Thursday, October 4, 2012

Witchy Women...

It's the time of year when the Spirit of Halloween draws ever closer. It's presence can be felt and seen with initial subtlety. A subtlety that builds carefully, never giving itself completely away until All Hallow's is almost upon us. The cooling air, and shifting colors of the leaves from various hues of green to the earthier autumnal colors of mustard, bronze, and the deep mottled orange of rust, give us clues. Nature throws us hints that the final Harvest of the year approaches. The mischievously magical night of All Hallow's Eve, and the following day of November 1st...Samhain. Summer's end for all, and the start of a new year for some. The last of the three pagan harvest festivals, when harvested goods are put away for the coming winter months. When the lighter half of the year gives way to the darker half.

Jack o'Lanterns, Ghosts, and Vampires are all common images we see during the month of October, in the days leading up to Halloween. On Halloween night groups of children go door to door in their costumes, playfully threatening a trick if they don't receive a treat, then skipping away...their candy bags a little heavier.

Another common image seen during this time of year is the Witch. Whether she's flying on her broom, or stirring a steaming cauldron of 'brew', the Witch has a myriad of personas. The Witch's I found myself interested in today are the ones depicted in works of art. Famous paintings...some by well known artists, others by painters not so familiar. The Witch's of classic paintings range from the young and beautiful, to bent over hags, wizened and gnarled. Some painters went heavily into the darker realms with their depictions, painting their witches as crones involved in more devilish dealings. That's not the direction I wanted to take my post in. Separating the 'wheat from the chaff' in terms of the 'good' from the 'bad' took a little time. There are a number of Witch related artworks that come more in the form of the Sorceress, or the magically gifted goddess. All "witchy" in their way, I selected a number of paintings many of which are from the Pre-Raphaelite Period, a movement I am quite fond of. I have also included an etching or two.

In accompaniment to the paintings are various quotes and poems I was able to scavenge off of the internet. (It proved to be a more tedious task than weeding through the paintings.) I think they round out the post quite nicely.

("Magic Circle", John William Waterhouse  c.1886)

"That old black magic has me in it's spell,
That old black magic that you weave so well,
Those icy fingers up and down my spine,
The same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine..."

~ Johnny Mercer

("Four Witches", Albrecht Durer  c. 1497)

"Witches...All of them witches!"

~ "Rosemary Woodhouse", Rosemary's Baby

("Yorinda and Yoringel in The Witch's Wood", John Duncan  1866-1945)

"Witchcraft... is a spiritual path. You walk it for nourishment of the soul, to commune with the life force of the universe, and to thereby better know your own life."

~ Christopher Penczak, The Inner Temple of Witchcraft

("Lilith", John Collier  c. 1887)

"To the Sabbath! To the Sabbath!' they cried. 'On to the Witches' Sabbath!"
Up and down that narrow hall they danced, the women on each side of him, to the wildest measure he had ever imagined, yet which he dimly, dreadfully remembered, till the lamp on the wall flickered and went out, and they were left in total darkness. And the devil woke in his heart with a thousand vile suggestions and made him afraid."

~ Algernon Blackwood, The Complete John Silence Stories

("Morgan le Fay",  Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys  c. 1864)

"The Queen took from somewhere among her wrappings a very small bottle which looked as if it were made of copper. Then, holding out her arm, she let one drop fall from it on to the snow beside the sledge. Edmund saw the drop for a second in mid-air, shining like a diamond. But the moment it touched the snow there was a hissing sound and there stood a jeweled cup full of something that steamed."

~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

("Sorceress", John William Waterhouse  c. 1913)

"I myself have seen this woman draw the stars from the sky; she diverts the course of a fast-flowing river with her incantations; her voice makes the earth gape, it lures the spirits from the tombs, sends the bones tumbling from the dying pyre. At her behest, the sad clouds scatter; snow falls from a summer's sky."

~ Catullus, Italian poet,  84 BC-54 BC

("Bat Woman", Albert Joseph Penot  c. 1890)

"I sit on the subway sometimes, on buses, or the movies, and I look at the people next to me and I think...'What would you say if I told you I was a witch?"

~ "Queenie", Bell, Book & Candle

("The Sorceress", Jan Van Der Velde  c. 1626)

I met a wizened woman
As I walked on the heath.
She had an old black bonnet
Her small eyes peeped beneath,
Her garments were so shabby
She couldn't have been rich,
She hobbled with a crutchstick,
And I knew she was a Witch.

She peered at me so slyly
It made my heart feel queer.
She mumbled as she passed me,
But what I couldn't hear.
I smiled at her for answer
And wished her a good day
She nodded and she chuckled
And she hobbled on her way.

And so I got home safely.
I didn't drop the eggs.
My nose had grown no longer, 
My legs were still my legs,
I didn't lose my penny
Or tumble in a ditch -
So mind you smile and say 'Good Day'
When you meet a witch.

