Earliest Depiction of a Witch on a Broomstick

A witch riding a broom from Le Champion des Dames by Martin Le Franc. c. 1440 (source)

This colourful illustration is the earliest know depiction of a witch riding a broomstick. It is taken from an enormous, 24,000 verse, poem known as ‘Le Champion des Dames‘ (The Champion of Ladies), which was composed by Martin Le Franc sometime between AD 1440 and 1442. This rambling text extols the virtues of women, while also condemning heresy and witchcraft (it dedicates just over 800 lines to the later). Amongst the many images used in the poem are two depictions of witches, one riding a broom and the other a white stick.  In the text the witches are referred to as Vaudois, or Waldensians, a Christian sect which was deemed heretical by the Pope.

A witch riding a stick from Le Champion des Dames by Martin Le Franc. c. 1440 (source)


4 thoughts on “Earliest Depiction of a Witch on a Broomstick

  1. Very interesting, thank you.
    It is believed by some that the European witch tradition is an evolution from the more ancient shamanic traditions of the north.
    There is a well documented history of using psychedelic fungi and it is suspected that witches were using broom handles to insert a fly agaric (amanita muscaria) concoction. This may sound strange but it is known that fly agaric causes terrible vomiting when ingested.
    A common and recurrent effect of this mushroom is the strong hallucination of flight.
    There is also a high likelihood that shamanic experiences with fly agaric are responsible for our Santa Claus myths.
    When the Sammi herdsman saw their reindeer frolicking wildly across the field they linked it to the colourful mushroom ? they had been eating under the pines. (amanitas have a simbiotic relationship with certain types of pine tree) ?
    It’s said that upon drinking the urine of these ‘dosed’ reindeer, the shaman could receive the benefit without suffering the sickness.
    Shaman have probably been harvesting these for millenia and may have been acostomed to drying them in the sun on the branches of the very tree under which they were found.
    It is also suggested that a shaman visiting a family in the depths of winter may well have entered via the smoke hole in the centre of the home. All families would bring a pine tree indoors for the mid winter which then pointed directly up to the north star.
    So, we have, a bearded old man who tells tales of flying with the reindeer, arriving via the ‘chimney’,
    Bringing midwinter (survival) gifts. And pretty, bright fungi (baubles) hanging on pine trees that pointed to the north star.

  2. Sorry, no the earliest portrayal of a witch is in a mural in Schleslwig Cathedral, Schleselwig-Holstein dated to the 12th Century. It portrays Freya/Frigga as the Goddess of the Witches.

    1. The title doesn’t say “the earliest portrayal of a witch.” It says “The Earliest Portrayal of a Witch *ON A BROOMSTICK*” – it is tracing the history/origins of broomstick riding in Wicca/Paganism. Not the origins of Witchcraft as a whole. But thanks for the reference!

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