The Tintype Witches

Nobody, apparently, knows who these Victorian-era witches were. Of course, some have argued that they were just respectable Victorian matrons playing dress-up for some reason.

But I would like to think that they were actual witches. They thrived in that strange era of respectability fetish and furniture legs ruffled for ‘modesty’ but with bordellos everywhere.  They look knowing, enigmatic and empowered.

Their demeanor is quite different to that of the standard Victorian photos.

Whenever I think of the Victorian era, I think of the Gemini Queen married to her Cousin but in love with her servant. Also, the heart-rending Black Beauty, and Oscar Wilde’s brittle, witty urbanity. Then I think of maidenhair ferns, seances by gaslight and automatic writing.

The Victorian era,” wrote author Jonathan Auxier, “was perhaps the last point in Western history when magic and science were allowed to coexist.”

In 1875, when this picture was taken, Pluto and Neptune were in Taurus, while Uranus was in Leo – they could have hidden in plain sight. They could have been the founders of Neptunian Life Coaching.

We don’t hear much about Victorian-era witches  Was it because there weren’t any? Or because they were fantastic at keeping secrets?


38 thoughts on “The Tintype Witches”

  1. I missed this from last year! I’m waiting for a copy of The Ladies of Grace Adieu to arrive in the post. Susanna Clarke has become a bit of a neglected master, you can get lovely hardbacks, first editions, of Jonathan Strange and The Ladies of Grace for ridiculously small sums.

  2. Lux Interior Is My Co-Pilot


    YES. I vote coven in plain sight. “Ohh we’re just off to a fancy dress party” *WINK*

    1. so much more interesting than tube dresses and ankle snapping high heels (not that I mind either but not in current quantities lol)

  3. I adore this site so much. Mystic, even your quickie posts are eons away from boring and the genius speculations of the commenters are always a riot to read. Made my day. Would time travel to meet these witches.

    1. Agreed. I love MM’s amazing ability to totally tell a sci-fi x mythological x psychological x philosophical tale of individuation, mystery and humour, with a dash of mischief thrown in… all from a single photograph, whether artfully composed or casually shot.

      MM can take a single image and turn it into a novella in an instant, in fact I swear MM’s novellas would sell like hotcakes!

  4. And the volume and texture of those skirts. Love. It’s impossible to find a decently interesting full length skirt these days without the price tag of a week’s pay. I’ve started to make my own 🙂

      1. that would make sense 🙂 There definitely does seem to be a lot of petticoat layers and frills happening there. Isn’t that where we’d keep dagger handy?

  5. Maybe they were the etheric clean-up crew hired on the down-low when one of the many Victorian seances held at the time went a little too haywire.
    I think they’re at least sisters & maybe a cousin, and a game Sadge (standing tall at left w/ feather duster). Their grandmother, who knew a thing or two, took three of them – Polly, Margaret and Harriet (standing), the Wright girls – into her confidence when she was confined to the house in her later years.

    The sadge is a childhood friend but a relative newcomer to the group. With some scorpio in her vibe knew how to suss out the properly interesting things. Her father was a scholar and kept to himself most of the time which happily left the sadge – let’s call her Esther – to her own devices most of the time, which included raiding his considerable library for some of the more surprisingly esoteric resources on the shelves.

  6. Magic and science coexist now though, well to anyone who chooses to remain relevant. Been choosing to mainly read metaphysical books in which authors back up their teachings and findings with research.

    The Victorian era to me is more “white Europeans rediscover magic and make it trendy.” Maybe it’s the corsetry or cluttered curios, but I never cared for it. Great literature and the aesthetics were amazing (Halloween was reinvented during this time i think?), but don’t send me back there.

  7. Have read that the costume of the witch was one worn by women who brewed alcohol and sold it wearing a tall, black hat so as to be recogniseable as a brewer.

    Accused of bewitching men with their brew was enough to smear their business. Maybe have a woman killed.

    I imagine men’s cults such as one where monks make fermented drinks, would have taken over the shortfall.

      1. Well that would be annoying. Brew’s ready! Oh wait it’s sort of gone, but you can come by, oh no gotta get that broom down, and i can’t lift my arms any more. God that owl is good for nothing. People, please, eff off with your knocking. You know what the broom means.

    1. Awesome! Do you remember where you read that? Apparently brewing beer was only done by women in ancient Egypt and it was the only profession in which they could run their own business. As a brewer myself I can say it’s absolutely a magical process. I have a book of brewing mythology and apparently there’s an African tale that mirrors the Pandora myth but instead of hope at the bottom of the box, it’s beer. Made me laugh!

      1. So you are a Brewess – Alouetta Brewster has a ring to it! That’s intriguing about the African connection to women brewing also.

        And I can imagine flavouring ale with various herbs would be quite a magic and genius process! I just get down when I read about 1300-1600 and how women were treated. I imagine that there would be some healers and witches who would sell potions and brews simultaneously!

        1. According to the book ‘Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers’ various psychotropic herbs were used in beers before the advent of Christianity and then the use of hops (a soporific) became enforced. Before this beers I imagine were more like tequila – uplifting party drinks for that pagan bacchanal vibe. I’m going to try and recreate a ‘gruit’ (herbal pre-hops beer) in one of my next experiments with herbs I’ve been growing. Fingers crossed it’s drinkable!

  8. The headgear is very traditional welsh. It certainly is an odd picture indeed and unusual to have your dustpan as well a broom? I wonder if its an old ritual get up.

    1. This comment made me go to youtube and listen to some welsh speech! I met someone recently who was speaking welsh. I love hearing the native languages of the british isles. it is a reminder of diversity in a country which in the modern era seemed to stand more for the homogenisation or destruction of culture .. well, from where I am at least ( i.e. the colonies). I was reading that the Angles were the first (archaeologically recorded) visitors (invaders? traders?) who would have heard ‘old’ welsh.

      1. in the process of youtubing, i watched a vid of Princess Diana give her very first speech as the Princess of Wales. (With welsh included)
        She looked so nervous – who could blame her though

  9. Princess Balestra

    Those gals exude repressed naughtiness, for sure. I love how them broomsticks they got yell WE GONNA CLEAN STUFF UP whereas the gals lips kinda suggest NO WE AIN’T.

    Gotta figure also how that owl is ALIVE.

    Pose for a photo with witch queens like that — becauseya are totally in their thrall — you DON’T MOVE, tellya.

  10. Maidenhair fern? Whenever I’ve owned one I’ve killed it, even though I have green thumbs with every other plant. Love this photo and the all-knowing eyes

    1. Love maidenhair ferns BUT I was carrying one down the hallway to give it a gentle hose outside when a leaf landed on my tongue! Man it dropped me to my knees gagging and choking. Horrible do not try this at home!

  11. The HANDS in this image are symbolic, captured by the photographer’s light, and show a magical coven relationship.

    Even if they were respectable ma’ams, you’d best believe they were Witch Central.

    …Not sure about the taxidermied owl, though. And you have to wonder what negative ju-ju the lady on the left felt needed sweeping up. It sure seems to irk her no end. She’s a Virgo, but not Mars in Virgo because she is (barely) patiently and politely waiting for the goddamn shoot to finish so she can get on with Ghost-Busting-Dusting.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *