A national witch monument in the Netherlands

The face of witchcraft has greatly changed throughout the centuries. The last few decennia, it has grown fast as a (for some religious) way of life, as a form of Art. Some people however see witchcraft merely as superstition and then there are some who still see witchcraft as of the devil. Worldwide, people still get prosecuted for witchcraft. It is not a thing of the past, as I’ve written before.

In the last years, monuments remembering the witch hunts have sprung up in different countries. Now, a foundation has been established in the Netherlands to also raise a monument. The foundation is led by, among others, Susan Smit, a well known Dutch author and also one of the Netherlands’ most prominent witches. The project is simply named Nationaal Heksenmonument, National Witches’ Monument.

I’ve already seen some discussion spring up in online pagan groups about whether such a monument is warranted. This has mostly to do with the language the foundations used and the groups backing the foundation. Some of those groups consist of pagans, wiccans and feminists. These groups have not always been known to be very accurate when it comes to historical facts about the (European) witch hunts. Think “9 million victims” (the number is probably closer to 50.000, still large enough) or “witchcraft is really an ancient religion gone underground” (there is no evidence for this). There is also criticism towards the project’s emphasis on female witches and feminism.

These questions seem to have been taken into account, looking at the website of the Heksenmonument. There is no doubt that this project has a feminist, activist undertone, but that does not mean that a monument is not fitting. Firstly, the website addresses the questions and concerns. It aknowledges that modern witchcraft is something else efrom what was historically understood to be witchcraft. It also aknowledhes that there were men who were procecuted and even killed during the witch craze. The foundation works together with researchers, which gives me faith that they will indeed ‘get things right’.

Secondly, and to put this in a larger picture, lately there have been many discussions about public monuments and statues in the western world. When it comes to the Netherlands, the tradition of public statues is roughly a couple of century old and until fairly recently pre-occupied itself mostly with ‘heroes of the Dutch Golden Age’. These statues were mostly erected to glorify the Dutch nation. However, they show a rather onesided picture of Dutch history. Monuments such as the Heksenmonument aim to change this picture and tell a broader historical tale.

In short, I’m following this project with great interest. They have lots of plans, such as publishing a pamphlet, laying flowers at spots where accused people have died and of course, in the end, the monument itself. To be continued, surely.

Witch hunts are not of the distant past

I just finished the Dutch translation of Monica Black’s A Demon-haunted land: witches, wonder doctors, and the ghosts of the past in post-WWII Germany. Up until then I thought that Western belief in witches in the twentieth century and later was either based on wicca or based on individual cases of wise women or cunning men.  But no, Black’s book makes clear that even in our modern times, actual witch hunts can still take place in the Western world (I already knew they still happen in other parts of the world).

Black describes a landscape of war trauma, defeat, denial and suspision during the aftermath of World War II. This period is mostly known for the miraculous transformation of (West-)Germany from a war torn country to a modern, forward looking country that fully participates in the Western world. But WWII and the crushing defeat of Germany did not just disappear from people’s memories. And nazis did not just disappear either, despite a vigorous campaign of denazification. A lot went on behind closed doors, especially in the decennium or so after the end of WWII.

In this period as in every other period in human history, in their search for healing (mental as well as physical), people sometimes clung to wonder doctors in their uncertainty. Black’s book describes the case of Bruno Grüning, a German miracle healer opperating in the years after WWII who at one point drew thousands of people who were looking for healing. According to Grüning, some people were simply evil and could not be helped. Another folk healer, Waldemar Eberling, pointed to an accidentally passing neighbour, Frau Maassen, as the source of child’s disease. She was branded a witch.

These cases were not rare. It’s a strange idea that even in our so-called enlightened times, people can still be so scared and distrustful that they need an external source as the reason for their discomfort that they can exterminate. Think of the Satanic Panic of the eighties or people who are openly pagan or wiccan receiving threads even in the 21st century. Luckily we do not have an Incquisition anymore, but these cases could still be very harmfull. Poor Frau Maassen was treated as a pariah by many people in her community and became so upset that she lost ten pounds.  

These histories strike me as very important lessons even for today – especially for today. Here in the Netherlands, there is a tendency among a not-so-small subset of people to blame everything, from the lack of affordable houses to street harassment – on foreigners, especially non-western Muslim foreigners. They are not called witches, but the hate these people have to endure from a subset of my fellow Dutch people is sometimes downright irrational and certainly scary.

