There’s no doubt that in the 16th and 17th century witches got, to put it mildly, a bad press. On the 325th anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials, our writers celebrate some excellent magic madams.
The Blair Witch
The witch I’d most like to hang out with in the woods is the Blair Witch. She’s my kinda gal. Admittedly she’s not a fan of social get-togethers, but then neither am I.
I think she’s very misunderstood and Hollywood has made her super-efficient babysitting methods look a little sinister. She’ll keep the kids quiet, that’s for damn sure. She also hates gap-year knobbers, so I can tell we’d get on just fine.
She’s got a lovely little cabin in the woods, perfect for a weekend getting away from it all. Plus she makes these awesome little stick figures to sell to tourists but everyone just seems afraid of them. What a waste. I don’t know her name, but she seems like a Linda.
Mother-in-law jokes… from ancient Rome to Les Dawson to Monster-in-Law, they have been a staple of our comedy diet for, let’s face it, far too long.
Endora was the character who turned that stale, sexist trope on its head…or at least it did for this kid growing up on daytime reruns of the classic American sitcom Bewitched.
The mortal-loathing, powerful yet delightfully petty, queen of a witch, Endora was the mother of the lead character Samantha.
She existed mostly to apparate from seemingly nowhere, mither the hell out of Samantha’s mundane white-bread husband Darrin and spout feminist wisdom. She knew being a witch was fabulous and Darrin was a boring idiot.
To many observers, Endora embodied a Betty Friedan type character. Keep in mind, this was 1964, mainstream American network TV. That’s why Endora, as played by Agnes Moorehead, is my favourite witch. Enjoy a brief clip of her tormenting Derwin Darrin, here:
My favourite witch is Gytha ‘Nanny’ Ogg, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
I could have chosen one of Pratchett’s two wonderful witch protagonists: steely, no-nonsense Esme Weatherwax or courageous teen witch Tiffany Aching. I could have chosen the lovably awkward Agnes Nitt or wet blanket junior coven member turned witch Queen Magrat Garlick, but Nanny has such a special place in my heart, it has to be her.
I played her once, in a student production of Maskerade, and have never had so much fun on stage. Being Nanny involves a bandy-legged swagger of a walk – not least because of all the stuff she keeps in her bloomers – and a brash, loud, unapologetic joy for all the sensual pleasures of life.
She has one tooth, a face like a wrinkled apple and a literal army of beloved offspring (the kingdom she lives in is very small, and mostly defended her many strapping sons). She is kindly and loving and full of fun, but if you fuck with her or her loved ones, you are in serious trouble.
Pratchett created his world’s witchcraft to be a lifelong devotion to community care. The Discworld witches largely use their magic for pain relief and other healthcare in their local area, and Ogg has the temperament and the incredible midwifery skills to not just be integrated and accepted in her community, but practically central to it.
Her main power is an uncanny affinity with human beings, which makes her a great friend to even the prickliest of witches, and a fascinating, warm, rich character to read.
Gabby Hutchinson Crouch
Hermione has to be my favourite witch. Big brained and big haired – both things that I was bullied for – I could immediately relate to her. Despite her natural flair at witchcraft, she was never immune to bullying either, be it for being clever, or having fat hair, or being a Muggle-born witch and therefore different.
The moment she leapt from the pages of my first Harry Potter book I knew that I would either want to be her, or want to be her best friend. I firmly believe, along with many others, that were it not for Hermione’s quick thinking, kindness and bravery that both Harry and Ron would have come to very sticky ends.
Those of you who have read or seen The Cursed Child will understand me when I say, look at what we could have won… And until a real-life Hermione does indeed take on such a role, she continues to give us hope from the humblest of hearts.
Bloody hell, it may be 40-odd years old and gently taking the piss out of the Arthurian legend, but the witch scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail feels very much like Twitter’s recent vile knuckle-headed attack on Lily Allen. And on Leslie Jones. And Jess Ennis-Hill. Y’know, women. As a wise pal pointed out, Twitter is the new Salem. “That woman’s expressed an opinion… BURN HER!”
It’s just four minutes long, but witch village was always one of my favourite Holy Grail moments, with the Pythons simultaneously trolling science and witch-hunts. Sir Bedevere (Terry Jones) tries to reason with a mob of menfolk (Palin, Idle and Cleese centre-stage of course) who claim to have found a witch (Connie Booth). Their logic is faulty, so the smart knight provides some of his own – alternative facts to their lies, if you will.
In short: if a woman weighs the same as a duck, she’s made of wood and therefore a witch. BURN HER! Let’s show some sisterly solidarity, eh, and change our Twitter avatars to pictures of ducks. As Booth mutters at the end, “It’s a fair cop.”
BONUS WITCHERY: Click here for an exclusive watch of Wyrdoes, Nat Luurtsema’s ace short film about the witches in Macbeth.5805 Views
Some of Standard Issue's brilliant women's carefully crafted words for your reading pleasure.