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Witches in Art

Updated on April 17, 2011

Witches in Art through the Ages

This is a project I've been working on for some time but never really got it "together". History is my favorite subject, and art is my favorite medium. Being a Witch I have combined these two into a project of finding woodcuts, lithographs, paintings, etc. from as many sources as possible to bring together in one place to express the history of the witch via art, through the ages.

Original art was through woodcuts, which progressed from there to paintings and eventually to lithographs and other modern forms of art expression. Personally, the modern forms do not have the depth of feeling that emanates from the paintings of the old masters.

This lens is far from complete, but I do hope to bring a fair presentation of the beauty of the village witch, the granny woman, and the poor accused who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The following poem expresses her plight beautifully. The author is unknown, I would very much like to give credit where credit is due.

************

The View of the Witch...Respect of the Crone

Each year they parade her about ... the traditional Halloween witch.

Misshapen green face, stringy scraps of hair, and a toothless mouth beneath her disfigured nose. Gnarled, knobby fingers twisted into a claw, protracting from a bent and twisted torso that lurches about on wobbly legs.

Most think this abject image to be the creation of a prejudiced mind, or merely a Halloween caricature.

I disagree. I believe this to be how witches were really seen.

Consider that most witches: were women, were abducted in the night, and smuggled into dungeons or prisons under the secrecy of darkness, to be presented by the light of day as a confessed witch.

Few, if any, saw a frightened, normal looking woman being dragged into a secret room filled with instruments of torture. To be questioned until she confessed to anything that was suggested to her, and to give names or whatever would stop the questions. Crowds saw the aberration denounced to the world as a self-proclaimed witch.

As the witch was paraded through the town, en route to be burned, hanged, drowned, stoned, or disposed of in various other forms of Christian love ... all created to free and save her soul from her depraved body. The jeering crowds viewed the results of hours of torture. The face, bruised and broken by countless blows, bore a hue of sickly green. The once warm and loving smile gone.

Replaced by a grimace of broken teeth and torn gums that leers beneath a battered, disfigured nose. The disheveled hair conceals bleeding gaps of torn scalp from whence cruel hands had torn away the lovely tresses. Broken, twisted hands clutched the wagon for support. Fractured fingers locked like groping claws to steady her broken body. All semblance of humanity gone. This was truly a demon, a bride of Satan, a witch.

I revere this Halloween crone and hold her sacred above all. I honor her courage and listen to her warnings of the dark side of humanity.

~Author unknown~

The Inquisition - Woodcuts

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Inquisition.Witch Trial in Massachusetts - The accusing girls point at the victim.Witchcraft at Salem Village. Craft (1876)
Inquisition.
Inquisition.
Witch Trial in Massachusetts - The accusing girls point at the victim.
Witch Trial in Massachusetts - The accusing girls point at the victim.
Witchcraft at Salem Village. Craft (1876)
Witchcraft at Salem Village. Craft (1876)

Inquisition

The pictures here give a simplified view of what it what it must have been like to be accused, hauled into a courtroom, and having to face the people of your town as they all turn against you. Their fear was real as well, because they could easily be the next accused! The Inquisitors were usually Church officials who governed their questioning & tortures by a popular manifesto, the "Hammer of the Witches". This disgusting publication was based purely on conjecture and twisted thinking. Those who spoke against the heinous tortures were themselves suspect. Why would any sane person question chosen & ordained representatives of God?!

The world was upside down, and it was spread all over Europe and eventually the New World, taking over 700 years to finally die out. The loss of lives was enormous. The cost in the advancement and development of society and humanity even greater. Imagine how much more advanced scientifically, mathematically, medicinally, and spiritually we would be if we had been permitted to continue grow and progress. The right to learn was removed from the common people, permitting only the elite to learn to read and write. The elite being only the higher members of the Christian Church. Subjugation through fear is never right.

Once the western world finally came out of the Dark Ages, the arts & sciences once again began to flourish. Overcoming the damage done has been long, and in some ways it still continues, fear of that which one does not understand will keep you in the dark and blind you to truth. The truth of every person's right to find the Divine in their own time and manner.

Witches & Devils 1 - Print Drawings

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Satan presides at the Sabbat attended by demons in human or animal shapes.Child offered to Satan.Guillemette Babin and her fellow witches naked are carried. Bernard ZuberGuillemette Babin at the Sabbat dances with demons, performing with them acts. Bernard ZuberYounger witches assisted by demons, prepare for the Sabbat. David TenniersDining with demons, witches at a Sabbat sit down to supper with the Devil and his companions.Witches' Sabbath. Hans Baldung Grien 1510Protecting cattle. HM BrockThe Lancashire witches - Mother Chattox, noted local witch rides to Pendle Hill. John Gilbert
Satan presides at the Sabbat attended by demons in human or animal shapes.
Satan presides at the Sabbat attended by demons in human or animal shapes.
Child offered to Satan.
Child offered to Satan.
Guillemette Babin and her fellow witches naked are carried. Bernard Zuber
Guillemette Babin and her fellow witches naked are carried. Bernard Zuber
Guillemette Babin at the Sabbat dances with demons, performing with them acts. Bernard Zuber
Guillemette Babin at the Sabbat dances with demons, performing with them acts. Bernard Zuber
Younger witches assisted by demons, prepare for the Sabbat. David Tenniers
Younger witches assisted by demons, prepare for the Sabbat. David Tenniers
Dining with demons, witches at a Sabbat sit down to supper with the Devil and his companions.
Dining with demons, witches at a Sabbat sit down to supper with the Devil and his companions.
Witches' Sabbath. Hans Baldung Grien 1510
Witches' Sabbath. Hans Baldung Grien 1510
Protecting cattle. HM Brock
Protecting cattle. HM Brock
The Lancashire witches - Mother Chattox, noted local witch rides to Pendle Hill. John Gilbert
The Lancashire witches - Mother Chattox, noted local witch rides to Pendle Hill. John Gilbert

