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"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
Exodus 22:18, The Bible, King James Version (KJV)

When a community with a superstitious mindset suspects someone in their midst of magical or otherwise unusual powers, especially if unexplained stuff such as kids disappearing has been happening, their response will usually be to root the person out to take the blame and some burning at the stake.

It's usually a woman or girl in these situations: Sprenger and Kramer, the authors of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, explicitly stated that "...this heresy is not of villains, but of villainesses, and thus it is noted so."

This trope is often the climax of a classical Witch Hunt in media, with plenty of Torches and Pitchforks to go around. These are not historically accurate, for the most part, being depicted in places and times when there were no witch-hunts, or misrepresenting ones that did occur. In particular, one of the most famous episodes of witch-hunting, the Salem Witch Trials, featured no burnings at all. The convicted were hanged — and indeed, those who "confessed" were held to answer more questions and freed when the hunt was stopped. In reality, in England and in English colonies like Massachusetts, burning at the stake was reserved for women commoner traitorsnote  and for heretics. That said, there was some overlap, as heretics were often accused of witchcraft - and other way around - witchcraft was oftennote  considered a form of heresy. It is also common to associate witch-hunting to the The Spanish Inquisition, even although contrary to popular belief, the Spanish branch was the most lax towards witchcraft in all Europe and actively tried to oppose such kind of persecutions.note 


The "swimming" of witches, one of the most famous methods of interrogating a suspected witch, had the virtue of being both pointless and redundant. Popular belief makes it out as a Morton's Fork, saying that if the 'witch' floated, they'd pull her out and kill her. If the "witch" drowned, on the other hand... well, they were still dead, they just weren't a witch. Actually she would be tied to a rope: if she did float, they would pull her out, and the fact would be regarded as incriminating. (Of course sometimes they wouldn't do this quick enough, and she'd still drown. "Floating" could also be achieved by trickery with the ropes). If she sank, they would pull her out all the same, but cleared of charges. The ducking stool is an unrelated, non-lethal device of punishment where a woman was dunked in cold water for being a public nuisance of some sort.


Also see The Heretic, who is also a victim of this form of justice, but with a difference: the Witch is sentenced to incineration for deadly supernatural activity, while The Heretic is similarly sentenced to incineration for religious Thought Crime. The Witch Hunter is a related trope, although a Witch Hunter is someone who hunts witches professionally, while this trope tends to refer to an angry mob. See also Kill It with Fire and related tropes for the logic (such as it is) for this.

Not to be confused with Tite Kubo 2018 oneshot for Shonen Jump.

As a Death Trope, several if not all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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  • In one Progressive ad, one of Flo's ancestors is about to be burned at the stake when she's accused of witchcraft trying to sell the Name Your Price tool.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Going by the flashbacks, the eponymous Witch Hunter Robin (with firestarter powers) was a normal, devout girl who got burned at the stake for being a witch. Or maybe that mysterious old lady was just messing with Robin's mind. In modern times (in Japan) they just get captured and shipped off... and, as the heroes learn to their disgust, drugged, put into People Jars and used to make the anti-witchcraft drug. Either way, it all apparently stems from a long-standing prejudice against them, even though most people have forgotten where it came from to begin with.
  • Code Geass:
    • Code Geass has this when a mystical trap causes Lelouch to see images of C.C.'s past, including multiple gruesome "deaths" — one of which was, of course, burning at the stake. Justified in that C.C. is both immortal and ageless, plus she became immortal when she was a servant/slave girl in medieval times, meaning she did indeed live through the time when people were doing this sort of thing. It doesn't help matters that official sources both inside and outside the anime call her a witch.
    • It also happens to Joan of Arc and Jeanne the Witch (who later becomes C.C.) in Code Geass: Nightmare of Nunnally. Nunnally herself almost suffers the same fate.
  • Berserk:
    • This almost happens to Casca during the Conviction arc after her corrupted child summons several ghosts to protect her from Bishop Mozgus's Cold-Blooded Torture at the Tower of Conviction, which drained him in the process. She's rescued by Isidro, who later becomes one of Guts's new set of True Companions.
    • As a child, Lady Farnese often took great joy in assisting her town's burning of heretics.
  • Minoru Murao's manga Knights opens with an attempted witch burning, as a corrupt priest is accusing the 13 year-old Nina of witchcraft. He fails, and Nina is rescued by the Black Knight and his might-as-well-be-naked companion. Later, the protagonist (and knight-in-training) Mist reveals it was merely a plot to seize her noble family's assets, since the Church is entitled to a witch's property without justification or investigation.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!:
    • Evangeline says that despite being a vampire, she often had to escape such burnings during the middle ages, occasionally getting caught. She laughs about it as something highly amusing these days (the listeners were understandably horrified).
    • There is also Asuna threatening to expose Negi early in the manga.
  • Vincent narrowly escapes getting hung for witchcraft in Bizenghast. Later, we get Maphohetka, who definitely had some kind of supernatural ability, as evidenced by her surviving being stabbed in the chest, and is an antagonist to Dinah. In her defense, Maphohetka may be innocent of whatever she was accused of (since the exact nature of Bizenghast's misfortune is never revealed) and the townspeople do actually verge on the "evil and bigoted" side (keeping up their witch lynching traditions well into the late 19th-early 20th century).
  • Sally Schumars almost went through this in the Weiß Kreuz CD dramas, but Farfarello rescued her.
  • In The Tarot Cafe, Pamela's mother (a midwife) was accused of witchcraft after the baby she was delivering and the child's mother both died. She confessed to witchcraft just so that she could plead for her daughter's safety and was burned at the stake. Pamela was later accused of witchcraft because she could see the future and because she rejected a creepy old priest's advances on her. Because she'd been exposed to the blood of a dragon, she was immortal and survived. A later story has her kidnapped by a group of religious fanatics who use her tarot cards as proof that she's a witch and try to kill her. Seeing as she's immortal, they don't succeed.
  • In Soul Eater, there are only two kinds of witches — the stereotypical doomsday witches which are hunted down due to their destructive nature, and the cute friendly witches, which are also hunted down due to their destructive counterparts.
  • In High School D×D, Asia Argento was praised by the Church for having Healing Hands. Unfortunately, when it was discovered that her power works on everybody, including demons (she healed the demon Diodora Astaroth while thinking he was human, and he in fact planned this to alienate her from the Church), the Church accused her of gaining the power by a Deal with the Devil and ordered her execution. Luckily, she meets the heroes.
  • In Mahou Tsukai Chappy, when Chappy and her brother Jun come to Earth, they decide to not tell anyone about their powers to avert being burned at the stake.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, back in the Middle Ages, the immortal woman Fraulein Kreutune was tried as a witch and sentenced to various forms of torture and execution, including being burned. Since she was immortal, none of them worked.
  • Attack on Titan: Various factions present at Eren's tribunal are rather paranoid about him (understandably) and want him dissected but then start accusing Mikasa of being a Human Titan too (much less understandably). Mikasa quickly puts a stop to this by demonstrating just how good she is at slicing things, which scares her would-be accusers off.
  • Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, as a series whose protagonist is the reincarnation of Joan of Arc, includes a scene that features Joan's fiery martyrdom.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Joan was one of the Puella Magi and the Grand Finale of the TV series shows her with her Soul Gem in her hands as she's about to be burned at the stake.
  • In Rage of Bahamut: Genesis, as Joan of Arc is about to be publically burned, the crowds try to save her and fight the local knights for her. Joan is so broken by her ordeals on top of watching the populace being hurt for her sake, she gives in to despair and inhales the demon's concoction, which turns her into a Tyke-Bomb of a demon and flies away with one objective: slay the Archangels holding Bahamut's seal.
  • In Belladonna of Sadness, this is what happens to the protagonist, the Girl Next Door-turned-Hot Witch Jeanne. Her husband Jean tries to rescue her, but he ends up turned into a Human Pincushion.
  • This is the ultimate fate of the local Badass Preacher Colette and her followers in Innocents Shounen Juujigun, since she ran an underground church that offers godliness to those that would be unable to afford it under the strict rules of the Catholic Church.
  • Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics:
    • The episode that features The Six Swans (mentioned below) has Princess Elise falsely accused of killing and eating her son by her Wicked Stepmother (who, in this version, is also the local Hot Witch). She's tied up to a cross and about to be burned when she's rescued by her brothers, who then put on the magical shirts she made to undo their curse and return to their human forms; the youngest Prince/Swan returns the unharmed baby to her. Then the Witch tries to summon a powerful wind... and reignites the witch-burning pyre, burning herself to death instead.
    • Averted in the Brother and Sister episode, where the Wicked Stepmother runs away and averts being burned. She's mentioned to have eventually died off-screen.

    Comic Books 
  • Agatha Harkness, babysitter for the Fantastic Four and the most powerful member of a Witch Species, has this happen. It's only a minor inconvenience, though, and she goes around as a ghost for a while before eventually resurrecting herself.
  • Almost happens in an old Mickey Mouse comic where Mickey and Gyro Gearloose are transported back to Puritan times and Gyro uses his lighter to start a fire, getting him and Mickey accused of using witchcraft.
  • Nightcrawler of the X-Men has this (actually, he's about to be staked, but it's the same principle) happening to him in his very first appearance - though the crowd thinks he is a demon, not a witch, due to his blue fur, pointed ears, fangs, and barbed tail. Also, a number of their children had recently been murdered.
  • A bleak story from the Tales of the Slayers collection features a reluctant Slayer who nonetheless saves her town from an army of marauding vamps... and for her pains is burned for witchcraft by the townsfolk. The townsfolk pay for their stupidity when the Slayer's Watcher, out of revenge, opens the town's gate, letting the remaining vampires in for the slaughter.
  • In Fables, Hansel (of "Hansel and Gretel") develops an obsession for burning witches after shoving the one from the story into her own oven. When he escapes to the Mundane world he is disgusted to find the witch survived, and the amnesty laws prevent him from doing anything to her. So, he travels to Europe and spearheads dozens of 'witch-burnings' because he can't do anything about the real ones in the world.
  • The Scarlet Witch was mistaken for an actual witch when her mutant hex power first manifested and would have been burned at the stake by Balkan villagers along with her brother Quicksilver if not for timely intervention of Magneto (who much later was revealed to be their father). An issue of Avengers West Coast shows an alternate reality where Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were captured by the villagers and burned at the stake.
  • Parodied in an issue of the Futurama comic book when Bender gets sent back through time into a Salem-esque area where townsfolk, having run out of witches to burn for their sour milk, spoiled crops and bitter wives, have started hunting robots. Of course, being prejudiced morons, they asked the robots for a list of their weaknesses, and promptly got handed a book of such "facts" such as "robots feel no pain when their hair is cut", "robots are ticklish" and "robots float in water". Once the final test is complete, they try burning the poor sap, only to find ponds aren't easily set aflame. This gets the guy trying to do this some suspicious looks. Bender steps in and tries telling the townsfolk that their deeds are wrong, only to clue them in on the real robots. One Smash Cut later they're both being burnt alive. Of course, being robots, they don't burn at all.
  • In one story arc in Madame Xanadu, flashbacks reveal how Madame Xanadu's lesbian lover was burned as a witch by The Spanish Inquisition. The executioner takes pity on her and snaps her neck before lighting the pyre.
  • In Le Scorpion, Armando's mother was burnt as a witch by the Inquisition for misdirecting a priest from the church and his Christian duties.
  • In a Sabrina the Teenage Witch comic, Sabrina thinks that her aunts had a great life in the "good old days" and as a result is given a magic mirror that can let her go back in time to colonial Salem. This trope is pretty much averted while there. Sabrina first comes across a witch stuck in the stocks and releases her. Sabrina is then put in the stocks herself for not stopping the witch's escape and is released by a perverted dude who demands a kiss for saving her. She's caught turning him into a toad and has to escape an angry mob that calls for her to be hanged.
  • In Seven Soldiers of Victory, Klarion the Witch Boy nearly gets burned by the women of Limbo Town after trying to warn them of the impending invasion by Melmoth, because the Croatoans have long been taught that there is no world beyond theirs.
  • The National Lampoon did a brutal comic-book parody of Bewitched where Samantha and Endora are practicing really dark magic, ending with their irate neighbors burning them at the stake - along with Darrin, whose dying words are "I never should have married you!"
  • Shade and his companions are nearly burnt at the stake when they travel back to Puritan New England, where the natives mistake the Madness for the Devil's own sorcery. It doesn't help when they find out Lenny's last name is Shapiro, calling her "filthy Jewess."
  • After the Monster leaves Antarctica in The Frankenstein Monster, the first thing he is greeted with when he comes in contact with civilization is a woman tied to a mast of a burning boat. He thinks she is victim of superstition, but it turns out she is actually a werewolf.
  • The Chick Tract dealing with the Salem witch trials is called Satan Comes to Salem, but the Satan he refers to is not in the form of witches. Instead he blames wicked Puritans that have innocent Christians hanged for witchcraft. Chick elaborates that "to justify the execution of witches...they used the Old Testament law (Exodus 22:18), but never considered New Testament grace (Matthew 5:44 & John 1:17)," which is surprising given how he excoriates everyone from Catholics to atheists with total abandon and doesn't demonstrate much (if any) New Testament grace himself.
  • A recurring element in the Black Magick series:
    • In the first issue, a man who knows that Rowan possesses true magical power attempts to kill her by setting fire to her, because that is the traditional method used to kill witches. She uses her abilities to redirect the flames to him instead.
    • Backmatter in the series includes journal writing and musings from a member of a witch hunting organization from the sixteenth century, and he reflects on the first time he saw a woman being burned as a child. This woman was not a witch, but had been falsely convicted by the zealotry and paranoia of the Catholic Church, and he had been brought to the burning by his father and grandfather so that he would never allow himself to make such a mistake himself.
  • In Detective Comics #49, a Theme Serial Killer attempts to kill one of his victims by reenacting Joan of Arc's execution by burning at the stake. The victim is saved by Jim Gordon who is wearing the Bat-suit at the time.
  • Nemesis the Warlock: Torquemada and his Terminators purge humans condemned as traitors by throwing them into a great fire in the Earth's core. Nemesis foils their plans by rigging a dimension portal to send the rebels to safety.
  • The Pat Mills comic Sha is all about the spirit of a young witch who was wrongfully burned at the stake in the fourteenth century awakening in her reincarnation in The Future to seek revenge against the Knight Templar demons who killed her.
  • Averted in an issue of Marvel Team Up in which Spider-Man time-travels to Salem and tries to save the victims of the Witch Trials. He fails but the witches were not burned (he finds them hanged, which is historically accurate).
  • In one article MAD suggests that the convicted Salem witches did a music tour before their executions. While this article does take liberties with history, the picture of the accused witches singing as they're being burned at the stake is a case of Critical Research Failure.
  • In Soulsearchers and Company #2, Janocz's tribe attempt to burn him at the stake for being a cursed shapeshifter, in accordance with ancient gypsy law.
  • In Lori Lovecraft: The Big Comeback, an actress playing a witch in a film is tied to a pyre for a scene when a demon causes the pyre to ignite for real; burning her to death.

