Sunday, May 3, 2009
Hunting the American Witch of Folklore
As I continue to skulk about collecting antique images of witches and witchcraft of American folklore, I came upon this stunning circa-1910 reproduced painting of the Witches of Harz Mountain (Germany). I have added this antique postcard to the collection as a comparison to American folklore witches.
Hell hounds, pitchforks, bat wings, flying pigs! These are so much more frightening images of witches than found at the same time in American produced images of our supposedly scary Halloween witches.
Many of the German traditions were transplanted in American folklore. The close association of witches with Satan, happily, has not made the transition to the American psyche. Even with our history of having put people to death as witches in Salem Massachusetts, Americans tend to keep our evil witches and Satan apart.
In American folklore, individuals tend to tangle with Satan on his lonesome own. In the South, we out-fiddle him, for one thing.
Still, it is striking to compare our "scary witch" traditonal image to that of Germany's. Copied below, and printed for popular consumption at about the same time as the above Harz Mountain witches, is the American image of a witch in flight on her broom (here depicted as being a Salem Massachusetts witch).
Maybe in America, we prefer happier witches. Even though we killed a bunch of people once for being bewitched.