Monday, July 5, 2010


 Oct. 23, 2009 Sharon Falsetto

   The witch is a symbol of Halloween , yet many people do not know the legends and folklore associated with broomsticks and why witches are green.
   Just as the pumpkin and haunted hotels are synonymous with Halloween, so is the witch.  There are many myths, legends and folklore associated with the popular Halloween witch and it is difficult to determine exactly how the common Halloween image of the witch evolved.  However, many legends surrounding witches appear to date back to Medieval times.
   Witches were persecuted for several centuries before a series of Witchcraft Acts (1541-1735) of Medieval Europe spurred an even greater fear of witches.  Fact or fiction, many tales abound concerning the images and practices of Medieval witches.  Today, the Halloween witch is depicted as a green, ugly, old lady who owns a black cat and rides a broomstick.
   Witches are famously depicted as green; the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz is immortalized in the color of green.  Witches may be green due to the brutal beatings witches received in the Medieval witch hunts; usually, old, unattractive women were victimized in the role of the witch although sometimes young women or men were targeted too.
   Witches were beaten to "confess" their evil magic and dragged through the streets with  green, blue, and black bruises on their faces from their beatings.  In addition, Medieval witches often had teeth knocked out and their hair was in wild disarray from the beatings, leading to the popular image of the witch today.

   Brooms were common household objects in Medieval Europe and many peasants used them.  There were a number of plants available which had hallucinogenic properties; one such plant was Belladonna and it is said that, when combined with Wolfsbane, the hallucinogenic properties convinced witches that they could fly.  Belladonna and Wolfsbane have often been associated with magic and used in fictional tales. 
   Another theory is that witches cleaned their broomstick with a potion made from many of the different hallucinogenic herbs available and witches "rode" their broomstick as a way to rub in the potion.  However their is no conclusive evidence from Medieval times to support the theories of witches riding or flying broomsticks.