6 - How the Little People became Witches, and Concerning the Knights Templar
In England these Little People were mostly pre-Celtic aborigines, but among them would be many Roman-Britons who had stayed on after the Saxon conquest. Most of these would be Christians, but all their priests had fled.
At that time many of the people of Rome thought that all her troubles arose because they had deserted the old gods. Presumably the Roman-Britons might think the same; but the priests of the recognised Roman faiths had been abolished two hundred years before when Rome turned Christian. The Little People had goddesses who were identified with Diana and Aphrodite, so it would be only natural for Romans who wished to worship their own old gods, who had no temples, to call on and worship these.
This influx might have brought about some changes in the cult, but the main objects would I think be unaltered. What they wanted was prosperity and fertility for the tribe, a life after death in happy conditions, and reincarnation into their tribe or nation.
Slowly these people came to be on speaking and trading terms with the Saxons, probably combining together against the various Viking invasions. Then Christianity came back again. The kings and townspeople accepted it, but the country people, the pagans (paganipeople dwelling in the country), the villagers, the heathens (the 'people of the heaths'), were mainly of the old faith, which is why we use those two names to describe non-Christians to this day.
Next came the Norman invasion. The Normans were heathen Norsemen who had received large grants of land from the French king on condition that they became Christians and did him homage. We might well call them rice-Christians nowadays. They are said to have had a sect in Rouen, their chief city, which worshipped Aphrodite; this was, it appears, only suppressed in the twelfth century.
William the Conqueror's father was Robert the Devil and he was credited with witchcraft. William's son, William Rufus, was also said to be a witch leader. The Normans were few among a very large population of Saxons whom they had reduced to serfdom. These were good farmers and workers, living in places where the lord could reach them. Being so handy they were forced to work the land for the lord of the manor and pay taxes. The heathens, the people who lived in the wilds, were few and inaccessible, and it was difficult to force them to pay taxes or give any feudal dues and so they managed to live more or less independently. They were thought of by the people from towns as uncanny folk addicted to magic.
The Saxons hated their conquerors and were sullen and rebellious. It is more than likely that the heathens were at first rather pleased to see their Saxon conquerors so discomforted and were quite willing at times to enter into relations with the Normans, giving service as hunters and possibly as miners, in return for exemption from all taxation. These relations would most likely take place when the Norman manorial lord already belonged to some cult of the same nature in France.
That there were such cults is proved by manuscripts of the Church Coureans in France which tell how the ladies of the nobility used to ride to the nocturnal revelries or Sabbats of Bensozia, the Diana of the ancient Gauls, also called Nocticula, Herodias and the Moon. They inscribed their names in a register and after the ceremony believed themselves to be fairies. Here we have the fact that the nobles were in friendship with people who held some form of witches' sabbat, and the people who celebrated these ceremonies were apparently thought of as being both witches and fairies at the same time.
It is notable that the goddess was, like the witch-goddess, known by many names and identified with the moon. Of course these liaisons were only formed by the more free-thinking or less priest-ridden people. Edward the Confessor would not have joined them, but William the Conqueror or William Rufus might easily have done so. In connection with these rides to Bensozia I may mention a story which the witches tell me, that in the olden days they used sometimes to go to big meetings at a distance on horseback, dressed in queer clothes, looking like spirits, shouting and singing to frighten people. Can some such rides have started the legend of the wild hunt?
Possibly the legend gave them the idea. It should be noted that the historical Raymond de Lusignon married a fairy named Melusina from whom the Lusignon kings of Jerusalem and Cyprus were descended, and Melusina is one of the names of the witches' goddess. At this time, though the people of the heaths would attend the religious ceremonies, only the priests and priestesses would be initiated, passing the tests and taking the oaths. That is, anyone well affected to the people and the cult could attend these ceremonies.
This would account for the stories of masked people who would come riding to attend the sabbat. They were known to be nobles, keeping to themselves and taking no part in the proceedings but dancing and feasting among themselves. It was also well known that at times six thousand people were present at one sabbat.
It may or may not be a coincidence, but the idea of chivalry arose about that time. In an age when women were treated as drudges, and Churchmen seriously debated whether they had souls or not, the lesser nobles, that is, the class of people who were apt to attend the Sabbats, suddenly evolved a code of deference to women. It amounted to placing certain gracious ladies on pedestals and treating them with the greatest possible respect. At first it seems it was only to those ladies who would 'play the game', so to speak; but in time it led to the mending of manners towards the whole sex. Had this a connection with the cult of the goddess?
