Saturday, September 17, 2011

Witches: Wicked or Misunderstood?

Picture a witch.

If you imagined something similar to the above picture, I'm sure you're not alone. I feel like the word "witch" has had a negative connotation since (pretty much) forever, and with all the hysteria involved in witch-hunts and witch burnings in Europe and North America centuries ago, shouldn't the popular "wicked" witch image be justified? I don't think so.

I've been fascinated by magic since I was a toddler, so I never understood why witches--supposedly brilliant at magic--were often depicted as evil, mean, and possibly green. After all, don't they have "superpowers" just like our beloved superheroines from Marvel and DC have? Even though there is plenty of "good" witchcraft (say, healing, protecting, or seeing the future), the "bad" witchcraft gets ten times as much attention.

Thankfully, over the past few decades, the concept of the "good" witch has become more and more popular, what with the release of popular books and shows like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Harry Potter, and Wicked the Broadway musical. Even so, the idea of the wicked witch is much stronger and widespread, as it is firmly rooted in centuries of witch fright and witch panic. Can witches still be considered superheroines?


  1. Despite the classic portrayal of witches as "wicked," I think they can be superheroines to a point. They don't usually fight crime and such in the way the classic superheroines do, but technically they DO have superpowers. They are the heroines in what you mentioned, Sabrina, Harry Potter and Wicked, among other things. A pretty powerful example is in Buffy the Vampire Slayer - I don't know if you've seen any of it, but Willow and Tara are both witches, and both, especially Willow, could definitely be classified as superheroines. I don't know why witches aren't seen this way more often - maybe it is just leftover prejudice from the witch trials of the 17th century. Yet, the super-witches are out there.

  2. If you've ever seen Charmed, you'll definitely consider Prue, Piper, Phoebe, and Paige superheroines. They have powerful magic, but they must only use it for the good of "innocents" aka, humans. They have to battle demons - the bad guys. And their powers are kept in check with The Elders. The witches in True Blood, however, aren't considered superheroines, not that most people in True Blood can really be considered role models and golden citizens.

  3. I think the idea of witches as "wicked" is a very dated concept. Though centuries ago that was the overwhelming stereotype, there are so many examples (as mentioned previously) of good witches. I think that modern day, the idea of a witch does not have a negative connotation with it. I think vampires are going through the same change (from evil to human) as witches have lately.

  4. It is also interesting to look at the "wicked witch's" male counterpart, the "(un)wicked, constantly benevolent wizard"...don't those terms seem to promote gender equality! I feel as though the terms, the words themselves, hold a lot of weight, having very strong connotations, for can a wizard really be "evil," or would that be considered a "sorcerer," which is apparently a gender-neutral term? (Has anyone even heard of a witch being called a sorcerer?) Can a witch be benign? Can a witch do good? We can debate the answers to such questions forever, but I think the real question looks into how we have acquired these associations for such terms. Is it society that influences our definitions of these terms or the definitions that influence how our society perceive them?


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