December 15, 2008

A Witch Free Christmas?

According to Ben Franklin's older brother James, evil witches can't harm anyone with their spells during Chrismas. (This quote from his 1729 almanac comes from Stephen Nissenbaum's The Battle for Christmas.)

This month (December) is a great Enemy to evil Spirits, and a great Dissolver of Witchcraft, without the help of Pimpernal, or Quicksilver and Yellow Wax... Some Astrologers indeed confine this Power over evil Spirits to Christmas Eve only; but I know the whole Month ahas as much Power as any Eve in it: Not but that there may be some wandering Spirits here and there, but I am certain they can do no Mischief, nor can they be seen without a Telescope.
Surprisingly in some old Northern European folklore, December and Christmas in particular are actually times when mischievous spirits roam freely, similar to Halloween here in the States. This tradition was even found in England, where it was believed ghosts walked at Christmas (a belief that Dickens later worked into A Christmas Carol). James Franklin seems to be quoting another, contrary tradition here, but both point to the overall remarkable characteristics people attribute to the holiday season.

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