W is for witch.
Witches and magic have equally enthralled and repelled over the millennia. They’ve been part of the stories we tell, the movies and TV shows we watch and the novels we read (and write).
Let’s have a look at magicians.
A magician, wizard, witch, or mage is someone who uses or practices magic derived from supernatural or occult sources.:54 Magicians are common figures in works of fantasy, such as fantasy literature and role-playing games, and enjoy a rich history in mythology, legends, fiction, and folklore.
In medieval chivalric romance, the wizard often appears as a wise old man and acts as a mentor, with Merlin from the King Arthur stories representing a prime example.:195 Other magicians can appear as villains who are hostile to the hero.
Both of these roles have been used in fantasy. Wizards such as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books are featured as mentors, and Merlin remains prominent as both an educative force and mentor in modern works of Arthuriana.:637 Evil sorcerers, acting as villains, were so crucial to pulp fantasy that the genre in which they appeared was dubbed “sword and sorcery“.
The appearance of wizards in fantasy art, and description in literature, is uniform to a great extent, from the appearance of Merlin in Arthurian-related texts to those of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. The association with age means that wizards are often depicted as old, white-haired, and with long white beards so majestic as to occasionally become host to lurking woodland creatures. It predates the modern fantasy genre, being derived from the traditional image of wizards such as Merlin. Some[who?] theorize the look of the wizard is modeled after the Germanic god Wōden or Odin, who was described in his wanderer guise as being an old man with a long gray beard, baggy robes, a wide-brimmed hat and walking with the aid of a staff; Odin has been postulated as the main influence for Tolkien’s Gandalf.[page needed] Women, especially those termed “enchantresses,” are the more likely to appear young, though often through the use of magic to make them so.
People who work magic are called by several names in fantasy works, and the terminology differs widely from one fantasy world to another. While derived from real world vocabulary, the terms “wizard,” “witch,” “warlock,” “enchanter,” “enchantress,” “sorcerer,” “sorceress,” “druid,” “druidess,” “magician,” “mage,” and “magus” have different meanings depending upon context and the story in question.:619
The term archmage, with “arch” (from the Greek arché, “first”) indicating “preeminent,” is used in fantasy works as a title for a powerful magician or a leader of magicians.
In the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Patricia Wrede depicts wizards who use magic based on their staves and magicians who practice several kinds of magic, including wizard magic; in the Regency fantasies, she and Caroline Stevermer depict magicians as identical to wizards, though inferior in skill and training.
In Dungeons and Dragons, wizard or mage is a character class, distinguished by the ability to cast certain kinds of magic and possessing weak combat skills; subclasses are distinguished by strengths in some areas of magic and weakness in others. Sorcerers are distinguished from wizards as having an innate gift with magic, as well as possessing blood of a mystical or magical origin. Warlocks are distinguished from wizards as creating forbidden “pacts” with powerful creatures to harnessing their innate magical gifts.
The terms “wizard” and “warlock” are more often applied to a male magic-user, just as “witch” is more often applied to a female. In Witch World, a man who anomalously showed the same abilities as a witch was termed a warlock. The term “warlock” is sometimes used to indicate a male witch in fiction. However, either term may be used in a unisex manner, in which case there will be members of both sexes bearing that title. If both terms are used in the same setting, this can indicate a gender-based title for practitioners of identical magic, such as in Harry Potter, or it can indicate that the two sexes practice different types of magic, as in Discworld.:1027
Types of magic
While the terms are used loosely, some naming patterns are more common than others.
Enchanters often practice a type of magic that produces no physical effects on objects or people, but rather deceives the observer or target through the use of illusions. Enchantresses in particular practice this form of magic, often to seduce.:318 For instance, the Lady of the Green Kirtle in C.S. Lewis‘s The Silver Chair enchants Rilian into forgetting his father and Narnia; when that enchantment is broken, she attempts further enchantments with a sweet-smelling smoke and a thrumming musical instrument to baffle him and his rescuers into forgetting them again.