The Normans took some of the men of the heath into their service as grooms, hunters and other menials, when their knowledge of animals became useful. I think they had some extraordinary knowledge and love of animals which in later times descended to the Horse Whisperers in Ireland, who, according to reliable stories, could tame the most savage horse by simply whispering to it. In my youth in Scotland there was a sort of mystical secret society known as the Horseman's Word among farm servants.
The members of the society were supposed to have dealings with the Devil, and they certainly did have an uncanny power over horses. I believe the Kirk and the Trade Unions combined crushed them, though they may still exist in secret. The secret taught in this society or cult was that men and animals were brothers, of the same stock, and should be thought of and treated as brothers. I think something like this was believed and practised by the Horse Whisperers, and accounts for some of the things they were able to do, and that something like this lay behind the stories of witches' familiars. It all came from the practices of the people of the heaths, and this in turn from the ancient peoples who first attempted to influence animals by magic.
This, however, is simply my theory; I cannot give any proof of it. As the country opened up, the races may have intermarried and the men of the heaths would tend to grow larger. A mixed breed is always better physically, but by intermarrying they would tend to lose those queer hypernormal powers which seem to occur when there is much inbreeding. These are most common with identical twins and less common with ordinary twins, but undoubtedly other people possess them also.
They are apt to be hereditary, but the witches have formulae for producing this form of auto-intoxication, of escape into the world of faery. It cannot be induced, however, if people are unsympathetic, as many Saxons were, to these powers, which they thought devilish.
The Little People were vivid, emotional, thriftless; the Saxons were stolid, hardworking, religious and respectable. The fact that the hated lords had dealings with the Little People and attended their shocking meetings did not tend to heal the breach. The wilder and less religious of the lords would ride great distances to attend a sabbat.
The witches have stories of people stealing out of houses at night to attend, borrowing their masters' horses; or maybe the master himself saddled his own horse and rode off to the meeting without telling his wife. These worn-out horses back in their stables by cockcrow may have given rise to stories of pixies riding the horses. In the Castletown Museum is a stable-door key with a holed stone tied to it to stop the fairies from riding the horses. These Roman-British fairy girls were often very beautiful and many of the men attending the sabbat brought back fairy wives and usually had very happy marriages. This was quite common among small farmers who lived in isolated places; but it was frowned on by the more respectable part of the community.
Times slowly changed. The lords were no longer Normans. Many had married Saxons, some had legitimate or illegitimate children by Roman-British women, and the race had become English. The people of the heaths were no longer half-naked savages clad in skins; they wore clothes dyed with woad treated with lime, which, as I said before, produced the famous Lincoln greena most excellent camouflage enabling the Little People to vanish by diving into the bushes.
The Robin Hood story was spread, the tale of the wonderful archer who never missed his aim. Robin was a common French-English name for a spirit and Hood was a frequent variant for Wood, and has further been derived from the Scandinavian Hod, a wind god, variant of Woden. Robin Hood, therefore, though he probably had a historical existence also, was a mythical form into which a witch-leader could easily transform. He had his coven of twelve, including the High Priestess, Maid Marian, all dressed in Lincoln green. It was perhaps rather more respectable to go to a foresters' than to a witches' party. The bright young things among the Saxons went and strolling friars turned up. Gradually these parties evolved into the May Games.
It must be realised that the old-time public May Games were much more, very much more, than a few schoolchildren dancing round a maypole. They were often what people now call 'orgies'. For instance, the Judge, who together with the Jurats ruled Alderney in the Channel Islands until recently, told me that until the year 1900 the old customs were kept up to such an extent that any unmarried Alderney woman could say to any eligible Alderney man within the year: 'You were with me at the May Games, the child in my body is yours, you must marry me,' and he was forced to do so.
But nowadays there is only one such old custom still in force. Any Alderney person who has a bottle of rum with him on May Day may take milk from anyone's cow to make rum and milk, and the owner may not object. But even that custom is dying out because of the price of rum.
The Puritan writer, Philip Stubbles, speaks of the maypole as 'a stinking idol, of which it is the perfect pattern, or rather the thing itself, meaning that it was phallic. He also says: 'Both men and women, old and young ,... go to the woods and groves, where they spend all the night in pleasant pastimes and in the morning they return. I have heard it credibly reported, viva voce, by men of great gravity and reputation, that of the maids going to the woods overnight, there have scarcely the third part returned home again undefiled.'
