Witches took the poll! So we'll start Hallo-week posts with witches.
Witches are a favorite subject of mine; the period of history I study features the witch hunting craze in Europe and North America as well as the shift from spiritual to scientific with the rise of the Enlightenment.
Witches have a traumatic history. Much maligned and misunderstood, the persecution of witches was a means to suppress female sites of power while consolidated that of patriarchal religious institutions.
Though accused of consorting with the devil and other demonic spirits, witchcraft is actually a means of channeling natural spirits, of working with the earth to produce desired effects. Of course, like any form of power, witchcraft can be abused; thus the Wiccan mantra 'and harm ye none,' as well as the rule of returns - anything sent out into the world will return to the witch three fold.
Since scary witches capture the public eye more easily than benevolent ones, Hollywood has done its part to reinforce the idea that witches are in league with evil forces (okay, okay I have to confess now there are bad witches in my book - but there are good witches too!!) but there are still places in the world where witches are revered and not reviled.
When I visited Bavaria (my father-in-law's home), I was struck by the witches that were everywhere. Effigies of women with brooms, cauldrons, in flight, sat in store windows, hung in kitchens and living rooms. When I inquired about this abundance of witches I was told that in Bavarian lore witches are benevolent women, guardians of the home. To have images of witches in your house brings luck.
As much as historical witches interest me, I'm still a sucker for the Hollywood variety. Particularly the angsty teen ilk. So here are two of my Halloween picks: boarding schools, romance, witchcraft? Yes, please. (And both feature good and bad witches...ahem.)