The term Sorcerer is more frequently used when the magician in question is evil. This may derive from its use in sword and sorcery, where the hero would be the sword-wielder, leaving the sorcery for his opponent.:885
Witch also carries evil connotations. L. Frank Baum named Glinda as the “Good Witch of the South” in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, he dubbed her “Glinda the Good,” and from that point forward and in subsequent books, Baum referred to her as a sorceress rather than a witch to avoid the term that was more regarded as evil.
In certain East Asian fantasies, the practice of Wuxia is used to achieve superhuman feats, as in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Such martial artists attain these abilities through practice as much as, if not more than, studying to gain knowledge, making them in some respects like magicians, and in others not.[original research?]
Of course, in the BBC TV series Merlin, the title character doesn’t fit the stereotype of a warlock. Merlin is actually younger than Arthur.
Merlin and Arthur become best friends, despite the fact that Merlin has to hide the fact that he can use magic (on pain of death). Though, before Arthur dies, Merlin shares this secret with his best friend. And Arthur forgives him for keeping this secret from him…
Obviously, being a magician isn’t all that bad (except when living in Uther Pendragon’s kingdom…)
Let’s take a look at witches.
A witch is a person who practices witchcraft. The stereotypical witches are commonly portrayed as wicked old women who have wrinkled skin, pimples, and pointy hats. They wear clothes that are black or purple. They also have warts on their noses and sometimes long claw-like fingernails.
A violent history of witch persecution…
In Europe in the early modern period, persecution of witches (witch hunts and witchcraft trials) took place. Many Christians were scared of witches and witchcraft at that time. As a result, tens or hundreds of thousands of people were tried for witchcraft, and executed. Most of them were women, though in some places the majority were men. Most were hanged. Some were burned at the stake (tied to a long pole and burned alive). Especially in the early modern period, this punishment was often applied.
Among those punished were people who did not live peacefully with their rulers, like Joan of Arc. Queen Anne Boleyn was accused of being a witch and was said to have had a large mole on her neck and a sixth finger, though this was likely invented by her enemies.
Myths about witches.
During the early Modern Age, people developed a whole set of teachings and beliefs about witches. These beliefs were centered around the following:
- Witches were able to fly around on brooms, sticks…..
- Witches meet with other witches, and with the devil on occasions called witches’ sabbath.
- Witches have a pact with the devil
- Witches can use spells and black magic, also known as ‘Juju’ in some parts of Africa to do bad things to others
Folk beliefs about witches told that a witch had certain things that clearly identified her as a witch. Some of these were:
- What was called Diabolical mark. It was a mark of the devil. Most of the time, this was a mole or birthmark. If the examiner found no mark, often he would say he had found an invisible mark.
- A pact with the devil.
- Being denounced by another witch. This was common. Often, witches who told about other witches were punished less severely. For example, they were strangled before being burnt at the stake.
- A relationship with other known witch(es).
- Taking part in Sabbaths.
- To harm someone with sorcery.
- To have some of the things needed to do black magic.
- To have one or more witches in the family.
- To be afraid during the interrogations. Most often the interrogations involved torture.
- To not cry when tortured.
- Another common method of test was the `Swim` test the suspected witch would have a rope tied around the waist and rocks (on ropes as well) attached to their feet. The suspected witch was then thrown into the water. If they drowned (which is more than likely) they were wrongly accused, if they floated they were a witch and a trial would be held.
In popular culture witches abound in TV and movies. Witches, green skin and all, are the housekeeping staff in Adam Sandler’s Hotel Transylvania.
Infused with mystery, fear, unbelievable and grim facts and records, Witchcraft History can be traced back to centuries.
The word ‘Witchcraft’ has been derived from the word ‘Wicca’ which means ‘the wise one’. Witchcraft has been seen as a magical phenomenon, a pagan worship or religion, sorcery, and others, at different periods in Witchcraft History.
The earliest records of the concept and practice of witchcraft can be traced to the early days of humankind when witchcraft was seen as magical a phenomenon that was invoked for magical rites which ensured good luck, protection against diseases, and other reasons.
A juxtaposition of good as well as evil views, Witchcraft History is, thus, a stock of shocking, yet hypnotising incidents of humankind and their crusade against the practice of Witchcraft.
