This post will make a lot more sense if you have read the first part.
H/t to Mama Fortuna over at Walk Softly, Witch for introducing me to The Faculty of Horror podcast and getting me thinking about glamour/Otherness. Meliad also ponders about Witch as Other over on her blog.
I was going to use a bunch of different media examples in this part of The Glamour Guide, but in the interest of being able to explore the glamour/feminist implications fully, let’s stick to one movie and of course that movie is going to be The Craft.
This is different. You put spells and power thoughts in it, and then you don’t let anyone else read it, ever. Except maybe us.
If you haven’t seen The Craft, it’s likely because you were no longer in the 16-30 demographic when it came out in 1996. I’ve talked about my unironic love for The Craft extensively, but lest you think it was just me, Andrea from The Faculty of Horror sums it up very nicely as well:
This was an extremely influencial in both mine and Alex’s life. If you talk to any horror fan, any female film fan around our age, they probably have an accute fondness for this film. Now my fondness for this film is that it’s just Clueless mixed with horror, right? These were the dark girls. I went to a Catholic high school which had these uniforms and you know, being one of the duo of the only two goth girls in my entire school, I really took to this movie. This movie became my fashion sense and my soundtrack, yeah it was a really big deal for me. On its surface it’s just a fun teen movie but there’s a lot a lot going on.
So, in case you’ve never watched it, let me briefly sum it up. Sarah moves to town after a troubled past at home which included a suicide attempt. Bonnie, one of the three outcast classmates of Sarah’s, sees Sarah do magic in class and decides she is the fourth witch needed for their circle to correctly cast the quarters (as per the lore of this particular world). Sarah is initially put off by the three by the boy she likes (Chris) but when Chris starts spreading rumors that Sarah has slept with Chris, she decides to become friends with Bonnie (the scarred one), Rochelle (the African-American chick) and Nancy (the chick from a working class broken home). Early on, it’s established that Sarah is a “natural witch” because she inherited her witch skills from her dead Mom. All of the girls start practicing magic together and having a grand time of it. Each girl casts a spell – Bonnie wants to be beautiful, Sarah wants Chris to love her, Rochelle wants to not hate the racist popular girl on her swim team and Nancy wants all of the power of Manon (their explanation of The God half of the traditional Wiccan God and Goddess). They start to become powerful together but soon their spells start to get out of hand – Chris becomes obsessed with Sarah and tries to rape her, Rochelle’s spell makes the swim team girl lose all her hair, Bonnie becomes self absorbed with her beauty and Nancy, well, Nancy just gets power crazy. After Nancy kills Chris for trying to rape Sarah, Sarah tries to put the brakes on everything because their collective magic now has a body count. She tries to bind Nancy from harming herself or others and Nancy decides that if Sarah is not with the coven, she’s against them and Rochelle and Bonnie go along with Nancy. They use magic to terrorize Sarah, leading up to a showdown between Sarah and Nancy. Nancy is then committed to a psych hospital and Bonnie and Rochelle lose their magical powers. Sarah is the only one to keep her magic.
Sounds like any teen horror movie, right? But if we look at it more closely, there are a lot of serious implications to The Craft.
The only way you know how to treat women is by treating them like whores! Well, you’re the whore! And this is gonna stop! Do you understand!
Those three girls are the Other. They are outcasts, they are different. It’s made even more clear in the fact that they are goth, they are witches. But also in the Catholic high school, everything is always shot with the glare of the statue of Jesus watching over them and it’s very ominous and very strange with what these women are doing with their spare time.
Nancy is a victim of her class and Nancy is the character we are most invested in, in her inner life and her life outside the girls. Nancy seems greedy because she asks for all the power of Manon and not just these little high school wishes. Nancy is ultimately the villian and punished because she wanted more than what the rest of the girls were willing to settle for with their powers.
[. . .]
Here’s Nancy who has nothing, who is so hungry for her power and she kind of wears her witchcraft in a really artificial and comodified sense. She kind of gets edgier as her power grows. She gets spikier and edgier, if she was any more intense her head would be on fire.
[. . .]
