By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Why Do Witches Wear Pointy Hats?

Pointy black hats are everywhere this time of year. They are probably the most important part of a costume, should a little boy or girl want to trick-or-treat as a witch. Indeed, as a broom isn't a terribly practical implement to be carrying around from door to door on Halloween, it's probably the only definitive sign that the child is dressed as a witch – as opposed to some other spook like a vampire.

By by are witches portrayed wearing pointed black hats?

Actually, the black hat is a relatively recent innovation. It probably goes back to about the 17th century, a time when black hats with brims and buckles were worn by both the Puritans and the Quakers. By the end of the 18th century, Francisco Goya had portrayed a group of witches wearing conical hats in the style of wizards (see below.) But these were neither brimmed, nor black. They also had a double point, more like the horns of Goya's He-Goat.

For their part, our Pagan Elders have taught us that the conical hat is a reminder of the Cone of Power, the energy that is raised during worship or working to achieve a specific intent. That energy is seen as circling around and around, as if going around the brim of a hat. The Craft of a Witch lies partly in the ability to gather that energy in, to focus and direct it, and to release it towards a specific target as if through the point of the hat.

Witches today tend to only wear the archetypal hat for fun – at festivals where we can let our hair down, or at Halloween when everyone wants to be more like us. But the hat always stands as a powerful symbol, a reminder of the changes we can create in the world – and for those who have learned the lessons well, also of the responsibility that comes with being benders and shapers of reality.

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Image credit: Witch hat by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay ( CC0 1.0 )

Source: Katy Waldman, “ Why Do Witches Wear Pointy Hats? ” (Slate)

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momathome wrote on October 18, 2014, 10:48 PM

That was interesting. I had no idea where the basis of the witches hat actually came from, I thought maybe from children's books (I loved The Littlest Witch when I was a kid). I didn't realize it actually had a basis in the craft itself.

Donna_Thacker wrote on October 18, 2014, 11:31 PM

It's the same with everything as it gets past down through the ages it gets distorted. Why are witches always depicted as cackling old crones with long warted noses? A witch could look just like...say... you or I. Could even be your neighbor or friend.

LeaPea2417 wrote on October 18, 2014, 11:40 PM

I never thought about why the wear pointy hats before. That is interesting.

allen0187 wrote on October 19, 2014, 1:24 AM

Never really thought about this one. Such an informative and timely article. Thanks for sharing it!

Dawnwriter wrote on October 19, 2014, 3:00 AM

Never thought much about the reason but your article was very interesting to read:-)

AliCanary wrote on October 19, 2014, 7:12 AM

And here I thought it was just the Kentucky Derby version of the wizard hat.

Feisty56 wrote on October 19, 2014, 7:36 AM

I had truly never given the pointed hat a thought, but enjoyed reading this. I have something interesting to share with the grand kids now. They love this sort of information.

maramadalina wrote on October 19, 2014, 8:42 AM

This year, Halloween promises to be a special celebration. I already have a cute vampire outfit. Last year I was a witch and I wore such a pointy black hat.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 19, 2014, 3:04 PM

I first read that book when I was in grade three, and I remember really connecting with it and wondering why! I haven't read it in years, though! I should get a copy....

Much of what's written into storybooks and contemporary TV or film has some basis in history or in modern Craft. But it does tend to get twisted around a lot....

Ruby3881 wrote on October 19, 2014, 3:13 PM

Well, I think the old hag has a lot to do with the persecution of old maids & widows during the Inquisition. That, and the crone is a powerful figure, going back to ancient times. Notice that wizards are usually depicted as old men with white hair and long beards, too! I've known a few that actually match that description, but most don't even come close...

But that's a whole 'nother post!

MegL wrote on October 19, 2014, 3:56 PM

Interesting. A good idea for focusing on something if you have something to achieve.

Donna_Thacker wrote on October 19, 2014, 4:36 PM

LOL, so true! People get stuck on images that are handed down and possibly changed year after year after year. It's the same with Native Americans as being the bad guys...but that too is a whole 'nother post, lol.

