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September 11, 2020
The original brewing profession can be traced all the way up back to ancient Mesopotamia and was principally done by women for a long time as we can see in the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ The character of Siduri appears as a divine alewife.Married and non married women without real education could exercise that activity while making good profits. These women could live without depending on husbands or prostitution to survive. But, the Christian church does not like it when women are independent and have knowledge, they should be home taking care of their Christan children while staying ignorant.Those Alewives wore tall pointed hats so they would stand out in the crowds while selling beer on street corners. They always had cats to protect the grain, herbs, dried fruits and yeast from mice and rats.
An important detail that we must not forget is that during the middle Age (5th to 15th century) the Christian church commonly accused Jewish people of consorting with Satan himself. In the early 1200’s the Fourth council of the Lateran was convoked by the pope Innocent III and they decided that all jews must wear pointed cap known as a Juden hat to identify them. While initially Jewish people brought this fashion with them as they immigrated and wore it with pride, later they were forced to wear the caps to make sure they were distinguishable from the Christian population. This particular style of hat then became associated with black magic and Satan-worship of which the Jews were accused. The Juden hat was not what we know today as witches hat but the shape was similar enough to link them to the hats wore by the alewives.In England after the Black Death men took over the brewing industry because the brewing rules became more strict. Some married women continued to brew during the 17th century but they were now a minority and no more single or independent women.Fun fact : ‘’In 1540, the city of Chester ordered that no women between the ages of 14 and 40 would be permitted to sell ale, in the hopes of limiting the trade to only women above or below an age of sexual desirability. Women in brewing and selling of ale were accused of being disobedient to their husbands, sexually deviant, but also frequently cheating their customers with watered-down ale and higher prices. ‘’ (1)The alewives hats got their negative connotation for a mix of (stupid) reasons. The changing brewing industry accused alewives of selling diluted and tainted beer to crush these competitors. The ‘good’ Christian wives having their husbands come home drunk at all hours of the day hated the alewives because they preferred accusing these independent women of being evil than putting the fault on their drunk husbands. Making those hard-working brewers enemies of the church. The combination of these reasons mixed with the myth that women with knowledge of herbalism were working with occult forces created the myth of alewives being linked to witchcraft. The fact that the traditional alewife hat looked like the middle age Juden hat just made it even easier for the church to demonize these women.The modern popular image of the witches hat we now have probably come from The wicked witch of the west in The wonderful wizard of Oz made in 1900 by L. Frank Baum
That is still why, in resume, witches are still represented with tall pointy hats and having cats to protect their home.Thanks for reading!xxEve Lapierre
Image 1 - Mother Louse, a notorious alewife in Oxford during the mid 17th century, by David LogganImage 2 - The Jewish poet Süßkind von Trimberg wearing a Jewish hat (Codex Manesse, 14th century)Image 3 - Illustration of the Wicked Witch of the West by William Wallace Denslow (From the original Baum publishing in 1900)
September 11, 2020