Writing About Witches

Funny drawing of a contemporary witch illustrating an article on writing about witchesI don’t believe in Witches – at least not in the ancient ghostly sense. But, that doesn’t mean the writer in me doesn’t find the general ideas and mythologies around Witches intriguing.

I also find the notion that there might just be a few of them hanging around my local woods very appealing – particularly since I spend a lot of time there walking my dog.


But then I suppose I am a little bit biased. I love stories about witches and I love the idea of powerful women with magic.

I love powerful women even more when they are the ones saving the day. That’s why I wrote my children’s story, The Witch of Ballyyahoo.

In my story the Witch is a wonderful magical woman who watches over, protects and sometimes even saves the people of Ballyyahoo.

In the past, a woman’s power has been seen as something evil, something that should be stopped – women were even drowned for using herbs to help the sick.


I wanted something different for my witch. I wanted her to be contemporary, funny, wise and of course – ready to save the world. Oh and I wanted her to be Irish too.

So, I set the story in my fictional world of Ballyyahoo, which is a great place for a Witch to hang out as it’s already isolated and magical.

Besides, I love writing about Witches. Many writers are and it’s easy to understand why.

Witches have existing characterization; their faces and clothes are familiar, as are their dwellings, locations and spells – not to mention the magic.

Witches and their stories, ‘real’ or imagined, have been doing the rounds in various forms for a very long time.


They are fun, nasty, exciting, terrifying, funny, warm all at the same time – what’s not to like?

Both writers and academics have explored and examined the history of witches, their purpose in society, and their place in folklore.

The results of these explorations are readily available in fiction and non-fiction. Since this terrain is so well mapped you might well ask, why write about them at all?

For me the first and most important thing is enjoyment – if I didn’t enjoy what I was writing about it would be dull and flat.


Then there is also the challenge of writing about something so ingrained in the culture of stories. I like a challenge and who says that stories have to end there?

I think there’s plenty more to be learned about witches. Society is changing all the time. There is no reason why witches can’t be brought into today’s landscape.

The whole concept and characterization of Witches can be updated, or kept within tradition.


I love the idea of an up-to-date Witch, moving through a modern story like a walking piece of history.

Some people say writers write to escape from reality – as if that’s a problem. But there’s nothing wrong with escaping from reality now and again.

Still, there are far more reasons to write than pure escapism and these are specific to each individual writer.


For me there is also the idea of entering a new reality. What’s even better is that I get to create that reality myself.

When I write about Ballyyahoo I am not writing about a fictional town. In my mind it is real.

Okay, it may be a little isolated from the rest of Ireland and yes, nobody knows where it is, but that means I get to use my imagination and love of invention however I want.

This to me, is as free as can be, and I love being free.

Of course, if you open up even the tiniest door into a safe little world like Ballyyahoo, badness will surely follow.


I had to invent a policeman to keep the town safe and so I invented Sergeant Sid, but unfortunately he’s not terribly efficient.

Funny drawing of a donkey with a head light illustrating an article on writing about witches

He’s far more interested in confiscating sweets and cakes and inventing silly crimes like having no head lights on a donkey and wearing odd socks. Meanwhile the real villains go unnoticed.

To counteract that badness you need more a lot more than a policeman who hasn’t seen a real criminal since 1976, and that was only a picture in the training manual. You need a witch!


So you see I had to invent a Witch for Ballyyahoo – somebody had to save the town. Therefore as a writer, I had no absolutely no choice – Ballyyahoo needed me to write about witches.

I have to write about witches. I need to write about witches, so do I really need another excuse?

Bye for now




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