The truth is that the witch is a descendant of ancient goddesses who embodied both birth and death, nurturing and destruction, so it is not surprising that she has both aspects. But when religions decay and gods are replaced, there is a consistent dynamic: the gods of the old religion inevitably become the devils of the new. If serpents were once worshipped as symbols of magic power, they will later be despised as symbols of evil. If women were once seen as all-powerful, they will become relegated to obedience to men and feeling pain in childbirth. The symbols remain but their values are reversed. The snake in Genesis is now the devil. The first female, Eve, has gone from being a life-giver to a death-bringer. Good and evil are reversed. This is the way the politics of religion work.

The contemporary image of the witch incorporates detritus from many religious sects over many millennia. Like the wall of a Crusader castle in the Middle East, it rests upon a foundation of remnants from a variety of periods. Like Hecate and Diana, the witch is associated with the moon and lunar power. Like Aphrodite and Venus, she can make love potions and fly through the air. Each attribute of the witch once belonged to a goddess.

Erica Jong

Witches   

The Figure of the Witch

April 9, 2019

Witch-woman,
burning goddess,
every woman bears
within her soul
the figure of the witch

Erica Jong

Witches

[witches are] the embodiment of a world of female subjects that capitalism had to destroy: the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeah woman who poisoned the master’s food.

Sylvia Federici
Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation

no diabolical power

February 16, 2019

I need not mention the universally known fact, that no diabolical power can pursue you beyond the middle of a running stream.

Lucky it was for the poor farmer [ he’d witnessed a witches’ dance in the haunted kirk ] that the river Doon was so near, for notwithstanding the speed of his horse, which was a good one, against he reached the middle of the arch of the bridge and consequently the middle of the stream, the pursuing, vengeful hags were so close at his heels, that one of them actually sprung to seize him: but it was too late; nothing was on her side of the stream but the horse’s tail, which immediately gave way to her infernal grip, as if blasted by a stroke of lightning; but the farmer was beyond her reach.

Robert Burns
Letter to Francis Grose, 1790

It is a well-known fact that witches, or any evil spirits, have no power to follow a poor wight any further than the middle of the next running stream. It may be proper likewise to mention to the benighted traveller, that when he falls in with bogles, whatever danger may be in his going forward, there is much more hazard in turning back.

Robert Burns
Footnote to Tam O’Shanter

apprehensions of witchcraft

February 2, 2019

Our forefathers looked upon nature with more reverence and horror, before the world was enlightened by learning and philosophy, and loved to astonish themselves with the apprehensions of witchcraft, prodigies, charms, and enchantments. There was not a village in England that had not a ghost in it, the church-yards were all haunted, every large common had a circle of fairies belonging to it, and there was scarce a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit.

Joseph Addison
The Spectator, Volume the Sixth, No. 419

Poison

February 2, 2019

Poison is traditionally, though not always, a female mode of attack. Classical lore features many women accused of poisoning their spouses, lovers, or rivals: Medusa, Hecate, Circe, Medea, and Agrippina the Younger, to name a few. In particular, witches of literature and accused witches of real life are often associated with potions and spells that make use of poisonous plants found around the home and garden: oleander, hemlock, castor beans (ricin), foxglove, various kinds of berries, and nightshades. Men, of course, make use of poison as well, like Shakespeare’s Claudius and Romeo. But the subtle and seductive art of poison is often used as a storytelling device to comment upon the nature, and especially the flaws, of women.

Poison is a deceptive weapon, and stories about it play on fascinations with, and anxieties about, what women are hiding. It also offers a violation of proper female domesticity and the same traits that are supposed to make women good botanists. When a woman uses plants or food as poison to subvert rather than maintain the domestic order, she defies her assigned roles of observer, cataloguer, and nurturer. Depending on one’s perspective, poisoning can be used to warn of or promote a woman’s independence.

Afton Lorraine Woodward
Plants, Domesticity, and the Female Poisoner

For Witches

April 28, 2018

What level of Witch…?

December 9, 2017

 

witch ride

I have never written about being female and being queer and being brown in a white-majority country and being Dalit and having an abusive childhood and my physical illnesses and struggling with depression: put all those together and I’m the super-intersectional minority of one.

My Anglophone fantasy-reading taught me that in the Middle Ages, they used to bury witches at crossroads. If you need two roads to intersect to keep down one basic witch, I wonder what level of witch that makes me.

Mimi Mondal
Missive from a Woman in a Room in a City in a Country in a World Not Her Own

naked witches

December 9, 2017

Mine are the lusts of hoofs and horns,
Of the he-goat and the loon
And the naked witches that demons deflower
On the dark side of the moon.

No common sin may fire my eyes,
Glutted with excesses fell —
My lust is stained with the dung that stirs
On the stinking streets of Hell.

Robert E Howard
Letter to Tevis Clyde Smith September 1930

I am definitely now exploring what science can do to create a new biological body for a ghost or a spirit. I am certainly asking whether or not newly created humanoid entities have souls. I do have my own pantheon of ghosts, elves, werewolves, vampires, mummies, witches and the like. I have loved creating this. And I’ve had wonderful fun exhuming these horror clichés and doing my take on them. I think there are certain concepts that unite my work, and the main one, of course is that the monster, particularly the vampire, is a metaphor for us, a metaphor for the outsider and the predator in each of us. Good horror fiction as I see it is always about us, about the human condition. It is always allegorical and metaphorical. I love writing these books. They are about my reality, my moral and social obsessions.

Ann Rice
Interview 14th February