Witches have fascinated and inspired fear in people for centuries, and they have inspired countless stories, movies, and games. Including some of my own, they are a part of the Noctisbellum Universe with certain rules within it. But witches and witchcraft research is somewhat of a rabbit hole and a fun one to go down. And yes, I let A.I. help me with that research. It doesn’t seem to understand that it’s a thing, and that witches and witchcraft are not just the stuff of legends. It’s okay, it’s still got a lot to learn.
Witches can belong to any religion or none, although some religions use specific terms for practitioners of magic, like shamans, healers, or sorcerers. Witches often have a connection to nature, spirits, or deities, and use various tools and methods to practice their magic, like herbs, crystals, candles, wands, spells, rituals, and potions.
Many cultures have their own traditions and legends around witches, such as the Egyptian Heka (magicians), the Greek Pharmakeia (poisoners), the Roman Strix (night birds), the Celtic Druids (priests), the Norse Seidr (seers), the African Sangoma (diviners), and the Native American Nagual (shapeshifters). Some witches receive reverence and respect, while others face fear and persecution.
The concept of witches as evil and diabolical beings emerged in Europe during the Middle Ages, when Christianity became the dominant religion and condemned any form of magic or paganism as heresy or devil-worship. Many legends and stories emerged, such as the myth of the witch’s Sabbath, a secret gathering to worship the devil, have orgies, and plot mischief.
The witch-hunts, a series of trials and executions of accused witches, reached their peak between the 15th and 18th centuries, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of people, mostly women.
How did witches become part of literature and media?
The first literary work that featured a witch was the Latin poem Medea (c. 1st century BC) by Seneca, which was based on the Greek myth of Medea, a sorceress who helped Jason obtain the Golden Fleece and later killed her children in revenge for his betrayal. The play The Witch of Edmonton (1621) by Thomas Dekker, John Ford, and William Rowley was the first English work to mention a witch. It was based on the true story of Elizabeth Sawyer, a poor woman who was executed for witchcraft in 1621.
Witches in Movies
Witches also became popular in movies, especially in the fantasy and horror genres. Some of the most notable movies that feature witches are The Wizard of Oz (1939), a film by Victor Fleming, which starred Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, one of the most iconic villains of all time; The Witches of Eastwick (1987), a film by George Miller, which starred Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer as three women who discover their witchy powers and attract the attention of the devil, played by Jack Nicholson; The Craft (1996), a film by Andrew Fleming, which starred Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True as four teenage girls who form a coven and use their magic for personal gain; and The Blair Witch Project (1999), a film by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, which was a groundbreaking horror movie that used a found footage style to tell the story of three filmmakers who went missing in the woods while investigating the legend of the Blair Witch.
Witches in Fiction
Some of the most popular and original works that feature witches are Macbeth (c. 1606) by William Shakespeare, which was a tragedy that featured three witches who prophesied the rise and fall of Macbeth, a Scottish general who became a tyrannical king; The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956) by C.S. Lewis, which was a series of fantasy novels that featured Jadis, the White Witch, who ruled over Narnia with an eternal winter and fought against Aslan, the lion king; The Mists of Avalon (1983) by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which was a novel that retold the Arthurian legend from the perspective of the women, especially Morgaine, a priestess of Avalon and a witch; and Harry Potter (1997-2007) by J.K. Rowling, which was a series of fantasy novels that followed the adventures of Harry Potter, a young wizard who attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and faced the evil Lord Voldemort.
So which witch is your favourite, and which movie or book do they appear in?
Horror and Fantasy Author – Also writing as K.T. McQueen. Love Western Horror, cowboy boots, my cactus Collin, & my Demon Cat.
Moths – I hate moths, the way they flutter at your face!