The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Scarlet Witch
Marvel Comics, first appeared in 1964.
The Scarlet Witch is a recurring character who has periodically starred in her own comic series as well as making countless guest appearances with other characters including the X-Men, her husband the android hero, The Vision and her twin brother, Quicksilver.
The Scarlet Witch’s origins are particularly murky, even for a comic-book character. Because she has been around for a long time, her backstory has evolved and changed, becoming longer and more complex over the years. The Scarlet Witch is the nom de guerre of Wanda Maximoff, who was originally introduced as the daughter of Magnus the Mutant and a Romany woman named Magda. Her mother, terrified by what she has learned of Magnus’ goals of world domination, runs away from him just before giving birth. She finds sanctuary in a citadel devoted to secret scientific experiments somewhere in the Balkans where she eventually gives birth to twins with the help of a midwife named Bova, who looks like a woman but is really a genetically transformed cow. (Bova, bovine, get it?)
Magda is scared that Magnus will find her and the babies and so, abandoning the babies to the midwife’s care, wanders out into the wilderness to die. The midwife isn’t sure quite what to do with the seemingly “normal” babies but wishes to protect them from genetic experimentation. After various convoluted plans fail, the children are given to a Romany couple, Django and Marya Maximoff, whose own two children were murdered in the Romany Holocaust of World War II. So the half-mutant, half-Gypsy future superheroes are sent off to live a nomadic life with the Gypsies, poor but happy.
Happiness is short-lived: when Django is caught stealing food for his starving family, villagers attack them. The parents are killed but Wanda and brother Pietro escape. They wander Central Europe for several years until eventually Wanda’s emerging magic powers draw negative attention. Wanda has various innate powers including the ability to cause spontaneous flames, however she doesn’t know how to control what are called her “hex powers.” In a burst of anti-witch mob violence, villagers try to kill Wanda and Pietro but they are saved by Magneto (who may or may not be their real natural father).
The Scarlet Witch is identified as a witch by her title; her early childhood was steeped in rural traditional Romany culture and one might assume that she had picked up some magical training. Perhaps this was the original intent of the storyline. Certainly someone involved in creating Wanda’s back-story was a fan of Romany culture. Her adoptive father’s name is a tribute to two real Gypsy heroes, the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and the author Mateo Maximoff.
Her powers are described as “hex-powers.” (See DICTIONARY: Hex.) Wanda is able to accomplish the impossible 80 percent of the time using what she calls “hex-bolts” and “hexspheres.” (Her powers are found to be unreliable 20 percent of the time, which many witches would suggest is not a bad track record.) Wanda also conceives via hex-power. (She thinks the Vision is the father but really her desire has activated a magical pregnancy.)
However, the plot-line also suggests that Wanda Maximoff may not be a real witch but may instead be a mutant from outer space with special extra-planetary powers. In order to learn how to use and control her own innate powers and develop new skills, Wanda receives help from a real witch, Agatha Harkness. (To the series’ credit, Agatha looks nothing like a stereotyped witch, appearing to be a perfectly innocuous and refined older woman.)