The Inventions of Witches


Best of 2017

We’re away until January 3, but we’re reposting some of our favorite pieces from 2017. Enjoy your holiday!

John William Waterhouse, The Magic Circle, 1886.

The inquisitors wanted something old from each witch they tortured—a Sabbath orgy or blood oath or cat demon or wolf-faced baby or some other verification of the stories they already believed. They also wanted something new, so they could feel, with each trial and execution, as if they were getting somewhere: With what instruments do you fly? What did the toad in the pot say? Which direction do you turn the horseshoe over the door to summon your demon?