Vilian or Vision: The Changing Face of the Witch


In the painting Love Magic, the unknown artist from the Lower Rhine depicts an alluring witch. Painted at the end of the fifteen century it shows her naked except for a diaphanous veil and phallic shaped patten slippers. The witch is pouring an intoxicating liquid over a red heart while being observed by a mysterious man in black. Is he a voyeur or her conjured lover? This erotic image is in contrast to the terrifying reality of the witch hunts that went on in Europe and North America between 1480 to 1750. The world was in chaos with rapid social, economic and political changes resulting in the witch becoming a symbol of life out of control. With the Age of Enlightenment there came an end to the hunts, trials, and executions of those accused of witchcraft. A more romanticized view of sorcery is seen in the watercolor by Australian artist Christian Waller (1894-1954) of Morgan le Fay. The figure of Arthurian myth was schooled in not only witchcraft but also powers of healing. In a 1930s illustration from Child Magazine three young witches dance under a full moon, happily unaware of any discord in the world.