Witch Stories: Why We Need Them and 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.

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.

Where to Start with Witch Lit:

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

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