|“||Nothing new under the Sun. That which is done unto us must be done unto others. That is the way of the world. To everything, there is a season, a time to every purpose in Hell. A time to reap, a time to sow. Yes. The season of the witch.||”|
Witchcraft is the practice of black magic (or "Maleficium") whose adherents are alternatively called "witches". According to Reverend Increase Mather, the practice of witchcraft dates as far back to the beginning of humankind, implying that the biblical characters, Adam and Eve, were the first of all witches. These implications were somewhat confirmed by Countess Von Marburg who expressed how Eve was the first of all womankind to "follow the Serpent", followed by her husband Adam, and their children. Since then, witches have existed for many centuries passing down their knowledge and skills through generations in family lines.
Based off the fact that witches are still human, they share many of the same weaknesses as ordinary mortals (i.e. age, decapitation, disease, heart-failure, suffocation, etc.). However, it is known that especially powerful witches can overcome these weaknesses. For example, Countess Palatine Ingrid Von Marburg has been able to cheat death for thousands of years by casting a powerful preservation spell over her own relic. Because of this, the Countess is impervious to permanent death and can resurrect herself time and time again, so long as her relic is not destroyed. Furthermore, it appears that every witch develops physical enhancements upon their initiation, but to a lesser degree than that of the Countess. These refinements include: cellular regeneration, durability, senses, speed and strength. After several hours of brutal torture from the infamous Increase Mather, Tituba was seen days later having most, if not all, of her wounds completely healed. Mary Sibley has also endured multiple injuries since her initiation into Witchcraft, all of which have completely healed shortly after the wounds were first inflicted. Additionally, it appears that the metabolic functions of a witch exceed that of an ordinary person as it prevents the build-up of poisons within their bodies. This was first shown with Mercy Lewis, who while hiding in crags from Increase Mather, was seen eating the decayed flesh of several corpses and was never seen to exhibit any signs of illness or negative side-effects. Moreover, these physical enhancements might also explain how Mercy Lewis was able to survive the fire that easily killed all of her disciples, but failed to kill the witch herself. Although the Countess taught Mercy how to accelerate the healing process through the use of blood baths, it can be assumed that Mercy's wounds would have eventually healed all on their own, albeit at a much slower rate.
A "Contract witch" is any person who has obtained their magic from the Devil. These witches are known to have summoned the Devil and made a deal with him in exchange for power. While it common for these witches to have traded their souls for power, it has been implied that not all witches sell their souls, but rather promise the Devil something else of value. According to Countess Von Marburg, contract witches are very common within the Witchcraft community, possibly even more so than cradle witches. Nevertheless, contract witches are considered inferior to cradle witches and do not come into their power as easily nor as quickly as cradle witches.
Note: While Countess Von Marburg believes that witches who are born are superior to witches who are made, because the Countess failed to elaborate how or why she believes this to be, it remains unknown as to whether or not contract witches truly are inferior to cradle witches, or if the Countess' statements were based entirely off of her own biased point of view.
A "Cradle witch" is any person who has obtained their magic from biological development. Not much is known about these witches apart from the fact that they are known to have been born with an internal source of power and seem to have a natural affinity to the supernatural forces within the universe. While Countess Von Marburg believes that witches who are born are superior to witches who are made, it has not been stated exactly how or why. However, according to Tituba, witches such as Anne Hale, who are born from old and powerful bloodlines, will come into their power easier and faster than witches who are made. Tituba explained to Mary Sibley that in spite of being the most powerful witch in Salem, and with more years of experience in Witchcraft, Anne Hale would still surpass Mary within a matter of weeks.
Note: According to Mary Sibley, all witches are required to meet the Devil as a prerequisite for the power that is given to them. While a contract witch must summon the Devil themselves, this is not the case with cradle witches, as the Devil will appear to them automatically and on his own terms. How and when the Devil will appear to them remains unknown, however, based off of a letter written by John Hale for his daughter, it was implied that after a cradle witch becomes of age and grows into their power, the Devil will appear to them sometime after this.
|“||True leadership is the power to deal both life and death, whereas men can only ever wield half that power; the easy part. Now, among the wise, real authority descends through women.||”|
Witchcraft is composed of numerous covens, known as Hives, and governed according to a specific hierarchy. Each hive also has specific traditions and rules. According to the words of the Countess Von Marburg, covens of witches follow a matriarchal government. Increase Mather once stated that covens of witches are no different from Christian congregations and denominations, and consist of internal factions often in rivalry with each other. According to John Hale, it is in the full right of an Elder to kill a member of the hive being discovered, in order to avoid revealing the names of members of a hive. To ensure control over members of a hive, the Samhain retains personal belongings of each member to be used if necessary to bewitch them.
- Main article: Samhain
The Samhain is the leader and supreme witch of their Hive and is employed to guide, protect and oversee the witches. The position of the Samhain is considered the highest ranking governmental body within the Witchcraft community and has existed for several centuries. According to Mary Sibley, the Samhain is not only responsible for the protection of their coven, but also for keeping the Old Ways alive and well. One of the ways this is done is by the fact that after a witch dies their Book of Shadows will magically find its way to the reigning Samhain as a means to keep the books from being lost or falling into the wrong hands. Furthermore, it is known that whoever claims the head of a fallen Samhain will become the next leader.
The Elders are the secondary leaders of the Hive and are commonly known for creating and enforcing the laws of the coven. Aside from being the legislators of the Witchcraft community, the Elders are also assigned the task of choosing important people, places and things that might benefit the witches. For example, prior to the death of the Essex Elders, these witches were responsible for choosing Salem as their new haven, and also for choosing Mary Sibley to complete the Grand Rite.
