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In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.
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"Witch", like "Wizard", is a word that is sometimes used to name a specific kind of magic user, usually female. The word, witch, is, as Wicca notes, derived from the Old English, wicce, for "female magic-user". That connection to femininity sometimes makes witchcraft into a Gender-Restricted Ability. Speaking of inclinations of its appearances, given Wicked Witch and similar portrayals, witch also has a relation to being for evil female magic users, while mage or magician, with its clear connection to magic, is used for magic users in the general.

This trope, like the other Our Monsters Are Different tropes, is about how the term "witch" is used for specifically designating certain groups of beings, usually, these are humans, in the case of witches.

The Sub-Trope of Witch Classic notes how broad and widespread the concept of a witch is, since "witchcraft beliefs — the folkloric that people work malicious magic on their neighbors — are found in virtually every culture", but "Classic" means the stereotypical Western idea, for witches that have a combination of:

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  1. Robe and Wizard Hat
  2. Flying Broomstick
  3. Familiar or similar
  4. Some connection to femininity, nature, and the number 3
  5. Magic Cauldron and potion-based witchcraft.

Which has its own sub-tropes, of Cute Witch, Hot Witch, and Wicked Witch, the last of which is about witches that are clearly presenting as evil, in obvious/stereotypical villain fashion.

Those sub-subtropes can overlap with their super-super-trope if there's something special about their definition of "witch", such that the more specific tropes don't totally describe what makes a witch. For example, if witches possess Facial Markings, along with being guaranteed young and female, then the facial markings make witches different beyond just being a Cute Witch.

Other sub-tropes of the general "witch" concept, are:

  • All Witches Have Cats: Many witches have familiars in the form of cats.
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  • Burn the Witch!: Superstitious communities who believe Magic Is Evil will often resort to burning would-be witches at the stake after a classical Witch Hunt.
  • Good Witch Versus Bad Witch: In cases where not all witches are evil, there is often a marked distinction between "good" witches and "bad" witches.
  • Salem Is Witch Country: The town where the infamous witch trials took place has taken on a reputation for witchcraft ever since.
  • The Weird Sisters: Witches are in groups of 3.
  • Widow Witch: Many witches are lonely sorts, usually having suffered a loss in love.
  • The Witch Hunter: The grim, fanatical and often evil hunter of witches.

The Mage Species trope only sounds related, it's actually for species where all its members have a species-specific power. For the cases where they are also literally called witches, then it overlaps with this trope, likely playing with the femininity of this trope by making them a One-Gender Race.

Then there's Witch Doctor, for a tribe's resident shaman, healer, and wizard.