Despite what many modern day witches want to believe, many non-witches still see witchcraft and the word “witch” as something decidedly negative. I guess communities, at least most people, need adversaries, someone or something they can blame when something goes wrong.  Sometimes these are witches, sometimes these are Muslims, Jews or another group of people.

But I do not believe that is the whole story. There is also a sense of wounded superiority. Some people hold the conviction that that man is better than woman or white is better than black. When these ideas are attacked and/or proven false, someone whose worldview is built on these ideas could lash out. I do not have a solution for any of this. (Wouldn’t it be great of one person could solve this?) Some part of me thinks it is not just a social issue but also a personal issue – some individual will always seek ways to make themselves feel superior to others and will always seek external scapegoats for when something goes wrong. In a climate full of tension, this can ignite and  turn into something bigger. What we can do is learn to see this behavior and make a stand against it.

Read The Left Eye Of Odin (Or Right) on the Norse Mythology Blog

“He is the fury that stirs poet, artist, dancer, and musician as they enter into a deeply creative state in which they lose track of time and mundane situation. When the guitarist is so concentrated on improvising in the moment that she doesn’t afterward remember making any conscious musical decisions, Odin is there. When the painter is so immersed in the work that she doesn’t notice the night’s passing until the beeping of her morning alarm finds her still brushing away, Odin is there.”

Read the whole article about developing myths and stories over time, comparative mythology and the figure of Odin by clicking on the link below:


Dutch review of “De Heilige Nachten” by Mirjam van Donselaar

This book review is in Dutch, because the book has (so far) only been published in Dutch:

Er was ooit een tijd dat je met een lantaarn op zoek moest om een boek over hekserij of heidendom te vinden. Ik kan me herinneren hoe ik als jonge heks eind jaren ’90 meemaakte hoe dat veranderde. Bedolven onder boeken pakte ik alles waar ik mijn handen op kon leggen, verslond kennis en kunde en probeerde van alles uit. Nu in 2020 kun je met gemak een bibliotheek vullen met alleen maar boeken over heksen, heidenen, magie, folklore en aanverwante onderwerpen. Is niet alles wat relevant is al een keer beschreven?

Je zou denken van wel. En toch komen er regelmatig boeken voorbij waarvan ik niet wist dat ik ze wilde hebben èn waarvan ik denk dat ze ook relevantie kunnen hebben in een grotere kring. Een zo’n boek is De Heilige Nachten van Mirjam van Donselaar. Dit boek gaat over de steeds populairder worden traditie van de heilige nachten rond Midwinter/Joel. Voor Germaanse heidenen is dit een zeer belangrijke periode, tijdens welke men het oude jaar uit zwaait en het nieuwe jaar verwelkomt. Dit gaat gepaard met bezinning en ritueel over leven, dood en wedergeboorte.

De heilige nachten is uitgegeven door A3-boeken. Ik heb een beetje een haat-liefde-verhouding met deze uitgeverij. De ‘haat’ (nogal een sterk woord in deze context) zit hem in het nogal hoge new-age-gehalte van veel uitgaven. Ik besef dat dit een kwestie van smaak is, maar het zorgt er wel voor dat ik soms boeken laat liggen waarvan de thema’s me vaak eigenlijk wel aanspreken. De liefde zit hem in twee dingen. Allereerst is duidelijk dat er veel aandacht aan vorm en inhoud van ieder boek wordt gegeven. Daarnaast is A3 een uitgever die iedere Nederlandse heks/heiden naar mijn mening in de gaten moet houden, omdat er boeken tussen zitten die thema’s behandelen die bijna nergens anders (op deze manier) behandeld worden.

En daar valt Mirjam van Donselaars De heilige nachten naar mijn idee ook onder. Natuurlijk is er al van alles geschreven over Joel en de tradities daaromheen. Maar zoiets als dit boek had ik nog niet eerder gezien. De stem van de schrijfster is duidelijk aanwezig in dit boek, dat een mix bevat tussen mythologie/folklore en persoonlijke rituelen. De achtergrond van de schrijfster in psychologie klinkt hier en daar door, wat een bijzondere en waardevolle combinatie is met haar ervaring op het gebied van sjamanisme. Na de inleiding gidst Van Donselaar je door twaalf hoofdstukken cq. nachten, waarbij iedere nacht voor een bepaald thema staat. Daarbij kun je denken aan zuivering, stilte of voorouders. Naast een inspirerende uitleg wordt in ieder hoofdstuk ook meditaties, recepten en rituele gegeven. De opzet is zodanig dat ik dit boek waarschijnlijk wel meerdere jaren op verschillende manieren kan gebruiken, omdat er voor iedere nacht meerdere mogelijkheden zijn om er invulling aan te geven. Daarnaast geeft het natuurlijk inspiratie om een eigen jaarlijkse traditie op te bouwen.