    Fairy Tales 
  • More than one antagonist or unfairly accused heroine in fairy tales has been either subjected or about to be subjected to this:
    • There are several similar fairy tales (Grimm Brothers' "The Six Swans" and "The Twelve Brothers", Hans Christian Andersen's "The Wild Swans", Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe's The Twelve Wild Ducks" where a princess who's trying to break a spell over her brothers is under one or another circumstances accused of witchcraft (Andersen) or infanticide (Grimms, Asbjørnsen and Moe) and is almost burned at the stake, but her brothers save her and she manages to undo the curses over them. In "The Six Swans", the girl's accuser gets burned as punishment.
    • In "Penta of the Chopped-off Hands", the jealous fishwife Nuccia causes lots of trouble to the titular Penta, a once Fallen Princess who had already gone through terrible ordeals (including the loss of her hands) but had managed to start rebuilding her life and marry a local King. She goes as far as writing a false letter from the King that condemned Penta to be burned at the stake, but the King's counselors believe that the King's out of his mind and they send her (and her son) to another realm instead. When the whole deception is revealed, Nuccia is the one burned instead.
    • In "Our Lady's Child / "Mary's Child", the titular Child is a Queen who once lived in Heaven but was kicked out of it for disobeying an order from the Virgin Mary and, whenever the Virgin tried to confront her, refusing to admit her responsibility. The worst punishment is having her three babies taken away by the Virgin for yet again not wanting to admit her sin; she's mistaken for a witch/ogress who killed and ate her kids and about to be burned at the stake as such, despite her husband the King's desperate attempts to save her, but at the last moment she repents and mentally admits her wrongdoings. The Virgin forgives the girl and pulls a Big Damn Heroes by summoning a magical rain to extinguish the pyre, then brings the children back and makes sure that the exonerated girl and her family will be happy forever.
    • The Wicked Stepmother and Wicked Witch from "Brother and Sister" gets subjected to this at the end, after her murder of the titular Sister and her replacement of her with her own daughter are revealed.

    Fan Works 
  • In Breaking Boundaries, Koko seems to really want the witch hunt to happen and constantly does whatever he can to 'find' a witch and get them hung or burned. Ironically, he is the witch.
  • In Mutant, Kittery Abigail is called a witch, and the mob is glad when she was killed by stray bullets when a member Shot The Lock.
  • In the Cardcaptor Sakura fic Shadow of the Dragon, Takashi tells a story about witch burnings and trials... which obviously makes Sakura uncomfortable. As a result, Chiharu mistakenly believes that he too has found out about Sakura's magic and chews him out for scaring her, only to discover that he was merely telling a story that Eriol informed him of back in elementary school and end up blowing the masquerade to him herself.
  • In one Homestuck fanfiction (taking place in a medieval AU), Jade Harley is almost burned at the stake, despite her insistence that she's a "good witch". Fortunately, Dave Strider (a knight) manages to convince the townspeople to let her go.
  • The Doctor Who/Star Trek: Enterprise fanfic "A Fair Cop" portrays Star Trek's No Transhumanism Allowed as this, which is bad news for the Doctor's genetically enhanced companion Zoë Herriot.
  • In Destiny, Frollo successfully burns Esmeralda after he falsely accuses her of witchcraft. The entirety of the film is her Dying Dream.

    Film — Animated 
  • In the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Esmeralda almost suffers this fate at the hands of Frollo after she refuses to submit to him. (She is not accused of being a witch in the original book). note 
  • Averted in ParaNorman, where the witch was executed by hanging. Then played straight later, when an angry mob decides to kill Norman like this, as hanging is too uncivilized.
  • Lampshaded in Rango when the Cargo Cult water pipe fails to produce water — the first reaction of one of the townsfolk is to point to Rango and shout "Burn the witch!"
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost, they believe the title character was a mistaken Wicca practitioner. She was actually a witch.
  • In Frozen, this is what Elsa and her parent's biggest fear as to what would happen to her should she lose control of her powers as detailed under the troll's vision. Out of fear of this happening, they close the gates and lock Elsa away in her room to hide away her powers and keep it a secret from everyone including her sister. Unfortunately it led her to a miserable life for 13 years which led to her inevitably reveal her powers in front of the whole crown during her Rage Breaking Point and upon realizing what she had done, she flees the kingdom and accidentally plunge the kingdom under an Endless Winter, resulting in the citizens fearing their new queen, believing that she had intentionally abandoned her own kingdom to famine and starvation. Indeed it seems that they fear and detested her so much that after Anna gets frozen solid as a result of being accidentally struck by Elsa, their response to this is to appoint a foreign prince as their new ruler of the kingdom and immediately complied with his orders to sentence the former queen to death without even bothering to double-check on the legitimacy of his claim and upon seeing Hans about to execute their supposed wicked queen, they seem to have a look joy once the snowstorm has ended due of Elsa being informed of her sister's death because of her actions.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Dark Shadows: Invoked by Barnabas, as an (empty) threat against Angelique. She is really a witch. But she is also a Villain with Good Publicity, and now living in an age where witches are no longer persecuted... unlike murderers, such as the vampire Barnabas.
  • The (pseudo)historical/horror movie Witchfinder General, which definitely played fast and loose with history. Justified, in that burning was something new that Matthew Hopkins was trying out. The most common form of execution is hanging.
  • Parodied in an old Disney movie, An Astronaut in King Arthur's Court, wherein the eponymous astronaut is to be burned at the stake. His space suit protects him, but the heater is accidentally turned on and he must sweat it out until his bonds burn through.
  • In Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan throws the witch into a fire and she instantly bursts into flames.
  • Done in the Silent Hill movie twice on screen, and another one is mentioned. The ones on-screen were an adult and an 8-year old girl, and the burning of the 8-year old (and her surviving) is what sets off the plot of the movie. What's even worse is that they don't bother to put her burned, half-alive body off-screen.
  • Highlander: When Connor MacLeod first discovers he is an immortal back in ancient Scotland, he's proclaimed a witch, and burning is mentioned as an option. (In the end, he's just run out of town by a howling mob instead.)
  • Averted, of all places, in Hocus Pocus, where the three witches are hanged by the townsfolk just as they would have been in 17th Century Salem. (And the fact that they were actually guilty of witchcraft in this case.) They get better, but it's a little jarring to see historical accuracy in a movie about cartoonishly wacky witches. The revived witches are also locked in a large kiln and set on fire; the oven is a reference to "Hansel and Gretel". They get better from that as well. The thing that finally kills them is sunlight, because the candle that brought them back only worked for the night of Halloween, and they were unable to obtain the potion that would have enabled them to survive.
  • Averted in Practical Magic, which begins with the (failed) hanging of the main characters' female ancestor. She was exiled instead.
  • Played straight in the MSTed movie Touch of Satan, where the heroine's sister is nearly burned at the stake after being accused of witchcraft... in 19th-Century California.
  • Full Moon Entertainment's movie version of The Pit And The Pendulum, taking place during The Spanish Inquisition, naturally invokes this trope a couple of times. Of particular note is a scene where an old woman, soon to be burned at the stake, manages to ingest some conveniently placed gunpowder before hand. This results in a very messy explosion once she catches aflame. In Real Life, sacks of gunpowder were sometimes tied around the necks of those condemned to the stake as an act of mercy.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail has the infamous "Witch Trial" scene where a rather vocally pyromaniac mob accuses a woman of being a witch and Sir Bedeviere attempts to use logic to ascertain whether she actually is one.
  • Played ridiculously straight in Metropolis. During the revolt, the workers burn Robot!Maria at the stake, since they decide she's to blame for the revolution ending badly. They were right... sort of. On a pyre made of burning automobiles, no less!
  • Used straight — and to hideously appropriate effect — in Mark Of The Devil. Within that film, several "witches" (all clearly innocent) are slowly burnt alive. This film presents various period tortures in historically accurate ways, which makes it rather disturbing...
  • Subverted in Agora, where the philosopher Hypatia, after being caught by the Christians who considered her a witch, was only burned after she was dead. Note that there is still some debate on whether the Real Life Hypatia was burned alive or stoned to death, though the general view is the one shown in the movie, that first she was stoned and then burned.
  • In The Name of the Rose, Brother Salvatore and Brother Remigio are burned at the stake as scapegoats by Father Bernardo Gui, leader of the Inquisition. Gui also tries to burn a local peasant girl, but she is rescued by rebellious peasants who manage to kill Gui in the resulting chaos. In the book, Gui prevents this from happening by simply having the three of them transported away and executed elsewhere, where no rescue attempts can occur.
  • This is basically what started the terror for the series A Nightmare on Elm Street. The families of Elm Street, justifiably, hunted down a child-killer and general bad guy who got Off on a Technicality only to have him come back later rather upset about all of it.
  • In Ghostbusters II a judge laments that he is not able to sentence them to be burned at the stake, which he sees as an "illustrious, sterner justice".
  • Averted in Season of the Witch which shows three accused women being hung off a bridge, then lowered into the water to drown just in case they survived the Neck Snap. Unfortunately for the priest carrying out the ritual, one of them is Not Quite Dead.
  • Subverted in Solomon Kane. The villagers attempt to burn the witch, but the witch uses magic to not only survive, but burn the village and its inhabitants.
  • In Black Death, Ulric saves a woman from this fate by giving her a mercy-kill. This serves as his Establishing Character Moment.
  • In the 80s-90s Icelandic film The Juniper Tree, the mother of two little girls, Margit and Katla, is burned to death for witchcraft.
  • Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters:
    • Fire is the most reliable method for killing witches, and the antagonists led by the Hot Witch Muriel are looking to produce a potion that will make them fireproof. And Gretel's heart and blood is one of the keys for it.
    • Even more: Hansel and Gretel's Missing Mom Adrianna was a good witch, and ended up dying like this. In the meantime, her husband/the siblings' father was hanged. It turns out Muriel set them up to be executed so she could reach for Gretel and use her for her plans.
  • Happens to Wanda Grubwart in Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster, when she was alive in the 1800s.
  • In Red Riding Hood, everyone thinks Valerie is a witch because she can understand the Wolf and everyone thinks the Wolf only wants her, so she is offered up as a Human Sacrifice.
  • In Elizabeth, several Catholic priests are executed like this.
  • City of the Dead begins with a witch burning in 17th century New England. Ironically enough the film was made in the UK, with the entire cast as Fake Americans.
  • The titular character in Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is nearly burned at the stake for being accused of witchcraft. When told to repent, she childishly sticks her tongue out with a huge grin on her face.
  • The Tempest (2010): Antonio spread rumours that Prospera used Black Magic to kill her husband despite "knowing that others of my sex have burned for far less".
  • Invoked in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Lex Luthor knows that Superman is Clark Kent, so he kidnaps Martha Kent to force him to work for him. Luthor claims Superman is a devil, and since Martha is his mother, she must be a witch. The word "Witch" is etched onto her forehead and Luthor has a mook prepared to kill her with a flamethrower. Fortunately, Batman saves her.
  • In The Addams Family, Wednesday chose an ancestor who was executed in this fashion for a school project about role models. Naturally, her teacher was more than a little concerned. Morticia explains that the ancestor in question danced naked in the streets and enslaved a minister.
    Morticia: But don't worry. We've told Wednesday, "college first."
  • Curse of the Crimson Altar: Lavinia Morley was burned for witchcraft, and this event is recreated in Greymarsh every Witch's Night, with Lavinia being burned in effigy.
  • Hawk the Slayer meets the first of his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits when he rescues a witch from a couple of peasants who want to burn her cursing their hogs. She was actually trying to cure them, but they're not in the mood to listen. She replays Hawk by using her magic to locate the rest of his group and teleport Hawk to each one.
  • In The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Toby thinks Alexei has strapped Angelica to cross and is planning to burn her as part of the Holy Week celebrations. It is actually a delusion caused by Toby's slipping sanity. She is strapped to a cross, but what he sees as flames are just billows of cloth intended to simulate fire.
  • In Theatre of Death, one of the sketches in the theatre involves Dani being burnt at the stake as a witch. For a moment, it looks as is Nicole is intending to burn her for real.
  • In Up the Chastity Belt, Lurkalot is accused of being a witch after having been seen flying (It Makes Sense in Context). First he is dunked in the well till he confesses to being a witch, and then is placed on a pyre to be burned. The villagers have trouble lighting him because he is so waterlogged.

