Music, Witchcraft and the Paranormal, II.2



"References to Witchcraft in Classical Music"


pp. 174-6 music for the sorceress in Purcell : Dido and Aeneas

p. 174

"Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas ... was written in 1689 for performance at Josiah Priest's 'School for Young Gentlewomen' in Chelsea. The libretto was by Nahum Tate who succeeded Thomas Shadwell as Poet Laureate in 1692. ... the earliest musical score dates from after 1750 ... . ...

p. 175

Act II : A Sorceress invokes her witches ... . They conjure up a storm".

p. 176

[Mellers 1965, quoted in Price [1986], p. 209 :] "The Sorceress ... Her music -- in the sub-dominant minor ... -- contains excruciating suspended minor seconds, angular leaps and chromaticisms".

Price 1986 = Curtis Alexander Price : Dido and Aeneas : an Opera by Henry Purcell. London : W. W. Norton & Co.

pp. 178-9 Seirenes in Purcell : King Arthur; conjurer in Purcell : The Indian Queen

p. 178

"Purcell wrote two other semi-operas that presented witchcraft ..., namely King Arthur and The Indian Queen. The former was produced in 1691 at the Queen's Theatre, Dorset Gardens, London, with a libretto by Dryden. Its dances were arranged by Josias Priest ... .

p. 179

... "Magic horrors" ... are used in witchcraft rituals ... and sirens are set to tempt Arthur into indiscretion : "Come Bath{e} with us for an Hour or two, Come naked in, for we are so ..." (Act IV, Scene ii)."

"The Indian Queen, produced in 1695 at Drury Lane with a libretto by Dryden and Sir Robert Howard. There is an invocation in Act III by

Ismeron, a conjuror,

{cf. the name /ISMaRos/ of the city of Maron, priest of the Kikones (according to the Odusseia); and also the water-spring-name "me^ ('waters of') MERO^m" (Strong's 4792)}

to the God of Dreams ... :

"By the croaking of the toad, In their caves that make abode ..."".

{In Samskr.ta, 'croak' / is perhaps cognate with 'cave' /khani/ or /khan-/ (S-ED).}


S-ED = Monier Monier-Williams : Sanskrit-English Dictionary. 1899.

p. 180 Vivaldi : Orlando furioso

"Antonio Vivaldi's Orlando furioso, first performed in Venice in 1727, tells the story of the enchantress Alcina with a libretto by Braciolli ... . It is a complicated plot with magical transformations, monsters, Hecate's temple and underground cavern scenes."

pp. 181-2 Handel

p. 181

"In Rinaldo (1711) the sorceress Armida sets out to bewitch ..., including a chariot for a descent into hell and a magic castle guarded by monsters and furies".

"in Orlando (1733) ... the librettist Braciolli introduces a magician Zoroastro ... . The character is an obvious forerunner of Mozart's Sarastro in The Magic Flute ... . He reads the stars, causes fountains to spring up, flies a chariot, commands genii".

"Handel's final 'magic' opera Alcina (1735) is similar to Orlando ... . His Alcina is similar to Circe,

transforming suitors into animals, vegetables and minerals."

{Kirke (as also the Sumerian goddess In-anna), however, transformed men only into beasts (but not into vegetables nor into minerals).}

pp. 182-3 Mozart

p. 182

"In 1768 Mozart wrote Bastien und Bastienne

K. 46a,

{otherwise cited as K. 50 (B&B)}

a one-act singspiel to a text by F. W. Weiskern after H. de Guerville and C. S. Favart. ... .

{also said to be "based upon a 1752 operetta by Rousseau entitled Le Devin du Village ["The Village Soothwsayer"]" (MW, p. 146b)}

... Colas who is a magician, fortune-teller and cunning man ... consults his magic book ... :

"Diggi, daggi, schurri, murry, horum, harem, lirum, larum, randi, mandi, giri, gari, posito, besti, basti, Saron froh, fatto, matto ... ."

{This is sometimes cited with a few words spelled differently ("B10D").} {The name "Saron froh" is also mentioned in, e.g., WVA, p. 252. Though only a word or two is sometimes translated (/froh/ German for 'glad', in e.g. "B&BL"; /posito/ Latin for 'I posit'), most of the words are good Italian.}

The work was commissioned by Dr Anton Mesmer, the originator of 'animal magnetism', and it was first performed at his house in Vienna. It can {related to} ... Mesmer's

p. 183

... activities ... in applying his magnetised passes in Colas' ... magical invocation."

{The rhymed conjuration is likely to have been selected by Mesmer himself from some contemporary Italian wizardry-text.}

"The Magic Flute, K. 620 ... is full of magic and the Queen of the Night and Sarastro may be viewed as a sorceress and a sorcerer respectively. The librettist E. Schikaneder favoured magical tales and had used a similar story before (Der Stein der Weisen with music by B. Schack). ... The Magic Flute is usually equated with the Masonic movement since it is immersed in such symbolism."

