May
18

 

*I received a preview copy of Witch from Hay House UK

 

I first met Lisa Lister last year, at a beautiful cliff-top villa on the Mediterranean island of Malta. She had sent out a call (The Call) for women to join her for a She Power Temple Retreat, and I answered without a second thought. I had been to Malta before, but had stayed in the urban areas, and was unaware of the deep connection to the Goddess there. I think most people are unaware of this because it has been buried for so long, as She has in most cultures.

 

In those incense filled rooms by the sea, dancing under the full moon and chanting in an ancient goddess temple, I felt awakened to the power of She and the power of me as a woman and as a witch. It is something I truly cherish about the path I have chosen because I forever feel like I am learning, waking up, and unlocking something more; the journey is never complete. I am a student always, and that pleases my Ravenclaw sensibility. The best teachers of the craft that I have encountered have considered themselves students also. There is an exchange, and for me, that is important. Lisa is unwavering in her dedication to help women reach their full potential, beyond the typical confines of a patriarchal society. A local guide at the ancient temple recognised this in Lisa and chose her to lead a modern group of witches to this ancient sacred space. The guide was mysterious and almost as if from another time, a guardian of ancient wisdom, a little like Lisa herself.

 

Lisa’s new book Witch: Unleashed, Untamed, Unapologetic is the book I always wanted to read; the reason I wanted to be a witch beyond the initial glamour of the cool aesthetic and lust-worthy paraphernalia. The reason and feeling that I couldn’t quite articulate to those who wondered. It’s the book I would have coveted as a teenager when the internet had far less information for budding witches and there was a much more secretive air about practicing witchcraft. I said the exact same thing about Lisa’s two previous books, Code Red and Love Your Lady Landscape too. They are all important books that I wish everyone would read. I’m not saying that Witch is meant for teenagers or is by any means a ‘beginner’ book of witchcraft. I believe it will appeal to those just beginning to answer The Call or are merely curious, as well as those who have a deeper knowledge of the craft, and years of experience. Even if you don’t consider yourself a witch (and I know how that word can make some people really squirm and feel uncomfortable) this book can appeal to you. It also encourages us to seek our own path and find out what works for us. Many witchcraft books are labeled Wiccan, but Lisa does not consider herself a Wiccan and her approach to finding your own way is so refreshing, as is her urging for us to do our research about the history and culture of certain practices and deities before adopting them for ourselves.

 

 

What sets Witch apart is that it is not another Witchcraft 101 guide. It certainly has the useful information, about the sabbats, esbats, herbs, circles and spell work, but it goes much deeper than that. Lisa explains why we have that deep need to answer The Call and does it in an informative non-preachy way. Witch encourages us to peel back the layers and dive in, to remember how women were before patriarchy made us repress our true nature and conform to the ideals of society. She calls for us to make a change.

 

Lisa has done it again, gone to that place that makes us feel uncomfortable, that taboo place that women are supposed to feel shame about. She did it with periods and vaginas and now she’s doing it with magic, and that innate intuition and wisdom that as women we hold within us. As it says on her website The Sassy She, Lisa was ‘Crowned ‘the defender of female awesomeness’ by Cooler magazine. This is such an important book given our political climate right now and also the surge of the witchcraft aesthetic online on Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and within the pages of fashion magazines. It is an important book despite the time we are living in, and I applaud Lisa, as always, for sharing her wisdom and calling for us to #wakethewitches, in her uniquely fierce, frank and down to earth way. I hope this joins the ranks of other seminal works such as Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and Starhawk’s Spiral Dance as being a must-read book for witches to have on their bookshelves.

 

Also, it’s a bloody beautiful book to look at. Why wouldn’t you want this in your book collection?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phew, it’s been a busy month or two what with spending two weeks in the US on a family holiday and before that, going to a wonderful retreat in Morocco. I actually had a week at home with no plans last week and I spent most of it in bed with a chest infection. I definitely needed to rest and recuperate.

 

On the US trip, the days were so crammed with sightseeing and theme parks that I fell out of my usual self-care routine; neglecting my daily card reading and crystal work, and I didn’t even make time for a little daily reading, nor my rose baths. The busyness was great, in many ways, and it felt good to have a technology detox, but I absolutely learned that I need downtime to recharge otherwise my immune system takes a real battering. Although all the junk food I filled my face with was no doubt a contributing factor. Take note: theme parks are sugar factories!

 

 

 

 

When I rewind back to my time in Marrakech however, I instantly feel calm, and my days there were perfectly structured to accommodate self-care. Although the souks and the medina were certainly at times overwhelming, and an assault on the senses, daily life at the riad was just so relaxing. The Radical Self-Love Temple: Marrakech was a spiritual retreat run by my favourite magical babes Gala Darling and Veronica Varlow. Everything they do is gold, and when I heard back in November that they were holding this retreat together I didn’t waste any time in signing up. Of course, the exotic location was a huge cherry on top.

