by John Morgan
Witches – Other than the pumpkin, no other symbol comes close to the witch in association with Halloween. Heck, just look around her and you will see a virtual “Who is Who” of Halloween casting: bats, cats, rats, owls, toads, cauldrons, moon, and broom – and we are just to getting started.
While the pumpkin might match her in notoriety, it would be hard to match the witches A-list Halloween celebrity status in longevity and adaptability. Styles come and styles go, but the witch is not only credited for shape shifting into other forms, such as the owl, but she can also seemingly alter her appearance to look like “Witch Hazel” or like Veronica Lake – as well as dozens of other variations in between. This adaptability has also led to a confused public; who are constantly perplexed regarding the motives and intent of the witch. In fact, Glenda pinpointed the problem quite well when she asked Dorothy, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Well, we do not need a focus group to come to the conclusion: that all depends on your point of view and the lenses of the society you are viewing her from.
Witches have been linked to pagan rituals for thousands of years. Throughout each of those years, accurate forecasting of the weather, seasons, fertility and harvest were highly esteemed because of their inevitable effect on humanities well-being. Before the advent of the internet, TV, or weather satellites, people relied on the “Old Farmer’s Almanac,” “feelings in their bones,” or those who claimed to be skilled in the arts of divination and prophecy to see beyond the present.
In times of seasonal and celestial transitions (All Hallows’ Eve and Beltane), witches come into their own. Light and shadow, life and death, feast and famine, these are the things that witches excel at interpreting and understanding as they practice their craft along the peripheral vision of this world and the unseen.
Whether witches are casting magical spells, tapping unseen energies, reciting incantations, healing or harming, they represent a mirror of the culture observing and interacting with them. We are all capable of great good or great harm. The witch has either been the benefactor or the antagonist of our beliefs; as we project our own thoughts and biases into the complex witch’s brew. Witch-hunts and witch-trials have been very real with deadly consequences throughout history. Today, Wiccans can be seen at various Harvest festivals as well as a host of other mainstream activities and events.
With such a rich history, strong supporting cast, and virtually limitless palette of colors and themes to portray the witch, we look forward to exploring this topic in greater detail in future posts – now if we can only decide on which witch we want to write about next.