Witches: Origin of the look

Oct 2013
6,155
Planet Nine, Oregon
#41
"In the 13th century Saga of Eric the Red, there was a seiðkona or vǫlva in Greenland named Thorbjǫrg ("Protected by Thor"). She wore a blue cloak and a headpiece of black lamb trimmed with white ermine, carried the symbolic distaff (seiðstafr), which was buried with her, and would sit on a high platform. As related in the Saga:

"Now, when she came in the evening, accompanied by the man who had been sent to meet her, she was dressed in such wise that she had a blue mantle over her, with strings for the neck, and it was inlaid with gems quite down to the skirt. On her neck she had glass beads. On her head she had a black hood of lambskin, lined with ermine. A staff she had in her hand, with a knob thereon; it was ornamented with brass, and inlaid with gems round about the knob. Around her she wore a girdle of soft hair (or belt of touch wood[8]), and therein was a large skin-bag, in which she kept the talismans needful to her in her wisdom. She wore hairy calf-skin shoes on her feet, with long and strong-looking thongs to them, and great knobs of latten at the ends. On her hands she had gloves of ermine-skin, and they were white and hairy within.[9]"
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,567
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#42
I see that this ancient thread has been resurrected near Halloween. In Italy we would have discussed the look of the witches around the "Befana" ... January 6th, the Epiphany. Because the witch in Italy has been recycled into a curious poor woman, usually showing an ugly old look, who enters homes [passing through the chimney] leaving gifts in big socks hanged somewhere.

It happens that in Italy we imagine that old woman in a very different way ...

befana.jpg

And yes, the "Befana" rides a flying broom, like Harry Potter and friends.

It seems that this curious woman was a flying female figure that, in pagan times, flied above the fields to make them more fertile. What's not clear is if this female figure [flying on an object which have become a broom during the centuries, already in Middle Ages] was a representation of Diana or Sàtia or Abundia [the beautiful vergin of success ... she would be the less suitable pagan deity of reference to be the source of the figure of the Befana or of the flying witch, but we cannot exclude that the early aspect of "witches" was beautiful]. Sàtia could be a more interesting model.
 
Oct 2016
1,079
Merryland
#43
the pointed black hat seems to be from the 17th century
witch and pilgrim.jpg

I read somewhere years ago, maybe in an Isaac Asimov book (non-fiction) about elder men were gray haired and respected (remember, in the old days many didn't make it past fifty or so). old females were rare and viewed with some suspicion, especially if not married (women tend to outlive men, at least today, but I don't think that was the case in the past; many died in childbirth).
about the worst socioeconomic position one could be in, would be older woman with no children. they would be viewed with hostility and suspicion by many. probably impoverished they would resort to eating roots and making 'potions', possibly with herbal remedy recipes handed down by other older women.
very good chance they had health problems, missing teeth, etc. if shunned they would be loners and struggle with social skills.

can't help but think that 'witch tales' of feasts were hungry women fantasizing about food. and maybe being able to fly instead of having to walk everywhere.
 
Aug 2018
60
Anatolia
#44
I believe the main characteristic is impotent beggar figure. Mothers have always told their children to stay away from beggars and strangers lest they get kidnapped and it just gets cemented in our mind. It's always some poor unknown woman approaching to some girl or boy under the disguise of helping : Hansel & Gretel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and nameless local tales we all know of some.
 

Sindane

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,678
Europe
#45
I believe the main characteristic is impotent beggar figure. Mothers have always told their children to stay away from beggars and strangers lest they get kidnapped and it just gets cemented in our mind. It's always some poor unknown woman approaching to some girl or boy under the disguise of helping : Hansel & Gretel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and nameless local tales we all know of some.
Some beggars are not 'impotent' though or 'some poor unknown woman'. Aggressive begging, demanding money with menaces and extortion is still a crime today. The Pendle witches seemed to have been running some kind of extortion racket in the area and were genuinely feared

The Pendle Witch Trials 'are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century', the trials concerned two well known local competing 'witch' families. 'Many of the allegations resulted from accusations that members of the Demdike and Chattox families made against each other, perhaps because they were in competition, both trying to make a living from healing, begging, and extortion'.
Pendle witches - Wikipedia

In the context of the times, they probably did break the law. For example, this law was not just aimed at 'Egyptians' , (Gypsies) , it applied to anyone who practised things such as palmistry - The Egyptians Act 1530 ...'by craft and subtlety, have deceived the people for their money; and also have committed many heinous felonies and robberies, to the great hurt and deceit of the people that they have come among...'.

