Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Witches

Imagine this.  Thousands of years ago a group of people got together and decided to make a soup.  They decided they would include in the soup all sorts of tasty and healthy ingredients and eat it all the time.  In fact, they would structure most of their time and activities around this soup.  The soup was so good, that people specialized in learning how to make the soup and devoted their entire lives to that practice so that everyone else could eat the soup.  The soup was so popular that pretty soon everybody and their grandmother was eating it.  And as its tastiness spread, some natural variations occurred.  People added their own spices, threw in some local vegetation, varied the cooking time based on the kind of fire they had to cook with.  All in all, it’s still soup but it tastes a little different depending on where you eat it.

Fast forward a bit and this group of people come around eating sandwiches.  The sandwich eaters think the soup eaters are just crazy- all those ingredients  is blasphemous.   There should be one main ingredient- the true ingredient.  The soup eaters don’t like the sandwich eaters for trying to take away all their ingredients, so they do their best to get rid of the sandwich eaters.  It’s a huge fight.
Then one day this king decides he’s gonna eat a sandwich.  He decides he likes it.  He likes it so much, in fact, that he decrees that from now on everybody has to eat sandwiches and those found eating soup are gonna be in big trouble.  This starts happening all over the place and now entire kingdoms are outlawing soup.
The soup eaters, not wanting to give up their tasty meal, start eating their soup in secret.  They go out into woods cause no one will see them eating soup there.  Even better, they do it at night so there’s definitely no chance anybody’ll see them.  The sandwich eaters become convinced the soup eaters are up to no good.  In fact, they think, they’re making poison soup!
Chances are some mean spirited folk did poison the soup, but most of the soup eaters just want to eat their soup in peace.  But now the sandwich eaters start saying that not only is all soup poisoned, but the soup eaters must be evil.  So not only will you get in trouble for eating the soup, but if you know anyone who does or if you ever asked anyone to make some soup for you- even if you only intended to give it to a friend cause they could use some tasty soup- you’re in big trouble.  The sandwich eaters become so intent to rid the world of soup eaters that they start burning them at the stake.  The practice of making soup becomes so obscure you wouldn’t even recognize the soup if you tasted it- virtually none of the original ingredients are there and it tastes totally different.
This, in a nutshell, is the story of paganism and witchcraft (metaphorically speaking).  And yes, I did just boil down thousands of years of human history involving religion, politics, culture, gender roles, the structure of civilization and a bunch of other key factors into a story about soup.
My point?  The story of soup- er- witches, is a fascinating history that is far beyond this little entry here.  But in terms of knowing why witches are associated with Halloween?  Well, all those thousands of years ago, people ate soup on Halloween.

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