Monday, October 28, 2013

a lesson for ............



A Sparkling but chilly Saturday afternoon, I got all dressed up in my Halloween finery, and walked into town with the big kids. We were going to see 36 cartoons at the movie theatre, there is a grocery store's parking lot there now.  It cost 15 cents to get in, but it was free if you were in costume, and afterward prizes were handed out.  The greenfaced witch was the desirable mask, but they ran out and I got a leopard.  Kept that cheap plastic mask until it was nothing but plastic chips,  often wondered why everyone one wanted the green faced witch, I certainly did not.

The green faced witch is an image, an icon that has never sat well with me, I always felt it was a disparaging, mocking commentary, sort of like "little green men" , reptiles are green not humans, and from a very young age I knew witches were people, and nothing like the storybook or Hollywood creations.    They were like an older spinster that lived on our street, everyone called her a witch, she was always sweeping her steps and sidewalk, she had a huge black car, yes car not cat; and usually wore either black or purple clothes, that didn't fit very well and smelled of mothballs.   She was nice to me, she once rescued me after I slid down a steep embankment and got caught in an old wire fence, no easy task for a tiny woman of advanced years.  She took me to her house and put band aids on my cuts, then took me home.  


Upon seeing this  moving video and reading the poem I began to wonder what  history could tell me, though green was a color the ancient Celts associated with fairys, a fairy is not a witch.  Then what about the association with the Green Man,  often the green man was not  depicted as being green. Though I have found old, postmortem illustrations of witches with black, blue or even purplish faces, I have not found any with greenish faces.  



In the book The Wizard of Oz  the ruby slippers are silver, and the wicked witch is not green skinned.    However the green faced  witch  image is generally  attributed to Margaret Hamilton's  wicked witch character in the movie version.    The archive of Halloween postcards decor and other items,  amassed by C.J. Russel and the Halloween Queen,  editors and authors of "The Trick or Treat Trader"  no green skinned witches  appear before the 1930's,  orangeish, red and grey skinned ones do appear occasionally.   

Surely the sight of those women, who had been beaten and tortured until they were disfigured and broken, not only broken in body, but in spirit, must have been frightening.  How could these creatures have once been their neighbor, relative , friend,  the  midwife who attended the birth of their children.  Was it that it was safer for the townsfolk to convince themselves that mangled women really looked like that?  Might these same people have been in fear that they would be next?   I wonder where the images come from, the green faced witch, the ancient  witch with the huge nose, pointy chin and warts,  the ragged witch who flys across the full moon, these exaggerated representations,   all probably started with an accepted "truth". Truth in quotes, because it would be better defined as a perception.   Is it really the green skin that is so important, or is it the person, the  person who was wrongly accused tortured and  then died a horrible death.













 Every year they parade her about,
the traditional Halloween witch.
Misshapen green face,
stringy scraps of hair,
a toothless mouth
beneath her disfigured nose.

Gnarled knobby fingers twisted
into a claw protracting form,
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 say 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 horrible ways,
all created to free
and save her soul
from her depraved body.
The jeering crowds viewed the
result 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 leer 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 Witch
and hold her sacred.
I honor her courage
and listen to her warnings
of the dark side of humanity.
Each year I shed tears of respect.
Author unknown


 The following  excerpts will, I hope further explain some of the images in this video.





Helen Duncan
Duncan was found guilty as charged under the Witchcraft Act and sentenced to nine months in Holloway Prison, London, but she was cleared of the other offences. She was the last person in Britain to be jailed under the act, which was repealed in 1951 and replaced with the Fraudulent Mediums Act following a campaign by spiritualist and member of parliament Thomas Brooks.

There are two common misconceptions about Duncan's conviction. The first is that she was the last person in Britain to be convicted of being a witch. In fact, the Witchcraft Act was originally formulated to eradicate the belief in witches and its introduction meant that from 1735 onwards an individual could no longer be tried as a witch in England or Scotland. However, they could be fined or imprisoned for purporting to have the powers of a witch.

The second misconception is that she was the last person to be convicted under the Witchcraft Act. Again this is incorrect. Records show that the last person to be convicted under the Witchcraft Act was Jane Rebecca Yorke in late 1944. Due to her age (she was in her seventies) she received a comparatively lenient sentence and was fined.

Additionally, it has often been suggested that the reason for Duncan's imprisonment was the authorities' fear that details of the imminent D-Day landings might be revealed, and given the revelation about the Barham it is clear to see why the medium might be considered a potential risk. Nonetheless, then prime minister Winston Churchill wrote to the home secretary branding the charge 'obsolete tomfoolery'.
~~bbc.co.uk
 
 
 
Friday, 29 October, 2004, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
           
Town pardons executed 'witches'


Dozens of "witches" executed in a Scottish town more than 200 years ago are to be pardoned to mark Halloween.Prestonpans, in East Lothian, will grant the pardons under ancient feudal powers which are about to disappear.Descendants and namesakes of the 81 people executed are expected to attend Sunday's ceremony.More than 3,500 Scots, mainly women, were executed during the Reformation, for crimes such as owning a black cat and brewing up home-made remedies.The atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion reached its peak under the rule of King James VI - later King James I of England.On Sunday evening, 81 pardons, secured in the Prestoungrange Baronial Court on 27 July this year, will be publicly declared and a wreath laid at a specially-commissioned plaque.



Roy Pugh
It will recognise the crimes that were perpetrated against these people
Roy Pugh
Historian
Local historian Roy Pugh, who helped secure the pardons by presenting evidence to the court, will make the declaration in what he described as a "simple and solemn" ceremony.He said: "It will recognise the crimes that were perpetrated against these people."It's too late to apologise but it's a sort of symbolic recognition that these people were put to death for hysterical ignorance and paranoia."


 
 


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