Between The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina and the Charmed reboot, pop culture's current version of a witch is far removed from the Wicked Witch of the West and her green-skinned, cackling ilk. And yet, if you were to take a sample of any number of trick-or-treaters this Halloween, you'd likely find more than a few kids wearing black, pointy hats and toting broomsticks, declaring themselves witches of the highest and spookiest order.
There's no question that this stereotypical idea of the witch has endured, but that doesn't mean it's liked among, you know, actual witches.
"These 'witchy' symbols are based on the misinterpretations of biased people that have been diluted to cartoons and fantasy," says founder of The Spirit Guides blog and Spirit Element shop, Lorraine Anderson, who adds that, stripped of cultural bias and Puritanical panic, witches were traditionally healers. "Sadly, these 'witchy' stereotypes do damage modern-day witchcraft; painting the practice as either evil or undeserving of respect," she says.
So, why has this old-timey image of the witch survived, even as modern-day witches rail against it? As diluted as objects like broomsticks and cauldrons may have become, they remain signifiers of a witch's lifestyle and practice. "These symbols still hold meaning for those who practice witchcraft, and they remain staples of the craft to this day," Anderson says. "They represent the history of witchcraft, the good and bad."
Here, Anderson explains the origins of three classically "witchy" objects — and their significance today.