They don't always wear a hat, but when they do, it's pointy.

Why do fantasy writers depict pointy hats as the headgear of choice for Witches and Wizards?

  • Because they're unimaginative...
    – Izkata
    Aug 10, 2013 at 18:04
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    Oh no, it's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.
    – Xantec
    Aug 10, 2013 at 19:21
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    In some books however, wizards have pointy shoes.
    – Mr Lister
    Aug 11, 2013 at 8:55
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    Their hats are actually round. It's just that their heads are pointy. Their brain has a wizardry lobe.
    – Misha R
    Feb 3, 2015 at 6:03
  • Some more discussion of this can be found in the answers to this question. As I said in my answer, although precursors exist, my guess is that the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment from the 1940 Disney movie Fantasia really cemented this image of a wizard's hat in the public imagination.
    – Hypnosifl
    Feb 16, 2015 at 14:54

6 Answers 6


The primary reason writers still use the witch's hat in their literature is because the pointy hat is a form of writer's shorthand, a means to indicate to the reader we are seeing a witch, a being of power, of dark pacts, potentially dangerous, to be respected and feared. Yes, it is the very definition of stereotyping, but it works.

This image of the witch is personified for most modern people by the portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West. (see below)

The Wicked Witch of the West, portrayed with a wide-brimmed, tall pointy black hat, black dress, green skin and broom, points at someone offscreen

History of the Witches Hat

The stereotypical images of a witch is that of an ugly, old hag wearing a tall, black, pointed hat with a broad rim. There are different theories as to the origin of this stereotype, none of them certain.

  • Most likely, the hat is a fairly modern artist’s creation. In medieval woodcuts, witches are shown wearing various costumes of the times, including headscarves and hats of different fashions. Many are shown bareheaded, with locks flying in the wind.

Witch Woodcuts

  • It is possible that the witch’s hat is an exaggeration of the tall, conical “dunce’s hat” that was popular in the royal courts of the 15th century or the tall but blunt-topped hats worn by Puritans and the Welsh. No matter what the fashion, pointed hats were frowned upon by the Church, which associated points with the horns of the devil.

  • Brimless, conical hats have long been associated with male wizards and magicians. Goya painted witches with such hats. It is possible that an artist, somewhere along the way, added a brim to make the hats more appropriate for women.

  • One theory holds that the stereotypical witch’s hat came into being in Victorian times or around the turn of the century, in illustrations of children’s fairy tales. The tall, black, conical hat and the ugly crone became readily identifiable symbols of wickedness, to be feared by children.

Witches in the Air, Goya, 1798

Witches in the Air, Goya, 1798

  • Witches in the Air is eerie. These witches wear pointed hats but are unusual in most other ways. They fly but need no broomsticks, they are young and, most importantly, they are male. I don’t know where the idea of witching being a purely female pursuit came from, it is by now the common idea, but it was not accepted in Goya’s time that only girls could grow to be witches.

  • In the painting a few witches have flown down and have scooped a man away from his friends. One survivor is making a run for it with a sheet over his head. He has his thumbs stuck out between the index and second fingers of each hand. This gesture is called the figa and it is to ward away evil.

  • This painting is not only scary because it features different kinds of witches from those we are used to. It seems the victim has been picked-on at random. The picture feels like a snapshot of a crime-in-progress. The witnesses and the inclusion of a commonplace donkey make it seem like a rural scene that has gone suddenly wrong. The witches are not frail wispy things cackling in the shadows. They are painted brightly. They are healthy and in great shape. The have lifted their victim into the air, as he kicks and screams. The witches are leaning in and appear to be eating him.

It is images like this one which help to cement the pointed hat as a harbinger of magic, of potential evil, of forces dark and beyond the ken of mortal men. The history of wizards hats didn't hurt their reputations either.

Doing my own research, I noticed there were many images that included a buckle, much like a Quaker's hat, which has the same appearance except with a round dome. Among the Quakers, their hat was a symbol of social power and allegiance to their religion and each other.

  • The culture of witches (as interpreted by religious people) may have included the idea of an allegiance to Satan, a collection of witches, and their pointy hat was a symbol (a pointed horn showing an allegiance to Satan). It was this kind of project which added to the mystique (such as it was) of witches.

  • Manuals for fighting witches also included lifestyles, clothing, demonic marks used to recognize them. Such manuals were revised over the centuries and may have also led to the recognition of the pointed hat as a potential marker.

  • The Malleus Maleficarum, (Latin for "Hammer of The Witches) was an infamous witch-hunting manual written in 1486 by two German monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. It was used by both Catholics and Protestants for several hundred years, outlining how to identify a witch, what makes a woman more likely than a man to be a witch, how to put a witch on trial, and how to punish a witch. The book defines a witch as evil and typically female. This book was not given the official Imprimatur of the Catholic Church, which would have made it approved by church authorities, but was used by the Inquisition nevertheless.


