63. Witches (Themed Episode #13)

In today's Halloween-themed episode, we welcome the spooky season by discussing a few witches from mythology and folklore. We first discuss the antisemitic origins of the popular depiction of the witch. Then, we talk about Black Annis from English folklore, Muma Pădurii from Romanian folklore, Louhi from Finnish mythology, Angitia from pre-Roman mythology, and Sebile and Annowre from Arthurian legend. 

You can check out our new bonus episode on Strega Nona from children's fiction for a small donation on both Spotify and Ko-fi!


This episode has a TRIGGER WARNING for extensive discussions of antisemitism.

For more information about today's episode, go to mytholadies.com.

To donate, please go to ko-fi.com/mytholadies.

Our cover art is by Helena Cailleaux. You can find her and more of her work on Instagram @helena.cailleaux.illustratrice. Our theme song was composed and performed by Icarus Tyree. To hear more of their music, check out icarust.bandcamp.com.

Sources:

witch | Etymology, origin and meaning of witch by etymonline  

Archetype Origins: Witch Archetype

Blood Libel Legend : A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore

Why Do Witches Wear Pointy Hats?

NOSE - JewishEncyclopedia.com

"Anti-Semitic Folklore Motif Index" by Sita Bell  

Why Do So Many Disney Villains Look Like Me? - Hey Alma 

Sebile

The sibyl: prophetess of antiquity and medieval fay 

The Origin of the Tannhäuser-Legend: The Present State of the Question

Annowre

EBK: Arthurian Literature: Annowre 

A Quest of Her Own: Essays on the Female Hero in Modern Fantasy.

Arthurian Women: A Casebook by Thelma Fenster

The Arthurian Legend in Italian Literature

Muma Pădurii

Muma Pădurii, de la spiritul malefic al codrului, la zeitatea ecologistă

 19 Gustar: Fata si Muma Padurii 

adrianbucurescu: Mitologie românească

Black Annis:

Black Annis - Leicester Legend or Widespread Myths? by Kate Westwoood

Guajona:

Wikipedia - Guajona

The Dirge of the Inquisitor

5 More Vampires You May Not Have Heard Of by Aspasía S. Bissas

Angitia:

World History Encyclopedia - Angitia

Louhi:

Wikipedia - Louhi, Loviatar, Pohjola

Transcript

(musical intro)

 

Zoe 

Hello, and welcome to Mytholadies, the podcast where we talk about women from mythology and folklore all over the world. We're your hosts.

 

Lizzie 

I'm Lizzie.

 

Zoe 

And I'm Zoe. And Lizzie, how are you today?

 

Lizzie 

I'm doing all right. I'm glad it's--like, fall is beginning. I've been so sick of the hot weath.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

So that's nice.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. Is it war--is it cool now?

 

Lizzie 

It's, like, beginning to be not hot. I would not say that, it's like, cool, but it's not as bad. Which is fun.

 

Zoe 

That's good. Yeah, it's very cool here today, which is nice. It feels very fall-ish, and that's exciting.

 

Lizzie 

And how are you?

 

Zoe  

Um, I'm--I'm good. I am going back to school tomorrow, so that's exciting. I am not looking forward to the move. I think it's become pretty clear to everyone here now that I hate packing and I hate moving (Lizzie laughs). But it is a necessity that I unfortunately have to live with at this point in my life.

 

Lizzie 

Well, yeah, it sucks. It's really annoying.

 

Zoe 

So--yeah. I hate it. But it is what it is. I am doing it. I'm going back to school, and I'm going to be learning things again. So that'll be exciting.

 

Lizzie 

That is exciting.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. Before we begin, I just wanted to remind everyone that we have a Ko-fi that you should support. And if you give us a one-time or recurring donation, you can access our bonus episodes there. We have two old bonus episodes, and we have a third one that's coming out alongside this episode, and I'm very excited about it because we're talking about Strega Nona, everyone's favorite (Lizzie laughs) Italian pasta pot-wielding picture book grandmother witch. Um, So I'm really excited about that, and--

 

Lizzie 

We're going into Strega Nona lore.

 

Zoe 

It's going to be really awesome.

 

Lizzie 

Really fun.

 

Zoe 

We're going into the Strega Nona lore, we're going into the folklore that inspired Strega Nona, um--

 

Lizzie 

And a few of her sequels.

 

Zoe 

It's gonna be really awesome. Yeah, we're going deep in there.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, it's great.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. So that'll be really awesome. And so if you give us a one-time or recurring donation on Ko-fi, you can access that episode. Also, this is new, we are now available on Spotify--we were available on Spotify, but our episodes are now available on Spotify for a subscription. So if you subscribe to Mytholadies on Spotify for $4.99 a month, you can also access our bonus episodes there. So, feel free to do that if you would so desire. You can also still access our bonus episodes on Ko-fi. You don't have to switch over to Spotify. But if you would like to listen to it on a podcasting platform, that is available to you as well. So feel free to check that out!

 

Lizzie 

You've got options.

 

Zoe 

You've got options. Yeah, okay, so Lizzie--Lizzie, what is the subject of our special f-fall themed episode?

 

Lizzie 

So like, as per usual, in September and October, we tend to do kind of spooky Halloween kind of related themes. And today for our Halloween season-themed episode, we're talking about witches.

 

Zoe 

Ooh. Yeah. So I do think it's important to state that some of the heavy hitters will not be here. We're not talking about Baba Yaga, we're not talking about Medea, we're not talking about Circe. We love them very much--

 

Lizzie  

But they will get their own episode.

 

Zoe 

They deserve their own episodes.

 

Lizzie 

This is for lesser-known.

 

Zoe 

We will be talking about them.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, exactly.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

Yeah! Anyway, please continue, Lizzie.

 

Lizzie 

So yeah.

 

Lizzie 

So the origins of the word "witch" in English are disputed. It came to modern English through old English wiċċa, "male witch, warlock," and wiċċe, which means "female witch." So originally, it wasn't really gendered so much. It started being spelled as we know it, with a T in the middle, in the 16th century. And also by that time, it was already far more commonly applied to women, so much so that you would run into terms like men-witch and he-witch.

 

Zoe 

Interesting.

 

Lizzie  

And so our modern Western idea of a witch is influenced a lot by Christian ideals and very old associations between witchcraft and devil worship, as we know. And we're not really here to talk about the history of witch hunts and witch trials, etc., because that will be a whole other topic--

 

Zoe 

A very interesting topic, but, yeah.

 

Lizzie 

--just the way that witches are perceives. Yeah! But it's a--we're talking about folktales and legends, and the way witches are depicted in them. So the definition that we're kind of working with is witches are women, often old women, who have magical powers and usually use those powers for evil. And there's a very vast body of witch stories across the world that vary a lot by region. And we're not trying to give an all--like a broad, all-encompassing definition that would be applicable everywhere. So this is kind of what we're working with today. And also, while I was writing my notes for today's episode I was thinking about how like, what's the difference really, between witches and fairies? You know, because they are very, similar.

 

Zoe 

Mm.

 

Lizzie 

Like, they are both magical women who range from mischievous to villainous, and they can vary a lot in form and can sometimes shapeshift. And so I was thinking about that, because--

 

Zoe 

Oh, yeah. That's interesting.

