Many people have heard about Wiccans today, especially the reader of this witches web log. I love that 'webs' are a part of the modern technology. Many people are aware that 'real' witches do exist, at least the last time I checked! But so many more people around the world are much more familiar with the 'traditional' image of a witch and sadly many still believe this imagery and what it infers to be true.
The green skinned hag with protruding nose, forehead and chin, warts, hunched over working evil spells over a large iron cauldron and causing ill. Tonight I want to discuss this Halloween image of the witch, the elderly woman, the wise one.
Firstly, the imagery we think of at Halloween, I believe, got its start in the ancient early Christian woodcuts depicting the hag, naked, ugly and misshapen. Thinking politically, and the early church was as political, if not more so, as it is today, early art was deliberately designed. Books and pictures were all created to generate a certain message and elicit a certain response. Witches were seldom ever depicted as young, nubile and attractive women, as desire and want were not the desired response from the masses, but fear and revulsion. So to start our discussion it is important, I believe, to know that the 'ugly' image of the witch was made this way and marketed this way for a purpose and this is what we are looking at. A marketing propaganda designed to blacken the name of the wise woman, the witch.
Yet, putting this aside for a moment let us look at the potential hidden meanings of the imagery. It has been suggested to me over the past several decades by witches further along on the path than I at the time, and further research has shown it very likely that the imagery had a place in the actuality of the life of an elderly wise woman in medieval times.
Let's look at the common image of the witch having green skin. Totally fantastical right? But there are those who feel that it signifies the 'green' aspect of being a witch. Being at one with nature and in sync with all her vibrations. The green skin being reminiscent of the herbal knowledge and practice of the witch. I like this concept as much of what I am is a green witch. I communicate with my herbs and flowers and feel most perfect when surrounded by nature in the wild. No my skin is not green, but give me time. Ha!
The imagery of the witch being an elderly crone whose facial features are elongated bony protrusions and seemingly a caricature has been suggested as such. The malnutrition most of the general population in these ancient times suffered from, would exhibit itself in the elderly, along with arthritis as bony growths of the facial features, hunching over the back and riddling the hands with arthritis causing them to become claw like.
Of course, the witch being a crone is no surprise as a witch is and has always been associated with knowledge. Whether that knowledge was perceived as 'good' or 'bad' was dependent on the person making the assumption, but always the witch was a woman with knowledge. It makes logical sense that the most knowledgeable, most skilled, would be the one who has practiced the longest and has the most experience. The elderly win this one, always, hands down. Period.
The imagery that includes warts, blackened teeth, and a harsh, frowning, scary face I still feel goes a long way towards the desired affect of creating fear and revulsion. But what about the wearing of black?
Well, it has been suggested that the ancient crones wore black at night to help disguise their movements as they went about midwifing and caring for others in a time when being a mid-wife and giving any medical help or care could have you arrested and put to death. Yes, during the dark ages when the early Christian church held sway over all, midwifery and medicine were outlawed. Being a physician was outlawed.
Any illness was by the will of God or perhaps the offender (sick person) was in league with the devil and their sickness a heavenly punishment. If they got well, it was as God decided. If they got sick and died, again God's will. So when aiding and helping the sick and dying, the woman in labor, the injured became punishable under law, the help of one human to another did not just stop. It went underground. The women who had the medicinal knowledge, it has been suggested, started plying their trade after dark, hiding in the shadows and wearing of black to keep out of sight. Black or dark colors were commonly worn by the elderly in many cultures so for the elderly woman it was most likely typical dress.
The witch hovering over her cauldron is the most misunderstood image of this Halloween season. All ancient women unless high born, would have been found stirring the cauldron on a typical day in a typical home. The hearth was the center stage of the medieval home and the cauldron was the star of the stage. Every home had one, (everyone had to eat!) and the woman by gender, culture, tradition and societal expectations was the one who stirred and tended to the cauldron, and thus to the house and home. All women, regardless of how pious they be, would be a cauldron stirring woman in ancient times.
The witch is always a favorite symbol for me. I have witch figures, typically found around Halloween, gracing my home year round. Some are hook nosed, ancient crones (though I like to find ones who are smiling!) and some even have a device inside allowing them to cackle. The cats sometimes race around the house and bumping into the witches set them off on a laughing fit. Loud noises will also set them off. I never fail to smile when one starts to cackle as if to a private joke.
This year in honor of the witch I am undertaking a creative project at Enchantments. I am replicating the black, silhouette witch that graces the front of Enchantments. They will be available this week and are personally witch-crafted by me. I have made two so far and I find it curious that the faces of each are different. The template is the same, but each seems to have an identity of its own. Made out of high grade, exterior plywood I have cut out each figure, painted her with several coats of semi-glass black paint and each comes with her own broom and jack-o-lantern lantern. Each lovely lady is equipped with a metal stake that allows you to have her stand out on her own in your yard. I'm not planning on becoming a folk art artist full time any time soon. Being a public witch who owns and operates her own witch shop as well as a school for the magickal arts keeps me plenty busy, but I'm having fun honoring the ancient visage of the witch, the wise crone in this way. Here are some additional pictures of my witch project. Please stop by Enchantments if interested in purchasing one of the witches. They retail for $129.95. I hope you like them!
© 2010-2011 Enchantments, LLC Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see www.enchantmentsschool.com or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website.
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