  • The philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who was a materialist and did not believe in witchcraft, nonetheless argued in his book Leviathan that witches were justly punished, as if they believed it, their attempts to harm people with magic were still criminal (apparently he felt all accusations were true), much like a person who tries to shoot somebody dead with a gun that turns out to be unloaded.
  • In Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, one of the ghosts Bod befriends was killed as a witch for tormenting the town. They were partly right: she was a witch, but she hadn't hurt anybody... until they killed her, that is.
  • Diana Wynne Jones uses this trope in her book Witch Week. The main characters are all afraid of being outed as witches, and one even goes to the lengths of burning himself with a candle to remind himself to be careful not to use magic.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Referenced in the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. On the rare occasions where Muggles managed to catch a real witch, they used a flame-freezing charm to protect themselves — then pretended to be dying in agony. It was noted that the charm made the flames 'ticklish', such that some wizards would purposely allow themselves to get caught repeatedly. This ended less enjoyably when witch hunters caught other Muggles.
      • This episode earned J. K. Rowling a serious reprimand from a BBC Radio commentator, speaking about the fact that in reality, innocent women were burnt to death and there was no such escape.
        They were tortured precisely because of the belief that is presented in the Harry Potter books: the witch finders thought they had to inflict serious pain on the 'witch' because otherwise the Devil's charm would prevent her from being hurt. So many studies show that these real women died horrible deaths after enduring unbelievable torture that I find it astonishing that, even in fiction, their deaths can be so lightly written off. Many of the women designated as witches were perceived as dangerous outsiders or in some way different from the society in which they lived. I quarrel with JK Rowling's sweeping rewrite of their history which once again denies these women their voice and gives us, the reader, an easy way out from observing their pain. Because after all the women didn't get hurt, they weren't caught up in power struggles and they didn't die. Tell that to Joan of Arc!
    • The Tales of Beedle the Bard mentions that a wizard or witch could be killed if they lost their wand. Specifically, it was stated that the ones most at risk were young magical children who hadn't yet learned to control their abilities. In his annotation to "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot", Dumbledore notes that during the European witch hunts, witches and wizards considered using magic to help Muggle neighbors like "volunteering to fetch the firewood for one's own funeral pyre".
  • Good Omens:
  • From Terry Pratchett's Discworld
    • Carpe Jugulum:
      Oats: Well... your colleagues keep telling me the Omnians used to burn witches...
      Granny: They never did.
      Oats: I'm afraid I have to admit that the records show —
      Granny: They never burned witches. Probably they burned some old ladies who spoke up or couldn't run away. I wouldn't look for witches bein' burned. I might look for witches doin' the burning, though. We ain't all nice.
    • I Shall Wear Midnight, sadly, proves that Granny's surmise is incorrect: The Cunning Man, at least, did successfully capture and condemn at least one genuine witch in his lifelong career. She pulled him into the fire to die with her. Too bad that wasn't the end of the matter...
    • According to other Tiffany Aching books, this also used to happen in some parts of the Chalk. The suspected witch in the barony was just kicked out of her cottage and left to starve. It may bear mentioning that this incident inspired Tiffany to become a witch herself to make sure nobody dared try that again.
    • In some other areas they follow the advice in the Maganevatio Obtusis (Witch-hunting for Dumb People) and drown them... after supplying them with soup, a nice cuppa, and a good night's sleep, since the book says all these things will render them powerless. The book was written by traveling witch (and strong swimmer) Miss Tick.
    • Played with in A Tourist's Guide to Lancre, which notes that "It's not a proper Witch Trial without a big bonfire afterwards"... meaning of course, that once witches have demonstrated their skill in an organised competition, it's nice to have a bit of a carnival atmosphere and baked potatoes.
  • Played with in Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice. In an Alternate Universe where the dominant religion is Wicca, the young Wiccan convert rejects the flame her parents worship because "fire means the way they kill us."
  • During his apprentice years, the wizard Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance Chronicles was almost burned at the stake by a bunch of enraged and superstitious villagers after he had tried to expose a fake cleric as a charlatan. He was rescued just in time by his twin brother, the fighter Caramon, and the rest of the main characters. That incident didn't really help improve Raistlin's cynical nature.
  • In Hermann Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund, which takes place during The Black Death, a young woman who nearly had this fate is found by Goldmund.
  • K.A. Applegate's short-lived Everworld series gives a reason for why witches are burned or hanged in the eponymous alternate world: their blood is poison to crops, which means no one can really afford a beheading.
  • In Patricia C. Wrede's Daughter Of Witches, the main character's parents are burned as witches. Understandably, this gives her serious issues about her own magical powers.
  • In the Deptford Mice book The Crystal Prison Audrey Brown is nearly burned for witchcraft. The village leader begs the mice not to do such a barbaric thing... so they agree to hang her instead. She's saved at the last minute by Twit.
  • In Wizard's First Rule, a mob confronts Zedd, Richard, and Kahlan, attempting to burn Zedd on charges for witchcraft. After the obligatory "men are warlocks, women are witches" reference, Zedd invites the mob to mention exactly what they think a warlock is capable of doing. After several relatively innocuous suggestions, such as the ability to turn a cow's milk sour, the mob begins to embellish its examples when its earlier ideas did not seem sinister enough. After over an hour of this, Zedd puts a stop to it, applauding the mob's courage for daring to confront what must surely be an unstoppable Faustian demigod who kills by the hundreds and drinks blood by the liter. The mob meekly apologizes and attempts to flee, though not before Zedd convinces them that he's made their privates disappear. They got better.
  • In H. P. Lovecraft's "The Festival", the unburned corpse of a wizard (or, presumably, a witch) can give rise to a walking humanoid mass of worms, which collectively become host to the dead spellcaster's mind when they consume its rotting flesh. Why it's necessary to burn such people alive is not explained, however.
  • In Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book, the villagers, having driven out Mowgli as a witch, decide that his adoptive parents are also witches.
    But meantime the village had got hold of Messua and her husband, who were undoubtedly the father and mother of this Devil-child, and had barricaded them in their own hut, and presently would torture them to make them confess they were witch and wizard, and then they would be burned to death.
  • In Aunt Dimity and the Village Witch, as the villagers get involved in the story of the seventeenth-century "witch" Margaret Redfern, the spectre of this is discussed, including the popular belief that the "swimming" of witches, was a Morton's Fork. The vicar's wife Lilian Bunting also describes other methods of interrogation/torture, condemns the very idea of torturing other people for such specious reasons, and is visibly distressed at the prospect that the villagers will learn that such was Margaret Redfern's fate.
  • Averted in Anthony Esler's Hellbane, where the witchfinder's victims are hanged. (And HALF of them were actually practicing witchcraft.) However, witchcraft qua witchcraft was not yet a capital offense in Elizabeth's reign.
  • Sorcha from Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest nearly falls victim to this trope; her husband only manages to get her off the stake at the last possible second.
  • The perpetrator of Never Burn A Witch only burned one Witch at the stake, but he also hanged one, drowned another, and tried to kill the narrator, a practicing Witch himself, by hanging.
  • At first averted in His Dark Materials, as in Lyra's world the prejudice against witches doesn't seem to go beyond considering them evil (in fact, some witches did join the church), though in the second book it's implied that, in other worlds, witches are in fact burned.
  • The Dresden Files: In White Night, Harry and Murphy encounter someone who is using the passage in the Book of Exodus which says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" to justify killing magic-users. Harry tells Murphy (accurately) that the original phrase in Hebrew meant "someone who casts harmful spells," or, in other words, only kill people who use dark magic, but that King James changed it to just witches in general when he translated the Bible because he didn't like them. The White Council of Wizards' own approach to people who use black magic is completely in line with the older meaning: Their punishment for a first offense is usually decapitation, and ignorance of the laws of magic or having good motives is no excuse. It's possible to be spared, but only if another wizard speaks up for them, agrees to train them and ensure it never happens again, potentially at the cost of their own life if they do relapse.
  • Averted in Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan. The protagonist is actually writing a paper about the Salem Witch Trials at her new high school. She learns through research and visions that in a former life she was Betty Parris, the delightful little child that set the trials in motion. And all her new classmates? The reincarnated souls of all the innocent women she accused, which were hanged.
  • In Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, Lasher, the spirit that haunts the Mayfair family for centuries, is originally conjured by a woman in a small Scottish town. When the locals attempt to burn her for a witch, she unleashes Lasher on them, who wrecks the town and kills the inhabitants.
  • In Devonsville Terror by Ulli Lommel the only actual witch of the three women killed suffers that fate.
  • Inverted in John Varley's Gaea Trilogy, where the Coven, a space colony founded by lesbian separatists, adheres to an extreme offshoot of witchcraft: one grown so intolerant, in its isolation, that suspected Christians are burned at the stake.
  • In Mika Waltari's The Wanderer, the protagonist's wife is accused of witchcraft. She is the first woman he's ever met who loved him (back), but being a rather naive 16th century man, he doesn't dismiss the possibility of her being a witch until he witnesses the trial, which is a turning point for his life and he becomes more cynical. The trial itself plays this trope straight, although instead of the swim test, they use more conventional torture methods. And of course, she gets burned in the end, but only after "confessing" that her accomplice was the witch catcher who caught her. (Which causes a chain reaction as the witch catcher "confesses" that pretty much everyone he's had troubles with is an accomplice and a servant of Satan.)
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story The Hour of the Dragon, Orastes nearly met this in the Back Story.
    I was cast forth from my order because of my delving in Black Magic. But for Amalric there I might have been burned as a magician.
  • In The Red Tent, a midwife named Inna loses a (very young) woman and her child during delivery, despite her best efforts. The father goes berserk and accused Inna of being a witch, killing his wife and child For the Evulz, and strangles her, threatening to take her to the village elders. Inna flees, knowing that despite being the most respected midwife in the area, it won't go well with the elders because their leader has a beef with her for refusing to marry his son. To prevent being executed as per this trope, she joins up with her apprentice Rachel and leaves the village.
  • In Laurell K. Hamilton's early Anita Blake books, where the supernatural is known to exist, there is occasional mention of the last time a witch was burned in the U.S. — in the 1950s. It was captured on photograph, and the photographer got a Pulitzer Prize out of it. Anita wonders if a Pulitzer makes the nightmares easier to live with. Possibly justified, as popular assumption might have been that witches were burned in that universe, much as it is in ours.
  • A subversion occurs in A Swiftly Tilting Planet when a Native American woman who has married a Welsh settler in Puritan America is denounced as a witch and sentenced to be hanged. The evidence against her: that she didn't scream during childbirth.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Daenerys Targaryen burns the witch Mirri Maz Dur alive. Unusually, Mirri Maz Dur was actually guilty of the crimenote  she was accused of (although she may have been justified). Also, the choice of burning as a punishment was not based on the traditional method of killing witches, but rather Dany's family affinity for fire.
    • The trope is then inverted from Book 2 with the introduction of Melisandre, a fire-worshiping witch that burns the effigies of what she deems "false gods", as well as the "heretics" that speak against her and her beliefs.
  • Doctrine of Labyrinths:
    • Witches who practice non-sanctioned magics are burned at the stake by the wizard-dominated government of Marathat; however, their official crime is "heresy" rather than witchcraft per se.
    • A more standard occurrence affects the travelers in Kekropia's backward southern duchies, where the annemer, or magic-free, peasants will happily burn any magic-user they can get their hands on.
  • The nomadic tribes in Burying the Shadow aren't fond of soulscapers and are known to lynch them if agitated.
  • In Terminal World, tectomancers are regarded with fear and suspicion by the superstitious and must conceal their distinguishing birthmarks or risk being burned.
  • Averted in the 1632 series, on account of the uptimers not being fans of it. In one short story, "A Witch to Live" a down-time noble wants to burn an accused witch in an American town, and won't take no for an answer. He gets shot.
  • The Rifter: According to the laws of the Payshmura theocracy, burning is the penalty for witchcraft (along with quite a few other crimes). There are lots of burnings. Metal posts for doing so line the Holy Road, and it’s even become a standard finale to the Harvest Festival.
  • David Drake's short story "The Dancer in the Flames" involves a witch who reaches through time while being executed in this way and contacts an officer in the Vietnam War via his pyromania. It ends badly for him.
  • The non-fiction Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay has a section that details some of the enduring memories and records of the men, women, and children who were killed because of the hunt for witches, often purely on malicious accusations. The inhabitants in a small area in the north of Germany at Würzburg, who refused to bow to the Catholic Church or pay taxes to the nobles who illegally claimed the land, were accused of witchcraft and killed in many ways, including burning at the stake.
  • In Tales of Wyre, this is the Inquisition's preferred punishment for heretics.
    Brey: As unrepentant apostates, heretics, idolaters and blasphemers, ...I am authorized to inform you that the entire adult population of Trempa will be condemned to burn.
  • The One Who Started Fires plays with this trope, by having the title character undergoing self-immolation without intending to.
  • In Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper, the switched Prince Edward witnesses how two low-class women were executed like this merely for not professing Anglicanism. Their daughters try to self-immolate themselves as well so they won't be orphaned. The epilogue says that Edward, once he's restored to his proper place and made King, had the orphaned girls located and made sure they'd be well looked for.
  • Discussed in the Simon Ark short story "The Witch is Dead". When the eponymous witch is found burned to death inside her locked trailer, The Watson wonders if she was burned for being a witch like at Salem. Simon points out that the witches at Salem were hanged (with one pressed to death).
  • Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch by Dorothy K Haynes. Beatrice tricks the intellectually disabled Jinnot into accusing Beatrice's love rival of witchcraft; the woman is "ducked" to test whether she is a real witch, and drowns. Subsequently, Jinnot comes to believe that she herself is a witch, and tries to use her "powers" to curse Beatrice. When Beatrice's baby dies suddenly after a visit from Jinnot, Jinnot is instantly suspected of witchcraft, and thrown into the river. She is terrified and thinks she'll drown - but she floats, and is summarily burned as a witch.
  • Emelius, in Bedknob and Broomstick, is subjected to the dunking stool, then has to be rescued from the post by Miss Price.
  • In Lore Lay by Clemens Brentano, Lore Lay is accused of sorcery. When she stands trial before the bishop, she asks to be burnt as a witch, because she does no longer want to live.
  • Shadow Police: In Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?, the Circle of Hands includes a symbolic witch-burning as part of the ceremony to open their conference. This shows that they understand very little about the actual supernatural world, and are running mostly on partly-remembered rituals and traditions.
  • In the Realm of the Elderlings series, Witted people who are caught are hanged over water, chopped to pieces and burned. Superstition holds that this is done because otherwise their spirit might escape or even allow them to come back to life. It's considered a horribly evil thing to do by those of Old Blood, but the Wit does allow this to happen under very specific circumstances.
  • Victoria begins and ends with a woman named Cloaca Devlin being burned at the stake by the heroes. Her crime? The heresy of claiming to be a female bishop, though she did not help her case by claiming to have worshiped Isis for years at her trial.
  • In Federico Andajhazi's The Alchemist, this is how Inés de Torquemada and her daughters die, though in a subversion they suffocate in the pyre rather than burn to death.
  • Eldraeverse: The seeress Merriéle, founder of the Church of the Flame, was executed in Somáras by the traditional fire of purification, resulting in her ascension via a pillar of light and flame that not coincidentally turned the city of Somáras into the bay of Somáras. Modern eldraeic hypotheses suggest that either she was carrying a Precursor artifact that contained antimatter or the Transcend somehow traveled back in time to inspire her "visions" and nuke her executioners from orbit.
    • Incineration is still the Empire of the Star's preferred method of capital punishment, though they reserve it for crimes that cannot be recompensed like murder rather than silly notions like "heresy", and they prefer to use a fusion torch.
  • The Redemption of Althalus features a village priest who made a habit of this. His latest target actually has unusual (but not evil) powers, but that's not why he's targeting her — the priest exclusively burned beautiful young women, because he reasoned that, as a moral person, only witchcraft could be to blame if he struggled with his vow of celibacy over feeling attracted to someone.
  • Ms Wiz has an episode involving time travel. Nabilla first references that Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake as a witch, but when she and Ms Wiz get sent back to an Elizabethan village - the girl they accuse of being a witch is about to be ducked. They think her stutter is actually "devil talk".