In routine usage, a witch is a feminine noun for wizard or sorcerer, but the former has different functional connotations from its masculine counterpart. While a wizard or a sorcerer may have some element of manipulativeness in their craft, a witch, though a practitioner of witchcraft, is far from being a crafty person. A witch is essentially a very noble and deeply religious person whose purity of heart combined with spiritual and meditation practices bestow her with a deeply religious and mysterious aura. A witch does not act with any ulterior motives, not to mention any machinations in her pursuits. A witch is a very compassionate person, gifted with supernatural powers and works for the alleviation of pain and suffering of her fellow human beings and brings them the much needed solace and succor.
A highly misunderstood, deeply suspected, much maligned and doggedly hounded person especially during the middle ages, a witch has regained lost ground and has acquired a respectable position in the society. Colloquially, the term witch, applied most often to a female, also includes male practitioners of witchcraft, especially Wicca. Witches believe in certain ethical codes and strictly adhere to them.
A witch engaged in her witchcraft practices spells developed by worshiping many deities primarily the supreme Goddess and sometimes her consort the God. The craft or workings of a witch are used for healing the acute health problems. For curing these problems, she uses the personal powers in combination with energies within candles, stones, herbs and other natural items. Witch practices witchcraft to help better the world and mankind. A witch certainly is not ugly, nefarious, dreadful hag who worships the devil or hurts the people as the stereotype image presents her to be.
A witch derives her strength from Paganism, which is influenced by ancient, primarily pre-Christian and sometimes pre-Judaic religion. A witch has deep faith in the elements of Nature such as earth, fire, nature, air, and water. Fire cleanses and has an aura that transports her into the astral world and enables her to view this world with psychic clarity. Water purifies.connects with the Goddess herself. The air is an all-enveloping blanket of gods. It wraps around the witch and lifts her to the divine immenseness and freedom of the skies. The spirit of the witch gets united with the air and floats freely in the sky. The witch achieves this uplifted state through meditation, perseverance and sometimes she is blissfully born with these talents.
6 Types of Witches From Around the World
- Ghana: Witch Camps
While witch hunts largely ended in Europe in the 18th century, in some parts of the world, women continue to be banished as they are suspected of having supernatural powers.
The witch camps were established nearly 100 years ago to provide a place of refuge for women who were made the scapegoats for tragedies like famine, sickness, and death. Not unlike the women accused of witchcraft in colonial America, these women were discriminated against in societies riddled by mass panic.
- Chile: Kalku
Native to Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people, the Kalku is an evil sorceress who exists in opposition to Mapuche spiritual leaders and medicine women, the Machi. While the Machi are the culture’s major healers, the Kalku work with evil spirits to wreak havoc. The semi-mystical figures use black magic and are even believed to have evil sidekicks, such as Anchimayen (creatures that reanimate the corpses of deceased children) and the Choncon (a bird with the head of a Kalku). While both Kalku and Machi are traditionally women, the Kalku are seen as more mystical, fantastical creatures, while the Machi perform religious duties.
- Philippines: Mangkukulam
In the islands of the Philippines, belief in magic is very much alive. Kulam is a form of Filipino witchcraft, with practitioners called mangkukulam. These sorceresses are believed to perform black magic.
- West Indies: Obeah
As a folk magic-religion hybrid, Obeah flourished in the West Indies during the slave trade largely as a force of resistance. The dark magic uses spells to make predictions, gain knowledge, or obtain assistance for any task.
- Mexico: La Santa Muerte
Though she may be considered a saint rather than a witch, Mexico’s Santa Muerte, or Saint of Death, is deeply connected to witchcraft. Portrayed as a woman wearing a skull mask, donning a long cloak—similar to a female Grim Reaper—Santa Muerte is honored through statues that are believed to hold magical powers. Black sculptures of the saint are used in cursing rituals while white sculptures are used for cleansing rituals.
Obviously witches cannot hold all the magical spells in their heads. They’ve had to have written it down somewhere to pass the knowledge down to the next generation.
