I’ve been a devotional polytheist of the ancient Mediterranean traditions, with a focus on Hellenic polytheism, for most of my life. While folk magic and folklore always played a role in my magical practice, and their influence has only grown and become more prevalent as time has passed, I had never involved myself with the so-called “folkloric Devil” – the figure known in Traditional Witchcraft currents as the Witchfather or the Devil of the Craft. He doesn’t really feature in Greek witch folklore the way he appears in western and northern European traditions and I’ve always been wholly indifferent to Christian material, preferring to focus on the vast and under-explored wealth of polytheistic magic.
However, all that changed for me back in September 2016. During an ecstatic rite to the Gods and spirits of the Wildwood, I was thrust in deeper trance than I was planning. A powerful presence, to which my guardian spirits and Gods did not react much, dominated the room to the extent that there were physical manifestations such as loud sounds, and overwhelmed my senses and control over myself. In a state of semi-possession, I said:
The Serpent of Mysteries has come within and the Spirits know it! The Serpent comes from the Mouth. IT IS THE TONGUE.
Crouched on the floor and covered from head to toe with my ritual veil, I felt as if my eyes were almost blinded; I could barely see and could not make up much in terms of shapes. What I could see from within an opening of the veil covering me, was a light like a burning coal wreathed in shadow across from me. I reached to grab the light and the shadow of a much bigger hand darkened my own. I felt a deep, impossibly ancient and powerful, yet very familiar and intimate presence. I heard the wooden floor creak and moan as if a heavy weight came to rest upon it. My hands were suddenly upon my face without my control, touching it and distorting its features by softly pulling and pushing on the skin, without causing any pain or discomfort. My mouth opened against my will and I spoke with a voice that was not my own. I named the figure before me that I could now see clearer, the light turning into a fiery goat’s eye, as the Witchfather, the Goat of Mysteries. My voice spoke of dancing in the field of spirit and blood, bone and flame, amongst the Flowers of the Dead and the Pyre of the Living. The Goat told me:
We dance and in ecstasy We howl and lose ourselves and become One. Awaken, Witch, you are called forth!
And forth He came, and the floor felt ready to break under the pressure of a being that was now a goat, then a horned man of unnatural proportions, then an oak tree with blossoms of fire and crowned with the stars. I cried out the names of my Gods and their presence enveloped me, returning control of my mouth and hands to me. Then, as if struck by lightning, I was suddenly completely grounded and with no trace or sensation of the trance state I was in moments before. The memory of the event was immediately starting to fade so I hurried to write all of it down, and by the time I was done, it felt like little more than a half-remembered dream. Even now, while I can perfectly recall the sensations when I read the journal entry, all I am left with is the visual of a burning eye, clad in shadow and leaf.
That was the beginning of my unlikely and thoroughly unexpected journey with the Witchfather. Since then, I’ve met Him in ecstatic rituals, I have been torn from my body and thrust into soul flight, I have experienced the wonders of the Sabbath feasts, and the sheer magnitude and influence He can command in matters of magic and witchcraft. Where Hekate is a subtler, more long-term weaver of plans, the Witchfather is the hammer that strikes the red-hot iron of the moment. Much of my work with Him has been deeply intimate and thus not something I usually feel comfortable sharing publicly, especially given how transgressive some of those rituals and ecstatic rites have been.
If I were pressed to define Him, I’d call Him the incarnation of Witchcraft itself. When I directly asked Him about it, I got laughter and then a poetic response:
When a human first sat beneath the canopy of trees and starlight, lit a flame, and whispered their heart’s desire as a spell, I was given breath. When the first poppet and the first charm and the first witch’s staff were fashioned, I was given bodies. When the first witches met in excited secrecy, I was given purpose. I have been called many Names and I have been worn by many of the Great. Dwell less on matters of the mind when you address me.
As my practice with the Witchfather grows and expands to new areas, I hope to be able to share more.
The painting is “Witches Sabbath” by Francisco de Goya.