by T. Mack
Have you ever considered how many different cultures create the foundation of modern America? It’s a lot. Consider it for a moment and really think through it. There’s Native American, British, Spanish, French, African, Chinese, and too many others to list here. Now consider this… every single one of these cultures has some form of legend or belief in witches and witchcraft. Even when they’re not called witches exactly, there is someone in the history of nearly every culture who could be put in that classification. It’s such an interesting thing to think about- all these different beliefs, customs, languages, and practices that meld together to make our unique culture. But they all have witches in common. Is it any wonder that witches play such a prominent role in our entertainment, from literature to plays to television to movies? No matter the medium, witches are iconic and legendary.
I love witches and greatly adore them as part of my entertainment. I enjoy witch stories. I gobble them up. Almost all witches get my love: spell-casting witches, potion-making witches, good witches, bad witches, natural witches, practicing witches, whatever. And in case you were wondering, I absolutely count wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and mages in this category. Fortunately for me, there is lots of entertainment that features these folks and lets me enjoy them in all their magical glory. I’ve even found that if you pay special attention, there are some pretty fascinating things you can learn from witches and their stories. Allow me to break it down.
Here are ten things that makes witches so amazing and what they’re able to teach us about ourselves:
1. Witches are Magical!
Obviously! Witches do magic. That’s the whole point. That’s what makes them witches. But it’s more than that. There is something supremely cool and enchanting about the fact that they do magic. It helps that there are almost as many ways of doing magic as their are witches. Some use charms, others spells. Many use potions, some use enchantment, and still others utilize the simple power of suggestion. There are even witches with no “powers” who still manage to make magic happen for themselves and others.
The Lesson: It’s not the powers you have that make you magical… it’s what you do with whatever you have that defines you.
If you’re looking for a witch whose magic is of the most subtle variety, check out The Good Witch on Hallmark Channel. She has a special way of tapping into the magic inside of other people that they didn’t even know they had.
2. Witches are Good
Witches. like everyone else, can be good, bad, or a little bit of both. The best good witches show us everything we wish we could be. They contradict the adage about absolute power corrupting absolutely. They remind us that we each have the power–magical or otherwise–to make the world a better place.
The Lesson: Don’t be defined by your powers (or skills or knowledge or talents)… instead decide who you will be and use your powers to show the world who you are.
My personal favorite good witches are those fabulous and fashionable Halliwell sisters, a.k.a. The Charmed Ones. These ladies are the ultimate force of good and must stand against the worst that the underworld has to offer, even The Source of all evil.
3. Witches are Bad
Although it’s really nice to see witches be good, it can be even more entertaining to see them be very, very bad. Bad witches are heinous, corrupt, and often vile creatures who will stop at nothing to gain and maintain power. In these witches we see the worst of ourselves and are reminded what can happen when we let selfishness, greed, or revenge corrupt and destroy us.
The Lesson: Power alone doesn’t make you great. It doesn’t even make you powerful. If you let it corrupt you, all it really makes you is a villain.
If you haven’t yet met Vanessa and the gang from Penny Dreadful, you should rectify that situation. Vanessa is stuck in the place between light and dark and must make some very hard choices to determine which side she will come out on in the end.
4. Witches Have Natural Talent
Some witches are born with their power, skill, or talent. These are natural witches. From birth, there is something inside them that can be harnessed. However, without learning to properly harness their power, it can be useless or worse, dangerous.
The Lesson: Natural talent means nothing if you’re not willing to put in the work to hone it.
See the daughters from Witches of East End for more on this. These girls learn of their talent late in life and don’t have much time to master their magic before they must defend themselves and those they love.
5. Witches Have Practiced Skills
Not all witches come by their abilities naturally. And even many who do must work hard to control and utilize their magic. In some iterations, witchcraft is just that, a craft that can be studied and learned by anyone… if they’re willing to put in the work.
The Lesson: You don’t always have to be a natural. Sometimes, you just have to work unnaturally hard to reach your goals and make your dreams come true.
