Witches encountered many iconographic representations throughout the Late Middle Ages (13th-15th centuries).
Artists at the service of the sermons and Greek philosophers portrayed strong aggressive images regarding women.
De facto, woman in Middle Ages is linked with the witch because of its nature (she is a sinner because she tried Adam, she is the cause of the fall of Paradise and the misfortunes of men) unill she entierely becomes « The Witch » from the thirteenth century. Therfore, this concept is embodied by a typically feminine creature, associated with seduction, sexual perversion (the sexual desires of women were seen as devilishness in the eyes of clergymen) and malice (seeking to precipitate man into Hell and making him suffer).
Iconographic representations serve these misogynist ideas developed between the thirteenth and fifteenth century.
Here are some models of « witches », according to popular beliefs between the thirteenth and fifteenth century (those pictures were made more recentely though) :
1: the hideous old woman:
This is one of the most represented images.
*The old woman is associated with death, disease (plague) and the dark side of the world *Old single women: recurring victims of the inquisition
*The old woman is frightenning by her ugliness.
*Many depictions of old women as witches in cinema, like this image from Benjamin Christiensen’s HÄXAN (1921), the witch is often portrayed as a witch preparing deadly potions or love filters.
We all have the image in the head of the old woman alone in her cottage making potions. *The loneliness of these people accentuates the strange, demonic side of the old woman *She is alone ; so she takes revenge by casting spells
HÄXAN – Benjamin Christiensen
2: the young woman all dressed up :
*Adornments and beautiful clothes are severely condemned by the Church
*The sin of lust is considered as reserved for women wanting to appear beautiful
*Lust becomes a mark of sorcery (aiming to precipitate men into the fault)
*The Sabbath Witch is often portrayed young and too beautiful to be an honest woman *Lust is against the principle of begging conveyed by the origins of Christianity
*According to clerics and popular belief, women don’t have rational intelligence close to God , so they try to fill this gap by dressing up as a pagan goddess close to the devil
*Young girls also had a limited intelligence compared to married women’s.
*The nudity of the female body is also seen as a mark of witchcraft (always attached to the desire to seduce men), women’s bodies were cursed by the clerics, female sexes representing a lack of the male phallic appendix (seen as the glory of God)
*The atractiveness of young virgins girls could also be seen as a connection with the devil.
Witche’s Sabbat – Luis Ricardo Falero
3: Adulterous wife:
The adulterous wife see also her representation slightly turning into witche in religious and popular mentalities from the XIII century.
* The adulteress is a woman who seduces a man who is not her husband, so she is at
fault beyong men and God
*The wife must, at this time, submit to the natural authority of her husband. If she deceives him with another man, she insults the male sex by encouraging him to commit the sin of adultery.
*An adulterous husband is never punished by law, justified by the fact he can claim to have been deceived by magic, and therefore against his will.
* Only women are sentenced for adultery, because men have the right to dominate all women under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition, to dominate them even becomes a duty in witchcraft trials.
* Adultery is then punishable by death.
4: the woman « with light morals »:
* Prostitutes and women wanting to be free from body and mind could be condemned for witchcraft
* there was no question of freedom of expression or sexuality of the woman because of men supremacy
* the feminine sexuality being seen as diabolical, women selling their charms or wanting to practice a position other than that of the missionary was considered as witches because outgoing their rank of submissives women
* the « intelligent » woman (who dared to respond to a man or who questioned the place of women in society by taking rights reserved to men) was considered a witch because she aspired to a domination of men, so to a renouncing the order established by God