Witch Works is the index for all works that have witches as a central character.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Black Butler: Subverted. Sieglinde Sullivan is an ordinary human girl with extraordinary intellect. The "green witch" is actually a title of a military project.
  • In El Cazador de la Bruja, witches are a Mage Species-type of Human Subspecies who mostly lost their powers in modern times. Ellis is an artificial witch, created in an attempt to restore the magical bloodline. Jodie, on the other hand, is a pure-blood witch but has about as much magical potential as any baseline human. It is also suggested that there were further artificial witches besides Ellis (possibly including L.A.) but they all died/were killed off.
  • Rosario + Vampire: Witches are monsters that look indistinguishable from humans, except they can do magic. They come in both male and female.
  • Witches in Soul Eater are humans born with magical power and incredibly long lifespans, which seems to be somewhat affected by genetics (Medusa, Arachne, and Shaula are siblings that are all witches) but mostly random (Rachael and Kim are witches but seem to have no relatives that are, while Medusa's gender-ambiguous child definitely isn't a witch). Witches are shown but not acknowledged as exclusively female, and the only male user of witch magic got his power by stealing a witch's eye. Most witches live or at least cooperate under a sort of government. Their magic gives them chaotic tendencies, which has long put them at odds with the order-based followers of Lord Death, but the manga shows them as not generally evil.
  • Sugar Sugar Rune: Witches can be both male and female, and come from the 'magical world', and they use the emotions of humans as a power source and a currency. Love between witches and humans is taboo, and while humans can produce an infinite number of hearts, a witch only has one heart, so if she falls in love with someone and that person takes her heart, she'll die. The witch world also has a markedly different culture from the human world.
  • Tweeny Witches: The witches in the narrow sense are an ethnic group native to the Magical Realm. They're notable for being all-female, dressing mostly in black, and traditionalism, though it's revealed late into the series that Lennon is a male witch.
  • Witchblade: A Weapon Title, that implies that all of its wielders are witches. It has Evil Knockoffs and all their wielders are women.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Adushul people seem to use witch to mean a generic, usually evil, female magic-user. With the evil males being warlocks.
  • Infinity Train: Boiling Point: Alongside what's already known from canon, a Witch's blood has magical properties depending on the witch, being able to either sprout plants or even heal injuries.
  • In SilfofinaDragon's Sengoku Basara fanfics, Kyogoku Maria seems to have studied magic (having her own magical laboratory in at her manor), already mastering said arts, whereas her sister-in-law Oichi and the late Toyotomi Hideyoshi's daughter Kagehime already have magic flowing through their veins.
  • There Was Once an Avenger from Krypton:
    • In this verse, the term "witches" — with "wizards" being the male counterpart solely for this classification — applies on Earth only to those magic users who are born with inherent magic, due to being descended (however distantly) from one deity or another. Those without that lineage who have to gain magic from study are termed "sorcerers", while those who gain it from a Deal with the Devil are "warlocks".
    • And then there's the Witches from the Boiling Isles, who are an entirely separate species from humans, with their own inherent magic. Word of God is that, if Earth's magic users become aware of them, they'd consider the name fitting, given that the Boiling Isles Witches ultimately gain their magic from the corpse of the Titan.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bewitched: The Film of the Series, 'Bewitched'', in that it's about the filming of a remake of the series, with a real magical witch as the witch character.
  • The Last Witch Hunter: Mage Species-type that can breed with humans:
    "Witches live among us in secret. Their magic passed down from an ancient race, diluted, half-forgotten, but dangerously powerful."
  • Thelma: Inverted by Joachim Trier. He's commemorating the original Norwegian portrayal of witches as positive magical creatures before the influence of Christianity. If Thelma was born in a different time, her powers would classify her as a witch and possibly why these powers are only manifested in females.
  • The Witches (2020): Grandmamma specifically calls them demons that only look like humans.
    • Their main distinctive feature here is the fact that they are bald and wear wigs to blend into human society.
    • While the other witches still have square, toe-less feet, the Grand High Witch bears a long, single toe on each of hers.
    • The film demonstrates two aspects that are unique to this adaptation - they only have two Creepy Long Fingers and a thumb per hand, and "elongated mouths that stretch to their ears", complete with Scary Teeth and a forked tongue - the mouth resembles a Glasgow Grin when the witches are passing themselves off as human women.
    • Additionally, whenever they sustain an injury or die, they turn into metallic dust shards, further demonstrating they're not human.

