Friday, 31 October 2014

HALLOWEEN AND `WITCHES` - AN HISTORICAL CELEBRATION OF THE ABUSE OF WOMEN?

How Hopkins was perceived in the
17th century

It was interesting to read in a post on a social media site that in the eyes of this writer, a devoutly religious person,  that Halloween represents a debasement of society, and encourages people to `worship evil`.

Obviously the true meaning of what Halloween actually represents, has certainly evolved from a pagan Celtic harvest festival to a social celebration that is often epitomised with representations of witches and other characterisations of the horror genre, but traditionally in modern folklore, it is witches that take the centre stage.

Trial by water - a favourite of Hopkins.
 If they survived tthey were guilty, and
if they drowned they were innocent.
I certainly do not see Halloween as the slightest celebration of `evil`, but if truth be known it could be argued to be a celebration of the abuse of women in history.

Within this context, we must look back essentially to 17th century Britain, and the works of the likes of Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled, `Witchfinder General`, who persecuted, raped, abused and murdered innocent women whom he and his supporters `outed` as witches.

Mostly these victims were the pilloried excuses of `religious folk`, for all the ill`s and wrongs in their daily lives.  Examples being poor crops for the farmer, or sick cattle for the dairyman who were `hexed` by devil worshippers.

A typical 17th century `witch`
Medical knowledge and general hygiene was still largely trapped in the late Medieval period, and any general understanding of the spread of diseases were still many years distant in the future.

So many odd,,old, or crippled women, (and many of whom were herbalists), were deigned to be in liaison with the Devil and by proxy, were responsible.

The Puritans, who also emigrated to America, were very much caught up in the consummate belief that Satan was responsible for all social ills, and that these women were the `daughters of the devil`, and they sent many to an early grave on the charges trumped up by Hopkins and his acolytes.
A 17th century `help guide`
to identifying a witch

The signs of the witch, he declared, were easy to see.
Many of these victims were poor, unwashed
 people, who developed carbuncles, warts, and facial sores, which were caused by poor health and  low cleanliness. These were the signs of evil, he observed.

 Even today these maladies are depicted in most characterisations of witches at Halloween. And these helped Hopkins and his supporters pick out these women for torture , confessions, and later murder.

Sometimes Hopkins for his own pleasure would identify attractive young women as `witches`, and without anyone to stand against him, he would rape them and have them later disposed of as witches after they `confessed` to these false allegations under torture.

It wasn`t until he was eventually confronted by a brave Yorkshire priest, that his reign of terror was finally broken.

But the damage sadly had been done. Hopkins work was later adopted by the new American colonies, and the same cycle of outing and death was to repeat itself once more.

So one must consider my earlier point. By adopting witches into Halloween, are we de facto,  celebrating the abuse and debasement of women?  To reiterate, I personally do not see this as such, but merely offering an alternative view of a dark chapter of British and American history


Story: Chris Halton

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