Involuntary Initiation: Tales of Demonic Powers of Sorcery Transmitted to the Unsuspecting
It is said that in certain cases and under certain circumstances an individual can obtain special powers at the mere contact with a sorcerer without any kind of previous initiation. Such ancient beliefs are still alive in present day countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Romania, and others.
The Attack of Witches and Belief in Revenants
In Ukraine it is believed that a witch can only attack an individual three times. Should they be unable to harm the person, the individual is said to become very wise. In this way, the spells will turn against the witch who sent them and she dies.
Most often, an individual could obtain evil powers of sorcery in an involuntary way at the death of a sorcerer. It is said that revenants were born when a human with a tail dies. If a sorcerer did not give away his powers at the moment of death to someone else, then it is believed that he would remain half dead and become a revenant. This is how revenants would come out of their grave to haunt their living relatives and the deceased sorcerer would not benefit from eternal rest in the world beyond.
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‘The Ghost of Clytemnestra Awakening the Furies’ (1781) by John Downman. (Public Domain)
The Importance of Transmitting the Powers of Sorcery
A sorcerer could not take his knowledge of sorcery with him in his grave. This is why each sorcerer was obliged to transmit all of his magical knowledge to another individual before the time of death. It was said that when a witch died the relatives must make a little crack in the ceiling resembling a small window and if the witch did not transmit the knowledge she held, she could not die.
Thus, when a sorcerer was about to die, he had to absolutely transmit all of his magical knowledge on sorcery to someone else. “The transmission of the science”, as it was called, was done in one of two ways. The first referred to transmitting the knowledge to a novice. This was usually a young man or a nephew of the sorcerer. This young man had to make an oath that he would not share this knowledge with anyone else.
Woodcut depicting witchcraft: the devil bringing medicine to a man or woman in bed. (Wellcome Images/CC BY 4.0)
The second method referred to giving the knowledge to a chosen one. The chosen one was generally unaware of the power which he had received. This method is called “the transmission of the powers of sorcery through contagion.” The chosen individual received what appeared to be a regular object of no material significance from the sorcerer, but, in this way, he absorbed all of the transmitted knowledge.
Attempts to Transmit Powers of Sorcery to Unexpecting Initiates
An example of such a transmission of the powers of sorcery talks about a sorcerer who felt that his time of death drew near. Sensing this, he called upon his nephew, a good child of eight to ten-years-old who had grown fond of the old man. The old sorcerer told him: “Nephew, dear nephew, take this!” The nephew was given a small broom which he took and left. Shortly after this, the child began to have visions and nightmares. Then, small demons came at his disposal.
Another case talks about a sorcerer and a clever girl. The sorcerer told the girl: “Here, take this!” But the girl immediately realized what was happening, so she replied: “Give it to the one from whom you have taken it!”
‘The Wizard’ (1896/1898) by Edward Burne-Jones. (Public Domain)
These beliefs regarding the involuntary initiation and the transmission of the demonic powers of sorcery are related to the belief that sorcerers generally have terrible deaths. In a highly ethical vision of things, sorcerers are obliged to transmit their knowledge as they cannot take it with them to the other side. Therefore, sorcerers would pass on the knowledge to not become revenants and continue their evil deeds.
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Still, there are numerous beliefs which attest to the contrary, for example, in the case in which a sorcerer did not manage to transmit his magical knowledge. If someone was fooled and he took that which was given to him or her, then the sorcerer could die in peace. This was considered a basic principle of magic. It is not the object received by the novice that holds the powers of sorcery, but the transmission act in itself that creates the transfer.
A case from Romania says that before death the one possessing “the gift” must give it away to someone else. Should he fail to do this, the sorcerer would be tormented and he would not be allowed to die. The case refers to a rich man named Costi from Mihalcea. When he was on his death bed, nobody wanted to shake his hand. They were all afraid that he might say “I give it to you.” In this way, the demons would become attached to the one who received the handshake and the individual could not escape them until his or her own time of death when he or she could give away “the gift” to someone else.
‘An Old Man on His Deathbed Tempted by Demons’ (1675-1749) by Aureliano Milani. (CC0)
Top Image: A dark wizard (venerala / Adobe Stock)
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