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story:
    • On Coven, the Salem Witch Trials are discussed, and a present day witch is burned at the stake for having the ability to bring people back from the dead. The witches also burn their own at the stake if they are convicted of murdering another witch.
    • More witches are burned in Apocalypse.
  • In an episode of Bewitched, the characters are transported back in time to old Salem. Someone ends up tied to a stake with kindling piled around their feet before the episode is out. Ironically, it was Darrin who ended up accused of witchcraft for having used a match. Bewitched spent several episodes in Salem, either 4 or 8. It was a sizable chunk of that season.
  • The Blackadder episode "Witchsmeller Pursuivant" had fun with this trope. The titular "witch-hunter" convicts Edmund and his associates of witchcraft in an absurd Kangaroo Court, and they are sentenced to be burned alive. However, the Queen provides them a doll that resembles the Witchsmeller, who catches fire himself while they're unharmed. The episode implies that the Queen is the real witch.
  • In an episode of The Borgias, Cesare and Machiavelli witness the burning of an accused witch by peasants outside Florence. Savonarola is later burned as well, but for heresy.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In "Gingerbread", Buffy, Willow, and Amy are almost burned at the stake in a Witch Hunt organized by Buffy's own mother because of a demon posing as two dead children who reappear every fifty years to use More Than Mind Control to convince a town to kill the "bad girls" (witches). The demon is European, so the burning is actually accurate. Oddly enough, the (averted) burning takes place inside the city hall. Apparently the ventilation system is really good. And has really big air vents. Of course, the demon that was orchestrating the whole thing didn't care if its mob asphyxiated itself. The more dead, the better.
    • Anya, a former vengeance demon who was alive during the actual Salem witch trials, notes that real witches could use their powers to escape. "So, really, it was only bad for the falsely accused — and, well, they never have a good time." This was shown in "Gingerbread" when the only qualified witch turns herself into a rat to escape (unfortunately she stays that way for three years, as no-one knew how to turn her back). Willow (who's only dabbling in witchcraft at the time) is left tied to the stake along with Buffy.
    • Averted in the episode "The Witch", but a deleted line in the shooting script had Giles consulting his books on the best way to find a witch, only to come up with the drowning test. He admits that his texts are somewhat outdated.
  • Charmed:
    • "The Witch Is Back", had the Halliwell sisters' ancestor burned at the stake in Salem. The same mistake is made in the second or third episode, in a documentary that Piper watches on TV.
    • "Morality Bites" had the Halliwells traveling forward in time to keep Phoebe from being burned at the stake after they did something that would have led to massive witch hunts in the future.
    • Subverted in "All Halliwell's Eve" when the sisters are sent back in time to colonial Virginia. When they are accused of being witches, they are hanged.
    • In the fourth season finale dealing with a modern witch hunter, the witch he targets is to be burned at the stake. Of course in this case, she doesn't know about her powers and therefore can't fight back. The Charmed Ones - who can - are tricked into thinking she is the witch hunter.
  • Referenced in Chewin' the Fat where Ronald, "the second worst actor in the world", lands a movie role as a Puritan villager demanding the burning of an accused witch. As usual he ruins the scene despite having no lines.
  • Criminal Minds: The Unsub of "In the Blood" is obsessed with the Salem Witch Trials and believes that he is killing witches. His first few victims are either crushed or hanged, and the team manage to stop him just before he burns a woman at the stake. The episode does point out that no one was burnt to death at the Salem trials.
  • An episode of the first season of The Dead Zone television show had Smith going through a small town where a murder with satanic vibes had been committed. Since he displays knowledge of the crimes via his powers, they think he did the murder. They put him on trial for witchcraft so he can't leave the town while they search for evidence to pin him with. An angry mob ends up carrying him out of the courtroom to burn him at the stake for the murder, because a child and her mother was involved, and another girl was missing.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Dæmons", the Doctor is nearly burnt at the stake by Morris Dancers. He's saved by the local "white" witch.
    • The Sisterhood of Karn attempts to execute the Doctor by burning him at the stake in "The Brain of Morbius".
    • Tegan is nearly burnt at the stake as a sacrifice in "The Awakening". By Civil War recreationists.
    • It's not literally burning at the stake, but the Doctor is nearly thrown out of the airlock in a Burn the Witch moment in "Midnight".
    • "The Woman Who Lived": The immortal Ashildr mentions the residents of one village she lived in tried to drown her as a witch after she saved them from scarlet fever. She held her breath and swum away undetected.
    • "The Witchfinders" involves a lot of suspected witches being drowned in a ducking chair by a landowner leading a frenetic witch hunt. At least some of the victims are being killed because the landowner, who's possessed by an evil alien she thinks is Satan, is trying to save her own skin.
  • In the Firefly episode "Safe", River incurs the wrath of the settlers of Jiangyin when her mind-reading powers are misunderstood as witchcraft. Interestingly, the village elder doesn't believe in witchcraft but he tries to kill her to shut her up, as she finds out that he killed the previous elder. She is about to get burned at the stake along with her brother Simon when the Big Damn Heroes show up in the moment that named the trope. Amusingly, Mal agrees with the townsfolk that River's a witch. His objection is that she's also part of his crew.
    Mal: Yes, but she's OUR witch. [KA-CHINK!] So cut her the hell down.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Invoked by Daenerys as both a punishment for deceiving her and for a bit of Blood Magic of her own. Mirri Maz Duur tells Daenerys she will use magic to heal her husband Khal Drogo from sepsis, which technically she does, but she also renders Drogo permanently comatose and causes the stillbirth of their son Rhaego (due to a prophecy that Rhaego would conquer the world). Daenerys has Mirri tied to Drogo's funeral pyre and throws her dragon eggs in as well, using her as a human sacrifice to hatch them.
    • Inverted by Melisandre, a witch who burns people. Axell Florent is burned by Melisandre along with two others for worshipping the Seven in secret.
  • In Good Omens, just like in the original novel, the witch Agnes Nutter is burned by the townsfolk of Tadfield, Oxfordshire, and Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer. It's pointed out that much of what she's done was to help her townsfolk (curing sickness, trying to improve their overall health by introducing jogging), but they're all Ungrateful Bastards and decide to burn her. Knowing it's coming, she prepares herself and leaves behind a book of prophecies for the next 350 years, before walking out and allowing herself to be burned, though not before filling her skirts with gunpowder and roofing nails, turning herself into a claymore mine.
    Agnes Nutter: Gather thee right close, good people. Come close until the fire near scorch ye, for I charge ye that all must see how the last true witch in England dies. And let my death be a message to the world. Come. Come. Gather thee close, I say. And mark well the fate of those who meddle with such as they do not understand.
    Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer: [spotting the gunpowder] Oh, bugger.
    • When Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell is sending Newton Pulsifer (the above-mentioned Witchfinder Major's modern-day descendant) to Tadfield, he equips him with the usual implements of a witchfinder, including kindling to burn any witches he finds. Newton protests, but Shadwell is insistent. After Newton is brought to Anathema Device's cottage, she knows exactly who he is from her ancestor's prophecies, and the first thing she does it take away his kindling before admitting she's a witch herself.
  • In Highlander: The Series, Duncan MacLeod escaped being burned. His also-immortal buddy was not so lucky. Apparently, when you can regenerate, being burned continually for hours is enough to drive you Ax-Crazy.
  • Spoofed in a sketch from Horrible Histories called "Wicked Witches". The sketch is an advert for Witch-finders Direct who claim to find some innocent woman and blame your misfortunes on her and have her burnt to death. They might also send witches' cats to prison.
    Witch-finder: Do you have a cat?
    Old woman: Yes.
    Witch-finder: Then thou art a witch!
  • Legends of Tomorrow:
    • Averted in "Out of Time". Sara is stranded in Virginia during the Salem Witch Trials and accused of being a witch for "corrupting" the local women ("In my defense, they were happily corrupted"), and is nearly hanged by the locals. Complete with cries of "Hang the Witch!", which while possibly more accurate, is sadly a lot less catchy than "Burn the Witch!"
    • Played with in "Witch Hunt". Constantine and Sarah point out that there was never any real magic in Salem, and they hanged witches instead of burning them. But now a time travel mishap means there is real magic in Salem, and Zari pisses off the townsfolk enough that they decide to bring back burning.
  • MacGyver (1985): In "Good Knight, MacGyver", Sir Duncan attempts to burn Merlin at the stake after framing him for attempting to murder King Arthur.
  • In Merlin, people who are suspected of being witches are either burnt at the stake or beheaded.
    • In "The Mark of Nimueh", Gwen is falsely accused of witchcraft, and has to be saved by the other characters.
    • "The Witchfinder", where Gaius is almost burnt at the stake.
  • There was a whole episode of Midsomer Murders (series set in a fictional English county) about burning witches; at the end, a descendant of a woman executed for witchcraft in 17th century told Barnaby that they never actually burned witches in the village, they just hanged them. Hanged, hanged, hanged. In England at least, burning was strictly reserved as a punishment for men committing heresy. However, for centuries it was on the statute books that for capital crimes women should be put to death by burning whereas men should be hanged.
  • An episode of Murder, She Wrote revolves around a woman who was burned for being a witch (yes, in Maine), her present-day descendant, and a con artist who's pretending to be the witch's ghost to drum up publicity for an unscrupulous writer. Unfortunately, she's killed, and her body is in a building that burned down, leading people to think her death was about suspicions of witchcraft. It wasn't. The real descendant's fiancé found out his fiancée's "sister" was a fake and killed her, then placed her in a building that was then burned by the writer.
  • A friend of Peggy in Mysterious Ways survives what should have been a fatal motorcycle accident in Uganda, where she is trying to convince the local population to use modern medicine instead of witch doctors and the like. She is accused of being a witch because of her miraculous survival and blamed for a disease that threatens to destroy the village. The witchcraft accusation is mostly a smokescreen to get rid of her since the more traditional members of the tribe do not agree with her attempts to change their ways; Declan, Peggy, and Miranda travel to Uganda to save her from her fate.
  • Toward the end of the first season of Once Upon a Time, Regina has a nightmare that the residents of Storybrooke remember who they are. All the people she's cursed tie her to a tree, and Emma executes her with a sword provided by David as Henry tells her she did this to herself. It turn out that it was All Just a Dream, but when the residents remember who they are just a few days later, their reactions to her aren't horribly different. They don't actually burn her in the dream, but the imagery is definitely there, complete with several residents wielding torches.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "A New Life", Daniel attempts to convince the other members of the religious community that they are being deceived and that Father is an alien. He is sentenced to burn at the stake by the assembly after Father frames him for attacking his own wife Beth, killing Jacob and trying to kill Father. With Thomas' assistance, he manages to escape before the sentence is carried out but he is later killed by the aliens, shapeshifters who have all assumed Father's form. The episode ends with Thomas, who has been condemned as a traitor for helping Daniel to escape, being burned at the stake as his frantic warnings about Father's true nature fall on deaf ears.
  • QI skewers this, with Alan expressing the opinion that witches were burnt, and Stephen Fry explaining that, regardless of what you might have read in books - "and I use the term 'books' very loosely" - like The Da Vinci Code, two people may have been burnt for witchcraft, ever, and most accused witches were found not guilty.
    • Stephen Fry jokingly shouted "Burn the witch!" when Victoria Corin's "anxiety dream" (in which Stephen Fry asked the panel, "Why was the March Hare so important to the Aztecs?") came true.
  • When someone starts murdering members of a coven in the Rizzoli & Isles episode "Bloodlines", the first victim is burnt at the stake.
  • BBC series Robin Hood:
    • The midwife/healing woman Matilda is accused of witchcraft and dunked in the village pond. Somewhat subverted in that her accusers don't really believe she's a witch, but in fact want her to use her healing abilities to save the life of a political enemy. She refuses, and into the water she goes...
    • In a later episode, the outlaws are deemed heretics and nearly burnt at the stake.
    • In the audiobook The Witchfinders Kate is nearly burnt as a witch.
  • Subverted in Robin of Sherwood where a suspected witch is sentenced to be hanged rather than burnt (and it is made quite clear that this is not a normal punishment, but is Guy of Gisbourne rigging the evidence against her as revenge for her refusing his advances).
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch:
    • Played with in an episode where Sabrina's class visits Salem; everyone was given a little slip saying if they were a witch or not, and were supposed to find the witch. Sabrina loses hers without reading it. After all the predictable accusation hijinks goes down, the teacher announces that nobody had a slip that said "witch", as a lesson to the class about crazy witchhunts. Sabrina finds her slip on the bus home, which says "witch" on it. Salem... is not a good place for witches. It's also worth noting that when Jenny is "found guilty" of being a witch, Mr Pool says "you can pretend we hanged her" instead of burning. He was with the history teacher after all.
    • A flashback to Zelda's time in the Middle Ages shows that the villagers found out about her being a witch, and accused her of making the crops fail. So she was ducked down a well to the degree that "to this day I don't care for swimming."
    • A straight example in Season 4's Thanksgiving Episode, where the aunts conjure up 17th century pilgrims to cook Thanksgiving dinner for them. Naturally they're superstitious, and one gag has them tying Salem to a stake as if they're about to burn him.
  • Salem: Mostly averted; as in the actual witch trials, convicted witches are sentenced to hang, with the exceptions of the Barker family and Giles Corey, who is pressed to death (to coerce him into entering a plea), as he was in real life. Hale says his entire family was burned at the stake, but Mary's response indicates this was in Europe, which is where it was historically used.
  • Subverted in Sleepy Hollow: The grave of Ichabod's wife Katrina indicates that she was burned as a witch, but in truth, this never actually happened: she's really stuck in Purgatory and the grave is meant to mark the location of the Headless Horseman's head.
  • Smallville's fourth season features the story of Margerite Isobel Theroux, a witch burned alongside two accomplices in 17th Century France. She comes back to possess her descendant, Lana Lang, to exact vengeance against the descendants of the woman who sentenced her to death. Which involved Kryptonian artifacts, for whatever reason.
    Isabelle: [in Lana] We don't have time for this.
    Madeleine: [in Chloe] Time is the only thing we do have. Isn't that what you said right before the angry mob set us on fire?
    Isabelle: [in Lana] You're really not gonna let that go, are you?
  • Sorry, I've Got No Head: The fate of anyone accused of being a witch by the Witchfinder, which is anyone who annoys or inconveniences him. This all happens in the present day.
  • In the first few episodes of Stargate SG-1 season 9, this happens to Vala twice and Daniel once. Luckily it was just their minds inhabiting host bodies, so they came out of it okay for various reasons. The first time, to Vala alone, wasn't even for any good reason, either. She forgot a prayer and was accused of being possessed. Things sort of went downhill for the duo (and the galaxy) after that.
  • In one Star Trek: The Original Series episode, Captain Kirk is declared to be a "witch" (that's what you get for appearing out of thin air and talking to a disembodied voice called "Bones").
  • Parodied in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "False Profits" when the townspeople decide to honor their three deified Sages by sending them back up to Heaven on "wings of flame" as the prophetic poem central to their religious canon instructs them.
  • The original-series Survivors has the community start down this road in the episode "The Witch", but, mercifully, saner heads rein in the hysteria before the (innocent if slightly strange) victim gets tied to a stake.
  • On True Blood, the villainess Antonia is the ghost of a witch burned at the stake during The Spanish Inquisition thanks to vampires within the Catholic Church.
  • In Voyagers!, Bogg winds up tied to a stake when he shows up during the Salem Witch Trials (or a variant thereof), but the judge explicitly states that this is "without precedent in these colonies"; the other accused are sentenced to imprisonment and hanging.
  • Invoked in the BBC/Starz series The White Queen, when Margaret Beaufort refers to the fact that Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth Woodville, not the more famous daughter of Henry VIII) had so far produced only daughters for King Edward IV: "That one produces only more witches for burning." This seems rather cruel since she's hoping for the deaths by fire of three adorable little girls. Of course, in the series, the Woodville women are all witches, although none of them are ever burnt for it. In Real Life, Elizabeth and her mother were both accused of witchcraft at different times, but the accusations were of course not actually true, nor were either of them or Elizabeth's daughters ever burnt to death.
  • Witchblade: Joan of Arc was burned for heresy rather than witchcraft, but the series shows that she was a wielder of the Witchblade and seemingly went to her death when it abandoned her.
  • Witches of East End: In some of Joanna's flashbacks, it's shown that her daughters were burned as witches in earlier eras.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess season 6: Elijans (expy Roman Catholics in Ancient Grome) burn Xena's mother as a witch due to her tavern being haunted.
  • Discussed in The X-Files episode "Chinga" which is set in New England and the Salem trials receive a Shout-Out. Jane, a former Sadist Teacher who was sacked, would very much like to invoke this trope for Polly's mother and burn her at the stake — for being an attractive woman and having an autistic daughter who Jane sees as a Creepy Child. Jane, Jane... it was Polly's Perverse Puppet that was the real problem.

