Witches' Cradle

Witches' Cradle

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Witches' Cradle was a device for inducing sensory deprivation. Depriving the physical senses by external means is an old idea. For centuries Arabian Dervishes have dangled on a rope wound around the wrist known as "dervish dangling." Hindus have sat for days, weeks, or even longer in a Lotus position. Witches have used the "Witches' Cradle" to separate the consciousness from the physical in order to better meditate or concentrate for certain types of magical workings.

There are different versions of the Cradle. In one, the person is laced into skintight leather with arms that extend and end in loops or strips and includes a leather mask that fits over the head. In this "suit," the person is suspended from a short beam by the loops or straps at the ends of the arms. In turn, the beam is suspended on the end of a single rope so that the beam and the hanging, bound Witch can turn or spin for complete disorientation. Belts are buckled tightly about the body at a half dozen points from ankles up to under-arms. The inside of the suit is lined with fur or a similar material to ensure some sort of comfort.

Another version has the Witch bound into a similar suit of leather, but with the arms crossed and bound much like a straight jacket. The figure is then bound by wide leather straps on to a stretcher-like cradle, which is suspended from a rope and free to turn or spin for disorientation.

It is said that the idea for the Witches' Cradle came from torture used during the persecutions, when an accused witch would be tied in a sack and the sack would be suspended from a rope thrown over a tree limb. The sack would then swing to disorient the accused in an attempt to induce a confession.

A scientific version of the technique was devised by Robert Masters and Jean Houston at the Foundation for Mind Research. Known as the ASCID (Altered States of Consciousness Induction Device), it is a metal swing in which the subject's eyes and ears are covered and swung in a complex pattern. The subject's slightest movements become exaggerated, and within less than half an hour, profoundly altered states of consciousness occur, involving hallucinatory visions and sensations.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.