 

 

 

 

I flew from Gatwick airport with two British lovelies into Marrakech Menara airport. From there we were taken to the main square in the city where we were led on foot to the riad through the narrow labyrinthine souks. In contrast to the bustling streets, the riad was wonderfully peaceful with its central water feature in the fragrant courtyard, drifting rose petals, cool colourful tiles, and rooftop chill area with a hot tub. It was truly a delight every day to see every goddess on the retreat enter the courtyard, resplendent in jewel-tones and adornments (and glitter, called, I kid you not, Unicorn Snot – perfection!). Any initial awkwardness at spending time with a group of strangers (although I did know a couple of ladies already) soon melted away and we soon formed a tight girl gang, always looking out for each other.

 

 

 

Every morning after gathering for a breakfast of pastries, fruit and delectable strong coffee (with accompanying birdsong), we’d sit basking in the light and listen to one of Jessica Snow’s dreamy meditations. I’m not a natural meditation-er – I can’t just sit and close my eyes and clear my mind – I tend to drift off to sleep or have a nagging need to mentally go over my to-do list, but with guided meditation I really reap the benefits, and I loved Jessica’s so much that I’ve subscribed to her website.

 

 

 

 

After meditation, we then delved into Gala’s Radical Self-Love class. Gala’s approach to self-development and healing really is my favourite, and I highly recommend visiting her website and reading her book, Radical Self-Love, published by Hay House. Gala has a way of digging deep and exposing you to realisations about yourself, but most importantly she provides you with ways to move forward in your life, feel confident and truly love yourself.

 

 

 

 

Our afternoons were free to explore our surroundings, which often meant following our noses around the souks to stock up on rose oil or incense, drink sweet mint tea, try on pashminas and kaftans in a rainbow array of colours, or haggle for rugs and other home items. It’s amazing how pricey Moroccan style interiors are in US and UK stores, and how cheap they are in comparison in Morocco. No wonder Gala advised us to bring plenty of space in our luggage for our purchases. There were also fabulous rooftop restaurants where we had lunch, and on the last day, I was surprised to see the Atlas Mountains rising like some kind of mirage above the city.

 

We were also treated to a Feng Shui 101 class with Amanda Gibby Peters, where we learned the fundamentals of the feng shui elements, and how to apply them to our homes and work spaces. Check out Amanda’s website here. I loved delving more into this subject as it’s definitely something I’m interested in but always felt a little confused by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our evenings were spent together under the guidance of the Love Witch, Veronica Varlow, and if you have read my blog before then you know I am a frequent visitor to Veronica’s fabulous witchy retreats in the enchanting Catskills in Upstate New York. Veronica led us in rituals designed to unleash our sensuality and goddess magic. For more info on her magical classes and retreats visit her website here. These candlelit rituals always inspired me, making me feel like a true high priestess and left me ready to drift off to sleep on a bed of rose petals.

 

 

 

 

On two afternoons we had wonderful excursions, first to the Jardin de Majorelle which is a magnificent botanical garden owned by the late Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé since 1980. The gardens are stunning and provide the perfect selfie backdrops with fountains and vivid hues of bright cobalt blue and yellow. We had all fun posing for photos there. Our other outing was to the Hammam de la Rose, a traditional Moroccan spa in the heart of Marrakech. I’ve been to spas before and even Turkish baths, but this was a whole new experience. After being scrubbed, washed, oiled and massaged, I felt like a new me, as well as deeply relaxed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our final evening, we went for a delicious dinner at a courtyard restaurant, laughing and talking under the stars. I left this beautiful city with significantly heavier suitcases (I bought a long lusted after traditional wedding blanket and silver pouffe) but with a newer outlook on life. This trip has inspired me to wear more colour and adornments, to meditate regularly and through Gala and Veronica’s classes, provided me with the tools to practice self-love, self-development, awareness, magic and sensuality. I had never really considered visiting Morocco, or indeed North Africa before, but I am so glad that I did, and through such a wonderful trip curated by lovely Gala and Veronica, and with such fantastic ladies who are now magical sisters for life. It has also encouraged in me a sense of gratitude, especially for simple pleasures, and to making every day feel decadent with colours, smells, and dancing.

 

 

 

 

Weirdly, just over a week later, I was wandering around a fake Marrakech at Disney’s Epcot in Orlando, Florida. It was certainly surreal!

 

 

 

 

I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film since I first saw the trailer last August. I bought a ticket to see it at FrightFest in London, but in the end, couldn’t attend, so I was thrilled when it finally came out in cinemas and streaming websites in the UK last week and on DVD today.

 

The Love Witch tells the story of Elaine (a beguiling Samantha Robinson), a beautiful woman who is unlucky in love. Taking matters into her own hands, she uses witchcraft to control her romantic destiny, with disastrous consequences. Although she has no problem bewitching men with her seductive beauty and charm, her fatal flaw is failing to understand that a love spell does not result in true love and a fairy tale ‘happy ever after’, but instead turns her conquests into lovesick emotional wrecks. She uses her lovers as pawns in her game, playing the role of Stepford Wife to catch them in her web, before ultimately becoming irritated with them when they get too needy. It’s a clever role reversal of the stereotypical man who ditches the woman when she becomes too clingy or seeks commitment.

