Duncan caught the attention of authorities again in 1941 when she allegedly conjured up a dead sailor at a seance in Portsmouth. She said that his hatband bore the name HMS Barham. The battleship Barham had been sunk off Malta—but not even family members knew about the disaster because the Admiralty had decided to keep it secret in the interests of morale.
Upset by the revelation from Duncan, people demanded an explanation from the Admiralty, which complicated matters by stalling for three months before making an official announcement.
As a result, authorities monitored Duncan for the next two years. With the approach of the D-Day invasion by Allied troops, it was feared that she might clairvoyantly "see" the planned landing sites in Normandy and make them public in advance.
Under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, Duncan was charged with witchcraft for pretending to conjure the dead. At her seven-day trial at the Old Bailey in 1944, more than 40 witnesses testified as to their belief in her powers. The Crown argued that she was a fraud and "an unmitigated humbug who could only be regarded as a pest to a certain of section of society."
Duncan was convicted and sentenced to nine months in Holloway prison. She declared as she was led to the cells, "Why should I suffer like this? I have never heard so many lies in my life." Her words echoed those of countless accused witches in Britain, Europe and America who in earlier times had gone to jail or to their executions under false accusations.
Her case became a cause célèbre, attracting the attention of Winston Churchill, who was interested in Spiritualism. Churchill was so angered by the trial that he wrote to the Home Secretary, "Let me have a report on why the 1735 Witchcraft Act was used in a modern court of justice. What was the cost to the state of a trial in which the Recorder was kept so busy with all this obsolete tomfoolery?"
In 1951 Parliament repealed the 1735 Witchcraft Act, making Duncan the last person in Britain to be convicted and jailed for the crime of witchcraft.
After the war Duncan resumed her mediumship. In November 1956, police raided a seance she was conducting at a private house in West Bridgford, Nottingham shire. Duncan reportedly was shocked out of a trance, which her supporters claimed led to her death five weeks later. But she was also overweight and diabetic and had a history of heart trouble.
In 1998, the 100th anniversary of Duncan's birth, a campaign was launched to clear her name and have her pardoned. However, the Criminal Cases Review Commission examined the case but decided against referring it back to the Appeal Court. Spiritualists planned formal petitions.
The repeal of the 1736 Witchcraft Act is one of the most significant events in the emergence of WICCA. It enabled Gerald B. Gardner to publish his groundbreaking books about his own practice of Witchcraft, and enabled interest in the subject to come out into the open. By the 1960s, Wicca was growing and expanding and was being exported to other countries.
Cassirer, Manfred. Medium on Trial: The Story of Helen Duncan and the Witchcraft Act. Stanstead, Eng.: PN Publishing, 1996.
Johnston, Philip. "Campaign to clear name of wartime
'witch.'" The Daily Telegraph. Jan. 31, 1998, p. 3. Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. London: Robert Hall, 1989.
Duny, Amy (17th century) A Connecticut nanny accused of cursing the infant under her care. Amy Duny was an old woman who worked for a woman named Dorothy Duent, taking care of her infant child. In 1682, Duent accused Duny of being a witch and cursing her baby by suckling it. Duent consulted a doctor who said he was an expert on breaking the curses and spells of witches. His solution was to wrap the baby in a blanket and hang it over a fire, which would cause the witch's FAMILIAR to fall out.
Duent did as ordered, hanging the wrapped infant over the fire in her hearth. The baby screamed in pain. Witnesses reported that a black toad fell out into the fire and burned up instantly, like a flash of gunpowder. According to reports, the baby was no longer cursed. No record exists of the fate of Duny.
egg tree A CHARM against witches. The egg tree is a dead bush with the limbs cropped, decorated with dozens or perhaps hundreds of blown eggs. The bush is set in the ground near a cabin and is said to ward off witches.
elder In Paganism and WICCA, one who has attained a high level of respect for his or her experience and skill. In Wicca, an elder does not necessarily have to be of the third, or highest, degree of rank; she or he may be a first-degree witch (see initiation; wiTCHEs). Most elders, however, are third-degree Witches who have been in the Craft a long time. Elders are consulted in policy decisions and interpretations of Craft laws and traditions.
elementáis Spirits that personify the four elements— earth, air, fire and water. The term elementals also is applied to nature spirits, which exist in all things in nature and look after animals, insects, birds, rocks and plants. Elementals are summoned to assist in MAGIC related to nature.
Earth elementals are known as gnomes; fire as salamanders; water as undines; and air as sylphs. They can be seen clairvoyantly if a person has good attunement to the nature realm. Numerous elemental sightings have been reported at the CIRCLE SANCTuARY at Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. The pioneers of the Findhorn community in northern Scotland achieved remarkable gardening results reputedly by communicating with elementals.
Some elementals are said to be malicious and unpredictable, tricking human beings into accidents, setting traps for them and killing them. Wicca emphasizes working with friendly elementals in the creation of positive magic.
Artificial elemental is a term occasionally used for thought-form, a being of energy ritually created through intense will, which is programmed to carry out assignments and disintegrate once the work is done.
elements The four elements of nature—earth, air, water and fire—form the foundation of natural MAGIC. The elements are associated with the cardinal points of the MAGIC CIRCLE and with a hierarchy of spirits—beings called ELEMENTALS.
In Western occultism, the four elements are considered the basis of all life, not only on the planet but throughout the universe as well, linking humankind to nature, the heavens and the divine, and governing mankind's well-being. In the ancient Mysteries, the rays of celestial bodies become the elements when they strike the crystallized influences of the lower world. The elements figured prominently in the magic of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who ascribed to each one various attributes and characteristics. Plato divided all beings into four groups based on the elements—air/birds, water/fish, earth/pedestrians and fire/stars—all of which are interrelated. The magicians and alchemists of the Middle Ages ascribed elements to external and internal parts of the human body; various
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