There is often a disconnect in recognizing this custom in European cultures. There is a tendency to view native populations around the world as “indigenous” and give respect to ancient beliefs and traditions, and forget that Europe once had an indigenous culture, too, that was displaced by incoming Catholicism and even more strongly eroded during the Reformation era. Indigenous European beliefs, unlike other world cultures, tend to be viewed as backwards, superstitious, quaint.
It is my sincere belief that ancient cultural folkways of ALL people are worthy of respect. And so, when Europe has faced religious onslaughts both old and new, and when some European governments today are actively erasing their ancient heritage and downplaying their culture (a friend in Germany recently mentioned she was given a citation for wearing a Thor’s hammer pendant! Germany limits free speech pertaining to the Nazis, and unfortunately the Nazis used a lot of ancient pagan imagery. So, now we see many symbols that pre-date the Nazis by thousands of years banned, and even unrelated pagan symbols such as Thor's hammer are persecuted), it is important to point out that European cultural tradition is a special inheritance that deserves to be cherished as much as all other cultural groups.
So, in this vein, I would like to share an interesting story that has circulated recently regarding European cultural folkways.
They are called “Whisperers.”
For instance, my surname namesake ancestor's passport says Kingdom of Hungary. Only after some research did we realize that he came from what is now Slovakia, which had been subjugated by Hungary, so we are NOT Hungarian. To complicate it further, due to the surname, the location, and the time of emigration, it appears that my ancestor was likely part of an ethnic German community who fled the region to escape forced Magyarization (Magyars are the tribal people which Hungary is named after. In Hungarian the country is called Magyarország, which I believe translates to Magyarland). Long story short, German speaking communities were being forced to close their schools and prohibited from speaking German - communities that originated with Saxons who settled (typically by invitation due to their in demand skills) as early as the High Middle Ages. So, my ancestor would have identified as an ethnic German despite living outside of the German nation state.
So I think it's apropos that these folk practitioners don't fit the molds of religious and cultural identity.
This is not a Christian-centric phenomenon. It's just that we in the West have better access to our own Christian heritage. So witchcraft trials and persecution of pagan beliefs is often fingered on the Christians. The reality is, it is very common and Christians should not shoulder the sole blame.
Of the Whisperers, McCann says:
Duly warned, the woman agreed. And a month later, Mr. Kaminski learned she had died instead. It was harvest season, and she fell under a tractor.
If this is a topic that interests you, I urge you to follow this link to read the full article and view the photo slide show.
Read some more about the practices of European cunning folk and witchcraft here.
And, get your hands on Mythology Magazine for more on the world of Myth, Folklore, and Legend!
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