If I lived in the Pendle area in the 17th century and refused to hand over money to an aggressive beggar, who threatened me that something terrible would happen to my home or to my family, that we would all perish because our crops would fail, then I would be the victim of a crime and it would still apply today. It doesn't matter if they had the means or not to strike me dead with a bolt of lightening or whatever, it is the threat of it that matters. This is what the Pendle Witches were doing
 
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Likes: Rovi
Jul 2012
748
Australia
#46
Probably the best book on witchcraft and all its manifestations in European history is Norman Cohn's Europe's Inner Demons:

1543437070328.png

https://www.amazon.com/Europes-Inner-Demons-Demonization-Christendom/dp/0226113078


Here are a couple of reviews of it:

Europe's Inner Demons - Wikipedia

Europe's Inner Demons


Some women for a long time had possession of some knowledge (herbal, reproduction, psychological) not widely held by men and could under some conditions be seen as a threat. Those conditions included that knowledge being a threat to institutionalized knowledge (dominated by men), a linking of the "non-normal" to something demonic, particular social conditions especially where a high percentage of women were in vulnerable social positions, and most importantly a judicial process that did not particularly require material evidence for conviction.

The English experience of witchcraft was mild compared to the continental experience of it.

Keith Thomas' "Religion and the Decline of Magic" has a good section on witchcraft together with analysis of other "ancient arts" in the English 17th century environment.
 
Likes: sailorsam
Dec 2018
3
Sweden
#48
The use of a broom, an ordinary broom found in every home, that witches would ride, comes originally from the 16th century.
Back in the medieval times, the use of rye would be the most efficient way of making bread, but with making the bread, there was always a risk. This risk was merely the mold from rye, it would be called ergot. In high doses, ergot would cause painful fever and vomiting, at worst it would make limbs start to rot and later kill the individual who ate too much of it. However, in small doses, the ergot would be like drugs, it would make people dance, mumbling, frantically laugh, and it would also make them think they were flying.
To say "them" is not about men and women, it was primarily women who this would happen to since female have an easy way if 'ingesting it' through the mucus membrance of the genitals.

People would report women walking around screaming and laughing while riding a broom. I forgot to tell you that the female users of ergot would smear it on the broom and later ride it, as a way of ingesting it. During the 16th century, during the start of burning 'witches, this was a way of telling someone that they are a witch.
 
Oct 2013
6,155
Planet Nine, Oregon
#49
The use of a broom, an ordinary broom found in every home, that witches would ride, comes originally from the 16th century.
Back in the medieval times, the use of rye would be the most efficient way of making bread, but with making the bread, there was always a risk. This risk was merely the mold from rye, it would be called ergot. In high doses, ergot would cause painful fever and vomiting, at worst it would make limbs start to rot and later kill the individual who ate too much of it. However, in small doses, the ergot would be like drugs, it would make people dance, mumbling, frantically laugh, and it would also make them think they were flying.
To say "them" is not about men and women, it was primarily women who this would happen to since female have an easy way if 'ingesting it' through the mucus membrance of the genitals.

People would report women walking around screaming and laughing while riding a broom. I forgot to tell you that the female users of ergot would smear it on the broom and later ride it, as a way of ingesting it. During the 16th century, during the start of burning 'witches, this was a way of telling someone that they are a witch.
Not just from ergot; in The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, Abraham encounters witches who offer to tell him what his brother was doing a great distance away; he expected them to fly off, but after rubbing an ointment on their pulse points, they passed out. When they awoke, according to him, they were accurately able to describe his brother and what he was doing, iirc.
 
Dec 2018
3
Sweden
#50
Not just from ergot; in The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, Abraham encounters witches who offer to tell him what his brother was doing a great distance away; he expected them to fly off, but after rubbing an ointment on their pulse points, they passed out. When they awoke, according to him, they were accurately able to describe his brother and what he was doing, iirc.
What's this book?