Even allowing for Puritan exaggeration it would seem that the Witches' Sabbat was nothing more than the ordinary pastimes of the people, any excesses being deliberately exaggerated by their opponents.
If things had been let alone some of the more startling practices would have ceased, or have been performed only in private. But in 1318, and again in 1320, Pope John XXII issued ferocious Bulls against witchcraft pronoun-ing it to be heresy.. In the resulting persecution, which continued for centuries, the people of the heaths were practically exterminated. There were no more big Sabbats, as the organisation was crushed and the surviving members were either in the households of nobles or among the secret cult members.
The early trials show us what happened. People said: 'We are good Christians; we have always done these things so as to reap a good harvest.' In many cases it was the parish priest who had led the fertility rites, and the people said they had not been told it was wrong; in fact the priest said it was right. At first only penances and fines were imposed, but as the Church grew stronger torture and fire were used.
The old religion made one great mistake. It had stated that paradise was reserved for the initiates; that the ordinary folk when they died went to a kind of spiritualist heaven, a happy hunting-ground: but it was one where they had to work, as only initiates could obtain the required learning which took them to a paradise where they were rested and refreshed, till they were ready to be reincarnated on earth again.
Christianity at first promised what has been irreverently called 'salvation on the cheap'. 'Abjure your heathen gods, believe in the three gods who are one, and you go straight to a glorious heaven, where you are a king with a golden crown, never working but playing harps and making wassail for ever.' All who refused this offer would burn in Hell.
There is an old story of a Scots minister who preached. 'And, dear brethren, after Judgment Day I will stand on the battlements of heaven by the richt han' o' the Lord, and we will luk down on ye a-writhing in the awfu' fiers o' Hell. And ye shall scream in agony: "O Lord, Lord, we didna ken." And the Lord will luk doun on ye wi' His infinite goodness and mercy, and He will say unto ye: "Weel, ye ken the noo." '
We laugh today, but it was not a joke when people believed that it would happen. The heathens had no hell with which to scare people; they simply stated that the best heaven and the best reincarnation were for the rich and clever. While the respectable, hardworking folk of the towns disliked the men of the heaths and were shocked at their doings, the lesser nobles were not ashamed of their contact with the magic of witches or sorcerers, as they did not consider it a serious offence, and several Popes have been said to have practised it.
The Gospel of St. John begins: 'In the beginning was the Word,' and it was thought that by knowledge of that word of power King Solomon had made the spirits work for him. Manuscripts were sold at high prices, giving the rites and words of power used by him and professing to teach others to do the same.
The lesser gentry who made no secret of their practices were easy prey and yielded much loot to the Church, until the persecution turned to higher game such as Lady Alice Kyteler in Ireland. Lady Glamis, who I believe was an ancestor of the Queen, was burned alive in 1537 as a witch! The Duchess of Gloucester was condemned to the dreaded Bishop's Prison in Peel Castle, Isle of Man, where she languished sixteen years until her death. Her companion Margery, the Witch of Eye, was burned alive and Roger Witche (note the name) or Bolingbroke, a clerk and churchman, was drawn from the Tower of London to Tyburn and there hanged, beheaded and quartered.
There is also the celebrated case of the Knights Templar. They were attacked suddenly and their destruction by fire and torture brought enormous amounts of loot into the hands of State and Church. There have been innumerable books stating the cases for and against this order, so this may be of interest. The witches tell me: 'The law always has been that power must be passed from man to woman or from woman to man, the only exception being when a mother initiates her daughter or a father his son, because they are part of themselves.' (The reason is that great love is apt to occur between people who go through the rites together.)
They go on to say: 'The Templars broke this age-old rule and passed the power from man to man: this led to sin and in so doing it brought about their downfall.' If this story was not merely invented to explain the fall of the Order, it would seem that the Templars may have known and used some of the old magic. Is it possible that the heads or skulls they were said to worship may simply have been images representing Death and what lies beyond?
The main ground for this theory is that the witches think they recognise indications that the Templars conditioned their bodies in the way they themselves do to produce magic; how they do so, however, I am forbidden to mention. But they also say that one of the charges made against the Templars at the Grand Process in Paris in 1316 was 'that at their reception into the order they denied Christ, declaring he was not God but a man, and that they had no hope of salvation through him and that they did not believe in the sacraments of the Church'.
