Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beware the hooded ones

Hecate has a way of claiming you for herself. She does wander in and out of people's lives, but notoriously once you are her priest(ess) it is unusual to work much or at all with any other divinity. That said, she does usher in others from time to time, and I have a very soft spot for the genii cucullati, or hooded spirits (although perhaps the first picture in this post would more properly be labelled a godling by archaeologists). This is what the wonderful wikipedia has to say about them:
The Hooded Spirits or Genii Cucullati are figures found in religious sculpture across the Romano-Celtic region from Britain to Pannonia, depicted as "cloaked scurrying figures carved in an almost abstract manner" (Henig, 62). They are found with a particular concentration in the Rhineland (Hutton). In Britain they tend to be found in a triple deity form, which seems to be specific to the British representations (De la Bedoyère).
The hooded cape was especially associated with Gauls or Celts during the Roman period. The hooded health god was known as Telesphorus specifically and may have originated as a Greco-Gallic syncretism with the Galatians in Anatolia in the 3rd century BC.
The religious significance of these figures is still somewhat unclear, since no inscriptions have been found with them in this British context (De la Bedoyère). There are, however, indications that they may be fertility spirits of some kind. Ronald Hutton argues that in some cases they are carrying shapes that can be seen as eggs, symbolizing life and rebirth, while Graham Webster has argued that the curved hoods are similar in many ways to contemporary Roman curved phallus stones. However, several of these figures also seem to carry swords or daggers, and Henig discusses them in the context of warrior cults.
Guy de la Bédoyère also warns against reading too much in to size differences or natures in the figures, which have been used to promote theories of different roles for the three figures, arguing that at the skill level of most of the carvings, small differences in size are more likely to be hit-and-miss consequences, and pointing out that experimental archaeology has shown hooded figures one of the easiest sets of figures to carve. Source
I have been thinking recently about the meaning of hoods. Of course the word often nowadays appears as an abbreviation for (usually violent and otherwise disreputable) neighbourhood. People wear hoods for all sorts of reasons, frequently for protection from the elements, implying that you are going to be spending time in the wilds, or at least out of doors. You may need protection from the elements because of the nature of your work: it implies you are a person who has to work in all weathers and don't just sit by the fire employing somebody else to slaughter the animals for you.
My Witchcraft 101 class's graduation
Recently 'hoodie' has come to mean a generally disreputable person. Apparently these people hang around in gangs and frighten people. Personally I feel that actually the man made fibres of scally clothing, dark colours, and hoods make the perfect clothing for witches who may feel the need to frequent crossroads or graveyards in the middle of the night, and feel the need to vanish into the shadows if they're found doing something which while not being illegal would look extremely odd and be embarrassing to explain to Lily Law. I once had an encounter with some lads trying to be goths in a graveyard. I had gone for some gravedust because there is a particularly sympathetic grave in that particular graveyard, and the people's name is actually my mother's maiden name. It was a cold and misty night, and I had on black trainer, black trackies, a black hoodie with the hood up, a black scarf, and black gloves. They were sitting round in a tree drinking from a bottle and they didn't see me coming until I turned suddenly and the light from a nearby street lamp caught my face. Would you believe they ran away screaming? Call yourselves goths?
A scene from the Birmingham riots
Of course all wearing the same is a major tactic of peaceful protestors and rioters. It makes it difficult to differentiate an individual to single out, and it is even more difficult to pull up a great crowd. Perhaps this explains why the hoodie look is considered slightly scary, with overtones of rebellion and antisocial behaviour, and of course wearing black has many cultural overtones, perhaps the most obvious albeit ignorant one among the illiterati being that it is associated with 'satanism'. How can these people not understand that your real satanists will wear what they damn well please, that is the point?!
Buckfast tonic wine: made by hoodies for hoodies

I feel that the overtones of dodginess, outdoorsiness, outsiderness, and generally being on the edge that hoodies have are just too close to the ambivalent overtones of the classical witch figure to be ignored. These creatures, even the original divine hoodies, are too slippery to be grasped and so must be controlled. Exactly the emotions the word 'witch' still brings up in many people. This is a curious synchronicity which has only recently struck me. Even the more 'kinky' elements of the traditional witch figure such as that of 'enchantress' or ability to transform from a hag into a pretty young thing and seduce unsuspecting men, have survived into the whole gay scene around the scally/chav/ned thing!

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