Literature has always been occupied with the subject matter concerning witches and witchcraft. Early and contemporary literature have established similar definitions of a witch although the witch herself was portrayed a little bit different. The subject of a witch has always attracted people as it brings uncertainty, suspension, curiosity and interest for the unknown. It reveals the relation between something natural, human and the undiscovered, not understood in its nature. A witch is a person perceived as being similar to christian God and its power, though witchcraft is a pagan ‘religion’.
She is capable of controlling others, making them behave as she wants and, furthermore, capable of making things happen according to her will. Thus, witches have become the subject of fear as the unknown but at the same time they have established a major interest reflected mostly in literature. Through legends, myths, documents of fact and literature of fiction, the reader is allowed to gain the knowledge about witches’ nature and culture and to enter their world. However, the question still remains : is every woman perceived as a witch is indeed one?
The drama written by Marina Carr entitled By the Bog of Cats presents the character of Hester Swane and her fateful attempt to reclaim her lover, her child and her home. Left for a woman of greater means, the dangerous and hypnotic Hester, perceived by the village society as a witch, finds herself on a collision course with a terrible decision, one that will leave no one’s life unscarred. The play offers a mournful folk tale about a small village in the Irish midlands, near a swamp called the Bog of Cats.
Hester Swane, one of a Gypsylike people, has defied her nomadic heritage and stayed near the Bog of Cats since childhood, having settled with a local man, Carthage Kilbride, and had a child with him, Josie, who is now seven years-old. But Carthage has left Hester to marry Caroline Cassidy, the daughter of a wealthy farmer. Compounding Hester’s heartbreak, Carthage plans to move his new bride into Hester’s house and most likely take custody of Josie. However, Hester has a slightly different plan. The villagers perceive Hester as a witch.
Being a Gypsy, with long, dark hair and dark carnation, she reminds the portrait of a stereotyped witch. Through her ability to hear and see ghosts ( she constantly falls into conversations with her dead brother Joseph ) , because of her individuality and her conviction of the superiority of spirituality, she is called a witch by the village inhabitants. Her life can also be an indication of her connection to supernaturality and uncommonness. Hester’s mother left her when Hester was at the age of seven, like her own daughter. During her life she committed numerous deeds that can be concerned as evil – thus, connected with witchcraft.
She lived with a man, has had a child with him though committed adultery as they were never a husband and a wife. She murdered her brother in the name of her love towards Carthage – she chose the most horrible crime to provide her lover with money. Hester as she admits several times, has an edge that scares even her, but she also exerts a powerful magnetism. High emotions and dark secrects, a poisoning parent-child bonding cause her alienation from the world of reality – another ‘witchy’ characteristics. The play is also full of symbols connected with supernaturality and pagan witchcraft.