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Witches

The Witch

by Jack Prelutsky


She comes by night, in fearsome flight,
In garments black as pitch,
the queen of doom upon her broom,
the wild and wicked witch,

a crackling crone with brittle bones
and dessicated limbs,
two evil eyes with warts and sties
and bags about the rims,

a dangling nose, ten twisted toes
and fold of shriveled skin,
cracked and chipped and crackled lips
that frame a toothless grin.

She hurtles by, she sweeps the sky
and hurls a piercing screech.
As she swoops past, a spell is cast
on all her curses reach.

Take care to hide when the wild witch rides
to shriek her evil spell.
What she may do with a word or two
is much too grim to tell.

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Nowadays most people associate wicked old witches with storybooks but, in the past, people thought there was a witch in every town and village.
Very often some poor old woman, wizened and bent with age, might be thought of as a witch. Not always an old person either, sometimes someone quite young could be regarded as a witch.
People were terrified of witches, and would blame them for anything that went wrong. Crops failing, cattle dying, even milk in the dairy going sour would be blamed on a witch.
But the thing a witch would be most feared for, was her curses.
One such curse was where the witch would make an image of a person, in wax or clay and use it, by sticking pins into it, to inflict pain, sickness or even death on her intended victim. It was said to work even better if she had a strand of hair or a nail clipping from that person.
Traditionally, witches worked in groups, called covens, which consisted of twelve witches, and people thought the witches would fly out to meet each other on broomsticks, taking with them their 'familiar', an animal, usually a black cat, although not always, that was supposed to help them perform their spells.
In order to protect themselves, people would hang iron horseshoes over their doorway, and if they found a pin lying around they would pick it up and keep it, believing that if they left it there, a witch could come along and use it in one of her spells.
This could be why it is still thought of as a good thing, as, even nowadays, to pick pins up, as in the old rhyme... "See a pin and pick it up, and all the day you'll have good luck!"
Of course, not all witches were bad. Some, who were known as white witches would have considerable knowledge of the healing powers of certain plants and herbs, and many people would go to them for help.

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The picture on the left is the storybook idea of what a witch is thought to look like... with her tall pointy hat, dark clothes, riding on a broomstick!!

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For more information, and more pics, please visit my personal website!!