Witches have a long history of persecution, often being the scapegoats of tragedy and natural disaster. In the grim, paranoid Middle Ages, many women and children were executed for practicing "witchcraft," which was actually just a term for alternative forms of worship and anything that fell outside the pale of the "normal" and dominant culture. The legacy of witches in pop culture also stirs up some trouble. Just think of the ways in which the dichotomy between good and bad witches mirrors the Madonna/whore complex. Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West ring a bell?
At some point, however, witches went from being evil, dangerous outcasts to symbolizing the power in femininity. When? Well, some trace it back to second-wave feminism and then again to the Riot Grrrl era of the '90s. Whenever it started, we're definitely still here for it—especially with Halloween just around the corner, when broomsticks and pointy hats are on display on every aisle of every convenience store in America. Furthermore, we think it's time to get a little more creative, in true witch fashion.
To prove that witches come in all shapes and sizes, don't have to be all good or all bad, aren't always hideous and evil incarnate, and that their sexuality definitely isn't linked to said evil, we're celebrating our 15 favorites from mythology and folklore, retro-television shows, Blockbuster hits, and contemporary media. Some are scary, some are stylish, some are feminist icons, and some are even rumored to be real, so watch out. Read through to get to know them and then decide who you want to summon on Halloween (or conjure up their otherworldy strength, quit your day job, and start your own full-time coven).