As per most of the stories I know, witches usually burn when they come into contact with water.

Why is this so and what is the origin of this myth? Also,why do witches burn? What about wizards?

  • 4
    Would it be possible to give us an example of a story where a witch got burned from coming into contact with water?
    – yannis
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 7:56
  • 7
    And The Wizard of Oz doesn't count. :) Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 10:23
  • 1
    It is an invention from wizard of Oz combining the floating on water and the burning at the stake. Possibly combining the precaution of sprinkling holy water on doors to keep away witches. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 13:10
  • i think it is just bad logic 1- holy water burns evil beings, 2- whitches are evil 3- holy water is made of water, 4- water burns witches Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 5:41

3 Answers 3


TL;DR This belief doesn't come from a myth. It first appeared in The Wizard of Oz.

I think the first time this belief was stated was in The Wizard of Oz rather than in any myths. The belief probably comes from older myths/customs surrounding witches that were drawn upon to create this idea for the Wizard of Oz.

  1. Water used to find witches. This took 2 forms. A suspected witch would be tossed into a pond with feet and hands bound and if she floated she was a witch. A more likely origin for the burning in water idea though is a second method to find witches. The suspected witch placed her arm in boiling water the wound was then bound with a bandage. After a week the bandage was removed and if the wound was healed they were innocent as God had healed them. If not they were guilty.

  2. Holy water was used to keep away witches. People would put holy water on their door to keep out witches. This happened in Catalan traditions as, at the new year, according to Catalan folklore, witches are supposed to come and steal children away unless precautions were taken including sprinkling holy water on entrances and exits.

  3. Witches in Catalan folklore were often scared of water as washing them would reveal the devils mark showing them to be a witch.

On the other hand I doubt Catalan folklore had witches die in contact with water since a ritual to become a witch involved bathing in saltwater which would not be a safe pastime if water killed them.

  • 1
    The answer states that there doesn't appear to be any such tradition to speak of (seems correct, as far as I can tell), and proposes a mythic provenance of the phenomenon seen in the Wizard of Oz (best guess so far as to where this is coming from). Seems pretty good to me.
    – femtoRgon
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 22:57
  • Frank Baum explained that the wicked witch had no blood because her wickedness had dried her up. So, my explanation is that the witch was so dried up that when the water hit her, it broke down her molecules, thus making her melt into a puddle.
    – user7829
    Commented Mar 20, 2021 at 6:58

As a follow-up to my (almost) namesake @Thom .

And to @Spencer

It is not specifically stated that they burn in water they are only afeared to cross it.

Tim O 'Shanter's poem says

Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin! In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin! In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin! Kate soon will be a woefu' woman! Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg, And win the key-stane of the brig: There at them thou thy tail may toss, A running stream they dare na cross. But ere the key-stane she could make, The fient a tail she had to shake! For Nannie far before the rest, Hard upon noble Maggie prest, And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle; But little wist she Maggie's mettle— Ae spring brought aff her master hale But left behind her ain grey tail: The carlin claught her by the rump, And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

The poem


This is a story thread in Robert Burns's poem 'Tam O'Shanter' from 1791. Tam is spirited safely by his mare Maggie to a bridge, and the pursuing witches cannot follow him across the water.

  • But does the story specifically say the water will burn them?
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 22:43

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