 

Lizzie 

'Cause they are really, really similar. So like, how do you separate them? What I have come back with is, um, witches are meant to be kind of human-adjacent and practice witchcraft, whereas fairies are like, mythical, and magic is part of their nature. That's debatable, I feel like.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

But like, yeah.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

And also fairies tend to be nature spirits, whereas witches aren't as associated with nature, which once again is debatable of a point. What do you think?

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm. Yeah, well, I would say, I mean, it really depends, of course, on what mythology and culture you're looking at.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

I know that for example, if you're looking at, like, Celtic mythology, uh, fairies are more associated with, like, gods.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

And, like, more divine supernatural spirits, whereas I think witches are more, like. human spirits. So there's that difference there. But that's a pretty--I think that's more exclusive to Celtic mythology than like--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

--other mythology. I don't know if that necessarily applies to every single mythology that has stories of fairies.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, and fairies tends--fairies tend to be European whereas witches can really be anywhere.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

But like, once again, all this is literally debatable. So like, begs the question. Just something I was thinking about. But also, like, there's a lot of overlap. Like, some of the women that we're talking about could be really classified as fairies

 

Zoe 

Yeah. for sure.

 

Lizzie 

Like cert--like, I think all three women I have today could be classified as fairies and witches.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, I mean, I definitely have a woman who could be classified as a witch--I'm sorry, a fairy or witch. So. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

But, uh, that was a fun episode we did earlier, Celtic fairies, if you want to give it a listen.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

But yeah. As we will come to see you during the episode, it's hard to separate conceptions of witches from their Christian influence. Witches often represent wildness and a fear of the unknown that's in direct opposition to Christian ideals. And they also often have pagan associations, which once again, stand opposed to Christianity. Which brings me to my next topic. Um, it's uh, kind of an unpleasant one, but we need to talk about it.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

And that is antisemitism. So one thing we want to talk about when we talk about witches in folklore is the fact that the Western conception of the witch is heavily influenced by antisemitic stereotypes. So before we talk about today's ladies, we want to give a little primer on antisemitism as it relates to the witch archetype.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

So, common characteristics of witches in our Western conception include women with big noses, often, like, hooked and a pointed hat, and who often eat children. So the stereotype of the Jewish nose has been used in antisemitic propaganda, including Nazi propaganda since, like, about the mid-13th century, at least, and antisemites wrote about how to identify a Jewish nose, which was said to be hooked, prominent, and arched, even though that's not, like, logical--

 

Zoe 

No.

 

Lizzie 

--like, Gentiles can also have noses like that. It's just like, yeah.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

A stereotype.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

And it was also a very frequent feature in antisemitic cartoons and literature, as well as folktales.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

And I feel a lot of people don't know just how frequently blatant antisemitism actually does appear in folktales and fairytales. For example, the Grimm Brothers had a story called "The Jew Among Thorns," which I would imagine exists--

 

Zoe 

Oh, my gosh.

 

Lizzie 

--to ridicule Jewish people.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

And it was also literally used by Nazis to incite antisemitic feelings--

 

Zoe 

Of course.

 

Lizzie 

--among the German people. And there were also many other folktales that existed to directly mock Jews, and I'm talking in the past tense, but honestly, it's all still literally used now. Like--

 

Zoe 

Yeah, I mean--yeah, a lot of-a lot of these stereotypes you can still see today. You can--there are people who have experiences in, like, dealing with the same stereotypes and-and these caricatures are still used today on, like, far-right propaganda.

 

Lizzie 

Literally, like, half the conspiracy theories are literally just antisemitic.

 

Zoe 

I would say more than half, to be honest, like (laughs).

 

Zoe 

But, like--I mean, like, QAnon literally comes from the idea of like, there being a secret group of people that are like, um, eating children or, like, harvesting, like, blood or energy from children, which is a big thing, if you imagein a coven of witches that are eating children, like, Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, honestly (laughs).

 

Zoe 

(overlapping) Yeah, QAnon is literally--

 

Lizzie 

It's this--sort of the same, it's basically the same idea.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, exactly. And like it--

 

Lizzie 

It's still very present today. And these, like, centuries of antisemitic folktales and propaganda are still--like, they have set the scene for stuff like QAnon, etc. Like, it's still alive.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. We can also talk about, like, Mother Gothel in Tangled.

 

Zoe 

--who many people have pointed out is, uh, pretty much a stereotype of a Jewish woman, um, as the evil witch who's sucking--using like, her daughter's hair to like, restore her youth or whatever. It's like a whole--it's a very similar idea.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, exactly.

 

Lizzie 

No, yeah, exactly, exactly. And another thing is that the pointed hats we're kind of familiar with are frequently like--like, some scholars think that that came about from antisemitic stereotypes as well.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

 The 1215 Fourth Council of the Lateran required all Jewish people to identify themselves by wearing the "Judenhat" (Jewish hat).

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

And associations between Jews and Satan were obviously prevalent in medieval times. And then the hat became associated with satanism and witchcraft, etc. And evidently, the modern day witch with a pointed hat came about because of the Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz, which popularized iconography in like the present day. And--

 

Zoe 

Yeah, which has a lot of--like, she has a lot of, like, antisemitic aspects in her own--

 

Lizzie 

(overlapping) Exactly, like, her-her character design.

 

Zoe 

--costuming and design--yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Her--nose...

 

Zoe 

Her nose, her green skin.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. It's interesting how much the Wicked Witch of the West has, like, influenced witch features, like, today. Like, when you--

 

Zoe 

(overlapping) Yeah! Pop culture, yeah.

 

Lizzie 

--dress up like a witch for Halloween, it's, like, you dress up like the Wicked Witch of the West.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, that's like the stereotypical, you know, the Spirit Halloween, like witch costume that you find is, like, something like that.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, and most importantly, yeah, a lot of folktales involve witches killing and eating children, which is an example of blood libel. And for those who don't know, blood libel is basically, like, a legend that has been used against Jews for centuries. It essentially says that Jews like to murder Christian children and use their blood for ritual purposes, or just eat them. And when a Christian child went missing, Jewish people would be blamed, basically. And like--so when you see, like, witches eating children, like, that's a red flag, honestly.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

And--

 

Zoe 

Yeah. And we sort of mentioned it, um, I think in our vampire episode, but it's similar for vampires too. Like, the idea that a mysterious like, because of Bram Stoker, um, Eastern European is sucking the life force--

 

Lizzie 

With vaguely ethnic features.

 

Zoe 

--yeah, out of the, um, innocent British woman or child, um--

 

Lizzie 

Exactly.

 

Zoe 

--is also based on exactly antisemitic folklore, blood libel, exactly. Libel. Blood libel.

 

Lizzie 

Vampires are a really big example of blood libel. Yeah. And an example of blood libel in a witch legend is in "Hansel and Gretel."

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. And so the witch--

 

Zoe 

Is that another--is that another Grimm Brothers?

 

Lizzie 

Actually don't know, it might be.

 

Zoe 

I mean, it's German. So probably.

 

Lizzie 

Probably is, to be honest. And so the witch in that story lured children in order to kill and eat them--

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

--and there are, like, many stories that are like that about, which is where they were, like, put children in an oven or like, boil them in a big pot. You know?

