Herodias – The Records Of The First Witch

Throughout history there has been a ton of written records about witches, and for certain, before writing was invented, there were a lot of witches too (or at least the kind of people we so label as being a witch). But one of the first written records of a witch might have been the case of Herodias, of whom I am about to speak.

Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, Herod the Great’s son, who was executed around 7 BC for offending the King presumably. Herodias was left an orphan and, and Herod the Great engaged her to marry his other son (who was also called Herod) in an attempt to compensate her for killing her father.

All was well for a time, including their marriage, until Herod II was no longer in his father’s favour. As such, Herodias then divorced her husband and married a more favoured son of Herod the Great, called Herod Antipas. One of those condemning the new marriage was John the Baptist (a well known character from the Gospels), who had just paid a visit to the palace to reveal the new messiah was coming, yet to be born. Herodias was a cunning woman, she had outmanoeuvred kings to get what she wanted, so she would not dare to be judged by some messenger and a messiah no one knew and wasn’t even born. John the Baptist was marked by her.

Herodias had a grown daughter from her marriage with Herod II, whose name is confused but comes down to us as Salome. According to the bible, she was the archetypal seductress and snared John the Baptist after dancing the Dance of the Seven Veils in his presence. In truth, she was between the age of 17 and 22, and her acts may have been more innocent than the bible describes. After dancing, it was not only John who was stricken with by Salome but also Herod Antipas (her step-father and half-uncle). In fact, so besotted was Herod that he offered Salome anything she wished for. Following the counsel of her mother – Herodias (who saw in this her chance of revenge on John the Baptist) – Salome asked for the prophet’s head on a plate. Herod obliged. You might find this a strange tale, but that’s because during the medieval ages a new twist (and much stranger) was added to the Gospel accounts – obviously, you didn’t expect to read the original accounts of the biblie nowadays, did you? It has been altered for centuries for the purposes of political and religious orders, and still today its being altered and “miraculously” some new stuff appears. Nevardus, in his 12th century tome, Ysengrimus, tells that Herodias (subsuming her identity with Salome) asked to see John’s head as it lay on the plate. As she took in the sight, the head repelled her with its breath. So strong was this ghostly wind that Herodias was carried high into the air and then blown through a hole in the roof. The wrath of John the Baptist followed and Herodias was condemned to what Spanish medieval texts call “la dance aéra” or the aerial dance. So yes, in truth John the Baptist was not dead. Since she (Herodias) had engineered the execution of a key figure in early Christianity, she was already recognised as being an anti-Christian, but her reputation got darker still as people began referring to her as a witch. Her aerial dance became a night-time phenomenon and Herodias ushered in the belief that witches fly. Not only that, but she could draw out others to join her dance. During the 13th century, Jean de Meung explains (by means of writing) that up to a third of the population rode out with Herodias (now confusingly called Dame Abonde) for three nights every week. Interestingly, de Meung implies that only people’s souls rode out with Herodias, commenting that their bodies remain in bed. Adding a note of scepticism, he adds that their senses deceive them and they only believe they are witches wandering the night.

Some medieval writers tell of Herodias as the witch-ruler who sits in judgement over her devotees. Some are rewarded, others punished. There are also records that Herodias and her followers devour babies. Coming to the conclusion they they are night demons and muses, and only women and simple minded men would follow Herodias.

In more recent times by the end of the 19th century, there is a new account of a witch named Aradia, reputedly, the first-born witch. She is equated with Herodias – indeed, Herodias is mentioned as a Witch Goddess in many Italian witch trial transcripts.

Herodias got very famous during the medieval ages, and because of such tales around her name, women (and also some men and children) who were seen to practice something odd to the society standards of that time, and to go off the path the political and religious orders wanted people to follow, were seen as witches, demons, and persecution to those people started. Nowadays Herodias is not so famous as she was during the Medieval Age, and as far as I know, no one ever mentions her name, not even in the New-Age pagan circles.


One response to “Herodias – The Records Of The First Witch

  1. The Biblical accounts of Salone and Herodias didn’t change – they’re pretty sparse. Folklore sprung up around the original stories, especially in nedieval times. The figure of Herodias seems to have met some need, like Jezebel. (Another walk-on part in the Bible.)

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