Alewives, Witches, and Modern Folklore

Mother Louse, possibly by David Loggan, late 1600s, National Portrait Gallery (London)
Mother Louse, David Loggan, late 1600s
  • The bubbling cauldron associated with witches hearkens to the brewing vessels of alewives during medieval times.
  •  The pointed witch’s hat is a remnant of the alewife’s hat, meant to draw attention to beer sellers at crowded public events such as carnivals.
  •  The witch’s broom is an ale-stake, a way to advertise a place to purchase beer among illiterate people.
  •  The witch’s familiar, the black cat, was a necessary companion to protect grains for brewing from vermin.