaps the first mention are the sibyls of Ancient Greece.

The sibyl at Delphi sitting upon her tripod and inhaling those potentially hallucinatory fumes

The sibyl at Delphi sitting upon her tripod and inhaling those potentially hallucinatory fumes

Description: Only a woman could be born a sibyl, which translates to “prophetess.” As a kid, I dreamed of what it would be like to visit the most famous, the Oracle at Delphi on Mount Parnassus.

The temple of the Oracle at Delphi in its heyday

The temple of the Oracle at Delphi in its heyday

What it does: These psychics would work themselves up into an ecstatic frenzy. There’s some debate as to whether or not the priestesses were helped along by natural gas emissions in their cave (think of them as the first huffers!).

Either way, once in this altered state, the sibyl would become a conduit for a deity and would speak a somewhat cryptic response to a petitioner’s question.

Emperor Nero was one of the many who visited the Oracle at Delphi, stopping by in 67 CE, when he was 30 years old. Even at that relatively young age, he’d already ticked some things off his bucket list, including having his own mother killed. The sibyl’s unforgiving prophecy went:

“Your presence here outrages the god you seek. Go back, matricide! The number 73 marks the hour of your downfall!”

Needless to say, Nero wasn’t too pleased and had the poor woman burned alive. He assumed he’d live to the ripe old age of 73 — but there’s typically some ambiguity in these psychics’ predictions. Instead, the emperor was defeated during a revolt by a man named Galba…who happened to be 73 at the time. Nero then committed suicide.

When the original Oracle at Delphi died, legend has it she became a disembodied voice that would wander the world, whispering prophecies. I’m sure you’re happy to learn the reason behind the voices in your head.

How to defeat it: They’re still humans. Killing them just because they might go bad one day — or because you don’t like their predictions — seems extreme. (Though the trail of corpses left behind on Supernatural might speak otherwise.)

 

Would you stay at an inn that had a murderous spirit?

Would you stay at an inn that had a murderous spirit?

S2E11: “Playthings”

Monster: Spirit

Where it’s from: All over the world

Description: A little girl named Tyler lives at an inn, where she plays with her “imaginary friend” Maggie. Turns out this friend isn’t so imaginary after all; she’s the spirit of her great aunt, Margaret, who drowned in the pool when she was young. Maggie haunts the inn and prevents it from being sold so she doesn’t have to lose her playmate, Tyler.

What it does: There’s a giant dollhouse that’s a scale model of the inn, and the position of the dolls, which seemingly move on their own, reveals a death as it happens. The first to go is a property appraiser who is found hanging in his room.

When Dean sees all the dolls in the house they’re investigating, he says, unconvincingly, “They’re not super creepy at all.”

A quincunx symbol can connect a spell to a place and make it stronger

A quincunx symbol can connect a spell to a place and make it stronger

How to defeat it: Take some cues from the innkeeper’s Creole nanny, who used some hoodoo tricks to protect the B&B and its inhabitants, including the quincunx, or five spot symbol. It looks like the five you’re familiar with from dice: four dots in each corner of a square, with one in the middle. This is a technique to fix a spell to a specific location and empower it.

On the show, a quincunx amulet filled with bloodweed becomes a powerful way to ward off evil, Sam tells us.

You can also bind a spirit with a poppet. (I did one on President Trump, but it really doesn’t seem to have done much good.) You can find the spell in this previous Supernatural post.)

If you’re more inclined to curses or bodily harm, there’s the option of using a voodoo doll on your enemy.

I’d hate to think what someone did to get this voodoo doll treatment!

I’d hate to think what someone did to get this voodoo doll treatment!

Voodoo Doll Ritual

Take some sort of doll (you can buy them all over New Orleans, make one out of wax or cloth, or even borrow someone’s Barbie for these nefarious purposes).

You’ll need some part of your victim, ideally a strand of hair or a fingernail clipping — though a photograph will work in a pinch.

Create a magic circle. Take your voodoo doll and chant, “I command you; I control you” four times. Then: “Hear my voice! The pain you have caused me I shall cause you!”

