12 Pop Culture Witches, Ranked By Actual Witchiness

Photo: Spelling/REX/Shutterstock.
We love watching the witchy stars of The Craft, Practical Magic, and Bewitched, but how long would they last in a real coven? And as entertaining as the Wicked Witch of the West may be, we can't help but wonder if her magic is at all consistent with actual Wiccan beliefs. (Spoiler alert: It isn't.)

The Wizard of Oz
aside, there are some films and TV shows that kind of get it right when it comes to their portrayals of witches and witchcraft. Here, we've rounded up some of the most famous witches from popular culture to see how their behavior measures up to real-life Wiccan, Pagan, and occult practices.

For the record: Not all witches are technically Wiccan. People who identify as Wiccan may call themselves witches, but so may Pagans or those who practice other forms of witchcraft. For our purposes here, we're taking a wide variety of interpretations of Wiccan and Pagan faiths into consideration.

Each pop culture witch will be scored on a scale of one to 10 black cats (sure, real witches don't always have them, but measuring in cats is just cuter than cauldrons or crystals). Click through to find out how your favorite witch ranks.
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Photo: MGM/REX/Shutterstock.
The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz

Let's make this quick. Real witches are not green. Real witches do not lord their power over others. Real witches are a tad more water-resistant. Let's not even get started on the flying monkeys.

Rating: one black cat
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Photo: ABC Photo Archives/ABC/Getty Images.
Samantha Stephens from Bewitched

Not to knock a classic, but we cannot condone Samantha's selfish use of magic. For the most part, she only breaks out her powers when it serves herself or her husband, Darrin.

The show also suggests that the magical and non-magical worlds exist in a constant state of conflict, which is a real bummer for any modern witch, if you ask us.

Rating: two black cats
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Photo: Michele K. Short/FX.
Fiona Goode from American Horror Story: Coven

Fiona is a certifiable Bad Witch on many, many counts. But in the interest of time, let's focus on one key offense.

By attempting to cure her cancer and killing the up-and-coming witch Madison, she violates the bylaws of her own coven. Fiona uses her magic for totally selfish gains, because she doesn't want to cede power to a new Supreme.

To speak more broadly, the series's idea of a Supreme is derived from monotheistic Wiccan beliefs. Some Wiccans worship one higher power known as the Supreme Being, who is believed to be all-powerful and the source of all creation.

Rating: three black cats
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Photo: Walt Disney/REX/Shutterstock.
Sarah, Winnie, and Mary Sanderson from Hocus Pocus

This beloved Disney film deals in what we'd like to call Halloween store witchcraft. There's the curse that can be broken by a couple of kids who have no knowledge of magic. There's time travel and a zombie. The witches even sing I Put A Spell On You. Happy Halloween!

The only thing in Hocus Pocus that's at all accurate to Wiccan practices is the Sanderson sisters' spell book, which is probably intended to be their version of a Book of Shadows.

If we were really stretching things, we could say that the three sisters represent the Triple Goddess, a symbol of feminine energy that appears in Wiccan and Pagan faiths.

Rating: four black cats
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Photo: Warner Bros./REX/Shutterstock.
Sister Summersisle and her coven from The Wicker Man

The original film, made in 1973, is sometimes cited as an entry point into Paganism for the unfamiliar. And, in a few very small ways, both the original and the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man touch on a few key themes of neo-Paganism and witchcraft.

This matriarchal community clearly lives by a system of bylaws (a cornerstone of any coven), and they perform fertility rites intended to bolster their honey production.

Of course, the original and the remake are far more interested in the insidious side of Summersisle's coven. And since ritualized murder doesn't come up all that often in Wiccan or Pagan faith systems, we can't really call this an accurate portrayal of coven life. Of course, it is an accurate portrayal of Nicholas Cage's range as an actor.

Rating: five black cats
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Photo: Columbia/REX/Shutterstock.
Sarah, Nancy, Bonnie, and Rochelle from The Craft

The Craft didn't just usher in the era of witchy fashion — it also showed us just how dangerous a petty teen with absolute power can be.

As satisfying as it may be to see this coven of outcasts use magic to rise above their bullies and limitations, these on-the-nose spells serve as cautionary tales — Bonnie's beauty spell makes her obsessed with her looks and Sarah's love spell delivers some troubling results. Be careful what you cast for, witches. Magic for your own self-interest rarely goes as planned.

This is a great message, and if the film had stopped there, we might have rated it higher. Our issue is that magic eventually tears the group apart, rather than strengthening their bonds of friendship. Sarah and Nancy use their powers against each other, which isn't really how witches should treat their peers.

