Witches didn’t begin with Hermione Granger. A proud tradition of magic-wielding women dates back to antiquity. From enchantresses to hags, these figures were all too often labeled as evil. In modern times, however, witchcraft has been enjoying a renaissance as women (and men, and non-binary folk, too) embrace their inner witch.
Here are 9 famous witches–or accused witches–from mythology, history, and fiction to inspire you.
Was Anne Boleyn a witch? The second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth, Boleyn was famously beheaded by her husband. Was she a witch, or just a very tempting and powerful woman?
After their marriage soured, Henry accused Anne of bewitching him into marriage through “sortilege,” or sorcery. She also had a sixth finger on one hand, which made it easier to paint her in the role of “witch.”
Hecate (pronounced heck-uh-tee) is goddess in the Greek pantheon, although scholars think she is actually much older. Often depicted as having three faces, her iconography has spilled over into other goddess symbols of female power and magic. She is also the goddess of crossroads, another symbol linked to magic.
Arthur Miller based the character Tituba in The Crucible on a real life enslaved woman from Salem. Tituba was the first person to be accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Historians believe that she was originally from South or Central America, but may have lived in Barbados. Her accusers claimed that she brought the dark arts from her homeland. Tituba spent a year n jail but was eventually bought by an unknown slave owner.
Although she isn’t single-handedly responsible for Salem’s transformation into the witchcraft capital of America, Laurie Cabot certainly helped. She established the first witchcraft shop there in 1971 and continues to devote herself to the cause of raising awareness about her craft.
Although Samantha Stevens worked hard to live like a normal American housewife on Bewitched, her mother did. not. care. Endora’s orange bouffant, colorful caftans, and sparkling jewelry made it clear that society’s conventions meant nothing to her. And honestly, wouldn’t you rather be fabulous and weird than married to Darrin Stevens?
The most famous witch in Slavic folklore is Baba Yaga. The fearsome crone lives in a hut built on chicken’s legs that walks around the countryside. She sometimes offers help to people who seek it, but she’s also known for cruelty and capriciousness. When you think of a spooky old woman who lives in the woods, you’re probably picturing someone a lot like Baba Yaga.
Most people have heard of Nostradamus, But what about Mother Shipton? Her books of prophecies, published after her death, have continued to be very interesting, if not exactly accurate. Many authors have added to those prophecies over the years, but if you’re at all interested in soothsayers and prophecy, you should check out Mother Shipton.
Okay, I know I said that witches didn’t begin with Hermione, but that doesn’t mean we can’t end with her. Despite author J.K. Rowling’s recent, uh, statements on social media alienating fans, we’ll always have this brave, clever girl as a role model.