Monday, May 6, 2013

Trio of witches

For the moment I'm mainly attracted to  Halloween pieces - don't ask me why - so I'm stitching on two (to me) beautifull pieces that will represent a challenge to finish them off.

The first one being "Sleepy Hollow" from the Cricket Collection that didn't see a lot of progress lately because I'm waiting for new skeins of Weeks Dye Works and ... I didn't resist the temptation of starting on a chart I have only acquired recently = Bewitching Trio by the Needle's Notion.

Wednesday, 1st of May (Bank Holiday)

Friday, 3rd of May
In the meanwhile I've completed the purple middle part, added the orange to the skirts' edge and finished the left piece of her shawl. Here's a complete picture (chart/leaflet picture).

When stitching you also have some time to let your mind wander off ... well, I started wondering why witches are always pictured with a broom and a black cat. Well I can tell you that the lecture on google was quite ... mmmmm ... informative.

I've found a couple of possibilities (taken from the Net) ...:

The popular icon of a witch is an ugly old woman riding across the sky on her magic broomstick and wearing a pointed hat. But as with all mythologies there is an element of truth behind the image. Witches did ride brooms, after a fashion, the brooms were magic, in a way, and the pointed hat was the mildest of the punishments inflicted on them for their activities!
During the time leading up to the witchcraft trials in Europe, the staple bread was made with rye. In a small town where the bread was fresh baked this was just fine, but as Europe began to urbanize and the bread took more time to get from bakery to grocer, the rye bread began to host a mold called "ergot". Ergot, in high doses, can be lethal, a fact that led to the rise in popularity of wheat bread, which is resistant to ergot mold.

In smaller doses, ergot is a powerful hallucinogenic drug. And because the enjoyment of such things is not confined to this age alone, it became quite popular among those who were inclined towards herbalism and folk cures. It's mentioned in Shakespeare's plays, and turns up in virtually every contemporary writing of the witchcraft age. In particular, it is the inevitable central ingredient in the ointment that witches rubbed their broomsticks with.  You see, when ergot is eaten, there was the risk of death, but when absorbed through the thin tissues of the female genitals, the hallucinogenic effects were more pronounced with less ill effects.
The modern image of a witch riding a broomstick was inspired by the sight of a woman rubbing herself on the drug coated smooth stick of her broom, writhing in the throes of hallucinations, and no doubt, some intense orgasms as well. To her unsophisticated neighbors, such a sight would have been terrifying. 
The lack of an equivalent mechanism for men is one reason why "witchcraft" was seen as a predominantly female phenomenon. The addition of clothing to the witch is a modern embellishment to protect 'Family Values'." 

The first stories of "flying ointments" were recorded in the early 1400's. In those cases, mention was made only that the witches dreamt they were flying. Watched all night long, the witches were not seen to actually leave, but would awake with lurid stories of far away gatherings. While the forged "grimoires" produced by the clergy prosecutors wove lurid tales of the boiled fat of a child as the central ingredient of the flying potion, the reality is that the concoction was based on easily available herbs such as aconite, nightshade, belladonna, and alcohol. 
Of all the folk drugs available to the witches, ergot was the most powerful, and the most dangerous. In use as a hallucinogen it was absorbed through the skin, most quickly through the thin tissues of the female genitals. "Flying ointment" was administered by rubbing it on a smooth wooden pole such as a broomstick, and then "riding" the pole.  
In the Middle Ages, witches would prepare a “flying ointment” (also known as “green ointment”) to aid them in their journey, the recipes for which usually had a base of either Belladonna (Nightshade) or Mandragora, both highly psychoactive drugs producing visions and encouraging astral projection, mixed with clove oil (which is known best for its anaesthetic properties). Thus, the generally accepted theory about the origins of witches flying on brooms is based in a ritual involving a psychoactive drug trip: as the ointment was rubbed all over the body using the broom (particularly on the forehead, wrists, hands, feet, under the arms or between the legs), it gave a sensation of flying.

The witches mounted broomsticks and would leap around the fields, smeared with the flying ointment, to "teach" the crops how high to grow, and the ointment would give them imaginary "trips" and the feeling of having flown distances. First know recorded instance is the 15th century and was actually a warlock - despite the traditional association with females (and housework).
In the Middle Ages, women's careers weren't exactly plentiful. A woman had access, though, to grains & such. Once she had used her share for breadmaking & so on, some industrious women took a share of the hops & grains & brewed beer on the side for sale to travelers passing through the village. Of course, once men & royals realized that there was something to that grain drink (i.e $$$$), they formed unions & guilds to shove the women out of that line of work.
Around this time, witch hunts became all the rage & the women brewers became convenient targets. Accuse her of being a witch & that's one less gal to compete for the beer trade.

Thus all of the women brewer's symbolism began to be associated with witchcraft:

- cauldron: gotta brew the beer in something! Naturally the woman brewer of yesteryear didn't have giant vats like the type you'll find at the local brewery but she DID have a cauldron with which to cook and use for beer making on the side. Of course, upright Christians figured that's where the accused witch made her potions, etc.

- black cats: with all that grain around, you're going to have rats. What's a better way to kill rats? Of course, the upright brigade figured the black cats were witches' 'familiars' or demon in 'normal' form.

- the pointy hat: allowed the brewer gal to be seen among the tall guys at the local market & fair, and, after a while, became the symbol for a beer brewer, much like the chef's hat identifies one as a, duh, chef!

- the broomstick: a symbol of the domestic life, meaning the gal inside had frequent access to grains, etc. & when she posted the broom outside her house, above her door or beside it, it was a symbol that basically meant "Beer here!!" to the passing traveler! Witch hunters, though, who already had established in the public's mind that witches flew to their covens (i.e. gatherings) began to spread the idea that they flew on the brooms they so openly displayed. Thus the idea of flying broomsticks.

Interesting not? How our embroidery / hobbies can learn us new things! ;-)


Melinda said...

This was a wonderful read - I LOVE WITCHES - Thanks for sharing the results of your research...

Creative Chaos said...

Oooooooooow I LOVE THOSE WITCHES !!!

Patti xx

Grit said...

Wow, they are fantastic.
Grit from Germany