A witch is a human being born with a piece of the All, which enables them to manifest magical powers. Like mortals, witches can be either good or evil, but only good witches serve as protectors of the innocent.
The origin of witchcraft dates back to the beginning of the Earth itself. Since then, witches have existed for untold centuries, passing down their knowledge and skills through generations in family lineages. Contrary to popular belief, witches do not receive their powers from demons, nor do they worship the Devil. Instead, witches use their powers to hunt and vanquish demons in order to protect the innocent and to make the world a safer place. The term "witch" is not exclusive to females, as males can also be witches as well.
Every bloodline of witches originated from Neena, also known as the first witch.
- (Book of Shadows Comic text:)
Witches, like mortals, can be either good or evil, but only the good witches serve as protectors of the Innocent. traditionally, Witches are born with a primary active power, such as telekinesis, but their powers grow as they are.
Often, their supernatural abilities are exhibited in early childhood, though it is not unusual for a person to grow into adulthood before her or his capabilities are realized. In addition to their active powers, Witches can also cast spells and create potions to amplify their magic. They live by the rule that they are not to use their magic for personal gain. Witches must decide within the first forty-eight hours of their powers awakening if they will travel the path of good or evil.
Origin of Witches
When the world was dark, a spiritual energy ran through everything that existed, neither Good nor Evil. The Elders called it The All. Thousands of years ago, a woman came across that Nexus. She alerted her mate of what she had found. At first they were afraid of it, but she pushed past that fear and tapped into this power. The woman was infused with more of the All than any human was supposed to possess. The woman shared that power with her mate and it changed them, making them immortal. It bonded them forever to one another and to The All. They ascended to a place of pure, utter bliss that they shared with the All, known as the Higher Realm.
However, their presence there affected the earth as The All was contained to the Higher Realm. As a result, the world started to die. The only way to save the world was for the woman and her mate to separate their powers and allow the power of The All to flow freely again. The woman and man were forced to abandon the Higher Realm, never to return again. Once back on Earth, the woman gave birth to a pair of twins that were conceived while she was in the Higher Realm. The first child was a female and had powers like her mother, though not as strong, and it was from this child that almost all witches descend from. The second child was a male born with the same abilities, but he used the magic for dark purposes, and that gave rise to warlocks. Their other children possessed no magic of their own, but they and their descendants could tap into The All as practitioners. In very rare circumstances, these non-magical descendants could give birth to a full witch. This is very likely how Melinda Warren was born a witch. Every time a witch or warlock was born, he/she inherits a tiny piece of the All that allowed them to develop an active power.
During the late 17th century in Salem, Massachusetts, several men and women were persecuted for practicing witchcraft. During this period in Colonial America, many of the Puritans who had settled in the Northeast believed that witches were servants for the Devil. These events became known the Salem Witch Trials, in which numerous people—witches and mortals—were hanged or otherwise killed.
Witches come in two types: Magical witches and Practitioners. This method of classification has been used several times in the show when practitioners have been an element of the storyline.
Humans who practice witchcraft, but lack any true magical powers are known as "practitioners." The practitioners featured on Charmed tend to treat witchcraft as a more religious experience than the sisters do and usually follow the Neopagan religion of Wicca. These witches are not immune to the power of Molecular Immobilization. However, it was revealed that some practitioners do have the fundamental Wiccan abilities of casting effective spells, brewing potions, and Scrying, but lack an active power.
Magical witches are born with the ability to use magic. Their supernatural powers are passed on to them through blood from their ancestors, and are bound to their emotions, thoughts, and souls. A witch's magic is a genetic component that may skip a generation, making them mortals before their magic resurfaces.
Each magical witch would possess the fundamental Wiccan skills to cast spells, brew potions, scry for lost objects or people and acquire information through divining. Besides this, their magic will manifest itself in the form of one or more individual, personal powers commonly known as "active powers." These powers can be used at will and do not require incantations or potions. Magical witches are able to access their magic from an early age, but their powers can manifest from the womb and can be tapped into.
All and only good magical witches are assigned whitelighters by the Elders, and also have familiar when they first begin combating evil. Magical witches are also further classified as upper-level or lower-level. Upper-level witches naturally possess more strength and skill than lower-level witches, which allow them to perform more spectacular feats of magic, such as casting spells of supreme power and brewing potent potions to help achieve their goals. All good witches, regardless of their level of power, are immune to the effects of Molecular Immobilization. In a family of witches, the firstborn child is supposedly the strongest compared in its set of siblings. According to Gammill, good witches have the selfless instinct to help people in need.
A witch who betrays the Wiccan Rede, sells his or her soul to pure evil and kills another witch to steal his or her powers becomes a warlock. A warlock can be either male or female, just like a witch can be either gender.
They tend to strengthen their powers by killing other magical creatures and obtaining theirs. Upper-level warlocks possess the ability of blinking, which was originally a witch's power before it transcended into a warlock's.