  • Witchfinder General, "Burning a Sinner". Also, "Witchfinder General".
  • "Am I Evil?" by Diamond Head (and covered by Metallica), in which the singer's mother is burned as a witch, setting him on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that ultimately consumes him.
  • "The Curse", intro track to Running Wild's Black Hand Inn opens with a trial where a man is condemned to be a heretic and is subsequently burned at the stake.
  • "Burn" from King Diamond's solo album The Eye depicts a burning of alleged witch. The eponymous pendant from the title is later found from her ashes.
  • "The Curse of Jacques" from Grave Digger's Knights of the Cross, which is about Last Grandmaster of Knights Templar Jacques de Molay, who was burned at the stake during the order's downfall.
  • Venom's "Don't Burn the Witch" from Black Metal.
  • "Deathaura" by Sonata Arctica. The Bittersweet Ending helps to soften the emotional blow, however.
  • "Burn the Witch" by Queens of the Stone Age.
  • "Burning The Witches", the title track from the debut album by Warlock, released in 1984.
  • "Burn Witch Burn" by Ego Likeness.
  • The Vocaloid song "Witch", sung by Megurine Luka and a few other Vocaloids, has this happening to Luka's character. She escapes, in probably the most confusing way ever.
    • In "Flames of Yellow Phosphorus," Rin's character is burned at the stake for killing her father. Subverted because they're not accusing her of witchcraft, they're doing it because she committed arson.
  • Both subverted and played straight with two songs off the Rob Zombie album 'Educated Horses'. 'American Witch' subverts the trope with the line "We all hang high - 20 innocents" (referencing the twenty victims of the Salem Witch Trials), while 'Lords of Salem' plays it straight and subverts it with the line "Burn me and hang me".
  • "Burning Times" by Iced Earth refers to the witch hunts.
  • "Words of the Witch" by Lonewolf is a scathing condemnation of the Salem witch trials.
  • The Swedish song "I Lågornas Sken" (In the Fires Light) by Nordman is about a young girl judged to burn at the stake.
  • Creature Feature mentions this and many other tortures in their song "Here There Be Witches".
  • In early 2016, Radiohead released a single titled "Burn The Witch".
  • In some versions of the ballad "Young Hunting" (Child 47; a.k.a. Earl Richard/ Love Henry) the lady gets punished this way for killing her lover. Certain versions also include her trying to pin the murder on her maid, who gets acquitted because she won't burn no matter what the king's men try.
  • Taylor Swift's "I Did Something Bad" from her 2017 album reputation has the following lines: "They're burning all the witches even if you aren't one/They got their pitchforks and proof/Their receipts and reasons"
  • Culture Club's "The War Song" has the line "Like a Philistine, we're burning witches too."

