A Coven of Witches
Will and Guy's selection of witch jokes, stories and funny pictures. Our research reveals a strange mixture of ancient and modern folklore. We also have witch stories with a grain of truth contrasting with Wicca myths that have no substance.
Did you know that a coven of witches, means a gathering of 13 witches. Unfortunately, for some of us, a coven of witches can gather not just at Halloween, but at any time of the year. Wife, mother-in-law, sister, niece, aunties, .... hmm that's a lot of witch power.
English has many nouns which apply to either gender for example, child, spy, or even angel. Originally witch was one of these neutral nouns, but increasingly, witch is a female preserve, and the equivalent male word became warlock.
There are other older words for witch, and they do have gender specific endings, wicca (male) and wicce (female). Curiously, the plural of wicca and wicce is wiccan.
The oldest pre-Christian meaning for wicce and wicca includes fortune-teller as well as creator of sorcery, medicine and black magic. As with many ancient cults, most of the wiccan secrets were passed on by word of mouth. Then just when information started to be written down, witches were literally hunted down and killed, thus not much incentive for them to write things down! Indeed, the 't' first appears in the word wiTch in reference to witch hunts in the 16th century.
Another Anglo-Saxon documents have the spelling as 'Wica'. Many Saxon tribes had a 'wise man' or a 'wise woman', who were consulted for potions to cure illnesses. It was a natural development of human nature to produce magic potions, which may (or may not) act as love charms, or spells to satisfy peoples' desires.
13 Witch Jokes (One for each member of the coven)
Mum's a Witch
I think my Mum's a witch
Kindly sent in by Alicia Moss
Here is a true story; the Pendle Witches actually existed back in England in 1612. The coven of thirteen Pendle witches even have names: Magaret Pearson, Elizabeth Southerns, Jennet Preston, Alizon Device, Elizabeth Device, James Device, Anne Whittle, alias Chattox, Anne Redferne, Alice Nutter, Katherine Hewitt, John Bulcock, Jane Bulcock and Isobel Robey.
The Pendle Witches' modus operandi was to create an effigy of the victim, often out of clay. They stuck pins in the effigy, and then burnt it. The witches believed this would cause the victim to fall ill and die. More importantly, the subject of their witchcraft also believed in the power of the 'picture of clay'.
At least 9 of the Pendle coven were hanged at the jail in Lancaster, England in 1612. But before the women were hanged their accusers obtained confessions. Here is an enlightening extract of how the coven of witches went about their evil trade in witchcraft.
Anne Whittle, alias Chattox sayth, that one Robert Nutter, late of the Greene-head in Pendle, was bewitched by this examinate, the said Demdike, and widdow Lomshawe, (late of Burnley) now deceased. And she further sayth, that the said Demdike shewed her, that she had bewitched to death, Richard Ashton.
Bloody Liz - Summon the Spirits
For this legend to work you need a darkened room with a big mirror. When you are sitting comfortably light a candle, look into the mirror and chant 'Bloody Liz' 13 times. (The number of witches in a coven.) As you chant 'Bloody Liz' for the 13th time over your left shoulder you will see a dark figure in a cloak.
Note 1: There were two 'Lizes', or Elizabeth's, amongst the coven of Pendle Witches.
Note 2: Modern versions of the summons of the spirits use 'Bloody Mary' instead of 'Bloody Liz'.
The bare facts are these, from June to September of 1692, nineteen witches were hanged at the aptly named Gallows Hill, near Salem in Massachusetts. 13 of those hung were women, coincidentally 13 is the number of witches in a coven. The other 6 were men, but do remember that at this time men were called witches rather than warlocks.
Let us bear in mind that the Witchcraft trial took place against a back-drop of 17th century Puritanism. What happened was that 6-year-old Betty Parris became ill in Salem. There is speculation that she was poisoned by bread containing a fungus called ergot of rye.
Tituba, an Indian slave was a central figure in the saga. Following pressure at her trial, Tibuta told tales of Satan instructing her to do his work. At this distance, one has to speculate on whether there was a language barrier here, did Tituba speak in English, or were her words translated from a Native American dialect? The upshot of Tituba's sensational confession was that the voices of those seeking to play down the affair were drowned by those who thirsted after a good old Puritanical witch hunt.
A feature of the Salem Witchcraft Trials is how ordinary(ish) actions could be attributed to witchcraft if that was what was in the accuser's mind. Once they rounded up a few likely suspects, frail old women who liked to drink and acted strangely, there was no holding the hunt for witches. In four separate hanging parties, 19 men and women were sent to the gallows between June and September 1692.
It surprised me to learn that over 30 more suspects were rounded up and tried for witchcraft, but these 30 were acquitted, thus the Massachusetts Puritans seem to be true to their beliefs - even if those beliefs were flawed as judged by history.
South of Utrecht in Holland is the infamous town of Oudewater, where some of the world's strangest witch trials were held in the late 1500's. The accused women 'were weighed on scales in the Heksenwaag (Witches' Weigh House), Leeuweringerstraat 2, to determine whether or not they were witches' (Frommers). Why? Because it was widely believed at the time that witches had no souls and weighed nothing, thus they could fly on brooms through the air effortlessly. If you visit this town today you can be weighed and receive a certificate (if you weigh enough) that states you are Not a witch!
Evesham Witches 1410
Afterwards, perhaps one of these ladies, wishing to get some spite against one of the gentlemen, will ride away in a heavy riding-cloak, the hood over her head and a peaked hat on that, and she will call upon a witch. The witch will answer the rapping at her humble door, and will come out, dressed in a country dress - just an ill-fitting gown and hood, with some attempt at classical ornament on the gown, or a cloak sewn with the sacred initials thrown over her back. These two will bargain awhile for the price of a leaden image to be made in the likeness of the ill-fated gentleman, or, rather, a rough figure, on which his name will be scratched; then the puppet will be cast into the fire and melted while certain evil charms are spoken, and the malicious accident required to befall him will be spoken aloud for the Devil's private ear.