Though they do not deny Christ or the sacraments, witches generally do not believe in them, which was at least 'unusual' at that date. At her initiation a witch is always received into the circle with a kiss on the mouth. Templars received a similar kiss. But both were tortured to make them say it was elsewhere. Another charge was that the Templars worshipped a head, variously described as having sometimes three faces, sometimes simply a human skull or death's-head: that they believed that this head had the power to make them rich, cause the trees to flourish and the earth to become fruitful. (We could call it a fertility cult.) At initiations Templar candidates were stripped nearly or entirely naked; they held their meetings and initiations secretly and by night, as witches do.
My books of reference give the official charges made against the Templars as follows:
1. Denial of Christ and the defiling of the Cross.
2. The adoration of an idol.
3. A perverted form of the Mass.
4. Ritual murders.
5. The wearing of a cord of heretical significance.
6. The ritual (or obscene) kiss.
7. Alteration in the words of the Mass and an unorthodox form of Absolution.
8. Treachery to other sections of the Christian Army in Palestine.
With regard to No. 8, no body of men fought so bravely and so long in Palestine, so this seems to be only a trumped-up charge.
With regard to Nos. 3 and 7, if this were true it must have been done by the Templar priests, and not by the fighting Knights, but only Knights were tried. No action was taken against any Templar priest.
With regard to No. 9, all the Crusaders and the ordinary clergy were charged with this at some time or other. There seems little evidence that the Templars were worse than the others.
But with regard to 1, 2, 5 and possibly 4 and 6, I think there may have been some base for the charges. The idol was said to be called Baphomet. Some writers say this is a corruption of Mahomet; but in those days the Crusaders surely knew Mahomet was a man and a prophet, and not an idol. It was also said to mean Bapho Metis, the Baptism of Wisdom, with no explanation given of what this wisdom consisted. Another story was that it was coined from the first letters of the following sentence written backwards: TEMpli Omnium Hominum Pacis ABbas: the Father of the Temple of Universal Peace among men. Now could this word have been coined to represent the Consoler, the the Comforter, the giver of Peace, Death and What Lies Beyond?
Many writers say that the journey to the Grail Castle really depicted the journey of the soul through the Underworld to reach Paradise, and that this is made very clear by various exhibitions which are given to the Hero whenever he cannot understand certain incidents. (See the High History of the Holy Grail; also J.S.M. Ward, The Hung Society, for full details.)
Now this secret castle was said to be in a far land and to belong to the Templars. To reach it you had to undergo trials or to ask certain questions, know certain secrets and secret words (passwords); in other words, 'initiation' into a more or less secret society whose secrets were a magical talisman, which had five forms, or five things which were different but the same; a secret of prosperity and fertility, and a secret of resurrection or regeneration connected with a lance which dripped blood into a cup or cauldron.
AH this might be taken to be equivalent to saying that it was possible for man to attain a happy after-life without the aid of the Church, or that you had no need to worship Christ in order to obtain salvation. This is exactly what the Church charged the Templars with believing. As this struck right at the heart of the Church's teaching, the Church said that all those who held these views must be destroyed; hence the various trials and executions.
I do not think it has ever been explained exactly what happened to the bulk of the Templars. Records show that about eight hundred were executed or died under torture; but this was out of fifteen thousand Knights scattered all over Europe. There were also about twenty-five thousand priests and serving brothers, who do not seem ever to have been persecuted. So seemingly about forty thousand people dived underground and disappeared, as the witches did later.
One curious point about this persecution is that the Templar priests were never charged. If there is any truth in charges 3 and 7, it could only be the work of the priests. It was said they addressed the thief on the cross, which would probably have meant Barabbas - surely an unlikely person to turn into a god. Another story was that they called Christ a thief because He claimed to be the Son of God when he was the Son of Man. If they had said the liar or the pretender on the cross it would have made sense.
Actually, I think there is no doubt that it was a case of 'here are wealthy people whom we can loot', and advantage was taken of the fact that some of these Knights were suspected of being followers of an old religion. However, a number of false charges were brought at the same time, firstly because of a misunderstanding of the import of some rites, but mainly because, if the real truth were known, much public opinion would have been in their favour.
Charges are made at times because of a misunderstanding of certain ceremonies, etc. For instance, the Romans accused the early Christians of being cannibals, because it was said that at their meetings they ate the body and drank the blood of their God! And during the First World War the Turkish police raided the English Church at Jerusalem, tore up the altar and dug up all the floor, because they had heard that the priest in charge had recently made two canons at the altar - canon had only one meaning for them.
