I was taught to be afraid of witches at a very young age. My first introduction to a witch was in Hansel and Gretel. Given how scary that witch was, it’s no wonder I am hesitant, to this day, about reading books about witches. Those German fairytales are the stuff of nightmares and their witch epitomizes all that is evil.
The idea that one was trying to lure young children into her home so she could pop them into the oven was probably the most terrifying and disgusting thing I had ever encountered before the age of five.
And as I got older, the more horrifying that story became to me, as reality set in as to just what this witch was really capable of. This witch wasn’t just evil, she was calculating. She set a trap that appealed to children. She lured the children in. She took her time, while they remained frightened behind bars and fattened them up so that they would be better to eat.
If this was made into a horror film, I think it would get banned in most countries. Kidnapping, torture, cannibalism – all great stuff for young kids to learn about and people say today’s young adult books are dark?
When I was just a little bit older I learned that there were good witches and bad witches. Glinda was pretty and kind and had a wand filled with magic. Whereas the Wicked Witch of the West was ugly, scary and mean. Her pointed black hat, evil cackle and broomstick told young viewers that she was no good. And not only threatening a young girl but her little dog, too, made her enemy number one.
The witches at the beginning of Macbeth, gathered around their cauldron and chanting, haunted me so much so that I haven’t read that story since I was six years old.
As I got older, I began to see witches portrayed in a different light. They weren’t necessarily good or bad. But in all instances they were powerful and because of their power, scary. I tended to shy away from reading about witches, as there was just something about the dark magic they tapped into that gave me a chill. It was a completely irrational fear that reading about spell-casting meant that it would curse the reader, but there was no way I was willing to take that risk.
But Hollywood helped to change all that. In some instances they made their witches every bit as scary as I imagined, but mostly their witches were just kick-a** women with some seriously cool powers.
Gone are the poorly postured, wart-faced, hideously grotesque women from days of old. Modern day witches are beautiful, powerful and scary, more like goddesses, really. Yeah, witches have come a long way.
And today’s witches don’t have to hide away in a coven, risking death at the stake, by hanging or by drowning. They can now fit in at school, virtually undetected, along with all the other paranormal beings like vampires, shifters or demons – just look at Bonnie in the show The Vampire Diaries. If she hadn’t come out of her witchy closet, no one would have guessed at her abilities.
Today’s fictional witch can be anyone. They can be the girl (or boy) next door, the creepy old lady at the end of the block, the shy, reclusive girl at the back of the class or the teacher who seems to know everything.
While the term “witch” may still automatically conjure up in the mind a female, possibly with a broom or wand, a pointy hat and a black cat, the more stories that get written about modern day witches, the less likely readers will be to stereotype them.
And if writers choose to make them just a little less intimidating and a little more relatable, then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be a little less terrified, too, each time I open a book with the word “witch” on its cover. And a few more stories with yummy boy witches or warlocks like Braden or Archer and I’ll be ready to jump on the “I love witches” bandwagon.