- Main article: Powers
|“||I, too, came into my powers in the wake of great and painful loss. And I remember what it was first like to feel my body from within, like a fever in the blood. That I could now do things, do things with words, with gestures.||”|
— Mary Sibley about Powers
According to Reverand Cotton Mather, the power of a witch is not only dependent on the source of their magic, but also on their knowledge and training in Witchcraft. While it appears that all witches obtain their magic from the Devil, not all witches have the same experience or expertise in the Dark Arts, nor do they share the same powers. According to Cotton Mather, the primary sources of power that almost all witches draw from are death (sacrifices) and lust (arousal). Furthermore, while some witches, such as the Essex hive, have been known to provide laws for their coven and themselves, other witches, such as the Baron Sebastian and Countess Palatine Ingrid Von Marburg, have shown more leniency in regard to their power, and have demonstrated extraordinary feats without fear or concern for possible consequences.
- Main article: Witch's Tools
Based on the fact that witches are still human, they share many of the same weaknesses as ordinary mortals (i.e. age, decapitation, disease, heart-failure, suffocation, etc.). However, it is known that especially powerful witches can overcome many of these weaknesses and have even managed to achieve pseudo-immortality. Nevertheless, even the mightiest of witches are by no means without limitations and are still susceptible to other events and forces that can be used against them. For example, according to Reverend Cotton Mather, a witch can be rendered powerless through the binding of dead wood and iron. And according to Mary Sibley, Valerian root is a herb that is commonly used by witch hunters to protect from magical influence.
|Countess Marburg||Countess Marburg is an ancient witch and among the first of her kind.||Undead|
|Sebastian Marburg||Sebastian was the son of Countess Marburg and the brother of Anne Hale. He was a powerful cradle witch.||Dead|
|John Hale was the father of Anne Hale, former Magistrate of Salem, Massachusetts and also a cradle witch.||Dead|
|Mary Sibley||Mary Sibley was the most powerful witch in Salem, Massachusetts, and Samhain of the Essex Hive. She was stripped of all her powers by the Devil.||Alive|
|Tituba||Tituba is the handmaiden of Mary Sibley and also a very powerful witch.||Alive|
|Anne Hale||Anne Hale is the daughter of John Hale and Countess Von Marburg and also an extremely powerful cradle witch.||Alive|
|Mercy Lewis||Mercy Lewis was a witch who obtained her power under the guidance of Mary Sibley.||Dead|
|John Sibley was the son of John Alden and Mary Sibley and also a witch.||Dead|
Witches: a list of all the witches who have appeared on the show.
- Cotton Mather: "The Devil was never going to let a promised land be built here without a fight, without a battle! And witches armed with deadly malice are the most malignant and insidious weapons in that battle In that war. Even a single witch in Salem is enough to destroy everything we have built and ever hope to build here! Now, we have already killed three of them, and yet their malice continues unabated. Why? Because there are still witches here among us! Perhaps in this very hall! Imagine a foe you can't see armed with weapons unknown and the ability to appear as any one of us!"
- -- The Vow
- Cotton Mather: "If she speaks an ancient unknowable tongue - she be a witch. If he has the devils mark - he be a witch. If she is the source of affliction, maladies and conjuration - she be a witch. If she uses her beauty to tempt to ruin people of Salem to commit sins of the flesh - she be a witch. I have but one thing to say to the condemned souls that plague this God fearing colony - You. Will. Burn!"
- -- from Season One promo teaser
- Mary Sibley: "And what about witches? Do they have souls, too?"
- Cotton Mather: "They do. But they have deeded them to the Devil himself in exchange for powers and all that they desire."
- Mary Sibley: "A contract? Ironic, as I believe, by law, a woman's not allowed to enter a contract but through the agency of their husband."
- Cotton Mather: "Not all witches are women."
- -- The Vow
- Anne Hale (to Cotton Mather): "Living in Salem and not believing in witches is like living in London and not believing in fog. It is to deny what is right in front of you."
- -- Cat and Mouse
- According to Adam Simon, there is a difference in power between witches who are born and witches who are made . What this difference is it remains unknown, however, a witch named Countess Von Marburg believes that witches who are born are superior to witches who are made. Another witch named Tituba also revealed that some witches, such as Anne Hale, who are born from old and powerful bloodlines, will come into their power much faster than witches who are made. Tituba explained to Mary Sibley that in spite of being the current Samhain, and having more years of experience and knowledge in witchcraft, Anne Hale will still surpass Mary within a matter of weeks.
- According to Reverend Increase Mather, anyone can become a witch by making a deal with the Devil. What this deal is it varies from person to person, however, it is known that most witches exchange their souls in trade for power. While this method is the easiest and most common way to become a witch, it is not the only way. It has been implied several times that not all witches sell their souls, but rather promise the Devil something else of value.
- Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to be a witch in order to practice magic. The Native Americans shamans and the Cunning ones (none of whom consider themselves witches, nor have any connection to the Devil) have proven that anyone can cast spells and perform other feats of magic, given the know-how. Nevertheless, while everyone has the potential to practice magic, witches are known to have more knowledge and understanding of the supernatural forces that permeates the universe. Thus, witches are able to perform much more powerful works of sorcery than other magic practitioners. The primary difference is, however, that witches are servants of the Devil, while other practitioners may worship other deities, or just implementing sympathetic magic and natural remedies.
- The term "warlock" is never used to describe a male witch. While other terms, such as "Necromancer" is used to describe witches who practice necromancy, it seems that "witch" is a gender-neutral term that is applied to both men and women. In the third season, some witches have been referred to by the Devil as "Night's Black Agents."
- ↑ Adam Simon talking about Witchcraft, Season 2 and real events used as the basis for the show's mythology.