While the term witch itself is often applied as a catch-all word for female magic users in fiction, the witch, as it has evolved out of Western traditions and folklore, has a number of distinct trappings and tropes. While witchcraft beliefs — the folkloric that people work malicious magic on their neighbors — are found in virtually every culture, being absent only in certain hunting and gathering societies and modern industrial ones, the details of the trope as it appears in Western works in almost exclusively derived from Western folklore.
- Traditional Witchy Attire: Black medieval or colonial period dresses and a pointy hat, also black, are the most traditional, but not every witch buys into the uniform. Often they dress normally, especially if they want to blend in, and the traditional clothing only comes out for spell casting or ceremonies. The Hot Witch especially tends to dress more wildly while the Wicked Witch is almost always traditionally attired. Goth clothing is also associated with classic witches, as is the New-Age Retro Hippie's typical style of flowy garments.
Alternatively, they may appear naked. This is not an artistic convention to allow depiction of nudity but a trope that is found in traditional cultures all over the world: practioners of wicked magic work their rites unclothed — probably reflecting the antisocial nature of the magic.
- Broomsticks as a Transportation Method: Witches are known for riding Flying Broomsticks. In works with low amounts of fantasy, this may be omitted, but broomstick flying is something that is relatively unique to witches and not strongly associated with other types of magic users.
- Animal Companions: Witches are often seen around animals, especially nocturnal ones, although cats are the most common by far, especially black ones. The animal is usually a Familiar that aids in spells in some way or is sometimes magic in their own right. The animals being able to communicate with their owners through telepathy, or just being able to speak to all humans, is common. When a Witch doesn't have a cat, other animals they might have include owls, crows, toads and mice.
- Association with Nature and the Earth: Witches are often portrayed as very knowledgeable in the workings of nature, especially plants and weather. Whereas a Wizard Classic will have his head in the clouds, always watching the stars, a witch will be Closer to Earth, watching the seasons turn and advising people when to plant their crops. It's common for a witch to live alone in the woods, and to be a Nature Lover and Outdoorsy Gal. A witch probably has a Green Thumb too, so she can grow herbs for her magic potions, or just to scent her home-made soaps. Being in tune with nature, she may be a both an Earthy Barefoot Character and a Magical Barefooter.
- Witchcraft: Witches practice witchcraft specifically as their type of magic, which, because of the above aspect, is usually strongly tied to nature and may resemble European pagan-like traditions. Commonly their magic employs the use of herbs and strange ingredients like "Eye of Newt" bubbling away in cauldrons, as well as nocturnal ceremonies under the moon. Usually a witch has a Spell Book, perhaps passed down through the family. In modern media, Witchcraft is strongly associated with Hollywood versions of Real Life religions of Wicca and other forms of Neo-Paganismnote although in the past they were associated with many forms of local folk traditions. Witches usually belong to "covens", groups of witches who practice magic together, share knowledge and resources and often meet to cast more powerful spells. Witches do not usually use a Magic Wand or Magic Staff, those items are more commonly associated with Wizards and Sorcerers.
- Associated with Femininity and Sisterhood: Witches are associated with femininity and sistership, despite not being Always Female in folklore or in most modern media. Male witches (sometimes called "warlocks") do exist, though are rarer than female witches. Witches also tend to have sisters, for whatever reason, and they have a strong tradition of passing their magic down from mother to daughter.
- Associated with the number 3: For whatever reason, Witches are often seen in threes and involve three in their magic or worship. If a witch has sisters, she's probably part of a trio of siblings. A coven also usually has at least three members, or its members do magic in groups of three. This is most likely related to the concepts of The Weird Sisters and The Hecate Sisters, two tropes that link the number three with both women and divinity.
In early western tradition, the witch was predominantly an evil figure. They worked malicious magic with everything from stealing wedding rings to lethal storms at sea and crop destruction, they made a Deal with the Devil (after which, in folklore rather than tales, the Devil did not actually have to do what he had promised them to do to get them to make it), and they extorted things by threats of curses.
