Books About Witches

When I decided to take up blogging, I had this romantic idea that this was supposed to be some sort of outlet: tracing an adventurous writer’s voyage from the big city (well … “biggish”…) to the rural outskirts of nowhere: A description of my quest to find fulfillment and create a new life for myself among red painted barns and exotic livestock like cows and sheep and pigs. Instead I find myself compelled to write about witches. Not any witches but the literary witches I encountered in my youth. “Youth” doesn’t quite cover it, though – I read several of them at ten-eleven, so technically “childhood” is a better term, even though the books in question were never, ever meant for kids…

This sudden witchy need – I think – comes from finally starting to fill my shelves at Goodreads – and the fact that I am currently writing about witches. I never reflected, though, before Goodreads, on how influenced I still am by some of those early literary (mis)adventures.

I love witches – always have. I can still remember that moment when I was about five or six and had this stunning revelation that the Evil Queen was a much cooler (more empowered) character than Snow White. There was no going back after that… I’ve been a sucker for horror and paranormal novels all my life – and what I’ve always loved most of all is a really good story about witches…

“Witch”, of course, is a fleeting term. Some of the fictional characters that stuck with me are witches by definition, others defined by their actions, and though I went through a fairly intense Wicca phase in my tender youth (“witches are really good and wise”, “God is a woman”, “the moon is in my womb” …) I’ve always preferred some evil in my witches. I think what I found fascinating about the witch – even as a child – was her ability to control the world around her, she was no victim of circumstances (aka. Snow White), but rose above mere humanity to shape the world to her liking (aka. Writer). By “rising above” like that, she also dismissed the petty morals and judgement of others. I’ve always wanted to do that. Sometimes I even succeed.

So – my books…

The Burning Court by John Dickson Carr was a favorite of mine when I was eleven. It had everything a young girl could ask for: reincarnation, witchcraft and a juicy real life backstory. The inspiration for the novel is the story of Marquise de Brinvilliers, a 17th century French noblewoman who poisoned her way through life, and was executed for her misdeeds in 1676 (here’s a lovely article about her at The Hairpin). The novel touches on black magic at the French court and weaves the past with the (then) present through the appearance of scary books, old photographs and empty caskets…

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, a classic, and another early favorite. I was thrilled by the possibilities at the end. Evil was not defeated – and what would happen if rosemary embraced it…?

RosemarysBaby_071Pyxurz

Evil witch from Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Puffball by Fay Weldon (yup – not The Life and Loves of a She Devil…), is similar to Rosemary’s Baby in that there is a sinister pregnancy and a bad relationship. I think the two books has become sort of twins in my mind,  and I can’t quite remember what happens in which book. Rosemary’s Baby was more frightening, though – I remember that…

Not a novel, but I’ll never forget sitting at the public library (eleven – again), poring over this tomb of a book: The Witches’ Advocate: Basque Witchcraft And The Spanish Inquisition, 1609 1614 (by Gustav Henningsen). At least I had a hobby…

The Witches by Roald Dahl – the only age appropriate book on my list (and yet still so entertaining as an adult). I loved the wickedness of the witches, and might – maybe – even have rooted for them in their battle against the disgusting child.

Enter teens and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. Yes, the witches were far more sympathetic (even nice), but I loved it to bits anyways (there were witches). Also: it was published right after my Wicca phase, I might have taken a slice of moon with my tea after all…

practical-magic-owens-sisters-witches-on-the-roof_535569849606ee4d58cb5de2

Nice, practical witches (Practical Magic, 1998)

There were other witchy books too, of course, but these are the ones that stuck with me. And as happened to all good books back then (no internet, one TV-channel), they were read to pieces – and never forgotten.

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3 Responses to Books About Witches

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