 

The film is completely unique its look and feel. It does pay homage to a certain aesthetic of the 60s and 70s in its cinematic style, and especially in the stunning costumes and heightened acting, but from a refreshingly modern and feminist angle. Auteur Anna Biller shows her passion for cinematic history and she did years of research on witchcraft and practiced solitary magic, so she is not depicting the craft from an outsider’s view. Biller designed all the luscious sets, including the beautiful Victorian tea room and Elaine’s witchy apartment, which we are told, was inspired by the Thoth tarot. I particularly love the purple damask wallpaper in Elaine’s bedroom, the apothecary style shelves and bench where Elaine cooks up her potions, and the pentagram rug.

 

 

The Love Witch is sumptuous to look at – Biller really went to town with the detail – and as a result, I was spellbound much like Elaine’s doomed lovers. It mixes deadpan comedy and horror perfectly, but I don’t think it could be categorised as such. I certainly don’t think it’s a pastiche. Really, I believe, it’s quite a tragic tale about a delusional woman who cannot separate fantasy from reality. We see and hear evidence that Elaine has a history of abuse, and that she has probably created this ideal for herself as a way of holding power over men and protecting herself.

 

The film is shot in 35 mm and uses many of the techniques used in classic old films. It is not a realistic film, nor could it be, because, for those 121 minutes, we are living in Elaine’s fantasy world. One of her lovers tells her “what you call love is a borderline personality disorder”, and we see this in her emotional detachment from other people and her total lack of responsibility for her actions. She completely disregards the Wiccan Rede of An harm it none, do what ye will. In other words, Elaine practices magic that changes people’s will and eventually harms them. She is ruthless in her search for her Prince Charming.

 

 

I think it’s important that Biller made Elaine, her tragic femme fatale a witch, for what other symbol is s0 pertinent in female history? Women, in particular, were singled out in witch persecutions because men feared their innately feminine traits, traits such as intuition, creation and an affinity to nature. In Victorian society, the dichotomy of the angel and the whore was a common theme. Women have always been polarised, but witches transgress this in their autonomy and in their ability to shapeshift, whether metaphorically or literally. With glamour and magic, Elaine is able to become powerful. One of the definitions of glamour is that it is an enchantment, it is magic. We know the power that make up gives to us. It’s no wonder the beauty industry is worth £17 billion in the UK alone. Elaine knows she is gorgeous, but she also relies on wigs and heavy make up to achieve a certain look.

 

The glamorous woman is often the victim of the male gaze in films, particularly in films such as the Hammer Horror movies of the 60s and 70s, which lingered on the female characters and in particular their naked flesh. This film does not dwell on female nudity, it does not feel gratuitous, and in fact, men are shown nude here just as often as the women are. When Elaine falls for a guy, we see a close-up of her eyes, of her intense gaze on them.

 

There is a prolonged Renaissance scene which some reviewers have deemed unnecessary, yet I think it’s an important scene in showing the audience just how detached from reality Elaine really is. We see her fairy tale come true; a ‘play’ marriage with her as the radiant princess being led away on a unicorn by her dream prince. But we also see that the object of her affection is merely ‘playing along’ and has no illusions about romance, but instead harbors a rather pessimistic view of love and women in general.

 

 

 

There is one scene in a burlesque bar where the drunken punters turn on Elaine and the fear of a modern day reenactment of the classic ‘kill the witch’ scenario genuinely left me unsettled. It captures the undercurrent of creepiness which I think permeates through those old films, behind the paint-like fake blood and flashing of bare flesh. It is also timely, given the recent US election, Trump’s presidency and the resulting women’s marches worldwide.

 

This film could be viewed initially as a period piece but it is actually set in the modern day; the aesthetic mirrors the old-fashioned behaviour which Elaine thinks men desire; playing the role of the whore in the bedroom and the angel in the kitchen. Although there are some modern cars in the film, it’s still a shock when Trish, Elaine’s neighbour, pulls out a mobile phone. It’s akin to the helicopter arriving at the end of the French fairy tale film, Donkey Skin, which I’d assumed was set in the middle ages.

 

Anna Biller is an exciting filmmaker for women and says she will continue to make films for a female audience. In an interview with The Guardian, she said, “All women’s pictures. That’s where I’m heading next.” I’m looking forward to her future projects, especially her next film, which will be her take on the Bluebeard fairy tale, and I’m keen to check out her first feature-length film Viva, which is available on demand from her website. In many ways, The Love Witch is a refreshingly honest movie, largely because of its female director. I hope this becomes commonplace in an industry still largely run by men.

 

Highly recommended!

 

Hello!
Heather Blanchard

Welcome. Are you a writer, a bookworm, a daydreamer? Are you still clinging on to that magic that pervaded childhood? Pull up an armchair and get cosy. This blog is my dreamscape through an enchanted forest to a world of stories and the little things that make me happy; a chance to add a dash of sparkle to the daily grind. Here you will find the whimsical, the coveted, the Gothic and the romantic. Happy exploring!

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