Deriving from the Old English masculine noun Wicca meaning 'sorcerer, wizard', the feminine noun Wicce meaning 'sorceress, witch', the plural form for both the masculine and feminine nouns being Wiccan, the modern spelling (witch) did not appear until the 16th century.
To dispel one of the main myths about witches .....
A male witch is not called a warlock, warlock means traitor, devil, summoner of spirits, oathbreaker ...... depending on just which website you are looking at.
Not that it's any surprise that most of us think of witches as women, and not just any women at that. No, witches are wrinkled and old, they wear black or darkest purple and have warts on their noses ..... don't they?
According to sixteenth-century lawyer William West ......
“ A witch or a hag is she which being deluded by a league made with the devil through his persuasion, inspiration or juggling, thinketh she can design what manner or evil things soever, either by thought or imprecation, as to shake the air with lightnings and thunder, to cause hail and tempests, to remove green corn or trees to another place, to be carried of her familiar (which hath taken upon him the deceitful shape of a goat, swine, or calf, etc.) into some mountain far distant, in a wonderful short space of time, and sometime to fly upon a staff or fork, or some other instrument, and to show a thousand such monstrous mockeries.” - Monstrous.com
Found in many cultures and feared by many, according to the Bible
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,"
which is why many accused of witchcraft were hanged or burnt at the stake for 'crimes' such
- Having red hair.
- Sweeping their porches on a Sunday
- Putting herbs in soup.
- Being unable to live peacefully under their rulers. (Joan of Arc was believed by many to have been a witch).
According to the movies many look just like me and you, some such as Serafina Pekkala (The Golden Compass) attractive, and some (The Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz), well, not so attractive.
Oh, and of course they all have a cat which is usually black.
A black cat, where did that belief come from?
Because they are nocturnal and roam at night, during the Middle Ages many considered a cat to be a witches' familiar: a supernatural servant of the witch or even a witch incarnate, who folklore has it, if a witch became human, would no longer reside in the house.
But enough of cats, black or otherwise, what about the broomstick? Surely a sign of a witch.
A common household object in Medieval times, the first known incident of a 'witch' flying on a broomstick was recorded in the fourteen hundreds when male witch Guillaume Edelin confessed to just such a thing.
Don't be fooled by the word broomstick though, witches disguised their wand/staff used for magical purposes by binding twigs around the end in order to give the appearance of a broomstick.