Anthropology Of Religion The Seers Reading List
“Assailed by Spirits" by Theodore von Holst, 1830
This reading list is for those with the predisposed ability of seeing ghosts, spirits, doubles, and visions of the present and future. Some believe the ability can be transferred by someone who is a seer to someone who is not, but most seers say they would never wish it upon anyone as most of the sights and visions they receive are of misfortune and death with much fewer visions of love, marriage, and birth. As one seer told the father of John MacInnes “he would not advise him nor any man to learn it; for had he once learned, he would never be a minute of his life alone but would see innumerable men and women night and day about him" (Davidson, p.15)
CUNNING FOLK AND FAMILIAR SPIRITS: SHAMANISTIC VISIONARY TRADITIONS IN EARLY MODERN BRITISH WITCHCRAFT AND MAGIC
by Emma Wilby
I’ve recommended this book more than once before, but once again it’s a font of information on a subject! The material mostly pertains to Scotland and England covering Cunning Folk, mystics, and saints who were all visionaries. Chapters to pay special attention to if you are a seer or mystic yourself include: chapter 9 - Spirit Worlds and High Gods, chapter 10 - Phantasticks and Phantasms, chapter 11 - Psychosis or Spirituality, and chapter 13 - The Unrecognized Mystics. Witches with the sight or clairaudience may also find chapters 3-7 in Part I of the book very useful especially with regards to seeing and hearing familiar spirits - those inhuman and those of the dead.
THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH: AN ESSAY ON THE NATURE AND ACTIONS OF THE SUBTERRANEAN (AND FOR THE MOST PART) INVISIBLE PEOPLE, HERETOFORE GOING UNDER THE NAME OF ELVES, FAUNS, AND FAIRIES
by Robert Kirk
Robert Kirk was a minister in Scotland in the 17th century who is most well known for being the first to translate the Bible into Gaelic. What most of his parishioners didn’t know was that in his spare time his hobby was interviewing Scottish Seers and writing a manuscript on their abilities and beliefs. That manuscript was “The Secret Commonwealth" which was written around 1691. It was not published until well after his death as the subject material was not popular during the time of the inquisition and witch trials. However, with the Romanticism movement interest in mysticism, Pagan gods, and spirits resurfaced and "The Secret Commonwealth" was well received. Overall it is a difficult read due to the archaic language and Kirk’s extreme misogynism, but it’s well worth the deciphering. It is my own belief that Kirk himself had the second-sight as his obsession with the subject and his uncanny and definitive descriptions of spirits are not those of one simply transcribing what others have said. He does not state this in the manuscript however, but this could be because during his time the second-sight was frowned upon by most clergyman and he could’ve gotten himself in trouble with the Church by admitting he had it or simply for just supporting it.
His conclusions in this work should sound familiar for those who have read “The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries" - which contains only the lingering beliefs while in Kirk’s time they were still in full force. Kirk concludes that fairies are spirits of the dead and Faerieland is the underworld. He also believes their are different kinds - some are nature spirits and not human - and he also covers brownies and other wights. He describes the spirits of the dead as beings made of air - condensed like raindrops into a form like a cloud and that there is nothing evil or unnatural about this nor about communing with land spirits and the dead and he even gives selected Biblical verses which support this. He also writes of circumstances where seers have immigrated to the New World and lost their abilities. He believes this is because the ancestral spirits are tied to the land where someone is born and it is they who give an individual power, visions, and warnings - and when one is removed from their influence one loses any of their abilities because the seer is alien to the ancestral spirits of the new land. North America being so newly discovered when Kirk wrote his work, there is nothing in it of the abilities of the children of the immigrants born in the New World.
If you want to learn about the nature of the spirits of the dead and genius loci, how the “two-sights" or second sight works, and how to gain it - I would recommend checking out this classic work. It’s available online in full in two places - Google Books and Sacred Texts - but the latter version is still in the original phrasing and spelling of the time and can be very difficult to read.
THE SEER IN CELTIC AND OTHER TRADITIONS
Edited by Hilda Ellis Davidson
This out-of-print collection of papers on the second-sight from a symposium on “The Seer" at Oxford in 1987 is well worth getting your hands on even for a high price. The authors are folklorists, anthropologists, and professors of history and literature. Hilda Ellis Davidson herself is a well known academic whose research and writings in the fields of Celtic and Germanic paganism from the 1940s up until her death in 2006 outshine other works in the same field and broke new ground for other researchers. In this work she has written the introduction as well as an article on the Seer’s Thumb about the ancient practice of seers putting their thumb in their mouths to receive visions and prophecy. A wonderful factor of "The Seer in Celtic and Other Traditions" is that it also covers seers in Israel, Japan, China, and India along with the seer in British, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh traditions. In this work articles by credentialed academics are alongside works by seers themselves and folklorists who have devoted themselves to the study of the second-sight. Eilidh Watt’s paper "Some Personal Experiences of the Second Sight" is especially of interest to true seers as it is this native Scottish woman’s account of all her experiences with the second sight throughout her life - both good and bad.
THE SEER IN ANCIENT GREECE
by Michael Attyah Flower
This academic work published by the University of California Press covers the seer in every day Greek society. Both male and female, they were consulted on matters of marriage, childbirth, death, business, weather, the outcome of battles, as well as messages from gods and spirits of the dead. Unlike modern fortune-tellers who are usually in the lower income brackets and not well respected by the general public, the seers of ancient Greece were well paid, held in high esteem, and were usually from society’s educated upper class. The author covers the history and role of the seer and modern skepticism about seers in the starting chapters and then goes more in depth about ancient consultation and divination methods from reading entrails of a sacrificed animals to full spirit possession as well as covering famous oracles and prophecies from ancient Greece. If you follow a Hellenic influenced path, this is definitely the work on seers for you. To get a feel for the work a sample chapter is available from the publisher here: Problems, Methods, & Sources
The Night Side of Nature or Ghosts and Ghost Seers
by Catherine Crowe
This two-volume work from 1854 by Catherine Crowe, a British novelist, is a folkloric work on the second-sight, spirits, and ghosts. Drawing upon both modern and ancient, Christian and Pagan references, Crowe mainly covers the sight pertaining to seeing spirits of the dead. The chapters cover everything from warnings and visions of the future, d”opplegangers and doubles, to dealing with troubled spirits and hauntings. Beliefs and theories in the afterlife and reasons for the dead roaming the earth are covered. As with Robert Kirk, I believe Crowe was possessed to write this work due to her own experiences and natural abilities with the subject matter. For those who have the natural ability to see and/or hear the spirits of the dead, this can be an invaluable work despite its older publication date. “The Night Side of Nature" has been reprinted by various publishers who print cheap paperbacks of out-of-copyright works (the one linked to being the best quality), but it is also available in its two volume entirety on Google Books.
OTHER TITLES WHICH MAY BE OF INTEREST TO SEERS:
* “Etheric Anatomy: The Three Selves and Astral Travel" by Victor Anderson
* “Priestesses Pythonesses & Sibyls: The Sacred Voices of Women who speak with and for the Gods" edited by Sorita d’Este
* “Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind" by Claude Lecouteux
* “Seidways: Shaking, Swaying and Serpent Mysteries" by Jan Fries
* “Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages" by Claude Lecouteux
* “Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland: Tales and Traditions Collected Entirely from Oral Sources" by John Gregorson Campbell
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