• Debbie Lear

Hotchi Witchi: Totem Logo

Updated: Sep 25, 2018


I've been a fan of Gypsy jazz ever since I first watched The Django Legacy, a BBC documentary, first shown in 1991. A few years ago I was gifted the book, Gypsy Jazz: In Search of Django Reinhardt and the Soul of Gypsy Swing. In it, Author,

Michael Dregni writes, 'in Romanès, the hedgehog is known with great affection as a niglo.' I've also read that they're referred to as hotchi witchi.


'Within paintings and artwork by some French Gypsy artists I notice hedgehogs hidden away in corners like in-jokes, playing miniature guitars around campfires, dancing beneath the full moon. The niglo floats around these Romani images like folkloric putti.' (Dregni, p179) For this reason I decided to place a hidden hotchi witchi in my Gypsy Jazz inspired painting, Nuages.


When considering the habits of the hedgehog, it is clear to see why the Romani people feel a special kinship to them: 'The hedgehog makes his home neither in the open grasslands, nor in the safety of the forest, but hidden away in burrows beneath shrubs or in the borderlands of hedgerows - nether regions no other animals desire as homes.' (Dregni, p.179) Like the Gypsies, hedgehogs live on the periphery of towns, on the fringes of the land controlled by non-Gypsies; Gadjos or Gorgios.

Judith Okely, writes in The Traveller-Gypsies, 'The hedgehog is thought of as one of the creatures of Moshto, the Romany God of Life.' She tells of a Gypsy folk tale where 'a hedgehog is warned not to go the right, lest it be trampled by hunters hooves, and not to go to the left, because the Gypsies would eat it. The hedgehog replies that it would prefer to be eaten by the Gypsies who liked him than trampled by people who despised him.' The hedgehog is totemic to the Gypsies and is displayed proudly by many as decorative ornaments or worn as jewellery.


In Christianity the the hedgehog has traits of greed, gluttony and anger. For the Egyptians they are symbols of re-birth, emerging in the Spring from hibernation. Similarly, in Asian culture they are creatures of solar power. It seems fitting to adopt the hedgehog as an emblem, given that I'm launching this website out into the world, on the Spring Equinox.


For me, this nocturnal creature is a curious explorer, gentle and wise. When danger presents itself, it passively curls up into a spiky ball and waits for the threat to subside. The hedgehog is neither farmed nor owned at a pet. It has escaped domination by humans. As the ancient Greek poet, Archilochus wrote, 'The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing.'


I'm very happy with my hotchi witchy totem logo.

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All writing and artwork in the pages of this website is © Debbie Lear, 2020 

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