A., my bff since about sixteen, has been trying to drag me out of my Autumn doldrums of apathy and over work by making me do cool shit on our weekly Wednesday get together. We carved pumpkins and drank pumpkin liquor, we drove to the spookiest cemetery we know and now this week, she wanted to watch The Craft.
I love The Craft. I love everything about it- the soundtrack is amazing (it’s almost all covers, though I didn’t know it at the time – “How Soon Is Now”, “I Have the Touch”, “Dangerous Type”, “Dark Secret” and “Witches Song” would shape me in ways that I didn’t understand until later), the wardrobe is all the best parts of the 90’s and the lines are awesome (“Everything I touch turns to shit,” A. and I would wail to each other in secret high school notes). Fairuza Balk is a Real Life Wiccan who went on to own a Real Life Witch Store of her own and in the 90’s, it was the first film that I saw that took any care to even attempt to get a witchcraft consultant (Pat Devin) from an actual person who does witchcraft.
Was it perfect? Of course not. It’s sort of like Practical Magic in that once we get past “The Lime in the Coconut”/Midnight Margarita scene I lose a lot of interest until the last scene. Here, once the dead sharks start showing up on the beach, I get very ehhhhhhh about it. Are there big character development issues? You betcha!
We started to put on the movie (which I haven’t seen in a couple of years) when Jow semi-jokingly suggested we use flying ointment to watch it. I thought about it. Wasn’t this a ritual? The place where Jow, A. and I all spent our formative years? Didn’t we have candles, pumpkin donuts and pumpkin beer? What would I discover if we watched it ritualistically? We all rubbed on the ointment.
“This is why I became a witch,” I said off-handedly as the credits started to roll. A., while not a witch herself, has been to circles and has been dealing with my crazy ass for almost half her life and has picked up a decent amount by attrition. Naturally, A. started laughing like an asshole.
“What?” I said. “Look, I can give you some kind of bullshit answer about how I was called by the gods or I’m a heredity witch whose family has been doing this for eleventybillion years or that I rejected Christianity from a young age and had been a dirt worshipping heathen au naturale since I was a small child or I could tell you the truth. And the truth is, I wanted this. It took a few years to realize it, but this is where the seed got planted. I wanted sisters to be close to (but not turn on me), I wanted to dress like a modern goth school girl punk rock princess and I wanted cool shit to happen. I wanted to do magic. I wanted to feel powerful and feel that level of joy and see it plain in the universe like they did.”
And it’s true. It’s what I wanted, and I’ve spent my life since sometimes conscious and sometimes unconsciously trying to find it. I knew logically that a rain of butterflies wouldn’t invade someone’s living room from the sheer joy of what amounted to a basic Wiccan circle. I learned somewhere in my mid twenties that the whole “natural witch”/heredity witch thing was essentially invented by the boy-run media to make us seem like we’re crazy and while a few certainly exist, it’s more like being a sorority pledge legacy – yeah, you’d get in most likely but that didn’t mean you’d get anywhere awesome just because of that, you’d have to forge your own identity in the sorority house once you got in.
Sure, we giggled as we watched it (“You enter a circle with perfect love and perfect trust, right Deb?” “I sure do, when I do the circle aloooooooone.” “See, look at Nancy taking all of Mannon’s power in for herself. Selfish.”), but I was looking for clues. Why did this mean so much to me? Why does it still have so much resonance to it for me?
Part of it comes from the fact that I was just learning how powerful sisterhood could be. The triumverte as my wasband dubbed us has been together since senior year in college. Watching the scenes of them lying around their bedrooms with all the time in the world for each other and tossing popcorn in each other’s mouths made me miss those days with the triumverte. Luckily, we have a playdate scheduled next week and we drink better booze now.
Some of it comes from missing being able to dress in full goth attire with no one batting an eye and me feeling super confident about dressing however I felt like dressing without the boring relatively new grown-up Deb meme of O What Will the Neighbors Think? I miss the swagger of my maidenhood, the completely misplaced confidence that I knew what I was doing (always!) and that I would enter a room and everyone’s head would turn. In my Motherhood phase, I’m getting some of that back but in different ways. It’s quieter, still powerful and in a lot of ways fiercer because I know what I’m risking now by not making “safe” choices and trying to make my living as an artist. I know what it’s like to lose almost everything now because someone doesn’t love you anymore. It makes me tricksier, more cunning, more strategic, less trusting in others but more trusting in myself and more ruthless when needed. Still. I miss strutting into Q’s, confident all eyes were on me.
Some of it was more subtle, like I didn’t realize how much of the movie was about glamour. The glamour spells they did, definitely, but also that their invocations were basic Wiccan invocations that I’ve done at this point about a bazillion times. The difference? The glamour. The glamour of the sets, the outfits, the tools, the small circle where everyone was in sync (until the dead sharks, but whatever). It makes sense that I would spend a year devoted to glamour and the muse through my Experiment, my craft work and the book I’m writing (which I’m about 2/3rds done with for those keeping track at home). I’ve been spending a lot of time this year thinking about what makes a ritual glamourous and what makes every day life glamourous.
And the most subtle of all, I noticed towards the end something scrawled in red on the wall that I couldn’t quite make out until I was reading trivia just now: After Sarah returns to her house near the end, the house is full of snakes, rats, maggots, etc. As she retreats to the upstairs bathroom, we see her pass a whiteboard with the name Gustav Klimt. Gustav Klimt was an artist whose works were denounced for their eroticism. He was also known to have a common theme of the “Femme Fatale” or women who were empowered and strong.
She’s a lot like you, the dangerous type.