In addition to to watching Studio Ghiblis Kiki's delivery service this week (a wonderful movie I highly suggest watching if you haven't already), and Suspiria from 1977, we also read Diana Wynne Jones's Aunt Maria.
They all had quite different takes on witches that are interesting to look at, but I'm going to focus on Aunt Maria for now.
Aunt Maria, with a couple of major exceptions, bordered rather on phycology than direct magic or teachings of herbs and nature (things I associate with witches). In fact, it took some time before anything extraordinary happened at all. That said, the book was still captivating from beginning to end, through Diana Wynne Jones's excellent description of the family's situation and how they get progressively merged in these circumstances that neither of them wish to be in. As I was reading, I got very emotionally invested in the characters, mirroring their frustration. On a couple of occasions, I even caught myself cursing out loud when Aunt Maria did something extra vile.
As the story progresses, we come to understand that the town where the story takes place, is divided in two opposing groups, the women and the men, that each wield their own type of power. The men's power is less discrete and is kept in a small box that is entrusted to a caretaker. The women on the other hand wields their power mainly through manipulation, which is why the more obvious elements of magic appears first later in the tale.
Aunt Maria herself is almost a metaphor for a queen bee. She seems to be the center of the entire town and everyone yields to her every bidding. What's making it all so scary is that she enforces her power by appearing to be helpless, in her old and crippled state, while imposing guilt upon everyone to make them do as she wishes. In a way this suggests a kind of archetype, where womanise their cunning while men use brute force. In this case however, the stereotype is broken by the mother, who gets fed up with all tip-toeing around and wants to take instant action, and by the carrier of the mens magical box, who is tired of fighting.
While there are some clear stereotypes in the book, they all play an efficient part of the story, and most of them show personal growth as the plot moves along. The fact that it's narrated by the main protagonist almost like a diary, gives it another satisfying dimension, that adds to the actual story.