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Extremely common.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

And like you mentioned, Mother Gothel is another example. And that's, like, very recent, which shows you, like, how prevalent this sort of thing is. Like she could--she kidnaps, you know, a little blonde child--

 

Zoe 

Uh huh.

 

Lizzie 

--and she uses her to remain youthful, which is like an example of--

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

--using a child in, like, a weird ritual. That's like a blood libel thing.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

And like you also mentioned, she has stereotypically Jewish features as well. And honestly, a lot of Disney villains have typically Jewish features.

 

Zoe 

Also a lot of Barbie villains, if we wanna talk about that.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah! Exactly. Yeah. Swan Lake.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Whats-his-name, exactly.

 

Zoe 

But yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Well, that's a topic for another time, but like--(laughs)

 

Zoe 

Yeah, that's a topic for another time, yeah.

 

Lizzie 

But yeah. And so I think that we should be--should-should be aware of this. I feel like not everyone actually even knows a bunch of what we just talked about.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

And they should. And as like--I don't wanna call us, like, folklorists--folklore-but you know--

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

--podcasters, we should, like--

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

--discuss these things. We talk about the legends that are blatantly antisemitic. And yeah, not all witches are antisemitic caricatures, obviously. But like, it's something to be aware of.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. And as I was going through my research, I found--I mean, like a few of the legends I researched, I definitely feel antisemitic in origin. There was one, um, that I found which was, uh, the Guajona, which is of the Cantabrian people of Northern Spain. Uh, the autonomous community of Cantabria, which is found in northern Spain and they're basically just completely an antisemitic, um, caricature. They're described literally as having an aquiline nose, which is--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

--sort of hooked nose. And basically they, um, suck blood from children, um--

 

Lizzie 

Oh, God (laughs).

 

Zoe 

--and...

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, no, that sounds like blatantly--

 

Zoe 

Yeah (laughs).

 

Lizzie 

And you know, Spain has obviously been a site of a lot of horrible antisemitism, so.

 

Zoe 

A lot of ant--like, really intense antisemitic--like of course, a lot of Europe has been, but Spain had the Spanish Inquisition, and so--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, it was a whole thing.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. I found, like, this book that was about--and it was from like, 2016--that was about--um, and by an author with a Spanish name whose was like about an Inquisitor, whose job was to kill like, guajona from this--in this city, and I was like, what the heck. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

And the hat.

 

Lizzie 

That's a little questionable.

 

Zoe 

It's just, um, so--yeah, that one I was like, that is just straight-up an antisemitic stereotype. And so when you're talking about witches in folklore, and when you're thinking about dressing up as a witch for Halloween, I think you can still, like, you know, have some fun, like, costumes. But, like, when you don't--like when you're see the costumes with like a hook nose and, like, the long, like, scraggly black hair--

 

Zoe 

--and, like, the green skin, like--and the hat, like--just-just stay away. Like, don't do that.

 

Lizzie 

I feel like a lot of antisemites are very aware of these things and like spouting them, but a lot of also other just people who don't know these things accidentally, sort of reproduce them, because they just don't know.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, because like, again, that image of a witch is so ingrained in our culture that it's just like, oh, that's a witch and you don't even realize it until someone like--is like, Hey, duh-duh-duh history, and you're like, oh, my gosh, and then--like, yeah. So yeah, when you're choosing your Halloween costume this year--

 

Lizzie 

Be aware.

 

Zoe 

Don't-don't do that.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah (laughs).

 

Zoe 

Be aware and don't do that.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. And if you're, like, writing something with a witch in it, also--

 

Zoe 

Be aware.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

Be very aware. Yeah. Or a vampire.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And all that being said, who is our first lady, Zoe?

 

Zoe 

Yeah, so our first lady, Black Annis, definitely has some antisemitic aspects to her, I would say. Um, she is from English folklore, particularly the folklore of Leicester, which is in central England. She's sort of a boogeywoman figure, and she's said to have a blue face and long iron claws. She lives in a cave, and she comes out of the cave at night and generally will attack poor unsuspecting children and carry them back into her lair where she will suck their blood and eat their flesh.

 

Lizzie 

Wow.

 

Zoe 

So.

 

Lizzie 

Classic.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. She will also kill livestock. And--you know, she's sort of like the "you better behave, or Black Annis will come and get you" sort of thing. You know, that sort of character. There are, like, some speculations for a specific person that was the origin of this story. The first one is a woman named Agnes Scott, who was a Dominican nun who supposedly lived in a cave in a forest and ran a leper colony there, which doesn't sound like someone you would make, like, a really horrible boogeywoman out of--

 

Lizzie 

No, not so much.

 

Zoe 

But--I don't know. Um, then another-another woman who could potentially be the inspiration for this figure is a woman in legend who supposedly predicted King Richard III's death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which is near Leicester. Um, and she said that on his return, his head would strike a stone on Leicester's Bow Bridge. And he did die. And when his horse was carrying him back, apparently his head like struck the stone.

 

Lizzie 

Hey, that's interesting.

 

Zoe 

And she was correct. So that's a fun little story.

 

Zoe 

I mean, it's not like that much of a long shot, that someone will die in battle. But like, the specific-the specifics of the stone is interesting.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, but it is the king and--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, fair.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. And like, also the king dying, that's kind of--you-you generally don't do that, I think, at the time? But--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah no, she's probably, like, accused of witchcraft.

 

Zoe 

Of course, this is--this is like, you know, rightful king, and all that stuff. Anyways, so she predicted that, and legend has it she was correct. And also, there's legend that she was--'cause she was, like, at this tavern that was like, with a sign that was a boar, like, you know, a pig with tusks, you know?

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

And (laughs) apparently, like when he came back, like, the-the sign had turned, like, blue, which is sort of like her face being blue, which is--

 

Lizzie 

Interesting.

 

Zoe 

Interesting. Yeah. And other scholars have linked her to mythicalogical figures such as Hel from Norse mythology and Cailleach Beara, who is--uh, we talked about in our crones episode, I believe. Yes?

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

They're both kind of frightening old woman who are often depicted with blue faces, and sometimes Black Annis is depicted with a sort of, like, split face, like Hel--Hel is half-corpse and half-skeleton, I believe?

 

Lizzie 

Interesting.

 

Zoe 

And so there's belief that that could also be one of her origins. Some scholars argue that, uh, her association with the night and that she can only come out at night--legend says that if she comes out during the day, she'll be turned to stone, which is--

 

Zoe 

--a whole thing--links her to winter. And if she has a winter form, she may also have a younger, more beautiful summer form. And there are stories that Bel, B-E-L, the summer king is her lover. So maybe she has a sort of younger summer form. And the concept of her having a dual winter-summer form has led other scholars to link her with Brigid from Irish mythology. Which is interesting.

 

Lizzie 

Cool. That's nice.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, because Brigid's like the spring version of of Cailleach Beara, sometimes.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, so it's possible that she has, like, sort of more old origins than just, um, this creepy woman lived in the woods once and we were kind of like, weirded out by her. So that's always interesting.

 

Lizzie 

Is she, like, a very common legend in Leicester?