Although a warlock is usually originally a witch, some are also born that way. They can also be converted through a dark wedding ritual with a warlock, which will convert the witch in hours. The very first warlock to walk the Earth was the male of the twins born to the first witch, Neena.
An evil witch, sometimes confused with a warlock, is a witch who renounces the Wiccan Rede, and redirects to using his/her powers for personal gain and evil means. They typically do not kill witches for their powers, but if they desire so, they use other methods to obtain them. They also do not sell their soul to the devil. When witches turn evil, they renounce their right to a Whitelighter.
One memorable evil witch was P. Russell, who was a distant relative of the Charmed Ones as well as Phoebe Halliwell's past life, who turned evil when she fell in love with a warlock named Anton. Another was the Evil Enchantress of the Dark Ages, who was Paige Matthews' past life. Other examples include Tuatha, the Stillman Sisters, the Wicked Witch from the Magic Mirror and Vicus' Collective.
Whitelighter-Witches are the offspring of a witch and a Whitelighter. These hybrids possess the basic powers their Wiccan heritage and may develop the powers and calling of a Whitelighter. These hybrids are also able to develop unique hybrid powers, such as telekinetic orbing, which is the combination of telekinesis and orbing. These hybrids are vulnerable to the poison of Darklighter arrow.
Demon-Witches are the offspring of a witch and a demon. Only one of these hybrids is known to have existed. The Source's Heir was the child of Phoebe Halliwell and Cole Turner, who at the time was possessed by the Source of All Evil. The union between Cole and Phoebe created a massive concentration of power. The unborn child was later stolen by the Seer and its overwhelming power destroyed them both.
The Phoenix is a coven of assassin witches who have risen from the ashes from the Salem witch trials. Powerful, agile, and cunning, these witches will stop at nothing to collect whatever bounty they have been hired for. Such witches are born with the birthmark of a phoenix on their bodies as proof of their legion. These witches are neither pure good or evil and possess powers that appear demonic in nature. They also possess Grimoires instead of a Book of Shadows.
Darklighter-Witches are the crossbreed between a witch and a Darklighter and can inherit powers and abilities from both species. The first Darklighter-Witch was evil Paige, followed by evil Wyatt and evil Chris Halliwell. When trying to send Chris Halliwell back to the future, Gideon sabotaged the attempt as a distraction and instead traded the good Leo and Chris for their evil counterparts.
Cupid-Witches are the offspring of a witch and a Cupid. These hybrids possess the basic powers of their Wiccan heritage and may inherit the powers of Cupids. Unlike pure Cupids, they do not require a Cupid Ring to activate their powers. The only known half-cupids are the three daughters of Coop and Phoebe Halliwell, the eldest of which is P.J. Halliwell.
The Gypsies are the sister species of witches. The High Priestess of gypsies is called a Shuvani and is wiser than most Gypsies. Unlike witches, they are not as powerful, and rely on using herbal remedies and spells to access their powers. When a Gypsy sees a "mulo," the spirit of a living dead, it only depicts that something horrible is about to happen. In the Nicolae family, one member of each generation was assigned with the task to protect the Evil Eye-the protective symbol of the Gypsy family, much like the symbol of a witch family.
Firestarters are magical beings born with the ability to create and manipulate fire. However, Firestarters do not possess any other magical powers. It was later revealed to be possible for an individual to be both a witch and a Firestarter, as shown by Christy Jenkins. She possessed the power of Telepathy as well as Pyrokinesis and was mentioned as being a Firestarter as well as a witch.
Empaths are reincarnated mortal beings with the ability to sense the emotions of others. These beings are destined to offer guidance and healing to those that need it. As shown by Phoebe Halliwell, it is possible for a witch to be destined to receive the power of empathy and gain the title of empath. Phoebe mentioned this power most likely grew from her premonition power and Leo mentioned she was meant to receive it.
After witches pass on to the afterlife, they may become spirits unless they choose to be reincarnated. Witches are generally powerful spirits and retain the powers they possessed during their lives. Spirits of witches are also able to cast the spell to banish evil spirits, as the spell requires the caster to be a spirit. They may be summoned to cross the divide and some possess the power to come and go as they desire.
The Window of Opportunity
The Window of Opportunity presents itself if a new witch hasn't decided to use his/her powers for good or evil yet. During this time, she/he could be swayed either way. The Window of Opportunity remains open for forty-eight hours from the moment the witch's powers awake.
Because of free will, good and evil are unable to make her/him choose her/his path magically. However, evil can tempt the witch to take an innocent's life to make her/him take the path of evil, which will make her/him evil forever. On the other hand, if the witch does an act of good, she/he becomes good.
The Window of Opportunity was created eons ago by good and evil to protect free will. What happens after the forty-eight hours if the witch still hasn't made his/her choice remains unexplained.