Wearing a cord of heretical significance. To modern writers on the Templars this has always seemed a curiously pointless charge at a time when all monks wore such a cord or girdle. But though the Inquisitors may have been scoundrels, they were certainly not fools. The way they stressed this charge shows that their object was to discredit the Templars with the general public in a way that would cause them to forget their great services to Christendom.
So it is obvious that this cord or girdle was thought to be unorthodox at least. The Chronicle of St. Denis states very emphatically: 'In these girdles was their mahommerie.' It has been said that this meant that they were secretly Mohammedans; but to charge them with embracing Mohammedanism would have been the most damning charge, and it was never even hinted at. In those times, a Mammot was used to denote a doll or an idol and Mahommerie would mean 'having to do with idols'. They were said to have used these cords to bind the skull or head which they worshipped. To a witch this binding of a skull could have a meaning. That the Templars attached some meaning to these cords seems clear.
In the Chronicle of Cyprus we hear that a Templar's servant removed (? stole) his master's girdle. When the Templar discovered this he immediately killed the servant with his sword. Again, an outsider is said to have heard a knight instructing some novices, telling them to guard these cords well, wearing them concealed beneath their clothing, as through them they might attain great prosperity.
Now all this might apply to the consecrated cord which witches possess and use in many ways. All those I have seen are coloured, usually red, though I have known other colours used. They value them as they do all their working tools and naturally would be most annoyed if anyone removed (stole) any of them.
It might be noted that about this time the Churches accused witches of 'Raising Storms, Human Sacrifice and Wearing Girdles'. A curious combination!
I am forbidden to tell of the uses a witch makes of her cord, and I doubt whether the Church knew, or they might have mentioned it at the trials. Or perhaps they did know and did not wish this knowledge to be made public.
All this may be the merest coincidence, and I only give it to show what some witches now believe. For myself I see nothing impossible in it. It is not suggested that the Templars were members of the witch cult, simply that some of them may have had memories of an old cult of Death and Resurrection, and while more or less Christians still had leanings towards it, and possibly practised some of the magic connected with it.
It must be remembered that novices were forbidden to speak of anything which occurred at their initiations, even to another member. If they were only forbidden to tell anything to outsiders, it might be simply that, like Freemasons and others, they had secret Rites of Initiation; but novices being forbidden to compare notes points, it would seem, towards certain parts of the ceremony not being given to all novices, or, alternatively, that different explanations were given of the same ceremony.
Possibly certain commanders favoured the old gods and might introduce certain practices, and the fact that in many cases novices said they were threatened with swords to make them go through the ceremony would point to this. Or there may have been an Inner Circle in the Order, who picked out certain novices as likely members who could work magic: in other words, people who had slight mediumistic powers.
These might not necessarily be attracted to the Old Faith, and so needed a certain 'frightening' to make them do certain acts, such as spitting on the Cross. Having done this, the novice might feel he was an outcast, and so be more amenable to obey the orders of the Inner Circle. This theory would explain that seemingly the greater number of the Knights knew nothing of this practice, nor had seen the head or skull, but had heard that others had seen it elsewhere. Or it is conceivably possible that during a very long ceremony certain things were done which would not be noticed if the novice's attention were not drawn to it.
If the Grand Master stood for a minute or two with his arms crossed on his breast, who would notice it? But if you were told that in that position he represented the god of 'Death and What Lies Beyond', through whom you would gain salvation, you would take notice, and taking that notice might be taken by the Church as thinking they had no hope of salvation through Christ, or rather, that it was possible to obtain a happy after-life and regeneration without His aid.
If you were shown a head or death's head later, told it represented the same god and to do reverence to it, that might be termed adoration of an idol by the Church. If another novice were shown the same skull and told it was simply an emblem of mortality or the head of a saint, the most orthodox churchman could not object.
There is some evidence that these skulls existed. Some were found, one in Paris.
There is a curious Templar story of a skull that brought good luck or fertility. A noble lady of Maraclea was loved by a Templar, a Lord of Sidon; but she died and was buried. Such was the force of the knight's love that he dug up her body and violated it. When a voice told him to return in nine months' time he did so and found a skull on the leg bones of a skeleton (a skull and cross-bones).
The same voice told him to 'guard it well, for it was the giver of all good things'. It became his protecting genius, and he defeated all his enemies and gained great wealth. Later it became the property of the Order. And through it the Order gained its great wealth and power. Writers say that this would seem to be a garbled account of a ceremony of Death and Resurrection, perhaps seen by some outsider.
