I just watched the “Witches of Eastwick,” a 1987 movie based off the John Updike novel (a read I really enjoyed). In the movie, Jack Nicholson, effectively playing Satan, otherwise known as Daryl Van Horne, seduces three woman (Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer) until they realize how he is changing them, pulling them apart, making them weak and sick. That is, until they realize they are powerful together.
Van Horne says, “Men are such cocksuckers aren't they? You don't have to answer that. It's true. They're scared. Their dicks get limp when confronted by a woman of obvious power and what do they do about it? Call them witches, burn them, torture them, until every woman is afraid. Afraid of herself... afraid of men... and all for what? Fear of losing their hard-on.”
Now, maybe it was because I watched this movie just days after watching the testimony of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Doctor Christine Blasey Ford that this line really stuck out to me.
It feels relevant. I am not someone who sees all men as evil (or as, say, in this case, Satan), but there is an interesting point about fear and power that meets along the gender divide. The awareness and fight about sexual assault in our country has risen from a dirty little secret to a common household discussion point. The hurricane of fear and power between men and women was put on display in front of the supreme court and the rest of the nation. We saw a woman, composed, sharing her past hurt, her past fear, and the man losing his control when faced with criticism by a woman, demonstrating his fear of losing the power he has enjoyed throughout his life.
I wondered if this is why witches have always been so appealing to me, as a female. Why I coveted my VHS of The Craft and every episode of Buffy. Why I started learning to read tarot cards as a teenager. Why my social media feed is filled with women celebrating the cycles of the moon, drawn to the energy-driven, intuitive, healing arts that belonged to women so many centuries ago. One of my favorite books from last year was Ariel Gore's We Were Witches, which depicted a young (strike one), single (strike two) mother, with little resources, (strike three) who struggles for the power to maintain her place in the world, interspersed with a few spells.
Many of history’s “accused” witches were merely women who were healers, who knew about plant medicine, about intuition, who were unwed, or went against the norms of society. Now that shit's scary! There's a reason why the classic portrayal of "witches" were hideous with long curved noses, green skin, and warts, because beauty is a power in itself.
A women having the power to heal? Far too threatening. Far too much power.
There’s a reason Target is now selling titles such as “The Good Witch's Guide: A Modern-Day Wiccapedia of Magickal Ingredients and Spells” and “Witch: Unleashed, Untamed, and Unapologetic.” CW is launching a “Charmed” reboot this fall. Sephora was about to start selling a “Starter Witch Kit” until it received a lot of backlash from modern-day witches about the over-commercialization.
Women are drawn to re-claiming the label of witch right now because we are being reminded of our innate power. It is whispering to us, reminding us it's been here the whole time. Women are due for a resurgence of ownership, to re-claim the natural strength and abilities that are held deep within, connected to the earth, the moon, to fellow women, to things larger then ourselves.
A few of my favorite “witch” novels for your Halloween to-read list:
We were witches. By Ariel Gore.
Witches of Eastwick. By John Updike
The Witches. By Roald Dahl.
The Lace Reader. By Bruonia Barry
Please let me know if you have any recommendations to add to this list!