DD = "Diggi Daggi". &

MW = Craig Conley : Magic Words : a Dictionary. Red Wheel/Weiser, San Francisco, 2008.

"B10D" =

WVA = Georg Bossong (ed.) : Das Wunder von al-Andalus : die schönsten Gedichte aus dem Maurischen Spanien. C. H. Beck, Mu:nchen, 2005.

"B&BL" = "Bastien and Bastienne Libretto".

pp. 185-6 Boito : Mefistofele

p. 185

"Boito's Mefistofele (1868) represents the Faust legend. The story of the scholar who sells his soul ... first appeared in the Spiess Urfaustbuch in 1587 and it was translated into English in 1592. Goethe finished his first part in 1801 ... . ... The first part is referred to as 'The Witches' Kitchen' ... . ...

"A female monkey is sitting beside the cauldron ..." (Goethe, translated Wayne [1951], p. 110).

{"On p. 51b, the diving female grasps a maguey plant and has yellow skin, like 1 Monkey on Borgia 48b" (H&EAM, p. 58b).}

Mefistofele converses with the animals

{Mefistofele, who (in Act IV -- OB, p. 314) "longs for the terrible vapors" might be likened to "Tlahuizcalpantecutli ... on the Bilimek Pulque Vessel ... depicted with a smoking star on his chest" ("ASS", p. 74b), for date "1 Ozomatli" ("ASS", p. 72b) is on the Stuttgart figurine of tzitzimitl Tlahuizcalpan-tecuhtli.}

and the witch ... realises his identity. She casts a circle and prepares a potion that Faust drinks. ... Faust and Mefistofele

p. 186

travel by broomstick into the abyss where there is dancing, music and a chorus of witches and warlocks. ... Boito provides dramatic music for the witches' sabbath and Walpurgis orgy."

Goethe tr. Wayne 1967 = Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (transl. by Philip Wayne) : Faust, Part I. Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1951. (reprinted 1967)

H&EAM = Susan Milbrath : Heaven and Earth in Ancient Mexico. Univ of TX Pr, Austin, 2013.

OB = Edith Bertha Ordway : The Opera Book. revised edn. NY : George Sully & Co, 1917.

"ASS" = Jeremy Coltman : "Aztec Stuttgart Statuette". MEXICON 29(2007).6:70-7.

pp. 187-8 orgies of the spirits -- Le Villi & Robert de Diable

p. 187

"Puccini's two[-]act opera Le Villi (1884) also contains a scene entitled 'The Witches' Sabbath'. ... . ... the hero is beguiled into joining a bewitching orgy".

p. 188

"The composer Meyerbeer ... . His Robert de Diable (1831) ... in Act III an orgy of ... spirits takes place in a cavern ... .

Furthermore, the main character Robert is said to be the son of the devil though conceived by a mortal woman."

{The very same is said of the Cymry sorcerer Merlin.}

pp. 190-1 Venus-berg revelry

p. 190

"Wagner's music-dramas ... contain links to ... witchcraft -- ... Tannha:user (1845), Lohengrin (1850), ...

p. 191

and Parsifal (1882).

The link with Tannha:user can be surmised in the 'Venusberg' revels that have ... orgiastic aspect to them ... associated with witches' sabbaths. ... The location of the Venusberg is the Ho:rselberg, near Eisenach which, according to the Grimm brothers, is where witches make pilgrimages and is the haunt of devils."

pp. 191-2 sorceress Kundry in Wagner : Parsifal

p. 191

"Wagner's Parsifal ... tells of Amfortas ... .

p. 192

The magician Klingsor ... has created a garden of temptation ... . His servant[ess] is Kundry who has been cursed for laughing ... . She ... successfully seduces Amfortas, thus allowing ... to ... wound him in the process. ... Klingsor hurls the spear {javelin} at him but Parsifal catches it, thereby transferring its power to himself ... . In the final act Parsifal ... reveals the Grail ... . ...

Kundry ... In Act II, Scene ii, ... is transformed into a beautiful woman to seduce Parsifal ... as a sorceress and seductress. In the final act, ... She is a servant to Gurnemanz (an old retainer ...)."

p. 199 erotic pursuits in Tippett : The Midsummer Marriage


"'Earth in Autumn' :

a hound (girl) chases a hare (boy)


'Waters in Winter' :

an otter (girl) chases a fish (boy)


'Air in Spring' :

a bird with a broken wing (body) is swooped down on by a hawk (girl)"


"'Fire in Summer' :

a celebration of carnal love"

p. 202 dreaming of a witches' s^abbat

"Mussorgsky wrote four versions of the Night on a bare mountain of which two have been lost, but a choral version St John's night on the bare mountain (1866-7) has survived. It uses ... the black mass scene of demons and witches centred on the arch-demon of Slavonic mythology, Chernobog.

