The most intriguing aspect of Margaret Murray’s Witch Cult hypothesis is the strong connection between witches and fairies. In some ways the witch cult was the cult of the fairy, and the image of secret gatherings in the forest is related to the fairy cult. And here there is more as pure fantasy and speculation.
Murray writes in the “The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, by Margaret Alice Murray, , at sacred-texts.com”: “That there was a strong connexion between witches and fairies has been known to all students of fairy lore. I suggest that the cult of the fairy or primitive race survived until less than three hundred years ago, and that the people who practised it were known as witches. I have already pointed out that many of the witch-beliefs and practices coincide with those of an existing dwarf race, viz. the Lapps. The Devil and the witches entered freely into the fairy mounds, the Devil is often spoken of as a fairy man, and he consorts with the Queen of Elfhame”.
One source of Murray’s theory might be the mentioning of “Fairies In The Scottish Witch Trials”. In a guest piece for the “Modern Scot”, historian Jon Kaneko-James explores the appearance of fairies in the annals of Scottish Witch Trials: He says that fairies played an important role in the Witch trials and researched historical records. For example, a pamphlet printed in London, “detailing the 1566 interrogation of the Cunning Man John Walsh reports… and details his midnight meetings with the Fey court on various mounds and barrows in Dorset (Gibson, 2005, 26-9)”.
Here we have another kind of secret cults in the forest, but in these cases it were humans meeting supernatural beings. Of course this was forbidden.
Jon Kaneko-James draws some very interesting conclusions about the “reality” of these encounters with the fairies by investigating the historical background. He asks if “that area simply benefited from conditions of one kind or another that allowed records to survive there better than anywhere”. And the background here is the battle between Catholicism and Presbyterianism. The latter disapproved the supernatural and Presbyterianism had strong influence in the Scottish Witch Trials according to Kaneko-James.
The “secret commonwealth” of the mysteriously vanished Reverend Kirk is also connected to the political development during the time of the witch trials. The connection with humans (Witches) and supernatural beings (Fairies) is another important piece in the puzzle even we learned that the truth was always manipulated and its difficult to detect what’s really going on. However there is another real important element in the recordings:
Secret encounters and meetings with fairies enable women and men with supernatural abilities like second-sight. Furthermore there are disturbing records about a disintegration of the eternal border between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead. Kaneko-James mentions the case of Katherine Fordyce who appeared in the dreams of a neighbor after she had died. She claims that she was kidnapped by the fairies post-mortem after dying in childbirth.
Visionary encounters played an important role in the witch-craze. Here are strong parallels with the “interrogation” of contemporary alien-abductees in interviews or hypnotic regression sessions. Often the abductees gain supernatural powers like second-sight after the close encounter with aliens. The forbidden encounters with fairies in the forest and modern alien-abduction stories have a lot in common.
We could also mention the similarity between the stories about the dwarf-like monsters in the haunted Freetown State Forest and the reports about encounters with fairies in Scotland.
It’s hard to find the truth since as in historical times there are also political interests in our time and many reports get manipulated. Only one thing seems to be sure: something is going on out there and perhaps we are talking always about the same phenomenon hiding behind many masks.