“…alas! the melancholy yelping of the hounds, and the dismal bolloa of the hunter came nearer and nearer. After a considerable run, they had so gained upon him, that on looking back,–oh horror! he could distinctly see hunter and dogs. The former was terrible to look at, and had the usual complement of saucer-eyes, horns, and tail, accorded by common consent to the legendary devil. He was hiack, of course, and carried in his hand a long hunting-pole. The dogs, a numerous pack, blackened the small patch of moor that was visible; each snorting fire, and uttering a yelp of indescribably frightful tone. No cottage, rock, or tree was near to give the herdsman shelter, and nothing apparently remained to him but to abandon himself to their fury, when a happy thought suddenly flashed upon him and suggested a resource. Just as they were about to rush upon him, he fell on his knees in prayer. There was strange power in the holy words he uttered; for immediately, as if resistance had been offered, the hell-hounds stood at bay, howling more dismally than ever, and the hunter shouted, ‘Bo Shrove,’ at which they all drew off on some other pursuit and disappeared,” – The Devil’s Dandy Dogs.
By Johann Wilhelm Cordes
Upon a death struck horse, the dark man flies surrounded by his hunting hounds. He rides alongside the Queen of Elphame, both brandishing spears. It is a God of witchcraft, the very devil himself. This is our great initiator, the witches’ devil. The Faery King.
Unlike modern associations, the devil has many connections and relations with the fairy faith and folklore of the British Isles. He is the mighty Bucca of Cornwall; the leader of the Slau of Ireland and Scotland. The mighty dark man, who participates in the Wild hunt, “Within the lore of the Wild Hunt, again we find the Man in Black and also the Queen of Elphame, this time leading a host of the dead, the Hidden Company, in a hunt or procession in the forms of Hellekin, Herlechin, Holda, and Nicnevin….The spectral one being a host of the dead and fey signalling disaster and death to come or with the purpose of hunting down lost souls and evil-doers,” (The Man in Black).
The nature of the devil in witchcraft is often overlooked or ignored. I feel it is time for me to talk about his role as the witches’ devil, and how I view him within my own craft. The devil is the Witch Father, a god of nature itself, a satyr “ represented as black, with goat’s horns, ass’s ears, cloven hoofs, and an immense phallus…. He is the figure who danced light-heartedly across the Aristophanic stage, stark nude in broad midday, animally physical, exuberant, ecstatic, crying aloud the primitive refrain, ‘Phales, boon mate of Bacchus, joyous comrade in the dance, wanton wanderer o’ nights’ … in a word, he was Paganism incarnate, and Paganism was the Christian’s deadliest foe; so they took him, the Bacchic reveller, they smutted him from horn to hoof, and he remained the Christian’s deadliest foe, the Devil,” (The History of the Devil: The Horned God of the West).
There was once a time that little to no distinction was made between fairies and devils. You can see these with such words like Trow, which can be translated both to either elf (or troll) and Satan. The tendency to make fairyland a province of Satan’s kingdom was, at one point, very common within the history of the British Isles; and therefore, any person communing with fairies was considered to be practicing witchcraft or performing in Satanic rites (Carolyn Emerick: When Witches Communed with Fairies).
When someone gained the Second sight, they feared to see not only the fairy folk, but they feared to see demons, imps, and devils as well. In the words of Emma Wilby from Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits, “there was often little difference between a fairy and an angel, saint, ghost, or devil. We find the popular link between fairies and angels, for example, expressed in the confession of a cunning man on trial for witchcraft in Aberdeen, in 1598. The magical practitioner, who was identified in the trial records as ‘Andro Man’, claimed that his familiar (described by the interrogators as the Devil) was an angel who, like Tom Reid, served the queen of the fairies. The records state ‘Thow confessis that the Devill, thy maister, quhom thow termes Christsonday, and supponis to be ane engell, and Goddis godsone, albeit he hes a thraw by God, and swyis to the Quene of Elphen, is rasit be the speking of the word Benedicte.”
It is fitting that Lucifer, the ruler of the Fallen angels, is a Fairy King. Within some christianized folklore, fairies were fallen angels; “’The Proud Angel fomented a rebellion among the angels of heaven, where he had been a leading light. He declared that he would go and found a kingdom for himself. When going out at the door of heaven the Proud Angel brought prickly lightning and biting lightning out of the doorstep with his heels. Many angels followed him… whereupon the Father ordered that the gates of heaven and the gates of hell should be closed. This was instantly done. And those who were in were in, and those who were out were out; while the hosts who had left heaven and had not reached hell flew into the holes of the earth, like the stormy petrels. These are the Fairy Folk–ever since doomed to live under the ground, and only allowed to emerge where and when the King permits,” (Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries).
The devil of the witches is a Fairy Lord, who reveals a narrow path into a dark wood. But not only that, he is also the King of familiars. He, alongside the Fairy Queen, can guide witches to their fairy lovers. And much like the witches and their own shape shifting abilities, the devil had many animal forms he could transform into: the cat, a black hound, ravens, the goat, a toad, animals heavily associated with witches and fairies, “Increasing interest in the folkloric dimension of witchcraft beliefs is leading scholars to consider that confession-depiction of the Devil might be rooted in genuinely popular ideas about embodied folk spirits, such as fairies and the dead,” (Emma Wilby: The Visions of Isobel Gowdie).
Given many names and many histories, the devil may share the name of the same icon we think of today; however, the two are very different. For the devil of the witches, is a god of nature and witchcraft itself. Unyielding, rebellious, poisonous, and crooked.
Not of the seed of Adam are we,
Nor is Abraham our father;
But of the seed of the Proud Angel,
Driven forth from Heaven.