Some things you may not know about witches

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Oct 29, 2014 by Smart Blog

Given that October is the month of Halloween, what better time to explore one of the world's most pervasive mythical figures - the witch? Read on for a selection of enchanting facts...

 

  • There is more than one type of witch. Practitioners of Wicca are called witches, and they form covens, but Wicca is underpinned by a strong moral code and Wiccans are committed to doing good and fighting evil, in stark contrast to the witches of legend.
  • The Wizard of Oz also featured a good witch, Glinda, and Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter books and films is another example.
  • In the middle ages, women who acted as midwives were often suspected of witchcraft, and some of the most famous witches convicted during the witch-hunts of the time were midwives. Apparently, it was widely believed that midwives ate children!
  • Jenny Greenteeth, a witch of English legend, had green skin and razor sharp teeth. She was said variously to eat, drown and/or torture both children and the elderly - the exact story varies from region to region.
  • The weird sisters, the three witches of Shakespeare's Macbeth, were not weird in the sense that we understand today. In Shakespeare's time, 'weird' meant 'fate'.
  • The ancient Greek goddess of witchcraft was called Hecate.
  • Mary Bateman, known as the 'Yorkshire Witch' was born in 1768. Although the local population went to her enthusiastically for spells and cures, including the truly marvellous 'Prophet Hen of Leeds' (yes, a hen from Leeds that could predict the future), Bateman was nothing more than a con artist and was eventually executed.
  • A mixture of genuine fear and superstition, combined with personal and political ambition fuelled the notorious witch trials that took place in Northern Europe during the 1500s and 1600s. Individuals could - and did - get rid of rivals or enemies by accusing them of witchcraft.
  • In the middle ages, there was a belief that when cooking eggs, the eggshells should always be crushed; otherwise, a witch would use them to make a boat (presumably quite a small boat).
  • Roald Dahl's book, The Witches, caused a storm when it was published in 1983, not only because, it was alleged, it portrayed adults and authority in an inappropriate way but also because it only featured female witches. This, critics claimed, was sexist.
  • In fact, records relating to witch-hunts show that both men and women were accused of witchcraft.
  • The first woman to be accused of witchcraft in Ireland was called Alice Kyteler.
  • The Scarlet Witch (a.k.a. Wanda Maximoff) is a Marvel Comics super heroine whose super-powers include the ability to alter probability. Her friends include Captain America and Wonder Man.
  • England's Witchcraft Act (first passed in 1735) was not officially repealed until 1951.
  • In 2007, Yoko Ono released an album entitled: Yes, I'm a Witch.
  • Fascination with witches continues to this day: as well as Halloween, they are a feature of many recent and current TV shows, films (including Disney films) and books.