31 days of Halloween – Bruce Jenvey

Bruce Jenvey, author of Angela’s Coven
I’d like to thank Brynna Curry for inviting me here on this very special day: This is the release date for my novel, Angela’s Coven. It’s the story of modern-day witches practicing olde world witchcraft in their attempt to save an aging rock star from his unfortunate deal with the Devil. This is a story of new beginnings and second chances within the setting of the battle between good and evil. You’ll meet Lucifer and his chief recruiter, Mr. Ajax as well as you will find Guardian Angels. But mind you, my Guardian Angels act more like a Secret Service protection squad and they carry Berrettas! This leaves our witches and our rock star caught in the middle. You will laugh, you will cry, you will question authority and tradition but in the end, it will cast a different light on anything you may have ever considered as faith. And it’s on sale, starting today, where ever E-Books are sold.
What’s different about Angela’s Coven, is there are no pointy hats, no magic wands, no spell books or bubbling cauldrons. It’s based on witchcraft as it was over a thousand years ago; it’s chemistry, herbology, and what we today would call ‘home remedies.’ Of course, being a work of fiction, I am assuming these poor witches have made some breakthroughs and advancements in their art over the past millennium, so yes, you will most certainly find the unexplained and unexpected. But that takes us into what I want to share with you today: What’s the truth about witchcraft and why do I know so much about it?
First, the truth about witchcraft is the image, the stereotype we have of what a witch is and does, was created by the Church during the Dark Ages. It’s true! Witches were actually midwives and healers, often widows or single women struggling to support themselves within the village or community. What passed for Physicians in those days were trained by ‘medical schools’ supported and controlled by the Church. A degree in medicine also required a degree in theology and doctors had to practice according to the Church’s laws of decency.
Now remember, this was a Church that in those days, burned people at the stake for saying the Earth was round and revolved around the Sun. Doctors were only allowed to examine a patient’s hand and forearm as it was extend through the bed curtains. Any diagnosis, any treatment had to be done with the same limitation. That’s where we got the treatments of applying leaches and bloodletting. But the midwives were allowed behind the curtains and could often see the true nature of someone’s ailment. It didn’t take long for word to get around that if you were really sick or hurt, your best chances of survival were with the midwife, not the Doctors.
The Doctors asked the Church to level the playing field but in their infinite wisdom, rather than allow more patient contact, the Church decided to make villains of the midwives. They labeled them witches, said all sorts of things about them like: If you let yourself be treated by a witch, you could risk your place in heaven. Witches are in league with Satan. Witches might well steal your baby and eat it. They have tricked you into thinking they’re young and beautiful, they are actually old, ugly, have hairy warts on their noses… some even have green skin. And that’s only the beginning of the rumors that were spread. But the really frightening part about all this, is that people believed it!
About the time they started burning them at the stake and hanging them in the town square, the midwives took their art of healing and herbal remedies and went underground where they have basically hidden for more than a thousand years. Occasionally the Church would launch a ‘witch hunt’ just to remind people of the danger of it all and how they were the people’s only salvation. They had roaming ‘witch courts’ that would go from village to village, set up a court, hunt down a few unfortunates, hang them, and then move on. As recently as the latter 1400s, when Columbus was discovering America, there were reports of one witch court that conducted trials in a small town in what is now Germany. When they were done, they had hung every female of every age in town.
It’s been only during the ‘enlightenment’ we have endured since the 1960s, that witches have begun to come out of the closet again. But now, there are two kinds of witches: There are those that can’t wait to tell you they’re a witch. They appear very ‘Goth’ and surround themselves with everything from black candles to enchanted objects. These are not witches. They are only playing witch and are busy living up to every stereotype and image created for them by the Church.
