Hollywood has stirred its own cauldron of misrepresentation of witchcraft, magick, and practitioners for just about as long as its own existence. And while some may say that it does no harm, I highly disagree. Perpetuating the myths surrounding our practice only maintains these false storylines.
The representation of witches is whitewashed and rooted in systemic racism. It also prolongs depictions of the stereotypical Wicked Witch of the West, an insult to the witchcraft community. These portrayals of malevolency come from numerous sources in the entertainment industry.
I find this to be such a shame as a practitioner and member of the magickal coterie. There are a myriad of customs and paths that one could choose to use as a conduit to finding themselves. The collective opinion of witches absolutely comes from the picture painted by television and film.
Below I aim to clear a few things up.
Witches Are Not Power Hungry Or Evil
The reprehensible presentation of witches as greedy, vain, miserable creatures out to target children, men, and even whole countries is laughable. Is there such a thing as malevolent magick? Yes. Do all witches participate in such practices? Absolutely not.
If anything, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that the power hungry, evil witch character we see on the silver screen is far from the norm. Witchcraft does not revolve around the “I’m so much better than you” game or the revenge storyline.
Witches Do Not Have To Come From Witches
We are all familiar with the plot: a person comes to find out that they come from a line of practitioners. They are meant for magickal greatness. Their story develops and unfolds through courses of the trials and tribulations of becoming a witch.
Witchcraft is not designed this way.
Hereditary witches do exist, yes. Even so, this does not exclude those pursuing witchcraft who do not have “magickal blood” running through their veins. Every single human being possesses abilities that can be studied and explored and cultivated. There are not any prerequisites to becoming a witch.
Witchcraft Is Genderless
Here again we see the pattern of Hollywood categorizing characters into boxes; this time it’s male or female. According to the media, Witches are female and Wizards are male. Sometimes, Hollywood even likes to interchangeably use the term ‘Warlock’ with ‘Wizard’. Little do they seem to know is that a warlock is a malevolent practitioner.
Truth is, witchcraft is genderless. Gender-fluid, gender-nonconforming, nonbinary, trans, male, or any other self-identifying term chosen – everyone can be a witch. While it is true that the past holds many, many stories of women and their connection with witchcraft, that does not discount that there are TONS of other witches who are not women.
Not All Witches Are Satanists
With movies like ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘ glorifying a coven conjuring dark and malevolent energies, it’s easy to see where this myth got its popularity from. This is not to say that there are not witches out there who are Satanists or who worship Satan, because there are. But it is safe to say that the majority of practicing witches are not worshiping Satan, doing work on behalf of the Devil, stealing babies, or anything else portrayed by Hollywood.
Historically, when we look at the timeline of where Christianity and its Devil spawns from, witchcraft totally predates it. So where does this false connection come from? You guessed it: Hollywood. With the two having no real link, let’s lay this myth to rest.
Witchcraft Is Not Meant to Split People Apart
A really tired witchcraft trope in both television and film is the division of characters. When you think of the highly popular film The Craft, the witches fall into either the villain or heroine category by the end of the movie.
For the most part, the witchcraft community is more concerned with fostering relationships among practitioners, learning from different paths, keeping an open mind, and sharing inspiration with one another. There isn’t some evil agenda running the show.
Not All Witches Join Covens
As a solitary practitioner myself, I’ve always been amused by this portrayal. Hollywood really perpetuated the idea of witches always running in a crew of fellow practitioners. This could be to further the evil trope agenda via the strength in numbers maxim. Or perhaps the influence is rooted in literature like Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’.
Movies that portray covens include Rosemary’s Baby, The Witches of Eastwick, Suspiria, Four Rooms, Underworld, The Witch, Hereditary, and of course, The Craft. TV shows featuring covens include Charmed, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, True Blood, Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries, American Horror Story: Coven, The Owl House, and Witches of East End.
The takeaway is that every witch belongs to an organized group of practitioners. They all gather and plot, cast together, sometimes even live together, without the option of practicing alone. The solitary path is just as fulfilling as one of the collective.
The Craft Got It Wrong
This movie definitely holds cult classic status. I remember seeing the trailer for the first time and I got so excited that my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. Finally, a movie to represent my path. It was certainly a turning point for witchcraft in contemporary media.
Even with a Dianic Wiccan High Priestess on staff, Hollywood still managed to fudge it up. Pat Devin, the High Priestess, was the technical adviser on the film and lent her experience as a practicing Wiccan during pre-production. And while actual incantations and rites were the basis for the rituals and spells, the final cut of those scenes presented as cloddish and gawky.
Not All Witches Are White Women
This is beyond insulting to countless practitioners across the globe and it’s been going on for as long as Hollywood has been able to control the narrative. To think that witches are only made up of white women is absolutely absurd.
Beyond the whitewashing, any supporting minority characters fall prey to inaccurate representation and racist storylines. Typical categories where POC witches are put are either the BFF to the protagonist practitioner or the witch who sacrifices, hexes, and invokes evil.
Despicable. Do better Hollywood.
Witches Are Not the Hideous Hags They Are Portrayed To Be
The Wicked Witch of the West got top billing in The Wizard of Oz. Directly tied to her fame is the green skin, hooked nose, warts, scraggly black hair, high screechy voice, and long fingers to wave in the faces of children. She rode a broom, donned a pointy hat, and just as her name aptly identifies, she was indeed wicked.
This stereotype created by L. Frank Baum in 1900 continues to this day. Winifred Sanderson from Hocus Pocus is another witch shown as unsightly with her bad attitude and buckteeth. Images of old hags and crones are conjured in fairytales. Alas, in reality the facts are quite opposite.
Witches are beautiful and come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. Simply put, we’re hot. We’re brave. We’re confident. We’re inspired to follow our intuition, even when it’s scary.
Witches Are Not Selfish
In a lot of plots concerning witchcraft, the practitioner is portrayed as performing spellwork only for themselves. The Evil Queen in Snow White, for example, went to great lengths to cast a glamour, poison a piece of fruit, and utilize tricky tactics all for vain endeavors. The cannibalistic witch in Hansel and Gretel lured children with candy and cookies in order to eat them. And in ‘The Witches’ we see practitioners looking to obliterate children completely.
In reality, the majority of witches are actually quite public-spirited and altruistic. I personally cast for the people in my life and collectively for the highest good. There’s just something about stepping into your power and knowing you can help others out and I see this more often than not in the community.
Witches Do Not Exist to Serve Men
Put any man at the storytelling helm, give him the task of writing a witchcraft tale, and 99.999% of the time the witch will be ruled by masculine influence. Another sad, tired trope, this paints witches as subservient to men. What a joke.
I think witches carry this patriarchal weight tied to fear. A strong, powerful witch who knows just how powerful they are is terrifying to those who do not understand them. The notion that a witch is indebted or duty-bound to a man has been paraded around in TV shows and movies for decades. As it really is, witches ARE strong and powerful. In no way, shape, or form is a witch duty-bound to men, nor can a man define them – no matter how badly they may try or want to.
You know, I’m not sure Hollywood will ever get it right. I believe the continuation of these tropes, storylines, and plots could use an obvious overhaul. It’s been 82 long years since The Wizard of Oz first donned the silver screen. Don’t you think it’s time for a change?
I want to see different kinds of people in shows and movies. I want to see different bodies and personalities and backgrounds in the stories as the main characters. The history and culture behind witchcraft is so rich and diverse, it only makes sense to me that we embrace and celebrate it.
Hopefully one day Hollywood will really try. Try at inclusion and diversity – not just to tick boxes, but to be real. One can only hope.