Let Them Be Scared: Häxan and The Witch

 

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OK OK.   Hollywood has done it again.   This Friday Feb. 19th marks the opening of Robert Eggers’ new horror flick, The Witch.  Judging from the trailers, this movie will apparently be another  ‘thriller’ about those evil  women who  fucked goats and terrorized New England towns.

 Watch The Witch trailer here:

As I have stated in other blogs, the origin of the scary-old-ugly –baby-eating-cauldron-boiling-genital mutilating-witch  (yes, all that!)  was first promoted in books like  Malleus Malificarim (The Witches’ Hammer) and Daemonology.

Lancashire Witches 1612 Public Domain

 The former –  Malleus Malificarum – was  written as a witch hunting manual by (you guessed it!)  church people.   Namely, two monks;  Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger.   Kramer and Sprenger were monks of the Catholic Dominican Order. (Apparently they never took the vow of poverty, as their book became a best seller, hot off the Gutenberg press.)   These two also happened to be Inquisitors for the Pope.  We know of course that NO ONE expects the Spanish Inquisition 🙂  but neither  did anyone expect the German Inquisition, which, in the 15th century was just as bad. The Burning Times of the 15th – 17th centuries were indeed akin to Nazi death camps.

The second most popular anti-witch promo book was written by King James I of England.  Daemonology  was a detailed study of the dangerous practices of witches. Apparently the king was an expert on this.  For more information on James and his book, please see my blog ‘Shakespeare and the Witches’.

And then of course there were the good old Salem Witch Trials, a devastating scar on America’s back which ended in the hanging deaths of nineteen innocent people and the jailing of hundreds.  Not to mention Giles Corey, a stubborn man who, upon never declaring his guilt, was crushed to death with boulders.

But back to Hollywood.   After all these centuries, they apparently still  cannot shake this image of the evil  witch.  Ah, quite alluring, isn’t it?  Not only the scary old hag casting a hex, but also the young beautiful vixen who may invade a man’s bed at night, forcing herself upon him.   Against his will of course.   Don’t laugh.  Bridget Bishop of Salem proper was actually accused of this.

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Maybe some of the medieval witches actually WERE a bit evil.  I’d be evil if they came after me with a stick and a stake.  I’d be evil if they jailed me, took away my land and then made ME pay for my own room and board. This was, of course, in the luxurious rat infested cell, where women enjoyed sumptuous meals of brack-water and moldy bread, while they awaited an unfair trial.  Yes.  That was Colonial law in 1692.  Prisoners paid their own room and board.

I am neither promoting nor panning ‘The Witch’ movie,  having not seen it myself.  However, if you are in the mood for some good campy (and free!) entertainment, be sure to check out ‘Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages’.  This is a silent film made in 1922.  You can decide for yourself the film’s intent, although I suspect it was to suggest the ridiculousness of witch persecutions.  Watch the entire movie here:

 

To further embrace your dark side:

 

Also, an interesting interview with director  Robert Eggers can be found here.

 

 

   

“Familiars, of course, do the dirty work.  We just command them.”

a Jasper 1

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4 comments on “Let Them Be Scared: Häxan and The Witch

  1. This is exceedingly true. Those of ignorant mind will always fear what they don’t understand. If this tragedy had not occured and Witchcraft as well as other magicks had been allowed to mature in the public eye and impart their understanding of the human connection to more than just the material world, we might have been living in a new Age of Enlightenment. But we can still hope for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. theword36 says:

    I initially found you when I was trying to write a bit of a tale about witches. I’ve always loved the witches plot line ever since I was a boy and found that television show Charmed. Halloween is probably my favorite holiday and Im right here in New England so obviously it’s big stuff. Once I started looking further into the whole evil witch thing though I began to see it was or at lest seemed to be somewhat unique to English / German Protestant culture. I really think that Catholics …do not have the same view of women …as the English cultures do. They even say that the worship of the Madonna figure in Italian/Spanish culture is indicative of the fact that the Catholic cultures never really gave up “pagan worship” of old women goddesses. I honesty stand by the belief That women in Latin cultures have it better in a way. But when you look at the English coin you see it got a little …weird. Granted I still love a good “evil witch ” story, I think this plot line has been hardly touched the right way in films. There is a lot more they could do with it IMHO . But something is definitely off..,

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is true that Catholic culture was, at one point, more ‘witch friendly’ than Protestant religions, but also the Spanish Inquisition did a good deal of witch burning! But Catholics do have a goddess worship of sorts… And Catholics have much in common with Pagan religions, due to the meshing of cultures during the forced conversions.

      Disclaimer — when I wrote this essay I had not yet seen the film — and I actually liked the film a lot, for what is was intended — as a good scary witch tale. (I even wrote a review on it.) I realize now that there will be no changing of this stereotype in the near future, so I may as well embrace it 🙂 The scary witch can be powerful too.

      Like

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