The Odd, Winding Record of the Witch Hat

There are few matters more legendary at Halloween time than the typical image of a witch. With her environmentally friendly pores and skin, broom, and large-brimmed conical hat, the Witch is an icon. Now we have talked previously this thirty day period about how witches “flew”, but how did that extremely unique hat come to be associated with magical females, specially the form that like to get a bit wicked?

As with a lot of components of the witch as she’s recognized in pop culture, and certainly a lot of elements of magic itself, the story is difficult and has a large amount far more to do with prejudice and persecution than it does with magic and the mystical. (No, the conical despise is not a symbol of a cone of power, sorry Wiccans.) The story of the witch’s conical hat, is, like so lots of tales of the witch, a tale of feminine electrical power and fear.

But it is also a tale about manner, which is why this modern video clip of gown historian Abby Cox is such a terrific exploration of the subject matter. And she busts a several of the large myths about the Witch’s hat right off the back. Nope, it’s not about alewives! Sorry, terrible Wikipedia post! at?v=6Da0pwR-woE

The origin tale for the witch’s hat that I have witnessed very generally myself, and which Cox refutes, is that it is derived from the Judenhat The Judenhat was a person of several sartorial markers that were being expected to be worn by Jews commencing in the middle ages. In 1215 the fourth Lateran Council required all Jews to use the Judenhat or horned skull cap and centuries afterwards this turned a characteristic of several anti-Semitic tropes and beliefs. And yes, because Jews, like witches, were being (wrongly) connected with the devil and enjoyment stuff like murdering youngsters, the Judenhat grew to become associated with sorcery.

But which is not very the exact same hat as a witch’s hat, and the Judenhat is additional rightly connected with sorcery (and therefore men). What about the witch with her incredibly unique hat? For one, that graphic is hugely related with the impression of the witch in England and thus came to signify her in the anglophone world even to this day. And so the image of the witch’s hat is tied in with English trend and English prejudices … and also oatmeal.

I’m speaking of course about Quakers. The Quakers, or Culture of Mates, have been (and continue to are!) a religious group that grew to prominence and infamy in the 1600s in England. George Fox launched the culture pursuing the English Civil war and their belief in strategies like women’s equality, that God was seasoned right and that persons have been not inherently sinful got them a great deal of attention and pushback. As Cox explains, they had been viewed as evil, heretical, and … incredibly horny? Oh yeah. And all all those issues matched with what England by now imagined of witches, who had been staying hunted relentlessly in the mid 17th century as properly.

At the same time as the Quakers have been getting publicity, they ended up adopting the fashions of the working day and their possess distinctive looks. And that associated … tall, black, conical hats with huge brims. As you can see in this portray of a Quaker meeting in the 1670s.

van Heemskerck II, Egbert, 1634/1635-1704; A Quaker Meeting

Look at that girl speaking publicly! About God and the scriptures. Naturally a witch! This portray from 1675 also demonstrates a girl with a witchy wanting chapeau, but once more, it was the fashion of the working day. It’s just what you have been for a portrait with your grandkids.

Portrait of Mrs Salesbury with her Grandchildren Edward and Elizabeth Bagot 1675-6 John Michael Wright 1617-1694 Presented by the Patrons of British Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation 1993

As Cox notes, the prejudice versus Quakers, and especially Quaker girls, was widespread in England, and it coincided with the witch not just getting a target of prosecution and persecutions in the 17th century but also with the witch getting to be a preferred determine. This also may perhaps have been genuine in The us, where by Quakers ended up also persecuted (does any person else keep in mind the Quaker lady accused of witchcraft in the YA novel The Witch of Blackbird Pond?). As the quaker hats grew additional out of model, as associated with yet another age, they remained affiliated with witches.

The initial witch we see depicted with her well known pointy hat is from this woodcut, date to close to 1720, extensive after the quaker hats were out of fashion.

woodcut of witches flying and the devil

This is an period when witch hunts and superstition ended up beginning to fade, the enlightenment was all over the corner and mass media depictions of the witch ended up starting to be far more fantastical, relatively than warnings of a true danger. From here on out, the English vision of a witch distribute and acquired traction, and as all cultural photos do, this model of the witch spread.

And then Hollywood arrived calling. L. Frank Baum and his illustrators depicted his Wicked Witch of the West with the (by then) predicted conical hat when The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, and when MGM put her on-monitor in 1939, of training course, she experienced a pointy hat. The costume designer, Adrian, made it fabulous and modern even though. And significantly like the appear of the witches in 1720 relied on out-of-date fashions, so much too did aspects of Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch costume count on fashions that had been various a long time out of fashion.

Oh and, by the way, The Wizard of Oz was the very first movie to make a witch green. Seriously. That is critical, as it demonstrates how influential this movie was—because now most Halloween witches are inexperienced. The Wicked Witch’s verdigris is the total plot of Wicked, the musical that tells her story, and it wasn’t even an aspect that was incorporated in the primary Oz guides by Baum.

So, when you’re finding a costume together for your (protected and socially distanced) Halloween functions this yr, remember that there’s a prolonged background guiding that Witchy hat. And dress in it proudly!

(graphic: community area/MGM)

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