In modern media, witches tend to be more neutral or outright good figures. Media that has both often pit them against each other to form a Good Versus Evil dynamic. Usually good witches are pretty and bad witches are very ugly, though when an evil witch is beautiful, she's usually a Vain Sorceress. Witches are often shown in contrast to a Wizard Classic, sometimes being rivals or outright enemies, or just often having differences in opinion.
A witch shown in a modern setting, in genres such as Urban Fantasy, tend to forgo a lot of the traditional associations and tropes tied to the Witch, such as the attire and the broom riding, the character often seeing it as "too traditional". A common modern variation is for the witch to ride a vacuum cleaner (or even Roombas) as a joke. They usually acknowledge they are descendant from, or taught by, witches in the European tradition.
Subtropes of Witch Classic include:
- Cute Witch: When Witch Classic is crossed with Rule of Cute, resulting in a Magical Girl version
- Hot Witch: When Witch Classic is crossed with Rule of Sexy.
- Wicked Witch: When the witch is evil.
Other tropes related to witches:
- All Witches Have Cats: The tendency for witches to have cats.
- Burn the Witch!: The number one method to get rid of a witch, be she good, evil, or not even a witch to begin with.
- Good Witch Versus Bad Witch: The process in fiction by which the original Wicked Witch became a Good Witch Classic.
- Salem Is Witch Country: The tendency for witches to set up shop in Salem.
- Unequal Rites: Commonly involves feminine "witch magic" being contrasted to masculine "wizard magic".
- The Weird Sisters: Witches like to form teams of three.
- Widow Witch: The tendency of witches to be widows and widows to be accused of being witches.
- Witch Hunt: When the populace tries to root out a witch or some other undesirable.
- The Witch Hunter: The most feared enemy of witches (because they hunt them).
- Blair the Cat in Soul Eater fits into this, although she's technically a cat with strong magic (and thus the ability to shapeshift into a Cat Girl form). Angela (a child witch) is the only other non-antagonistic witch in the series who wears black. The rest of the witches are either a Wicked Witch (and wear the standard outfit, but modified with an Animal Motif and different colours) or avert the trope entirely (particularly Kim, although her non-witch partner just happens to have a flying broom form).
- Witches in Rosario + Vampire are a species of "monsters" despite looking like humans, and conform to the traditional Witch stereotypes, including the pointed hat, cape, broomstick-riding, use wands with pentagrams on them. What breaks the traditional mold, though, is that men are members of this species as well, and they have hats, capes, and the works.
- The witches in Little Witch Academia wear the pointy hats, ride brooms, wear black (or purple) dresses and brew potions. The protagonist is also a part of a trio of friends (who are also witches), and the main witch rival is also in a group of three, with two witchy minions.
- Flying Witch is a Slice of Life Urban Fantasy in which the main character is a young witch who goes to live with her cousins (normals) in a rural town. She has a cat familiar only she can understand, rides a broom, wears black robes on witch holidays, and plants a garden. She also takes on her younger (female) cousin as an apprentice. Other characters who uphold witch traditions (including her sister) also drop in from time to time.
- Fairy Tail, a series full of mages, has only one prominent one - Porlyusica, who is something of a Solitary Sorceress who lives in the woods and practices healing magic. She was once part of the guild, but still comes around to help out sometimes. It is later revealed that she is the Edolas version of Grandeneey, the dragon who raised Wendy. She wields a broomstick (though she never rides it, instead favoring to physically whack people with it) and mostly uses magic through potions, since, being from Edolas, she has no magic of her own.
- Nearly every witch in Tweeny Witches wears the pointy hats, rides brooms, wears black dresses, and casts magic with natural resources (particularly the body parts of the sprites). Arusu, the protagonist is also a part of a trio of friends (who are also witches), and Atelia, the authority figure in Witch Haven, is one of the three sages who formes a group of three witches to recapture every different type of the sprites.
- In Kiki's Delivery Service, the titular Kiki is a witch-in-training. She doesn't wear the pointed hat but does wear a black dress, rides on a broomstick and has a black cat who she can speak to through magic. Her mother does magic with potions but other witches do things like fortune telling. Witches go on a journey to live along for a year as part of their training, and leaving on a full moon is the best night.
