But the witch is no longer terribly wild to us; she’s domesticated, normal, prone perhaps to a spell of madness but one from which she’ll emerge sunny and whole. She no longer signals a liberating spirit. Culturally, we have replicated witch-figures like Samantha of “Bewitched,” whose powers aid her in serving her husband. Our emblematic witch is Hermione Granger, who performs all the magic and takes none of the credit from Harry Potter. She is self-effacing and noble and never in any real danger of contamination by the dark. There are bad witches in Harry Potter, indeed, bad witches in many stories. But their cartoonish one-dimensionality cancels out any real portent. The internal conflicts go to Snape, while Bellatrix is irretrievable.
Which is only a shame if you think of this: just as the truly threatening witch has gone out of style, the people who most want to control women are out in force. You can barely walk these days without tripping over an old man planting a flag on someone’s reproductive organs. There are persecutions you can carry out without the aid of matches and a pile of lumber. It would at the very least be satisfying to have some uncontrolled she-witch stored in a closet. In the name of Maria, and Sidonia, and all the other women of loose character and bad morals whose sins cannot go unpunished, we could unleash the witch to her fun with all the righteous zealots we still have left.
The authentic avenging Morrigan, perhaps?