In our book Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, And Raise Hell With Your Coven (Quirk) we talk about taking inspiration from the historical and cultural idea of the witch: a woman who, whether or not she has magical powers, possesses an uncanny ability to fly in the face of expectations. The witch looks out for herself and her sisters, chases down forbidden knowledge, and thumbs her (possibly warty) nose at propriety. And if some people find her scary, well… often that says more about them than it does about her.
But which witch should be your role model? We’ve compiled a list of ten of our favourite pop culture witches to get you started.
It would be easy to peg Hermione as a mere bookworm, but time and again she proves she contains multitudes. She’s a fighter, a kind friend, and not above snagging an invite to the dance by flirting with the hot guy from out of town. Hermione is proof that no one thing can define you. Only you get to define yourself.
Frank Baum didn’t originally name the Wicked Witch of the West, but she got a new life in Gregory MacGuire’s Wicked. Here we see the origin story of your classic misunderstood villain. We’ve been taught she was evil, but really she was doing her part to stand up to a fascist and xenophobic government. She reminds us that doing what’s right sometimes means making enemies.
The depiction of Willow’s witchcraft in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer was complicated. It could be read as a metaphor for power, confidence, addiction, and even malicious lesbianism. But through the convoluted plot of the show, Willow winds up as the only being with magic in the world, and determined to share it with as many people as possible. Magic’s no good if you’re not going to be generous with it.
Raise your hand if you actually wanted to be the sexy, vivacious drag queen sea witch, not the moony teenage princess, when you watched The Little Mermaid. Yeah, she’s devious, and yeah, she’s imprisoned the souls of thousands, but everyone else was just so dull by comparison.
Okay, you probably shouldn’t emulate Melisandre in your everyday life. She did literally burn children. BUT she also makes murderous smoke come out of her vagina, and manages to stand by her beliefs while still leaving room to question them. That’s power. Every once in a while, let yourself be the cryptic bitch you need to be.
Terry Pratchett’s young adult books about Tiffany Aching show the eponymous heroine learning to be a witch—and finding out that it’s more about hard work and psychology than hocus-pocus. Tiffany can be impatient and a little conceited, but she’s also loyal, sensible, extremely perceptive, and good at making cheese. She, and the witches who teach her, remind us that sometimes “witchcraft” is just a fancy word for keeping your house in order and caring for your own.
Gillian Owens is the wilder of the Owens sisters in Practical Magic. She’s the one who’ll get a tattoo on a dare, move across country just because she feels like it, and collect men like they’re Pokemon. She’s also a fiercely loyal and devoted sister, niece and aunt. Sometimes her spontaneity can get the best of her, but hey, sometimes the best way to get rid of a man is to hex his maple syrup.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Sabrina is the type of witch many of us strive to be–trying to understand the weird world around us, taking care of the people we love, and always using our powers for good. Okay, sometimes she makes things really weird for a day at school, but she knows how to forgive herself and apologize to others for her mistakes. Also, who doesn’t want a sassy talking cat?
Sarah in The Craft is one of those witches who understands the right choices are not always easy to make. It would have been easy for her to follow her coven into reckless and harmful magic, but instead she fights against them, even when they try to use her mental health struggles against her.
The Witches of Eastwick
Is there any better story than one where three powerful women discover they’re better off without a toxic man? We think not. The Witches of Eastwick (from either the book or the film) are indeed manipulated by a man, but grow to understand they’re stronger together. It’s the ultimate triumph of female friendship. And of course, Cher is the best.
BASIC WITCHES: HOW TO SUMMON SUCCESS, BANISH DRAMA, AND RAISE HELL WITH YOUR COVEN by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman is available now from Quirk Books