What is the origin of the myth that witches burn in water?

  • As per most of the stories I know, witches usually burn when they come into contact with water.

    Why is this so and what is the origin of this myth? Also,why do witches burn? What about wizards?

    Would it be possible to give us an example of a story where a witch got burned from coming into contact with water?

    And *The Wizard of Oz* doesn't count. :)

    Monthy Python??? Bedevere: What also floats in water? [...] Arthur: A Duck! Bedevere: Exactly! I am aware of the fact Witches have been burnt. And in England dunked. But the combo...

    It is an invention from wizard of Oz combining the floating on water and the burning at the stake. Possibly combining the precaution of sprinkling holy water on doors to keep away witches.

    i think it is just bad logic 1- holy water burns evil beings, 2- whitches are evil 3- holy water is made of water, 4- water burns witches

  • Bellerophon

    Bellerophon Correct answer

    6 years ago

    TL;DR This belief doesn't come from a myth. It first appeared in The Wizard of Oz.

    I think the first time this belief was stated was in The Wizard of Oz rather than in any myths. The belief probably comes from older myths/customs surrounding witches that were drawn upon to create this idea for the Wizard of Oz.

    1. Water used to find witches. This took 2 forms. A suspected witch would be tossed into a pond with feet and hands bound and if she floated she was a witch. A more likely origin for the burning in water idea though is a second method to find witches. The suspected witch placed her arm in boiling water the wound was then bound with a bandage. After a week the bandage was removed and if the wound was healed they were innocent as God had healed them. If not they were guilty.

    2. Holy water was used to keep away witches. People would put holy water on their door to keep out witches. This happened in Catalan traditions as, at the new year, according to Catalan folklore, witches are supposed to come and steal children away unless precautions were taken including sprinkling holy water on entrances and exits.

    3. Witches in Catalan folklore were often scared of water as washing them would reveal the devils mark showing them to be a witch.

    On the other hand I doubt Catalan folklore had witches die in contact with water since a ritual to become a witch involved bathing in saltwater which would not be a safe pastime if water killed them.

    The answer states that there doesn't appear to be any such tradition to speak of (seems correct, as far as I can tell), and proposes a mythic provenance of the phenomenon seen in the Wizard of Oz (best guess so far as to where this is coming from). Seems pretty good to me.

    Frank Baum explained that the wicked witch had no blood because her wickedness had dried her up. So, my explanation is that the witch was so dried up that when the water hit her, it broke down her molecules, thus making her melt into a puddle.

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution

Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM