Although witches have been a constant ‘monster of the week’ in Supernatural it wasn’t until season ten and the introduction of the witch Rowena MacLeod that they took their place in the season’s main conflict.
In later seasons the show reveals just how little hunters, including the Winchesters, knew about the supernatural world in their early years. There are more monsters, things thought myth are real and beings can be more powerful than originally thought. Witches are one such being, revealed to more powerful than previously thought in earlier seasons. This is proven with Rowena managing to control angels, demons, both heal and harm The Darkness and fight off the archangel Lucifer. Other powerful witches include the Celtic practitioners raising Samhain, the nine-hundred-year-old Irish gambler, the couple in need of counseling and the Loughlins.
“According to the Grand Coven, there are three recognized kinds of witches in the world. Most common are the Borrowers, those who harness the power of a demon to practice the art… Second, and rarest of all, are the Naturals, those who are born with the gift.” The third are “the Students, those with no natural ability, who, with enough practice and training and a Grand Coven approved mentor to show them the path, can eke out a modicum of witchy power.”
There is a rich and complicated history of witchcraft in the show, and they are one of the beings in which the lines between good and evil are blurred.
Let’s take a look at Supernatural: 25 Rules The Witches Need To Follow.
25 SELL YOUR SOUL
The most common witches in Supernatural are the “Borrowers” who sell their souls to demons for their power, although they sometimes seem to be unaware of the deal, making it different than the standard crossroads deal. This was revealed in season three when the boys challenged a coven that had accidentally sold themselves to a demon, the same one the demon Ruby signed herself to during the Black Plague. We see a few examples of this over the course of the series, but none are as powerful as those born to the craft.
24 ALWAYS DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Other witches, through study and practice, can “eke out a modicum of witchy power,” like the witch/detective James in season eight. These witches are generally apprentices of Grand Coven witches, since their decline when they were hunted down by the Men of Letters, it has been increasingly common that the “Student” type witches often find their way to the craft on their own through intense self-study or other witches. Non-practicing witches or Wiccans are not considered witches (although hunters consider them the same) but are part of the witch community, revealed in season eight.
23 BORN THIS WAY
“Rarest of all are the naturals.” The third kind of witch is natural born with abilities of magic. These are usually the most powerful, but must still be trained in the craft. The few witches we have seen display this level of power have gone up against extremely powerful forces, like arch-angels, and won. These witches are usually part of the Grand Coven where they go to learn their magic and develop their abilities. Over the course of Supernatural one of these witches has stood out from the rest: Rowena MacLeod.
22 LEARN FROM THE BEST
Despite calling themselves Men of Letters, supposedly fighting the supernatural like hunters, they are basically the second kind of witches, putting themselves under a different umbrella and calling themselves otherwise. Through this they were able to persecute in the name of power, stealing most of the books they own from the Grand Coven. This organization is painted as the good guys and it isn’t until the boys meet the British charter of the Men of Letters that they realize this isn’t true. This allows all Men of Letters to magically combat multiple enemies, making them witches in their own right.
21 KNOW THE BOSS
All witches are supposed to answer to the Grand Coven, the authority on global witchcraft, based in Europe. Their headquarters is where witches usually go to study magic. They have since lost most of their power and have been almost completely decimated by the Men of Letters. All witches need permission from the Grand Coven to form their own coven or take an apprentice. They also produce the High Priestesses who are generally considered the supreme on magic. Not all these witches are good or bad, but none are to be crossed.
20 ALWAYS CHECK YOUR INGREDIENTS
As Rowena said, “handling the ingredients, getting the measurements just right. Unless, of course, either of you have spent years of your life studying with the greats, learning the intricacies of High Witchcraft.” Getting something wrong can be bad in witchcraft, completely changing the outcome of a spell. Furthermore, an ingredient can cause a spell to simply fail. One example of this is when Gabriel’s severely depleted grace causes the portal to fail, despite his attempt to defend himself Rowena explains the situation, “an impaired six-year-old could execute that magic, it wasn’t the spell-caster or the spell it was the ingredient.”
19 WE BE HUMAN
An outlier in the types of witches as defined by the Grand Coven is the Shtriga. These creatures were introduced in season one, feeding on the life force of children. Supposedly it is a type of witch from Albanian folklore, legends dating back as far as Ancient Rome and said to take on a human guise (usually an older woman), but are not human themselves even though witches are considered to be human. They are said to be the origin of the assumption that “witches look like old crones.” They are likely not witches, but entirely separate entities similar to the Soul Eater from 11x16.
