Explorations Into Liminality
“and there came an arm and a hand above the water and met it and caught it, and so shook it thrice and brandished it, and then vanished away the hand with the sword in the water.”

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wherefore Art Thou, O Witch Hat?

The modern witch hat in its current form, such as the Luella runway pic from her Fall '08 collection, was widely pictured beginning in Victorian times. Until then, it was basically a memory of the past. I believe the origins are very ancient, and have magical and religious significance. I'm not alone in this belief, but it's a controversial theory and one that will never be proven one way or another. So feel free to take from this what you will and come to your own conclusion. In a nutshell:
Along the Silk Road in China a woman's mummy was discovered and dated to the mid 1st millennium BCE. One of her adornments was a tall dark felt hat with two conical peaks. Yet another female body excavated also wore a very tall, conical hat. Chinese references to Western magicians date back to 1500 BCE.
Ancient Persian magicians wore a tall pointy hat. Egyptian pharaohs had a tall dome piece, as did Hittite kings and queens. Certain ancient Roman priestesses and priests assigned to a particular god or goddess wore a conical cap. A coin from the Etruscan city of Luna (ahem) bears the image of a woman (thought to be the goddess Diana, patron of witches) wearing a conical hat. Bishops, the pope, present day priests in Tibet- all have upward- reaching head gear.
A bit more current were fashion trends of Europe. Loads of wonderful headgear was worn in

the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries popular style trickled out into the country and folk picked up on the tall hat look. But then of course the courtly fashion had changed, peasants (pagans) were despised and accused of deviltry, and they were pointed at wearing their pointy hat. This continues with the persecution of Quakers in America; recall the "pilgrim" hat?

Today some neo-pagans attribute the witch hat to the "cone of power", but this just seems convenient to me. The roots are ancient, and I honor them by celebrating my own vision of the witch hat.


Athena's Armoury said...

Welcome to the blogosphere! You're off to an awesome start with this post & I'm really looking forward to future ones.

Cat (darklingwoods) said...

welcome to blog land, what a wonderful start :) Love the witchy hats!

ArcadianDreams said...

Welcome to das bloggitude, and what a fantastic first post. :) Looking forward to more!

Carapace said...

I miss seeing your witchy hats in your shop. They're so extravagant!
I like the idea that they just got associated with witches because they were common. That happens to a lot of cultural artifacts--a common thing being given some sudden new cultural baggage because of class issues (do not get me started on corsets. Just don't.) Pointy high hats are warm, and good traveler's caps in bad weather, because wool felt and other material will keep the water rolling off the brim and away from the head. I always think of them as Munchkin hats, though, since I saw them in Oz illustrations before anything else:D.

aquariann said...

What a fascinating entry! What took you so long to join the blog world? Just wanted to make a fashionably late entrance, I presume? You definitely have my attention. ;D

Merily said...

What a cool topic for a blog post! :D

Melissa the Holiday Queen said...

What a fun read! Glad you stopped by today. Always good to meet fellow Halloween enthusiasts!

Laume said...

Your witch hats are gorgeous - completely inspiring! I've never really thought about where the symbol of the witches hat derived from or originated in. Interesting. I do know I wear one proudly. I love what Terry Pratchett's witches have to say about the wearing of the hat. Have you read him? In particular, the Tiffany Aching trilogy, the middle book is called A Hat Full of Sky.