American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


“Something Wicked This Way Comes”: Constructing the Witch in Contemporary American Popular Culture

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies/Sociology

First Advisor

Angela Nelson


What is a Witch? Traditional mainstream media images of Witches tell us they are evil "devil worshipping baby killers," green-skinned hags who fly on brooms, or flaky tree huggers who dance naked in the woods. A variety of mainstream media has worked to support these notions as well as develop new ones. Contemporary American popular culture shows us images of Witches on television shows and in films vanquishing demons, traveling back and forth in time and from one reality to another, speaking with dead relatives, and attending private schools, among other things. None of these mainstream images acknowledge the very real beliefs and traditions of modern Witches and Pagans, or speak to the depth and variety of social, cultural, political, and environmental work being undertaken by Pagan and Wiccan groups and individuals around the world. Utilizing social construction theory, this study examines the "historical process" of the construction of stereotypes surrounding Witches in mainstream American society as well as how groups and individuals who call themselves Pagan and/or Wiccan have utilized the only media technology available to them, the internet, to resist and re-construct these images in order to present more positive images of themselves as well as build community between and among Pagans and nonPagans.