Today every child knows, that witches wear pointy hats. The black pointy hat is strongly weaved into our modern witch archetype. No witch on Halloween comes out without this attribute. But where does this image comes from?
Is it just fantasy and imagination or does the pointy hat has its roots in the middle ages?
Many modern witches don’t use it in their rites, spells and workings. Some even reject the image of the witch with the pointy hat, the broom, black cat and boiling cauldron. Where there any real witches in the past, who wore the witch-hat during the ages?
In fact nobody really knows why the black pointy hat got a popular symbol for witches. Or in its more colorful variation (decorated with stars) for the magician.
Like other symbols that does pop up in our imagination, when we think about witches- like the broom, cauldron, black cats and toads, the conical hat appeared on some woodcuts from the middle ages and the renaissance. But on the woodcuts not all witches wore the pointy hat, the same goes for the other witchcraft symbols. Some witches were depicted with the pointy hat, others with cauldrons, some rinding on brooms, and some riding on the stang- so the pointy hat was just one of many symbols that were connected to witchcraft in the past. And the depiction of witches with conical hats, was popular in England and Scotland.
Some believe that the pointy hat had its origin in the conical hats that were worn by the noble people in the middle ages (like the Hennin), but that it got out of date over time, and only the rural people hold on to this fashion.
But when rural people in general should have worn these hats, why were they associated with witchcraft over time. And I personal know now depictions of rural people with conical hats.
When we go deeper into the history, we can find some interesting things in the bronze age. In Germany golden conical hats were found, decorated with suns and stars. And they really look like the popular witch-hats. Some scholars believe, that these hats were worn by priests or sorcerers/shamans as ritual headgear. So maybe in the bronze age conical hats were worn by some priests/esses and sorcerers/sorceresses. Near china were found some indo-european mummies, some females of these mummies wore conical hats made from leather. Some scholars believe, these females were sorceresses or shamanesses of the indo-european age. So maybe the symbolism of the conical hats as attributes of special people that had a connection to magic and the otherworld, have really deep roots.
In ancient Greece the goddess Hekate was strongly connected to witchcraft. And on some statues she was depicted with a phrygian cap. The phrygian cap was a conical hat. So that a ancient goddess of witchcraft was depicted with a conical hat, maybe had some connection to our view of the witches- hat. But the phrygian cap was brimless.
Another God that has deep connections to magic, the otherworld and to witches and sorcerers, is Odin. He was depicted with a black hat that had a huge brim (but this hat was not conical). And maybe sorcerers and witches also wore hats like this, during this time.
But all these are just theories, nobody knows today why the conical hat got so popular in our modern days. What we know is that witches in the renaissance and middle ages were depicted on some woodcuts with the conical hat. And that some artists used this image in fairy tales and books for children. For example the wicked witch of the west was depicted with a conical hat and later in the television she was also portrayed in this manner.
Symbolism and personal use:
I always had a crush on the image of the witch, with the black conical hat. I was really drawn by this image. And I was also drawn by the other symbols that are weaved into our witchcraft archetype, in a similar way. First I began to use brooms, cauldrons and stangs in my rites, spells and workings. These worked as tools very fine for me. And then I also reclaimed the witch-hat for my rites. I began to wear it in my workings. First I noticed that the pointy hat is a helper in energy work. When I draw down the power of the stars or of the moon, the energy flow more centered into me. Then I noticed that the brim is a helper in trance work, threw the shadow that the brim casts on my face. After some weeks of using the hat, I noticed that it got something like a trigger. Every time I put on my hat, I got into the right state of mind, for spells and rites.
I also noticed, the spirits do react to the hat, like it is a symbol to them, that the person that wears the conical hat is a spirit worker- or spirit walker, someone who interacts with them. I noticed that “negative” spirits were more distant to me, during I wore it and that other spirits were more interested in the interaction with me, then it was normal in my rites (without the hat).
I think that the conical hat is a symbol of the otherness. A symbol of the otherworldly (or under-worldly) powers. Like masks can be helpers in connecting oneself with these powers, the pointy hat can help the witch/shaman/sorcerer to delve into the otherness of the underworld, to be more a part of these other world and to interact with it.
In folklore not only the witches and magicians are depicted with pointy hats, but also dwarfs, elves and fairies. So I think that the pointy hat brings a human more into the world of these otherworldly beings. Like the witches of the Germanic times put on trollskin*- to be more like these creatures, to work in the world of them.
I also introduced the use of the pointy hat into our circle. We do wear the pointy hat in our rites to strengthen the group mind (like other circles/covens use robes and other ritual dresses). We have empowered our hats to connect us to life force when ever we use them, so that the life force runs through the conical hat into our bodies. We have also empowered our hats to protect us in our rites against “evil” spirits and harmful influences.
And it is a nice view, when a group of witches stand on a clearing in the woods on a full moon night, or when we stand on a starlit night on a crossroad during the dark moon.
Or when we make our spirit-procession on Halloween. Then we witches go with our pointy hats, lanterns, brooms or stangs, through our village. We invite the restless spirits into our procession to walk with us through the night (and open a gateway between the worlds that some of them can pass through this).
I think it is time, that more witches reclaim this powerful symbol in their rites. Because the pointy witches hat can help you to tap into the power- that lies inside of the witch archetype.
* It is not known what the trollskin was- some believe It was a kind of costume, others believe it was a green unguent that was used in rites of the witches and colored their skin green.