A window opened for Paige Matthews when she first gained Wiccan powers. Paige initially feared magic—especially after her encounter with Shax and attempted to stay oblivious from the magical world. Unfortunately, this gave the Source a chance to turn her evil. However, Phoebe and Piper managed to turn her good before the time ran out.
Unbecoming a Witch
There are multiple methods for magical witches to lose their powers and their basic affinity to magic.
A witch can relinquish her powers and affinity to all sorts of magic using either a spell or a potion. Said powers will then either vanish or be given to another individual. The Hollow is known to be the most formidable method. The witch who loses her power will become completely mortal.
Another way to separate a witch from her powers is by transforming her into another supernatural being altogether. This has been done multiple times throughout the show. While some transformations allowed the witch to retain some, if not all, of their original powers, others usually make them disappear altogether.
Such transformations are listed below:
- Succubus: When a witch makes a pact with darkness to protect herself from heartbreak, she becomes a succubus—a sexual predator. She seeks out powerful men who become helpless against her magic, then feeds off their testosterone with her razor-sharp tongue.
- Banshee: When a pain-stricken witch hears the killing scream of a banshee, she becomes a banshee herself. To undo the transformation, the new banshee must face her pain at its root before she kills an innocent.
- Vampire: Bites from a vampire will transform a witch into one as well. The only way to reverse the transformation is to kill the Vampire Queen before the witch bites an innocent, which will destroy all vampires originated from her while rendering the witch human again.
- Thought Projection: If done correctly, this power could be used to transform a witch into another being altogether, such as a superhero.
- Elder: On rare occasions, when an Elder is ready to retire, he is meant to pass his powers on to his successor. The chosen one can be either magical or mortal. In late 2002, a young witch named Kevin became an Elder after Ramus died.
- God: Becoming a god is a rare and dangerous method that could bring about catastrophe. Since a god is transcendent, the transformation is usually complete. To reverse the transformation, one needs to separate the power from the witch.
- Genie: Becoming a genie is a way to transform a witch. In 2004, Phoebe took the place of the demon Jinny because the bottle she was trapped in could make anyone who wished the genie free replace the freed genie.
Although the idea of the practitioner is not elaborated on in the show, the Charmed novel "Mystic Knoll" goes into great detail about them. According to the book, witch practitioners are mortals with a natural affinity to magic. Hence they can use magic. However, the witch practitioner must rely upon external sources of power from which to draw upon in order to use the three basic witch powers. For example, Abigail Thornwood was able to curse her daughter at Mystic Knoll, because the place was a natural reservoir of magic which she could tap into and use as 'fuel'. Magic may also be drawn from magical people such as when Harriet Thornwood cast a spell using both Mystic Knoll and the Charmed Ones' magic.
However, magical witches have an internal spring from which their magical power flows and hence can use basic witch powers wherever and whenever they want. Due to the nature of their power source (i.e. an inward one personal to them), they have a unique connection with magic and because of this, they are able to tap into it in a unique way through personal powers (i.e. Premonition, Telekinesis etc.).
Although the books are only semi-canonical, this idea does not contradict anything on the show and both is highly similar to modern ideas on magic in Wicca (especially Scott Cunningham's concepts on "powers") in reality and serves to explain a lot about the difference between practitioners and magical witches and so would not be too much of a stretch to consider it canon rather than fanon.
- "Hook-nosed hags riding broomsticks. That's what we're celebrating. Personally I am offended by the representation of witches in popular culture."
- —Phoebe talking about the representation of witches in popular culture
In popular culture witches are believed to be evil creatures (primairly women) who sold their souls to demons in exchange of magical powers. They are also believed to be hook-nosed hags riding broomsticks, a stereotype which was started by Phoebe Halliwell. Despite it being inaccurate, the Wicked Witch of the Enchanted Forest perpetrates this stereotype. Witches also have been central to the plot of numerous fictional stories, even if the general public doesn't believe in supernatural magic.
Bewitched was a popular TV show that originally ran from 1964 to 1972 that followed the witch Samantha Stephens, and how she had to avoid using her magic because her husband didn't approve. The show (in reruns) was Phoebe's favorite show growing up, and she has said it is where she learned "how to be a wife". Cole Turner, however, had never heard of the show. ("Lost and Bound")
Piper occasionally watched Passions, a soap opera involving an evil witch Tabitha who wreaks havoc on the city the show takes place in. While watching Tabitha cast a spell once, Piper noted: "Hm! Like that spell would've worked". ("The Day the Magic Died")
Many other shows also deal with the concept of modern day witches. Below is a list of shows and movies that have at least one of their main characters a witch.
TV Shows mentioned in Charmed
Films mentioned in Charmed
- Harry Potter series
- Sleepy Hollow
- Sleeping Beauty
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- The Little Mermaid
- The Chronicles of Narnia