    Literature 
  • The Alchemaster's Apprentice: They are called "Ugglies", Schrecksen in German, and seem to be a One-Gender Race.
  • The Belgariad: Witchcraft and Sorcery are separate Functional Magic systems with no relationship to gender. Witches summon and negotiate with invisible nature spirits to do their bidding, while Sorcerers have purely Thought-Controlled Power with broader applications.
  • A Chorus of Dragons: Witches are magic-users who practice their trade illegally, meaning without an official permit to practice magic and without having studied at the imperial mages' academy. The term is technically gender-neutral but, because all female magic-users are witches by definition (women are legally prohibited from studying magic), "witch" has become strongly associated with female mages in common usage.
  • The Courtship of Princess Leia: For some reason, Allya's descendants only could use the Force if they were female since no one had seen a "male Witch" as they call it until Luke. Given that Force ability is hereditary, perhaps in her case, it was carried solely by the female sex chromosomes (though it would be an outlier as this is never seen in any other case of Force-sensitive).
  • Discworld: Wizardry and witchcraft are separate forms of magic that are mostly gender divided, but this is a social split related to prejudices on both sides of the fence. Exceptions exist, such as the early mention of wizards in Krull not caring much either way. Terry Pratchett's opinion, at least referenced in a narrative aside, is wizardry being systematic was more suited to men while witchcraft being initiative/emotional was more suited to women. (Although he also said that the real reason women weren't allowed to be wizards was because they'd probably be good at it.) Interestingly, despite her initial reservations, Granny Weatherwax is eventually convinced that Eskarina's mindset is wizard-like and that trying to shape it into witchcraft simply because she's female is a bad idea.
  • Witches in Elcenia make Magic Potions, from shampoos to "pef tan" (which makes anything an Impossibly Delicious Food) to "moon water" (which lets wizards deal with channeling sting). Contrast the world's other types of magic: Wizardry note , lightcraftnote , magerynote , and sorcerynote .
  • Harry Potter: Witches are the name used for female human magic users in general, while wizard is for the males.
  • His Dark Materials: In Lyra's world, witches are a One-Gender Race, possessing magical tendencies and long life. Their male offspring (fathered by human males) are normal humans. Male witches did exist elsewhere in the multiverse, though they are only mentioned once.
  • Land of Oz: Witches are high-powered female magic users.
  • Malediction Trilogy: Witches are always human, always female magic users. They are born with the ability, which seems to run in the family, and can use Elemental Powers, as well as Blood Magic to power their spells.
  • Mercy Thompson: Witches refers to magical users who are able to control magic using their minds and bodies which differs from other magic users like wizards who require objects to cast spells. Witches form their own covens which can in some cases number in the dozens. They come in two distinct varieties:
    • Black witches gain their powers from inflicting pain on others and are considered Always Chaotic Evil. Black Witches consume white witches to become more powerful.
    • White Witches are witches that don't gain their powers through inflicting pain and are more innocent and good-hearted spellcasters.
  • My Vampire Older Sister and Zombie Little Sister: Helen is a Circe witch, who specializes in brewing potions that transform living things.
  • In later Night Watch (Series) novels, only female Dark Others can become witches. The witches are Closer to Earth and tend to rely on amulets than straight-up spells. However, they also rather quickly become old hags and are forced to use magic almost constantly to maintain their Hot Witch appearance. In the final novel of the main series, it's revealed that witches were the third type of Others to appear in the world, back during the Stone Age, after vampires and shapeshifters. They started wearing amulets in the form of jewelry to protect them from men, and Muggle women then picked up the jewelry-wearing fashion for the same reason (i.e. if a man isn't sure that a jewelry-wearing woman isn't a witch, he won't try to assault her).
  • The Otherworld: Witches are a female One-Gender Race which are in contrast and often conflict with the all-male Sorcerers. Witches live in covens and first gain their full spellcasting potential as a Puberty Superpower, a.k.a after they begin to menstruate.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: Witches are Witch Classic, but with Blood Magic and Alchemy Is Magic.
  • Release That Witch: Witches are exclusively female and always obtain their powers before adulthood. They are also sterile and persecuted by the masses. This becomes a mystery when the demon hordes contain male and female magicians.
  • Septimus Heap: Witches in the Septimus-verse mostly work with potions and Magykal items rather than outright spellcasting, and have icy blue eyes. They are often in rivalry with Wizards, who have green eyes, and do work with outright spellcasting.
  • Shadow Falls: Witches are the closest to how they're traditionally portrayed though apparently, conditions like Dyslexia can make it incredibly difficult to cast spells such as in Miranda's case.
  • Sword of Truth: The witch women are powerful spellcasters, living for many centuries. The abilities shown include illusion, foresight, and a degree of time manipulation, along with more mundane offensive magic. Everyone gives them a wide berth.
  • On Francisco de Goya's Vuele de Brujas (Witches' Flight) they can fly in the air without the use of brooms.
  • In Christopher Stasheff's Warlock of Gramarye series: Gender-Restricted Ability-type Psychic Powers: Witches (women) are telekinetic.
  • Andre Norton's Witch World has female Virgin Power witches. They are shocked when Simon Tregarth, a man from another world, has the same powers. (And more shocked when a witch marries him and keeps her powers.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Being Human (US): Witches come into the equation in Season 3.
    • Witches practice wield magic through a spellbook.
    • Witches appear to be immortal, but only because they consume the ghosts of people that their blood magic kills by proxy. Donna, in particular, has been alive since the 17th century, although that's when she died the first time around.
    • Witches can only be killed through another magic spell, which Sally is taught by the medium that Danny first hired to exorcise her.
  • Bewitched: Wizards Live Longer, but for witches, who are the female magical humans, with warlocks as the male, and at least the protagonist witch can have children with her human husband.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Witchcraft has no gender restriction: though most practitioners are female, there are male users who are usually referred to as warlocks. Giles borrowed the power of an entire coven to take on Dark Willow, Angel and Xander are both shown to use spells, Oz and several frat boys accidentally summon the demon of fear, and there are a few guys in UC Sunnydale's Wicca group.
  • The multiple Charmed series, the newer being a remake/reboot, of the older, featuring witch sister trio protagonists. More specific information on witches by version:
    • Charmed (1998): Witches are implied to be entirely female early on (and warlocks entirely male) until a male witch is introduced half-way into season 1 and female warlocks are seen occasionally. The show never draws a distinction between evil witches and female warlocks. Regular humans can practice magic to an extent, but lack the natural abilities magical witches have.
    • Charmed (2018): It's Mage Species style. No Muggles can learn magic. Witches are tasked with protecting mortals from demons. They all have a basic power set of spellcasting, potion making and divination, which includes not only using Ouija boards but also scrying, while individual witches might have extra Personality Powers as well. Unlike the original, witches are explicitly female-only. A transgender witch can cast spells, but isn't born with an active power.
  • Emerald City: Witches are apparently only born to Mother South, seemingly a species unto themselves, unable to be killed by mundane means unless killed by another witch and able to resurrect themselves.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Bayonetta, only women can become Umbra Witches, whose power comes from making pacts with demons and are enhanced by the light of the moon.
  • In Dragon Age, mages are usually sorted into two distinct groups - Circle mages, who are trained and "housed" (read: imprisoned) in special facilities under religious oversight, and maleficar, who live outside of Chantry control and are routinely hunted by Templars. However, Flemeth - a recurring character first encountered in Dragon Age: Origins - and her daughters are the only characters repeatedly identified as witches. Specifically, they are the Witches of the Wilds, and they are considered so powerful and dangerous that even the Templars usually steer clear.
  • Final Fantasy VIII has the Sorceresses, who are originally referred in the Japanese version as Witches. They are all female and the only ones who can actually use magic naturally, in contrast to the rest of humanity who have to resort to artificial means to gain magic. Their powers are not fully given an explanation, but one aspect is that they are not born with their powers, but they are instead born with the potential to inherit the power of other Sorceresses, and pass their powers on before their death - only a woman born with the potential to become a Sorceress can inherit a dying Sorceress's power.
  • Titan Quest: They're mixed with Harping on About Harpies, by being a type of Brush Harpy.
  • The Witches' Tea Party: An in-game book states that monsters such as witches are defined as such by having curses. Witches, because of their human appearance and ability to breed with them, are basically a Human Subspecies that's immortal, magical, female, and cursed.

