Witchcraft in Literature Research Paper
My earliest memory of a witch comes from the book Little Witch’s Big Night by Deborah Hautzig. I was a five-year-old learning about a little witch named Illus and how she aspired to be like the big witches surrounding her. As I sat in bed, my mom would read Illus’s Halloween adventure out loud and pause to point at the little illustrations of her, her family, and her friends. I saw children dressed up in astronaut suits and pirate hats, an adorable pet bat, and Illus riding her broom in the sky. While many of my Kindergarten friends characterized witches as ugly green creatures with magical powers, I thought of them as regular people that could fly on brooms and chant words into cauldrons. Although their fashion senses could be better, I wanted to have their fascinating magical powers. So, I decided to dress up as the stereotypical pointy black hat witch for Halloween. Even though I could not cast spells, I felt content being unique and having my own Halloween adventure. From that book, I grew to believe that aside from a broom and spells, humans and witches were the same.
After researching witches from Witchcraft during the Middle Ages and Witchcraft: In European Traditions, I realize that my childhood perception of these magical humans was not shared in European history. Rather than other people accepting their rare qualities, they were tormented and bashed for being different. Although there were many variations of early European legends about witches, most stories incorporated religion and a form of an eccentric power. Witches were known as sinful human beings who helped the devil by bargaining with someone’s life (English). Also, they were usually characterized as women or villagers that could cure diseases. Villagers often assumed that women were sexual temptations and village healers were guile. These witches were frequently grouped with other supernatural beings such as shapeshifters, trolls, and elves (O’Neil). My original idea of a black pointy hat and flying broom was very different from the reality of the past. Since their abnormal traits caused others to be afraid, they were persecuted and hunted down. Along with these acts of hatred, a witch was associated with negative adjectives such as “evil” and “hostile”. In contrast to popular belief, witches were like any other human being but gifted with magical powers. Even though they were characterized as unholy women in the fifth century, there has never been evidence to show that they were harmful people.
The image of The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy attracted me because it included vivid details of the witches. This watercolor created by William Blake depicts three witches crouched together and many animals around them. The information about witches as sexual temptations matches the painting because the black cloth only covers the front witch. I find it interesting how the color black is commonly related to witches because they were not pure. An observation I have made is the three witches in Macbeth Act one and the three in the painting are all positioned so they are connected. This physical connection may create a spiritual unity to complete a potion. As the two witches in the back look down, the other witch has her finger pointed at a book. The witch’s stare guides the viewers to the animals as if she is ready to bring them into the magical concoction. The artist was able to successfully capture the significant details of the animals by creating pointy bat wings and realistic owl eyes. Through my research and viewing this wonderful painting, I have learned more about witches in Europe. Their physical appearance may be different, but I will always think of witches as some of the most fascinating humans.