I used to call this ‘Weekly Round-up’ but I think that title sadly lacks romance and imagination.
I’ve fallen in love with a lot of things over this past week, and I’d like to share them here with you. Sit, brew a tea and curl up. Be still, be quiet. Read…
Winona Ryder/Stranger Things
If you haven’t yet gobbled up Netflix’s nostalgic 80s set series, which evokes Stephen King novels, Spielberg movies, and Tangerine Dream, then please, add this page to your reading list and get on with watching it now. I watched all eight episodes in one weekend. I adored all the 80s pop culture references, the music and that neon red opening title. I felt a fondness and empathy for the four schoolboys stumbling across the strangeness, and a fierce protection over Eleven, a mysterious girl with telekinesis. But for me, it was a welcome return to the screen for Winona. Sure, she’s cropped up in films in the past few years, but nothing really meaty, and I felt that this was a return to the good old 80s/90s Winona who I loved, albeit a more mature, adult version. Winona was my favourite actress when I was a kid. She played the outcast perfectly in Mermaids, Heathers, Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael and Beetlejuice, and even when she was supposed to be the popular girl, in Edward Scissorhands, she brought a frailty and quirkiness to the character that more conventional-looking actresses of the time would have lacked. Winona makes a great mother in this role because she retains that outsider archetype whilst being a loving parent. Unlike the typical mothers in these films and shows, where the truth must be hidden from them, because their duty is to restore order and in some cases call the cops, Winona, as Joyce Byers, is a believer from the outset. She is on her own journey to find out the truth about why her youngest son has disappeared.
Cardamom + Rose iced latte
I’m obsessed with anything rose scented or flavoured, or actually anything with a floral flavour, so when I stumbled across this recipe I was pretty pleased that I could make a yummy flavoured coffee at home. I always have a decent supply of dried rose petals in my pantry, and I’m always looking for new ways to use them. Find the recipe here
Alysia Nicole Harris
This American poet writes poems that are absolutely gorgeously stunning. And I really admire anyone that does spoken word poetry. Check out Alysia’s poem ‘Paris in the Rain’ here and ‘Crow’s Sugar’ here. I don’t read poetry often enough, probably because I like to get lost in a story, but when I do pick up a book of poems, I like the ones that veer from feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut to seeing something rare and spectacular like a moonbow (yes, that is a thing).
Florence’s dreamy townhouse and garden
I saw Florence + the Machine live at Alexandra Palace a few years ago. She moved across the stage like some ethereal, fairy alien being, some willowy wood nymph from a Pre-Raphaelite painting. This tour of her home is perfect. I’m nosey and I love looking at other people’s homes. Florences’s is eclectic and romantic, and that garden!
Smells like Spells
I discovered this company whilst perusing the shelves at my favourite esoteric shop, Watkins in London. Carved candles and gorgeous scents. I couldn’t resist. I am obsessed with scented candles. And one with a little magic inside. Oh go on then! Buy here
The Love Witch
I posted about this on social media because I am so freaking excited for this movie. I love the horror films and melodrama pictures from the 60s and 70s. Hammer Horror films were my late night sneaky treat. The outlandishly fake-looking blood and even dodgier bats on strings were all part of the fun. Filmmaker Anna Billing has made a sumptuous ode to those movies, but with, I suspect, given Billing’s blog posts, a feminist twist. The Love Witch is about a modern-day witch named Elaine who is unlucky in romance, and will do anything to find that elusive forever love. Newcomer Samantha Robinson reminds me a little of that naughty Je ne sais quoi that Lana Del Rey possesses in her music videos. I’m attending a showing of the movie in late August at FrightFest in London and will be posting a review then. Stay tuned! Check out Anna Billing’s blog here
The Folklore Podcast
I’m a bit of a folklore geek. I love hearing folk tales and ghost stories from local areas or in places that I’m visiting. If you’re a geek too, you’ll love The Folklore Podcast. Each episode is dedicated to a different theme or type of folklore or urban legend. Listen here.