Here’s where you can get creative with your punishments. Take a needle, candle or something else to poke, prod, burn or create general mayhem upon your doll. Note that you won’t kill your victim, but they should feel the pain, stinging, burning, cold or whatever you’ve subjected the doll to.

Repeat if necessary.

(Adapted from SpellsOfMagic.com)

When all else fails, you could try striking a deal with the spirit. In this case, Grandma Rose offers her life to spend eternity playing dollies with her dead sister. Who says there’s no such thing as Heaven?

 

A Werewolf in Geneva , 1580

A Werewolf in Geneva, 1580

S2E12: “Nightshifter”

Monster: Not a mandroid! It’s a shapeshifter

Where it's from: Europe

Death of the Werewolf.  I hope that arrow has a silver tip on it!

Death of the Werewolf. I hope that arrow has a silver tip on it!

Description: The Winchester boys tell us werewolf stories come from these shapeshifters, even though their methods don’t match up.

Believe it or not, there were stories of werewolves even before Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books.

A werewolf attacks a village in this woodcut from around 1512

A werewolf attacks a village in this woodcut from around 1512

Werewolves are humans who morph into the shape of a wolf during the full moon. The inflicted don’t remember what they’ve done during their wolf phase — which is probably a good thing, since it tends to involve mauling people to death.

One of the first written accounts of werewolves comes from Herodotus in 440 BCE, who described a tribe in Scythia who seem to have gotten stoned out of their gourds and transformed into wolves once a year.

A werewolf enjoys a tasty treat — but it’ll probably regret it in the morning

A werewolf enjoys a tasty treat — but it’ll probably regret it in the morning

In her book Giants, Monsters and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend and Myth, Carol Rose writes, “In ancient Greece it was believed that a person could be transformed by eating the meat of a wolf that had been mixed with that of a human and that the condition was irreversible.”

Centuries later, the methods said to create werewolves expanded colorfully to include “being cursed, or by being conceived under a new moon, or by having eaten certain herbs, or by sleeping under the full moon on Friday, or by drinking water that has been touched by a wolf.”

What it does: You never know who to trust. The Supernatural shapeshifter sheds its skin in a goopy mess and keeps jumping bodies.

“God, it’s like playing the shell game,” Dean exclaims. “It could be anybody. Again.”

How to defeat it: It makes sense that silver, associated with the moon, seems to be the only thing that can end a werewolf’s life. (On a somewhat silly side note, if werewolves were to travel to the moon or touch a moon rock, it’d be even more harmful than silver — at least according to Ask Mystic Investigations, that is. The same site insists that silver can kill werewolves “due to cleansing away the demonic DNA that dwells in them.”) Ruff life. –Wally

 

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How Europe Recovers From Terrorist Attacks

Life returns to normal astonishingly quickly for Europe — and Brussels was no exception

Life returns to normal astonishingly quickly for Europe — and Brussels was no exception

AN UPDATE FROM A TRAVELER IN BELGIUM THE DAY AFTER THREE BOMBINGS KILLED OVER 30 PEOPLE.

 

Here’s a special report from Belgium the day after the terrorist bombings at the airport and train station killed more than three dozen people and wounded hundreds more.

 

I'm in Brussels right now at the train station. As a train passenger, I can tell that it is amazing how quickly the Europeans get back to their normal schedules after such deplorable events.

Even some jokes have been exchanged about the event.
It’s never “too soon.”

Apart from the military personnel on the quais, today is a travel day like any other. The train from Amsterdam was relatively full — no noticeable security enhancements either. We just boarded as always with our luggage.

People were calm, smiling and doing what they do on any other day. Even some jokes have been exchanged with colleagues, train and hotel personnel and fellow passengers about the event. It's never “too soon,” as the attitude is to move forward and carry on as before without letting anything disrupt normal behavior. Humor is never irreverent but a simple act of defiance to the recent attacks.

In short, life goes on…immediately. –Kent

 

MORE FROM KENT: American Expats Tell What’s It’s Really Like to Live in Paris