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The History of the Wicked Witch

Updated on September 13, 2017

Wicked Witches - the Epithet

Where does the image of a "Wicked Witch" come from?

What makes a Witch "Wicked"? Do real "wicked witches" even exist?

It is the answers to these questions and more that let me to create this lens on the lore.


Wicked Witches - the Epithet

A Witch, a Hag, Pointy Hat, in rags,

Travels on broomsticks and conjures up spirits

With mysterious potions, and harrowing motions

And all of her pomp and debauchery

Seems only to foil and trip on her seams

In every fairy tale we glean

Our Wicked Witches are green and scary

their long bony fingers frighteningly hairy

With big ugly noses and warts they tarry

And cackle more awful than moaning black cats

As if nothing could really sound much worse than that

They cast magic spells and the stories they tell

Put kids in a trance so they dream the black hat

In the end wicked witches fear not - but they should,

For their "wicked" is weak as their empty black hood

kkay - October 2010

Photo: Crone by R2K

Witch of Endor
Witch of Endor

The Witch of Endor

A Biblical Witch

She was more of a medium, actually, this "Witch of Endor". A psychic of sorts, called on by Saul to channel king Samuel. The King James version calls her a witch, but since the King James version was translated around the same time Witches were being widely persecuted it may have simply been a more appropriate descriptive word for this person at the time, to call her a "witch".

Either way, she was not what one would consider "wicked". She is however , one of the earliest references in the English language of a witch, thus is worthy of mention in this Witch-ography.

Shakespeare's Witches

First Witch:

Thrice the brinded Cat hath mew'd.

Second Witch:

Thrice and once the Hedge-Pig whined.

Third Witch:

Harpier cries: 'Tis time, 'tis time.

Macbeth, Act 4, Scene I

Margaret Hamilto as the Wicked Witch
Margaret Hamilto as the Wicked Witch

The Most Famous Wicked Witch of All!

The Wicked Witch of the West

The Wizard of Oz, created by L. Frank Baum, was first published in 1900 as "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". Baum's "Wicked Witch of the West" was one of two mean and scary witches in the story. The other being the "Wicked Witch of the East", who is the sister of the other witch, and is killed at the beginning of the movie when Dorothy's house falls on her. It is the Wicked Witch of the East's ruby slippers which carry Dorothy home.

The image of Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" has been replicated over and over by children and storytellers alike. Her green skin and pointy nose, raspy, evil voice, and horrific black hat are the staples of "wicked witch" costumes everywhere.

The Wizard of Oz

Wicked Witch of the West - I'm Melting

White Witch
White Witch

The White Witch

of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

A much different image of a wicked witch conjures up when one thinks of the White Witch from C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe". As the "Queen" of Narnia, she is certainly worthy of her ugly counterparts, but this evil hag is, in appearance at least, quite beautiful. She represents the evil that lies beneath, and the caution that we all must take, when putting our trust in the wrong deity.

Her tempting and evil ways are still no match for our hero Aslan, yet, she is indeed a worthy adversary!

White Queen - The Song by Queen

one of the first songs I ever heard by Queen. Eerily sad and haunting, yet lovely, a bit like the White Queen of Narnia. Coincidence?

The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis

Shakespearean Witches II

Round about the Cauldron go;

In the poison'd Entrails throw.

Toad, that under cold stone

Days and Nights has thirty-one

Swelter'd Venom sleeping got,

Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

Macbeth, Act 4, Scene I

Snow White Witch
Snow White Witch

Another Queen

is Disguised as a witch

While the white queen was a witch disguised as a queen, the witch in the Walt Disney classic "Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs" is actually a queen disguised as a witch.

The wicked way of this witch is based on pure jealousy - a fault befelled by so many of our fairy tale witches. She casts her spell upon Snow White with the poison apple.

Snow White, so sweet and gullible, takes it like candy. Poor girl!

Snow White - and the Old Witch

One Bad Apple!

One Bad Apple!
One Bad Apple!

How did Snow White - Win against the Evil Queen?

Double, double toyle and trouble,

Fire burn and Cauldron bubble.

