While the term witch
itself is often applied as a catch-all word for female magic users in fiction, the Witch
as it has evolved out of Western traditions and folklore, has a number of distinct trappings and tropes.
- Traditional Witchy Attire: Black medieval or colonial period dresses and a pointy hat, also black, are the most traditional, but not every witch buys into the uniform. Often they dress normally, especially if the want to blend in, and the traditional clothing only comes out for spell casting or ceremonies. The Hot Witch especially tends to dress more wildly while the Wicked Witch is almost always traditionally attired. Goth clothing is also associated with classic witches.
- Broomsticks as a Transportation Method: Witches are known for riding Flying Broomsticks. In works with low amounts of fantasy, this may be omitted, but broom stick flying is something that is relatively unique to witches and not strongly associated with other types of magic users.
- Cat Ownership: Witches and cats are strongly associated, especially if the cat is black. The cat is a Familiar that aids in spells in some way or is sometimes magic in their own right. Witch's cats being able to communicate with their owners through telepathy, or just being able to speak to all humans, is common.
- Witchcraft: Witches practice witchcraft specifically as their type of magic, which is usually strongly tied to nature and European pagan-like traditions, and employs the use of herbs and strange ingredients like "Eye Of Newt" bubbling away in cauldrons, as well as night ceremonies under the moon. Usually a witch has a Spell Book, perhaps passed down through the family. Witchcraft itself is strongly tied to the Real Life religion of Wicca and other forms of Neo-Paganism, though most practitioners of these mystic religions would not consider themselves 'witches' and to call them as such could be taken as insulting, though media tends not to differentiate. Witches usually belong to 'covens', a group of witches who practice together and share knowledge and resources and often get together to cast more powerful spells. Witches do not usually use a Magic Wand or Magic Staff, those items are more commonly associated with Wizards and Sorcerers.
- Associated with Femininity and Sistership: Witches are associated with femininity and sistership, despite the fact that traditionally and even in most media, witches are not Always Female. For male witches to be possible is common, though in-universe they are often considered rarer than female witches, and in truth most witch characters in media are female, like the classic image. If male witches do not share the term 'witch', they are sometimes called 'warlocks'. Witches also tend to have sisters, for whatever reason, and they have a strong tradition of passing their magic down from mother to daughter.
Originally the Witch
was an evil figure that either practiced pagan religion or traditions and "magic", which was seen as evil period by the predominantly Christian Europe, or was believed to have given their soul to the devil in exchange for terrible powers. This particular portrayal of Witch is known nowadays as the Wicked Witch
, and isn't often seen anymore as the default witch. In modern media, witches tend to be more neutral or outright good figures. Media that has both often has a Good Witch Versus Bad Witch
dynamic. Usually good witches are pretty and bad witches are very ugly, though when an evil witch is beautiful, she's usually a Vain Sorceress
. Witches are often shown in contrast to a Wizard Classic
, sometimes being rivals or outright enemies, or just often having differences in opinion.
shown in a modern setting, in genres such as Urban Fantasy
, tend to forgo a lot of the traditional associations and tropes tied to the Witch, such as the attire and the broom riding, the character often seeing it as "too traditional". A common modern variation is for the witch to ride a vacuum cleaner as a joke
. They usually acknowledge they are descendant from, or taught by witches in the European Tradition.
Subtropes of Witch include Cute Witch
, Hot Witch
, Wicked Witch
, and Widow Witch
While a Witch Doctor
also practices magic, they have nothing to do with the Classic Witch. Also while sometimes witches are a Witch Species
, this is not always, or often the case.
Anime and Manga
- Blair the Cat in Soul Eater fits into this, although she's technically a cat with strong magic (and thus the ability to shapeshift into a Cat Girl form). Angela (a child witch) is the only other non-antagonistic witch in the series who wears black. The rest of the witches are either a Wicked Witch (and wear the standard outfit, but modified with an Animal Motif and different colours) or avert the trope entirely (particularly Kim, although her non-witch partner just happens to have a flying broom form).
- In Kiki's Delivery Service, the titular Kiki is a witch-in-training. She doesn't wear the pointed hat but does wear a black dress, rides on a broomstick and has a black cat who she can speak to through magic. Her mother does magic with potions but other witches do things like fortune telling. Witches go on a journey to live along for a year as part of their training, and leaving on a full moon is the best night.
- Witches in Rosario + Vampire are a species of "monsters" despite looking like humans, and conform to the traditional Witch stereotypes, including the pointed hat, cape, broomstick-riding, use wands with pentagrams on them. What breaks the traditional mold, though, is that men are members of this species as well, and they have hats, capes, and the works.
- Witches in Discworld. The pointy hats are very important, since a lot of being a witch is based on everyone else seeing you as a witch. The black clothes seem to be mostly because witches are practical and black is hard-wearing. Nanny Ogg and more recently Granny Weatherwax have cats. Broomsticks are generally only used by witches, even though they're made by dwarfs and can be flown by anyone, even without magical talent. One difference from the standard version is that although witches are Always Female, and Discworld magic is hereditary, witchcraft isn't passed down from mother to daughter here, it being considered that young witches should learn from another witch with a different way of doing things to prevent a family's magical style from coiling in on itself.
- Meg, from Jan Pienkowski's Meg and Mog series.
- Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter Film-verse (although the book universe could possibly count). She was seen on the Quidditch Plaque in Philosopher's Stone, which meant she must've had skill with a broomstick, not to mention she turns into a cat, and her image is never complete without her hat.
- Many characters in the Dorrie The Witch books fit this, including Dorrie herself and her mother.
- Blackadder referenced this trope a few times, with three witches who are based of the Macbeth ones in the first series, and a "Wise Woman" in the second.
- The witches in shakespeare's Macbeth. They cackle, rhyme, and have a cauldron full of nasty stuff.
- Tessa would seem to be a modern update of this trope (if not, she comes close). Her robes are white and a bit more festive and revealing than your traditional witch, not to mention that she uses a magic wand, but she has the trademark pointed hat (which appears to be alive in some depictions), owns four cats (two of which--Al and Ivan--actually aid her in battle), is often shown thumbing through what is presumably her spell book, and is seen riding on a broomstick during Pocket Fighter/Super Gem Fighter: Mini-Mix. The only difference is that she refers to herself as a sorcerologist, one who employs magic in her studies to discern the nature of the universe, and as such, Tessa's brand of witchcraft seems to be a mix of classical cauldron brewing and alchemy.
- Except for the lack of a cat, Touhou's Marisa Kirisame is an example in both the modern Windows games and the, appearance wise, completely different, PC-9801 era Marisa.
- The witches from Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. They are actually a staple of the Castlevania series.