Witch Classic YKTTW Discussion

Witch Classic
A type of magic user traditionally known for keeping cats, riding broom sticks and wearing pointy hats.
Already have? Motion To Discard Motion To Discard Better Name
(permanent link) added: 2012-01-15 00:30:52 sponsor: NoirGrimoir (last reply: 2015-11-03 01:33:24)

Add Tag:
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, as is the New-Age Retro Hippie's typical style of flowy garments.
  • Broomsticks as a Transportation Method: Witches are known for riding Flying Broomsticks. In works with low amounts of fantasy, this may be omitted, but broomstick flying is something that is relatively unique to witches and not strongly associated with other types of magic users.
  • Animal Companions: Witches are often seen around animals, especially nocturnal ones, although cats are the most common by far, especially black ones. The animal is usually a Familiar that aids in spells in some way or is sometimes magic in their own right. The animals being able to communicate with their owners through telepathy, or just being able to speak to all humans, is common. When a Witch doesn't have a cat, other animals they might have include owls, crows, toads and mice.
  • Association with Nature and the Earth: Witches are often portrayed as very knowledgeable in the workings of nature, especially plants and weather. Whereas a Wizard Classic will have his head in the clouds, always watching the stars, a witch will be Closer to Earth watching the seasons turn and advising people when to plant their crops. It's common for witches to live alone in the woods, and to be a Nature Lover and Outdoorsy Gal. A witch probably has a Green Thumb too, so she can grow herbs for her magic potions, or just to scent her home-made soaps.
  • Witchcraft: Witches practice witchcraft specifically as their type of magic, which, because of the above aspect, is usually strongly tied to nature and may resemble European pagan-like traditions. Commonly their magic 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. In Modern media, Witchcraft is strongly associated with Hollywood versions of Real Life religions of Wicca and other forms of Neo-Paganism note  although in the past they were associated with many forms of local folk traditions. 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.
  • Associated with the number 3: For whatever reason, Witches are often seen in threes and involve three in their magic or worship. If a witch has sisters, she's probably part of a trio of siblings. A coven also usually has at least three members, or do magic in groups of three. This is most likely related to the concepts of The Three Faces of Eve and The Hecate Sisters, two tropes that link the number three with both women and divinity.

In early western tradition, the Witch was predominantly an evil figure. Often they were associated with pagan religion and traditions or outright devil worship (which to the predominantly Christian Europe, generally amounted to the same thing), but this particular portrayal of the evil witch, known nowadays as a Wicked Witch, was most likely invented by witch hunters and targeted against the weakest sections of the populace, such as old women, who were unable to field an effective legal defense.

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.

A Witch 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 Classic include:

Other tropes related to witches:

Compare to other Always Female magic users, such as the White Magician Girl, Black Magician Girl, Lady of Black Magic, Solitary Sorceress and Vain Sorceress.

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.
  • The witches of Little Witch Academia, who wear the pointy hats, ride brooms, wear black (or purple) dresses and brew potions. The protagonist is also a part of a trio of friends (who are also witches), and the main witch antagonist is also in a group of three, with two witchy minions.
  • Flying Witch is a Slice of Life Urban Fantasy in which the main character is a young witch who goes to live with her cousins (normals) in a rural town. She has a cat familiar only she can understand, rides a broom, wears black robes on witch holidays, and plants a garden. She also takes on her younger (female) cousin as an apprentice. Other characters who uphold witch traditions (including her sister) also drop in from time to time.

  • The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, is a very famous version of a classic witch. She wears black, rides a broom, has the pointy hat and has a sister.
  • The three witch sisters from Hocus Pocus, complete with sister, brooms, colonial dresses and Eyeof Newt. They are traditional Wicked Witch versions.
  • In Practical Magic all the main characters, including the very traditional New-Age Retro Hippie aunts as well as the younger heroines. Brooms and potions are both used in magic in the film and they even wear the traditional clothes during Halloween.

  • 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.

Live-Action TV
  • Witchiepoo in Sid & Marty Krofft Productions' H.R. Pufnstuf is this turned Up to Eleven. She's got all the traditional traits including hat and broom riding as well as the Wicked Witch ones like a tendancy to mess up a child's day.
  • The titular Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who had a black cat who was a former warlock, but other than that was rather devoid of most witchy tropes. Her aunts on the other hand, play it pretty straight, being sisters with the flowy gypsy-like clothes and the occasional potion brewing.
  • Hanna-Barbera produced the opening animation for Bewitched in which Samantha Stevens wears the conical hat and dark cape, and rides a broom sidesaddle. Since Samantha herself usually averts this, the opening clues in the audience from get-go that she's a practicing witch, masquerading as a suburban housewife.
    • Samantha usually averts this, but in one Halloween episode Endora turns Darrin into a Witch Classic to teach him a lesson about tolerance. However, he volunteers to be the chaperon for his daughter's class's trick-or-treat outing, and he garners rave reviews for his perfect witch costume.
  • In an episode of Big Time Rush, Camille auditions for a movie about witches impersonating one of these. A case of Wrong Genre Savvy since the producers weren't looking for witch classic and rather by more contemporary hot witches.

  • The witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. They cackle, rhyme, and have a cauldron full of nasty stuff.

Video Games
  • 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.
  • Gruntilda "Grunty" Winkybunion, the primary antagonist of the Banjo-Kazooie series plays this trope straight full-on. She wears black clothes and a pointy hat, rides a broomstick, uses magic as her primary method of attack, has three sisters (one of whom is a Fairy Godmother), talks in rhyme (except in Banjo-Tooie at the request of an annoyed Mingella and Blobbelda), and owns a cat named Piddles in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.

Western Animation
  • Witch Hazel from Looney Tunes.
    • Disney also had a Witch Hazel in the Donald Duck short "Trick or Treat". The only thing the two have in common, beside the name, is that they're both voiced by June Foray.
  • Hanna-Barbera's Winnie Witch, who is a lot like the Witch Hazels above.
  • A witch riding a broom and giddy with martinis drops her magic wand in the Pink Panther cartoon "Pink-A-Rella." Pink finds the wand and uses it to transform an impoverished girl into a dazzling debutante so that she can meet her idol, Pelvis Parsley. The boozy witch returns to confront Pink about reclaiming her wand. This cartoon was directed by Friz Freleng.
  • The Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Flying Sorceress" has a classic witch with almost every feature: conical hat with wide brim, flying broom, witchcraft, wicked cackle, haunted house ... missing only the feline familiar. Tom Cat arrives at her home to apply for the position of cat companion.
Replies: 67