Blog posts with the tag: "witchcraft"

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

sam

 

I’m currently on a two-week holiday around the USA with my husband and our first trip was to Salem, also known as the Witch City. I first heard about Salem when I was a teenager studying The Crucible in English class. I went on to be cast as an elderly lady accused of witchcraft in our school production of the Arthur Miller play (cue lots of talcum powder to make my hair grey).

 

Now my interest in Salem far surpasses just the witch trials, as the town is home to thousands of witches and the streets are lined with shops selling witchcraft paraphernalia and herbs. There is even a Harry Potter shop.

 

I had booked us a round trip on the fast ferry to Salem, but sadly the ferries were cancelled due to rough seas so we got there using Uber instead (nothing was going to stop me missing this trip!).

 

The first sign of witches in Salem was the statue of Samantha from the much-loved tv show Bewitched. A friendly resident Brit told us that the show actually had no connection with Salem and that the statue was simply gifted to the town. Later we were told by our tour guide that a few episodes of Bewitched were filmed on location here, and then, confusingly, one of the guides in the Salem Witch Museum told the group that all the episodes were filmed there. Strange, but only one of numerous inconsistencies I have in this strange but wonderful place.

 

art

 

1. The Salem Witch Walk

 

After getting some coffee and breakfast pastries for the road, we headed towards the oldest witchcraft shop in Salem, Crow Haven Corner, for our Salem tour, The Salem Witch Walk, the only guided tour run by actual witches, because, let’s face it, I trust their opinion on these matters more (case in point, the misrepresentation of modern-day witches in the Salem Witch Museum, where they told us that all witches are Wiccan – talk about generalising!). Our tour guide, Tom enthusiastically led us through an opening ritual so that those less in the know could see that witchcraft isn’t at all scary and certainly not evil. After that, we were led to the Witch Trials Memorial and the Old Burying Point Cemetery while Tom explained that magic is much more prevalent in modern day life than people would expect, as well as talking about the pagan origins of Easter and the days of the week. We also visited the healing altar in the Omen store on Essex Street, and the Altar of the Dead in Hex. I really enjoyed the tour, and although I’m pretty clued up in witchcraft and didn’t learn anything new there, I certainly learned some interesting facts about the witch trials. You also get a free crystal.

 

 

altar

 

 

crow

 

 

2. Life Alive Cafe

 

After our tour, my thoughts immediately turned to food. This is nothing new. I love food and my day pretty much revolves around thinking what my next meal will consist of. My husband is vegan and I’m a pescatarian so I often use the website Happycow to find where the best veggie restaurants are. We found Life Alive and it’s veggie paradise. It was very busy in there but we managed to find a table. I had the Love Alive smoothie; blueberries, strawberries, banana, dates, chia seeds and almond milk. It was so delicious, but the real treat was the Green Goddess salad bowl. Made with broccoli, avocado, kale, tofu and an amazingly yummy Ginger Nama Shoyu sauce, I need to try and recreate this at home! That is if I don’t just move into this gorgeous organic cafe and live off their nourishing raw food forever.

 

 

me smoothie

 

 

3. Hauswitch Home + Healing

 

After lunch, I made a beeline for the Hauswitch Home + Healing store. I had seen this light, beautiful space on Instagram and just knew that I would love it. While the other witchy shops in Salem are all dark and cramped, this place is spacious and has a chilled out boho vibe going on. I really had to struggle not to buy up everything in there, and in the end I only bought a new moon candle, a Witch City tote and a lovely book called The Herbal Homestead Journal, but I desperately want to go back and buy the ‘We’re the Weirdos Mister’ cushion and basically every gorgeous art print in their stock.

 

 

booty

 

 

4. The Coven’s Cottage

 

I also visited The Coven’s Cottage, a cute little witchy shop with a great selection of dried herbs. This was particularly exciting for me as I am yet to find a decent herb stockist where I live, and often have to order the rarer stuff online (although I am cultivating a little herb garden). I was pleased to see that the basket of dried Heather was nearly sold out, but then that hardy little shrub which I’m named after is famous for bringing luck. From there I bought some dried witch hazel bark ( for clearing paths), pink roses (for love and healing, but also for aesthetic reasons), and some Calendula (for respect and admiration). I also got some really lovely parchment paper embedded with dried flowers and my annual purchase of the Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook.

 

On our way to the Salem Witch Museum (apparently the best museum in town), I popped into the Crow Haven Corner to have a browse, and although I didn’t end up buying anything, I was extremely touched to see a couple bring in a tiny mewing ginger kitten, which they had found abandoned nearby. Lorelei, the owner of the shop is also the founder of the charity Salem Saves Animals, a great cause not only helping local animals in need but also promoting the education and awareness of animal care in the community and of the dedication to changing the animal abuse laws in the States.

 

5. Salem Witch Museum

 

The Salem Witch Museum has timed presentations, the first taking the audience through the events of the 1696 witch trials, and the second giving a bit of background to the term witch, from the ancient medicine women and midwives through to the popular Hollywood depiction of witches and an overview of Wicca and the Wheel of the Year. I found the museum interesting, but as I mentioned earlier, their information on modern witchcraft was somewhat basic.

 

museum

 

 

6. House of the Seven Gables

 

From there, my husband and I took a walk through Salem Common and down to The House of the Seven Gables. The house is named after the Nathaniel Hawthorne gothic novel of the same name and served as inspiration to Hawthorne, whose cousin once lived there. The tour took us through the rooms of the house. I particularly liked a hidden staircase leading up to a secret room, and the attic which was once the servants’ quarters. Unfortunately, the tour guide didn’t mention any ghost stories about the house, which was a pity as I got a definite creepy vibe upon entering, although this eased up the further I moved through the house. This place is great to visit if you’re interested in history and want to step inside a genuine Colonial house, and/or if you are interested in Hawthorne. There are also pretty gardens, a great view of the sea and a quaint little museum store which sells literary gifts and lovely notebooks.

 

 

gables

 

 

7. Nightmare Gallery

 

From there we headed to Count Orlock’s Nightmare Gallery, a small museum housing life-size figures of cinema’s scariest monsters. I must be becoming more of a scaredy-cat as I get older, because at first I was worried this would be one of those attractions where actors dressed up in creepy gear jump out on you as you walk around in the dark (I still haven’t got over the terrifying clown ripped straight from my nightmares who stalked me through The London Bridge Experience). Thankfully this wasn’t the case, but the incredibly life-like detailed figures were very nightmare-inducing anyway. As a lifelong horror movie fan, it was great coming face to face with all manner of vampires, werewolves and the like.

 

Honourable Mentions:

 

If you’re a geek and/or comic book fan then head to Harrison’s Comics and Pop culture store. I’m not a comic book reader but as well as the comics they had a great selection of collectibles including old film magazines and vintage print film posters.

 

 

charmed

 

Ok so we didn’t actually eat at Howling Wolf Taqueria, but we intended to. I’m a big fan of Mexican food (I could probably live off guacamole) so this was definitely on my places to visit. Unfortunately, it’s so good that the place was crowded and the wait for food was 40 minutes. I was starving so I wasn’t prepared to wait, but it did smell amazing.

 

Today I’m exploring Boston, before catching a flight to Chicago. After a few days in the Windy city, I’ll be off to Anchorage, Seattle and finally Los Angeles. If you have any recommendations of places to visit, please post below! I’m particularly partial to foodie haunts, book stores, and metaphysical shops. Thanks!

 

 

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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