Witches have had a pretty bad rap. Throughout history they’ve been portrayed as ugly old hags bent on evil doing or using magic for profit. The Stygian Witches personify this stereotype. Three hideous crones sharing one eye and one tooth between them and practicing cannibalism (although how they managed to eat flesh with one tooth is beyond me). The Weird Sisters in MacBeth represent darkness, chaos, and conflict. They manipulate MacBeth into committing murder and destroying lives.
More recently witches have undergone a major public relations campaign. Hermione in Harry Potter, Amelia Broadway in True Blood, any number of characters in any given LJ Smith book. Good witches performing good acts and cute to boot. It follows in the footsteps of vampires morphing from bat-like monsters to creepy old dudes with bad hair to sexy young teenage thangs.
We’re so fickle when it comes to our mythological creatures.
Somehow wizards have never suffered the same disdain. Merlin, Gandalf, Dumbledore…all flawed but generally seen as good guys. And somehow they always seem to have a long grey beard. Talk about stereotypes.
Here’s my theory. The above wizards are a result of the Days of the Druids. They represent a time long past when magic played a very real part in people’s every day lives. When Christianity came along and communing with nature was no longer kosher, these wizards were created and idealized as a homage to a previous culture that is still held dear to many people. If you want proof of this, go to Ireland, where strict Catholics still believe in faeries.
Witches, on the other hand, have always represented the evil ways of women. (Somehow female druids got side stepped on this one). The story of Eve and how she screwed everything up for Adam is pretty old example of this. Women are stronger then men in every way except physically. Men didn’t appreciate this. Strong women must be manipulative and evil, right? Eve. Evil. Coincidence? I think not. Hey! Let’s suppress them! For centuries, any woman who was not subservient was suspected of and often accused of being a witch. They were burned and drowned and hung. Oftentimes only the manner in which they died could prove that they weren’t a witch after all. But they still died.
Then you get the Wiccans. In the strictest sense of the word Wiccans are not witches. Wicca is a neopagan religion that, while a relatively modern concept in and of itself, has been around since the dawn of man in some form or another. You can be both or you can be either/or. Wiccans have a deep appreciation for Mother Nature and all she represents. Not to be confused with hippies (have I mentioned how much I hate hippies?) One perk of practicing Wicca for the ladies is that the Goddess is worshipped just as much as the God. In trying to convert the Pagans, Christianity elevated the Virgin Mary to a sort of pseudo-Goddess-like status. You know, kind of like how they decided to celebrate Christ’s birthday in December instead of sometime in September.
In short, my friends, witches represent magic and I think we can all agree that magic makes for a very good time.