“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” - The Wizard of Oz (1939)
A squat human hums a song, petting her black cat, and stirs a small cauldron filled with a bubbling blue liquid that will grant her invisibility when she sneaks into the tower of the dread lord to steal back the gold he has been taking from the overtaxed peasants in her village.
A halfling bobs up and down on a flying butter churn as she races her cackling raven through the canyon with a wyvern hurdling after them, probably wanting her eggs back, as the thieves escape her lair.
A purple octopus climbs up the shoulder of her blue skinned tiefling master and watches as he prepares to summon a demonic servant to help them open the large iron door that separates them from the next steps in their quest for power.
In the world of Narya, a witch is a spellcaster that not only taps into the arcane but also draws upon the divine and natural to empower their spells. Whether their mother taught them everything she learned from her mother or they became an apprentice to a local coven one foggy night, witches are naturally drawn to the unnatural and strange. Whether that supernatural attraction is like a moth to the flame or two lovers in harmony is up to the witch.
Every now and then a child is born that finds themselves extremely sensitive to the supernatural. Perhaps they inherited it from their bloodline or they witnessed some weird event or perhaps it is just a result of the chaotic nature of reality, but these children are born and their sensitivity causes them to chafe with society. This sensitivity causes them to see things that others wouldn’t, to ask questions that no good mannered person would ask and to think differently than the other children in their village. They are eccentric, to say the least, and they seek out the unusual instinctually. They are drawn to it.
After some time, either in childhood or youth, they begin having strange dreams. In their dreams, they are accompanied by a friend-- usually a cat, a small dog, a bird, a doll or an octopus-- that all can talk. One morning, they wake up, and, sitting on the bedpost, the friend becomes real. The friend explains that the child has begun the Quickening, that they are the child’s familiar and that the child is a witch.
This is the strange manner that witches not born into a witching family are introduced to their gift and to the world of Witchcraft.
Witches are usually found in a society where magic is suppressed. In the world of Narya, there are places like Thule where magic, whether arcane, divine or natural, are discouraged and practitioners are rejected, if not persecuted, by the locals.
This is especially true among women in the more backwards parts of the realm. After all, a woman with power is dangerous in a patriarchy. If women are expected to be subservient and seen but not heard, then a woman who can tap into incredible power is not only a danger to those around her but to the community in the eyes of the local authorities. For this reason, witches are often scapegoated and hunted down.
This persecution caused magical knowledge to become a scarcity in these regions and actually furthers the Craft. After all, if a youth who is sensitive to magic was in a land where magical education is prevalent, they would become a druid, a cleric or a wizard. And so the common folk, the wise women and medicine women, mix the practices of several spellcasting traditions into an art called the Craft and pass it on to the next generation of witches.
The Craft of Witchery, witchcraft, is what some elitist spell-casters would call "common magic" or even "country magic". The most common witch practices a mix of medicine, fortune telling, and, for a price, putting hexes on people. A witch does specialized jobs from midwifery to exorcism. In many communities, such women have learned the trade from an older witch, even passed down from mother to daughter, and are respected cornerstones of country living. While reclusive, some witches form small groups called Covens. It is generally considered bad luck to gather more or less than three witches at a time: the Elder, is the oldest and is usually childless (called the "Crone" in evil covens), the Mother, has children and may even have a family, and the Maiden, a childless youth. They generally gather at special meetings to discuss local occurrences and collaborate on solutions to problems too big for a single witch.
These "good witches", according to those that call themselves such, help people. This doesn't mean, necessarily, doing what people want. Good isn't nice. Good does what's needed. Sometimes this means witches manipulate people, often relying on their knowledge and cunning over actual magic application, but always for the greater good. A good witch is a welcome member to any community in need. And yet, witches have a bad reputation in places, such as Thule and, perhaps, this is a mix of superstition and misogyny. After all, most spell-casters and those who seek and use power are at risk of being corrupted. But still, the prevalence and infamy of bad witches in folklore is indisputable.
There are plenty of reasons for a witch to go bad: they live alone, they are touched by magic, they are eccentric, they are persecuted and they meddle in the affairs of the outer planes. Some witchcraft relies upon drawing upon patrons, like demons or devils, for magic and that takes a toll. Their interests in the community turn from helping to hurting; they give potions with bad effects, they steal away livestock and children for dark purposes and, generally, become crazier and crueler. They basically become hags. And then somebody has to stop them.
Bad witches give their good counterparts such a bad reputations that, generally, good witches don't advertise their talents widely. After all, nobody wants to be burned at the stake.