I have called you here today because it’s traditional for witches to be given their wings - ha! – on This Night.
Frankly, I think it’s a silly idea. If it were for me, I would have convened this meeting on October 1, so by today you’d all be well-practiced in the Arts, and also in the Non-Arts. But Orders are Orders.
As it is, we’ll just have to wing it, and meet again next Sunday, to compare notes.
First – The Arts.
You will see that on the Booklet I have prepared for you, I have, by dint of habit, included the famous excerpt which we will now all recite together:
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Now, with that out of the way, I have some serious news to impart.
Eleven months ago, give or take a couple of days, an 83-year-old woman who was not even one of us was burned alive in Pleniţa, Dolj County, Romania, by a neighbour who believed she was a witch.
You know how easy it is for people to point their finger toward us… just because we wear black, or because we have a wart on our faces, or because we have pointy noses and / or pointy chins, with or without hair sprouting from them. That’s is why I have opened an undercover beauty clinic; you will find a voucher for €200 off treatment in the fold-over pocket in the back cover of the booklet, which, by the way, also contains the programme for this evening.
You all know that whenever something untoward happens, people will never blame their own stupidity; they will look around for someone to blame for the collapsed building, the sick animals, the broken dam, the warehouse fire…
I am told by my friends in Mainland Europe, Asia, and Australia, that some zealots are blaming witches for Global Warming and Covid-19, citing spells gone drastically wrong.
And who better to blame, than the Goth who does not make eye contact? Or the toothless, homeless, bag lady? Or the woman who is a tad soft in the head? Who better than the arthritic old lady who cannot stand up straight? Or the woman with no male relatives to protect her?
Who better than a midwife who could not save three babies in succession, although it was clear that they would not have made it, even had they to be born in a five-star hospital? Or the woman who has not washed herself for weeks?
Who better than the childless widow with a nose-ring? Or the elderly spinster who had epileptic fits? Who better than the newcomer who walks with a stick? Or the woman who has taken someone else’s husband and borne him a child? Who better than the cat lady who has five black cats, albeit she has dozens of others?
I know there are many of you in one of these categories that I have just mentioned – so pay special attention to what I’ll be telling you, later.
Trawling through the rasputitsa of Social Sites, I have collected dozens of such stories, but I will spare you the dire details.
I will tell you, however, that an estimated three million witch trials took place between 1450 to 1750, and around 60,000 people met gruesome deaths.
At least 2,500 Scots were tortured and killed in ‘satanic panic’ begun by James VI. Remember that his treatise, Daemonologie, inspired the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Let’s not forget that he was aided and abetted in this by the bogus Great Witch of Balwearie, Margaret Aitken. May I remind you that she had been arrested for witchcraft in Fife, and tried to save her skin by insisting she could identify other witches just by looking in their eyes.
Thank heaven for Marion Walker; it was women like her who fought against the sociohistorical construction of ‘woman equals evil equals witch because of her Mother, the transgressive Eve’.
But let’s not digress…
Mustard Seed, buttercup, chamomile, snapdragon, asafoetida, cedar sap, dill, wild lettuce… ordinary people use them for food or medicine as a matter of course… but when we call them Eye of Newt, Toe of Frog, Blood of Hestia, Calf’s Snout, Devil’s Dung, Kronos’s Blood, Semen of Hermes and Titan’s blood, people look askance at us… and plot and plan to destroy us.
Actually, the records show that if enough people started gossiping about the possibility that a woman might be a witch, the chances were that soon there would be “witnesses” who ‘saw’ her doing something that only witches would do.
Over the years, misogynists with power have touted the fallacy that women are witches by their very nature: go to Page 5, please, for an excerpt from ‘The Hammer of Witches’ (Malleus Maleficarum), written by the Inquisitor Heinrich Kramer and published in 1486:
“What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours! [redacted] And the tears of a woman are a deception, for they may spring from true grief or they may be a trap. When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil.”
And, dear Ladies, in a nutshell, that is why I called you here today.
Go ahead, enjoy Halloween, since you are all made-up and all dressed-up and all hyped-up for it.
But there is something important I must tell you… which brings me to:
Today, you have graduated as Witches.
But as from tomorrow, I want you to turn into Greys, even more than you might have been before you started my Correspondence Course.
On Page 8, you will find more salient points about what I am going to say: but I want you to raise your hands if there is something you don’t understand, after I go through the list.
Now I know you are all proud to be witches, and some of you even dress the part in your non-coven times.
But, mark my words, there are evil times coming when it behoves you to melt in the crowd – to be so nondescript, unremarkable, and ordinary that no one remembers seeing you, because you do not leave an impression. Some of it is plain common sense – you don’t rest your broom against the garden fence…
It is the opposite of being conspicuous by your absence, as you are when you have pink hair or six-inch heels and tight jeans, and you don’t turn up for a PTA meeting.
I want you all to Be Prepared. I want you all to Be Safe. So, let’s run through the half-a-dozen points, one by one:
1. Avoid eye contact
This stimulates the brain to form memories. Yes, I know that many people think those who avert their eyes are insincere, but with practice you can manage looking just off the eyes.
2. Behave predictably
O.K. I can see a couple of you look puzzled. It means that you have to behave like the crowd; if there is a loud noise, you look toward the source, and act suitably surprised. If someone comments about the weather, agree…. And so on.
3. Dress for the part
I don’t want you to get all your clothes from Charity Shops… but you must make sure that you have some stuff that will look worn and old. Designer togs, like expensive watches and shoes, draw attention.
4. Learn camouflage
I don’t want you to wear army fatigues. As I have been saying, I want you to blend in. This means that you avoid anything that will catch the slight and betray your presence, if you are hiding somewhere, or trying to escape from a situation. This means that your glasses, and your watch, should have nonreflective glass. Ditch the jewellery, and the brass buttons. And the braces and gold teeth, if you have any
Avoid colours that will leave an impression on people – grey, blue, fawn, and brown are safe choices. Always carry something that can transform your appearance; sunglasses, a wig, or a hat – a reversible t-shirt is only good if you can change it where no one can see you do it.
6. Smells Matter
You all know how smells trigger memories. For this reason, avoid the use of strong-smelling scent and deodorants or perfumes. Think of when you can smell cigarette smoke or on someone’s clothes, or curry or garlic on their breath.
So – grab your goody bags and Go! Go! Go!