Folklore

Secretive Sea Witches #folklore

I find witches fascinating. I wrote about them in a previous post and thought that I should explore Sea Witches in particular today.

Folklore

Popular Romances of the West of England collected and edited by Robert Hunt [1903, 3rd edition]

THE WITCH OF FRADDAM AND THE ENCHANTER OF PENGERSWICK.

…The Witch of Fraddâm still floats up and down, over the seas, around the coast, in her coffin, followed by the crock, which seems like a punt in attendance on a jolly-boat. She still works mischief, stirring up the sea with her ladle and broom till the waves swell into mountains, which heave off from their ‘crests so much mist and fciam, that these wild wanderers of the winds can scarcely be seen through the mist. Woe to the mariner who sees the witch!

The Witch-Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Alice Murray [1921]

…as well as the charm of casting a live cat into the sea to raise a storm, are forms of the animal sacrifice.

The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper

Iansan

A spiritual entity with control over the elements of nature. She has power over the wind and command of hurricanes, cyclones, and tempests. Dwelling at the graveyard gate, she also presides over the realm of the dead. Associated with the colour red, she is often portrayed as a warrior dressed in red robes.

Suanggi

Malevolent spirit of the Indonesian Maluku Islands, said to manifest in the form of a person, usually female, possessed of magical powers used to cause illness or disease.

Vodyanoy

In Slavic mythology the vodyanoy is a malignant water spirit living in the depths of rivers or at the bottom of the sea, preferably where a strong current assists in his favourite pastime of delivering humans to his underwater abode to be his slaves. A shapeshifter, sometimes appearing as a fish or giant frog, he is blamed when flooding occurs or a dam bursts.

*More can be read in the book.

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

Sea Witch

Many cultures have the mythology of the sea witch, being who are widely described as supernatural beings who have sway over the fate of men at sea. According to British folklore Sir Francis Drake sold his soul to the Devil to have the ability to be a skilled admiral and seaman; in one story the Devil sent an army of sea witches to Drake’s assistance, sinking the Spanish Armada in 1588. In the Hans Christian Anderson tale The Little Mermaid the physically repulsive sea witch lives in a house of bones and is powerful and cruel if not honest enchantress; her bargain with the mermaid has been compares to Faust’s pact with the Devil.

Muireartach

Variations: Hag of the Seas, Muileartach

In Celtic lore the Muireartach (“eastern sea”) was a bald (or white haired) blue-skinned, one-eyed hag with jagged teeth. Traditionally she is said to be malevolent, but her motivations in the folklore’s story has never been made clear… embodiment of the storm-raging sea. She was such a violent and formidable opponent the only way to kill her was to drown her in calm waters or bury her in the earth up to her shoulders.

Caillagh ny Groamagh

In Manx lore, an Irish witch who was thrown into the sea and floated over and landed on the Isle of Man. She is associated with the weather. It is believed at the beginning of spring she intends to leave her house to collect twigs for her woodpile. If the weather is unpleasant and keeps her indoors she burns through her stores and winter ends early. If the weather is pleasant and she is able to collect what she needs winter will linger on.

*More can be read in the book.

The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore by Patricia Monaghan

Sea Fairies (na buchtogai)

The creatures of the Otherworld did not only live beneath the hills and in the midst of impassable bogs; they also lived on island in the sea, especially ones that disappear often behind misty clouds, or even the ocean’s waves. Sea fairies usually disguised themselves as seals. Marriage between water fairies and humans was apparently very common, if folklore that claims seal ancestry for many coastal families is to be believed.

*More can be read in the book.

The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Illes

Water is the element most affiliated with magic. Water is where life originates, not jujas an abstract concept or Darwinian theory, but literally for each of us as we emerge from our mother’s amniotic sacs. Water is the element of psychic power and intuitive knowledge.

Water is feminine, yin energy.

Water spell are conducted in the bathtub and at the seashore.

*More can be read in the book.

