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Witches' Night Out
“By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks, Whoever knocks!”
~ MacBeth, William Shakespeare, (c. 1603-1607)
If that old black magic has you in its spell, there may be a bell, book, candle, and a witch nearby! But not all magic is "black magic" and many self-designated or accused witches were just as likely to practice beneficial forms witchcraft or be skilled in healing practices or early herbalism. Though all the terms (and spellings) are controversial, for those who practice the art of "magick" (defined as "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will"), there is "black magic", "white, magic", and even "grey magic"! Strixology, a genre of writing about the reality and dangers of witches, their origins, character and power, derives from the Latin word strix and can mean both "screech-owl" or "witch" and was an area of study used to both persecute witches in medieval times and as a basis for refutation of their dangers centuries later. From these early writings we get our current ideas of witchy trappings and accessories such as the black cat, broom and cauldron, and the ubiquitous black witch hat! Regarding brooms, whereas we now associate the idea of witches riding their broom with handle facing forward, it was more typical up through the early 20th century, to find illustrations and whimsical postcards of witches riding their broom "in reverse," with the brush facing forward! Regardless of her conception of aerodynamics, don't begrudge the good witch in your life a Girls' Night Out! 🧙♀️🧹🖤
Historically, the distinction between ancient traditions, rituals, superstitions, and the practice of magic has been intertwined. Many practices and traditions that were common depended upon a belief in magic.
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts, who lived over 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1, a day marking the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. The Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.
Witches have their origins in these ancient times and were believed to have special access to the mysteries of the spirit world, especially during the liminal times of the Samhain season. They were often healers with knowledge of the practices of natural medicines as well as the keepers of the community rituals.
However, over time the status of these healers deteriorated and their special knowledge and practices turned them into targets of suspicion and persecution. Deemed by the early Church to be cohorts of the devil, witches were said to employ spells and charms to bring harm to good men and women, a practice known as "black magic," the use of supernatural power or magic for evil and selfish purposes.
Designed by Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan combines the seasonal colors of harvest time with a dark overlay of an unseen magical menace for this Hallowe'en season.
Click the dark jack-o-lanterns for more depictions of magic in pre-Raphaelite art.