History of the Witch’s Conical Hat
The most stereotypical images of the Witch include the pointy black Hat, along with the black cat and black cast iron cauldron. The pointy black Hat belongs to the Witch, everyone knows a Witch’s Hat when they see one, they know it is a Witch’s Hat and not any other type of Hat. However, many modern Witches have given up wearing the Hat and the only place one is
to be seen these days is usually in fancy dress at Halloween. Modern Witches are perhaps a little embarrassed to be seen in public wearing the Hat, as children (and many adults) immediately recognise a Witch when attired in the Hat and then point at the wearer. ‘Look Mummy, there’s a Witch’.
As Granny Weatherwax, (from Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld series of novels) says, she wears the Hat because ‘What’s the point in being a Witch if no one can tell ?’ The Hat says it all. Granny Weatherwax and her accomplice Nanny Ogg, being traditional and somewhat conservative, always wear the Hat. Their apprentice and student Witch, Magrat, has adopted the modern approach of a flower wreath upon the head, if even that. Granny and Nanny often try and convince Magrat of the wisdom of the ‘Old Ways.’1
What, if any, are the ‘Old Ways’ when it comes to the Witches’ Hat ?
The Witches’ Hat may derive from the wearing of horns as a sign of power. We usually associate horns with a male deity when we think of actually wearing them upon the head however, Moon Goddesses often wore horns as symbols of the crescent horns of the Moon in its waxing and waning phases. Doreen Valiente mentions Stone Age cave paintings in which figures are depicted wearing pointy headdresses. Gnomes are known to wear a pointy hat.
Margaret Murray, the author of ‘The Witch Cult in Western Europe’ and ‘The God of the Witches’ says ‘The most characteristic article of the Faerie’s attire was their Hat which varied in shape and colour according to the district the Faeries were from. In the West Highlands it was a green, conical cap. At the Isle of Man it was a conical, red Hat.’
The Shamans of Siberia wear a special Hat, called a ‘Dayligda’, which itself possesses power. Its design is often specified by the Shaman’s particular helping spirits. Some Shaman’s have different Hats specific to different types of healing; others have only one. These hats can be made of leather, fish skin, cotton fabric or sacred streamers. usually they will have small, carved Saivans, or helping spirits sewn onto them.
According to the magazine ‘Biblical Archaeology Review,’ a 22 inch-tall, gold, conical object, whose place, date and circumstances of its discovery remain shrouded in mystery, is now thought to be a headdress worn during religious ceremonies. Fragments of leather or felt found inside the cone appear to rule out what was until now the most popular identification of this type of cone: a ritual vessel. But the fragments support the designation of a Hat. A soft lining would have transformed the uncomfortable cone into a wearable headdress. And with a 7 inch diameter at its base, the cone bears the hat size of an average adult male (or female). The cone even has a brim, just like a typical Witches’ Hat.
In pre-Columbian Mexico, according to the native Mexican painting called the ‘Codex Fejervary-Mayer, ’ there depicted is a figure which looks very much like a Witch, naked except for a pointed Hat and riding a Broomstick. In ancient Rome, Pagan priests called Flamen, wore a conical headdress.
In the much later Romanesque period, an illustration entitled ‘The Garden of Delights’ by Herrad of Hohenberg depicts some unfortunate Jews wearing conical, brimmed Hats while being plunged into a flaming cauldron by Devils.
Jews, who were often thought to be in league with Witches as enemies of Christendom frequently appeared in art wearing the conical Hat. Heretics, also associated with Witches as enemies of the Church wore the conical Hat and it is thought that it was this Heretic Hat that was the predecessor of the Dunce Cap, a humiliating, conical cap enforced upon naughty school children. In the sixteenth century painting by P. Berruguete called Auto-DA-few, ’ two Cathar Heretics are being excecuted and another two, wearing conical Hats are chained by the neck while awaiting their fate.
A less unpleasant instance of the conical Hat in history is in the costume many associate with a typical princess, the ‘Hennin.’ The Hennin is the pointy hat with a veil attached which was a ladies’ fashion item in the 1440s. Another historical Hat was the ‘Copataine’ which Valiente says was worn as a riding hat. The Copataine was made of very stiff material with a veil or tie underneath the chin to keep the hat secured. The tallness of the hat may have been exaggerated by artists until it became the typical Witches’ Hat.
John Mumford, author of ‘Sexual Occultism,’ sees the Witches’ Hat as another symbol of what is known in Hinduism as the Lingam-Yoni. This is a sacred object which consists of a basin in the shape of a vagina (yoni) and a sort of pillar set within the basin which represents the penis (lingam).
The Lingam and Yoni represent the God Shiva and the Goddess Parvati in eternal union thus in a state of constant creation. Devout Hindus libate the Lingam-Yoni with substances such as melted butter or ghee, milk and marigold petals. Mumford sees in the Witches’ Hat the Yoni represented by the brim and the Lingam, represented by the point. Another theory is that the Crown Chakra forms a conical shape when tuned into Earth Energies. This has led Hamish Miller, well-known Dowser and Healer to state that ‘…there is little doubt that the original concept of its (the Witches’ Hat) shape came from people who could see the energy field.
The Witches’ Hat is also representative of the ‘Cone of Power,’ an energy-form created within the Magick Circle by circumambulation, chanting, or concentration and used as the propellant of the Coven’s Will toward its goal. The Coven is symbolised by the brim of the Hat and the Cone of Power, by the point. In Witchcraft systems which have three degrees of advancement, the symbol of the third degree (where the Witch becomes a High Priestess or Priest) is usually an upright Pentagram crowned with a point-upwards triangle. As master/mistresses of the Cone of Power, the High Priest/ess, both symbolically and literally, wears the Witches’ Hat.
One does not have to be a member of a Coven or a High Priest/ess to adopt the Witches’ Hat. If you are a Witch, the Hat belongs to you. There is nothing better (in my opinion) than seeing either singly or in a group, Hat-wearing Witches doing something simple such as going to the post office or the supermarket. If you feel too embarrassed to wear the Hat in public, try it out in a ritual. Witchcraft is a prop-friendly religion, that is one of the reasons why it is so popular and why wearing a Witches’ Hat can enhance your ritual rather than detract from it. A Hat can either be made from leather, stiff velvet, fur or vinyl or else purchased from one of those crafty-type weekend markets that often have stalls specialising in crazy Hats, usually made in Nepal for the tourist trade. If you don’t want to wear the Hat, you don’t have to - but keep in mind that it is the Witches’ Hat, no one else’s Hat…and as a Witch it is your Hat - Try it on.