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!

 

 

 

Okay, so this title is a misnomer. In 1992 a small film about a Californian high school girl fighting vampires was released. I remember my mum renting it from the local video store. She told me the synopsis, but wouldn’t let me watch it on account of the ’15’ certificate (thanks, mum!). And I sooo wanted to watch it, because it had Kristy Swanson as the titular character, and she was in the Mannequin sequel which I had rented out an embarrassing amount of times, along with the Splash sequel and Mac and Me (as you can see, I had a high-brow taste in films back then). So it’s ironic that instead of loving the poor man’s version of a box office success, I ended up loving the cult hit.

 

I grew up devouring shiny Hollywood portrayals of high school, probably because I lived in Scotland, and the amount of rain there makes Forks from Twilight seem like the Costa del Sol in comparison. I watched Saved by the Bell, California Dreamin’ and yes, Baywatch. I got excited every time a new Sweet Valley High book came out. But I also absolutely loved the supernatural. Ghost stories were my jam, Halloween was more exciting than Christmas and I would’ve given my left arm to go to Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. So to marry the two; glossy California high school and paranormal intrigue was so perfect.

 

 

 

This concept wasn’t new. In the 80s, the teen film really came into its own. Slasher films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street featured teens been murdered in an array of creative ways, while comedy horrors such as Teen Wolf and Teen Witch showed in cheesy fashion how being different can make you the most popular kid in school (if only). It’s a clever concept because as a teenager, everything feels like a horror film, especially your body. Spots, blood, and raging hormones, oh my! (This is illustrated beautifully in the film Ginger Snaps, if you haven’t already, watch it).

 

Unfortunately, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was nothing really more than fluff. Fluff with fangs, but nothing groundbreaking. Creator Joss Whedon was so frustrated with how the Hollywood bigwigs changed his vision, that he walked off the set and never returned.

 

Now fast forward to 1997. Or more accurately, 1998, because back then in the UK, we had to wait for an age for anything good from the States and it was so frustrating! I was 16 years old and had gone over to the dark side. Perfect 30-year-old looking teens from Beverly Hills 90210, I love you, but I’d chosen darkness. Several years earlier, I had discovered Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire in the book cupboard at school. Her books, together with Stephen King’s, had replaced my earlier passion for Point Horror novels. Scream had come out in the UK the year before, The Craft was my obsession and I was still probably growing out the red dye I’d put in my hair after Angela Chase had gone ‘crimson glow’ (I know My So-Called Life wasn’t supernatural – well apart from the ghost and angel episodes – but the angst and awkwardness was scary real).

 

I remember seeing the advert for Buffy on BBC2 while I was eating my dinner. I don’t remember what I was eating – my memory isn’t that spectacular – but I’d probably just been geeking out watching Quantum Leap or Star Trek: The Next Generation. There was Buffy kicking ass and wielding a wooden stake like nobody’s business. I wanted to be her. The guys fancied her, she had cool clothes (ahem – check out twitter.com/badbuffyoutfits), she had the Scooby Gang and fought the forces of evil. What more could you want? I wasn’t to know that I’d become more of a Willow later in life. Books, research, and witchery are my passions.

 

The Scooby Gang. And Dawn. And Riley.

 

The series was a phenomenal success, and fans still obsess over it. It inspired countless other supernatural shows but could not be surpassed in its greatness (sorry, Angel). The actors are wonderful, but the real magic lies in Whedon’s savvy writing, whether he is being innovative (‘Once More with Feeling’, ‘Hush’), funny or heartbreaking. He creates characters that you genuinely care about (even, dare I say it, Dawn – or is that going too far?). He makes likable villains (Drusilla and Spike forever). He makes female characters that feminists can cheer on. Okay, so the fashions have definitely dated, but the enduring appeal in Buffy lies in its heart, in using horror tropes as an allegory for adolescence, whip-smart dialogue, being meta before it was a thing, and for using varied and loveable characters who significantly progressed and expanded in the show’s seven-season duration. It really was the perfect show. Except for Dawn. And Riley.

 

 

 

P.S. when I originally watched the show, I was all about Angel. So much so, that my first trip to London sans parents was to meet David Boreanaz in person at a Forbidden Planet signing. It was awful because I was dreadfully shy and naturally had a quiet voice. Couple that with my British accent and the poor guy had no idea what I said to him. I wanted to be sucked down into the Hellmouth. Anyway, last time I watched Buffy, I realised I now prefer Giles. At least he would understand my accent, and being quiet is (silently) applauded in a library, my hang-out place of choice (because sadly, The Bronze isn’t real).

 

If you liked Buffy watch Hex. It was never as clever as Buffy but it’s still fun.

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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