Witch, Please…

Because perhaps the polyester pointy hat should finally be consigned to the Middle Ages.

There’s no easy way to say this. The quintessential black pointy hat that completes many a cheeky, chuck-it-on-with-a-black-dress Halloween costume has been a symbol of oppression, persecution, torture and execution of Jewish men and women for more than 700 years.

This, of course, is buried deep in history. If you weren’t aware ‘til now, well, you weren’t alone.

Let’s cut to 18 July 1290, when King Edward I issued an Edict of Expulsion, effectively ridding all Jews from England. Jewish men and women were forced to identify themselves by wearing a pointed ‘Judenhut’ or Jewish hat at all times, marking them for isolation. The pronounced point also served to hide the devilish horn Jews were purported to grow, along with inhuman claws, pock-marked skin and hooked noses. Last bit sound familiar?

It’s easy to see how in the late 1800s that same propaganda could simply be transposed to typify a witch. Think of the iconic (and hopefully extinct) primary school stalwart, the Dunce hat. This cone-shaped punishment that when worn screamed “I’ve been bad! I am wrong. I need to be identified. I need to be excluded. I am less than everyone else” is simply another reincarnation of the Judenhut.

Tapestries from the Middle Ages depict hundreds of Jews in white pointed hats being flung into fires. Their appearance is barely human, so twisted, bestial, wide-eyed and evil have they become.

Witches were once put to death as heretics, yet both the historic and modern-day witch is a friend of feminism, not to mention a style crush for both emo and goth subculture.

Witches by definition are powerful, independent, driven and working for a cause.

Wicca, or as it’s sometimes called Pagan Witchcraft, was first introduced in the UK in the early 50s. It’s based on the observance of nature and constantly evolving, inclusive of both God and Goddess deities.

There are, of course, a few other theories as to why the witch and the pointed hat are so synonymous, and it’s important to mention that no comment from those who identify as Wiccan, witches or members of the Jewish faith has been sought. But it has been impossible while researching this piece to separate the pointed, conical hat from the notions of exclusion, perceived wrongdoing and punishment.

Surely on reflection, even the suggestion that a garment carries such a heavy, painful past is enough to throw it aside?

Yes, in 2017 it is largely seen as OK to wear a pointy witch’s hat to a party. In 1960s Britain you could give a child a black, clown-lipped, wide-eyed, frizzy-haired rag doll to play with. That was considered innocuous, and actually kind of sweet. Nobody had said in a loud enough voice how hideous a representation that is, nor how horrendous a reminder to your fellow human of the oppression their forefathers endured.

Take this piece as a simple, gentle nudge. There are many other ways to dress as a witch this Halloween. Be inventive, be quirky, be stunning. Head out to the party or sit in peaceful contemplation as you carve pumpkins in your cosy socks. Just leave the pointy hat off. All the way off. In the depths of history off.

Thank you.



2 thoughts

  1. Pingback: Persist
  2. Really enjoyed reading this article. I learnt a great deal, and now agree totally with the writer. The piece was beautifully written and her opinion was well backed up by historical fact. So good to have pieces relevant to the time of year and so original. It certainly opened my eyes and packed a punch! Well done. The magazine needs more articles like this!


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