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Old 02-17-2010, 06:31 AM   #41
The Colonel
 
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Default Re: Witchcraft and Swashbuckling

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Though that kind of describes the early Church as well; look at St. Nicholas or St. Brigid.
Yep, syncretism was sort of popular at one time - a lot of the resulting practises were cleaned out in the reformation, but there's a lot of distinctly dubious hagiography out there, and Christmas is at the wrong time of year for a reason. That goes double for the ignoblis ritae in a some Romanist countries - the local saint's festival is all too often a pagan rite with a thin coat of Christian paint. And come to think of it, the Anglicans get up to some old stuff as well ... beating the bounds, for example, ain't Biblical, but is a re-working of much older rituals.
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Old 02-17-2010, 08:10 AM   #42
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To my knowledge, there were no "pagan" witches IRL either. They were accused of being "satanic" and, as far as people actually practicing folk magic, probably considered themselves Christian.

Erik
Of course not, but witches are generally depicted as either pagan (in a "witches aren't evil" setting) or as worshiping Satan (in a "witches are evil" setting). My point was that the accusations of witchcraft in the setting are unfounded in anything other than greed for money and power.
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Old 02-17-2010, 08:37 AM   #43
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Default Re: Witchcraft and Swashbuckling

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Of course not, but witches are generally depicted as either pagan (in a "witches aren't evil" setting) or as worshiping Satan (in a "witches are evil" setting). My point was that the accusations of witchcraft in the setting are unfounded in anything other than greed for money and power.
Ah, OK, sorry, my anal-retentive besserwisser sense triggered without reason! :D

Nvm that I'd like to see more "Christian" witches in games - as in "Waddyamean it is wrong to cure people using magic? I invoke the Trinity every time I do!", because that seems to have been fairly common and is pretty gameable. Mix with Hammer Horror Satanists and neo-pagan romanticism to your pleasure...

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Old 02-17-2010, 09:00 AM   #44
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Default Re: Witchcraft and Swashbuckling

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Even Pope Sylvester was suspected of Witchcraft ... but I suspect you're right, most witches would have been, at most, syncretists (much in the same way that most Vodoun would consider themselves Catholic) - the idea of witches as 'poor persecuted pagans' tends to be a ret-con by modern pagans.
There was a big study (the name of which I have forgotten, but it was in my native Swedish anyway) of folk magic practices in Sweden from the middle ages until modern times. The authorities tried to stop magic practice during the period, first because it was sinful (not neccessarily burning witches, that happened during a limited period), later on because it was harmful superstition. The commoners tended to divide magic into "black" (mostly causing harm or stealing health/wealth/power, not neccesarily actual Satanism) and "white" (mostly curing and divination). Authorities didn't really, except very early on, when only actual black magic was punished (harming people and stealing are crimes, after all).

People accused of magic who actually had practiced it was often ''incensed'' at the thought of being in league with the Devil or something like that. Recorded spells and charms often invoke the Trinity, making the cross a certain number of time, using "holy items" (lead taken from church windows is good for bullets to hit Nasty Things with, for instance), etc. Some of them can be shown to be tranlations of older charms which might have been pagan, but many of them first passed through a phase when they kept invoking saints, to the great irritance of the fanatically Lutheran authorities, as mentioned earlier in this thread.

Black magic as such was thought of as, naturally, criminal, and nothing people normally thought of doing (although there are things as actual "satanic contracts" and curse-dolls that has been preserved). Accusations of black magic was generally not targeted at "wise women" or "cunning men" but simply at people who seemed very prosperous, which nobody liked, and which had no better connections to defend themselves. Likewise, strangers - such as those Sami (Lapps) which lived south of their old lands and worked as tinkerers and butchers - were suspected of black magic. (The Sami speciality is being werewolves, for those keeping score at home. They laid the same accusation at the Swedish settlers up north...)

Another group, coming back to the subject, that was thought of as witches were many priests. The legend goes that certain ministers in the Church of Sweden got special education in sorcery gained from the Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses, two secret parts of the Pentateuch. Some sorcerer-priests were thought to be standard witches (cursing people and so forth, with black ravens gathering to take their souls to Hell when they die) while others actually seem pretty heroic: their magic is concerned with things like finding thieves, calming storms or extinguish fires. Y'know, like any decent D&D cleric... The story might have come about because of misunderstandings of lithurgy, or because later era-priests were often dabbling in those new-fangled sciences... or the occult, who knows? Rumors go far.

So the actual magic practices were often quite well-tied to religion, even if the interpretation of them goes against the orthodox interpretations of it. Not that it helps much, since the biggest group targeted by Christians in persecution were, predictably, other Christians (the wrong kind). As long as they had no Jews to persecute, that is. :p

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Old 02-17-2010, 11:16 AM   #45
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You could also bring in a John Dee character as the PCs patron - remember he was Elizabeth I's spymaster as well as her astrologer and magus. Even better if he isn't officially a spymaster, but, say, the Royal Physician - similar perhaps to Doctor Morgenes from Tad William's Dragonbone Chair.
Going later in the period, you're going to want a Le Comte de Saint Germain rather than a John Dee.
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Old 02-17-2010, 12:35 PM   #46
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Considering how old M le Comte is purported to be, he could show up anywhere at any time.
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:57 PM   #47
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There was a Spanish explorer named Alvar Nez Cabeza de Vaca who was shipwrecked off the Gulf Coast in 1528 and spent eight years wandering through present day Texas and Mexico. During most of this time, he and his companions were captives of one Indian tribe or another. The natives kept them alive, because he and his companions had gained a reputation as magical healers. Basicly, they performed improvised rituals and prayers, but they had a good enough success rate that they impressed the natives and were allowed to live.

De Vaca's story is an interesting one. Not much swashbuckling in it, I'm afraid; but some grueling accounts of survival in the swashbuckling era.
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