Hello again Grimericans! I have to say, I fought long and hard trying to figure out what this next post for the month of October should be about. Finally, after a couple days of debating and searching, and now with a mere 35 minutes before my scheduled bed time before I begin my work-week anew, I start this post… I’m a glutton for punishment. So, because I know that since you’re reading this post, you have a somewhat above average intellect and have probably deduced that what this post is about. The scarecrow. There aren’t too many more things terrifying than a scarecrow. Well, at least in the western world. Especially if you lost in a field of corn or other crop at night when you start to make out the silhouette of a human. At least you think it’s human… I’m not going to ask what you’re doing in a spooky field in the dead of night trying to provoke pure scarecrow evil. I guess I’m not the only one who’s a glutton for punishment.
“Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope!”
Forms of scarecrows are spread far and wide through a plethora of cultures around the world. This has resulted in a wide variety of names for the sentinel of the fields. The Japanese have the “Kakashi”, regional terms around the U.K. include the Mommet from Somerset, the Gallybagger from the Isle of Wight, the Hay-man from England, the Tattie Bogle or the Bodach-rocais and the potatoe-doolie. (“Old man of the rocks”) from Scotland and of course the Hodmedod from around Berkshire. The Welsh have the bwgan or the bwbach. Most of these names reflect something about a scarecrow’s nature and function. Hodmedod is in reference to a goofy person, mommet involves the materials used in that of something mop like, usually made of rags. The term “Bogle” is really the only variation used that may have an overtone of paranormal origin. While the precise etymology of the word is unknown, if we take the Welsh word for ghost bwg and the German word bögge (of which böggel-mann (“Goblin or hob-goblin”) is derived) which was cognate of the Middle-English word bugge, which is where we get the word bogey and then the word boogy or boogie, as in the boogyman/boogieman.
So you somehow managed to whither your way into my blogs now just like you’ve withered your way into my nightmares… Touché Boogey, touché.
Scarecrows have been in use since agriculture became a thing. At least that’s my suspicion. The oldest recorded use of scarecrows were from the ancient Egyptians who would use wooden frames covered in nets to fend their crops from the ever pesky… quail. So… scare-quails, I guess? Anyway, the Egyptians would hide in the fields and chase quail into the nets and now not only do they have more wheat to eat, but also some nice, plump quail. Way to multitask Egyptians! One year, according to one website at least, the Egyptians had a smaller crop yield than anticipated and there was much fear that they had somehow angered the gods. They put two and two together and got quail. Errr… something like that. It then began illegal to hunt and eat quail for fear of the gods extracting revenge, and anyone who killed and ate a quail would be put to death. The Egyptians started to put up more human-like figures in their fields to ward off the invasive foul. As the story on the website goes, the new human-like scarecrows worked. Then one particularly windy day, a field worker discovered the terrifying truth about the scarecrows. The wind had whipped the wrapping used to cover the scarecrows heads had been torn away and the familiar face of a man who had been executed for killing quail to feed his family stared back at him. The worker gazed upon the fields and saw many of these scarecrow in the same position as the one above. Dropping to his knees, the man prayed to the gods for the souls of the deceased.
“Looks like the Scarecrow crop is coming in nice this year…”
Now while that last story was a bit morbid, it wasn’t really paranormal, and we all know that’s why you’re here. To pinpoint why the scarecrow is often associated with the supernatural isn’t exactly easy. But I can give you my two cents, which is actually worth about 2.3 cents in sandcoins… Anyway, because of the hay-man’s strong association with crops, and its important role in a good harvest, we pair the scarecrow with the harvest season. We it is then an obvious choice for the fall harvest festivals including Halloween. What also makes it ideal for Halloween is that a scarecrow can be naturally creepy. We create them to be a proxy for us when we cannot be in the fields, a decoy save our crops from unwanted wildlife. It is human-like but not human. It is a human effigy and it’s hard to find a human effigy that is not inherently creepy. So when you put the scarecrow’s affiliation with Halloween, a time where traditionally the veil between this world and the next is supposedly at its thinnest, and the scarecrow’s intrinsic eeriness drawn from its anthropomorphic features, what you get can be the stuff of nightmares. Folklore and literature alike are littered with human-like effigies being brought to life, whether through the use of magic like in the case of the Jewish figure of the Golem, or through the use of science like in the case of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Of course, according to the great author Arthur C. Clarke, these two methods could be indistinguishable from each other. But one needn’t look far for stories about scarecrows themselves being the source of the horror. Books and movies, and movies based on books, fill our imaginations with the creepy scarecrow. There are some occult claims that scarecrows are placed in fields as a proxy sacrifice to the gods. Some associate its arms pinned on the stakes as to that of Christ on the crucifix.
You might not see as many hay-men in the fields of today as modern technology has led the path for other ways of scaring off unwanted fauna, the figure of the scarecrow seems to have a permanent place in our culture and in our nightmares. Who hasn’t been tricked by the “fake” scarecrow sitting outside of a neighbor’s house whilst trick-or-treating only to be met with the scare of your life and the need to change your pants. You don’t forget things like that, nor forgive them. They deserved every egg they received that year… Have any of you ever had a creepy experience with a hay-man? Let me and everyone know in the comments. Side note: I had chosen the name for this post well before I started writing it, and in my research, I found another article with the same pun-tastic title. My brain is just too tired to think of another one, so… here we are. Well, that’s it for me Grimerica, stay classy.