Hansel and Gretel Witch
Hansel and Gretel Witch

Hansel and Gretel

Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Grim of "Grimm" does not go unnoticed, as the witch from Hansel and Gretel is perhaps the creepiest of them all. She may represent the true fear of the times that Women might actually be worth more to society than as a cook and housekeeper. This wicked witch sets out to eat her pray. Very scary indeed!

Was Grimm afraid women would devour him?

That makes me laugh...... a wicked, sinewy laugh.

Luckily for Hansel and Gretel, their Wicked Witch does not see well, and cannot tell Hansel is sticking out a bone every day instead of his finger. As does the poor children's wicked stepmother, the wicked witch counterpart ends up dead and the children live happily ever after with their father.

But one thing to be said for this wicked witch - can she build a cool gingerbread house or what?

A House of Candy - Made by a Witch?

A House of Candy - Made by a Witch?
A House of Candy - Made by a Witch?

in this Lens?

You're near the end, my dearies and friends!

Who is the wickedest witch of them all?

Who is the Wickedest Witch

See results

MacBeth meets the Witches

By the pricking of my Thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

Open, Locks,

Whoever knocks.

[Enter Macbeth.]

How now, you secret, black, and midnight Hags?

Macbeth, Act 4, Scene I

Rapunzel's Witch
Rapunzel's Witch

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair

a poor girl raised by a Wicked Witch

How Rapunzel turned out so sweet and innocent is mind boggling, because before she met the prince, the only person she ever laid eyes on was her own Wicked Witch.

Another Grimm fairy tale, this story is actually compiled from an older story, told both in German and French traditions, and like it's counterparts, is also from the 16th century.

Like art imitating life, these wicked witch stories must have been a reflection of the fear of the time surrounding witches and witchcraft. Thankfully in America less than two dozen women were burned at the stake, but in Europe the fear was much more widespread. Hence the rich folklore and stories of the day, lending their own spine tingling hand to the harsh reality and sting of death to so many innocents.

Let us hope the true victory over evil in these fairy tales brings us to remember those who did not win the battle, and honor them with an ironic twist. Innocence must prevail!

Rapunzel - Disney, 2010

The Witches of Eastwick - Not as Wicked as the rest

But still pretty evil - they have to be! Look at who they are up against!

Great Resource! - The Book of Witches

An Anthology of 12 fairy tale witches from Europe by Ruth Manning Sanders

but are they all wicked?

1. The Old Witch (England)

2. Rapunzel (Germany)

3. Lazy Hans (Germany)

4. The Twins and the Snarling Witch (Russia)

5. Esben and the Witch (Denmark)

6. Prunella (Italy)

7. The Donkey Lettuce (Germany)

8. Hansel and Gretel (Germany)

9. Tatterhood (Norway)

10. The White Dove (Denmark)

11. Johnny and the Witch-Maidens (Bohemia)

12. The Blackstairs Mountain (Ireland)

Comments, Suggestions Welcome! - Thank you for stopping by!

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    • tomazg profile image

      tomazg 5 years ago

      Great lens about wicked witches! I really enjoyed reading it!

    • profile image

      grannysage 5 years ago

      I came across this lens while doing some research for my Wicked Witch lens and was so surprised to see her featured here. Thanks so much! I've so much more I want to say about wicked witches; why are they wicked? I still haven't figured it out.

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 5 years ago

      Some of my favourite Witches are here.

    • HealthfulMD profile image

      Kirsti A. Dyer 5 years ago from Northern California

      Wickedly fun lens.

    • awakeningwellness profile image

      awakeningwellness 6 years ago

      Being as I am a fan of witches I really enjoyed visiting with all this wonderful wickedness!

    • DreamingBoomer profile image
      Author

      Karen Kay 6 years ago from Jackson, MS

      @Nightcat: I did not realize they were based on a real goddess - but you are definitely right! At least the evil side of her! I found an awesome depiction of her and changed to the photo for the lens. Scary!

    • Nightcat profile image

      Nightcat 6 years ago

      Nice to see a non-pagan be reakistic about witchcraft. Thank you! I figure these lovely ladies are all based on fear of the Crone Goddess myself. :)

    • one rnewsome profile image

      one rnewsome 6 years ago

      Great lens! I really like the details on all of the witches.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 6 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      BOO! Congratulations on completing the SquidBoo Challenge! Awesome Witched Witch Lens. Have a Happy and Safe Halloween! (^..^)