JanetJenson wrote on October 19, 2014, 9:00 PM

What delightful post. The meaning of the conical cap is somewhat similar to that of the original dunce cap, I think. Of course, Duns Scotus was highly respected at one time. So were wise women, in all probability although you would hardly know it now.

momathome wrote on October 19, 2014, 10:07 PM

Ruby3881 I still have a copy of that book, and have read it to the kids many times (although now they can read it themselves). I admit I still love it though, I'm not sure why as I'm not wiccan myself (I was raised Baptist) but I have always felt like I could really feel a part of that book, does that make sense?

Ruby3881 wrote on October 19, 2014, 11:36 PM

I am glad that you enjoyed reading about the witches hat, and that you learned something new! I have a couple of similar topics in mind for future posts :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 19, 2014, 11:36 PM

I love writing at Halloween! I have so many "witchy" things to share with the world :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 19, 2014, 11:53 PM

It does indeed! I had that feeling with several stories before I found the Craft. you know Lee Anne, it's our belief that all paths lead to the center. There are many ways to connect with the Divine, and many ways to serve.

I've known a few very devout Christians who would have been right at home in a coven of Witches, but who were quite happy with the faith in which they'd been raised. We don't believe in a single lifetime. So perhaps that sense of belonging is a memory of lifetimes past, or a foreshadowing of things yet to be...

Ruby3881 wrote on October 19, 2014, 11:55 PM

We feel a strong sense of kinship with the First Nations of this land. In many ways, the aboriginal peoples of North America share similarities with the Pagan folk of old, and with our Celtic ancestors more specifically.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 19, 2014, 11:56 PM

I'm glad you found it interesting to read about our pointy hats :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 12:13 AM

I've seen some witch hats that would work at the Derby! One lady made all kinds of fancy pointed hats and sold them at festivals. They were great for those who needed a little shade from the sun while spending our days outside!

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 12:15 AM

I have several other crafty subjects I want to write about here - though at least one of them contains a few details you might want to share when the grandkids are older!

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 12:30 AM

We have two vampires in our company this year, but no little witches . Myself, I'm going as a ladybug :)

somedsatisfied wrote on October 20, 2014, 4:15 AM

What a great question! Thanks for the explanation.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 4:46 AM

We actually spend time learning how to raise energy and not just focus it. It's a little like learning how to bring the action in a story to a climax, or how a rock band will build the excitement of the crowd at a concert, until it sort of erupts with a specific song.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 5:29 AM

There is definitely a link with the dunce cap, which was intended to focus the mind. And a link between "wise women" and Witches too :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 20, 2014, 5:31 AM

Thank you Lisa, for stopping by and commenting! It's good to see you taking an active role here. I'm looking forward to seeing PP really get rocking with all the great new members who are passionate about writing :)

Donna_Thacker wrote on October 20, 2014, 8:07 AM

Absolutely! Some people I know are even combinations of all in their ways and beliefs. It is nice to see other folks have a great understanding of ways of old too.

momathome wrote on October 20, 2014, 2:18 PM

Ruby3881 I actually had a few friends when I was in high school that were wiccans. But I'll never get the day when I was 7 that my grandmother came to my school for grandparents day out of my head. There was another grandmother there and she told my grandmother that she would have to be very careful with me because I had too much "power". She told my grandmother she had to keep me in church and away from "those influences". She seemed really upset and I know it upset my grandmother because she even hid my Littlest Witch book after that. The way they acted really freaked me out at the time, I think that is why when my friends wanted to explain wicca to me I told them it wasn't a good idea.

BNelson wrote on October 20, 2014, 10:00 PM

I think a lot of what we stereotype as history was in fact not correct, such as the black pointy witches hat.

LoudMan wrote on October 21, 2014, 8:21 AM

This is wonderful. Why not put it under spirituality? I need someone to give me a run-for-my-money. :) I really, really enjoyed this.

LoudMan wrote on October 21, 2014, 8:25 AM

What an odd religion which needs to block knowledge and information to retain its power and influence. Seems to me, they've something to hide. Can the truth not stand on its own?

