For generations, we have delighted in the wicked antics of the green-faced, long-nosed Halloween witch who flies upon her broom past a bat-filled moon on October 31. Halloween wouldn't be the same without her. The Halloween witch is a beloved symbol of the season, a darling of the dark side, a fanciful favorite of children and adults, a loathsome character to whom we can vent our nastiest impulses in a socially harmless -- and often playful -- way.
But like everything else in twenty-first century America, the Halloween witch's traditional image is changing. You'll find her replacement in stores, corporate offices and courtrooms where she's traded in her dark cloak for a little black dress and replaced her pointed hat for pearls. In spite of her green hands, she no longer travels on a manual broomstick. Recently, she upgraded to a hybrid, powered by the replaceable fuel of left-over tongues from political debates. Guided by the latest version of GPS (Ghastly Problems for Seniors) as she listens to FM channels (Forget the Masses) on craggy Bluetooth speakers, the new witch's fuel-efficient broom sweeps across the glass ceiling, leaving cracks through which ambitious women squeeze.
Gone too, is the Halloween witch's "familiar," that disappointed black cat who has been yowling for years over the bird-brained tweets lacking real feathers. For the sake of peace and efficiency, the cat has been replaced with a feline App on the witch's smart phone. No longer does the 2012 Halloween witch bend over an evil-smelling stew pot of adder's fork, blind-worm's sting and newt's eye described in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Today, she is more likely to microwave into cinders the misogynists whose continued to court images of wrinkled old women with evil.
The roots of those retro-images began with European fairy tales. Remember how Hansel and Gretel became trapped inside the witch's gingerbread house? Today's witch reacts differently: first she texts their mother, informing them that her kids ran away from home. Then she asks the youngsters if they've completed their homework. If so, she offers them smoothies and veggies instead of candy. Another familiar fairy-tale image is the jealous witch who offered Sleeping Beauty a poisoned apple which cast her into a deep slumber. A century later, Prince Charming finally kissed her awake. Today's Halloween witch probably wouldn't bother. After all, young women are in no rush to get married these days. Besides, when they do, they often keep working to help pay the mortgage on the castle they own with Prince Charming.
National polls reveal that today's multi-tasking Halloween witch has no time to learn evil spells, for she's returned to school in record numbers or works full-time while raising children, often as a single mother. Today, black magic is out, replaced by blogs and picket lines where she can express her complaints about social injustices without the risk of being burned at the stake or dunked into deep pools of water to drown.
Today's Halloween witch has come a long way, light years ahead of earlier generations of women who were routinely punished for the ills of their community. Today, thanks to WAM (Witches Against Misogyny), an affiliate of NOW and opponent of the War Against Women, the Halloween Witch may never look the same again. Are you dressing your daughters in a traditional witch costume on Halloween Night? Trick or treat? The choice is yours to consider.
This post originally appeared in The Barnstable Patriot.