The Kitchen Witch

I turned in my assignments for the semester yesterday, so today I'm baking! And being in the kitchen for long periods of time always makes me think of the kitchen witch.

The kitchen witch is a witch doll or puppet hung in a kitchen to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. The origin of the tradition is difficult to pin down precisely - European in general, at least, but it pops up both in Scandinavian and German regions.

For what it's worth, the kitchen witch I remember belonged to my Norwegian grandmother. I wish I had a picture of it, but I remember it. I can't remember if my mom had a similar one, or if she just ended up with my grandmother's witch, but I remember the same witch or a very similar one in both my grandmother's and my mom's kitchens. She had curly brown hair peeking out under a yellow bonnet, and little wire glasses. I think her dress was yellow, too, or perhaps it was white and the kitchen lighting was unkind.

I remember asking about the witch and being surprised that she was a good witch. Though I've since seen other kitchen witches with more stereotypical witch faces, I remember being surprised that ours had such a kind and pretty face. From what I can find about kitchen witches, they seem to be generally perceived as positive forces, kind figures, beings of good. So few witches in folklore and fairytales are perceived as good, and it's interesting that this one is.

Over the bank holiday, I visited the York Castle Museum, which has recreations of rooms in different eras. This Victorian working class family's kitchen has a witch ball in the window. Similarly to the kitchen witch, witch balls were hung in windows to ward off evil spirits. The witch ball draws evil spirits in with its colours and decorations, then traps the spirits inside the ball with strings. The kitchen witch seems to be a benevolent spirit that protects, whereas the witch ball takes a more offensive stance.

Now the butter's at room temperature and I'm gonna go make some cupcakes! And possibly think about getting myself a new kitchen witch.


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