Spell books. Usually they’re written by witches. (Like recipe books…)
Owen Davies’s top 10 grimoires
From ancient Egypt to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, grimoires – books of magic spells – have exerted a huge influence on religion and science.
Owen Davies, professor of social history at the University of Hertfordshire, has written extensively about the history of magic, witchcraft and ghosts. Last month Oxford University Press published his most recent work, Grimoires, the first ever history of the books of spells whose origins were first recorded in the ancient Middle East.
“Grimoires are books that contain a mix of spells, conjurations, natural secrets and ancient wisdom. Their origins date back to the dawn of writing and their subsequent history is entwined with that of the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the development of science, the cultural influence of print, and the social impact of European colonialism.”
- The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses
- The Clavicule of Solomon
- Petit Albert
The “Little Albert” symbolises the huge cultural impact of the cheap print revolution of the early 18th century. The flood gates of magical knowledge were opened during the so-called Enlightenment and the Petit Albert became a name to conjure with across France and its overseas colonies. As well as practical household tips it included spells to catch fish, charms for healing, and instructions on how to make a Hand of Glory, which would render one invisible.
- The Book of St Cyprian
- Dragon rouge
- The Book of Honorius
- The Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy
Cornelius Agrippa was one of the most influential occult philosophers of the 16th century. He certainly wrote three books on the occult sciences, but he had nothing to do with the Fourth Book which appeared shortly after his death. This book of spirit conjuration blackened the name of Agrippa at a time when the witch trials were being stoked across Europe.
- The Magus
Published in 1801 and written by the British occultist and disaster-prone balloonist Francis Barrett, The Magus was a re-statement of 17th-century occult science, and borrowed heavily from an English edition of the Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy. It was a flop at the time but its influence was subsequently considerable on the occult revival of the late 19th century and contemporary magical traditions. In the early 20th century a plagiarised version produced by an American occult entrepreneur and entitled The Great Book of Magical Art, Hindu Magic and East Indian Occultism became much sought after in the US and the Caribbean.
- The Necronomicon
- Book of Shadows
Last but not least there is the founding text of modern Wicca – a pagan religion founded in the 1940s by the retired civil servant, folklorist, freemason and occultist Gerald Gardner. He claimed to have received a copy of this “ancient” magical text from a secret coven of witches, one of the last of a line of worshippers of an ancient fertility religion, which he and his followers believed had survived centuries of persecution by Christian authorities. Through its mention in such popular occult television dramas as Charmed, it has achieved considerable cultural recognition.
In the popular TV series, The Vampire Diaries, Bonnie (a witch from a long line of powerful witches) has several grimoires. The one she used most was one from her ancestor Emily (who even possessed poor Bonnie so she could right a wrong she’d committed in her own lifetime). Though we should remember that witches are the servants of nature (that’s how they get their magic) and aren’t really the bad guys (except, well, the Original Witch AKA Klaus’s mother…)
In the spin-off The Originals, New Orleans has more witches using “ancestral magic” (quite different from the magic we learned witches used in The Vampire Diaries) than there are werewolves. They too, use grimoires to make their magic even more powerful. (Especially when they use the Original Witch’s spell book…)
As with everything else I blog about, I use witches in my own writing.
Here’s my take on them (from the page Origin of the Fae):
Witches, Warlocks (Wizards) and others
As with the Fae, human magic-users are classified under their own gifts as well. Some control fire, some water, some air (wind) and some earth. Some even have power over that which dwells within their element of control.
Only Druids seem to have power over everything.
Certain bloodlines of witches and Warlocks have found the power of Runes and thus power like Druids through branding their skin with various Runes. Dangerous and possibly fatal.
I think I should add them to my WIP as I finish typing it (and sneakily do more rewriting as things catch my eye) for Camp NaNoWriMo…
“You have got to be willing to put yourself through the paces of doing the uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable and until you realize your dreams.” – Jim Rohn
I hope you’re equal parts terrified and intrigued. Anything to add about witches or Grimoires? Do you use witches in your own writing? Did you watch any of the TV shows or movies mentioned?