“nervous as a witch”
witch – A person, especially a woman, who is given to the black art; one regarded as possessing supernatural or magical power by compact with evil spirits; a sorcerer or sorceress; – now applied only to women, but formerly used of men as well. — Webster, 1882
“Do you feel nervous as a witch on certain days of the month?” Advertisement for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, 1946
The saying “nervous as a witch” originated as a phrase in New England, and came to mean a very restless person. An early use may have been to compare the actions of a person to one under suspicion during the Salem witch hunts of the 1690s. Ma uses the expression to describe Laura’s inability to sit still and remain calm after having seen two large buffalo wolves when she and Carrie were sliding on the ice of Silver Lake in 1879.
The expression “nervous as a witch” appeared in another famous book about four sisters, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.
“nervous as a witch” (SSL 17)