- The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz is a very famous version of a classic witch. She wears black, rides a broom, has the pointy hat and has a sister.
- The three witch sisters from Hocus Pocus, complete with sister, brooms, colonial dresses and Eyeof Newt. They are traditional Wicked Witch versions.
- In Practical Magic all the main characters, including the very traditional New-Age Retro Hippie aunts as well as the younger heroines. Brooms and potions are both used in magic in the film and they even wear the traditional clothes during Halloween.
- Witches in Discworld. The pointy hats are very important, since a lot of being a witch is based on everyone else seeing you as a witch. The black clothes seem to be mostly because witches are practical and black is hard-wearing. Nanny Ogg and more recently Granny Weatherwax have cats. Broomsticks are generally only used by witches, even though they're made by dwarfs and can be flown by anyone, even without magical talent. One difference from the standard version is that although witches are Always Female, and Discworld magic is hereditary, witchcraft isn't passed down from mother to daughter here, it being considered that young witches should learn from another witch with a different way of doing things to prevent a family's magical style from coiling in on itself.
- Meg, from Jan Pienkowski's Meg and Mog series.
- Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter Film-verse (although the book universe could possibly count). She was seen on the Quidditch Plaque in Philosopher's Stone, which meant she must've had skill with a broomstick, not to mention she turns into a cat, and her image is never complete without her hat.
- Most of the witches in the book version fit the mould, wearing robes and pointy hats, keeping cats or owls as pets, and flying on broomsticks. Younger witches tend to forgo the robes for muggle clothing outside of school, though.
- A Rare Male Example is Severus Snape. The potions master dresses all in black, is stand-offish, mysterious, and often downright unpleasant, and his magical specialty is brewing potions from herbs and fantastical ingredients.
- Many characters in the Dorrie the Little Witch books fit this, including Dorrie herself and her mother.
- Blackadder referenced this trope a few times, with three witches who are based of the Macbeth ones in the first series, and a "Wise Woman" in the second.
- The students of The Worst Witch fit the mold as witches in training, with the long robe as a part of the uniform and all students receiving a kitten in their first year.
- Morwen from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Most of witch society in this series adheres to Wicked Witch imagery, though mostly as a way of protecting their solitude. Morwen dispenses even with this and just seems like a woman who lives in the woods, wears mostly black, and has an unusual number of cats.
- Mrs Dzwon in Shaman Blues fits the mold quite well, being not the Witch Species typical for the story, but more of a hedge witch, complete with nature magic, affinity with earth and dark clothing.
- The titular Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who had a black cat who was a former warlock, but other than that was rather devoid of most witchy tropes. Her aunts on the other hand, play it pretty straight, being sisters with the flowy gypsy-like clothes and the occasional potion brewing.
- Hanna-Barbera produced the opening animation, in which Samantha Stevens wears the conical hat and dark cape, and rides a broom sidesaddle. Since Samantha herself usually averts this, the opening clues in the audience from get-go that she's a practicing witch, masquerading as a suburban housewife.
- Samantha usually averts this, but in one Halloween episode Endora turns Darrin into a Witch Classic to teach him a lesson about tolerance. However, he volunteers to be the chaperon for his daughter's class's trick-or-treat outing, and he garners rave reviews for his perfect witch costume.
- In an episode of Big Time Rush, Camille auditions for a movie about witches impersonating one of these. A case of Wrong Genre Savvy since the producers weren't looking for witch classic and rather by more contemporary hot witches.
- Granny Addams from The Addams Family also has many witch characteristics except for the hat. The original series is more ambiguous whether she's actually a witch or not, but the reboot The New Addams Family takes this Up to Eleven making her doing spells and even having to renew her Witch license in one episode when she's visited by two classic pointy hat witches.
- The titular witch in Simon And The Witch has many of the classic trappings: broom, cat, wand, sistership. However, she lives in an ordinary, modest suburban house.
- The witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. They cackle, rhyme, and have a cauldron full of nasty stuff.
