Sea witches have been featured in European folklore for centuries.
Traditionally, sea witches were witches who appeared among sailors or others involved in the seafaring trade. Sea witches used witchcraft related to the moon, tides, and the weather, or were believed to have complete control over the seas. In some folklore, sea witches are described as phantoms or ghosts who have the power to control the fates of ships and seamen.
As the name implies, sea witches are believed to be able to control many aspects of nature relating to water, most commonly an ocean or sea. However, in more modern times, sea witches can also practice witchcraft on or near any source of water: lakes, rivers, bath tubs, or even simply a bowl of salt water.
In addition to their powers over water, sea witches could often control the wind. A common feature of many tales was a rope tied into three knots, which witches often sold to sailors to aid them on a voyage. Pulling the first knot could yield a gentle, southeasterly wind, while pulling two could generate a strong northerly wind.
Sea witches often improvise on what they have, rather than making purchases from a store or from another person. Common tools include clam, scallop, or oyster shells in place of bowls or cauldrons. Other items include seaweed, fishing net, shells, sea grass, driftwood, pieces of sea glass, and even sand.
A sea witch named Morgana was a main contributor in luring sailors to their deaths. After falling in love with a young hero who was sadly lost to the sea, she vowed to help other heroes and sailors in their travels. This caused her to be outcast among her sisters. After trying to help a son of Ares she was impaled with a spear and dissolved into the sea foam, her final resting place.
Along with their inclusion in older stories, sea witches have been included in contemporary stories as well.
- Created in 1929, the Sea Hag is a pirate and the "last witch on Earth" in the Popeye comics and cartoons.
- Ursula, the main antagonist in Disney's The Little Mermaid (1989), is a sea witch who is a Cecaelia (a half-human, half-octopus creature). The antagonist of the sequel, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, is Morgana, Ursula's younger sister who is also a sea witch.
- The Feldons 2012 album Goody Hallett and Other Stories is based on the legend of Goody Hallett, a sea witch who in the mid-1700s reputedly sold her soul to the devil and lured sailors to their deaths on the rocks.
- The Sea Witch is a hero unit featured in the video game Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne. The Sea Witches are the foremost of the Naga (night elves mutated into aquatic creatures by the Old Gods). The most prominent of them is Lady Vashj, the handmaiden of the infamous Queen Azshara and an ally of Illidan Stormrage.
- The Countess Palatine Ingrid Von Marburg in Salem is a Water Witch, able to travel spectrally in her Hag form via bathtubs and wells. Her presence can also be detected by a water charm spell.
- There's a doom metal band called 'Sea Witch'.
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