If you want to be like Sarah and love nature and light candles, that’s just fine. If you want to take over, if you want to bring down the patriarchy and you want to go after the asshole who gave you syphilious or whatever, then you’re gonna have to pay for that times three.
[. . .]
They were outcasts but they got this fetizied power that was sexy and playful and alluring in their power and I feel like that’s worth mentioning. This came about during the early 90’s when third wave feminism was coming about with the idea that you could be so many different things and we’re not only equal and smart but you could also like clothes and boys and it doesn’t make you any less charismatic or interesting. – The Faculty of Horror
The narrative of Witchcraft in the media hasn’t really changed much since The Craft. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow is considered a Witch with an addiction to magic and is punished for it when her girlfriend, Tara is murdered. In Wicked, Elphie is dead in the book version (though may some day come back to life) and has to leave Oz forever in the musical version, unable to tell Glenda that she survived. Glenda is trapped in Oz with all of her loved ones gone and forced into a role that she may no longer want. So you’re fucked if you’re an outcast and fucked if you play the game too, there. In Frozen, Elsa is not permitted a love interest, though Hans could have very easily been written as non-villianous and a love interest for Elsa or Ana, leaving Christophe for the remaining “unmatched” sister. In Practical Magic, Jilly is punished by the spirit of her abusive boyfriend for running away and being promiscuous. Prue Halliwell in Charmed is double punished – When she becomes a “super Witch”, she’s killed by a demon. Double punished because Shannon Doherty couldn’t get along with the publicly better liked Alison Milano which is (allegedly) the reason she got kicked off the show, never to be seen again. And the kill list for American Horror Story: Coven? Crazy. Fiona – too ambitious, dead. Myrtle – dead twice! Killed by Fiona likely due to jealousy (women can’t be friends!) and then burnt at the stake again because she killed two of the witches who conspired to kill her. Madison – also too ambitious and daring to avenge herself after being gang raped. Misty – dead because goddess forbid someone with good intentions can survive this world. If you’re “too good”, you’re killed for that too! Not just killed, but trapped in a hell realm. Marie (Laveau) – dead for daring to be Black, immortal and serving Papa Legba (a Voudon/Santeria pantheon – a definite no no!). Nan – dead because she was developmentally disabled and a witch. Chantal – dead for being an African-American Witch associated with Marie.
In The Craft, the narrative is very clear – if you want to use your power in petty high school girl ways, that’s fine. It was the late 1990s, these so-called “outcast” girls actually became fashion icons and helped pave the way in more liberal areas that you can dress like a Goth and not be a serial killer (like it or lump it, letting the Olds see Gothic fashion in the mall at Hot Topic with helpful, friendly sales clerks to guide them helped too). The fashion was rapidly becoming not an issue in the actual world. We have established in the twenty years since the Third Wave started that one can like boys, fashion and make up and still be concerned with the feminist/civil rights issue of equality for all. I mean, we’re all baking cupcakes and keeping chickens and making jam as domestic arts reclamation/survival in this New World Order so obviously house work no longer = feminist betrayer to most Third Wave feminists.
Nothing Makes Anything All Better
But if you wanted to actually use your power as a Witch to take down the Patriarchy and demand justice as an Other? Well. That would never stand. Chris may be the whore but Nancy was never going to be permitted to keep that kind of power. After all, having that level of power as an Other would only make you crazy, right?
Old rich white dudes seem to be handling it fine for centuries. Maybe we should give it a whirl, don’t you think? After all, they claim not to believe in magic anymore anyway. All the better so they won’t see it coming. They keep trying to commodify Witchcraft and. . .they can’t. While it’s nice to see a resurgence of crystal necklaces and dream catchers again in retail establishments as I do shop in “regular” establishments at times and it’s nice to see signs of Otherness creeping back into The Establishment even if it’s just because that’s the way The Man wants our head to turn, my head is turned in that direction anyway so it’s nice to enjoy it.
