Witches Around the World
During Halloween, we love to celebrate independent artists’ spooky interpretations. This year, we’ve gone on a hunt to find our favorite witchy designs and also the stories behind some of the most famous witch trials in the world’s history.
Read on to find out more.
Which witch is which?
- A witch is a female who was believed to have supernatural and magical powers. In legend, a witch would practice sorcery, her best friend was the devil, and she wore a pointy hat.
- Most often witches are depicted as ugly and wicked (think warts with a hint of green skin).
- No one knows exactly where the true origin of the word “witch” came from but the closest possible link may come from the Old English word “wicce” which means female sorceress or magician.
- While witches traditionally ride broomsticks, the male equivalent, warlocks, ride pitchforks.
- Most broomsticks were made from witch-hazel.
- In today’s society, a witch is sometimes considered a practitioner of nature-based magic.
“I love witches and magic and dress-up and make-believe.” Helena Bonham Carter
The Salem Witch Trials – 1692 to 1693
During the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in colonial Massachusetts, more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft and 20 were executed. Others died from imprisonment.
- Both men and women were executed for being suspected witches or practitioners of witchcraft.
- The oldest person who was executed was a man in his eighties, the youngest a four-year-old girl.
- Although popular in movies and folklore, no one was burned at the stake, immolation (sacrifice by burning) was illegal. Most of the convicted were hanged, except for one poor man that was crushed between rocks. Ouch.
- This fact takes the cake. Literally. Although there were many ways to test people for witchcraft, the weirdest method that we came across was a ‘witch cake’. The cake was made from using the urine of ill children and fed to a dog. If that child then reacted it was guaranteed that – yep, you’re a witch. We’re interested in knowing what the dog thought about all of this.
- One of the biggest catalysts in the paranoia was a smallpox outbreak. There wasn’t an immunization at that time and children were especially vulnerable to the disease. People didn’t understand the disease, so they looked to supernatural causes. To them, an angry, vengeful witch was the most likely suspect. Other reasons included feuding families, those who didn’t attend church, and those who had a low tolerance for naughty children.
- Interestingly enough, every woman who confessed lived and every woman (and child) who denied the claim was hanged.
“The human race is a very, very magical race. We have a magic power of witches and wizards.” Yoko Ono
- The most active time of witch-hunting happened in Europe between 1550 and 1650. It is estimated that a total of 60,000 people (around 80% of them women) lost their lives in these trials. If you love statistics as much as we do, find more of them in this article on Wikipedia.
- During the witch hunts, it was a common practice to test if someone was ‘guilty’ of witchcraft by ordeal by water. Wonder what that is? Handcuff someone and throw them into the water – someone who sank was considered innocent, while someone who floated was considered a witch. Wild theories around this practice arose, which led some to believe witches were lighter than regular people and could just be weighed. Isn’t it ironic that today, women are encouraged to lose weight while just 600 years ago, being lighter than most people was a sign of witchcraft?
- The 30th of April in Germany is called Walpurgis Night (or “Witch Night”) as it has been believed for centuries that this is a night when witches come together, on one of the highest mountains in Germany (the Brocken), to celebrate. Today, witches on brooms are the symbol of this particular area and are sold as marionettes to tourists that want to celebrate witchcraft year-round.
Check out our full Witch Collection and cast a spell this Halloween.
Big thanks to Marina from our New Markets team for her Witches in Europe section!