Evolution Of The Witch: Witchy Women Of The Last 100 Years (VIDEO)

10/28/2011 08:38 am ET | Updated Dec 27, 2011
  • Emma Gray Executive Women's Editor, The Huffington Post

"Sparks fly from her fingertips ... She's a restless spirit on an endless flight" -- so goes the song "Witchy Woman" released in 1972 by rock band, the Eagles.

The Eagles were far from the first to draw on this image for inspiration. We may have put together a list of creative women's Halloween costumes for 2011, but the witch remains the most classic female getup. A ubiquitous figure, both in pop culture and history, the representation of the witch is by no means uniform; she's been interpreted in a multitude of ways over the years, from repulsive to stunning, evil to virtuous, air-headed to cunning.

In the Western world, witches are most famously associated with the European and North American witch-hunts that took place in the 15th to 18th centuries (remember the Salem Witch Trials?). Most of the individuals targeted, tortured and executed were women. And although the witch-hunts weren't exclusively about gender, much of the moral panic surrounding witchcraft stemmed from the fear of female sexuality and the threat it was thought to pose to the male-dominated Christian Church.

We've clearly come a long way since burning witches at the stake, but witchy women still have a hold on the popular imagination. In film and on TV, witches tend to be divided into two camps: good and evil. "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?" is the first question that Dorothy is asked after she lands in Oz. Good witches are generally depicted as beautiful, white and young, while bad witches are generally older, less conventionally attractive, often darker skinned, and prone to jealousy. In recent years, some of the witches that have emerged have been more nuanced characters (Antonia and Marnie from the most recent season of "True Blood" come to mind).

To explore the witch's cultural evolution, we've rounded up a slideshow of our favorite -- and most famous -- witches of the last 100 years.

Badass Witches From Pop Culture