Rating: six black cats
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Photo: Chris Helcermanas-Benge/Lionsgate.
The Blair Witch from The Blair Witch Project

An evil crone who lives in the woods isn't the most flattering portrayal of a witch in film, but The Blair Witch Project was actually inspired by the plight of real witches in early America.

In an interview with Witch Vox, co-director Eduardo Sánchez described the "sense of injustice" that accompanies stories from the Salem witch trials: "This injustice is far more ingrained in America, I think, than if we had done a story with a banshee or a ghost."

So, although toying with a few naive filmmakers in the woods isn't exactly part of the Wiccan experience, dealing with persecution definitely is.

Rating: six and a half black cats
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Photo: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock.
Sally and Gillian Owens from Practical Magic

This film deals in girl power as much as actual magical powers. Despite the Owens sisters' crappy (and heteronormative) curse that says any man who falls in love with them is doomed, Practical Magic manages to sidestep being only about getting a man.

Despite Sally's reluctance to accept her powers, Sally and Gillian use their magic to protect each other against malevolent forces, particularly Gillian's abusive boyfriend. The film's overriding message is one of loving yourself and your abilities, which is something that every witch deserves to hear.

And, let's not forget how the magic in this film is actually done — characters hold hands and form circles, and young Sally even does some plant-based magic. We give our full support to any film that shows that magic isn't simply a bunch of hand-waving.

Rating: seven black cats
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Photo: ABC/Viacom/REX/Shutterstock.
Sabrina, Hilda, and Zelda Spellman from Sabrina, The Teenage Witch

If we learned one thing from Sabrina and her aunts, it's that magic isn't always easy — but it can be a ton of fun. This is one of the goofier entries on our list, but watching Sabrina learn to control her powers and use them when it's necessary (not just to one-up her high school rival Libby) sends a great message to any budding witch out there: You won't be a master witch after one day of spell work. It takes time, dedication, and a lot of humility.

We only wish that real-life witchcraft also came with a wisecracking black cat.

Rating: seven and half black cats
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Photo: Rt Features/REX/Shutterstock.
Thomasin from The Witch

Yes, The Witch is yet another case of the ancient, woods-dwelling witch, but unlike in The Wicker Man or The Blair Witch Project, this witch is less clearly a flat-out villain.

This film directly links witchcraft with sexual freedom, religious ambiguity, and satanic worship (in fact, the Satanic Temple cross-promoted the film's release). Certain sects of witches have completely disentangled themselves from any connection to Christian symbols, but there are others who tie their beliefs to those of Satanism.

Not to mention, the short-lived American Council of Witches spoke of the importance of agency in all things, particularly when it comes to sex and faith. Its 13 Principles of Belief calls sex an "embodiment of life" and rejects the idea that one religion is correct while another is wrong.

Throughout the film, we see Thomasin reaching these conclusions for herself. When her desire to rebel from her family reaches its peak, she leaves to join a coven of forest witches. In a sense, Thomasin uses witchcraft to assert her individuality (and her wish to "live deliciously").

Rating: nine black cats
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Photo: 20th Century/REX/Shutterstock.
Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Willow started out as a meek high schooler with an unrequited crush on her best friend. As the show continued, however, she became a force of witchcraft to be reckoned with. Willow worked with different covens throughout the series and did her fair share of self-education, too. As her powers as a witch increased, so did her self-confidence.

By the finale, Willow was a certifiable witch, capable of solitary practice and magical collaboration. The Scooby Gang wouldn't have been the same without her.

Rating: nine black cats
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Photo: Spelling/REX/Shutterstock.
Piper, Phoebe, and Prue Halliwell from Charmed

What's most striking about the Halliwell sisters' witchcraft is their use of their family's Book of Shadows. It's revered as a resource for spells, potions, and other magical tips, and the sisters frequently turn to it when they're in trouble. This is pretty close to how real witches view their own personal Books of Shadows — it's an important text that only becomes more valuable as time goes on.

The show makes a strong distinction between good and bad witches, which is in keeping with one Wiccan law in particular, the Wiccan Rede, written by Wiccan and occult leader Gerald Gardner. Essentially, the Wiccan Rede asks that witches do no harm to others. Since the Halliwells spend most of their time trying to protect those around them, Gardner would probably give them an A+ in this department.

We also commend how, well, normal the Halliwell sisters seem. They're all-powerful witches who are also trying to live out their regular, modern-day lives. Keep that in mind the next time you feel like you could never balance your personal practice with your day job.

Rating: 10 black cats
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