At the end of December, I wrote a post about a new blog series here on The Midnight Society called Exploring The Cauldron. We’ll be talking witches, spells, history, and more.
I figured for today, we should start at the very beginning.
What is a witch?
The answer to this question will depend on where you look for answers.
If you look up the definition of witch in the Oxford English dictionary, it says that a witch is, “A woman thought to have evil magic powers. Witches are popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat, and flying on a broomstick.”
Another website quoted that “Witches are as beautiful as nature herself and do no harm.”
Another website said that a witch is “One who practices witchcraft.”
A few more sites that I checked out, didn’t have anything nice to say about witches. As you can see, the definition, means of identification, and opinion of witches relies heavily on the source, the time, and the audience.
Historically, most people accused of being witches tended to be female, and many of them were social outcasts or those who did not necessarily get along with their neighbors.
How can you tell if someone is a witch?
Katherine Howe, author of The Penguin Book of Witches, wrote a hilarious article on how to tell if someone is a witch. Seriously, you should read it.
The Rebelle Society also has an interesting article called 13 Signs You’re a Witch, which I found to be rather interesting too.
Though those articles are humorous and interesting, historically speaking, the ability to discern if someone is a witch or not is actually quite barbaric and tragic.
In the 18th century, practicing black magic was considered as heinous of a crime as that of rape or murder. Witch hunters devised plans and experiments to out and convict the accused.
There was the swimming test, where accused witches were taken to a body of water, bound, and tossed in to the water to see if the accused would sink or swim. An innocent person was estimated to sink, whereas a witch would float. As you can imagine, there were a large amount of accidental drownings as a result.
Another test from history was the touch test. This would play a huge part in the 1662 trial of Rose Cullender and Amy Denny. The idea was that, the witch would have a special impact on the witch’s victims, causing fits or spells. In this trial, these two girls had been suffering from a fit where they clenched their fists so tightly together that strong people could not pry their fingers apart. However, one touch from Cullender or Denny, would cause these girls to drop their hands. To many, this was enough to prove that these poor women were witches. At their trial, to test this, the girls were blindfolded and touched by various members of the court to see if any touch at all would cause them to unclench their hands. And it was. Numerous times the girls unclenched their fists when touched by normal members of the court and not the accused witches. This undoubtedly proved that the girls were faking. Unfortunately for the accused, it didn’t matter. Cullender and Denny were hanged as witches…
How to Spot a Witch Today
I will be delving more into historical techniques of spotting a witch. But the question lingers…How do you spot a witch?
Witches are not always the black caped, wart nosed, black cat loving women that we tend to think of around Halloween.
Many people practice witchcraft today.
Some are boys.
Some are girls.
Some are young.
Some are old.
So the question remains…how can you spot a witch?
The simple answer is… you can’t.
I will be running a series on Exploring the Cauldron. If there’s a topic you’d love to see researched and discussed, please leave a comment below and let me know.