Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

Minnetonka High School's Student News

Minnetonka Breezes

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Evolution of Witchcraft

Evolution+of+Witchcraft

From the witch hunts of the Middle Ages to the witches you see on your screens, perspectives on witchcraft and those that practice it have drastically changed over time. 

There is no actual record of when witches first appeared in history, but during the mid-15th century, a witch hysteria took hold of Europe. That hysteria led to the deaths of countless women accused of witchcraft. During a one hundred and sixty year period, 80,000 women, all suspected of witchcraft, were killed. 

In the North American colonies, it started with two young girls who suffered fits from what is believed to be a fungus, resulting in over 150 people being accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Bridget Bishop became the first supposed witch that was killed and was the first of 18, six of which were men. Connecticut also came down with witch hysteria, resulting in the accusations of 46 and the deaths of 11. 24 more were accused in Virginia, but none were killed.

The portrayal of witches in the media began with two iconic and timeless films, the 1937 Disney animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and the 1939 live-action movie, The Wizard of Oz. Snow White established the villain roles that witches play in stories whilst Oz set the standards of what is a good witch and what is a bad witch. Both of these tropes can be seen in the media in the decades since.

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There have been three specific points in time when witches have played big roles in the media being produced. Sleeping Beauty (1959) and Bewitched (1964-1972) in the first wave, which took place from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. The Crucible (1996) and Charmed (1998-2006) during the 1990s to the early 2000s, and more modern titles in the past five years, like American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014) and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018-Present). In each time period, how witches are viewed has changed. From the good witch/bad witch portrayals to teen witches to the sympathy and the glamorization of witches in more modern media, the perception of witches has so greatly changed from how they were viewed hundreds of years ago.

Naomi Niu Patton, ‘26, believes that it has been a positive shift in the portrayal of witches over the centuries. “You’ve gone from witchcraft being a terrible crime hundreds of years ago… to present times, … witches who are just girls that do magic. You’ve gotta specify that they’re wicked, they’re not just so by default. They can cast charms and not merely curses.”

Through the changing views of witches, from feared figures to complex characters, it’s clear that opinions surrounding witches and their craft have changed over time, clearly demonstrating the strange nature of human beliefs.

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