Alewife and Witchcraft

Foxbat

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Thought this was interesting - how the alewife became the modern image of a witch.

Women who brewed beer wore a tall, pointed hat to stand out at market. They sold their wares from a cauldron. They hung a broom above their front door to show they were open for business and used cats to deter rodents. Sound familiar?
 

sknox

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Please don't take this stuff too awfully seriously. I read the article and the articles that article cites. Nothing goes back to sources or to any scholarly work. Some of the articles have some very sloppy history, such as saying that brewing appeared in monasteries by the second century. There were no monasteries in until the 4th century. Another makes a point about wicce meaning wise, so therefore witches were wise women. But what is one to make of Hexen or strega? England was not the Continent, but these articles make generalizations about all Europe and a dozen centuries based primarily on early modern England. Another example, brewing was not primarily inside the home, only changing in the 15thc-16thc. We know this because there were German drinking clubs as early as the 900s, and there are German breweries that claim an origin as early as the 1200s. And I'm baffled by the conflation of home and marketplace. The woman brewed outside her home (which seems a bit odd; not disputing, just seems a poor choice in a rainy climate) and wore a tall hat to distinguish her at the marketplace. Wait. Was she at home, or in the marketplace? Did she carry barrles of beer (very heavy) and hawk them in the marketplace? None of the articles explain.

There's a basic exercise when reading articles like this. Just ask, how do you know this thing you are asserting? What are your sources? The initial article cites four. Some of these cite none; if you follow the others, you find they circle back on themselves, recycling the same information.

None of my objections means any of it is wrong. I tread carefully with the subject of witchcraft, knowing just enough of the literature to know how incredibly tricky the subject is. But the articles do raise questions, and the articles give no way to find the answers to those questions. That's really the difference between scholarly work (dull as it can sometimes be) and popular work. The former invites you into an ongoing discussion. The latter says "here's a fun fact" and walks away.

I don't mean to offend or upset folks. As with the practitioner of any craft, I love to see history done well and tend to get cranky when it's done poorly. I'll hush now.
 

tegeus-Cromis

a better poet than swordsman
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Huh. Now I know where the name of the Boston suburb Alewife, where I once, in my early twenties, spent a couple of miserable nights on a friend's couch when I was, uh, let's say "between apartments," originated.
 

Foxbat

None The Wiser
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Please don't take this stuff too awfully seriously. I read the article and the articles that article cites. Nothing goes back to sources or to any scholarly work. Some of the articles have some very sloppy history, such as saying that brewing appeared in monasteries by the second century. There were no monasteries in until the 4th century. Another makes a point about wicce meaning wise, so therefore witches were wise women. But what is one to make of Hexen or strega? England was not the Continent, but these articles make generalizations about all Europe and a dozen centuries based primarily on early modern England. Another example, brewing was not primarily inside the home, only changing in the 15thc-16thc. We know this because there were German drinking clubs as early as the 900s, and there are German breweries that claim an origin as early as the 1200s. And I'm baffled by the conflation of home and marketplace. The woman brewed outside her home (which seems a bit odd; not disputing, just seems a poor choice in a rainy climate) and wore a tall hat to distinguish her at the marketplace. Wait. Was she at home, or in the marketplace? Did she carry barrles of beer (very heavy) and hawk them in the marketplace? None of the articles explain.

There's a basic exercise when reading articles like this. Just ask, how do you know this thing you are asserting? What are your sources? The initial article cites four. Some of these cite none; if you follow the others, you find they circle back on themselves, recycling the same information.

None of my objections means any of it is wrong. I tread carefully with the subject of witchcraft, knowing just enough of the literature to know how incredibly tricky the subject is. But the articles do raise questions, and the articles give no way to find the answers to those questions. That's really the difference between scholarly work (dull as it can sometimes be) and popular work. The former invites you into an ongoing discussion. The latter says "here's a fun fact" and walks away.

I don't mean to offend or upset folks. As with the practitioner of any craft, I love to see history done well and tend to get cranky when it's done poorly. I'll hush now.
Fair enough. But I never said it was true, just that it was interesting. ;)
 

sknox

Member and remember
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Yup. I was directing more toward a general audience. Wasn't a criticism!
 
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