The image of a witch riding a broomstick is so ingrained in our cultural consciousness that it would be impossible to dislodge. Have you ever considered why they ride brooms, though? It’s super weird, right? Well, stir yourself up a batch of witch’s brew and get comfy. You’re about to find out how the idea dates back centuries to a pagan ritual and some crazy potions used in, ahem, unique ways.
The Wicked Witch of the West
The modern pop culture depictions of witches mostly stem from one iconic portrayal in particular. That’s right: we’re talking about everyone’s favorite green-skinned, pointy-chinned Wicked Witch of the West! Actress Margaret Hamilton’s performance and visual presentation in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz is basically ground zero for the witch as an ugly old hag.
Cementing the stereotype
This wicked witch rode a broom, wore a black, pointy hat, and cackled maniacally at every turn. The depiction was perfect for its time and certainly helped cement an image of witches in the public consciousness that lasted for a very long time. Interestingly, though, the 2003 Broadway musical Wicked tried to redress the balance: it actually reimagined the witch as someone discriminated against because of her green skin.
A witch in suburbia
But over the years, the interpretation of witches in film and TV began to diversify hugely. In 1964 sitcom Bewitched was launched, and it featured a beautiful witch named Samantha, who was trying to live a normal suburban existence with her mortal husband Darrin. As you might expect, comedic hijinks ensued as Samantha charmingly twitched her nose to cast spells.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch
A similarly family friendly witch arrived in the pages of Archie Comics in the 1960s: Sabrina Spellman. She spawned an animated show the following decade, but it would be her ’90s live-action sitcom incarnation that made Sabrina the Teenage Witch a pop culture mainstay. Melissa Joan Hart showed the fun side of being a witch to a whole generation of young girls.