Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

The idea of witches has long since been colorized by the myth and modern entertainment.

In the ye olden days, outcasts of society, people who did not conform to the status quo, were the ones that were accused of witchcraft. Old and unmarried women were the first targets in Salem, Mass., but even younger women were eventually accused because their neighbors were jealous or because they simply did not fit in.

This trope was played out in fairy tales, where the ugly old woman who lived alone in the woods was actually an evil witch that would likely curse and/or eat the main character. It made children and their parents who read the stories already wary of the little old ladies, who probably had their reasons for living alone in the woods.

Of course, over the years, this trope changed with the times. Witches became beautiful young women who seduced men and killed people for fun or for spells. They were still portrayed as evil, but this time they were enchantresses who were as likely to curse you and/or kiss you.

‘Witches’ were persecuted. They were burned at the stake, imprisoned, pressed, hanged, or drowned for years and years. Most likely, none of these people were actually practicing witchcraft, they just failed to assimilate or had made someone jealous or greedy.

Modern times have shown a little leniency with witches. While many are still portrayed as either evil old crones or half-clothes seductresses, Harry Potter and the like ushered in a time where witches were considered cool.

Still, there are those who will continue to hold grudges against those who ‘practice magic’, which could be anything from having an interest in aromatherapy to reading Tarot cards to actually attempting spells. Harry Potter has been banned from countless schools because of its use of witchcraft.

When I was in elementary school, there was one fourth grade teacher that none of the students wanted and none of the parents liked. The reasoning? She always wore long skirts and scarves, patterned stockings and boots – in short, she looked like a witch.

The prejudice from the old days still hangs around like a bad smell. We may not be burning people who make us think ‘witch’, but those there are still outcasts from society that are avoided, ignored, and persecuted because they may be a bit strange or may have an intense obsession with candles. There may be hope yet for witches and witch-kind, but for now, they will continue to exist in the shadows society has shoved them into.

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