Possibly some woman sought a witch near Evesham, England in the year 1410, and bought certain intentions against a tailor of that place, Badby by name; for this much is certain: that the tailor was burnt for Lollardy ten years after the first victim for Lollard heresy, William Sawtre.
Modern Day Witches and Witchcraft in India
Will and Guy were horrified to learn that witchcraft is still practiced in India in the 21st century. What seems to happen is that when disaster strikes, as it often does, there is something in the human nature that wants to blame someone. In 'civilised' societies the finger of blame is usually, and often rightly, pointed at a politician. However, in rural and 'uncivilised' areas of India and Africa, people vent their anger at an aged crone. As a result elderly, helpless and often friendless woman are accused of witchcraft and held responsible for all manner of local tragedies.
Unfortunately blame and finger pointing escalates into attach and even murder of the poor unfortunate old woman. In 2008 one attack in Assam resulted in two 'witches' being killed, beheaded and their skulls paraded in the streets. In a neighbouring area other 'witches' were stoned and buried alive for cursing someone who was a friend of the village chief.
As ever the way forward is education. And this is why the syllabus for Indian schools has been altered to change perceptions of witch-hunts. One surprising argument is that witch-hunts are little more than a justification for culling the older women because they can no longer bring anything to the community. This is why the same study proposes that old women should be given bigger pensions because would make them valuable to their families thus they would protect rather than persecute old women.
The significance of a witches broomstick, or should it be witches' broomsticks, is a fusion of several ideas.
More on Witches Broomsticks
While witches traditionally ride broomsticks, the male equivalent, warlocks, ride pitchforks.
The raw material for fashioning broomsticks is witch-hazel. Witches prefer besom brooms with their circular arrangement of bristles. Modern brooms with their flat alignment of bristles maybe good for sweeping leaves, but they are no good for witchcraft.
Did you Know?
Harry Potter preferred the Quidditch to the traditional witches broomstick.
In Holland a witch was allowed to declare her broomstick as a tax deductable item.
While waiting for my wife, Paula, at the checkout at Waitrose supermarket in Marmion Road, Southsea, I noticed that someone had left behind a broom. When no one came back in looking for it, I nipped outside to search for a couple I remembered seeing at the cashier's desk. I spotted them getting into their car and hurried over.
'Excuse me,' I said to the young woman, 'but did you by any chance leave a broom inside?'
'No,' she replied quickly and with a winning smile, 'we came by car.'
A Witch's Familiar
Explaining a witch's 'Familiar' is a complex topic. It can mean an assistant, who could help the witch by keeping a lookout, and give warnings of interlopers. A familiar can also mean an alter ego that a witch could change into and thus move around un-detected. In both of these roles you could think of familiars as evil spirits.
Cats, particularly black cats, are the most form of a witch's familiar. However, they could be other animals such as toads, owls or even mice. The uglier the beast the more suitable is to be a familiar. See more on Halloween cats.
Top 10 Famous Witches (Plus three to complete the coven)
Wookey* Hole, a cave near Wells in Somerset, England needed a new witch. The Cottle family, who own the cave advertised for a witch. Over 3,000 witches applied, but it was Carole Bohanan who got the job and from now on the she will be known as Carla Calamity, the Witch of Wookey Hole.
The broomstick was passed by Jane Brenner, Wookey's witch for the past six years. Mrs Brenner said: "We didn't want anyone who would scare the children. We wanted a good witch to meet and greet people and act as an ambassador for the attraction. This isn't just a cushy job." The contenders were whittled down from 300 to a final 15 who included a photographer, a dive master, an aromatherapist, a local journalist, a tattooist and a stonemason.
John Turner, another of the judges, was understandably nervous at the consequences of failing to pick the right candidate. He said: "One candidate is carrying around a bottle of her own urine. She drank half of it before we could stop her."
The original witch of Wookey Hole was an old woman who lived in the caves with only a goat for company. According to legend the she was turned to stone with a splash of holy water after a monk from Glastonbury came to investigate complaints that she was casting spells on farm animals.
* Guy thought that Wookey meant witch, but no he is wrong. Some locals say that Wookey means a trap, while others claim that it's an old word for a cave.
Shakespeare's Macbeth - The Witches' Caldron
newt, and toe of frog,
'For a charm of powerful trouble,
'Double, double, toil and trouble,
Witches at Halloween
Halloween is the witches favourite time of year. On the night of Samhain, 31st October, witches gather in their coven. The purpose of this meeting is to weave spells; for examples witches cast spells to sever sour relationships and end bad situations. If possible witches should create such destructive spells during the waning phase of the moon.
While the three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth were concerned with predicting the future (Double, double toil and trouble). At Halloween, a coven of witches traditionally focuses their attention on the spirits of the dead. Indeed, this is where the black cat comes into the legend, for it is believed that a witch can turn into a black cat and thus freely enter the spirit world.
Witches use the powers of the waxing moon to improve the efficacy of good luck spells. For example, they use white candles for positive energy and green candles for healing. Here is a witches spell to cure nightmares: repeat this incantation 13 times:
'Red leaves, gift from earth,
Here is a famous witches poem - The Witching Hour by John Keats
Tis the witching hour of night,
Unfortunately, we have not been able to get a copy or a transcript of the Film Featuring a Coven of Witches.
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See more funny Halloween jokes, also clean pumpkin jokes