Het boek bevat ongeveer 140 pagina’s en is voor mij het zoveelste bewijs dat er in dunne boeken vaak meer waardevols staat dan in dikke pillen met ellenlange esoterische verhandelingen. Uit de achtergrond van Van Donselaar blijkt dan ook dat ze zelf een rijke ervaring heeft met de onderwerpen waar ze over schrijft. Ben je op zoek naar ideeën voor Joel waarbij je verder wilt gaan dan een Joelblok aanstekken en een lekkere maaltijd maken en waarbij je niet bang bent om je ziel bloot te leggen, dan raad ik je dit boek van harte aan.

New page about Ostara

Ostara (aka Eostre) has become one of the best known goddesses within paganism, since a whole spring festival has been named after her. What I like about the way that pagans celebrate Ostara and honor the goddess is that this is actually quite a modern celebration, based on possible older traditions that we actually don’t know anything about. What I’m trying to say here is that we could probably call Ostara a ‘new’ goddess.

Read more about this goddess and her history…

Ostara_by_Johannes_Gehrts 1884

Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts

Lecture on witchcraft this weekend! (Dutch)

This message is in Dutch, since it’s about a lecture in the Netherlands that I’ll give this weekend:

Komende zaterdag geef ik een lezing over de geschiedenis van hekserij naar aanleiding van een expositie over hetzelfde onderwerp die momenteel in Helmond is te zien! Ik zal vertellen over de heksenvervolging in De Peel, maar zal daarnaast ook veel vertellen over de geschiedenis van hekserij en de beeldvorming rondom heksen. De lezing vindt plaats in De Pracht in Waalre, op zaterdag 9 maart van 11 tot 13 uur. Er zijn nog 3 plaatsen! Aanmelden kan via deze link:


of door mij een bericht te sturen via het contactformulier. Hopelijk zie ik je zaterdag!


Tomorrow, March 3rd 2019, is Heksfest! This festival by and for witches will take place in Oss, the Netherlands. There will be a market and throughout the day a number of workshops and lectures will take place. More info can be found on the site of Lunadea, one of the organisers (Dutch site):


NB pre-sale tickets are sold out, but there are still some tickets available at the entrance.

I won’t be able to make it myself, but I sent some Ostara cards to the organisation. They are added to goodiebags that will be gifted to the first 100 visitors! The cards will make a lovely addition to your spring altar, or you can send them to a friend to wish them merry Ostara.

I wish everyone going there a great time, and hope to be there myself next time.



Imbolc has come and gone and I celebrated it in a small, private way. Symbolically I went into the labyrinth, my serpent spiral, right into the core and meditated long and hard about what I need to lose and what I want to do in the coming year. I cleansed myself and started selecting seeds to grow. I fed myself with the light of Brigid, my birthday goddess. Then I went outward again, into awakening. Time to prepare!

This website has been dormant for quite a while. My private life has been in turmoil this last year, especially during the last dark months.  I’ve said farewell to spirits good and bad, I have moved and am making new plans for the future. Now is a good time to breathe some life into this digital corner of the world and to start making some dreams into reality.

My plan for this website has been to broaden its scopt. It has long been my slow but evergrowing encylopdia about paganisme and witchcraft in and around the area where I live. But I also want a place to not show general knowledge, but also my personal ideas and works. Since I don’t like the idea of having to juggle several sites at once, I decided to put it all in one place: Thimsternisse.

