Colleen Houck


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  • “Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble”, A Closer Look at Witches

    October 30, 2014


    macbeth witches


     

    “Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork, and blind-worms sting, Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”                            

       – William Shakespeare

     


    witch on broom stick with woman on back

    The witch, the sorceress, the devil’s consort, the enchantress flying across the moonlight, what do we know of their mysterious origins? Who is the woman behind the myth of the witch with extraordinary supernatural powers? Why were they tortured and burned at stakes and how did the belief start that witches could fly? Let us discover the forbidden secrets, the enduring power, the myths and the magic of the Witch
    A witch is a powerful being of fairy tale and myth who has haunted the human consciousness for thousands of years. She has been seen as the dark side of herself, the shadow who’s become a monster.

     

    Beginnings

    There are many different beliefs as to the origins of the witch. It is believed by some that they came from early Goddess colts. These were the women who served the Goddess. These Goddess figures, some dating back 20,000 years, were revered for their magical ability to increase fertility and nourish the land. For thousands of years, the Creation Goddess was worshipped. She goes by many names; in ancient Mesopotamia she was called Inanna, the “queen of heaven”, in Egypt, she was called Isis, in the land of Canaan, she was Asherah. All of them held power over the forces of life and death. There were those women who would worship these Goddesses and dedicated their time to serving those in need. They were holy priestesses and over time, they were known as the Wise Women. They made house calls to care for the sick, removed impurities, took off sorcery, cured babies, helped with infertility, to name a few. From earlier spiritual ceremonies stemmed the beginnings of witchcraft. During these times, the Wise Women were looked to for help and council. They were seen in a positive light in their communities. Later came the rise of Christianity and the use of “magical healers” was no longer necessary. Religious persons became tremendously suspicious of their methods and were soon seen as heretics, minions of Satan. According to these religious fanatics, these Wise Women did not rely on God and practiced “black magic”. They labeled them as witches.

     

    Inanna creationn goddess in ancient mesopotamia

    Inanna, Goddess of ancient Mesopotamia

     

    Isis creation goddess of Egypt

    Isis, Goddess of Egypt

     

    Asherah, creation goddess of canaan

    Asherah, Goddess of Canaan

    Witch Hunts

     

    witches burned at stake

    The familiar witch we know of today in popular folklore and superstition is a combination of numerous influences. The characterization of the witch as an evil magic user developed over time. Witch hunts appeared in southern France and Switzerland during the 14th and 15th centuries and spread in the 15th century to parts of Germany. During this time, the supernatural was a part of everyday life. Witchcraft was used by peasants, who invoked particular charms for farming and agriculture. Over time, the idea of “white magic” changed to “dark magic” and became associated with evil spirits and the Devil.

    salem witch trials

    salem witch trials2

    Men and women believed that all the misfortunes were attributed to the work of the Devil so when things like crop failures, infant death, contention between neighbors, etc. occurred, it was the supernatural to be blamed.

    devil re-baptizing a male witch
    In the early 1600’s, Springfield, Massachusetts experienced America’s first accusations of witchcraft. The first recorded witch trial was when a husband and wife, Hugh and Mary Parsons, accused each other of witchcraft. He was found innocent and she was sentenced to be hanged for the death of her child. She died in prison before the hanging. Then there were the Salem Witch trials in the year 1692 and 1693.  In Salem, Massachusetts (and surrounding towns) there was a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by court trials prosecuting persons accused of witchcraft. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned (not including those who were not formally pursued by authorities) and 55 were convicted of witchcraft. Many were hanged to death while others died while in prison. It was recorded that one of the men convicted refused to enter a plea and was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so.

    witches tied up

    Other accusations of witchcraft and wizardry led to another prosecution in Tennessee as recently as 1833.
    Flying on Broomsticks

     

    the broomstick

    There seems to be different theories on this one so I’ll give you the two that seemed most credible to me.

    Theory A:

    The first known reference to witches using broomsticks to fly dates back to 1453. A witch named Guillaume Edelin confessed to using a “flying ointment” that was used for flight on the broomstick. Shortly after this time period, witches began to be associated with their broomsticks in recorded history around 1456.

    So, what is this “flying ointment” you ask? First of all, it is important to note that many supernatural beliefs and stories throughout history were fueled by the use of drugs. And, what better way to make you think you can fly than to be high on some hallucinogenic? Drug use among these witches was part of their rituals and was indeed quite common. Many hallucinogenic compounds were made from a number of plants and were also used during the middle ages to make “brews”, “ointments”, or “witches salves”.

    Theory B:

    The origin of witches riding brooms comes from a Pagan ritual known as the Harvest Fertility Rite. The Pagans would “ride” brooms through the fields and jump as high as they could, signifying how high they wanted the crops to grow. As the Christian religions came into the picture, this ritual was somehow later connected with witches and exaggerated to say that witches could really fly.

    witch on broomstick older history

    Green skin, warts, pointy chins and long noses, ugly old widows

    Throughout history, witches were depicted as regular looking women although typically plain, older, and widowed. It seems as though the iconic witch with green skin, a long nose and pointy chin is the imaginings of the wicked witch of the west from the film The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Prior to that film, the Wicked Witch of the West was described by the author as short, squat, one-eyed had a big bulbous nose, and an extremely long pointy cap.

