Traditionally, witches have been depicted as evil women who are either haggard and old, or young and seductive (and often secretly haggard and old underneath). In European fairy tales, witches are almost always evil but modern witches are thankfully a little less black and white. They are a staple in fantasy fiction, in folklore and legends, and of course are a big part of Halloween. So, as October is the month of Halloween, today I want to share a list of 13 fantastic witches from good to scary and to those in between.
Mildred Hubble – The Worst Witch
Mildred Hubble’s stories follow her studies at the OG boarding school for witches – Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Mildred is the worst witch in her class from being clumsy to turning up late but she has a good heart. It’s a fun series of books that’s been adapted into a film and for TV 3 times.
Sabrina Spellman – Sabrina the Teenage Witch
At 16, Sabrina discovers that she is half witch, half mortal and begins training along with juggling life as a teenager. I recently rewatched this and it is still funny (the high school years in particular) and what I really like about Sabrina is how genuinely nice she. You see a lot of sarky, wise-cracking and selfish characters in teen shows these days but Sabrina was just a lovely human being who got into lots of trouble.
Hermione Granger – The Harry Potter series
How can you have a list of great witches without acknowledging Hermione Granger? Born of muggle parents and despite having no idea that the wizarding world existed until she was 11, she is intelligent, a loyal friend and described as the brightest witch of her age. She comes across as a know-it-all at first but that’s probably just a combination of excitement and overcompensation for all the time lost.
Kiki – Kiki’s Delivery Service
With both the traditional broomstick and black cat familiar, 13-year-old Kiki sets off to find her place in the world and ends up running a delivery service. Kind, young and not yet sure of herself, the film is a coming-of-age story. This is a genre I usually don’t like but Miyazaki is an exception.
The Grand High Witch – The Witches
In Roald Dahl’s The Witches, he sets some parameters to identify them: witches hide their claws under gloves, they’re bald so they wear wigs and they can smell children. The witches in this book were terrifying because they punish children by in inventive ways such as trapping them in paintings and turning them into animals. The Grand High Witch is the most powerful witch in the world and has plan to eradicate all children. Terrifying.
Jadis/The White Witch – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
Another scary witch on the list is Jadis, also known as The White Witch. She appears to be kind at first, luring Edmund in. She turns people to stone, brings eternal winter and is a warrior. It’s also said that she’s part-giant and part-jinn making her more mysterious and more monstrous. A bit more of a black and white villain, but truly terrifying.
The Wicked Witch of the West – The Wizard of Oz
The Wicked Witch of the West is probably the most iconic witch in Western culture. From her green skin, hooked nose, all black outfit and flying on a broomstick, she is every bit the stereotype of a witch. Although the antagonist of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy does drop a house on her sister and then steals her shoes so she has every right to be angry – hence why Wicked is such a compelling retelling.
Morgana Le Fay – Merlin
I adored BBC’s Merlin which reimagines Arthurian legend. Here, Morgana Le Fay is King Uther’s ward. The king has banished magic and Morgana eventually grows to hate him when she discovers that she has magical powers and that she would never be accepted by him. Although some of the acting is a bit over the top, I love how Morgana ends up spying on her surrogate father in order to take him down from the inside and isn’t just evil for evil’s sake.
Ursula – The Little Mermaid
Based on a drag queen, Ursula is one of the best Disney villains and is a really fun witch. She relishes trapping and manipulating mer-people with contracts and promises and of course wants power too. Again, the antagonist of the tale but she’s so much fun to watch on screen and Poor Unfortunate Souls is a fantastic piece that captures her character perfectly.
Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty
Maleficent is the kind of woman who doesn’t get invited to a party and then curses you for life. That in itself is incredibly evil but I have also read that in the rules of medieval society, it was really disrespectful to not invite someone as powerful as Maleficent to a royal christening. So really, the way could you expect more from her? Maleficent is cool, doesn’t suffer any fools and she turns into a fricking dragon. Nuff said.
The Evil Queen – Once Upon a Time
Regina Mills, also known as The Evil Queen is the main protagonist in Once Upon a Time for the first few seasons. But we explore her backstory and see what it is that made her become so evil in the first place and ultimately she has a redemption arc. Her fighting her bad side is such an interesting battle that even when she succumbs, you feel for her.
Willow/Dark Willow – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I am ending with one of my most favourite witches: Willow Rosenburg. She is a fantastic character from one of my all-time favourite shows. She starts off as a quiet, shy girl who is good with computers and grows into a powerful witch through the series. There’s also a story arc where she becomes evil – Dark Willow – and her journey to the dark side is so much more nuanced than her being 100% evil.