 

Zoe 

In Leicester, yes. I think it's pretty limited to the region of Leicester, or Leicestershire, maybe. But it's very common within, like, the area.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, yeah, fair, yeah.

 

Zoe 

As, like, a figure and a story. But yeah, so there was, like I said, obviously, there's antisemitic--possible antisemitic roots here as well. There's the child-eating, the blue face, the-the bloodsucking, you know. I think it's also possible that she could sort of be representative of winter, and the way that she--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, yeah, winter turns your skin blue.

 

Zoe 

--takes children can be a fear that children will die during the winter, which is--was very common, especially during, like, the time when stories and fear of her were really common in England. I mean, I think both could very much be true; it doesn't help.

 

Lizzie 

(laughs) Yeah, exactly.

 

Zoe 

That's for sure. And some other people think that the stories of children being eaten by her could represent a ritual of sacrifice to an earth goddess figure, um, because she is linked to earth goddesses.

 

Lizzie 

That does not sound real to me.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, I don't know, scholars say a lot of things. Just because the scholar says something doesn't mean that it's true or accurate  but, uh...

 

Lizzie 

I feel like ritual sacrifice in Britain, if it ever happened, it was not at all recently, right?

 

Zoe 

I mean, I think there was definitely ritual sacrifice. I mean, first of all, like we can talk about--I mean, they're pre-Christian Britain, for sure. But like there's--they link her to earth gods through her residence in a cave in the ground. And it's like, they sacrifice children to a cave in the ground in like, pre-Christian society. I don't know. As we sort of talked about before, when it comes to, like, sort of Christianization and conversion of areas, Christians love to take, especially female figures that were worshipped by people, and make them into these like evil people.

 

Lizzie 

Definitely. And also kind of erase the original history, so you have to just kind of guess at what it used to be before Christianization.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. I mean, I don't really know the evidence for like, any of these stories. It's all really theory, that's just sort of like, the fun-ish part, I guess, is to just be like, well, what if it's linked to this? Who's to say. But, yeah.

 

Lizzie 

I like her name because it sounds like a spider.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. That is true. She's also of course known as Black Agnes or Black Anna, which is fun.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

And yeah, she crawls a lot too, because she has iron claws. So that is fun and scary.

 

Lizzie 

That also sounds spidery.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. And that's pretty much all I got on her.

 

Lizzie 

Nice! So my next lady is Muma Pădurii, who is a witch from Romanian folklore. And a shoutout to my friend Mariana, who--I did not find, like, very many sources in English, and her native language is Romanian, so she helped me.

 

Zoe 

Nice! Very cool.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah! So her name means mother--I love having friends who speak different languages. It's so fun.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Comes in handy during Mytholadies. Anyway.

 

Zoe 

It really does.

 

Lizzie 

So her name means "mother of the forest," and she's typically an ugly old woman who lives in the darkest parts of the forest. And less commonly--

 

Zoe 

Love her (laughs).

 

Lizzie 

--she can also be a young, beautiful woman who behaves like a good fairy to unborn children when they wander off into the woods, but who misleads adults about her spiteful intentions, lures them into her snares, and gnaws, maims, and even kills them.

 

Zoe 

I'm sorry, but--I mean, unborn children who wander off into the woods?

 

Lizzie 

Did I write--? Unborn children...that doesn't make any sense.

 

Zoe 

Does it just mean--(laughs) like, young children?

 

Lizzie 

I mean, to be honest I probably wrote it as I saw it, but now that you said that, it doesn't make a lick of sense (both laugh). Less commonly, she can also be a young, beautiful woman who behaves as a good fairy to children when they wander off into the woods, but who misleads adults about her spiteful intentions, lures them into her snares and then gnaws, maims, and even kills them.

 

Zoe 

Wow. Okay, that's very interesting.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

'Cause she's good to the children, but not the adults.

 

Lizzie 

I guess so. Which like, fair enough. Be nice to children.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. She's just like, I'll help you if you're a kid. But if you're old, you're on your own. You should have known better than to get lost in the woods (laughs).

 

Lizzie 

Yeah (laughs). And she can also be sort of a forest demigod who takes the form of an old woman and kills people who live on the edge of the forest, and enters their home via open doors and windows, and stabs them.

 

Zoe 

Whew! Oof. That's scary!

 

Lizzie 

It is, yeah!

 

Zoe  

That is scary.

 

Lizzie 

I feel like living on the edge of the forest is already kind of scary because there's creatures in the forest.

 

Zoe 

Definitely.

 

Lizzie 

And a lot of darkness.

 

Lizzie 

It's--it's cool that she's, like, a forest protectress and she cures the forest if it's dying and keeps trespassers away. And she can act as a benefactor of the forest, punishing robbers, showing the right path to lost children, and helping troubled people.

 

Zoe 

Uh huh.

 

Zoe 

That's really awesome. She sounds awesome.

 

Lizzie 

Isn't that cool?

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Evidently, she also punishes people who pick fruits in the forest on August 19.

 

Zoe 

Oh.

 

Lizzie 

Though--

 

Zoe 

Only on August 19?

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. And like it didn't really say why August 19.

 

Zoe 

Okay.

 

Lizzie 

Um, my guess is because that is a Christian feast day.

 

Zoe 

Uh huh. I guess, yeah.

 

Lizzie 

I could not find evidence of it being, like, a Romanian holiday or anything. So.

 

Zoe 

Wow.

 

Lizzie 

Probably, that's why.

 

Zoe 

Interesting. All right, noted not to pick fruits on that day.

 

Lizzie 

Only if you're in Romania.

 

Zoe 

If I'm in a Romanian forest.

 

Lizzie 

Exactly. And the trees of the forest are like her children, and she calls all of them by name or nickname, and sometimes if they upset her, she curses them to be cut down by man or struck by lightning.

 

Zoe 

Wow!

 

Zoe 

That is awesome. I'm a huge fan of this lady.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Right? I've never--I don't think we've ever covered a woman on this show that's made me be like, wow, she's like the Lorax (Zoe laughs).

 

Zoe 

No, I don't think so either. But I just think that, you know, she has power over the whole forest. She's the one who oversees it all. That's really cool.

 

Lizzie 

Isn't that cool? And, um, yeah, she speaks for the trees.

 

Zoe 

I think that's very fun.

 

Lizzie 

 For the Lorax reference.

 

Zoe 

She does speak for the trees (Lizzie laughs). Yeah, a little Lorax reference for all you Lorax stans out there.

 

Lizzie 

And in this view, she's much more neutral and only harms those who harm the forest, but sometimes she's also purely evil. She's associated in some Romanian folktales with killing people and luring children like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. And she's described as ugly, with long, unkempt hair and a hunchback or a limp and teeth like millstones or wool. Which, one has to wonder what that consists of.

 

Zoe 

Okay. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

And sometimes she has children fathered by the devil, but these children are very bad and upset her.

 

Zoe 

Oh!

 

Lizzie 

So she steals the sleep of human children and gives it to her own children so that they will sleep and not bother her.

 

Zoe 

Wow. That's some deep lore.

 

Lizzie 

Right? And I think it's interesting that probably if you're like a child and near the forest, and you can't sleep, it would be like, yeah, Muma Pădurii has stolen my sleep..