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The legendary origin of the ceibo tree and flowers is tied to this trope. It says that as the Spanish conquerors explored the lands of what's now Argentina, the Guarani tribe opposed them fiercely; one of their biggest enemies was Anahí, an Action Girl who used to be an ugly but kind Friend to All Living Things Mysterious Waif, but Took a Level in Badass to defend her people. When the Spanish finally captured poor Anahí, they burned her at the stake; according to different versions either she sang a last song as she burned to death and her charred corpse became a ceibo tree in the morning, or the flames refused to touch Anahí and she slowly turned into into a ceibo in front of the conquerors.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Games Workshop games:
    • The majority of Warhammer magic users end up in this manner. Unusually for this trope, many of the witches actually are in contact with malign supernatural beings. In one piece of background material a witch hunter burns a 6-year-old girl at the stake because her parents went to a mad scientist to heal her broken leg and ended up mutated as a result. The witch hunter got her drunk because he knew that she was an innocent who just had the misfortune to have the traveling doctor be an insane lunatic, but she couldn't be allowed to live because of the mutations.
    • In Warhammer 40,000 is actually somewhat nuanced on the subject. There's a distinction between psykers and witches. Psykers have an innate connection with the warp. There's always a chance they could be possessed, but they can (provided that they're strong enough, and receive the proper training, and are lucky not to attract a dangerous demon, they can survive). Witches, on the other hand, are those who deliberately use rituals and spells to draw power form the warp, usually by making some pact with some malevolent warp entity or daemon. Also, inquisitors and witchhunters are very numerous and diverse. Some of them are diehard witch-burners, others are compromising pragmatists, others are severe radicals who will use witches for their own purposes. In fact, the Imperium needs psykers, Astropaths for communication and Navigators to guide starships through the Warp, and just about every branch of the Imperial military uses sanctioned psykers, there are even many Inquisitors who are psykers. While those who are too weak to use for those purposes can be fed to the God-Emperor. So, needless to say, a lot of Inquisitors try to take psykers who aren't involved with Chaos alive. If a witch is deemed dangerous enough however, they'll burn the whole planet just to be safe. Outside of the Inquisition itself this distinction is almost completely unknown, and all psykers get lumped together as witches; the more sophisticated might avoid using the term for sanctioned psychers out of politeness.
    • In Necromunda the religious fanatics of House Cawdor and members of the Cult of Redemption possess an intense loathing of psykers and Wyrds, believing that the best fate for such witches is immolation by flamer weaponry. During the 1st and 2nd Edition of the game Redemptionist Crusade even had a rule that they would automatically burn any Wyrd they capture at the stake unless their comrades could rescue them.
  • The Ravenloft zigzags this trope. In general, practitioners of arcane magic are feared and shunned in all save a few of the most "enlightened" Domains, such as the comparatively high-magic land of Darkon, but people actually being dragged to the stake and burned by a lynch mob generally doesn't happen without a lot of provocation or unless you're in one of the more backwater regions. Played straight with the domain of Tepest, which is based on a combination of Witch Trials Salem and Grimm Fairy Tales — their Darklord is even a coven of hags called the Sisters Mindefisk. Unusually, their ire is directed less at magic-users and more at fey, whom they live in terror of; "witches" are people who are willingly in league with the fey, although they're so backwards that they can't identify that Magic A Is Magic A and so anyone who practices non-clerical magic is a "witch" in their eyes. Burning them is justified because the malevolent inquisition steadily amassing political power has its roots in the domain's worship of a sun god named Belenus. Tepest is regarded as one of the most backwards and primitive domains in the Demiplane of Dread.
    • Tepest features heavily in the 2nd edition module Servants of Darkness, which gives PCs the opportunity to derail this trope, proving an accused woman's innocence by exposing the evil fey creature which is truly to blame for the misfortunes plaguing a Tepestani village. This is referenced in the 3e sourcebook covering the Tepest region, which reveals that the head of the Tepestani Inquisition was actually shaken so much that he has since tried to stamp down the anti-fey and anti-witch hysteria that his organization is building its power around.
  • The generic Dungeons & Dragons module "The Apocalypse Stone" has a sort of subversion. The player characters come upon a town where they are about to "burn the witch". They must (to pass a test of character they don't know about, anyway) find out the truth about her guilt. At first it appears she is innocent, and the missing child she's accused of killing can be found elsewhere - but looking into it more carefully reveals that yes, she is still a witch who's into human sacrifice and worships a devil. Mind you, even if the burning takes place, the local good-aligned community leader intends to quickly strangle her under the cover of smoke instead, so that's another aspect that's subverted.
    • Played straight with the Order of Seropaenes from the sourcebook Tome of Magic, with the binder playable class standing in for the witch.
    • Generally, though, most D&D settings avert this under the rather understandable logic that witch-burning cannot be a 100% effective way of eliminating wizards before they achieve high-levels and, when that happens, the resultant Reality Warper will not look kindly on the people who spent his or her youth threatening him. Given a high-level wizard is usually a Person of Mass Destruction whose powers range from "merely" incredibly destructive to absolutely nightmarishnote , the population of witch-burners, and those willing to support witch-burners, would experience a very sudden, very sharp, decline.
      • This is even lampshaded in a couple of sourcebooks. For example, the backstory of Vecna, a half-fiend necromancer and demonologist who ascended to become first a lich and then a full-fledged god. One of the first things he did after mastering his powers was come back to the city where he was born, and from which he was exiled when they tried to burn him at the stake and only succeeded at killing his mother. He effortlessly slaughtered every last one of them, save for the city's leaders; them he spared because they had dared to offer their own lives in exchange for the lives of their citizens.
  • This is the core concept of the party game Werewolf. There are monsters hiding in the village and killing people at night, but you can't tell them from the innocent villagers by looking at them. What's the solution? Grab a pitchfork or a torch, form a lynch mob, and tie a rope to the old hanging tree.
  • Hunter: The Reckoning implies repeatedly that the Salem and Inquisitorial witch hunts were both justified and effective. Of course, in the Old World of Darkness, that's not entirely ridiculous.
  • The Fighting Fantasy gamebook Spellbreaker contains a notable subversion in that the witch hunters are the good guys, fighting against an evil coven of witches and warlocks that are trying to free a powerful demon from its mystic prison. The reader can even encounter a supposed witch-burning, although the young woman about to be burned is actually innocent, and the warlock is actually the inquisitor who's about to burn her, having framed her as a way of throwing suspicion off himself.
  • House Karanok in Forgotten Realms burns every arcane caster they can get their hands on. Presumably, they haven't yet gotten their hands on Elminster. Why? They still exist.
  • In Fading Suns this used to be the Urth Orthodox Church's policy with psychics, but after the Eskatonic Order showed that their powers could fight the Symbiots the Church began to grudgingly accept "Penitent" psychics. Though the Temple Avesti still likes to go on Witch Hunts, making them extremely unpopular among the populace, at least one Avestite has been burned at the stake for accusing a well-loved Amalthean healer of heresy.
  • Being burned at the stake is mentioned to be the fate of most "witches" (read: people with supernatural powers) caught by either the Inquisition, after being tormented at its hands, or the people of certain countries in Anima: Beyond Fantasy. Since in that game spellcasting can be done even tied and/or gagged, presumably the chains and the like used to hold the victim would nullify their powers.

  • Wicked's "March of the Witch Hunters" is pretty self-explanatory. The citizens of Oz hunt for Elphaba, egged on by Madame Morrible.
  • In Finian's Rainbow, Sharon is charged with using witchcraft to turn a white man black, and her lover Woody of aiding and abetting her, in accordance with a 17th-century state law against witchcraft. ("Don't you think it's a little obsolete by now?" Woody says.) The pair are saved from the flames by the Just in Time reversal of her wish.
  • The Crucible, a play which has as its running theme the Salem witch trials, and was written, very tellingly, during the communist witch-hunts in America, is actually an aversion — they don't burn the witches, instead hanging them, as was actually done in the trials.
  • Il Trovatore by Verdi, anyone? Everything began with a witch burning, and the daughter of one of the Roma victims taking revenge for it...
  • The Lady's Not for Burning by Christopher Fry. The evidence against her is laughable, but the town's officials can see she's well-to-do, and if they convict her, they can confiscate her property. But there's that pesky ex-soldier who insists he murdered the man she supposedly bewitched....
    "Though we administer persuasion with great patience, she admits nothing. And the man won't stop admitting. It really makes one lose all faith in human nature."
  • Part of the Backstory in Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore; the ancestor of the Baronets of Ruddigore was cursed by a witch he was burning.
  • The opera Königskinder has a witch who meets this fate sometime in between the second and third acts.

