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For the main villain from Coraline, see The Beldam.
Double, double, toil and trouble.. fire burn and Cauldron bubble!
~ Macbeth

Beldams are old women or female creatures, particularly an ugly, or scary, one, believed to be evil and who enjoys casual child abuse. They are also considered a form of witch that specialize in causing resentment and white lies to give people false impressions like in prophecies or in people's minds. It must be noted that "Beldam" sounds similat to the French "Belle Dame" (Beautiful Lady) which they obviously are not.

The word has also been used to describe several antagonists in fiction, most famous of which is arguably the Other Mother from the book Coraline and its subsequent feature film.

Information

Traits

Beldams are often envisioned as old, ugly women dressed in black robes - modern takes on Beldams tend to have them wearing pointed black hats but this was not always the case, they tend to be covered in warts, have wrinkled skin and rotten teeth as well as long nails and a tendency to cackle madly when performing cruel deeds.

Many Beldams have hunched backs and are repulsed by light, residing in dark and remote areas - often accompanied by other Beldams, who may gather around large cauldrons and cast spells or potions, these are always evil in nature.

Beldams may fly with the aid of broomsticks or other unusual items and are accompanied by Familiars, which are often seen as black cats but may take any form imaginable - other common creatures seen lurking near Beldams and their lairs are rats, spiders and other vermin. which Beldams happily co-exist with and may even use to spread disease or fear.

Beldams may also be accompanied by evil spirits or restless dead, in modern times it is also common for Beldams to be depicted with green skin but this is largely due to the Wizard of Oz and was not part of their traditional folklore.

Abilities

Beldams are the classical fairy tale witch (much like hags) but are devoted completely to black magic - while a Hag can perform any magic she desires (even if she often favors evil), the Beldam is either incapable or simply refuses to cast any good spell or potion; thus a Beldam is forever working on ways to ruin and harm her surroundings, often for her own amusement.

Beldams can fly via broomsticks or of her own will, she can create poison and plagues, she may turn into varied vermin or animals so as to go unseen or capture victims, she can cast horrible curses that ruin crops, bring misfortune to others or even transform victims into completely different things (such as toads, trees or inanimate objects).

Beldams may guise themselves as kind old women in order to lure children away, some Beldams may even use their magic to create beautiful surroundings, tasty treats or other seemingly benevolent things yet these always end up being illusions and crumble away once her victim is caught, revealing her bubbling cauldron and wicked minions or dark cave filled with cages and other atrocities.

Beldams versus Hags

to the casual observer a Beldam and a Hag are almost identical beings since both are ugly old women prone to magic and misdeeds, however a Hag is traditionally seen as a spirit of nature or minor deity who has a wide array of influence - while a Beldam is seen as a wicked woman who has sold her spirit to evil spirits in order to devote herself to dark magic, a Beldam is prolific in her use of child-abuse and dark magic, often envisioned as toiling by dark of night at her cauldron and brewing evil spells and potions so as to bring pain and misery to the mortal world for no reason other than her own personal enjoyment.

Beldams are thus seen as cackling in delight and their favored antics may involve turning people into toads, capturing children to use as slaves, poisoning village wells, ruining crops and even capturing infants to eat or sacrifice to their dark masters - the Beldam is symbolic of medieval fears of Paganism and the world outside the safety of their small towns, which was seen as frightening.. they often resided atop dangerous mountains, caves or deep forests.. areas frequented by wild animals and criminals, thus seen as nightmarish and forbidden.

While Hags could display kindness or at the least helpful traits Beldams are universally evil and cruel, if a Beldam offered aid she would always use it to stab her victim in the back and inflict some horrible curse or ailment on them.. they were very prone to acting like sweet old ladies to lure children away but would quickly show their wicked ways once the child was in their grasp.

Gallery

Trivia

  • Despite a wide belief in "wicked witches" in medieval times most magical arts practice a kind of karma system, thus those who curse or do evil are said to have such evils returned to them in time - this may explain why Beldams become ugly, deformed creatures of the night as their own dark magic corrupts them (much as it is said to do the same to warlocks in fantasy settings).
  • Many cultures have their own variations of hags, witches and beldams - much as every culture has their own variation of the bogeyman: in some cultures beldams are merged with vampires, demons and evil spirits.
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