 

Zoe 

Yeah, she stole my sleep.

 

Lizzie 

It's kind of fun.

 

Zoe 

It's very scary. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. But also I like the idea that she just puts her children to sleep so she doesn't have to deal with them (laughs).

 

Zoe 

Yeah! I mean, I don't know, she--maybe she didn't want children. She needs birth control.

 

Lizzie 

Wow. So true (laughs).

 

Zoe 

So true. That's my hot take of this episode.

 

Lizzie 

And naturally, there are also stories of her eating children as well. And legend has it that she would show up at the cottages of people living near the forest and ask for a comb and butter to make her hair nice and shiny.

 

Zoe 

Ah!

 

Lizzie 

And you couldn't say more than three words to her--side note, her hair is supposed to be unkempt. So is it unkempt, or is it shiny? Anyway.

 

Zoe 

Well, this sounds like she's not actually using the comb or the butter, so.

 

Lizzie 

Fair enough. And you--(laughs).

 

Zoe 

It's just like a trap.

 

Lizzie 

And you couldn't say more than three words to her. And if you uttered a fourth word, Muma Pădurii would take your voice away (Zoe gasps). Yeah.

 

Zoe 

Whoa.

 

Lizzie 

And it's also said that any man who manages to bind her gets granted a wish.

 

Zoe 

What does it mean by bind her?

 

Lizzie 

I guess, like physically subdue her with, like, a rope or something?

 

Zoe 

I guess.

 

Lizzie 

That's what I assumed it meant.

 

Zoe 

Okay. Don't like that. Don't do that, men.

 

Lizzie 

Exactly. Just get stabbed, it's fine.

 

Zoe 

For our Romanian listeners, don't-don't do that. It's not worth it.

 

Lizzie 

And another thing I saw is that there's a Romanian organization called Muma Pădurii that supports reforestation in Romania, which is cool.

 

Zoe 

That's really cool!

 

Lizzie 

It's a cool thing to be named after her. Yeah. It's cool.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. Well, she speaks for the trees, as you said.

 

Lizzie 

She does speak for the trees! (laughs)

 

Zoe 

She's basically the Lorax.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

I also feel like she could definitely be a pre-Christian goddess that was, you know, sort of, um, impacted by Christianization.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, that makes--exactly, she does sound very mythical.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. Because she's incredibly powerful. I mean, she's very, um--you--she has so much power over the forest and the trees. She knows all the trees in the forest, which like, especially before, like, industrialization, that's a lot of trees.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

Like, that's a lot of trees. These are big forests. And, um, like, that's a lot of power for her to have. So I definitely mean--obviously we--I don't know for sure, but I could definitely see her being like a pre-Christian Goddess that became sort of--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, I agree. I think that would make a lot of sense.

 

Zoe 

--more of a threatening figure with the advent of--advent of Christianization, wow. Anyways (laughs).

 

Lizzie 

She does seem like the remnants of like, mythological, like, stories about some goddess or something that's sort of been transformed or christianized with it. Which is cool! So that's--so that's her.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm. Yeah! So my next lady is also--I mean, she's also a very interesting figure, in my opinion, and she is Louhi, who is a Finnish lady and she is the main antagonist of the Kalevala, which is, of course, the national epic of Finland. She is a witch, of course, because we're talking about her. She has a lot of magical powers. She can supposedly transform into any shape and cast powerful enchantments in order to achieve what she wants, or stop her enemies from achieving what she wants. And she also challenges the hero--one of the heroes of the Kalevala, uh, Lemminkäinen, to a spell contest, and I believe she wins.

 

Zoe 

I couldn't find information on that, but I'm pretty sure she won, 'cause, uh, Lemminkäinen is kind of a arrogant guy, so I feel like he would lose (Lizzie laughs). But anyway, she's the leader in the land of Pohjola, which is one of the two main lands in the Kalevala, alongside Kalevala also known as Väinölä, which is the land of the hero of the epic, Väinämöinen.

 

Lizzie 

Cool!

 

Lizzie 

Väinämöinen. Fun name. Awesome name.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. So many umlauts. So umlauts in Finnish. I don't even know if they're called umlauts, actually. But you know, the two dots.

 

Lizzie 

I mean, they're called umlauts in English,

 

Zoe 

I don't know. But anyway, so she is--I think that I are initially characterized band of Pohjola as the land of the Saami people, while Väinölä is the land of the Finns, but upon further research, that might not be as true, or it's not like quite as clear a dichotomy as originally I thought. More so it appears that Pohjola represents a more metaphorical place than an attempt to describe a real place or geography, although Elias Lönnrot, the writer of the Kalevala, was trying to sort of give it some geography. It--basically, it means "the North" in Finnish, and it basically represents a place of cold and darkness. And therefore it makes sense that such a place would be really frightening and sort of a hell concept in Finland because it's Finland, it's so far north. Cold and darkness is a big problem and something that's present a lot and so the idea of a place where it's like eternally cold and dark is not great.

 

Zoe 

Kind of sucks. But our girl Louhi is the ruler of this place. Um, she is believed possibly that she's a Finnish--she's a version of the Finnish goddess Loviatar--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Ah, yeah, yeah.

 

Zoe 

--who is an underworld goddess who was--yes. She was impregnated by a great wind and then gave birth to nine sons who represent the nine diseases of the world. Would you like to know what they are?

 

Lizzie 

Yes, I do.

 

Zoe 

Consumption, colic, gout, rickets, ulcers, scabs, cancer, plague, and the ninth being unnamed but the worst. So that's fun.

 

Lizzie 

Interesting. I love how scabs and cancer are like, equal.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. And in some folk songs, Louhi is the mother of the nine diseases, and in other stories, Loviatar is called the whore mistress of Pohjola. So they're definitely, like, equated in some ways. There are some stories where they're like, basically the same person, or the same figure, but often the ruler of Pohjola is unnamed in songs, which makes sense because fear of naming etc, etc. You know, that's a big thing--

 

Lizzie 

Fair, yeah.

 

Zoe 

--in folklore and mythology as well. Yeah. Her main function and the-- Louhi's main function in the Kalevala is to be mother of many beautiful daughters, whom the main male characters wish to marry. In order to do so, often they must complete many difficult tasks set by Louhi, and this differentiates her from Loviatar, as Loviatar does not assign quests to heroes. There's no story of her doing that. So that sort of differentiate-differentiates her as her own sort of figure in Finnish mythology.

 

Zoe 

Um, and so the stories of these challenges is what makes up the majority of the Kalevala. Interestingly, because Pohjola is the land of Louhi and her daughters, then it is also the land of women, while Väinölä is the land of men. And also I will say the Kalevala is kind of a sexist text, so it's interesting, um, that there's sort of that differentiation as well. But anyways. Um--so, in one of these challenges the smith Ilmarinen creates the Sampo, which is the magical abundance machine, which is kind of like a cornucopia. It produces seeds and salt and other items necessary for survival in Finland. And this is sort of like the--kind of MacGuffin of the (laughs) of the Kalevala.

 

Lizzie 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

Oh.