There are many ancient legends of such heads or skulls: that of Bran the Blessed in the Mabinogion, the Bleeding Head in the Story of Peredur, and others, all bringers of victory and prosperity, reminiscent of the old legends of Adonis and Astarte, and of Horus who was begotten by the dead Osiris.
The Templars may have attempted practices which, while sheer heresy to a witch, were founded on her methods. Witches teach that to work magic you must start with a couple, a male and a female intelligence being necessary, and they must be in sympathy with each other; and they find that in practice they become fond of each other.
Sometimes it is undesirable that they should fall in love. Witches have methods by which they try to prevent this, but they are not always successful. For this reason, they say, the goddess has strictly forbidden a man to be initiated by or to work with a man, or a woman to be initiated by or to work with a woman, the only exceptions being that a father may initiate his son and a mother her daughter, as said above; and the curse of the goddess may be on any who break this law. They think that the Templars broke this law and worked magic, man with man, without knowing the way to prevent love; so they sinned, and the curse of the goddess came upon them.
To my own knowledge, using these witch methods is very apt to cause a fondness which could lead to an 'affair' if it were not suppressed from the start. But that means doing two things at once, trying to produce sympathy and at the same time killing all natural fondness, and it is much easier to do one thing at a time. In wartime Templars may have gone all out for the one thing, not knowing of, or not caring for, the consequences.
The Templars had many peculiar privileges. They had their own priests, who were entirely independent of the local Bishop, being answerable to the Pope alone. Templars confessed their sins to each other and were given absolution, being scourged meanwhile; this meant that no mention of any unorthodox teaching would get outside. There is no reason to say that from the beginning the Templars were unorthodox; it may have just happened that owing to peculiar circumstances this Order was organised in a way that meant that secret doctrines could be taught safely at a time when free thought was strongly suppressed, I should imagine that most of the Templar Priests knew what the rites meant; why, for instance, the novices were stripped of all or nearly all clothing.
The number three played a very important part in the lives of the Knights. For example, the Ritual Kiss and the symbolic denial of the Cross were said to occur three times in the ceremonies. There are many other cases of the use of the numbers three, five and eight that occur in Templar usages which suggest that these numbers had a special meaning for them.
The most curious of the charges against the Templars, and one which seems to have some foundation, was that of trampling or spitting on the Gross and the denial of Christ. Its import seems to have been little understood by the Knights, and it would seem that different explanations were given to different people. Petrus Picardi told the Inquisitors that it was a test of fidelity, and had he been brave enough to refuse to do as he was told he would have been sent at once to the Holy Land; but this also proves that he and others were threatened with death if they did not do it. Gouarilla, Preceptor of Poitou and Acquitaine, said the denial was in imitation of St. Peter's having denied Christ thrice. Other excuses were given for spitting or trampling on the Cross.
Sometimes this cross was said to be a Crucifix, at others a cross cut or painted on the floor, which again would point to one man's being initiated in one way and the rite being performed differently for another. But in all cases it seems to have been a severe test of obedience on the part of the novice, as time and again we read that other Knights had to threaten him with drawn swords before he would do it, and that he only did it to save his life.
Charge No. 4 seems to point to novices actually being killed who refused to conform, though this point does not seem clearly proved.
The shape of the Templar churches, circular outside, octagonal within, is peculiar to them. It is said to be copied from the Mosque of the Dome in Jerusalem, which they thought was the Temple of Solomon, and it is possible that this may have influenced them; but the Templars, of all the Crusaders, had more intercourse with the inhabitants of Palestine; they should very soon have learnt when and by whom that mosque was built; that is, by Omar, the mosque always being known as the Mosque of Omar. So it appears to me that these churches were built for some special ritual purpose, and that purpose involved working in a circle. It may be noted the Grand Master of the Templars always carried a Wand of Office, crowned with an octagon. I have never heard any suggestion as to its meaning.
I suggest that the rites performed may at times have included circumvallation round a central point or altar, that it included a dramatic form of Death and Resurrection or regeneration, or a visit to the underworld, and a pact or alliance with the god of Death and What Lies Beyond, and the point within the centre of the circle may have had a great meaning for them. Also that the number eight had some significance. It is said that this is simply because the Templar cross had eight points; but could it not be that they revered the number eight and therefore gave their cross its eight points?