The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Sea Witches

The sailing trade in Britain has been steeped for centuries in folklore, including belief in sea witches, who allegedly have the power to control a man’s fate out on the waves. Sea Witches are said to lurk up and down the coast, ready to curse ships and cause them to wreck upon the rocks or founder in a storm. Some sea witches are phantoms, the ghosts of dead witches.

*More can be read in the book.

Further Reading:

Sea Witch Home Blessing Witch Ball. Image credit.

Sea Witch Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Sea Witches prefer to do their magic on the seashore as they work with the chaotic oceanic environment (wind, water, currents, etc.). They also work with the moon cycles to enhance their magic (the moon influences the tides). Sea Witches are solitary as most other witches deem the work of the Sea Witch as “grey magic” – somewhere between light and dark as they work to balance chaos and order.

Sea Witches use components from the sea to do their magic (shells, water, driftwood, etc.). They also draw power from the sea to fuel their witchcraft.

Sea Witches have always been blamed for storms – whether they’ve been raising winds to brew up storms or not. These women have featured in folklore for centuries because of their magical bond with the sea and seafarers’ fear of what they can do. Many a tale feature sailors purchasing a rope tied in three knots from a Sea Witch for safe travel across the ocean.

Sea Witches in Modern Culture

Iconic Sea Witch in Movies and Television

Ursula.

We all know her.

Ursula in all her evil glory. Image credit.

She is the scary witch who transformed Ariel.

She also made her way to Broadway.

Ursula on Broadway. Image credit.

Sea Witches find themselves as floating celebrities.

Sally the Sea Witch. Image credit.

This parade balloon is the centerpiece of the annual Sea Witch Parade in Rehoboth Beach. Read about her here.

There are books, of course.

Just searching for “sea witch” on Goodreads yields pages of results — including cozy mysteries!

sea witch cover
See it on Goodreads.

Personally, I didn’t finish this book. It has a gorgeous cover, though! You can check out my review here.

There’s even a Sea Witch Cafe.

There’s apparently a vast deck surrounded by palm trees which is pet friendly. It’s a bar, restaurant and has takeout options. It also has live entertainment (singing Sea Witches, perhaps?). Check it out here.

And the Trix have Dark Sirenix.

In the animated series Winx Club, the Trix turn themselves into sea witches. They also encounter the scariest sea witch of them all in the magical ocean…

dark sirenix
The Trix in Dark Sirenix form. Image credit.

Sea Witches in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Sea Witches

Two Kinds.
The first kind only live in the sea. They sometimes appear as phantoms or even ghosts of the dead to help seafarers safely across the sea – or to lead them to their deaths. The first kind of sea witch is actually Fae. They look like they are one with the sea: usually black, green or purple in appearance with something scary about them like tentacles or electric eel tails. Their main form of creating balance is to make a blood sacrifice: sailors or Selkies are their favourites.
The second kind use the moon to control the tides and the weather. This second kind of sea witch is human with Fae ancestry. They usually perform their magic on the seashore, though a basin of salt water or even a bathtub filled with briny water will do in a pinch.
Both kinds of sea witches work with the chaotic forces of nature. Some believe them to be evil. But being one with the sea means that they are chaotic of themselves. They neither use magic associated with the Seelie (light) nor the Unseelie (dark) Court, but rather the grey magic of chaos to create balance between light and dark. Though they are chaos, they bring balance to the sea – something extremely difficult to manage. Some think that they are evil, not just their magic but also their duty to the sea, which keeps sea witches solitary.

sea witch eng see heks afr translation

I did a sketch of a Sea Witch as featured in my writing.

sea witch sketch

I’ve also used a Sea Witch in a Saphira adventure.

When did you encounter Sea Witches for the first time? Do you remember the context — were they portrayed in a positive or negative light? What do you think of Sea Witches? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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6 thoughts on “Secretive Sea Witches #folklore”

  1. It certainly makes sense to connect witches with the chaos of the sea and it’s storms. And you can understand why sailors would be terrified of what could happen while they are out at sea.

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