How Do You Know She’s a Witch?

She looks like one!

It's not easy being green. Image via

As Kermit so aptly put it, witches have had it rough. I’m sure that was what he referred to with his comment. Always looking out for others, that one.

Witches have always had a bit of a bad rap. If you go searching through the history books, you’ll find whole heaps of instances where a drought or famine or rash of cattle deaths — or a rash in general — prompted the good townspeople to fear a witch in their midst. One might even call them the scapegoats of humanity throughout the centuries. It resulted in not a few bogus trials and torture and death sentences. It also happened to be one of those guilt by association things. You know nice little Esther Pemberley down the street?

You do know her?!!  You must be a witch too!!!! [Insert torches and angry mob with pitchforks here.]

What do you burn apart from witches? MORE WITCHES! Image property of the Monty Python boys, brought to you by

Needless to say, the witches who were accused and inevitably found guilty met rather ignominious fates. And instead of being witches, they were mostly just…you know. Women. Sometimes old, quirky, or wealthy (magistrates loved to accuse wealthy widows because when they offed them in the “justice” system,  they got to keep the spoils estates), sometimes young and into some kind of mundane trouble.

Makes me rather happy that I not only live in a land where women are mostly equal, but I live here in the 21st century. Four hundred years ago, there is probably a stake with my name on it.

Like this steak. Wait... (Drool courtesy of

Like vampires and horror, witches were one of my childhood staples. I loved magic. I loved magic so much that I begged Santa for a real magic wand and figured he had just forgotten or ran out of time on Christmas Day that year. I subsequently looked under my bed every day for over a year. I contented myself with reading about witches or magic. Books like the Chronicles of Prydain made me yearn to be Eilonwy. Whenever I played Candy Land with friends, we fought over who got to be the magical blue witch (because as children, this is a never-ending and vital argument).

I was never afraid of witches, even the really bad ones like the WWW (Wicked Witch of the West) or Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. I thought Glinda was a wee bit dumb. I loved the idea of witches who had power within them, wand or no wand.

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with urban fantasy. The Night World witches came first and had me hunting through herb shops wanting to try Thea’s spells. Then I discovered the Secret Circle, and I was hooked like magic was crack. When I got older, it was the sorcerers from the Belgariad and the Aes Sedai of the Wheel of Time (I know, I know, not “witches” and not urban fantasy). Then came Kim Harrison‘s Rachel Morgan. Her witches fall into either the “earth witch” category or the “ley line” witch category. Magic has defined lines, though as Rachel of course finds out, where the line is tends to move. I liked that, but I still loved the idea of magic coming from within the character, like the Will and the Word used by Eddings, or being able to channel the One Power.

Little did I know that all of those ideas and preferences were beginning to culminate in the germination of my own witches, the ones who populate my trilogy. To me, nature is the essence of magic, and witches, if you will, are nothing more than conduits of that essence. They can change things and get nature to do things for them, but it all comes from the same place. Nature, science, that type of power that is bigger than humanity. Magic in this sense is never “good” or “evil” — it is the user that gives it the intent and meaning, for good or ill.

My question for all you fantasy readers out there — and writers — is this: how do you know she’s a witch? What gives witches their powers? Where does magic come from?

You can make it up — that’s what this is all about. But show me your magic.

How do I know she’s a witch? Well, I’ll tell you, gentle viewers.

If she weighs the same as a duck, she is made of wood! And therefore…a witch!


About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on December 14, 2011, in urban fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Loving he revamp (haha, get it? Yeah, I’m bad…) to the site, Emmie. And any post that brings in the great Python is clearly heading in the right direction. The other way to know someone’s a witch, by the way? If she turns people into newts. Doesn’t matter if you get better, of course…the very fact that newts came in at some point…

    In seriousness, though, the magical systems and rules various people utilize for their individual worlds are always a fascinating point for me to behold. I get a distinct sense of pleasure from seeing them done well. One of the reasons I very much hope my own system does well enough, with its almost alchemic-like principles at points…

    • Thanks, Chris! I spent too much time working on it last night. I am kind of a technophobe, so the fact that I mapped my domain and managed to finagle the whole “nameservers” thing has made me too proud to be bearable today. I think I told a coworker about my triumph three times.


      I seriously cannot wait to read your book — it shipped yesterday, so I hope I’ll get it by the end of the week.

  2. That twinkle in her eye. 😉

  3. If she weighs the same as a duck… I haven’t thought about that line for years! Thanks for the smiles. And boy, you must love Halloween. 🙂

    This line was great, “we fought over who got to be the magical blue witch (because as children, this is a never-ending and vital argument).” So true!

    • Those arguments used to get so heated — to the point of coming to blows sometimes, haha. Ah, youth.

      I do love Halloween, but mostly I just love urban fantasy — it’s what I write and what I read most often, and it’s populated with the bump in the night sort of creatures. Because of that, they take center stage in a lot of my diatribes. 🙂

  4. I’m generally not a fan of magic in my works (but read it with no problems at all!) I guess I just don’t like the idea what people need some magic to do awesome things, so I tend to use wacky inventions thought up by mad scientists. It’s really functionally the same, and the inventions might as well be magic for all they’d work in real life, but I just prefer ‘Someone Invented this!’ to ‘it’s magic.’ That said, Putting in magic systems and then using that, along with the normal laws of physics to create inventions can yield some really cool magitech.

    In one of the Drafts I have lying around somewhere I have some magic – it’s based a little around the Aether theory of the 19th century. Basically, A Gas called Aether is everywhere, and it allows light to pass through it. My ‘mages’ the Lightsworn can telepathically control Aether, allowing them to create dense walls of Aether that can be used as a shield or dense balls that can be used as a kinetic weapon. Because Aether is what allows the movement of light, dense sections of it appear black (no light can get through) and while magic is being used the ‘brightness’ of the world in the area will decline. Because of this, The Dense Aether spheres can ‘store light’ so if you create one, keep it up for a while ‘absorbing’ light, and then throw it – it will explode upon impact, dissipating the Aether and letting out a burst of heat and light.

    However Lightning causes the Aether to instantly dissipate. So, Say I was walking through the sky by creating Dense platforms of Aether under my feet, and it was hit by lighting, I would fall because the Aether would instantly dissipate, and the charge left in the air would prevent me from easily conjuring a new platform.

    That’s the extent of my magic. It’s a little bland, but it works for the story (which is filled with other elements) Perhaps I’ll do some more one day, I don’t know. For now, if I want to cast fireball I use some Fireworks filled with white phosphorus.

    • I have to say, I LOVE that idea.

      I adore having “reasons” for magic, or some explanation that manages to be somehow plausible for the reader. Knowing an author put in that kind of thought adds so much depth and texture to a story, in my opinion.

      Thank you so much for the comment and for stopping by!

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