    Video Games 
  • In the Interactive Fiction H. P. Lovecraft-inspired Anchorhead, the founder of the American Verlac clan, Croseus, got his entire family accused of witchcraft, and only he and his youngest daughter escaped being burned.
  • The backstory of Partinias, the Arcana of Love in Arcana Heart, talks about how she was burned as a witch in the middle ages because she criticized violence and tried to spread compassion during a time when Europe was covered in war.
  • Maybe not a witch per se, but Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn features a mob threatening to burn Viconia at the stake in the middle of Athkatla. As the protagonist, you can choose either to save her (incurring the ire of the mob in the process), or to be a jerk and let her die.
    • It was originally part of an initial decision for Viconia to be infected with Lycanthropy, but they still went with it after they scrapped the werewolf idea. Since she's still a drow elf and a priestess of very nasty goddess Shar, they have a pretty natural reason to try to burn her.
    • There is a +4 magical staff in the game which is stated to be the remnant of a stake at which a powerful witch was burned. It is stated that with her last breath, the witch caused the fire to burn down the entire village.
  • An achievement in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts called "Burn the Witch" involves shooting the antagonist Gruntilda in the town square with the laser you get near the end of the game. Naturally, since you have to fight her later, the laser doesn't do anything except irritate her.
  • Very present in the Castlevania series, especially in the 1470s stories.
    • As detailed by Symphony of the Night, Lisa's burning at the stake inspired Dracula to destroy humanity.
    • When a similar fate struck a woman named Rosaly, Hector was inspired to seek revenge in Curse of Darkness.
      • Julia from the same game was a witch in hiding.
    • As was Sypha from Dracula's Curse, who went so far as to take up the Sweet Polly Oliver approach.
    • Later games in the series suffered witches more politely, and by the time of the Sorrow games, one of them directly works for the church. (Said witch is a descendant of the aforementioned Sypha Belnades.)
  • Averted in Darklands. When you defeat and capture a witch during a special encounter, you get many options to deal with her, but killing is not one of them.
  • In The X-Files: Resist or Serve, one storyline features Mulder and Scully travelling to a small town to prevent several girls' execution in this manner.
  • In Drakengard 2, Manah is accused of being a witch, and she did break one of the seals, so she's captured by the hero, and the guy he's working for burns her. She does have magic, however, and escapes, and later joins you.
  • Not completely true to the trope, but when Final Fantasy VIII's Rinoa is discovered to be a Sorceress, she is sentenced to put into stasis. Of course, she gets saved by the hero at the last moment.
  • Jeanne d'Arc, naturally (see Real Life example below). In a twist, however, it is not Jeanne who suffers this fate, as she's currently missing and presumed dead. Rather, the girl who's burned at the stake is her best friend Liane, who had been forced to impersonate her by the French commanders in order to keep morale up. Poor Jeanne struggles to bring herself back just in time, but when she gets to Rouen, Liane has already been killed. For worse, Jeanne and Liane's other childhood friend Roger also can't save her, and has a Face–Heel Turn out of despair.
  • Referenced in Left 4 Dead, an achievement titled "Burn the Witch" is obtained by setting fire to the Witch boss zombie. It's also arguably one of the most effective ways of dealing with one if you have someone to run.
  • The Big Bad of Legaia 2: Duel Saga was the victim of a witch hunt, which is what made him into the monster he became. You visit his home village later on in the game, and the place still bears the mark of his retaliation.
  • The Suffering reveals that while it was still settled by the Puritans, Carnate Island suffered a spate of witch-burnings that began when three little girls accused several of their fellow villagers — as a joke. Centuries later, these three children live on as the Infernas, the personification of all those on the island that were burnt at the stake. Lampshaded by Consuela, who notes that burning was non-existent among Puritans in other parts of America.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, the suspicious townsfolk go on a Witch Hunt after the gravedigger goes missing, capturing a gypsy and accusing him of being a werewolf. If you don't set him free in time, he gets burned at the stake, but not before he curses you and the entire town, causing game over. If you free him, you find out that he really was a werewolf, although innocent of what he was charged with.
  • Used almost exactly by angry mob in the outskirts area of The Witcher (the first real area in the game). The witch in question is most likely harmless, although her exact morals are certainly questionable (especially if you have the uncensored version, in which she appears nude and smeared with blood on her card), and the player has the choice of sleeping with her (which happens rather frequently in this game) or not, and then a second choice between allowing the villagers to kill her or saving her. If Geralt saves her, the player later has to fight off most of the important villagers (while fighting a hell hound variant).
  • In Eternal Champions, this was the cause for Xavier's death. There's even a smoldering stake in the immediate background of his stage that you knock your opponent into.
  • Just one of the many things the Inquisitors of the Citadel in AdventureQuest Worlds like to do to people. One of your quests on the chain involves rescuing witches who have been put to the torch.
  • In the backstory of the Dragon Age games, Andraste was burned at the stake after her husband betrayed her to the Tevinter Imperium. The leader of the Imperium, Archon Hessarian, felt pity for Andraste in her final moments and drove his sword into her heart so she wouldn't suffer any longer. He became the first convert to the Chant of Light and helped spread it over Thedas. The Blades of Mercy are enchanted replicas of Hessarian's sword and are considered badges of honor in the Imperium. An inversion, as Andraste was burned by witches (well, mages).
  • Conquests of the Longbow: Invoked by the Abbot towards Marian. You will have to rescue her from this. How well you handle this determines the ending you get.
  • In the backstory of the 2010 version of Splatterhouse, Dr. West's wife (who Came Back Wrong thanks to his experiments) was strapped into a Wicker Man-esque effigy to be burned as a witch by the citizens of Arkham. Then the Corrupted interfered and things got out of hand.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic IV, a necromancer named Gauldoth is wrongfully accused of being a child murderer, and a town guard named Mardor attempts to have him burned. Gauldoth flees the town, returns several months later with an army, besieges the town, and captures it. One of the first things he does is have Mardor arrested... and executed by being burned at the stake.
  • Invoked in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. When Celestia "Celes" Ludenberg is proved to be the one who first manipulated Hifumi into killing Ishimaru and then killed him, she is sentenced to execution via being burned at the stake. This is actually the perfect way to die in Celes's opinion, as Word of God said that she wanted a very romanticized and dramatic death like those in the novels, so she is rather gleeful (at least publically) as the pyre is lighted under her feet and she waits for the fire to consume her, hands steepled and looking up dramatically... But since her executioner is Monokuma after all, he then subverts the trope via summoning a huge firefighter truck at the very last moment and ramming it into Celes's pyre, killing her.
  • Starbound has the Glitch as a race born of an experiment to test out how civilizations advanced, who got stuck in Medieval Stasis when their programming bugged out. The response of the rest when one figures it out and turns self-aware? This trope.
  • Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney: The city of Labyrinthia is rather hardcore when it comes to witches: any young girl suspected of witchcraft is immediately put on trial, then punished by being locked up in an Iron Maiden-esque cage and plunged into a pit of fire. It doesn't help that much like people in the medieval ages, the citizens are very superstitious, quick to refer to anything they don't understand as "magic", and rather stubborn, which leads to many innocent young ladies being burned to a crisp. Eventually subverted when it is discovered that this is actually an elaborate scam used to smuggle the accused witches out of the city and brainwash them into being slaves. In addition, the Judge delivers a stay of execution for the culprit of one case as Phoenix had argued that she had not committed any crimes, and he expresses relief when he learns that no one was actually executed, suggesting that he had doubts about the whole thing.
  • In the Family Guy Video Game!, one of Brian's levels requires you to get by a trio of police officers by knocking a witch hat onto one of them, causing the other two to mistake him for a witch and set him on fire.
  • The House in Fata Morgana:
    • Michel impaled to death and then crucified for three days and finally burnt at the stake as he was accused of being a devil's child due to being intersex and thus believed to be cursed.
    • The White-Haired Girl is killed as a result of this in the second door.
  • In Akatsuki Blitzkampf, it looks like the original Mycale was subjected to this. She found a way to cheat on death, however: having her soul take over the bodies of several different women through the years. In the story proper, her latest host is a 14-year-old girl named Kati.
  • Tear Ring Saga:
    • This can happen to Rennie, if neither Runan nor Mintz arrive in time and seize the castle she's about to be publically executed. If they do, she joins their group some chapters later.
    • In the backstory, Zeek and Karla's parents and sisters were executed like this, kicking off their Dark and Troubled Past.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, vampires are near-universally feared, loathed, and ostracized throughout Tamriel. They are often killed on sight wherever they are found. The use of fire is common, as the majority of vampire bloodlines have a weakness to it.
  • In Crusader Kings II, your peasants and the Christian Church will want you to torch random women for being witches; not doing so will displease them. If you have the Monks and Mystics DLC and have turned on supernatural events, don't dismiss them without investigating first; a freakishly large number of "sinful" traits (like the Seven Deadly Sins, "Possessed", "Cruel", or especially "Impaler") is an indication that they may, in fact, deserve to be set alight.
  • The Fanatic from the Crimson Court DLC of Darkest Dungeon will do this to anyone afflicted with the Crimson Curse, no matter how they got it or what they do with it. He'll also do this to anyone who so much as associates with someone who's cursed. The only way to stop him from trying to burn your heroes at the stake is to destroy his pyre, but that just makes him even madder.
  • It's implied that this was attempted with Witch Princess from Harvest Moon DS. Witch Princess mentions that in the past Keira called her evil and got others to attack her home. She survived but put Keira into a coma and imprisoned her deep within a mine. Witch Princess had planned on removing her eventually, but she forgot to and thus Keira was left there for centuries. She would have stayed like that for a long time if not for the protagonist finding her.
  • Played with in The Secret World: during a visit to Solomon Island, it's revealed that the infamous Black House is the direct result of an impulsive witch-burning back by an angry mob; the accused didn't want to leave her house and actually be burnt at the stake, so the crowd ended up just burning it to the ground with her inside it. Lore reveals that the "witch" was indeed a mage, but was innocent of the crimes she was accused of and mainly a victim of a smear-campaign by The Illuminati, who didn't appreciate her turning down their membership offer.
  • Averted in World of Warcraft, in which Lucille Waycrest is nearly hanged for witchcraft. Witches are a very real threat to the people of Drustvar, but Lucille is the victim of a misunderstanding, and you must clear her name.

