As with any religious affiliation or spiritual practice, witchcraft has its own rules and customs intended to foster a deeper relationship with oneself and others. Given the exoticness of what it means to be a witch, it's hardly surprising media falsehoods about witchcraft are rampant. Movies and television tend to get more wrong than right about witches, and this misrepresentation paints an inaccurate picture of a very real - and typically very peaceful - community.
There is no one single source, either a movie or television show, that is the main culprit behind how the entertainment industry misrepresents witches. It could be argued the media has gotten it wrong ever since The Wizard of Oz. The popular image of an evil, green-skinned, cackling witch - a la the Wicked Witch of the West - is offensive to witches and they work they do. How witches are portrayed in the media still largely depends on the Wicked Witch trope, and that's unfortunate. To set the record straight, below is a rundown of what movies and TV shows get wrong about witchcraft.
Moves and TV have run with the idea that witches are somehow preordained or "chosen." This fallacy says a witch's beliefs and powers are divine birthrights to be uncovered. But this is not how witchcraft is structured, and no one has a spiritual or cosmic advantage over anyone else on the path to becoming a witch. Everyone has spiritual abilities; witchcraft is about studying, understanding, and cultivating those abilities. No one "chooses" you to become a witch. As one expert puts it: "Witches are those people who have harnessed their innate spiritual abilities. They are the people who didn't give up hope on magic and pretend."
Rosemary's Baby is one of the best horror movies ever made, but it broadcast an enduring myth about witches into the popular consciousness. No, not all witches - in fact, relatively few - worship Satan. This means the vast majority of witches are not sitting around conjuring dark energies or doing the bidding of the Devil. They're certainly not stealing babies to satisfy Satan or poking out the eyes of said babies.
Real witches "regard nature as charged with divinity," and they focus on the benevolence of their powers and capabilities. Besides, witchcraft predates the Devil of Christianity, so the two have no clear spiritual connection whatsoever.
If the witch-centric stories presented by the entertainment industry were accurate, then witches must be the most evil and power-hungry creatures in the history of the world. From The Wizard of Oz to The Witches, these characters invariably prey on children and are desperate to achieve some liberation from the ugliness and depravity of their lives. No real-life witches share this experience. Witchcraft isn't a game of spiritual one-upmanship or getting something over on someone else. And no real, sane witch would ever target children.
American Horror Story: Coven got a lot right about witches, but the few things it did get wrong really missed the mark. One of its biggest transgressions was the idea there is a "Supreme" witch who lords over all the other witches of the world. AHS also trots out the age-old Hollywood storyline of brutal female rivalry and backstabbing as each witch tries to become the next Supreme. There are power structures in most covens, but not to the degree portrayed in AHS. "There's a high priestess and a high priest, not a supreme," explained one witch.