  • 7
    "but was used by the Inquisition nevertheless." - while inquisition was probably not the best chapter of the Catholic Church history it was usually not directly involved in witch burning. "Most inquisitors simply disbelieved in witchcraft and sorcery as superstitious folly.", "The book [Malleus Maleficarum] was soon banned by the Church in 1490, (...) and became unduly influential in the secular courts." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch-hunt Aug 11, 2013 at 8:00
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    I am not sure what your point was, Maciej Piechotka. I am not defending or promoting witch-hunting, nor am I denigrating the Church or its workers...so there is no need to add this particular addenda...unless I am missing something, in which case please elaborate so I can understand what your message is. Aug 11, 2013 at 8:22
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    The Inqusition was not involved in most of the executions publicly blamed, and did not make extensive use of Melleus Maleficarum... Pretty much only the protestants did. The Inquisition had its own methods; said methods were part of the inspiration for MM, but not the same as.
    – aramis
    Aug 12, 2013 at 23:16
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    Goya's witches' hats are split laterally at the top, making them look (to me) very much like bishops' mitres.
    – Beta
    Mar 19, 2014 at 19:50
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    Disturbing thought, eh Beta? Mar 19, 2014 at 20:34

Jews were forced to wear special "Jew hats" in 13, 14th and 15th century Europe. It was common to demonize Jews, so it's a fairly small step to imagine that figures wearing these hats were caricatured as being in league with the devil.

The pointed hat (of witchcraft/wizardry) is a grotesque symbol of religious bigotry.

Mediaeval painting of a man wearing a rounded hat with a knobbed spike on top tied under his chin with a red string in conversation with a group of 3 other people, 2 wearing more typical headcloths and one bare-headed.

  • 11
    It would be good if you could add a citation or two to support this. Feb 3, 2015 at 6:10

One relatively modern theory for the witch's pointy hat has to do with brewing, and how female brewers got sidelined via accusations of witchcraft.

In order to catch as many eyes as possible, and to signal from a distance what they were selling, these “brewsters” wore tall hats.


In the 15th and 16th centuries, small-scale ale producers, mostly brewsters, began to face accusations of a whole host of immoralities that caused irreparable damage to their reputations. According to Judith Bennett, the preeminent historian of women brewers in this period of England’s history, both the public and the male-dominated brewing industry accused brewsters of diluting or adulterating their ale with cheaper brews, and thus of cheating customers. Brewsters were also accused of selling tainted ales that could make drinkers sick, perhaps intentionally. And generally speaking, at this time, a woman having a working knowledge of herbal concoctions and medicines was highly suspect, and might face rumors that she was using her knowledge for nefarious ends. Thus, the sign of the humble alewife’s hat came to be associated with all the same evil maliciousness of a poison-peddling witch.


It is, admittedly, not a position without controversy.

Some historians deny the veracity of this association, such as Dr. Christina Wade of the blog Braciatrix, devoted to the history of women in brewing and bartending. She argues that during the later Middle Ages, when images of brewsters in such tall hats come into the historical record, witches weren’t yet associated with them. (Let alone the fact that it's unlikely that brewsters across Europe, a rag-tag assembly of home-spun brewers to begin with, collectively agreed on the tall hats as a form of marketing.)


Someone, posted it already but got shut down hard for some reason. But the witches hat is symbolizing the cone of power. A witch generally casts a circle for a spell and And the power collects to a point to release a spell. -source any book on ritual witchcraft.

  • 5
    It wasn't deleted or anything - it was just downvoted more than three times. The reason it was downvoted was because they didn't give any sources. Can you name one of those books on ritual witchcraft, instead of just saying -source any book on ritual witchcraft.?
    – Mithical
    Feb 22, 2016 at 10:38

The conical hat allows the witches to concentrate their sacred power. The conical traps the energy of the body and earth so that the witch can be centered with a power that is infinite.

  • 4
    Is this your opinion / guess or can you back up this claim with a source or link to a reference? I suggest checking out the Tour to get a better idea of how to ask and answer questions. Jun 27, 2014 at 18:50
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    If this is your opinion you should put it in a comment, or say "This is one theory....". If it isn't, like the other comments said, you should add a link or cite something, people need to know where the info came from. You should also look at other answers, because they will in most cases give good examples.
    – Pobrecita
    Jun 27, 2014 at 18:59

A witch is a healer, plain and simple, and they've been persecuted throughout the centuries for the same reasons any other non-mainstream groups have been: fear of the unknown, and ignorance.

Witches are not creatures of evil, and they've never swooped down from the sky to harass people or eat small children. A witch is a protector, not a destroyer, and each witch has a unique personality, just like any other human being.

As for the hat... the cone-shaped hat traditionally worn by witches is symbolic of wisdom and intelligence, not being a dunce (good hell, the person who thought that one up needs a swift kick in the ankle). Its pointed shape represents the cone of power, which is associated with the circle, the symbol of the sun, unity, eternity, rebirth, and the triangle.

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    The first part of this doesn't really answer the question, and the second part needs citations to back up your info.
    – Monty129
    Mar 19, 2014 at 16:12
  • The first part of my answer addresses the misinformation posted. As for the second part, I'm a life-long witch, a member of several organizations centered around the practice of witchcraft and educating those new to the Craft, and I'm a respected teacher and leader in my community. If you want citations, feel free to search the internet for them, because nothing I've said can't easily be found on numerous resource sites for the witch community.
    – user24045
    Mar 19, 2014 at 16:47
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    A good answer should not require a user to go look up more information. Cite the necessary information to back up your point, providing links for additional information if necessary. If it can easily be found, this should be no problem for you to do.
    – phantom42
    Mar 20, 2014 at 12:42
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    Also, there is no misinformation stated in the question. Witches and Wizards wearing a pointy hat is a stock trope of fantasy writing.
    – Monty129
    Mar 20, 2014 at 18:07
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    @user24045: all the claims in this question and its answers are about the depiction of witches in popular art and culture. As such, they surely aren’t misinformation — witches really have been depicted for centuries as frightening stereotypes in the mainstream imagination, however unjust that may be.
    – PLL
    Feb 17, 2015 at 14:20

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