Posted by Bruce Kahl on October 25, 1999
In Reply to: Witch's Tit posted by Marian Bell on October 24, 1999
: Does anyone know the origin of the phrase: "colder than a witch's tit"? My partner's mother used to say it (meaning it's really cold), and she came from Lancashire. Any clue as to origin and or associations?
The simple explanation is that "colder than a witch's tit" is just
a vivid metaphor, like "hotter than the hinges of hell." Since a
witch is in league with Satan, presumably she has no maternal feelings. Thus the medium by which she would suckle a child is,
well, cold as a witch's tit.
But there's some history behind this wisecrack. A witch's tit (or
witch's teat, to use the older spelling) supposedly left a marking
that witch hunters and courts would look for on the body of an accused person. Supposedly, witches would suckle their
familiars, and sometimes the Devil himself, from this "unholy" body part. To find these marks, as well as insensitive spots on the
skin called devil's marks--caused by the Devil's claws or teeth--the suspects were stripped, shaven, then closely examined for
any blemishes, moles, or even scars that could be labeled as diabolical. To find marks invisible to the eye, the examiner would
poke the victim inch by inch with a blunt needle (called a bodkin) until they found a spot that didn't feel pain or bled. Discovery
of these marks or spots--one supposes they would be considered cold since they were a sign of communion with the
Devil--would be "proof" of the person's dealings with Scratch, so they would be shown in full court before the execution.