Welcome back, dear reader. You might be thinking, “That last The Witch post was so long; this guy has more to say?!” I do, in fact. While I tried to walk the reader through the muddled plot of the film in that post, this one will be a more personal, philosophical response to the film. I fear most people will leave the film simply saying to themselves, “That wasn’t scary enough!” and then shrug and forget about it; however, I also think there will be a sizeable portion who will lose sleep trying to ask themselves, “What does it all mean?!” I certainly fall into the second camp, and it is with particular urgency I ask myself that question. As one of the people in the world seeking to claim a connection on some level with the word “witch”, it is important to me to try to decipher as much as I possibly can, to pick the film to the bone for every last scrap of meaning, since the word “witch” is being flashed before the public imagination. It’s important to me to ask what it means that the film goes with the late medieval and early modern conception that witchcraft and Satanism are one and the same. Heck, the film was even endorsed by the Satanic Temple. Is the devil truly inextricably linked to witchcraft? Are witches damned, and if so what does that mean? Let’s take a look.
Gentle reader, if you follow the blog closely enough to be somewhat familiar with the various authors, you might know that I consider myself something of a witch. Though I have at times tried to elucidate my spiritual leanings with descriptors such as “eclectic post-Wiccan shamanic neo-Pagan, with influences from Hinduism to Hellenism”, I find “witch” rolls off the tongue a little easier. Something about the richness of the word “witch”, the dark, damp, fertile history of the word, is one of various things that first brought me to Wicca so many years ago. Though at times I waver closer to or further from the word, I find it difficult to imagine a time when I no longer have any connections whatsoever to this potent word and its associated practices. So when I first saw word of The Witch spreading around the interwebs, my interest was piqued. The Wiccan Boom the 1990s promised me never came to pass, so there’s been a dearth of witchy media since Charmed went off the air, except for the recent fiasco that was Witches of East End. This was the first time I’d seen a movie with such an explicitly witch-themed title getting press and interest since The Craft. On top of that, even Stephen King voiced his approval on Twitter! Of course I had to check it out.
And check it out I did. I was hesitant to write a post about it after my first viewing; it conjured up (pun intended) so many thoughts and feelings, I worried I wouldn’t be able to make anything resembling coherence out of the juices of my mind grapes. But after a couple of days of processing, a second viewing, and hours of bouncing ideas around with my fellow author MikelyWhiplash (including the possibility of whether or not Taylor Swift is a witch), I think I just might be ready to tackle this haunting work of cinema. Did I like it? Hard to say: it is visually a macabre pleasure to watch, and I think it’s important for bringing witches back to the popular imagination. Enter with me the world of The Witch. Verily yon wood be filled with witches, and also spoilers.
A few weeks ago, Lady Geek Girl wrote a nice article describing the precarious position of witches in current pop culture media. Witches only finally started to reach some level of acceptance (still a work in progress, that’s for sure) largely thanks to the enormous expansion of the religion of Wicca in the past fifty years or so. This led to a curious occurrence: witches weren’t just in fairytales and fantasy books anymore; they were bookstore clerks and nurses and teachers too. It opened the doors for the possibility for modern people to reclaim and identify with the word “witch”. We can see other seemingly outdated or maligned words being used by contemporary folk, from druid to heathen to shaman (though words like sorceress and wizard seem to be lagging in popularity), but I would argue none to quite the degree of “witch”. So while I believe that Wicca was a large—I would say the primary, in fact—reason for the modern reclaiming of this word, I think it is inappropriate to treat “Wiccan” as a monolithic synonym for “witch”. There are simply too many witches out there who are not Wiccan.
Since everyone in my neck of the woods has been enjoying relatively warm weather, I thought I would discuss a novel set in wintry Wales. I was hesitant at first to review this book because I found it in the teen section. Teen novels are not everyone’s cup of tea. However, I try my best not to discriminate against books based solely on their intended audience. Not every teen novel is stupid and more than a few have a good story to tell. They will often even have interesting heroines and heroes. Paula Brackston‘s The Winter Witch is a pretty cool novel. I’m always up for a book about magic, but what I got was far more than another book about a teenage witch who finds love. I don’t think it’s a stretch to call The Winter Witch a fantastic piece of fantasy fiction, and the protagonist Morgana a well-written and interesting character. Continue reading