LoudMan wrote on October 21, 2014, 8:27 AM

Share pics, or it didn't happen. :)

momathome wrote on October 21, 2014, 11:21 AM

LoudMan All religions encourage "isolated" viewpoints. There is none that I've ever heard of (even atheism which claims is not a religion but is still a belief system), that doesn't claim to be THE religion and the only correct way to believe. They are that way for their own survival. If they admitted that most (if not all) are basically the same, then they would lose too many followers.

carolscash wrote on October 22, 2014, 10:14 AM

Very interesting information! I had no idea that pointy hats actually had such history. It is amazing what we learn from these writing sites.

Lemark wrote on October 23, 2014, 10:25 AM

Thanks for the interesting and informative article. Many if not all artifacts used at 'our' holidays - mostly commercialized - have their roots in ages old pagan holidays and rituals.

The 'we the witches' part then comes from you and not from Katy Waldman?

Ruby3881 wrote on October 23, 2014, 9:33 PM

I've had a lot of people react very negatively to learning that I am of the Wicca. On every occasion, those who reacted negatively did so because of assumptions they made and not because they had learned a fact that made them upset. Most folks who bother to ask and learn, will tend to say to me that they can relate to a lot of things even if the path doesn't call to them personally.

Those who act out of fear by hiding and cutting off access, tend to be the ones that scare me. They can react to anything or anyone that isn't like them. That kind of xenophobia is potentially dangerous.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 23, 2014, 9:51 PM

Actually, that attitude tends to be more a monotheistic one. Because pluralism is central to polytheistic religions, both ancient and contemporary polytheists tend to be a lot more accepting of other faiths. Many even have a habit of absorbing the deities or holy days of another religion or culture into their own belief system.

As far as the atheism comment, that really wrinkled my brow. What atheists do you know who claim their belief system is the only right one? Most atheists also define themselves as freethinkers. By definition, that means they believe each man must find his own path.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 23, 2014, 10:28 PM

Are you trying to say Witches never wore black pointy hats? No, probably none did until recent times when we could pick them up at the dollar store Halloween display! But the symbol has a strong association with Witchcraft, and it has a meaning for us as Witches.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 23, 2014, 10:30 PM

I might do, Donald! Since this wasn't specifically an article about the religious aspects of Craft I wasn't entirely sure where to categorize it. "Folklore," "anthropology," or "symbolism" would have been my picks, had these categories existed... :D

Ruby3881 wrote on October 23, 2014, 10:37 PM

There's a lot more to share on this topic, so I'm really glad many folks are enjoying reading about it! I think perhaps I may share about the broom soon too :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 23, 2014, 10:41 PM

Indeed, there are a good many secular and religious holiday traditions whose roots lie in the Pagan past emoticon :smile:
And yes, any first person reference is to me and my own entourage. I haven't quoted Ms. Waldman anywhere in this article, and in fact just sourced her article because of some historical facts in the third paragraph that her article can confirm.

momathome wrote on October 23, 2014, 11:02 PM

Ruby3881 I never knew one that accepted that others have a right to their beliefs (atheists) because of their lack of acceptance of other people's right to believe, they are basically saying that they are the only "correct" ones. Of course it could just be the atheists I've known or read comments/posts from online.

I've never heard of the terms "monotheistic" or "polytheists" so I have to admit that part of your comment totally lost me. All I can speak from is what my experience has been. I personally believe that everyone has the right to worship as they see fit and believe whatever they want. I have no right to condemn or judge anyone else for their beliefs. I have just studied the basics of many of them (not in detail mind you) and I see too many similarities between many them to say that they are truly different.

scheng1 wrote on December 7, 2014, 4:42 AM

Cone of power? Nice term. I have not heard of this particular term.

Koalemos wrote on January 5, 2015, 2:33 PM

I would have been at a loss to decide whether a pointed hat was of true relevance or simply a portrayal that has developed due to some literary reference etcetera.

caretakerray wrote on January 8, 2015, 12:12 PM

I did not know about witches hats. The wizard look makes sense!