Further reading

Briggs, Katharine. An Encyclopedia of Fairies. New York: Pantheon, 1976.

Morrigan, the In Irish mythology, one of three war goddesses, the other two being Neman and Macha. She also was the Mighty Queen, viewed either as a Triple Goddess or the death aspect of the Goddess. Robert Graves gave three aspects of the Morrigan: Ana, Babd and Macha.

In legend, the Morrigan protected the Tuatha de Dan-aan (see FAIRIES) with a cover of fog and rain so that their boats could land upon the shore of Ireland. On battlefields, she appeared as a raven or scald crow, eating the bodies of the dead. She could present a winsome side that hid her secret intentions of destroying someone, or she could be openly vengeful. She fell in love with Cuchulain, the heroic son of Lugh but was rejected by him. In anger, she harassed him on the battlefield, then tried, in vain, to save his life.

The Morrigan sometimes is associated with the three phases of the MooN—waxing, full and waning—and with the maiden, matron and crone aspects of the Goddess. See Goddess.

Mother Redcap A name applied to English ale-wives, wise women and witches. It was also given to FAMILIAR animals.

One Mother Redcap was an elderly woman who lived in a village about 14 miles from Cambridge, England, who was known as a witch. She said she was endowed with her witch powers in circumstances reminiscent of the Devil's pact legends of medieval centuries. According to an article published in the London Sunday Chronicle on September 9, 1928:

One day a black man called, produced a book and asked her to sign her name in it. The woman signed the book and the mysterious stranger then told her she would be the mistress of five imps who would carry out her orders. Shortly afterwards the woman was seen out accompanied by a rat, a cat, a toad, a ferret, and a mouse. Everybody believed she was a witch, and many people visited her to obtain cures.

Mother Redcap's neighbors apparently viewed her new status as an asset and not something evil, and she was not persecuted. Her story is odd, however, for she claimed to sign the mysterious book without asking what it was or why. In traditional stories of the Devil's pact, the person supposedly knows full well the terms of the deal: their soul in exchange for earthly gain, which places a moral burden squarely upon the shoulders of the individual.

Mother Redcap appeared not to suffer and used her alleged supernatural abilities to help others. She died in 1926.

An Essex Old Mother Redcap lived in a house called Duval's (Devil House) in Wallasea Island, where no traditional witch's familiars such as toads, frogs or snakes lived. She would sit in her house peeling potatoes and chanting spells such as "Holly, holly, brolly, brolly, Redcap! Bonny, bonny."

After her death in the 1920s, her house was haunted by the spirit of a familiar and people considered it dangerous to enter. If anyone did and stayed, they were assaulted by a mysterious voice that shouted, "Do it! Do it!" as though to urge them to commit suicide. Cows in the vicinity were stricken with mad cow disease.

The house was bombed into ruins during World War II. In 1953, the ruins were washed away in a tidal wave. See RED; Redcap.

Further READING:

Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. London: Reader's

Digest Assoc. Ltd., 1977. Pennick, Nigel. Secrets of East Anglican Magic. London: Robert Hale, 1995.

Mother Shipton (1488-?) A 15th-century English witch and seer who supposedly prophesied scientific inventions, new technology, wars and politics through several centuries, all written in crude rhymes. The books of her "prophecies" are likely the invention of later writers, among them Richard Head, who published a book of her predictions in 1667; an anonymous writer who published the Strange and Wonderful History of Mother Ship-ton in 1668; and a man named Hindley, who apparently authored Shipton predictions in 1871.

More myth and fabulous tales surround Mother Ship-ton than fact. Reputedly, she was born Ursula Southeil near Dropping Well in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, in 1488, though the dates 1448 and 1486 also are given in various texts. Her mother, who possessed the powers of HEALING, clairvoyance, storm raising and hexing (see hex), died in childbirth with "strange and terrible noises." Ursula, who inherited her mother's powers, was raised by a local townswoman. Mysterious things happened around Ursula: furniture moved about on its own, and food disappeared from dinner plates. Once, the townswoman left Ursula alone in her cottage. When she returned with several neighbors, they were attacked by strange forces. A woman was hung by her toes from a staff floating in the air, and men were yoked to the same staff. Other women found themselves dancing in circles; if they tried to stop,

Mother Shipton with a familiar, 19th century

an IMP in the shape of a monkey pinched them to keep them going.

Ursula fit the classic stereotype of HAG. Head described her as follows:

. . . with very great goggling, but sharp and fiery eyes; her nose of incredible and unproportionable length, having in it many crooks and turnings, adorned with many strange pimples of divers colors, as red and blue mixed, which, like vapors of brimstone, gave such a lustre to the affrighted spectators in the dead time of the night, that one of them confessed that her nurse needed no other light to assist her in the performance of her duty.

