Witch Stories: Where to Start with Some of the Most Magical Writers and Storytellers

February 14, 2022

Who says witches have to be villains? Some of the greatest modern storytellers certainly don’t think so. Authors like Pam Grossman and Madeline Miller are flipping the script on witch stories, offering empowering and nuanced alternatives to the stereotype of the old hag in the woods who curses princesses with spindles.

It’s important to tell more enlightened versions of witch stories, not only because it breaks tired clichés, but also because the stories we tell are a reflection of our beliefs. When we tell tales of the powerful, the wild, and the magical, we make space for these qualities in our own lives. By reclaiming what it means to be a witch, storytellers are helping readers embrace the positive witchy qualities within themselves. 

Whether you’re new to this niche literary genre or you already own a few dozen crystals and tarot decks, here are 25 life-changing witch stories that will help you see the magic all around you.

Must-Read Witch Stories to Bring a Little Magic Into Your Life 

It’s never been a better time to find exciting and innovative witch stories spanning nearly every literary genre. That’s one of the main reasons why stories about witches are so compelling–in these stories, anyone can be a witch. A witch could be a benevolent and powerful mentor in a fantasy novel, or a misunderstood teen girl navigating high school, or even a whimsical grandmother with a penchant for brewing up far too much pasta. 

No matter what your favorite genre is (sci-fi, fantasy, romance, horror, YA, or literary fiction), there is a perfect witch story out there for you. To get you started, we’ve put together a few lists of the best witch stories, from the empowering, practical, and perspective-shifting to the whimsical and enchanting. 

Empowering Recommendations

Some of the most important witch stories are those that show characters discovering their inner strength. Each of these stories feature a witchy character growing into their powers and taking what is rightfully theirs. So, if you’re looking for something inspirational, grab a copy of one of these five books: 

  1. Circe by Madeline Miller
  2. I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Condé
  3. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
  4. The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
  5. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

How-To Recommendations

If you’re in the mood for some practical magic and want to try your hand at a few spells, you’ll find some great tips here. Yes, you too can be a real-life witch: 

  1. The Green Witch: Your Complete Guide to the Natural Magic of Herbs, Flowers, Essential Oils, and More by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
  2. Practical Magic for Beginners by Maggie Haseman
  3. The Big Book of Practical Spells by Judika Illes
  4. Weave the Liminal: Living Modern Traditional Witchcraft by Laura Tempest Zakroff
  5. Witchery: Embrace the Witch Within by Juliet Diaz

Mind-Opening Nonfiction Recommendations

Why are we so afraid of witches? These books set out to answer that question. If you’re ready to look deeper into the history of witchcraft and society’s relationship with it, consider one of these fascinating nonfiction musings from a few brilliant minds: 

  1. Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power by Pam Grossman 
  2. The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton
  3. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici
  4. Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels by Katie West
  5. Missing Witches: Recovering True Histories of Feminist Magic by Amy Torok and Risa Dickens

Whimsical and Quirky Recommendations

If you need a break from serious witch stories for a moment and want to read something your inner child would love, here are a few whimsical books that feature witchy characters we can’t help but adore. They prove that being a little “odd” is a strength, not a weakness: 

  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman 
  2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  3. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  4. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune 
  5. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen 

Subtly Magical Recommendations

The stories below don’t usually show up on witchy literature lists, but there is nonetheless something inherently witchy or powerful about them. These stories have just a hint of magic embedded in their pages. See if you spot it, too:

  1. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson 
  2. Beloved by Toni Morrison 
  3. Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
  4. The Power by Naomi Alderman
  5. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

And this is just a smattering of the best witch stories on bookshelves right now. Tales about witches are becoming increasingly popular in the literary world, so we’ll likely see many more books like this in the future. 

Why is there such an interest in witches these days? This topic brings up a deep well of complicated emotions in people, and modern writers are tapping into this shared consciousness. Below, we take a closer look at how the literary world is transforming our views on what it means to be a witch. 

Why Writers Are Redefining Witches in Literature 

Witchy literature is having a moment right now because it speaks to deeper issues our society is facing. One of these issues is that of female empowerment. Most witches depicted in the earliest stories and folktales, at least in the Western world, were portrayed as dangerous, undesirable, and monstrous. The moral of many of these stories was clear as glass: powerful women are people to be feared. As Pam Grossman explains in her book, Waking the Witch, “The witch is the ultimate feminist icon because she is a fully rounded symbol of female oppression and liberation.”

So, when modern writers redefine what it means to be a witch—by giving her autonomy, nuance, and a sympathetic backstory—they are asking readers to reassess their own relationships with power. If a witch is a symbol of power, then telling witch stories is a way to reclaim it. Rather than fearing women who hold power, we learn to expect it and respect it. 

Witch stories also reveal our complex relationship with nature. Many literary witches are deeply connected to nature, from the herbs they use in their potions to the bonds they have with woodland creatures. When writers tell these stories, they ask readers to get back to their own roots, to consider how it feels to till the earth with their hands or take in the fragrance of a spring flower. These stories foster an appreciation for the natural world in a time when many of us might feel disconnected from it. 

Finally, witch stories show us that being “odd” has its strengths. Rather than fearing those who approach life differently, these authors ask readers to approach people with an open mind. Literary witches embrace their peculiarities, viewing them as superpowers, not flaws to stamp down. Claiming power also means accepting yourself, quirks and all. 

In this sense, even the most magical and whimsical of stories have the power to reveal more about ourselves. They help us reframe our thinking and learn to speak to everyone’s “inner witch.” 

The Importance of Embracing “Witchy-ness” 

While witches are strong symbols of female empowerment in literature, witchy-ness is something everyone can embrace. You don’t have to be a woman to be a witch. Tapping into an inner witchy-ness means reclaiming your power and connecting back to your roots to appreciate the beauty of nature’s gifts.

This is also a very childlike and creative headspace. When you look at the world through a magical lens, everything shines just a little brighter. There are so many subtle ways to embrace your “inner witch,” too: sprinkle some cinnamon in your coffee and stir your wishes for the day into your mug, or recharge in the afternoon sun. By embracing the inner witch, boring routines become exciting rituals, where even the mundane feels a touch more special. 

Witch stories open readers up to these magical and creative perspectives. These empowering characters help us notice some of the lovelier aspects of life we take for granted, so we can see the world in a more creative and liberated light. 

Who are your favorite witchy characters in literature? Share them below! 

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