|This article is about the magic practitioners. For the episode, see Witch (episode).|
- “I’m a witch! I can make pencils float. And I can summon the four elements. Okay, two, but four soon!”
- ―Willow Rosenberg[src]
Witch was an individual who had learned and skilled in witchcraft. A witch could be either female or male (refereed as warlock), and they connected with the elements and forces of nature in order to practice sorcery.
The origin of witchcraft remains unknown; however, it was likely that witches had existed at least since the beginning of humanity, passing down their knowledge and skills through generations of family lines. While some humans, such as Tara Maclay and Amy Madison, obtained their magical powers from biological development, one does not need to be born with magic in order to use it. This had been proven on a number of occasions, in which ordinary people, such as Willow Rosenberg, have successfully used magic with just as much proficiency, if not more, as natural-born witches.
While witchcraft was commonly practiced by humans, it was not limited to a species, as magic was an all-inclusive force of nature, and demons and vampires had also been known to practice it. Contrary to popular belief, not all witches receive their magic from demons, nor do they worship the devil. No code of conduct or beliefs contemplate all practitioners, although there were covens that did guide a number of affiliates (Devon Coven, later Daughters of Gaea), as well the new religious movement of Wicca.
As the source of magic on Earth, all witches received their power from the Seed of Wonder. Between the destruction and restoration of the Seed, they were forced to draw upon magic stored in magical objects before its destruction, until Willow discovered a way to use magic without it, but to a far lesser extent, by drawing on the magic within themselves. After its restoration, all witches regained their powers and were once again able to practice magic, although in a whole new system.
The Supernatural Crisis Act was a set of legal actions in the aftermath of San Francisco’s tsunami, in response to the national state of fear and violence against the supernatural in national scale, including attacks against witches. Some measurements taken with the Act were a mandatory census of all magical individuals living in the United States, temporary relocation and imprisonment of supernatural beings to a Safe Zone, and reintegration through removal of magic from volunteers. After the Act was repealed, most witches returned to their practices, bot there were those who abandoned witchcraft still in fear of the persecution.
Powers and abilities
Magic was the power to affect change by supernatural means. Magic could often be split into black and white, though depending on the situation, it may also be neutral. All creatures (both human and non-human) were connected to this power and were able to access it through practice and training. While everyone had the ability to cast spells and perform other feats of magic, witches generally had more knowledge and understanding of the mystical energies and supernatural forces that charged the entire universe.
Depending on their level of skill, witches possessed a number of magical abilities. While most witches focused their powers through the use of incantations and rituals, more advanced witches were known to use magic by sheer force of will. From telekinesis to teleportation, witches were virtually unlimited in their magical conquest. Minor can-trips (such as levitating a pencil) were relatively easy to perform, requiring only emotional focus, mental clarity and an understanding of the forces involved, while the more powerful witches could alter the very fabric of reality. The more powerful the witch was, the greater the feats they could accomplish in this way, but in general the effects achieved were straightforward.
Sometimes, witches may manifest other powers not mystical in nature but psychic. Tara Maclay portrayed the ability to perceive the energy fields ("aura") around a person. Althenea, a powerful witch of the Devon Coven, was considered a seer, having the ability to experience visions and knowledge of future events. With the aid of magic, witches were capable of achieving telepathy, projecting their thoughts and reading the minds of others. Many witches also possessed psychic intuition, capable of sensing powerful mystical phenomena and imbuing them with general awareness of their environment.
By joining together, witches could double their magical strength. Witches also gained their magic powers by invoking the names of deities (such as Hecate or Osiris), or summoning other supernatural entities such as demons. Highly skilled and experienced witches (and warlocks) who drew much of their power from dark forces were sometimes, if not always, identified by their black eyes, as was the case with Catherine Madison, Amy, Willow, and Roden.
Despite these abilities, witches still had limits which prevented them from being truly invincible. For a novice, and in many cases even an adept witch, tapping into volatile and powerful magics could be particularly dangerous. All magic was draining, drawing mystical energy out of the witch to fuel it, the more so when the power was channeled directly, instead of through tools. Unless she took a break, even the most powerful witch would quickly be worn down by the effort of hurling spell after spell. Prudent witches would merely rest until their powers resurfaced, while more reckless witches could search for a new source of power to replenish their strength and energy reserve. Weaker-willed witches could fall victim to the addictive properties of utilizing mystical energies, especially dark magics.
Views and treatment of witches
- “It could be witches, some evil witches! ...Which is ridiculous ‘cause witches they were persecuted. Wicca good and love the earth and women power and I’ll be over here.”
- ―Alexander Harris[src]
Witches were subject to persecution throughout history by those who believed witchcraft was inherently evil, when in truth witches were as likely to be good, bad or neutral as anyone else. The demon who assumed the guise of two deceased children, known through the ages as Hans and Gretta Strauss, caused strife among communities for centuries by making residents believe witches were responsible for these deaths. The Salem Witch Trials was a notable event in the history of witchcraft, though Anya Jenkins claimed that it wasn’t that bad as the witches-in-question could have just used magic to escape, though this did not apply to those who were falsely accused of being witches. Indeed, it’s known that an unidentified Slayer was victim of this false accusation from an enemy, and died burnt at the stake.
Modern witches were subject to stereotypes in mainstream society. Willow was especially vocal about this, complaining about the usage of a cauldron in a witch-themed movie (which was actually used by real witches) and refusing to sell a book about witchcraft to a trick-or-treater dressed as a stereotypical witch with warts, a pointy hat and a broomstick.