 

Zoe 

In that Louhi wants the Sampo in Pohjola, where they need it for resources, while the people of Väinölä want it for their own use, obviously, and they fight a lot. And that's sort of basically--after it's created, that sort of creates the rest of the conflict and stories. And there's also a lot of smaller stories too, and sort of creation stories as well throughout the-the epic. It's pretty long. But yeah, so--and then she's using her magic to stop the plans of Väinämöinen, and he's doing his own tricks to get it back, and it's a whole thing. But yeah, that's basically Louhi, I think. I mean, she's very fun. She is very evil, and she's super powerful. And in the end, of course, the Sampo gets destroyed because no one can have the magical, pr-producing machine. That would just upset the balance of the world.

 

Lizzie 

Fair.

 

Zoe 

And yeah. And then Christianity comes in at the end and saves everyone.

 

Lizzie 

(laughs) Of course it does!

 

Zoe 

And that's the story. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Nice. Great. So yeah, that leads us to our next lady, Sebile, who is an enchantress from Arthurian legend, as well as Italian folklore.

 

Zoe 

Really?

 

Lizzie 

Yes. And I mean, it does make sense that she would also be a figure in Italian folklore because, well, she has her roots in the ancient Greek/Roman prophetess, the Cumaean Sybil.

 

Zoe 

Mm.

 

Lizzie 

So like, fair enough. And the figure of the Cumaean--

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Zoe 

That does make sense.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. And the figure of the Cumaean Sybil then evolved into a Christianized character named Sebile in the early Middle Ages, and then into a fey-like creature that we find in Arthurian literature in the late Middle Ages.

 

Lizzie 

And she is closely associated with Morgan Le Fay, to the point that sometimes they're--

 

Zoe 

Of course.

 

Lizzie 

Of course. To the point that sometimes are thought to be the same figure, and also at other times, they appear in stories together, either as rivals or as friends.

 

Zoe 

Cool, yeah.

 

Lizzie 

And, um, she appears in several pieces of Arthurian literature, including really well-known ones like La Mort d'Arthur and the Lancelot Grail prose cycle.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

Did you have to read La Mort d'Arthur in, like, English class?

 

Zoe 

No, I never had to read it. I read a simplified version of it once just for funsies, but.

 

Lizzie 

I think--I think--I think I read, like, some of it for English class. Not the whole thing. It's very long, I believe.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, no, yeah, I never read the whole thing.

 

Lizzie 

And sometimes she appears benevolent, like in the 12th century German poem Lanzelet, where she ends up marrying Lancelot, and they have four children and die on the same day.

 

Zoe 

Oh, that's really romantic, so...

 

Lizzie 

Isn't it?

 

Zoe 

Sounds like they really liked each other.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, because isn't Lancelot's main, like--I say this like I don't already know (Zoe laughs). Lancelot's always with Guinevere. So that's interesting.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, well, I guess maybe in that one, they don't have that problem. I don't know.

 

Lizzie 

Taking some creative liberties (laughs). Yeah. But also at other times, she's like a villainous enchantress. For example, in the Lancelot Grail, she appears with Morgan Le Fay and the Queen of Sorestan, and they kidnap Lancelot together and try to make him choose which one of them he wants.

 

Zoe 

Oh.

 

Lizzie 

Um, and he obviously picks none of them because he's loyal to Guinevere.

 

Zoe 

Which is really funny. Um.

 

Lizzie 

So--(laughs) yeah.

 

Zoe 

(laughing) Because she's married.

 

Lizzie 

Right. And so yeah, so she has more negative depictions as well.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, they kidnap him. They, like, force him to choose and then they imprison him when he says none of you and then he has to be rescued.

 

Zoe 

That's nice.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

Good old damsel in distress Lancelot.

 

Lizzie 

(laughs) Yeah, love him. And additionally, she appears in Italian folklore, where she appears as a demonic sorceress. And there's a mountain in the Appenine mountain range in central Italy called Monte Sibilla, which is of course named after her. Local folklore from the 1400s says that Sebile, La Sibilla, lives with an entourage of seductive nymphs--

 

Zoe 

Ooh!

 

Lizzie 

--in an enchanted realm. One story tells of a knight of his squire who enter her kingdom and get entranced by its forbidden pleasures and end up staying there for like a whole year.

 

Lizzie 

So basically this version of Sebile runs a realm full of carnal pleasures--

 

Zoe 

Oh.

 

Zoe 

Ouh!!

 

Lizzie 

--where if people stay there for more than a year they're trapped there forever.

 

Zoe 

It sounds kind of like the Land of the Lotus-Eaters in Greek mythology.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, yeah. And the story of the Knight and Squire then involves them realizing their sins, escaping, and then confessing to the Pope.

 

Zoe 

Oh, good.

 

Lizzie 

Which, I think is funny.

 

Zoe 

I'm glad.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah (laughs). I'm glad the Pope makes an appearance.

 

Zoe 

Christianity saves the day once again.

 

Lizzie 

(laughs) Yeah, exactly. And then also, this particular legend is thought to have inspired the motif in German folklore known as Venusberg, or Mountain of Venus. Do you know it?

 

Zoe 

Venusberg?

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

Venus mountain?

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, Mountain Venus.

 

Zoe 

Oh, is it like--is it just, like, a place of, like, sin and desire, kind of like Vanity Fair?

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, basically, yeah.

 

Zoe 

Or whatever.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, like, it consists of a mortal man being seduced by an enchantress in the otherworld.

 

Zoe 

So I have not read that much German literature at all, so (laughs). I'm not familiar.

 

Lizzie 

I mean, I feel like it's just common in general.

 

Lizzie 

Just sort of--I mean, definitely, in Arthurian-type stuff, like lore (?) and legend, and--

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, I mean, it's just a very common like, the hero gets tempted by carnal desires and has to show that he's better than that, you know, sort of thing.

 

Lizzie 

Exactly. It kind of reminded me of in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Galahad, I think, gets abducted by those women and brought to the Castle Anthrax, and they all try to sleep with him, and he escapes.

 

Zoe 

Um, I don't remember that. Which is surprising, because I have seen that movie, technically. But I have no memory of that happening. I do believe it happened.

 

Lizzie 

Thank you (laughs).

 

Zoe 

I believe you. Yeah, it-it seems like, you know, a pretty common trope in, like, heroic quests, like--

 

Lizzie 

Exactly.

 

Zoe 

--you must resist the temptations of the flesh in order to become the true hero.

 

Lizzie 

You prove that you're chaste. Exactly (laughs).

 

Zoe 

Yeah. Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

Anyway. And Sebile has also been portrayed in shows and movies and literature since then, as well as the stage musical Camelot.

 

Zoe 

Oh!

 

Lizzie 

And apparently she was on an episode of The Winx Club.

 

Zoe 

The new one or the old one?

 

Lizzie 

Old-old one? (Zoe laughs) And not-not the Netflix one (both laugh). And she's also been in some video games.

 

Zoe 

Nice.

 

Lizzie 

I was actually never a Winx Club kid.

 

Zoe 

I wasn't either.

 

Lizzie 

But I-I know a bunch of people were so that's in there for-for the--

 

Zoe 

For the Winx Club stans. For the Lorax stans and the Winx Club stans, yeah. Good for her (Lizzie laughs). Yeah, I think it's fun when, uh, Morgan Le Fay has like, women to help her out, you know?