In art, she is depicted as wearing a tall, conical, brimmed black hat.

Despite this incredibly ugly appearance, Ursula married Tobias Shipton at age 24. Her husband then disappeared from all records, and Ursula became known as Mother Shipton. She did not like prying neighbors and once took revenge on a group of them by bewitching them at a breakfast party (see SPELLS). The guests suddenly broke into hysterical laughter and ran out of the house, pursued by goblins. For this mischief, Mother Shipton was summoned to court, but she threatened to do worse if she were prosecuted. She then said, "Up-draxi, call Stygician Helleuei," and soared off on a winged dragon.

The verses attributed to her vary. One of the best-known is:

Carriages without horses shall go Around the world thoughts shall fly In the twinkling of an eye Iron in the water shall float As easy as a wooden boat Gold shall be found, and found In a land that's not now known A house of glass shall come to pass In England, but alas!

Her predictions included automobiles, telephone and telegraph, iron-clad boats, the California gold rush and the Crystal Palace in London. Mother Shipton also is credited with predicting the Civil War in England, the Great Fire of London (1666), the discovery of tobacco and potatoes in the New World, World War II and the women's liberation movement.

Her memorial, Mother Shipton's Cave, is in Knares-borough.


Briggs, Katharine. British Folktales. New York: Dorset Press, 1977.

Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. London: Reader's

Digest Assoc. Ltd., 1977. Valiente, Doreen. An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present. 1973. Reprint, Custer, Wash.: Phoenix Publishing, 1986.

Murray, Margaret Alice (1863-1963) British anthropologist, archaeologist and Egyptologist best known for her controversial theories on the origins and organization of witchcraft as a religion.

Murray was born July 13, 1863, in Calcutta. She distinguished herself in the British academic world, entering University College in London in 1894. She was named a fellow of the college and specialized in Egyptology. She became a junior lecturer in Egyptology in 1899 and was assistant professor of Egyptology until 1935, when she resigned her post to pursue other studies. She also held other lecturer positions.

Murray did archaeological excavations in Egypt, Malta, Hertfordshire (England), Petra, Minorca and Tell Ajjul in south Palestine. Her interest in witchcraft led her to field studies of the subject throughout Europe, which included an examination of written records of witchcraft trials.

Her first book on witchcraft, The Witch-cult in Western Europe, was published in 1921 and caused immediate controversy among her peers. Murray maintained that witchcraft in the Middle Ages and Renaissance was not a phenomenon of Christian heresy but was the remnants of an organized, pagan fertility religion that dated back to Paleolithic times. She also maintained that witchcraft was far more widespread and organized during those centuries than had been generally believed by most historians and anthropologists.

Murray was not the first to put forth this theory. Sir James Frazer had discussed the prehistoric origins of witchcraft rituals and beliefs in his extensive work, The Golden Bough, published in 1890. Murray elaborated upon Frazer's work and took her own theories much further.

Murray called witchcraft "the Dianic cult" because of the pagan worship of the goddess DIANA. She believed that most witches were organized into COVENS that always consisted of 12 members plus a leader, either the DEVIL or a man impersonating the Devil, despite the lack of evidence to support such a belief. She also believed that practitioners of witchcraft came from "every rank of society, from the highest to the lowest." Murray remained convinced of the existence of an organized witchcraft religion, despite the lack of evidence to prove it.

In her second book on witchcraft, The God of the Witches, published in 1933, Murray discussed the HORNED GOD, or male pagan deity, tracing its origins back to Paleolithic times as well. She portrayed the Horned God as one of power but not evil. A third book, The Divine King in England, published in 1954, was perhaps the most controversial of all her works. In it, she asserted that every English king, from William the Conqueror in the 11th century to JAMES I in the early 17th century, was a secret witch and that many of the country's statesmen had been killed in ritual deaths.

For decades, scholars argued over Murray's theories. Her Dianic cult and other views have been widely reject ed, including most of her material in The Divine King in England and her opinion that the term sabbat comes from the French term s'esbettre, which means "to frolic" (see SABBATS). Nevertheless, she is recognized for her pioneering work in the field of witchcraft and for shedding light on the continuity of some ancient pagan practices, not only into the Middle Ages but into the 20th century as well.

Murray's theories gave fuel to a movement in England in the 1950s to rediscover Witchcraft as an organized religion. GERALD B. Gardner expounded upon her theories in his own book, Witchcraft Today (1954), for which Murray wrote the introduction. The Dianic cult was an appealing myth that many newly initiated Witches wanted to believe. But by the 1990s, it was acknowledged in Wicca and Paganism that Murray was wrong.

Murray died in London on November 13, 1963, shortly after her 100th birthday.

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