Another great Templar 'hallow' was the Chalice, the Gup. As I have said, the witch also reveres the Gup, which seems to date back to the old fertility cults. It is a curious fact that the Church disliked and discouraged the story of the Holy Grail, though they could not entirely prevent its being popular as a 'romance'. The original versions appeared about 1175 to 1225; then the source of supply seems to have been cut off. Can it be that the Church brought pressure to bear? Henceforth writers simply made rehashes of the old materials, adding stories of King Arthur and his knights, etc.
Now the Grail is a sort of hallow or talisman. It brings fertility to the land and it feeds its worshippers. It has many forms, but it is always a fertility- and a food-providing object. It seems to have had five forms:
1. A reliquary.
2. The platter or cup used at the Last Supper.
3. A jar or bottle in which St. Joseph received the Blood from the Wounds of Christ.
4. A Sacred or Talismanic Stone.
5. The Chalice of the Eucharist.
In all these cases however it seems to have no material substance, but to have come from a sort of fourth dimension, to which it returned swiftly again. Shall we say it came from and returned to that place between the Worlds, or something like the Witches' Circle?
We are told the Grail is a mystery which must not be revealed to the uninitiated. The High History of the Holy Grail says that the Grail appeared in five several manners that none ought not to tell, for the secret things of the Sacrament ought none to tell openly but he unto whom God hath given it. Does not this point to there being an inner meaning to the Grail story, that the meaning of the sacred object varied, according to the understanding of the initiate, or shall we say that different explanations of the meanings of an object were given in higher grades of initiation, and that the outermost explanation was the Chalice, but that in all there was the 'feeding' and fertility implication?
There are indications that the Church knew of or suspected some secret rite among the Templars and that it was of a phallic nature, for with fiendish cruelty they attached heavy weights to that organ when torturing the unfortunate Knights, as if to say: your rites centre round that member, so we torture you there to extract the most damning evidence. The men of the fourteenth century quite understood the principle of 'making the punishment fit the crime'.
In Parzival, by Walfram von Esehenbach, the Grail is a stone which is under the protection of a body of Knights Templars who are chosen by the Stone itself. On the Stone appear written the names of these guardians when they are yet children (does this not point to novices being initiated into a cult while still children, as in the witch cult?). So also the Stone chooses a wife for the King, whom alone he is allowed to marry (Priestess of the Cult?). This Stone brings food to its worshippers. In the Diu Crone Version Gawain achieves the quest, asks a long-awaited question and thereby restores to life the dead King Guardian. Is this not a regeneration or reincarnation motive?
The High History also says: -
'After this came two priests to the cross, and the first ordered Sir Perceval to withdraw from the cross'; and when he had done so, 'the priest kneeleth before the cross and adoreth it, and boweth down and kisseth it more than a score of times and manifesteth the most joy in the world. And the other priest cometh after and bringeth a great rod and setteth the first priest aside by force, and beateth the cross with the rod in every part and weepeth right passing sore. Perceval beholdeth him with great wonderment, and sayeth to him, "Sir, herein seem you to be no priest. Wherefore do you do so great a shame?" "Sir," sayeth the priest, "it nought concerneth you of whatsoever we may do, nor nought shall you know thereof for us." Had he not been a priest, Pereeval would have been right wroth with him, but he had no will to do him any hurt. Therewithall he departed. ...' (1)
 Dr. Sebastian Evans, The High History of the Holy Grail, pp, 89,191.
Later the King Hermit explains that both priests loved Christ equally, and that he who beat the cross did so because it had been the instrument of bitter pain and anguish to Our Lord. Can this explanation have been inserted to explain and justify a ceremony of kissing and beating, or of defiling the cross, such as it was alleged that the Templars performed? The High History was written about 1220; it seems to show that the then ceremony was old and had a legitimate explanation in the eyes of those who took part in it. The writer was probably a Templar priest or someone who knew and approved of their practices, and possibly wished to explain away any rumours which had been spread.
It has occurred to me the witches have a rite which involves kissing and then beating an object, with the intention of charging it with power. It is not a cross and they do not speak or think of it as a cross; but on reading this account it struck me that an observer at a little distance might easily mistake it for one. It is rather cross-shaped. If the Templars used the old magic, they would be most likely to perform this rite, and rumours might spread about.
The alleged Templar rite of defiling the cross only became known to the world during the persecution and trial of 1307, ninety years after the High History was written. There are many traces of a fertility cult in the Grail stories. The 'Hallows' themselves seem to be connected with such cults.
