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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Shadow of Samhain: Witches and Halloween

This time I bring you the one and only Amanda Norman, UK photographer and writer extraordinaire, who is responsible for the The Vault's current outstanding banner. Amanda has chosen to explore the connection between witches and Halloween, a subject I understand will be explored further as the Shadow of Samhain series progresses....

I have been fascinated by witches and Halloween for as long as I can remember.

When I was a teenager, I was informed by my mother that we are descendants of Old Chattox, aka Anne Whittle who was tried and hung for witchcraft at Lancaster Castle, Lancashire, UK in 1612.

Better known as ‘The Pendle Witches’ due to them living in or around Pendle Hill in Lancashire, Old Chattox was head of one of the two families accused, the other being Old Demdyke and her family. The two families hated each other as it was believed that a member of Old Chattox’s family broke into Malkin Tower, the home of the Demdykes and stole belongings.

Between the two families, they were accused of murdering ten people and they more than likely hung themselves as they saw an opportunity to get revenge by accusing each other.

How it Started

Alizon Device, granddaughter of Old Demdyke encountered a peddler and asked him for some pins. It wasn’t clear if she was begging, but the peddler refused and a couple of minutes later suffered a huge stroke that killed him. Back in the 1600’s superstition was rife and it was believed that Device cast a spell to kill the peddler. Alizon upon being questioned confessed that she had sold her soul to the Devil. Alizon’s brother James also stated that his sister had confessed to bewitching a local child. Alizon also accused Old Chattox of murdering four men by witchcraft and of killing her father John Device who had died in 1601. Her father was said to have been so frightened of Old Chattox and her powers that he had agreed to give her 8lbs of oatmeal each year in return for the safety of his family. The oatmeal was handed over each year, but stopped a year before his death and John confessed on his deathbed that his sickness had been caused by Old Chattox for him not paying protection.

Elizabeth Device when being questioned claimed that her mother, Old Demdyke, had the mark of the Devil upon her body known to you and I today as a birthmark. I have the mark of the Devil upon me, but luckily I’m living in an era where superstition and ignorance isn’t paramount.

Have you ever asked yourself why witches are associated with Halloween?

Old hags with warts on their broomsticks or stirring a cauldron are associated with Halloween, but why?

Celtic belief tells the story of the old God dying on Samhain (Halloween) and the Crone Goddess mourns his death for the next six weeks by stirring her cauldron of life for all dead souls to return.

Samhain is the celebration to mark the end of the third and final harvest and is a day to commune with and remember the dead.

Walpurgis Night is the eve of May Day, (May 1) and is often associated with witches celebrating the oncoming of Spring in Central and Northern Europe. Another connection I personally have with this is that my Mother was born on May Day. Many countries celebrate this by lighting bonfires and burning straw witches and broomsticks.

You might be asking yourself if I’m a witch.

No I’m not; I do however claim the souls of models who dare to pose for one of my dark portraits....


alesum said...

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