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Witches - not cute or spooky hallowe'en figures, but actually the murder of lots of women?

(42 Posts)
BerylStreep Fri 07-Oct-11 20:12:44

I feel a bit like a kill-joy, but my DC are getting excited at the prospect of Hallowe'en (yes, it's become much more commercialised than it was in our day, but that's a whole other thread).

We've bought the walking bloody hand, and a dancing skeleton, but I think the fact that witches are still portrayed as scary hallowe'en figures misses the point that in fact this represents the murder of countless women whose only crime was to have knowledge or skills which men felt threatened by.

I'm by no means a historian, so someone will probably put me right, but my understanding of 'witches' were that they were often women who had a bit of medical knowledge who were vilified because they had 'too much power'.

If that's the case, why is there no discussion about what the murder of all these 'witches' actually meant to the role of women in society?

DontCallMeFrothyDragon Fri 07-Oct-11 20:18:09

I actually researched witches for a possible novel a few years back.

Anyone could be accused. Typical reasons were things like "looking odd", "living on her own", "neighbourly dispute", "someone dying after a neighbourly dispute", "medical knowledge"... Other things I can't remember.

GossipWitch Fri 07-Oct-11 20:23:43

The witch trials were mainly about property and money, if an older woman had been left her manor house by her dead husband, guaranteed she would then be tried for witchcraft and persecuted, for her inherited property.

Birdsgottafly Fri 07-Oct-11 20:27:48

It was also to remove any 'power' that females were seen to have; the knowledge of healing, childbirth etc. It made women disempowered and reliant on the menfolk for their life.

ThePsychicSatsuma Fri 07-Oct-11 20:29:06

it was a terrible, terrifying part of history.
single women totally at the mercy of their friends/neighbours,
they were accused for being too pretty; too ugly; too rich; too clever you name it. It also went on for much longer than it should have done,

always makes me wonder what atrocities we are party to today, which future generations will consider to be just as ridiculous and barbaric

BerylStreep Fri 07-Oct-11 20:40:20

But we gloss over all of that by allowing the sanitised image of the witch with a wart and crooked nose. Actually, it represents gendercide of thousands upon thousands of women at the hands of the authorities - often the church.

HoneyMomster Fri 07-Oct-11 20:41:43

There was an excellent thread on this quite a while back

BerylStreep Fri 07-Oct-11 20:48:12

HM - can you find a link?

HoneyMomster Fri 07-Oct-11 20:56:19


here it is!

Very interesting stuff( - try to ignore the row in the middle)

solidgoldbrass Fri 07-Oct-11 20:59:38

Hmm. Because I know a few witches (well, Wiccans) I have always told DS that witches are clever women who know about nature and plants and the stars and stuff.

messyisthenewtidy Fri 07-Oct-11 21:19:37

I agree OP, because the kind of witch we dress up is ugly, wart-nosed and evil - probably the kind of propaganda image that was put about to persecute these women.

Men get wise wizards, we get ugly witches. Still at least JK Rowling made the image more positive...

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 07-Oct-11 21:59:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BerylStreep Fri 07-Oct-11 22:06:01

Stewie, I am about a third through reading the other thread which was linked, and see you are on it. I hate the idea of reinforcing to my children that old woman = ugly evil witch, as opposed to mature woman = wise and experienced.

This however, is only scratching the surface. Where do we even start on all the fairy tale images! All those step-mothers who become evil witches? Honestly, what messages are we sending to our children?

ThePsychicSatsuma Fri 07-Oct-11 22:12:33

hmm. in a way, I think it is useful for children to learn that evil takes all forms, men, women, giants, bad lions etc in fairytales.
but agree they are heavy on the bad fairy/ wicked females

in Disney there are some bad male characters - Uncle Scar in Lion King + 2/3 hyenas
shere Khan and that snake in jungle Book, Gaston in B & the Beast;

vs Maleficent, Tangled's HORRID stepmother, Cinderella's stepmother, et al
in Shrek Prince Charming is the worst 'baddie' I can think of,

In Cars the baddies are all male , in both films

traditional fairytales seem to be vaguely equalled out by disney, actually

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 07-Oct-11 22:16:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Snorbs Fri 07-Oct-11 22:18:11

I wonder if the more positive connotations of 'witch' courtesy of J K Rowling will have an effect.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 07-Oct-11 22:20:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 07-Oct-11 22:23:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DownbytheRiverside Fri 07-Oct-11 22:25:29

Riven's book might well have been part of a set by Joan Aiken, 'A Necklace of Raindrops.' Aiken wrote a couple of others, with quirky and interesting slants on traditional themes.
Terry Pratchett has done a lot to rehabilitate the idea of witches, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg are fascinating representations of different aspects of the witch.

DownbytheRiverside Fri 07-Oct-11 22:26:36

For littlies, there is Winnie, Meg and The Worst Witch, along with individual texts like 'Room on the Broom'

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 07-Oct-11 22:27:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DownbytheRiverside Fri 07-Oct-11 22:29:59

I love Joan Aiken's stuff, and my set of those was illustrated by Jan Pienkowski. Double win. smile

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 07-Oct-11 22:35:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DownbytheRiverside Fri 07-Oct-11 22:39:27

You may need two copies if you find it hard to share with your DDs.

StewieGriffinsMom Fri 07-Oct-11 22:43:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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