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Happy Thursday Fantasy fans!

(Mountain Time, in case you were wondering) I would like to talk about the mythology of witches. In my introductory post Why I Love Fantasy, I briefly mentioned how witches could be used as a metaphor for an empowered woman in your life. This clearly was not always the case.

Persecuted Witches

In ancient times, being a witch was seriously bad thing. If you wanted to get rid of that horrible woman who was seducing your husband, suspiciously good at healing people, or way too beautiful for her own good, simply call her a witch. Problem solved, she’s dead.

Women were 3rd class citizens (men and boys being 1st and 2nd ), with very few rights and virtually no power. Women who seemed to have too much power made easy targets for persecution and…public murder.

Healing women and midwives were the most commonly persecuted people. Back when science and logic were seen as magic and corruption, these women were often targeted by the church. Knowledge is power, and women were expected to be powerless. So what happens when someone who isn’t supposed to have power somehow does? Its magic! She’s a witch, burn her!

The physical depiction of witches was almost as unpleasant as their treatment. (Unpleasant for the men at least. All women must be pretty!) Usually referred to as hags, they were often seen as ugly old women. Even now, the classic halloween witch that children dress up as is a green skinned woman with a dramatically large nose and warts.

Empowered Witches

Some time in the 20th century, witches changed from a symbol of persecution to empowerment. Some of the stigma is still attached to them (queue promiscuous evil witches who want to steal men, or who jealously kill women they see as competition), but these days the sexy and sweet witch is more common than the ugly old hag.

The earliest positive depiction of witches that I can think of, is Bewitched. A sweet blonde women who, with the wrinkle of her cute little nose, could make magic happen. What a change!

My favorite depiction of witches is from the Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman movie Practical Magic. These beautiful free-spirited witches teach us a lesson on empowerment, family and love.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch is another television series featuring a cute blonde witch who uses her powers in attempts to solve her teenage problems. I remember the series being a positive, and funny show about the plights of teenagedom.

The Vampire Diaries also does something fantastic with witches. Not only are witches powerful, nurturing, and beautiful women, they are also minorities. How is that for empowerment of a once persecuted people?

Maybe I should have titled this, From Execution to Empowerment.

What are your favorite empowering depictions of witches?

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MG Silverstein

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Hello! My name is MG Silverstein, and I am a budding novelist and avid bookworm. I like to consider myself a fantasy genre addiction enabler. I’m currently pursuing my English degree, and writing an urban fantasy series.