The other kind you have been living with perhaps your entire life and never knew it. They will probably deny it and some have even denied it to themselves, not seeing what they do as ‘witchcraft.’ These, are the real deal! She’s the woman in your neighborhood who seems to know every home remedy and every cleaning tip ever invented… and several you’ve never heard of before. She often has something simmering on the back burner of her stove that never seems to get included on the dinner table. Married, widowed or single, they will be very independent and even casually confident, often answering your question with yet another question. They don’t boast, and rarely even admit that what they do might be considered witchcraft.
So then, the next question is, how do I know all this? For a good number of years, I owned a travel and history magazine for the Great Lakes region aimed primarily at boaters. My staff and I visited countless small waterfront towns and traveled through even more burgs and villages along the way. Every year, we did a Halloween issue, mostly because I love Halloween, and we shared some truly unforgettable history and local legends with our readers over the years. I have seen and experienced some pretty fantastic things and reported about many, many more. I have gone Ghost Hunting in some of the most popular lighthouses, B&Bs and waterfront hotels from upstate New York to the shores of Lake Superior. I‘ve seen silverware rattle and jump at the Olde Angel Inn in Niagara On The Lake and I’ve seen Ghostly faces appear and twist in mirror at the old Seul Choix Lighthouse on Lake Michigan.
One thing I noticed right away, is that where ever you find reports of ghostly activity, talk of witches is never far behind. Sometimes, people blame a rumored, local ‘witch’ for bringing their paranormal problems. In other cases, I’ve had people quietly admit that they have tried everything to deal with their haunted troubles, even consulting the local ‘witch.
One of the many things that were shared with me, were ‘witch bottles.’ This is a practice, a tradition that seems to have been quietly used for centuries and while you don’t find it much in newer homes, I had no trouble finding people who knew all about them. A witch bottle is most frequently found in old homes dating back to the ear
ly 1800s and before. The most common usage was to create these ‘witch bottles’ and include them in your house at the time of construction. Often, they were an empty wine bottle, cleansed and then partially filled with ‘stuff.’ (What appears to be various powders mixed with leaves, roots, and other such organic things.) The bottles were then sealed tightly and often plastered into ceilings. Most all of them that I have seen were mounted in the ceilings of the parlor, one in each corner. The bottle was mounted vertically so that the bottom of the bottle extended into the room from the ceiling and the top of the bottle would extend into the attic above. Most houses had attic windows and you get some interesting light play in the parlor as the sun hit the top of the bottle in the attic. The idea being that these were protection against ‘witch attacks’ and by placing one in each corner of the parlor, you had in essence, created a ‘safe room’ where your family could comfortably and safely ride out the evil storm. Now remember, while I have seen these in some form where ever I have gone, most are in upstate New York… the land of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle and other old American legends.
My only question ever: So, who made the magic witch bottles? Another witch? How would you know which one to trust? Maybe you were protecting your family against witches, or maybe you were giving them the master key to your house! It always sound to me like asking the Cat Burglars Union to design you next alarm system.
But there were also those things I stumbled across, or… were shared with me, that I was asked not to include but helped in my understanding of what I would write about. What struck me the most, was that everywhere I went, there were great similarities in the stories I heard and the practices I witnessed. Even though many of these ‘back kitchen witches’ thought they were the only ones in the world, they all did things surprisingly the same way. And this is the setting, the homebrew style of witches at work I have brought to life in Angela’s Coven. Please know, this is not a ‘how to’ book. Yes, it’s a work of fiction and I have embellished. But the processes are real and while I have changed the names of some of what was shown to me, it is very much the way they look at life and ‘their calling’ as so many put it.
Angla’s Coven is about a modern-day witch who risks all to save an aging rock star from his unfortunate deal with the Devil. You can learn a lot more about the book and the culture at our web page: www.covenbooks.com, you can see the trailer on You Tube (just search Bruce Jenvey) or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZQerZ68UZ4. And of course, Angela’s Coven is now available for every Nook and Kindle where ever the best E-Books are sold or directly from our publisher: www.museituppublishing.com.
Thanks for having me today and I will hang around to post along with you if you have any questions or comments.
Bruce Jenvey