Oh good … another one that I already do on a regular basis.
Today’s assignment: publish a post inspired your post from Day 19, and publicize it on one or more of your social networks.
I should have some kind of mantra: I will be positive; I will be positive; I will be positive.
Firstly, I already Publicise the hell out of my posts – Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ – so that’s nothing new. However, yet another example of not dismissing things out of hand was forthcoming: I didn’t know you could edit the message that did the publicising. So there’s the learning.
My post from Day 19 was The Witch Tree. It garnered one comment and 10 Likes. I also feel that its fairly self-explanatory as an image – black and white, winter imagery, creepy-looking tree – even if the composition could have been a little better!
One that that struck me – even as I was titling the picture and the post – is my use of the word ‘witch’ here, deliberately evoking a sense of nursery room fear. “Don’t go near the witch tree – it’ll steal your soul.”
The etymology of the word ‘witch’ is quite interesting. According to Wikipedia (i.e. obviously true), the word “derives from the Old English nouns wicca “sorcerer, male witch” and wicce “sorceress, female witch”. The word’s further origins in Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European are unclear. It has no clear cognates in Germanic outside of English and Low German, and there are numerous possibilities for the Indo-European root from which it may have been derived.” The Oxford English Dictionary itself states that it is “of obscure origin”.
The Old English plural form for both the masculine and feminine nouns was wiccan (“witches”) and wiccecræft was “witchcraft”. The earliest recorded use of the word is in the Laws of Ælfred, which date to about 890:
Tha faemnan, the gewuniath onfon gealdorcraeftigan and scinlaecan and wiccan, ne laet thu tha libban.
Women who are accustomed to receiving enchanters and sorceresses and witches, do not let them live!
However, its not the historical persecution of witches that interests me (well, it does, but not in the context of this post), but the way that witches are portrayed in Western culture.
You have two main versions:
- Old ‘hag’ or ‘crone’ – complete with warts, pointed black hat and broomstick
- Alluring and beguiling young lady – a sexual predator
Both of which were created by men to – as I mentioned earlier – demonise the nefarious power of women and how they are to be hated and – at the heart of it – feared. Don’t get me started on castration anxiety.
Male practitioners of magic? Wizards and warlocks. (Interestingly, the etymology of ‘wizard’ is from ‘wise’, but the word ‘warlock’ seems to have a meaning closer to “oath-breaker”.) Presented as powerful beings in their own right, dominating and full of wisdom.
Okay, I’m running out of steam here. Not that I have no more to say on the representation of women in popular culture – in fact, quite the reverse is true – but I run the risk of running my mouth off and providing a soap box for my own oratory. And I don’t want that.
However, I am interested in your views on this.
And I’m kind of sorry that I titled my photo ‘ The Witch Tree’.