- Tessa from Red Earth would seem to be a modern update of this trope (if not, she comes close). Her robes are white and a bit more festive and revealing than your traditional witch, not to mention that she uses a magic wand, but she has the trademark pointed hat (which appears to be alive in some depictions), owns four cats (two of which—Al and Ivan—actually aid her in battle), is often shown thumbing through what is presumably her spell book, and is seen riding on a broomstick during Pocket Fighter/Super Gem Fighter: Mini-Mix. The only difference is that she refers to herself as a sorcerologist, one who employs magic in her studies to discern the nature of the universe, and as such, Tessa's brand of witchcraft seems to be a mix of classical cauldron brewing and alchemy.
- Except for the lack of a cat, Touhou's Marisa Kirisame is an example in both the modern Windows games and the, appearance wise, completely different, PC-9801 era Marisa.
- The witches from Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. They are actually a staple of the Castlevania series.
- Gruntilda "Grunty" Winkybunion, the primary antagonist of the Banjo-Kazooie series plays this trope straight full-on. She wears black clothes and a pointy hat, rides a broomstick, uses magic as her primary method of attack, has three sisters (one of whom is a Fairy Godmother), talks in rhyme (except in Banjo-Tooie at the request of an annoyed Mingella and Blobbelda), and owns a cat named Piddles in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.
- Final Fantasy has two witches named Matoya, in Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy XIV. The latter one is a specific Mythology Gag of the first. Both of them have the classic appearance, but the XIV incarnation wears shades of blue and wields a staff. Interestingly, they have several magic brooms, which are enchanted to be semi-sentient and mostly clean her cave home. The XIV version also has Porrogos, magic-wielding frog-like beings, as familiars, which are also sentient.
- Monster Prom: The Coven is a trio of world saving witches that are aesthetically based on the Wiccans, rather than the old witches, but still befitting this trope. They even dress in black and walk in a group of three girls.
- Witch Hazel from Looney Tunes has green skin, a black cloak and hat, flies on a broom, and brews potion (sometimes with Bugs Bunny as a prospective ingredient).
- Disney also had a Witch Hazel in the Donald Duck short "Trick or Treat". The only thing the two have in common, beside the name, is that they're both voiced by June Foray.
- Hanna-Barbera's Winnie Witch, who is a lot like the Witch Hazels above.
- A witch riding a broom and giddy with martinis drops her magic wand in the Pink Panther cartoon "Pink-A-Rella." Pink finds the wand and uses it to transform an impoverished girl into a dazzling debutante so that she can meet her idol, Pelvis Parsley. The boozy witch returns to confront Pink about reclaiming her wand. This cartoon was directed by Friz Freleng.
- The Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Flying Sorceress" has a classic witch with almost every feature: conical hat with wide brim, flying broom, witchcraft, wicked cackle, haunted house ... missing only the feline familiar. Tom Cat arrives at her home to apply for the position of cat companion.
- Mrs. Crone in Gravedale High as her name implies has green skin, long nose, pointy hair and a cat. Shes never shown doing magic though, except for her ability to control her iron hand at distance.
- The witches in the Neitherworld in Beetlejuice are very classic in their look. During the Halloween Episode in which Beetlejuice and Lydia have to rescue Percy (Lydia's cat) from a witch going undercover into a witches' coven. Lydia goes for the more Vain Sorceress attire whilst Beetlejuice chooses the classic look.
- Witches also exist in The Real Ghostbusters universe, apparently as a supernatural specie of beings, unlike other creatures their alignment may vary as the witch appearing in episode "If I Were a Witch Man" was evil and the one in episode "Kitty-Cornered" was friendly. But all have the classic witch look though.
- Witches are also of this variety in the Casper the Friendly Ghost universe. Like ghosts, witches seem to be Always Chaotic Evil except for one member of their species, Wendy. Witches are also ugly hags except, again, for Cute Witch Wendy probably because Beauty Equals Goodness.
- Wishfart has a witch named Dusty, who has all the trappings of a Witch Classic - green skin, pointy hat, witchy magic, etc. Ironically, she gets offended by witch stereotypes and people assuming her to have such traits.