~ Eleanor Farjeon, W is for Witch

("A Sea Spell", Dante Gabriel Rossetti  c. 1877)

"Albus, do you really think it safe, leaving him with these people? I've watched them all day. They're the worst sort of Muggles imaginable. They really are..."

~ Professor Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone

("The Witches Sabbath (Muse of The Night)", Luis Ricardo Falero  1851-1896)  

"Witchcraft like any science or philosophical system, must be approached from a liberal point of view. When looked at objectively, we see that Witchcraft is just another theoretical body of knowledge. It is a process, not a person. Therefore it is neutral, incapable of being either good or evil. Like all belief systems, Witchcraft is only as good or evil as the people using it."

~ Lady Sabrina, Secrets of Modern Witchcraft Revealed

("Astarte Syriaca", Dante Gabriel Rossetti   c.1878)

MYSTERY: lo! betwixt the sun and moon
Astarte of the Ayrians: Venus Queen
Ere Aphrodite was. In silver sheen
Her twofold girdle clasps the infinite boon
Of bliss whereof the heaven and earth commune:
And from her neck's inclining flower-stem lean
Love-freighted lips and absolute eyes that wean
The pulse of hearts to the spheres' dominant tune.
Torch-bearing, her sweet ministers compel
All thrones of light beyond the sky and sea
The Witnesses of Beauty's face to be:
That face, of Love's all-penetrative spell
Amulet, talisman, and oracle, -
Betwixt the sun and moon a mystery.

~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti

("Hecate", Maximilian Pirner  c. 1901)

When I was a child
there was an old woman in our neighborhood whom we called The Witch.
All day she peered from her second story
from behind the wrinkled curtains
and sometimes she would open the window
and yell: Get out of my life!
She had hair like kelp
and a voice like a boulder.

I think of her sometimes now
and wonder if I am becoming her.
My shoes turn up like a jester's.
Clumps of my hair, as I write this,
curl up individually like toes.
I am shoveling the children out,
scoop after scoop.
Only my books anoint me,
and a few friends, those who reach into my veins.
Maybe I am becoming a hermit,
opening the door for only
a few special animals?
Maybe my skull is too crowded
and it has no opening through which
to feed it soup?
Maybe I have plugged up my sockets
to keep the gods in?
Maybe, although my heart
is a kitten of butter,
I am blowing it up like a zeppelin.
Yes. It is the witch's life,
climbing the primordial climb,
a dream within a dream,
then sitting here
holding a basket of fire.

~ Anne Sexton, The Witches Life

("The Love Potion", Evelyn de Morgan  c. 1903)

"Can love really travel back in time and heal a broken heart? Was it our joined hands that finally lifted Maria's curse? I'd like to think so. But there are some things I know for certain: always throw spilt salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for luck, and fall in love whenever you can."

~ "Sally Owens", Practical Magic

("Salon Witch", Albert Joseph Penot  c. 1910)  

"Magic is really very simple. All you've got to do is want something, and then let yourself have it."

~ "Aggie Cromwell", Halloweentown

("The Crystal Ball", John William Waterhouse  c. 1902)  

"To me, a witch is a woman that is capable of letting her intuition take hold of her actions, that communes with her environment, that isn't afraid of facing challenges."

~ Paulo Coelho

("Sorcierer qui vont al sabbat (Departure of the witches)", Luis Ricardo Falero  c. 1878)

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake.
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

~ William Shakespeare, Song of the Witches

("Invocation", Lord Frederick Leighton  1830-1896)

"If you really want to upset a witch, do her a favor which she has no means of repaying. The unfulfilled obligation will nag at her like a hangnail."

~ Terry Pratchett, Lords & Ladies

("Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus", JohnWilliam Waterhouse  c. 1891)


  1. Beautiful blog... really loved the photos and quotes you chose. It's great that you chose a quote from "Practical Magic", one of my all time favourites and one which I watch, frequently. :)

    1. Thanks, C! I'm so glad the comments are working for you now! Yes, I love "Practical Magic", too. I have had the urge to watch it...think I'll have to soon.

  2. Your beautiful blog inspired me to scrape together some courage and make my own blog, though I don't yet actually have a focus. I love the quote from *Lords and Ladies*--one of the best Terry Pratchett books ever, especially the story about the contest between Granny Weatherwax and Amanita where it is shown that everyone in the village knew that caring for people [in a practical, non-mushy, non-mystical way] is the real duty of a witch or of anyone else, for that matter.

    1. Thanks, I'm glad my blog offered some inspiration to you. I find it a very creative and therapeutic space. When I first started blogging I tried to give my blog a set theme, or focus. It became obvious to me rather quickly that my blog was going to flow more according to what I was moved to post at any given time. That really made it easier for me. Have fun with it. :)

  3. Just a correction- the quote you have attributed to Catullus (I myself have seen this woman draw the stars from the sky...) is not actually Catullus. It is another Roman (not Italian) poet named Tibullus: Poem 1.2.45-52