    Webcomics 
  • Homestuck has a lot of characters with magic abilities, but "the Witch" is a particular game class, which specific characteristics are not very clear. Characters of that class include Jade Harley - the Witch of Space, Feferi Peixes - the Witch of Life, and Damara Megido - the Witch of Time.
  • Muted: The witch families of New Orleans tie their magic to gender identity, meaning transgender women gain magic while transgender men lose it.
  • Widdershins: All magic involves Randomly Gifted people working with spirits. Wizards train to do this through Ritual Magic, while the vanishingly rare Witches have more intuitive magic, have innate Supernatural Sensitivity and are linked to one of the world's four magical Anchors. Both are gender-neutral, though Jack o'Malley is the only male Witch in the comic.

    Web Original 
  • We Are Our Avatars: Witches were normal humans who strike a deal with some force of the universe (usually Death), and always carry around an item that serves as the symbol of the contract.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Maja from "Sky Witch" is green and requires a Equivalent Exchange to endow others with powers. She has a natural Voice of the Legion.
  • Gumby: The Witty Witch enjoys entertaining children instead of frightening them. She may capture people, but only to be her audience for her performances, and then let them go afterward. She also prefers flying in a helicopter outfitted with a witch's broom on the tail and a huge spacecraft shaped like a witch's hat.
  • In The Owl House, Witches are a humanoid race rather than a particular type of human, and their magic comes from a bile sack attached to their heart. Consequently, the term is gender-neutral, though rarely used for male individualsnote . However, a human can learn to use magic by drawing various sigils, as the main character Luz discovers. Luz sometimes calls herself a "witch" anyway, though it's not addressed how technically correct that is.
  • Winx Club: Witches are a Mage Species and the Evil Counterpart Race to Fairies. Both are all-female.

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