 

Lizzie 

Right?

 

Zoe 

You know?

 

Lizzie 

It's always nice to see women helping women.

 

Zoe 

Women supporting women in Arthurian legend (Lizzie laughs) Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

So my next lady is--also has her origins in sort of Roman/Greek folklore mythology. Um, her name is on Angitia. She is sort of pre-Roman goddess around the Oscan-Umbrian region. And her name comes from anguis, which means snake or eel, which--the reason for that will become clear in a bit.

 

Lizzie 

Ooh!

 

Zoe 

She's particularly important to a group of people known as the Marsi, who live in the modern-day Abruzzo region of Central Italy. And they claim descent from her, several people in that, sort of, region. So that's cool.

 

Lizzie 

Ooh, multiple instances of Central Italy today.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. According to this legend, Angitia was the third daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis after Medea, and also according to this legend, Circe, which must be, like, a certain version of the story, because other stories have her provenance different.

 

Lizzie 

There's certain versions were Medea and Circe are related.

 

Lizzie 

Cool!

 

Zoe 

Well, they--yeah. Yeah. Um, anyway, so she was--in this story, she was the third daughter after Medea and Circe. And like the rest of her family, she was skilled in the magical arts. And like the rest of her family, she was pretty adept at using magical herbs to create cures for diseases, and particularly for snake bites, which was their specialty. And she also had power over serpents, so that's why her name means like snake or eel.

 

Zoe 

Some medieval scholars believe that Medea and Angitia were the same person, as Medea was also skilled in the use of medicinal herbs and had some associations with snakes, like the dragon that she tamed or calmed in order to help Jason get the Golden Fleece. And according to this theory, Angitia was named--was the name given to Medea after her flight from Colchis with the rest of the Argonauts, but the Marsi story says that Angitia then stopped in Italy, teaching the Marsi people to cure fever and snake bites, and mastery over animals like wolves and snakes and descendants in that region still claim those skills to this day. So awesome for them.

 

Zoe 

Um, other folklore from the Abruzzo region says that Angitia was a Greek priestess who built a home on the shores of Lake Fucino and taught locals her skills of medicine, snake-charming, divination and snakebite cures.

 

Lizzie 

Cool!

 

Lizzie 

I think it's cool that she both charm snakes and also can cure the snake bites. It makes sense.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

It's interesting.

 

Zoe 

I mean, she basically just has power over every aspect of the snake, I suppose. Like--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

--whether the venom--whether it's inside the snake or inside a person after it was moved from the snake to the person. It's very cool. And there are inscriptions to her at the Luco dei Marsi, which was also known as the Lucus Angitiae during the Roman Empire. This is sort of a holy complex of like, a temple, there's a sacred grove to her. So, pretty good setup, like, this is a serious--she was, like, seriously important to these people. And her name also appears in inscriptions and artifacts of other people from around this time, like the Umbrians, the Paeligni, the Vestini, and the Sabines. And so--with the story of Angitia--we've been seeing some pretty negative depictions of witches and witchcraft throughout these--the rest of these ladies, but we see a sort of earlier, different idea of witches, with less negative connotations and more associations with medicine and healing.

 

Zoe 

Um, it's interesting to note that the Greek word for sorcery or witchcraft, pharmakeia, is also the root word for pharmacy, which is the place where we get medicine to cure or treat ailments, which is a really interesting etymology, in my opinion. And the snake is generally associated with evil and the devil and, like, bad things nowadays. But in ancient Greece, it was often associated with medicine and healing. And we can still see remnants of that to this day with both mythology and also the caduceus, which is still a medical symbol to this day from ancient Greece--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

--which has--it's a staff with two snakes wrapped around it. And so it's interesting because we have an earlier representation of witchcraft and sort of using magic to heal people that's a lot more positive. And this is, you know, a more pre-Christian idea of witchcraft, um, that was less corrupted by Christianity and misogyny, probably? I mean, th-that seems like I'm trying to say that the Greeks and Romans weren't misogynistic, which, like, they definitely were, so--but yeah, just like a less negative idea of people who use their abilities to cure people, um, and help people, which is good.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. Yeah, that's really nice. Um, yeah, but my next lady, and the last of the day is Annowre from Arthurian legend again. And she's an enchantress from north Wales--

 

Zoe 

Ooh!

 

Lizzie 

--and she's lesser-known than Sebile and other Arthurian enchantresses. She only appears in a handful of works and wasn't the principal character in any of them. She appears in Malory's La Mort d'Arthur, where she's a sorceress who falls in love with King Arthur.

 

Zoe 

Ohh.

 

Lizzie 

And she tries to seduce him, but it's unsuccessful because Arthur is determined to stay true to Guinevere--

 

Zoe 

Ironic.

 

Lizzie 

So--(laughs) so she plots to kill him instead. It is ironic.

 

Lizzie 

It's interesting that, like, two different plot points of the day were, I won't sleep with you because I'm true to Guinevere, but for different-different people.

 

Zoe 

As you do.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Anyway, she enchants him so that he is forced to ride into the perilous forest every day, where his life is challenged by a series of unscrupulous knights.

 

Zoe 

Interesting.

 

Lizzie 

And then the Lady of the Lake learns of this, and she enlists the hero, Tristan--

 

Zoe 

Ooh.

 

Lizzie 

--to help her save him. And they arrive at Arthur's aid when Annowre is about to cut Arthur's head off, but they free him, and Arthur cuts off Annowre's head.

 

Zoe 

Ahh. Good.

 

Lizzie 

And the Lady of the Lake attaches the severed head to her saddle as a symbol of victory.

 

Zoe 

To her what?

 

Lizzie 

To her saddle.

 

Zoe 

Huh. Okay, cool. It's interesting, you don't think of Tristan as like a medieval name.

 

Lizzie 

(laughs) True.

 

Zoe 

It's like Tiffany.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and also the-the beheading of Annowre and then placing her head on the saddle is reminiscent of--

 

Zoe 

Medusa.

 

Lizzie 

--Athena, using the head of Medusa as--yeah, exactly, as a trophy.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Which, side note, I came across some scholarly debate on the exact symbolism behind the Lady of the Lake doing this.

 

Zoe 

Interesting!

 

Zoe 

Huh.

 

Lizzie 

Because in others--in other instances in-in Malory and also in Arthurian legend in general, carrying the severed head of somebody that you have beheaded is an act of punishment to the bearer.

 

Lizzie 

Like when Gawain accidentally beheads a woman on his quest and he has to bear her head--

 

Zoe 

Ahh.

 

Lizzie 

--thereafter as penance.

 

Zoe 

Interesting.

 

Lizzie 

Um, and so it's possible that the Lady of the Lake doing this could be representative of the fact that Arthur killed a defenseless woman, which is a violation of the Pentecostal oath. I mean, she wasn't that defenseless. She was trying to kill him.

 

Zoe 

Then why doesn't Arthur have to--like, why doesn't Arthur have to--

 

Lizzie 

I-I guess because the Lady of the Lake, like, was kind of an accomplice in this (laughs).

 

Zoe 

Mm.

 

Lizzie 

I don't know.

 

Zoe 

God forbid women do anything these days.

