Yes, Halloween is fast coming. Soon those broom-riding ladies with the pointed hats will be filling the skies. They are the most lasting symbols of this time through the years. Always considered ugly or evil they have always been feared. The main things which symbolize witches are broomsticks, cauldrons, and black cats.
Pagan Goddess Known As The Crone
Most everyone pictures real witches as ugly looking hags with long noses and warts. They wear long black dresses and black pointy hats. Their main activity is conjuring up magical potions while stirring a boiling and bubbling cauldron over an open fire.
All of this knowledge comes from the story of a pagan goddess known as “the crone.” She was honored during Samhain the Gaelic festival that marked the end of the harvest season. She was called “the old one” or the “Earth mother.” She symbolized wisdom, change, and the coming and going of the seasons. It was just during modern times that the Halloween holiday turned her into a cackling and frightening witch.
The Celts had a belief in pagan times that when someone passed away their soul went into the crone’s cauldron, which was a symbol of the Earth mother’s womb. In there the souls waited to be reincarnated and the crone’s stirring made it possible for new souls to enter and the previous souls to be reborn. Only much later this cauldron became a bubbling, steaming magic brew kettle that was stirred by an ugly, old witch.
The Wicked Witch of the West
One of the witches which has always given me goose bumps is the Wicked Witch of the West in the classic The Wizard of Oz. I still can picture Dorothy and her friends going through that spooky forest as those flying monkeys filled the air. Dorothy getting locked up and the horrid green face of the witch screaming, ”I’ll get you and your little dog too.” She gave me many a bad dream.
Does she still scare me? You bet. If I watch that movie late at night you can bet I get real scared. My favorite part of all was when Dorothy splashed that bucket of water on the old nasty biddy and she screamed,”I’m melting, I’m melting”.
Of course there are less frightening witches like Samantha in the old TV comedy Bewitched. I liked the fact that she married a mortal and tried to live a normal life with much comedy.
Next up I love the witches portrayed by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy in the movie Hocus Pocus. As a child I loved dressing up as a witch on Halloween.
The world of TV gave us Charmed, three sisters portrayed by Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, and Shannen Doherty. The sisters lives were completely turned around when they discovered that they were witches but you could never take a look at these three lovely ladies and tell that they were witches.
Witches and Their Broomsticks
A witch would not be a witch if she did not have a broomstick. This symbol of Halloween also dates back to the time of medieval myths. All of the old women who were accused of witchcraft were poor and they could not afford to keep horses. So they had to walk through the woods aided by a walking stick or a broom to help them on their way. English folklore says that when witches held ceremonies at night they would rub their bodies with a “flying” potion, then close their eyes and imagine they were flying. This was like a hallucinogenic ointment that caused numbness, a rapid heartbeat and confusion. Can you just imagine the modern witch zapping through the skies on a vacuum cleaner or something equally technological?
Witches and Black Cats
Unfortunately due to all the stories, black cats are thought to be unlucky. They are associated with witches. The black cat’s reputation goes back to the Dark Ages when witch hunts began. It was at this time that all elderly ladies who lived alone could be accused of witchcraft and if she had a black cat it was considered to be her “familiar.”
It was looked upon as being a demonic animal and supposedly given to a witch by the Devil himself. A medieval myth says that the man with the horns would turn himself into a cat when he socialized with witches. In England, Scotland, and Ireland it is thought to be good luck if a black cat crosses your path.
So this Halloween in the dark of night don’t be scared not every old lady you pass by will be a witch but do be careful if she eyes you strangely and is followed by a black cat. So if you’re not planning on joining the witch crowd, don’t forget to keep a bucket of water handy. You never know who you might meet on Halloween night.
I leave you with this song from The Wizard of Oz.