But they can never commodify magic. Not really. I mean, the meditation cushion, the candles, the books, the wands, the jewelry, the fashion, sure. And it can be easy to get caught up in those things, but they’re just the trappings. Fun, pretty trappings, but trappings. The actual magic? That actual life force that comes from you and the flora and fauna from your own tiny little world? That can’t be bottled. And there’s a lot of power in that, in the fact that your magic will always be your magic with all its quirks and flaws and aptitudes. So why aren’t you using it, sister? Why are you letting yourself get weighed down by daily responsibilities, brother? What is the point of being able to use all that focus, that drive, that anger, that desire all channeled as a shot of pure you glamour straight into the Universe’s heart so that the Universe can’t help falling in love with you and giving you your heart’s desire if you don’t fucking use it?
Yes! If you’re doing it right, it’s going to feel like you are being unwound from the inside out. Yes! If you’re doing it right, your flora and fauna will blossom into things you never expected and never wanted. Yes! Some days your hair will be unwashed, you’ll be working for twelve hours and you’ll be sobbing over an energy bar, asking yourself why you would ever do this to yourself. Yes! It’s going to be scary as fuck, uncertain as hell and wreck havoc in everything you hold dear.
I’m breaking out into mysterious hives all the time, I don’t often have clean hair, I’m working almost all of my waking hours, Jow and I are having a million stupid nothing fights, there’s a mountain of laundry competing with the mountain of dishes but this is exactly what I want. It’s why I do the magic I do. If I wanted to stay the same and get eaten alive by entropy, I would not do magic. No! I don’t have a huge success story for you yet where I’ve gotten a licensing deal for my Craft goods. No! I don’t have a book deal yet. No! I’m not as skinny as I would like to be yet. No! I’m not financially secure. No! I have no idea what I’ll be doing in five years. Anyone who thinks they know is telling themselves a lie so they can sleep at night. I take a bucket of pills to be able to sleep like a human being.
If I just kept my head down and did everything the way I was “supposed” to do, I’d still be married to my ex-husband, working in a job I hated, unpublished, living in a townhouse that was too big for me to take care of, spending money on things that don’t ultimately matter to me, gaining less and less healthy eating habits and becoming less healthy with my blood pressure/fibromyalgia.
I am not “all better” because of magic. I will never be all better because of magic. I will never be granted everything I ever wanted in a neat easy to follow map because of magic. But I will lead a thoroughly examined life because of magic and I will work as fast as I can, as hard as I can, for as long as I can to reach my heart’s desire. And I will use magic too to get me there.
I can say that it’s not all unpleasant shake downs. Jow and I have been together for seven years and we make each other happy more than not, we’ve been home owners in a very affordable little space that was obtained partly through magic and partly through sheer determination, I’ve been published numerous times through numerous publishers, I find my current career rewarding and financially successful, I’ve paid off the majority of my debts, I’ve kept my Craft businesses afloat since 2010 while many are closing their doors, I’ve lost twenty five pounds, I’ve had lots of marvelous experiences as my Manic Monday posts can attest to and I’ve traveled a lot. I see progress in my goals, I see progress in my (undocumented) heart’s desire. Steady, annoyingly slow progress, but progress.
What would happen if you could achieve your deepest heart’s desire? Do you even know what it is? Think on that.
If we wanted safe, normal, secure little lives, why would we shout at the stars? Why do magic at all then? We do magic because we don’t just want, we Want. Nancy Wanted things too in The Craft but she had a board of writers shutting that down for her. What would have happened if Nancy didn’t kill Chris but forced him to go to court for attempted sexual assault? What would have happened if the coven stayed a sisterhood working together to bring them their deepest desires? What would have happened if we didn’t have to separate Good Girls from Bad Girls, Natural Magic from Learned Magic?
Let’s find out together. Track down that capricious Muse of yours and whisper your deepest, most true heart’s desire in Her ear. Say the word She longs to hear (yes). Do the work, both magically and mundanely and let your heart be cracked open like an oyster shell to Her. Allow yourself unexpected twists and turns in your palimpsest. Look for omens and portents everywhere. Don’t stop until you’ve achieved your deepest, most sacred Craft.
Now is the time. This is the hour. Ours is the magic. Ours is the power. Now is the time. This is the hour. Ours is the magic. Ours is the power. Now is the time. This is the hour. Ours is the magic. Ours is the power.