To see an example of this, look to the sisters of Practical Magic. For one of them, magic comes easily, but she rejects using it. For the other, magic is not so natural. However, she fully embraces who she is and learns (somewhat) how to use the magic to which she does have access. However, their lack of practice and skill gets them into trouble in the long run and they have to do a lot of work to make things right again.
6. Witches Have Spells
Witches utilize lots of different methods to make and harness magic. One of the most common is spell-casting. This seems like it would be as simple as speaking a few words and making things go poof. But witches often find that casting spells without skill, knowledge, and control can make a very big mess of things.
The Lesson: Even when the steps seem straight-forward, take care and be diligent in your efforts. A lack of attention to details can create significant consequences.
One of the most powerful spell-casting witches around is Willow Rosenberg from the legendary 90’s TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willow was a bad-ass witch. But her lack of care and her flippant attitude about magic and the spells she cast ultimately carried a very high price.
7. Witches Have Potions
Sometimes words just aren’t enough. Often, witches must create a brew, stew, or potion to get the desired effect. When done properly, potions can pack a very powerful punch. But they take time, patience, and precision to master. Even the best witches take their time to make potions right.
The Lesson: Start your projects on time so you can take the time you need to do them right. Otherwise, you could end up with a big mess, a useless product, and a lot of wasted time.
I can’t possibly talk about potions without mentioning Harry Potter and the smartest witch he knows, Hermione Granger. Even this brilliant witch got a potion wrong one time. And as a result, she found herself in a very… hairy… situation.
8. Witches are Fun
Magic is fun. Witches can be, too. They can be funny, campy, witty, silly, and a host of other delightful adjectives. Many movies, books, and other stories exist that highlight the more playful side of witchcraft. They bring the magic and keep it light so that everyone–even the kiddos–can have a good time.
The Lesson: Everything doesn’t have to be dark and brooding all the time. Sometimes, even those things that live in the dark can be exposed to the light and become less scary for everyone.
My sister geek, Jen P, has a trio of funny witches that are her absolute favorites. And while they’re not my faves, I have to admit they do help make a great time. Check out the wacky and witless sister witches of Hocus Pocus when you get the opportunity. Chances are they’ll make you giggle at least a little.
9. Witches are Scary
Some witches are not at all of the fun variety. Some of them are evil and dwell in dark stories of terror that make your skin crawl and turn your dreams into nightmares. Some witches are not suitable for children to know about them. They are bad witches, mistresses of the devil, bringers of the dark, instruments of evil. They show us what not to do, what not to be, and the things of which we should be very, very afraid.
The Lesson: The darkness is real. No matter what origin you believe in, believe that there is darkness. And though it does not rely on magic, it is terrible and frightening and in our world. Remember that and remember to do what you can to stand against it.
If you’re so inclined, you can see some very naughty witches on Salem. I will be honest. I did not get far in this show. While it was very well-made, I find that I enjoy the lighter side of magic. The tone on this series is better suited for those who wish to dive deep into the dark side.
10. Witches Entertain
Be they good, bad, or both, witches are entertaining. The idea of magic is exciting. Witch stories allow us to explore that notion and experience the enchantment that we aren’t able to in real life. After all, that’s why many of us dive into stories, bury our noses in books, and lock our eyes onto television and movie screens. We want to escape our own lives and find out what can happen in a world unlike our own. Witches harness magic. Magic fuels imagination. Imagination enchants our minds. And so, witches make magic real.
The Lesson: Magic is real. Every time we allow ourselves to be enchanted by nature’s beauty, stunned by the goodness of others, overwhelmed by love for one another, we experience the magic that life has to offer. When we let our imagination take us away from ourselves, when we discover amazing and incredible things that we couldn’t imagine, when we look into the night sky and see the light from a million miles away, we’ve experienced magic. It’s important that we remember the magic in our world, in our lives, in ourselves. Despite the darkness around us, we have to remember that there is magic. And we must allow ourselves to be enchanted. Otherwise, we miss so much of what makes life worth living.