  • In No Rest for the Wicked, the villagers blame Clare for their disappearing children and intend to burn her.
  • In Something*Positive, a young woman boasts of having been burned to death in Salem in another life for being a Wiccan, but that she died praising Wicca and the Goddess. Davan, of course, tears her story apart. In three panels.
  • Girl Genius:
    • It is stated that minor Sparks in rural areas were often treated as witches and burned. Considering the fact that a Sparky "witch" could probably make those herbal concoctions work, and that Sparkyness usually equals at least periodic insanity, they were probably on the money as often as not.
    • Also subverted. Early in the story, the protagonist is told that girls with the Spark are especially vulnerable, and tend to just... disappear. Readers later find out that, rather than being killed as witches, most of them were probably kidnapped by Sturmhalten soldiers, so that Prince Aaronev, a Spark himself, could use them for his experiment to bring back the Other. Including his own daughter.
  • In Hooky this is a risk for witches, despite being illegal. Dani was narrowly rescued from a pyre after being mistaken for a child-killer. Angela Wytte was also a near-victim, but was pushed over the Despair Event Horizon by the experience.
  • Scandinavia and the World:
    • A variation occurs in this comic in which Denmark and Norway sit Sister Finland ("the witch") on a burning maypole as part of a midsummer celebration.
    • Another comic, illustrating the early Church's stance on witchcraft, had King Europe accuse Queen Europe of being a witch, only for the Pope to burn him for heresy.
  • Mye and Hex were drowned as witches proving their innocence in Charby the Vampirate before being resurrected as zombie slaves by an actual magic user.
  • In Our Little Adventure, Angelo's Kids do this to their opponents.
  • In Knights of Buena Vista, Weselton's role in Frozen has been upgraded, from bigot against sorcerers, to apparent witch hunter.
    • This is a Subverted Trope. He doesn't hunt magic users to stop evil. He does it because he's a Mage Reaver, and this provides a cover for his actions.
  • In The Cummoner, Vilga is condemned just for admitting to being a witch. She manages to escape in her own fashion.
  • In the world of Witchy, everyone has some degree of magic power, but society burns witches who possess too much power.
  • In Welcome to Chastity the town Chastity used to be the site of many witch burnings. Turns out one of the women burned was an actual witch. She revived herself and got some payback on the town inhabitants.
  • Celina, a witch in Imp has her house burned down after a priest visits her home town and convinces them she's a devil worshiper.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In Castlevania (2017), Dracula's wife is burnt at the stake as a witch for the crime of being a woman interested in science. Dracula ain't too happy about that, and returns one year after she's killed to rain down bloody vengeance on the town of Wallachia, both figuratively and literally.
  • Sam is captured and almost burnt on the stake in Danny Phantom for no reason other than the possibility that her Gothic appearance looks much like the witch type. Vlad, disguised as a pilgrim, eggs on the crowd, which doesn't help her cause at all.
  • The Scooby-Doo episode "To Switch a Witch" features the gang going to Salem, MA, on Halloween, and ending up having to save a friend who is accused of being a witch. A mob of townspeople forms and wants to burn the accused witch at the stake, and this was what, in the 1970s?
  • The Simpsons:
    • Played for laughs. During a news report, viewers learn that Springfield has the lowest science scores in the country. Cut to angry mob surrounding Principal Skinner who is tied to a stake:
      Skinner: I'm telling you people, the Earth revolves around the Sun!
      Grampa Simpson: Burn him!
      [a photographer snaps a picture of Grampa Simpson]
      Grampa Simpson: You've stolen my soul!
    • There was also a Halloween special that took place in the time the Witch Hunt happened and Marge and other women were accused of witchcraft and were tied to the stake. Lisa pointed out that if they were witches, they could use their powers to escape. She quickly shuts up when Homer threatens to add her to the pyre. Of course, Marge really was a witch. It's that kind of episode.
    • A group of Wiccans were accused of blinding people in Springfield, and were going to be drowned in a lake. It turns out the reason people turned blind was because Homer and some rednecks threw moonshine into Springfield's water source.
  • Family Guy: You hear that? A girl solved a math problem. You know what that means? A WITCH!
  • Home Movies - at the Medieval Faire, McGuirk is talking on his cell phone - faire organizer Lynch swipes it away from him. McGuirk starts yelling "He has a PHONE! BURN him!!!" Several faire goers advance on Lynch with torches.
  • In the Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures episode "Ice Will Burn," the people from the underground caverns threaten to throw Jessie and Katrina to the smoldering lava as Human Sacrifices, thinking they are witches.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Cavalier attempts to burn Batman and Green Arrow at the stake in "Bold Beginnings!". Not that he actually thinks they are witches, but it is a Death Trap in keeping with his criminal motif, which is The Cavalier Years.
  • Episode 13 of Il était une fois... features the Hundred Years Wars and Joan of Arc, and almost at the end there's a scene featuring a traveler that tells the cast about her execution.
  • In the short, "Day For Knight" from the Tiny Toon Adventures episode, "Brave Tales of Real Rabbits", when Buster is summoned to rescue Babs, he is in the middle of saving Shirley the Loon from having this happen to her. He abandons Shirley to take on this other mission, which comes back to bite him by the very end.

    Real Life 
  • An utterly bizarre example occurred with the death of the two last Great Auks; apparently the last two individuals were killed because their capture occurred at the same time a storm came, leading the sailors to think the birds were witches.
  • Older Than Print: Saint Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Though the charge was witchcraft, what the English really burned her for was leading the French to freedom in men's clothes. And heresy, can't forget heresy. It was also probably coerced crossdressing, at least while in prison. Before her capture by the English, she had been wearing men's clothing and this was one of the things she was condemned for. After her abjuration, she had to wear women's clothing. It's suspected that one day her guards took all her clothes away and left some men's clothing in their place. She had a choice between going naked and risking being raped (repeatedly) or putting on the men's clothing. She chose to put on the men's clothes and this was perceived as evidence that she was no longer repentant and so should be burned. And this despite the fact that, under Catholic law at the time, wearing men's clothing as a way of deterring rape was permitted. St. Joan was posthumously cleared of all charges in an independent church trial held not long after her execution.
  • In Real Life, the methods for dealing with suspected witches varied greatly between areas and eras:
    • During the Middle Ages proper witchcraft wasn't a major crime — 'cunning folk' were practitioners of low-level magic that were generally not persecuted legally, unless they were accused of cheating their customers out of the supposed effects of the magic sold. Lethal magic was treated essentially as a subsection of poisoning, and punished accordingly with death, though not by burning, while lesser offenses could only lead to a fine or corporal punishment. Only with The Late Middle Ages and the publication of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum did the mass witch hunts begin. Prior to this, the Church's position was largely that witches were not even real - or rather, that magic was not real, simply illusions of the Devil. The Malleus itself was banned when it came out as the heretical ravings of a lunatic, but unfortunately enthusiastic amateurs got a hold of it anyway...
    • After the Reformation witch-hunts gained rapid popularity on both sides of the fence, as religious paranoia rose to ridiculous degrees. Most of the witch-trials were performed by secular courts or minor clergy with little idea how to perform any actual investigation, though in Protestant countries even higher levels of clergy sometimes got themselves involved. Martin Luther was recorded saying something to the effect of: "I would gladly burn them myself."
    • In England and America, witches were usually simply hanged, and sometimes burned post mortem to prevent them from coming back as undead. However, in continental Europe, burning alive was a very popular method of execution for witches and heretics alike — the distinction between the two was often narrow, to say the least. Not until Henry IV's statute "De Heretico Comburendo" was burning authorized in England as a punishment for heresy, and this sentence was rarely passed. Interestingly enough, getting convicted of witchcraft didn't mean an automatic death sentence. In England and Wales, the vast majority of those accused of witchcraft were pardoned. Apparently people liked a good trial, but couldn't be bothered to actually carry out the sentence.
    • The Spanish Inquisition actually refused to do this after the late-16th century, but even before then they were rather 'lax' on witchcraft. The Grand Inquisitor himself pronouncing the tales of mass "sabbats" unlikely and unsupported by any evidence (often even speculating that testimonies of people having Satanic meetings in the woods were probably regular sinners celebrating non-religious orgies, sometimes with the help of rudimentary drugs), and stated that any person claiming to be a witch was either a liar or clinically insane. Even if declared witches, most accused actually survived with only "minor" torture and fairly small official punishment; executions were so rare that it caused the few cases to be spectacularly publicized, which probably contributed to the legend that the Inquisition was having its hands full on the witch topic. The Inquisition was more concerned about Moors, the remnant population of Muslims in Spain: Castile-Leon had only conquered Granada in 1492, so the region and its Muslim people were something of an ongoing problem for the Christian rulers until the last of them were ethnically cleansed in the early 17th century. That said, this didn't stop non-Royal and non-Church town authorities (i.e. about 2/3 of all towns) from holding witch Trials and hanging 'witches', or angry mobs from doing likewise.
  • Sadly, the practice continues today in various African countries.
  • In Iceland, from 1625-1683, 21 people were executed by burning after being accused of witchcraft (which could include just keeping magical talismans in their homes). All but one of these people were male, as men were believed to be the only people capable of being witches in Icelandic society. There's an interesting, albeit somewhat cheesy, museum dedicated to Icelandic witchcraft in the 17th century in the town of Hólmavík, in the West Fjords.
  • A common misconception, even in Massachusetts, is that the victims of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were burned, when in fact, most were hanged, with the exception of Giles Corey, who was pressed to death (i.e., had a large board the size of a door laid on top of him and then rocks were piled onto the board, till he suffocated. He got special treatment because he refused to enter a plea and was found in contempt of court. He just told them to add more weight). He was actually trying to spare his family the loss of his property, which would happen on a conviction of witchcraft (as was inevitable). Under common law, no trial could be held if the accused would not enter a plea. "Pressing" under heavy stones was the method used to force this out of one that refused to. Giles died, but he did so legally innocent and his family inherited his land.
  • Urbain Grandier, a French Catholic priest in Loudun who was accused of a diabolical pact and causing a whole convent of nuns to become possessed. His case is notable in having inspired a book by Aldous Huxley (The Devils of Loudun), a film by Ken Russell (The Devils), and an opera by Krzysztof Penderecki (Die Teufel von Loudun).
  • In Sweden, about 300 "witches" were burned between 1668 and 1676. Most of them admitted to having committed witchcraft, and were rewarded by being decapitated before the burning. The only one to be burned alive was Malin Matsdotter, to whom this was punishment for refusing to admit anything. Before she was burned alive, she noticed that one of her daughters (the one that had accused her) stood in the crowd and told her and everyone present that her daughter now belonged to the devil. She (reportedly) did not scream when she was burned. It was probably due to a sack of gunpowder being placed around her neck out of mercy.

    The Swedish trials ended with the church, who had been against the trials from the beginning but forced to prosecute them due to the sheer number of accusations, declaring that all witches had forever been exorcised from Sweden. They then proceeded to publically torture and burn some of the accusers (most of which where in their teens!) saying that they were the last remaining witches.
  • In Germany, the trial of the Pappenheimer family, considered to be the worst witch trial in German history. Don't read the article if you have a weak stomach. The parents and the eldest sons were to be executed together with two other men. The bodies of the men were torn six times each with irons, Anna's breasts were cut off and rubbed in the faces of her adult sons, the skeletons of the men were broken on the wheel, the father was subjected to impalement on a pike, and finally, they were burned at the stake.
  • The Würzburg witch-trials. Over the course of six years, nine hundred people were burnt as witches in Germany, including many children, some as young as four.
  • Translation:
    • Interestingly, the passage quoted at the top of this page, from the King James Version, is actually a rather iffy translation. The term "witch" is a more recent invention of the English language, and of course no particular method of execution was prescribed. The word used in the original language roughly translates to "sorceress" with "one who twists the minds of others for personal gain" connotations. Though rulers who served God often stamped out all practitioners; this is why Saul had trouble finding one when he decided to actually consult one.
    • Another translation renders the word as prostitute. Sacred prostitutes often served the god(desse)s of the nations opposing Israel. They were seen as trying to tempt God's people away from him. Some may have practiced sacred rites.
    • It's also possible that the original word was poisoner, as there was overlap between the Greek and Latin words for "poisoner" and "witch"; King James was rather obsessed with witchcraft, which may have influenced the translation.
  • One of the first recorded convictions of witchcraft in Europe occurred in Ireland in 1324 and involved Alice Kyteler, a wealthy four-time widow accused by the local bishop and gossips of poisoning her former husbands for their estates, sacrificing animals to demons, heresy, sorcery and having sex with an incubus. In reality, she was probably only guilty of moneylending, which piss-poor Middle Ages folk would have deeply resented. Something of an aversion, in that it was Kyteler's servant, Jack Bauer'd into giving a possibly false confession, who was burned at the stake, while Kyteler herself fled to Europe and promptly disappeared from history. Her former house, in which authorities allegedly found such items as "body parts of an unbaptized infant; evil powders; communion wafers imprinted with satanic images; the fingernails and toenails of corpses boiled in the skull of a robber; candles made of human fat", is now a popular local pub.
  • 2013 goings-on in Papua New Guinea.
  • In Denmark, a holiday based around the history of burning witches (St John's Eve) has been a tradition. Of course, no real person is used, but a scarecrow-like-doll that looks like a stereotypical witch is burned instead. It's also more like a bonfire with a doll stuck in it.
  • A similar folk tradition exists in the Czech Republic, on the Walpurgis Night (30th of April).


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