The vocal version is associated with N. Gogol's story The Sorochintsy Fair and tells of a youth who dreams of the revels of the witches' sabbath ... . The words are mainly sung by witches and demons ... : "... Tenemos! Tenemos! {'We have! We have!' [in Spanish]} Allegremos! {'We are happy!'} etc.""

p. 206 witch-whore

"Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique (1830), the fifth movement of which is the Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat. ... Mayhem breaks out in the orchestral music as the witch (referred to as a whore) arrives."

p. 207 black-mass orgy

"Mussorgsky's Night on a bare mountain (1867) ... envisaged subterranean ... spirits with the demonic Chernobog being glorified in a black mass ... orgy".

pp. 207-8 supernatural orgy

p. 207

"Tchaikovsky ... with his Manfred Symphony (1876) ... based on four tableaux from Byron ...

p. 208

includes a supernatural ... 'Fairy of the Alps' that was often referred to as 'The Witch of the Mountain' as well ... the evocation of the ghost of Astarte ... For the orgy scene".

p. 210 sensuousness of a witch

"Bantok's The Witch of Atlas (1902) ... from Shelley's poem of the same name ... concentrates on the witch's seductive beauty and sensuousness".

p. 211 recently-composed chambre-music for scenes of witches

Britain : "Walpurgis Night (1998) by I. Ballamy ... is a modern chamber work ... with frenzied activity using dissonance and chromaticism."

America : "MacDowell ... wrote Hexentanz, opus 17 using ... very fast scales and trills".

pp. 214-6 Paul Giovanni : The Wicker Man

p. 214

"The film opens ... from the sexual innuendo in the words to the song ... on the island. In the pub (The Green Man) the music is ... the reworking of an eighteenth century Public Harlot ballad 'The Landlord's Daughter'. It is a jolly ... song with lewd words referring to the sexual act and is ... accompanied on acoustic instruments (concertina, violin, guitar, recorder and a small drum). ... For both his walk outside where couples are openly copulating and back in the pub where the landlord's daughter (Willow) is helping a teenage boy lose his virginity, the music is ... heard in the background played on a solo clarinet with flutes and recorders providing an arpeggiated accompaniment. ... This helps to encourage the listener to view sex within the film as ... a ... mystical act ... . ...

p. 215

His visit to a graveyard is accompanied by descending scales ... to suggest a 'spooky' scenario. ... He passes by a group of naked girls leaping and dancing ... accompanied by recorders and flutes. ... he returns to the castle, but finds ... the school mistress ... singing a bawdy song and accompanied by the Lord himself at the piano. ... . ... he ... goes to bed ... where Willow, who is naked, tries to seduce him ... by singing a sensuous song and beating in time on the walls ... in a hypnotic manner. Guitar, tremolo strings and drums set the pulse as Willow dances around ... singing ... . ... As the festivities are prepared ..., ... a slow eerie tune is payed on strings and recorders when a magical 'hand of glory' is placed beside Howie's bed. The procession takes the form of a pavane based on the traditional song Willy o' Winsbury ... .

p. 216

At a moment of halt, six swords form a six-pointed star ... . ... Howie ... attempts to flee with Rowan through some caves ... . ... A heraldic voluntary for trumpets concludes the film."

p. 217 names of, and music for, witches in opera

"The witch was not named in Humperdinck's works, but

appeared as Nairna

{Nairn is a town at the mouth of the Moray Firth in Scotland.}

in Glinka's Russlan and Ludmilla and


{Cognate with /zbub/ 'fly' (Strong's 2070), or else with the Sumerian city-name /Zababa/.}

in Dvorak's Rusalka. ...

Jezibaba in particular is accompanied by tremolando strings, sudden interjections, tritones, awkward leaps, use of the minor key, loud bass passages and an importance of the bass instruments."

pp. 218-9 importance of sorcerers & of druids in opera

p. 218

"Dapertutto in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann ... receive musical representations and ... Klingsor, in Wagner's Parsifal, is an exceptional role ... . ... Hence, the importance of druids in, for instance,

p. 219

Bellini's Norma, voodoo in Delius' Koanga and the spell-casting scene in Weber's Der Freischu:tz."

p. 219 characteristics of music for witchcraft-&-sorcery

"Melodic content : awkward interval leaps, chromatism

Harmonic content : discords, especially the tritone, minor keys

Rhythmic content : syncopated, ... use of silence

Instrumentation : bass, brass interjections, tremolando strings, percussion"

p. 220 music for witches by Schumann and by Busoni

"in representing scenes of witchcraft ... Schumann maintained the minor key, fast string playing and chromaticism in Scenes from Goethe's Faust. ...

In the twentieth century Busoni continued the tradition of jagged rhythms and repeated notes in a declamatory style in Hexenlied".

p. 223 nature of witches in masques

""religion as displayed by witches can be seen in masques and at the ... sabbaths. These introduce women who ... have fornicated with the devil".


Melvyn J. Willin : Music, Witchcraft and the Paranormal. Melrose Bks, Ely (Cambridgeshire), 2005.