Visual Tropes Collection of the Week: Witches and brooms

For our first image collection of this Halloween season, we’re going with a classic and iconic figure: the witch, appropriately accessorised with her (or in some cases, his!) broomstick.

The Boy Craftsman: practical and profitable ideas for a boy’s leisure hours (1905) contains instructions for – among other things – home-made pyrotechnics involving kerosene and deconstructed fireworks.  Halloween must have been particularly exciting back in those days!
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Someone involved in the publication of the Wisconsin Medical Recorder (published 1909 onward) seems to have taken a great delight in depictions of witches and skeletons.  A person after my own heart!
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A motherly-looking witch makes use of a more comfortable form of transport than the broom itself, in the 1911 Reading and Literature First Reader.
A 17th-century image of Mother Shipton (being attacked by fiends – or welcoming them to a party?) is reproduced in the 1882 work Chap-books of the eighteenth century
A group of jaunty-looking witches appear in silhouette, in the 1884 collection titled A Book of New England Legends and Folklore in Prose and Poetry.
Mother Chattox and Mistress Nutter undertake a flight by broomstick, in William Harrison Ainsworth’s legendarily scary book The Lancashire Witches, (1854).

Let’s see what’s happening in this scene!

“Shall we go to Malkin Tower?” asked Mistress Nutter, shuddering.
“No; to the summit of Pendle Hill,” rejoined Mother Chattox; “for there the girl will be taken, and there only can we secure her. But first we must proceed to my hut, and make some preparations. I have three scalps and eight teeth, taken from a grave in Goldshaw churchyard this very day. We can make a charm with them.”
“You must prepare it alone,” said Mistress Nutter; “I can have nought to do with it.”
“True — true — I had forgotten,” cried the hag, with a chuckling laugh— “you are no longer one of us. Well, then, I will do it alone. But come with me. You will not object to mount upon my broomstick. It is the only safe conveyance in this storm of the devil’s raising. Come — away!”
And she threw open the window and sprang forth, followed by Mistress Nutter.
Through the murky air, and borne as if on the wings of the wind, two dark forms are flying swiftly. Over the tops of the tempest-shaken trees they go, and as they gain the skirts of the thicket an oak beneath is shivered by a thunderbolt. They hear the fearful crash, and see the splinters fly far and wide; and the foremost of the two, who, with her skinny arm extended, seems to direct their course, utters a wild scream of laughter, while a raven, speeding on broad black wing before them, croaks hoarsely. Now the torrent rages below, and they see its white waters tumbling over a ledge of rock; now they pass over the brow of a hill; now skim over a dreary waste and dangerous morass. Fearful it is to behold those two flying figures, as the lightning shows them, bestriding their fantastical steed; the one an old hag with hideous lineaments and distorted person, and the other a proud dame, still beautiful, though no longer young, pale as death, and her loose jetty hair streaming like a meteor in the breeze.
The Lancashire Witches, page 325

Two nude witches (?) seem rather uncomfortably crowded onto their broom, in this decorated initial from La Normandie romanesque et merveilleuse (1845).
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This jolly witch – with broom and enormous scroll -appears in the 1825 Them was the good old days, in Davenport, Scott County Iowa.
Baroness Orczy’s Hungarian Folk Tales is advertised by a glamorous young witch, in an 1897 work on Dr. Livingstone.
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A cheeky-looking, or dare I say, impish imp rides a broom in the 1870 work Famous English Poems and Poets.
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This understandably confused-looking witch appears, incongruously, in Popular Science Monthly (published 1872 onwards).
Witches hurl lightning bolts in this 1824 work of Berwickshire and East Lothian local history and folklore, St Baldred of the Bass, The Siege of Berwick, with other poems and ballads.
Finally, this bespectacled witch appears with the traditional cat (and bonus owl!) in the 1875 book Thackerayana.


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