October 21, 2010

Top 10 Witches

....both real and fictional 

Beware the Broomstick

The Wicked Witch of the West
That's where the line 'I will get you my pretties' comes from. The Wicked Witch of the West ranks up there as one of the baddest villains in movie history even today. Some things never change for an effective bad guy (or gal): you gotta be mean, nasty, and look the part. You also gotta have minions; what better helpers than big ugly monkeys! *yikes*

The Witch of Endor
The Witch of Endor- In 1 Samuel, Saul (the first King of Israel) was concerned about the outcome of his tribe's impending battle against the Philistines. So even though sorcery was outlawed in his kingdom, Saul disguised himself and sought the services of a woman at Endor to conjure up the spirit of Samuel (a leader of ancient Israel), who informed him that he and his sons would die the next day in combat. Samuel was half right — Saul's sons were killed and the King committed suicide.

Baba Yaga
In some old Slavic accounts, Baba Yaga is a wizened hag who rides in a floating mortar that is directed in flight by its pestle. In other Russian tales, she lives in a hut in the woods ringed by a fence of skulls and elevated on a pair of chicken legs. In almost all versions, Baba Yaga is meant to be very, very scary — the creature best suited to frighten ill-behaved children since, according to legend, she has a habit of kidnapping and eating them. The name Baba Yaga derives loosely from generic Slavic terms for old women and grandmothers, but some etymologists and historians have linked it to older fire cults of Central Asia and animist traditions of Siberia. In an age of seers and shamans, she could very well be the original witch.

Macbeths Three Witches

"Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Thus begins, in Act I, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Scottish play, the Three Witches' dark, chaotic interaction with Macbeth, whom they prophesy will become King. Their often contradictory predictions form the foundation of one of the Bard's most downbeat tales. Turns out those ladies were nothing but "toil and trouble."

The Salem witch trials of 1692 comprise a moment in history that most Americans would rather forget. They offered a snapshot of a narrow-minded Puritanical society, terrified by its own superstitions and fears. Among the first three women to be put on trial was Tituba, a slave of mysterious origins — perhaps an African practitioner of voodoo, though most probably a Native American seized somewhere in the Caribbean. According to some accounts, she confessed to her crimes in order to avoid being beaten further by her master, the Rev. Samuel Parris, and revealed in supposed testimony that she had signed pacts with the devil, flown in the air on a stick and had visions of portentous creatures like cats and wolves. It was said that her alien presence had compelled other women to fall under Satan's spell. Yet, unlike many others rounded up by the Salem witch hunts, Tituba was not hanged or crushed to death by weight of stones. She passed some time in prison before being released and disappearing from historical record — a vanishing that has only heightened her legend.

The Witch in Hansel & Gretel

For a children's fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel deals with some pretty serious themes: famine, abandonment and cannibalism. In the Brothers Grimm story, when Hansel and Gretel's family experiences a famine, the evil stepmother convinces her nice but misguided husband to abandon his children in the woods. After a series of twists and turns, the tykes come across a cottage built out of gingerbread and candies, which they greedily begin to eat until a witch opens the door and lures them inside with the promise of more sweets. Turns out this witch is the very worst kind: the type that eats people. She is eventually burned to death in an oven by Gretel. Oh, yeah, we forgot to mention there's immolation too.

This sorceress of Greek legend could change humans into wolves or pigs simply by taking drugs or reciting incantations. She was said to be the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and was a main character in Homer's The Odyssey. The Greek poet described her as living in a mansion surrounded by strangely doped-up lions and wolves. She sounds lovely.

Endora, who will probably go down in history as the
witch who wore the most eye shadow of any witch ever, was the mother of Samantha Stephens, the sorceress in the 1960s and '70s sitcom Bewitched. While she didn't take drugs or warn Israeli kings of impending death, Endora did have a fondness for popping in and out of scenes at just the right time to freak the bejesus out of Samantha's husband Darrin.

Bewitched's Nose Tinkle

Marie Laveau
Though Marie Laveau's legend has been somewhat difficult to prove, she is often described as New Orleans' most famous voodoo queen. Born around 1794, she worked for wealthy white families and was thought to be all-knowing and mystically powerful, melding Roman Catholicism with a belief of African spirits. She also happened to have a snake named Zombi. But it has been suggested that Laveau used moles in the various households she worked in to get information about people that she could use to make her appear omniscient. At the time of her death in 1881, the New York Times wrote, "To the superstitious Creoles, Marie appeared as a dealer in the black arts and a person to be dreaded and avoided."


Before Lord of the Rings fanboys get up in arms, let's be clear: Galadriel, J.R.R. Tolkien's great elf queen, played in Peter Jackson's films by Cate Blanchett, is no conventional witch with a bent hat and a broomstick. In Tolkien's text, the ones to call Galadriel a witch are her enemies and the occasional distrusting dwarf. But she's invested with abilities that many witches in folklore have also come to possess — most importantly a kind of terrifying, oracular power that allows her to see into the hearts of men and into the future. As the bearer of a magical Ring of Power, Galadriel also knows that she can become a great and devastatingly omnipotent presence herself. But she resists, and sends the epic's main characters along on their quest with gifts and her blessing, remaining, in the end, that wise ancient Lady of the Wood.

I like Zombies too . 


  1. So glad you put in Bewitched! My very favorite. I love this.

  2. Loved the list! What a great collection of the weird and the wonderful.


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