18 DON’T TAKE POWER FOR GRANTED
Rowena confirms that the magic she uses is the forces of nature made manifest, it is to be respected and worshiped. Witches are usually Pagan or Wiccan, serving magic and therefore able to harness its power. But like nature, if disrespected, it will turn on you. Years of study is necessary to harness such power, otherwise, the wannabe witch often ends up deceased.
The “Borrowers” operate much in the same way with their worship of demons. Should they start causing trouble then the demon they are siphoning their magic from could turn on them, ending their lives.
17 WANT EXTRA JUICE?
Witches can channel other forces for power. For “Borrowers” that’s a demon. Other witches can also channel magic beings. There are multiple examples of this throughout the series, calling on Pagan gods. Another example is Rowena calling on “the wings of Tatiana” in her attempt to spy on the Winchesters and Crowley. Tatiana is a fae queen, suggesting that witches can also channel other species with magic. However, upon meeting Castiel she was rather surprised and awed, suggesting, much like most of humanity, angels were considered myth before the Apocalypse and not something a witch would usually channel.
16 PREP YOUR HEXES
Most spells and rituals usually require a physical source to channel the power: a charm, talisman, coin, hex-bag, potion or grimoire. Although there are exceptions in the series, most high-level magic requires more ingredients. For example, the witch in season five who was attempting to summon Samhain left a hex bag in the boy's room to eliminate them from afar. And the witch Maggie Stark used enchanted coins in her attempted murder of her husband’s assistant, causing tiny beating hearts to appear inside her freshly baked pink cupcakes.
15 WITCH TRAPS STINK
Demons can be caught by a devils trap and similarly, witches can be trapped by a witch-catching device. Witches faced these centuries ago, but must always be wary as it also forces you to obey and tell the truth. This device even controlled the likes of Rowena, one of the most imposing witches to ever live.
Similarly to multiple monsters and fairies, iron affects witches. Iron cuffs are used several times in Supernatural to bind witches, including James and Rowena. They prevent the use of magic, but they do not hold forever.
14 KNOW WHAT CAN END YOU
Witches cannot be eliminated by the standard gun or weapon. They can only be ended by a higher being, like a demon or angel, or with a potion. This potion is discovered by Bobby in season seven. The boys later integrate this into bullets: “hollow tips filled with witch-ending brew,” and, on occasion, a Molotov cocktail version. These potions are very sensitive and won’t work if the ingredients are not perfect. In their first attempt, the spell failed because the chicken feet weren’t chilled. Another time witches are vulnerable is during ritual sacrifice. Witches are often arrogant and only die because they ignored this fact.
13 WE CAN LIVE FOREVER
Particularly powerful witches can perform a spell for immortality. The “Naturals” are usually trained in the most potent version of this spell, able to perform it on others, even making sure it doesn’t come into effect until adulthood. Other witches have been known to perform similar spells, but without the same type of training it ends up being a much trickier process. The witch Charlie would age normally and then have to sacrifice a couple of people towards the end of his life to regain his youth. Another witch trades years of life through mystical gambling, both gaining and losing decades at a time.
12 BEWARE THOSE WITH PREJUDICE
Whilst hunters often perceive them as such, witches are not inherently evil, nor is magic. Despite their dislike of witches any spell the boys use technically is them using witchcraft, placing them in the second category, like other Men of Letters. This is a fact neither of them acknowledges and their journey to accepting witchcraft is a slow one. Although there have been witches that have helped them, it isn’t until James, someone they knew before he became a witch, that their opinions started to change. “He’s used his skills for nothing but good so why don’t you lose the [ignorance] and give him a shot.”
11 WHITE MAGIC IS A-OKAY
The only hunters that admit to using witchcraft are Tasha and Max Banes, who are white witches and hunters that specialize in evil witches. Although there appears to only be a difference in sheer power, white magic is associated with being good and usually gets a hunter’s (albeit reluctant) seal of approval. White magic is said to be “very Enya, lots of crystals.” The first witch seen with powerful white magic is Max and, although the Men of Letters paint their spells in that light as well, all their books come from the Grand Coven, who practices High Witchcraft and the Dark Arts.
10 THE NAIL THAT STICKS OUT…
A witch’s powers can be bound magically when they are perceived to be too powerful, like Rowena was by the Grand Coven. “I was banned from practicing, disapproved of my methods. Said my magic was too extreme. I was forbidden from using magic, from taking students, from forming a coven.”
