{DISCUSSION} Witches: The Variable

Note: It’s supernatural month! All discussions this month will be about supernatural creatures or worlds!

Oh the wicked variability of witches!

Witches are likely the most variable of all supernatural creatures because the term ‘witch’ excited during so much of history, spans so many cultures, and possesses so many definitions. And for the sake of this discussion we’re gonna focus on female witches (because adding male witches/wizards/warlocks would be much too long a discussion post.) Also because female witches are the most common image when someone says ‘witch.’

Witches & Magic

Naturally, the first thing that pops to mind when someone says ‘witch’ is magic! (and then some other not nice words. :p) But for the most part, it’s magic. However, magic comes in many forms across literature/film/art/etc. In other words, there is no ‘one size fits all’ magic style, magic element, magic origin for witches. Let’s name a few.

The old-world, classic witch was one who called upon the spirits. They believed in the magic of the natural world and often used the four elements to harness their power: fire, earth, air, wind. These witches often used long winded incantations (usually in Latin or some dead language). They were often seen as both evil sorceresses and healers for the desperate. Yet, they were almost always shunned from society. [e.g. The Vampire Diaries]

Another origin of magic is the bloodline. These witches gained their power because they were born into it. Their family (most often, the mother) had magic and therefore it was passed down to the daughter. This type of magic often involved a family spell book (in whatever language was the family’s original language), and often involve quite a bit of potion making. These witches have secret identities. None of their mortal friends know about them and they often are able to live semi-normal lives. [e.g. Charmed & Witches of East End]

Of course, these are just a few examples. Each culture has their own type of witch and rules for what those witches are and what they do.

Individual vs. Communal Practice

Another piece of witchcraft that has high variability and is rooted in culture is whether witches practice by themselves or in groups, often known as covens. There are benefits and disadvantages to both. Practicing alone means you are the only one holding your secret and you don’t have to worry about someone exposing you. However, it also means you’re alone. You have no one to trust and no one to rely on if something or someone were to attack you(more on this in a moment.)

Covens, on the other hand, offer greater protection because there are more witches to fend off whatever evil (or good) may be attacking them. This does, naturally, come with the higher risk for exposure. After all, the more witches running around town, the more likely they are to be spotted, suspected, and persecuted.

This could explain why some covens are blood-covens only. By that, I mean they are covens of witches who are all from the same family. After all, family tends to be the strongest bond. So, who better to keep one’s secret than one’s sister, mother, or daughter?

Yet, many covens are not blood-covens. Rather, they are covens formed between witches of ancestral heritage (i.e. founders of a town who immigrated to a location together) or people gathered together by prophecy. This can be risky if one doesn’t know the other coven members particularly well, even if fate has thrown them together. [i.e. The Secret Circle]

Good vs. Evil

In addition to the variability in the origin of their magic and the social practices, there is variability in whether witches are good or bad. Some cultures see them as inherently bad. Others see them as inherently good. Yet some cultures allow them to be both or neither. But first off, what types of magic typically make witches good or evil?

Evil [i.e. Hocus Pocus]

  • Blood magic
  • Necromancy
  • Voodoo Dolls

Good [i.e. Bewitched]

  • Healing
  • Protection Spells
  • Incense Burning


  • Fortune Telling
  • Seance

Though, these are just basic pieces of witchcraft that witches find themselves involved in. And even if their particular practice is seen as good or bad, their society may still seem them as the opposite.

It’s quite common in European lore for witches to be evil. This likely had more to do with the fact that they weren’t devote Catholics and, instead, worshiped their own gods or the spirits of the Earth. It might not even have to do with their practices, religion, or anything of the sort. It may simply be due to their societal participation. Human nature drives us to interact with others, after all. Anyone who went against this was often considered to be a ‘witch’, especially in a time when women were dependent upon men.

I could go on and on about witches. There is so much to be said about their culture, their history, the way they’ve changed over the centuries and how each culture views them, but we’ll stop here and ask you:

what do you think about witches? Do you see them as inherently bad or good? Do you have a favorite type of witch?