The Grail, the Cup or Chalice, is like the Celtic Cauldron. It restored the dead, and brought fertility back to the land. The King, in the Mabinogion, gives Gawain a sword which each day drops blood. There is a head and spear which drops blood in connection with a cauldron of fertility in the adventure of Peredur, vaguely said to be connected with the murder of a relation of Peredur by witches at Glaucesier.
A sword or dagger dropping blood (or wine) into a cauldron would have great meaning to witches, and they have a head or skull tradition. Could the story be a hidden way of hinting that an ancestor of Peredur had gone through the circle to Death and returned, and so Peredur himself was of the Witch Blood and entitled to know the Mystery of the Cauldron? Most scholars agree that the bleeding spear is phallic.
In the Merlin MS., Bibliotheque Nationale 337, there is a Grail procession which passes through a wood singing: 'Honour and Glory and Power and everlasting joy to the Destroyer of Death.' Could not that be a chant in praise of the goddess? Or could it be really to disguise a chant: 'Honour and Glory and Power and everlasting joy to the destroyer of the fear of Death'? That is, to the givers of Regeneration, Death and what lies beyond.
Jaffet, a knight from the south of France, deposed that at his reception he was shown a head or idol and told: 'You must adore this as your saviour and the saviour of the Order of the Temple,' and he was made to worship this head by kissing its feet and saying: 'Blessed be he who shall save my soul.' Cettus, a knight received at Rome, gave a very similar account. A Templar of Florence said he was told: 'Adore this head; this head is your god and your Mahomet,' and said that he worshipped it by kissing its feet.
There seems to have been no questions asked as to how you can kiss a skull's feet. Can it perhaps be explained by some rite resembling the following witch practice: in the old days it was said that 'when the god was not present, he was represented by a skull and crossbones' ('Death and what lies beyond', or 'paradise and regeneration'). Nowadays this is symbolised by the High Priestess, standing with her arms crossed to represent the skull and crossbones.
The worshipper kisses her feet, saying a sort of prayer beginning, 'Blessed be ..." and the intention following is that indicated by Jaffet and the others, the words not being exactly the same, as it is very unlikely that they would be: probably he spoke in French, which was then translated into monkish Latin and retranslated into English many years afterwards: doubtless the witch-words have also changed. I remember a German witch saying to me on his first introduction to the English rites: 'But this is pure poetry!' Now none of it rhymes, but it is beautiful, though very unequal, which I think proves that someone poetically inclined rewrote much in the last two hundred years.
During this prayer to the High Priestess she opens out her arms to the Pentacle position. She then represents the goddess, or regeneration, signifying that the prayer is granted. 'Thus she has been both god and goddess, male and female, death and regeneration, one might say bi-sexual.' Now in Payne Knight's illustrations of Baphomet, said to be the Templar god, he is shown as both male and female or bisexual; sometimes a skull appears, sometimes the moon. Whether there is really any good proof that these are the Templar gods I cannot say. All this may be mere coincidence.
No. 5 is the accusation of the Templars wearing cords or girdles, with which they used to bind their skull-god. As we have seen, the Church similarly accused witches of wearing cords or girdles which have a ritual meaning for them. For myself, I see nothing impossible in the Templars having used it as a witch does.
The Templars were drawn from the small nobles, the classes who, while good soldiers and at times giving largely to the Church, were often at loggerheads with her; and some at least of these classes had a witch or fairy connection. When Christendom was vanquished by paganism, and the Crusaders, after all their efforts, were thrown out of the Holy Land, there was naturally a period of disheartenment throughout Christendom, a feeling that God and Christ had failed them. Through their long association with the East the Templars may have become more tolerant and more broad-minded than their stay-at-home countrymen, and some at least may, on their return to Europe, have been tempted to go among the only people with whom they might talk freely, people with whom they already had associations in their youth, and they may have attempted practices which, while sheer heresy to a witch, were founded on her methods.
I think it may be far-fetched to suggest any connection between the Templars' alleged practice of crossing their legs and the skull and bones, because many tombs of the period show knights with their legs crossed, including some who were not Templars and who were never in the Holy Land. It could, of course, simply mean the cross, but would it not be more reverent to do this with the arms? The god Mithra is very often shown with two attendants with torches, who usually have their legs crossed. This was very much a soldiers' cult, and so might appeal to the Templars and others; but I have not found any other connections.