Wow, a lot has happened since I last posted here. The big change is that I moved house. Our new place is a beautiful house in the countryside and there’s a summer house in the garden which can only mean one thing…writer’s den! I really dislike moving house, though, on a serious note. I’m a real homebody, and I like everything to have a place, so uprooting everything and getting new furniture has been a slow process and a stressful one at that.
In the past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to attend two retreats and get to hang out with some of my favourite magical ladies. One on the beautiful island of Malta, and one in bewitching Woodstock in Upstate New York. This was my third visit to Woodstock and that place is seriously starting to feel like a home away from home for me. There is something really special about spending time with like-minded women. It’s not something I do on a regular basis, as I live in the middle of nowhere and I don’t know any woo-inclined people locally. But when it happens it feels so right. It’s what I had always dreamed about as a teenager who loved The Craft, Buffy and Charmed. A whole coven! Meeting new people can be daunting, but I’ve never felt uncomfortable nor made to feel unwelcome at these gatherings. Quite the opposite!
I went to Malta for the full moon in May. The retreat was run by the fabulous Lisa Lister. If you haven’t read her book Code Red, then do it now! All women should read this book and learn that their period doesn’t need to be that ‘dreaded time of the month’. You can read more about Lisa’s work here. Lisa also has a brand new book out called Love Your Lady Landscape. I’ve just started reading it and I’ll be posting my thoughts on it soon. In Malta, we did SHE Flow yoga in front of an incredible coastline, stayed in a dreamy villa where we had a full moon circle, a cacao ceremony and had a secret ceremony in a 5,000-year-old temple.
At the end of June, I flew over to New York and caught the bus to Woodstock to catch-up with my witchy sisters at Veronica Varlow’s Magic House. I always have the best time there chatting, making beautiful things, hiking in the mystical woods and eating delicious healthy food. I danced in the river, made a flower crown, amazing smelling incense and a mojo bag (I actually know how to sew now!) and just missed seeing two baby bears (we had to skedaddle sharpish to avoid meeting mama bear!). To read more about the magical Miss Veronica Varlow and her retreats, classes and courses, head over to her website Danger Dame here. Another of my favourite witches, Gala Darling, did a blog post about the retreat and posted a gorgeous highlight reel here.
In between travels, I featured on my friend Wolf Sister’s blog series Wandering Kin where I spoke about the places I love to visit when I stay in Paris. You can read it here. I also attended her beautiful animal spirit and sound gong ceremony in London. Wolf Sister aka Tamara is gifted at doing such wonderful meditations! Check out her websites here for future events.
In Santorini, I sailed around a volcanic island, swam in hot springs, met the cats at the Gaia Winery and watched the famous sunset at Oia. I also fell in love with open-air cinemas, visiting both the one in Kamari (I absolutely adored the old Hollywood feel to the place and the jolly 40s/50s playlist) and getting all dressed up to go to the immersive Secret Cinema Presents: Dirty Dancing in East London. A park stood in for the Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills, but the rain stayed at bay and we were able to play mini golf, cook marshmallows and sneak into the forbidden Staff Quarters for some of our own dirty dancing.
I’ve also been using the long summer days to plan, organise and brainstorm how I want the next part of the year to blossom. I get a strange restlessness in the summer as if those long warm days are just a dream, and I must wake up from them. Summer is dream time, a time to fill up notebooks with inspiration, stolen lines of poetry that make your heart beat that little bit faster, and doodles of saucy mermaids. I seriously miss studying and academia, so I would love to get back into that and specialise in some area of Gothic. I’m also still working on my second novel, although I’ve had a few setbacks, namely conflicting ideas vying for my time! Still, I’m determined to get back on track.
Then there’s this very blog you are reading. I really want to fall back in love with blogging and make this place truly my own special haven online, filling it with all of my interests and ideas. I hope you join me for the ride!
On May 3rd, 1996 a film called The Craft was released. I was 14 at the time and when I saw the film advertised in one of my teen magazines I knew instantly that I would absolutely love it. I’ve always had this sixth sense about movies, but this cult film has remained one of my favourites long past my teens. This week The Craft celebrated its 2oth anniversary.