 

Lizzie 

Right? (laughs)

 

Zoe 

Yeah, but that's interesting.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, it is. And she also appears in an Italian Arthurian roman-romance La Tavola Ritonda, where she is called Elergia (ɠ). Nope. Where she is called Elergia (ʐ).

 

Zoe 

Oh, (laughs) so even closer to allergy.

 

Lizzie 

Oh, my God (laughs). Yeah. The story is very similar, except that Elergia does succeed in seducing Arthur--

 

Zoe 

Oh!

 

Lizzie 

--by putting an enchanted ring on him.

 

Zoe 

Mm.

 

Lizzie 

It causes him to forget about Guinevere.

 

Zoe 

Oh.

 

Lizzie 

And the Lady of the Lake once again enlists Tristan to come to Arthur's rescue. And he slays Elergia's four brothers, and once again, Arthur beheads Elergia. Something interesting is that Arthur tries to destroy her castle, but it cannot be destroyed because Merlin tells him it's such a sinful place that it will be able to stand until the end of the world.

 

Zoe 

Fascinating.

 

Lizzie 

I love the idea that sin is more powerful than good.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. Isn't it supposed to be the opposite? Like, shouldn't she be saying--

 

Lizzie 

Right? Good should triumph.

 

Zoe 

Shouldn't good be triumphing--

 

Lizzie 

Triumphing over evil, yeah.

 

Zoe 

I don't know, man. I didn't write it (both laugh). But it's interesting. I think the beheading is really interesting that that's like a thing that was happening a lot because--I don't know, it's feels like a very--a more like, masculine punishment? I don't know.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, definitely.

 

Zoe 

I don't know. I'm not a scholar.

 

Lizzie 

I guess if you're, like, an evil witch, you lose your--

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

--feminine.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. Feminine--

 

Lizzie 

Charm. I don't know (laughs).

 

Zoe 

Your-your womanness, your womanness, you lose it.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah.

 

Zoe 

Like-yeah. Interesting. I mean, I don't know. It just feels like, you know--I mean, I guess it's not, I mean, women have been decapitated throughout history, famously. But I don't know, like, as a, an, uh, literature and like, as a symbol, it feels, I don't know, interesting to think about.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, like a masculine symbol.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. Yeah. More of, like, a battlefield thing than, like, a--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, it's also, like, not the most convenient way to kill someone. Like, it's very symbolic.

 

Zoe 

No.

 

Lizzie 

Like, you don't behead someone just casually.

 

Zoe 

Mm hmm.

 

Lizzie 

Well, not usually.

 

Zoe 

No. Unless you're Gawain, I guess.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. In another Italian work, Tristano Riccardiano--

 

Zoe 

Ooh.

 

Lizzie 

One thing about me is that I think I'm really good at Italian pronunciation. And I'm probably not. Anyway.

 

Zoe 

I don't know (laughs).

 

Lizzie 

Elergia/Annowre isn't mentioned by name, but the story--but the same story still appears, except that Arthur refuses to keep her head as a trophy because she's caused him such shame, and instead buries her head.

 

Zoe 

Good for him.

 

Lizzie 

Which is also reminiscent of Medusa.

 

Zoe 

Is it? Does she get--her head get buried?

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, 'cause in some versions, it's, um, it's buried outside of Argos, I think?

 

Zoe 

Oh.

 

Lizzie 

And it's, like, protecting the people.

 

Zoe 

Oh, right, right, right.

 

Lizzie 

A protective symbol, kind of.

 

Zoe 

Interesting, yeah. Very interesting.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. And that's Annowre. She doesn't get a lot of backstory. But there's a character in Shrek the Third called Annowre.

 

Zoe 

No way!

 

Lizzie 

I don't think she has any lines. Maybe she does. She's a character at Worcestershire Academy and has a crush on Artie. Okay, Arthur.

 

Zoe 

Oh, so this is--so, yeah. So this is, like, because of a direct reference, this is a direct reference!

 

Lizzie 

(laughs) Right?

 

Zoe 

Wow!

 

Lizzie 

I know.

 

Zoe 

Gosh, those Shrek people did their research.

 

Lizzie 

I know.

 

Zoe 

That's wild.

 

Lizzie 

Rewatch Shrek the Third to spot her.

 

Zoe 

Yeah. I don't know, Shrek the Third is a good movie, in my opinion. I enjoyed that movie.

 

Lizzie 

I-I think so too. I think Shrek the Third has a lot of really fun moments.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, I agree.

 

Lizzie 

People always say it's bad, and it's like, is it though?

 

Zoe 

I think the first three Shrek movies are all pretty solid.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, the fourth one is like--okay, we're getting off topic a little bit (both laugh). Like, we definitely went downhill with the fourth one. But--

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Anyway (laughs).

 

Zoe 

I haven't seen past the fourth one, so I don't know.

 

Lizzie 

I've only seen the fourth--I've only seen the fourth one.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

He has triplets in that one.

 

Zoe 

Oh, I forgot about the triplet nightmares (Lizzie laughs). That's-that's kind of a low moment in the franchise, I have to say.

 

Lizzie 

Yeah, definitely.

 

Zoe 

Yeah, but the-the princesses, like, kicking ass--that's-that's pretty fun.

 

Lizzie 

Exactly! That's really fun.

 

Zoe 

That's pretty fun. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

(both laughing) If you want more of our Shrek thoughts--

 

Zoe 

Maybe we should do a bonus on Shrek. Actually, like--

 

Lizzie 

That'd be really fun, honestly. We should do that.

 

Zoe 

We should do that. Anyways, if you want--

 

Lizzie 

Even if no one else wants to listen to it--

 

Zoe 

Bonus episode on Shrek. Let us know in the comments. And--

 

Lizzie 

Yeah. Shrek 1-3.

 

Zoe 

1-3.

 

Lizzie 

Or beyond.

 

Zoe 

Or beyond. We'll do it if you pay us, um, and--(Lizzie laughs). Yeah, we'll do it. We will do that for you, our loyal fans. Um, yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Or if nobody wants it, we might still do it.

 

Zoe 

Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Anyway. My sister would listen to it.

 

Zoe 

My sister would also listen to it. Probably.

 

Lizzie 

That's two people. Um, anyway, happy Halloween. I hope you enjoyed all these witches.

 

Zoe 

Happy Halloween. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

You have any final thoughts on the witches?

 

Zoe 

Not really. I mean, I enjoy them. I think witches are fun. And yeah, just--I mean, just, you know, be mindful of witches, and witch portrayals.

 

Lizzie 

Great.

 

Zoe 

And yeah. Thanks so much for listening to our episode. If you enjoyed it, please feel free to subscribe, leave us a review, tell all your friends. And we'll be back here in two weeks with another wonderful episode. Also, check out our bonus episode on Strega Nona because it's going to be so fun. Yeah.

 

Lizzie 

Thank you.

 

Zoe 

Buh-bye.

 

Outro, underscored by music:

 

Zoe 

Mytholadies Podcast is produced, researched and presented by Elizabeth Lacroix and Zoe Koeninger. You can find us on Instagram and Twitter @Mytholadies, and visit us on our website at mytholadies.com. Our cover art is by Helena Cailleaux. Our music was written and performed by Icarus Tyree. Thank you for listening. See you in two weeks.