Why Are Witches Green?


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Fascinating. In Baum’s novel Dorothy’s shoes were silver, not ruby. I believe they were also changed because red shows up better in Technicolor. It’s a sign of the film’s influence that Elphaba in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked is not only green but there’s an explanation for it.

What’s really interesting, though, is that the last person executed for witchcraft was “Anna Goeldi, a Swiss maid who may or may not have been putting needles in her employers’ food”. Could this have given rise to stories of needles and razor blades in Halloween candy?


I had built up a reasonable rationalization for why witches were green a long time ago, now I find I’m entirely wrong. My aunt died of liver disease, and during her illness her skin pigment had a noticeably green hue. I figured in the past some herbalists would have experimented with substances that would have caused liver damage and that a connection would have been made over time of radically experimental folk healer, to someone whose cures can’t be explained by natural means, to a witch. Then I figured overtime the green tinge to the skin would turn to a full green color.

Now that I know that the green witch trope is so recent, I find that my idea can’t possibly be true.


But… But… in the 1939 movie, the Witch´s skin color has nothing to do with her witchiness!
In the movie, she has green skin because she’s a native Winkie, and all the Winkies in the movie have green skin. And hook noses.

I think maybe this is something that passes unnoticed to most of us on a casual viewing because there are such an overload of other visual things going on with the Winkie costumes. Also, it’s just this one movie. The novels don’t really say anything about what the general Winkie population looks like.


I’m afraid we’ve lost some witches since 1782:


Davey, you are absolutely right - that was meant to have a “European” caveat, I’m sorry.

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True! In the novels, I think Winkies are meant to have a greenish cast to them, and green clothing, and you’re right that she’s the Winkie ladyboss… still, I think the decision was mostly made because it looked super creepy and now, green has become a witchy thing.


I’ve been enjoying the version of OZ laid out in the webcomic Namesake (http://www.namesake.com) The skin color has a slightly different explanation.

They used green make up in early black and white films for shadows because it shows up dark to gray on black and white film.

It’s quite reasonable to think that they had plenty of it on hand and just reached for it for some early makeup tests and liked it in Technicolor.


I think the last person to be executed for which craft was in Saudi Arabia.

Way more than that, most of that in Africa - that continent we usually never get to hear about.


That idea is so much cooler though.


I’m sure you’re right, but I don’t remember the movie ever mentioning the Winkies by name. I haven’t read all the books, just the first one, but Wikipedia says that the Winkies wear yellow in the books, and have yellow skin.

It honestly never occurred to me that all her green-skinned castle guards were Winkies, though of course they were, since she was the Wicked Witch of the West and her castle was in the west. I just thought her guards happened to resemble her either through sympathy or by her order. Never occurred to me that it might be because she was one of them.

Now I know where Witch Hazel got her becoming ghastly hue.


wait, if you have a Discourse account on the BBS, then how come you don’t use it for the OP? you do realize that means that your byline only appears on the main page, and nowhere on BBS, right?

I’ve always thought this was rubbish. I have known witches, and none of them were green. Also I read lots of books about mysticism, sorcery, and witchcraft which made no mention of it. Sadly, I think the WoZ movie was the worst adaptation ever (until Tin Man…). I still hope that somebody will make movies which do Baum’s imagination justice.

Witchy Poo from Puff N’ Stuff was orange:

And now I have that song going through my head. Thanks! :wink:

And now you do to.

Interesting. I don’t even remember that scene you posted.

Also, not one of them has instructions about commanding an army of flying monkeys. Huge disappointment, let me tell you.

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Wouldn’t it be fascinating if we could view old black-and-white films in their original colors? You’d see all kinds of weird, out-of-place shades.

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