It began a trend of aligning young women with witchcraft with TV shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, and in films such as Practical Magic. The Craft also arguably reignited the teen horror genre which exploded the next year with Scream.
I remember going to HMV to buy the soundtrack and buying black nail polish and lipstick from Boots the Chemist. I found a metaphysical shop in the nearest town and spent many an afternoon there breathing in the scent of patchouli incense and reading the books there. Teen magazines featured interviews with teen witches and I desperately wished I could be a part of a coven and bewitch cute guys. One magazine even had a free gift of a tarot deck and I used to practice different spreads trying to see what my future held.
I related to The Craft as a teen uncomfortable in her own body. I think that’s where it’s popularity lies, in that it has universal appeal. Everyone can relate to feeling like an outsider at some point in their lives. I wasn’t the most popular girl in my class, nor was I a loner, I just kind of was, that invisible purgatory where sometimes more popular girls said catty remarks and I was often ignored by boys (although that was ok, I’d set my sights on Hollywood stars instead).
The film follows troubled teen Sarah Bailey as she starts at a new school and is swiftly humiliated by her crush, Chris. She attracts the attention of three outcasts; (whom Chris dubs “the bitches of Eastwick”) Bonnie, Rochelle and Nancy, and they quickly recruit her as the fourth member of their circle on account of her natural magical abilities. With Sarah’s powers the circle quickly find their spells coming true; Chris becomes infatuated with Sarah, Bonnie’s burn scars disappear, Nancy’s abusive step-father dies leaving her mother and her enough money to move from their trailer to an apartment, and Rochelle stops being bullied by “racist piece of bleach-blonde shit” Laura Lizzie. With this wish-fulfilment comes greed and abuse of power, and Sarah is the only member of the group who sees that the power is backfiring on them in increasingly more dangerous ways.
I was already familiar with the actresses in the film. I knew scene-stealer Fairuza Balk (Nancy) from The Worst Witch and Return to Oz, Neve Campbell (Bonnie) was in the tv drama Party of Five, Rachel True (Rochelle) had been in the saucy Embrace of the Vampire and Robin Tunney had played another suicidal young woman in another great film, Empire Records. I loved their Catholic schoolgirl/goth style and most of all I was enchanted by the magic.
The film is not without its flaws; the scene in the magic shop, when Sarah seeks help from Lirio promises something which doesn’t deliver, and I always wondered why Rochelle’s home life was overlooked. Nancy may be the villain of the story but she is absolutely the most fun to watch. The Craft is being remade this year. Apparently it is not a sequel but a reimagining. I don’t know who they will cast that could have even half of the intensity of Fairuza Balk, and of course, any new film will lack the nostalgic 90s charm of the original. The 90s did teen angst so well with tv series such as My So-Called Life, Buffy and Dawson’s Creek. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but the teens in the latest tv shows all seem so glossy and cookie-cutter perfect.
Most importantly, The Craft showed me that it was ok to deviate from the norm, to seek your own answers in life, and of course, to be a weirdo. It started my interest with all things witchy and I’m certainly not the only girl influenced by the characters’ interest in spells and incantations. Wiccan writer Silver Ravenwolf published her book Teen Witch and subsequent Teen Witch Kit no doubt in response to all the interest in witchcraft from teens after the release of the film.
The Craft was not the first, nor the last film to use the female teenage experience in all its messiness and emotions as a horror allegory. Horror allows for agency and transcendence, whether it is through magic, being the ‘final girl’ or through literal transformation (watch Ginger Snaps – the town is called Bailey Downs – a nod to The Craft perhaps?). And teenage girls will always straddle that mysterious, scary place between childhood and womanhood, and will no doubt always be drawn to witchcraft as an exploration of themselves (and here I am in no way saying that an attraction to magic is merely a phase – I am living proof of that!). We only need to look at the teen witches in recent television, such as American Horror Story: Coven and The Vampire Diaries, Little Mix’s music video Black Magic, and all the witchy articles in the online magazine Rookie to show just how popular witches are. But also, a search on Instagram for witches shows that women of all ages are embracing the craft, consulting the tarot and exploring their spiritual sides.