1. The word “witch” originates with the Old English term wicce, meaning “wise woman,” and indeed, wiccan were considered highly respected elders at one time. According to popular belief, witches held one of their two main meetings, or sabbats, on Halloween night. We call that a Halloween party!
2. According to one superstition, if someone were to wear their clothes inside out and walk backwards on Halloween night, he or she will encounter a witch at midnight — or at least get picked up by the local law enforcement for drunk and disorderly conduct.
3. A large percentage of witches are vegetarians. Except, of course, the one that tried to put Hansel and Gretel into a stew pot…
4. Contrary to popular belief, witches do not believe in the devil. Devil dogs, maybe, but not the devil.
5. During the notorious witch trials in Salem Massachusetts in 1962, 24 perished after being accused of witchcraft. Of that 24, 19 were hanged, one was pressed to death between two rocks (I know, weird!) and four died in prison of various causes while awaiting trial. None were actually burned at the stake.
6. Modern witchcraft, or Wicca, is a nature-based faith that is recognized as an official religion in the U.S. Based on pre-Christian traditions, the religion holds that Mother Earth and Nature are sacred. So really, you have nothing to fear from witches unless you toss that cigarette butt from your car…
7. The concept of witches flying on broomsticks has its origins in Middle Age lore. Those who practiced witchcraft made use of various plants to formulate brews, salves and ointments. Upon discovering that some of these plants, such as belladonna, jimsonweed, mandrake and hyoscine, produced hallucinogenic effects, some mischievous practitioners used them for illicit purposes. Since these effects were enhanced when the substance was absorbed through the armpits or mucus membranes (and we’re not talking about your nose here), these rapscallions applied these strange brews with the end of a broomstick. The afflicted person did fly, in the ancient version of a psychedelic acid trip. If you don’t believe us, read the Science Blog.
8. Between 1480 and 1750 AC, an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 “witches” were executed in Europe and North America. In order to identify a witch, self-appointed witch-hunters would search for a “witch’s mark” on the body of the accused. Thought to be a mark of the devil, these marks could have been birth marks, warts, blemishes or even a third nipple. Suspected witches were detained, restrained and “inspected.” And we thought today’s politicians were depraved…
9. So where do we get the stereotypical image of the haggard witch with a wart on her nose and pointy black hat, stirring her cauldron? This image actually stems from a pagan goddess known as “the crone,” who was honored during Samhain. Also known as the “Earth mother, or simply “the old one,” the crone symbolized wisdom, transformation and the changing of the seasons. Once a kind, wise old sage, the crone has since been transformed through popular lore into a menacing, cackling wicked witch. Ain’t it always the way?
10. Where did the witch’s cauldron come from? Well, the pagan Celts believed that after death, all souls returned to the crone’s cauldron, a symbol for the Earth mother’s womb, to await reincarnation. As the crone stirred the cauldron, new souls would enter and old souls would leave to be reborn. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!
Want to find out the real meaning of Halloween? Come to the Cutting Edge Haunted House, open every Friday and Saturday night from 8 to 10 pm!