japonisme: turning mother goose • (halloween suite)

03 October 2009

turning mother goose • (halloween suite)

three dames walk into a bar: a witch, a hag, and mother goose. 'aha!' cries the bartender -- 'it's the triplets!' am i the only one it took so long to figure this out?

the elements of cats, brooms, and good old age appear so often in illustrations of all three, that one becomes confused just trying to get it straight.

"The existence of demons and the efficacy of witchcraft were accepted facts throughout the world in 1692. The Puritans of Salem Village were certain of the devil's hand in every incident of evil they suffered, from petty misfortune to apalling tragedy. Witches and agents of 'the ould deluder' Satan delivered to the people of the commonwealth all manner of torments: deadly epidemics of smallpox; murderous raids by Indians; and ignorant children."

The Witches of Salem were hanged. This was less painful than the burning of witches in Europe. They thought the burning of a witch was the only way to release the evil, since the Devil would be forced to exit the melting body through the smoke.

Witchcraft in Massachusetts singled out:

• spinsters
• barren women
• the ugly
• the extremely successful
• the independent
• the reclusive
• the litigious
• the willful. 1

i can assure you, i am every single one of these (well, maybe not litigious), and i suppose i am also, now, old -- or at least to the degree these other women are. and while i have no goose, i do have a cat.

would you need more proof?

let's look at that list once more: every single item challenges authority (usually male). if one is any of these she must be punished or laughed at or belittled: silenced.

to live the quiet, solitary life, free and in constant communication with the birds and spiders and fish, and the cat, to tend the garden, read a book, answer to no one....

There was an old woman
tossed up in a basket
Seventeen times
as high as the moon;
Where she was going
I couldn't but ask it,
For in her hand
she carried a broom.

"Old woman, old woman,
old woman," quoth I,
"O whither, O whither,
O whither, so high?"
"To brush the cobwebs
off the sky!"
"Shall I go with thee?"
"Aye, by and by."

Old Mother Goose,
When she wanted to wander,
Would ride through the air
On a very fine gander.

Jack's mother came in,
And caught the goose soon,
And mounting its back,
Flew up to the moon.

The words of the original Old Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme can be interpreted to find a darker meaning to the identity of ' Mother Goose'! The title ' Mother Goose ' probably originates from the 1600's -- the time of the great witch hunts. Comparisons can be made between the Mother Goose in the above children's poem and the popular conception of a witch during this era!

• Witches were able to fly (the broomstick has been replaced by a goose).
• A witch was often portrayed as an old crone (with no man to defend her
against accusations of witchcraft)
• Witches are closely associated
with living alone.
• Witches were known to a have 'familiars,' most often cats but also owls. 2

so who am i now? from east or north? good witch, bad witch, in-between? & i know it doesn't matter. i'm a happy old woman, with cat, with garden, of modest means and expectations, will the iris open, will the spider catch the fly?

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Blogger Yoli said...

You always have the most wonderful stories. I am here laughing at my good fortune because I would have burned in Massachusetts. Let's see:

• spinsters (check was one for many years)
• barren women (check)
• the ugly (Ok well no)
• the extremely successful (Ok well a little)
• the independent (Check)
• the reclusive (Ok well no)
• the litigious (Check)
• the willful. (Check, check, check, check)

03 October, 2009 19:23  
Blogger Waverly said...

I love this post. I am a young model, but I look up to older women who paint me and give me advise. I've written about this topic a few times if you care to read. By the way, I love Japan and Whistler. I grew up going to the museums with my mother, and our favorite was the Sackler and the Freer in DC. Thank you for showing all these lovely prints.

Links to posts:


03 October, 2009 19:28  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

ha! yes, yoli--i was thinking the same thing myself!

03 October, 2009 21:05  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you waverly, and thanks so much for commenting. i was very touched by your posts.

03 October, 2009 21:12  
Anonymous evan said...

boil boil toil & bubble
lousy knees & car trouble
fading sight wart & carbuncle
nobody's daddy but somebody's uncle
bubble toil boil & cook
quit yer grinnin' you're on Fate's hook
East is east & west is west
Drink the broth, yer auntie knows best...

too soon? Speaking of witches- "Kissing the Witch" -Emma Donoghue :)

and, as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the post

04 October, 2009 10:02  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks evan... but yer bad! better watch out or someone might put a spell on you!

04 October, 2009 11:06  
Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

They just don't make children's books like they used to ;-)

05 October, 2009 11:22  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

well, i haven't seen many children's books in a while, but it's still amazing to me how much children's book art was wonderful woodblock or woodblock-look at the time!

05 October, 2009 12:06  
Blogger Neil said...

Very funny - and too true to be really funny...
By the way, the "There was an old woman tossed up in a basket" rhyme was a traditional one in the morris dance tradition of my little village in the Cotswolds - so the world is a small place, if an uncomfortable one.

07 October, 2009 14:30  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

now thats very interesting neil. it's the only one that consistantly comes with music too.

07 October, 2009 15:53  

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