    The changing image of the witch over time

    Witches and Wicked Bodies

    An old woman with warts and a long pointy nose

     

    ugly witch

    The Wicked Witch of the West from the film Wizard of Oz

     

    wicked-witch-of-the-west-2-300x230

     

    The cauldron

    boiling-cauldron

    The use of cauldrons in association with witches was popularized by Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. There is a Celtic legend that tells of the cauldron being used to bring dead warriors back to life, although speechless and soulless. Cauldrons symbolize the Creation Goddess and represent the womb (due to the fact that it holds something). If it is being used on an altar, it represents earth. If you were to go shopping for a cauldron sold in “metaphysical” stores they may have various symbols of power inscribed on them.

    wicked witch casting spell

    Shhhh, did you hear that? I think I hear voices. They are chanting, no, they are singing…
    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and caldron bubble.
    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the caldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork and bling-worms sting,
    Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and caldron bubble.
    Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
    Then the charm is firm and good.

    scary witches around cauldron

    I believe I heard the Song of the Witches by Macbeth. Did you hear it too?

    The black cat

    black cat

    The black cat is a strong stereo-type associated with witches but in most modern witch stories and films, there is seldom a black cat. Throughout history, a real witches’ familiar can be any kind and color of animal. In Asian witchcraft, there are two types of witches associated with either the fox or the snake. It is believed these witches would make a bond by agreeing to care for the animal in exchange for the animal’s loyalty and magical powers. There are many cultures with superstitions about black cats, often ascribing good or bad luck to them. Folk magic tells us that the color black color is a strong antecedent for magical properties. Black cats have played a major role in folklore and mythology. In the middle ages they were believed to be the witches’ incarnate. They were believed to be supernatural servants of witches, or even witches themselves. When witches were burned at the stake, it was common for their familiars to be killed along with them. Still today, there are many people who maintain these superstitions about the black cat.

    So now we see just how these ancient beginnings molded and shaped the spooky image of the witch we know today. The potions, the sorcery, the cauldron, the broomstick, the black cat, the creepy features and the pointy hat,
    all associated with the Halloween image of the Witch.
    Let’s look at some of the witches over history,

    The three witches from the film Clash of the Titans (old) **These witches CREEPED me out when I first watched the film.

    clas of titans witches old

    One of the three witches from the newer film remake of Clash of the Titans (I haven’t seen t his one yet but this witch is definitely creepy!)

     

    ???????????????????????????????

    There are stories of both the bad witch and the good witch, as found in Wizard of Oz

     

    good vs bad witch oz

     

    Disney’s Snow White Witch

     

    snow white witch

    The modern goth witch

     

    gothic witch modern

    And let’s not forget how society puts a “pretty” spin on the image of the witch

     

    cute witch costume

    Well, we all know what time it is, that’s right, it’s HALLOWEEN! I want to wish you all the happiest, safest Halloween! I’ll post costume pictures soon! My little girl will be a character from a classic fairy tale! Feel free to share what you are going to be for Halloween this year by leaving a comment (and dont forget to enter the Halloween costume contest)!!

    Happy-Halloween-Witch-Flying-On-Broom-At-Scary-Night-Wallpaper

    Happy Halloween!

    It’s late and we are sleepy,
    The air is cold and still.
    Our jack-o-lantern grins at us
    Upon the window sill.
    We’re stuffed with cake and candy
    And we’ve had a lot of fun,
    But now it’s time to go to bed
    And dream of all we’ve done.
    We’ll dream of ghosts and goblins
    And of witches that we’ve seen,
    And we’ll dream of trick-or-treating
    On this happy Halloween.

    -author unknown
    ~ Till next time, 

    Linda Louise Lotti

     

    This entry was posted in Mythology.

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    Linda
    Linda

    I’m Linda Louise, one of the bloggers on this website and Colleen’s little sister. I’m just a girl in her mid-thirties who feels thirteen when I play outside with my boys, fifteen when I sing my heart out listening to tunes while driving by myself, and sixty five when I go out past ten at night. I have a thing for junior mints, Mt. Dew, shrimp and kale (though not all at once) and I have a crush on Superman. I still get girlish butterflies when I read Twilight, cry when I read These is My Words, and smile from ear to ear when I read Anne of Green Gables. I have nightmares about aliens on a regular basis and I have a bad habit of midnight snacking. I love everything sports, except golf (although can that honestly be considered a sport??), and I hate anything that slithers, hisses, or stings. I have a problem with giggling at inappropriate moments and I sometimes wish life was a musical. I love science, hate math, love Dr. Seuss, and hate olives. My family is my world and my joys come from their happiness. I’ve learned I don’t know much about anything and I live for a good adventure, naps, cuddles, stories, exceptional food and The Shire.