Witches last edited by jazz1987 on 10/30/18 11:55AM View full history

Overview

The image of the dangerous female crone or male troll is a very old one. The Brothers Grimm used it, and they weren't the first by far. In addition to the ugly, old hag, there's also the beautiful and dangerous enchantress like Circe from Homer's Odyssey, or the older earthmother type, as well as male witches who are usually ugly trolls and demonic figures, handsome sexual predators (this was later fused with vampires), and the older mentor figure such as Merlin the Magician. Witches in literature -- and in comic books -- are sometimes depicted as satanic and evil, sometimes druidic and nature-loving, but always as powerful.

The Witch Species

In the 20th century, popular films such as *I Married a Witch* and *Bell, Book, and Candle* bypassed the religious and horror imagery to depict witches instead as a subspecies of human beings who happened to possess magical powers as a natural attribute, fusing the notion of witches with the more light-hearted notion of fairy women and male elves that had been introduced in Shakespeare's *A Midsummer Night's Dream* (as well as other examples). This idea of a witch species was continued in the Archie comic book *Sabrina* and the Harvey comic book *Wendy the Good Little Witch* and later on appeared on television with the character of Samantha Stevens and her kooky male and female witch relatives in *Bewitched*, eventually followed up by a TV version of Sabrina and several other shows where witchly powers are inherited, such as *Charmed*. This idea continues in DC's magical races the homo magi (Zatanna) and Witch-World (Klarion the Witch Boy).

Triple Goddess Style

1994 Vertigo Witchcraft covers, Maiden, Mother and Crone
1994 Vertigo Witchcraft covers, Maiden, Mother and Crone

Modern practitioners of witchcraft as a religion often use the imagery of the triple goddess, which mirrors the three stages of a woman's life and the phases of the moon: Maiden (youth, innocence, power waxing), Mother (motherhood, fertility, power at full), and Crone (age, experience, power waning - sometimes). These concepts are mirrored both artistically and in literature with the beautiful and young nymphette, who's innocence is both naïveté and literal; the lush mother, full-figured, older but still attractive, she's lost her innocence, but isn't cynical; and the aged crone, who's body may be frail, face may be lined, but her experience and sometimes cynicism make her a powerful force to be reckoned with in spite of her frailty.

Brides of Satan

The men and women who died (none were burned in North America, only in Europe) at Salem town were accused of being in league with the devil. Anton LaVey with his founding of the Church of Satan in 1966 helped bring this concept of Satan's brides into a modern setting in the eyes of the fearful, and it appeared in such movies as *Rosemary's Baby*, but the idea that witches were tied to Satan is hardly a new one.

Modern Witchcraft

While LaVey was turning Christianity on its head, others were embracing the idea of the feminine divine. Neopaganism, inspired by Margaret Murray's 1921 book The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, started becoming open and public in the 1950s and '60s. These modern pagans use history and mythology to construct what they believe is the Old Religion, that predates Christianity (in fact, there are no written records of historical witch-cults beyond Murray's theories, which many contemporary historians have disputed).

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