"In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks"
Witch with pointed, hat, broom and cat (Famous Cat Merlin with Witch)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWitch with pointed, hat, broom and cat (Famous Cat Merlin with Witch) - Credit: garlandcannon

A witch is someone who practises witchcraft. In The Witches, these are foul, frightening female creatures. In folklore, witches may be good or evil. Good witches are often referred to as white witches.

In Scandinavian folktales, witches are generally female, have prominent noses and keep cats. They fall into three categories:

1. The troll wife or trollkonor: they resemble their husbands, i.e. large, hairy, ugly and stupid, and are said to possess magical powers.

2. The ‘classic’ wise woman of the woods: she lives alone in the forest, practises magic and will reciprocate if one favours her with gifts.

3. The dangerous and evil witch: they live the lives of ordinary women by day and bewitch at night. They also have the power to shape-shift.

Odin og Völven
Public DomainOdin og Völven - Credit: Lorenz Frølich

Völvas of Norse mythology dabbled in sorcery, shamanism and prophecy. They were revered in myth and often wielded a magic wand or staff.

Witches have received more attention of late with stories like the Harry Potter series, where witches are the female counterparts of wizards. One of the most iconic representatives of evil witches has to be the evil-stepmother-turned-witch of Snow White fame. Television has also seen many witches recently, e.g. Eastwick and Bonnie in The Vampire Diaries.