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Sabbath
Salem-S1E01-The-Vow-Masked-Witches-Sabbath
General Information
Episode

The Vow

Location

Salem, Massachusetts

Participants
Description

Ceremony to honor the Devil


One, two, three, and four. Raise the Devil to our door. Call the Pig, the Wolf, the Ram. Come to the circle, all who can. Make him walk on floor to roof. Drink to him with horn and hoof. One, two, three, and four. The Devil is here. Now sleep no more...
— Tituba in The Vow

The Sabbath is a ceremony that witches held in special nights, usually with the full moon or the new moon, to celebrate the Devil and practicing their more dangerous spells, such as the Grand Rite.

Description

The Witches' Sabbath, also spelled Sabbat or Sabba, is a ceremony that can be considered religious or blasphemous depending on the observer in question. Implemented under cover of darkness in remote and solitary places like a forest, the witches gather around a fire to honor their Master. Bare, sometimes covered with blood or hell-pitch, they dance invoking the Devil so that he realizes their pleas. The Sabbath is also an opportunity to make the most important liturgical rituals, just as to start the Grand Rite with the necessary sacrifices. According to Reverend Cotton Mather, Sabbats are orgiastic meetings in which the witches give vent to their wickedness. On a tree near the clearing where the witches perform their Sabbath, John Alden and Isaac Walton found the skeletons of children hanging on the branches, "unborn children offered to the Devil himself" in the words of Isaac. If the skeletons are warnings or simple offers is not known; However, the Seer of the hive unleashes his familiars around the place of the ceremony because they act as guardians, warning the witches in case of intruders.

Undercover witches

I can't see their faces. Like there are these heads of animals like a stag, a pig, and a wolf!
— Mercy Lewis to Cotton Mather
TheSabbath WitchesMasksin ThevowS01E01

"Call the Pig, the Wolf, the Ram..."

Witchcraft, punishable by death, was practiced by members of all social classes so it was necessary not to be recognizable, although precisely this confidence to show one's own identity to the other witches can be considered an act of trust toward the hive, especially to the Samhain who's responsible for protecting the witches of her hive. The masks wear in the ceremony, however, have also a ritual significance; the heads of animals sacred to witchcraft and Paganism as wolf, deer or pig are worn by those who appear to be the most important witches of the hive like Mary Sibley or John Hale, and are the same animals mentioned in Tituba's spell to fly to the Sabbath.

Phases of the moon

And now here we are, night of full Hunter's Moon.
The final sacrifice image

The Hunter's moon

The Moon plays a very profound role when it comes to spellcasting, as a witch can enhance the power of her/his spells by becoming acquainted with all the phases of the Moon, and how to apply them. In Western culture, the four principal lunar phases are: first quarter, full moon, last quarter (also known as the third quarter), and new moon. In a year there are thirteen full moons, to which the various traditions and cultures of the world have attributed significant and several names. The full moon is traditionally associated with the supernatural, and in historical records, Sabbaths took place during full moon nights.

Hunter's Moon

The Hunter's Moon, also known as Harvest Moon, is the full moons occurring during late summer and in the autumn, and in Salem's mythology is the night when the thirteenth victim must be sacrificed in order to complete the first step of the Grand Rite.

Throughout the Salem series

After Tituba reminded to Mary that the moon was with them, the two women went to Mary's boudoir to perform an erotic ritual in which Mary, reaching climax with a wooden shaft, projected her astral double out of her body, headed to a clearing in the woods. Meanwhile, Captain John Alden and Isaac Walton entered the woods, as Isaac wanted to show his old friend that witches were a real threat, not a fairy tale. They hid when a man in a pig mask, later revealed to be Magistrate John Hale enters with a torch. The apparition tosses the torch onto the ground and a circle is set alight. Figures rise from a pool of black tar and begin to dance and fornicate. Some other witches, also in animal masks – a horse, a bear, a wolf, the aforementioned pig, and a deer – stand above the rest. Mary Sibley, wearing a deer mask, recites an incantation whilst killing a white dove. Scared to death by an iguana with eyelids sewn with red thread, and from what witnessed, Isaac cried out loud, interrupting the circle. John Alden fired a shot with his rifle, hitting the pigman on the side of his mask before escaping. Mary was brought back to her body by the shock, alarming Tituba that someone had broken their circle. Later, Mary questioned Magistrate Hale, ordering him to find out who he had seen them. (The Vow)

Madame Mab, led by the Ghoul who lighted her way with a torch, met in the woods with other elders of the Essex Hive to discuss their next plans under the light of the full moon and the actions to be taken to prevent John Alden intruding into Mary's life, hampering the result of the Grand Rite. The following night, Mercy Lewis attempts with her followers Emily Hopkins, Dollie Trask, Charlotte, Susanna, and Charity a sort of Sabbath, dancing and touching each other around a bonfire in the woods, calling the Devil until Mary Sibley appears offering Mercy the possibility to become a proper witch. (Lies)

Memorable Quotes

Cotton Mather (to John Alden): "You witnessed a real witches’ Sabbath, something no witch hunter has ever seen with his own eyes. All of our images and accounts come from confessions, some…rather more believable than others."
The Stone Child
__________________________________________
Magistrate Hale (to Mary Sibley): "And that I disagree, that I strenuously and most vehemently oppose means nothing to you? We were seen at our Sabbath. And you throw caution to the wind."
In Vain
__________________________________________

Gallery

Trivia

  • The Sabbath depicted in The Vow is a combination of various European and colonial beliefs about witches' liturgy, including location, attire, and performance of the ritual.
  • The look-like Sabbath performed by Mercy and her acolytes in Lies is reminiscent of the Sabbath shown in the 1996 film "The Crucible," adapted from Arthur Miller's play of the same name.
  • Etymologically, Sabbath derives from the Hebrew "day of rest." In the Middle Ages, it was customary to use terms of other religions to describe satanic practices; another example is referring to the coven meeting place as "synagogue." [1]
  • In many forms of Contemporary Paganism and Modern Pagan Witchcraft, like Wicca, Sabbath indicates the eight feasts of the Wheel of the Year.
  • A Sabbath is also shown in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown" where Brown finds a meeting of Devil worshipers from Salem village.

Historical Facts

Image Sabba quadro di Goya

Francisco Goya's Witches' Sabbath, 1797-98.

  • Witches' Sabbath is a recurring motif throughout the Middle Ages and the European Renaissance, borrowing pre-Christian beliefs such as descriptions of brutal raids and orgies of witches and demons according to the Greek-Roman beliefs but later also by the legends and beliefs of Northern Europe and the Anglo-Saxon territories, such as the Wild Hunt, as soon as Christianity began to spread in these territories. Basically, these satanic meetings were used as a scapegoat by the inquisitors to satisfy their morbid interests of a sexual nature, although historically it is possible to find minor similarities between the Sabbat of medieval witches and ancient pagan fertility cults. Such gatherings of witches were believed to be a blasphemous imitation of the Holy Mass, in which the worshipers of the Devil were making the most wicked acts from the sacrifice of children and cannibalism to orgies and curses to damage the fields and public health.
  • In historical documents about the Salem Witch Trials, the Puritans did not refer to the gathering of witches as 'Sabbath,' but just as 'witches meeting.' This is easily explained by the fact that they called their religious worship "Sunday Meeting". Moreover, the meetings of witches in America were different and less sumptuous than those in Europe, similar to the difference with which Catholics and Protestants carried out their worship.

References

  1. Etymology of the word "Sabbath" on Wikipedia.org

See Also