Powerful, supernatural women are a looming threat to the patriarchy which is what makes them so utterly glorious. The representation of TV witches, in particular, has taken on all the cultural baggage that comes with being a nonconformist female. By harnessing the power within themselves, these characters exemplify the enduring legacy of complicated women and why their stories are worth telling.
TV witches come in all shapes in sizes. Whether they are a spooky sub-species, an intimidating enigma, or a straight-up supernatural killer, these women have irrevocably molded how femininity and witchcraft go hand in hand. TV witches are trailblazers who dare to defy centuries worth of repression. They are wielders of courage who have the ability to transcend the material world. They are our small-screen allies whose stories are worth archiving so that a whole new generation of young women can rediscover their magic in the same way as we did. Keep reading to find out which six iconic witches redefined TV and pioneered a new vision for female characters.
1) Cordelia Goode, American Horror Story: Coven
Will the real Supreme please stand up? First introduced in the riveting third season of AHS, Cordelia Goode is a sight to behold. She is the type of character who incites fangirl/fanboy behavior. Although she is initially portrayed as a wet blanket, Cordelia inherently changes after the heinous acid attack that leaves her blind. Now a changed woman, Cordelia isn’t willing to sit and play nice. Long gone are the days of being the complacent wife of a philandering husband or allowing her unhinged mother to take the reigns. After what feels like an eternity of slumber, Cordelia steps out of her husband and mother’s shadows and transforms into the witch she was always destined to be. When she becomes the Supreme, Cordelia rises as the maternal, nurturing leader of the coven. Hers is a story of redemption and second chances, and it is one that is not easily forgotten.
2) Melisandre, Game of Thrones
Whether you think of her as the Red Priestess or the Red Witch, one thing is inarguable: Melisandre is not to be trifled with. She does not have dragons, nor does she sit on an Iron Throne. The North does not kneel for her and the political snake den within King's Landing pays no mind to her. Yet, Melisandre rises higher than any alliance in Westeros. So, how in the seven hells is this even possible? For starters, she can burn people into a crisp because she practices blood magic. When she’s not denouncing the Gods or drinking wine out of a creepy goblet, Melisandre is busy giving birth to a demon shadow. For someone who quickly rises to the top, Melisandre experiences quite the fall from grace. Yet it’s in this moment of dejection when her powers are flailing that we see her grow into something more than anyone thought possible. Melisandre becomes empathic and vulnerable because when Winter finally comes, no one is safe — not even her. For a show that has often let down its female characters, Game of Thrones has always remained faithful to this mesmerizing and terrifyingly unpredictable woman.
3) Bonnie Bennett, The Vampire Diaries
Arguably the greatest character on The CW series, Bonnie is the definition of selfless. As she evolves into a stronger, more confident witch, she always finds a way to save those she loves most. Not even death can dismantle Bonnie's strength, especially when she can channel the powers of multiple witches at once. Perhaps the biggest flaw in The Vampire Diaries is that Bonnie never gets her due. She gives so much of herself to Elena and Damon that we barely see her home life and her interactions with her family. This is a young woman who seamlessly transitions from being the adorable sidekick to a full-fledged hero. Even without a mentor, Bonnie learns to control her powers and she eventually champions the abilities that once destroyed her very existence. She accomplishes all of this on top of dealing with the everyday woes of being a teenager.
4) Prue Halliwell, Charmed
Each Halliwell sister has her own unique power, with Prue being able to move objects because she has the time-honored ability of telekinesis. With limitations placed on what she can and can't do as a witch, Prue must confront the rest of her problems on her own. Unlike other pop-culture witches, Prue is always anchored by her sense of responsibility and a clear purpose. She has been tasked to protect the innocent from evil forces by using her magical abilities. As the seasons go on, Prue's powers evolve as she becomes more seasoned and audacious. In many ways, Prue has paved the way for the modern-day witch on TV. Her magical prowess is part of her journey, rather than a defining characteristic of who she truly is as a person. Above all, Prue accesses her full potential by tapping into a great unknown power within herself. When she later dies in the series, things are never the same and for good reason.
5) Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Never underestimate the power of an insanely likable nerd. As the Watson to Buffy’s Sherlock, Willow Rosenberg is the ultimate BFF and partner in crime. After she learns more about her magical abilities, Willow starts kicking some serious vampire and demon ass. Not only can this badass witch rip the leathery skin off of grimy dudes, but she even becomes the main antagonist in Season 6 after the death of her beloved Tara. Of course, it's Willow and Tara's relationship which marks an important milestone — they’re one of the first lesbian couples to be featured on TV. What started off as a beautifully scripted romance, quickly turns into a "bury your gays" plot device after Tara's untimely death. But even after all these years, Willow's character still stands on her own — not just as a slayer sidekick, but as a fearless witch who plays an integral part in saving the world, over and over again.
6) Sabrina Spellman, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Loving '90s Sabrina Spellman could bring anyone's anxiety level to there aren't enough lifeboats territory. Whether it's Sabrina's love affair with pancakes or her reliance on Salem for emotional support, this massive weirdo basks in the glow of her weirdness. She is the underdog who lets her freak flag fly and, to me, that is something truly special. Not only is Sabrina a hardworking teenager who uses her magic for good, but she also values the importance of being different and off-beat. In addition to being a ride-or-die friend, Sabrina is also the kind of lovable person who thinks she's suffering from post-traumatic trick-or-treat syndrome. Failing doesn't scare Sabrina because she'd rather make mistakes than not try at all. In my mind, Sabrina Spellman is the equivalent of wiggly-jiggly flan. Seriously, that's how much I love her.
Which TV witch is the greatest in your opinion? Let us know in the comments.