It is revealed seasons later that they actually bound her powers magically, rather than the simple banning. When she was unbound she had the power to change fate and end reapers with a spell, making her far more powerful than she was before.
9 IF YOU’RE GOING TO THE UNDERWORLD…
In season three it is revealed that Demons were once human souls who went to The Underworld. The “Borrower” witches sold their souls for power and thus go to Hell upon their death. However, like the demon Ruby, those who were once witches in their human life retain their mystical powers through their transformation/demonification in The Underworld. This is often a huge advantage for demons. Ruby was able to track angels and make protective hexbags against angels, demons, and other threats. Crowley has often used the magic he learned from his mother, Rowena, to threaten and defeat his enemies.
8 ALWAYS HAVE A BACK-UP
It wouldn’t be Supernatural without the occasional resurrection. Unlike the Winchesters, who need outside help, witches can bring themselves back from the dead in multiple ways. “Borrower” witches who worshipped the demon Samhain, arose in other bodies (it is unclear if they made these bodies or possessed them). Rowena had a pocket of magic sown inside her to save her life-force once her body was destroyed. The spell was so powerful she was able to bring herself back after being dispatched by Lucifer twice.
7 MAKE A LASTING IMPRESSION WITH YOUR CURSE
Witches and high priests/priestesses can create cursed objects with immense power that even affects the heavens. The coin of Babylon grants the most impossible of wishes, the lucky rabbit’s foot that curses anyone who loses it, a magical Chinese pearl that grants the deepest desire of your heart (powerful enough to re-write history). And all the other cursed objects that have been locked away, such as those in the season seven episode, which included magical ballet shoes, enchanted ‘grown-up reading’ and a kettle that forced you to boil yourself.
6 NOT THE BE ALL END ALL
As the Supernatural world continues to expand it is revealed that witches and magic of other dimensions and universes often have different rules. Dark Kaia, from the alternate universe ‘The Bad Place’ used magic that doesn’t function in our universe but was powerful enough to open a rift in the multiverse (something the Arch-Nephilim couldn’t accomplish alone). And the Wicked Witch of the West from Oz, which is another world in the same universe, had a unique set of abilities and vulnerabilities that no Earth-witch has been shown to have.
5 WHAT’S IN A NAME
There are various other forms of witchcraft that don’t fall under the title of ‘witch,’ such as gypsies, Chinese mind control, and hoodoo. Gypsies create Putsi bags, like a witches hexbag they can be used to curse, protect, or bestow blessings. Often monks and priests have their own magic, such as mind control, used by Lady Toni Bevell. Voodoo originates from African spiritual beliefs and Hoodoo is developed from various African spiritualties and magic, formed in the New World. Prophets also have spells they learn from The Word of God that are not under the recognized title of ‘witch.’
4 IF SABRINA HAS SALEM
Witches sometimes take a familiar, which are somewhat like skinwalkers, being able to transform back and forth from human and their chosen animal form. Familiars find the witches and their souls become bonded as one, much like soulmates. Although they usually have something akin to friendship, they must follow a direct command from their master. They are not supposed to have intimate relationships with their witches, although one rare case is the familiar Portia and witch James who, once bonded, fell in love. Not all witches have a familiar nor need one.
3 BEWARE OF HUNTERS
Witches actually tend to beat the boys the most often of any Supernatural being in their ‘monster of the week’ episodes. In season three the demon took the witches down, in season five the boys lost to the Irish witch and only lived because another witch helped them, in season seven they were completely defeated and then saved by the two witches, and Rowena has gotten the better of the boys many times over. In fourteen seasons, the boys have only ended seven witches themselves. Still, a hunter is not to be trifled with and better avoided, but a witch is definitely not easily vanquished.
2 DON’T HIT ABOVE YOUR BELT
Magic above your level can hurt you and have bad consequences. Certain spells can only be done with a certain amount of witches. Rowena’s time travel spell to escape the darkness called for a second, as it was too strong to be attempted alone. Witches form covens to attempt these greater magics (it “takes three for a coven”). Witches of a lower level should never attempt high-level spells
1 ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT
Reading over all spells you do is extremely important. Magic is like a “binary system”; there cannot be a way to remove a curse if there is not a way to inflict it. Nothing is free in magic so if you don’t read the fine print you may release a primal force older than God that wants to eat the universe. This is exactly what happened when Sam forced Rowena to cure Dean of the Mark of Cain. As a result, The Darkness, God’s older sister and destruction incarnate, was unleashed onto the universe.