So during the next weeks and months you will find some small changes in this website. I still like the layout so nothing will change about that, but I will slowly add extra pages and sections in which I can show more of my personal work. The (to me) most important part has already be added: please check out my artwork here!

spiral meditation serpent goddess brigid brigit imbolc

Today is the day of Bride
The serpent shall come from the hole
I shall not harm the serpent
Nor shall the serpent harm me

Death culture: barrows in Noord-Brabant

I updated the death culture page with some ancestral worship and ghostly folklore at the Noord-Brabant barrows:

Barrows in Noord-Brabant

For an example, and a more in depth view of death culture in North-West Europe, let’s go to the area where I live, Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands. Best known from Brabant, and best preserved for studying death culture, are the burial hills known as barrows. From the Late Neolithic period on, people would raise barrows for their dead, though the early barrows were only meant for specific persons – all of them apparently male. The later barrows were also not meant as universal means of burying. In this period only about 15% of people who died found their resting place in a burial barrow. Of the other 85% not much has been found. Remember that when you keep on reading.

Throughout the bronze age, a difference can be seen between how the north and the south of the Netherlands treated their dead.  In the north, burial without cremation was habitual as of old. In the south however, cremation became common while burial without cremation became the exception. From finds it appears that only some of the burned bones were kept – what happened with the rest of the burned body varied greatly between different short periods and different communities. A common means was to put the remains in a put that was then buried, but the remains could also be placed in a pit, a hollow tree stem, a piece of fabric or simply on or in the ground. Very rarely a token was taken into the grave, and sometimes traces of jewellery of amulets have been found.

It is remarkable that people who were placed in the burial barrows (the ‘primary’ graves, which could be either man, woman or child) were relatively often unburned; this is true for about half of the dead found in burial barrows. The related dead who were placed in secondary graves (mainly women and children) were cremated in 90% of all cases, and a third of them were placed in urns. Because of the way that the seconday graves were situated (they never touch each other) it is thought that they were marked, and probably even planned beforehand. From this we can conclude that for the ancient people in Noord-Brabant burial was an important event that took a lot of preparation.

Most barrows from the Middle Bronze Age so far have been found south of Tilburg and especially in the area called De Kempen, near the Belgian border. Unfortuntaly, many barrows have been lost through time or they have simply been removed. The ones that are left to us are situated in areas that never were considered important or of any use: heaths on high sandplains. Some of these barrows are still in the heaths, others were spared when the heaths were  cultivated during the twentieth century.

The bronze age barrows were built on the heather fields that stem from the late Neolithic. Often special locations, especially higher places, were chosen. In an open field the barrows could be seen from afar. It is not known how far from the settlement the barrows were situated, but it is almost certain that the world of the dead was strictly seperated from the world of the living. The barrows were a place in the ancestral landscape that the settlements could focus on, since these settlement weren’t always fixed in the landscape.

In any way, the place of a new barrow was carefully sought out. Sometimes it was built on an older barrow. Plants and weeds were removed, sometimes (but not always) a pit was dug, and archeologists think that rituals took place. Near some of the barrows, mysterious pits have been found that were probably used for making fire. Before or after placing the human remains on or in the barrow, a ditch was dug around the grave. Other details can vary from barrow to barrow – and there doesn’t really seem to be a chronological order in those details. Some barrows were surrounded by an earthen ring, other by one or more rings of wooden poles, sometimes in combination with a ditch. The types that can be described as small barrows surrounded by a ring wall have apparently also been found in England. The ditches and wooden poles can also be found on later iron ages graves. Another question that archeologists have is what the wooden poles looked like. They probably didn’t last longer than a few decades before the rotted away in the ground and would fall over. Were they simple poles, or were they decorated, carved and/ore painted? Your guess is as good as mine.

The associations of the barrows with death has always lingered, even in times when people didn’t consciously know anymore what these hills were.  Into modern times, tales about ghosts and witches were told about these places. Well known in De Kempen is the barrow at the Eerselsedijk in Bergeijk. Many stories about witches and dancing cats surround this place. Other barrows in De Kempen were said to be inhabited by friendly gnomes. We must be careful about our association of these folk tales with ancient beliefs about death and burial barrows – it is simply not known where the connection comes from and how old the tales are – all we know is the tales and their connection with death and the barrows is there. The barrows certainly have interesting names, such as the Blackmountain near Hoogeloon and a lost barrow near Eersel that was called the Glowing Englishman!

That the barrows were seen as heathen and unhallowed is made clear by a find at barrow near Alphen. Human remains were found there, most likely from a hanged person. Execution of criminals and exposing their corpses on burial barrows was not uncommon in Noord-Brabant. It was most likely an extra punishment, since these criminals would never be buried in the hallowed ground of a christian churchyard.

…Read more here.