And check out last week’s discussion:
Werewolves: The Misunderstood

25 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Witches: The Variable”

  1. Witches are something that can be played around with. I like that they have a history but at the same time there are few things you can change around. That’s why I think I liked Charmed so much. It kept with the traditional family line with magic but it had a Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel with them fighting off evil creatures and demons of darkness. I don’t know… I like witches because they are sort of a staple to the supernatural genre but at the same time they need to be revamped somehow…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So you actually prefer them because of their variability. Does it ever bother you, though, to think that you might be reading a witch novel only to have the witches not match what you’re used to?

      And I agree they are a staple of the genre, but what do you mean by ‘revamp’?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I rarely read fiction… and when I do it usually doesn’t involve supernatural themes. My witch fixes come from movies or tv shows… which on average follow the traditional witch development. I have not come across a witch movie or show I haven’t liked.
        As for revamp… I have no idea what I meant. XD
        Maybe I was thinking of modernizing the witches, like techno magic where they can manipulate code or gollum magic where they can make robots/ mechs. No idea… to be honest with you.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. OH duh! I knew you didn’t read much fiction. We’ve discussed this before. is an idiot
          And I’m in the same boat as you. I generally get my witch fix from TV or movies. I read more scifi than fantasy, which doesn’t mesh well with witches.

          But… I love this idea! I totally want to make this a thing: like Steampunk witches who are able to control tech with their magic and each witch is able to control a diff type of tech. Hecks yeah! copyrights idea :p Unless, of course, you want it. ^.^ It was your idea originally.

          Liked by 1 person

              1. I wrote one back in high school when Steampunk was just getting popular. It was my sorrowful attempt at romance and is super cringe worthy. So… yeah… I think I’ll just stick with fantasy and urban supernatural fantasy. XD

                Liked by 1 person

  2. When i was in grad school I talked with a woman who was into this kinda stuff. She said that the Catholic church, in Medieval times, often called someone a witch because it could legally confiscate their land. So it was more of a cash grab than any kind of social or spiritual issue. That was her argument, anyhow. Probably all elements mingled together…

    Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah, I think Protestants did their fair share of persecution along the same lines. So I see it more as a perversion of the age (as in era) than a strictly Catholic thing. Not to excuse either, mind you. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I think witches were pagans and druids and while they are supposed to have practiced evil rituals I suspect a lot of it may have been propaganda from the early church trying to gain power.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes. The church history is very dark and i think some of it seeped into the bible where they added and rewrote parts to gain snd keep power. If im allowed to say such heresy

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t mind witches. I mean, I’ve studied Wicca before, and I find Wicca/paganism quite fascinating. But I wouldn’t say I go out of my way for witches. I prefer “evil” witches (LOVE Hocus Pocus), but I didn’t mind Charmed. Mostly I prefer the history behind it, the creation of the ‘evil’ witch to demonise Wicca, and things like the Salem Witch Trials. That fascinates me far more than witches in movies.

    The exception for that is probably ‘The Witches’. God, Roald Dahl was fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! I think I prefer evil witches as well. They’re just far more entertaining than the witch who has all this power, but has to use it only for good. Like you can’t even do little things, like clean the house, because it’s an abuse of magic. Those magic laws suck. Though, they didn’t seem to apply in Halloweentown. ^.^ (love that movie!)

      I enjoyed Charmed when I was younger, but I think the plot became too convoluted for me after a while. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Witches are boring. I mean, the possibility of magic is cool, but in terms of supernatural, they’re a bit dowdy.

    The stories I like about witches generally have bloodline magic in them, and it’s not so much foolish wand-waving and silly incantations as it is inherently welded strength with a few Words of Power.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your reference drop. Haha! And I can understand the need for something deeper, more powerful. Wand-waving is a little childish and makes it seem both easy and weak. :/
      Do you have a favorite book/show/movie with witches?


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