Witches & Devils 2 - Print Drawings

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Magica De Spectris.Malevolent witch bewitches a groom in his stable before doing magic on the horse.Witch flies to the Sabbat with her cat on her broomstick. ArmytageWitch rides through the starlit sky on her broomstick carrying a baby she has borrowed from its mum. DePlancyWitch rides through the starlit sky on her goat carrying a baby she has borrowed from its mum. DePlancyWitchcraft. Teniers (1632)
Magica De Spectris.
Magica De Spectris.
Malevolent witch bewitches a groom in his stable before doing magic on the horse.
Malevolent witch bewitches a groom in his stable before doing magic on the horse.
Witch flies to the Sabbat with her cat on her broomstick. Armytage
Witch flies to the Sabbat with her cat on her broomstick. Armytage
Witch rides through the starlit sky on her broomstick carrying a baby she has borrowed from its mum. DePlancy
Witch rides through the starlit sky on her broomstick carrying a baby she has borrowed from its mum. DePlancy
Witch rides through the starlit sky on her goat carrying a baby she has borrowed from its mum. DePlancy
Witch rides through the starlit sky on her goat carrying a baby she has borrowed from its mum. DePlancy
Witchcraft. Teniers (1632)
Witchcraft. Teniers (1632)

Witches & Devils

These pictures depict the witches in action, according to those "in the know". Looking through them you see the caricatures of a witch:

old & ugly

black cat familiar

moles on her face, and other locations on the body

flying on a broom

stealing children

cavorting with the Devil and his minions

Visions portrayed to instill fear in the populace. And none of them being true. Well, I am sure there were some old & ugly women, but were they witches? I seriously doubt it!

These depictions are strictly Christian in origin and completely false. They were used in newspapers and other printed publications to instill fear so neighbor would turn on neighbor for even the smallest problem. Rather than blaming a cow's death on disease, it just had to be the old woman at the end of town. You know, the old, ugly one that talks to herself and has that horrible black cat!

Looking at some of those supposed Sabbat pictures, personally I think they look like they're having fun! At least they're having a party and not sitting stiff and uncomfortably on a wooden bench in a dank building listening to some old codger yell & scream about fire & brimstone and everyone is going to hell unless they repent!

Tortures 1 - Print Drawings

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Nipple pincers.Spiked boots.Hanging by the wrists.Fire torture.Burned at the stake.Hanging.Torture chamber.Feet burning while in stocks.Anal torture.Pushing off a bridge while bound.
Nipple pincers.
Nipple pincers.
Spiked boots.
Spiked boots.
Hanging by the wrists.
Hanging by the wrists.
Fire torture.
Fire torture.
Burned at the stake.
Burned at the stake.
Hanging.
Hanging.
Torture chamber.
Torture chamber.
Feet burning while in stocks.
Feet burning while in stocks.
Anal torture.
Anal torture.
Pushing off a bridge while bound.
Pushing off a bridge while bound.

Tortures 2 - Print Drawings

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Crate dunking.Sawing in half.Compression band.Chair dunking.Arm dislocation by hanging from wrists tied behind back.Torture devices.The rack.Water torture.
Crate dunking.
Crate dunking.
Sawing in half.
Sawing in half.
Compression band.
Compression band.
Chair dunking.
Chair dunking.
Arm dislocation by hanging from wrists tied behind back.
Arm dislocation by hanging from wrists tied behind back.
Torture devices.
Torture devices.
The rack.
The rack.
Water torture.
Water torture.

Tortures

Honestly, I don't even want to dignify these pictures with anything other than total and complete disgust. It is just not something my head wants to wrap around that any human can be so unbelievably horrible to another. Who even THINKS of these things - and then considers themselves to be a "normal" human being?! I want to wish on them that which they imposed on others, but that would mean someone else would have to lower themselves to their level, and that is unacceptable. The circle must end somewhere. I'm glad that most of the world has grown far above & beyond this level of contemptible behavior.

There is hope!

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      PinoyWitch 12 months ago

      Hey, I really enjoyed reading through your blog here which kind of makes me wanna post my own insights. I just wanna say that I completely agree with you, and that poem from an unknown source is really interesting. I personally consider myself a witch as well..not the kind that conjures spirits and cast spells., although I have tried that when I was a teenager. lol. I mostly express my passion for witchcraft mainly in art now. I'm learning to read tarot cards and designed my own unfinished deck. When I was a kid, maybe ten years old, I remember writing the word Witch on multiple edifices in our house..I even painted a picture of tortured witches on a cardboard once but that got lost in time. Since Halloween is fast approaching, I am terribly busy making various home decors including a witch/pagan astrology wheel and my own version of the Malum box from the Salem tv series. I think I might have been a witch in a past life.

    • RubyRavn LM profile image
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      RubyRavn LM 4 years ago

      @Tom Maybrier: Thank you! Glad you found it useful.

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 4 years ago

      Amazing lens! Just what I was looking for!