Like a lot of ladies of a certain bent, I went through a phase where I said I was Wiccan. It is a thing that young ladies of a certain semi-Goth/pagan persuasion like to say, I suppose. But even as a kid, I had a pull towards that spectrum of things: when I was six, I made up a “church” of “moon worship” where we’d plant flowers under the full moon and dance and sing around them. (It wasn’t unlike that scene in My Neighbor Totoro where they plant the trees and hop around the shoots!)
These days, I am pagan-sympathetic and still like my Tarot cards and believe in the Divine Feminine and all that, but I’ll never be of the organized spiritual persuasion and am sometimes am inclined to think that matters of spirituality transcend human identity. Still, deep down, I really still wish I were a witch, able to sculpt the hidden energies of the universe into beautiful, powerful forms. So I’ll always appreciate a bit of that witchy feminine spirit in my art and entertainment. Witness:
Dum Dum Girls, “Lord Knows”
Black-and-white spectral spookiness, evoking a kind of almost Eleusinian mystery. I would time travel to see that kind of isht, but since my powers are confined to this portion of the time-space continuum, I’ll have to make due with this beautifully directed video:
Is it just me, or are the Dum Dum Girls getting better and better? Outside of their girl group/garage rock style, their music has a lot more emotional depth than you’d think at first, and her voice is just so deep and dusky. I’m excited to get their new EP End of Daze soon.
Fever Ray, “Now’s the Only Time I Know”
I saw Fever Ray live and it was the closest I ever felt to a “techno-pagan without being a 90s San Francisco cliche” experience. It was a fantastic, mystical, beautiful show full of dancing, music and a kind of theatricality that you rarely see in a semi-indie milieu. I felt absolutely transported outside of myself during the show, and when it was done, it was such a disappointment to wander back onto the streets of New York full of noise and crowds.
In a way, that’s what the longing for the supernatural means to me — a kind of desire to know that we’re not confined to the seen reality around us, that the sometimes inchaote sense we feel that there is something bigger out there is real and not imagined. Some people have aliens, others have witches.
The Tao of Serafina Pekkala
I’m a massive fan of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” books. Truth: I love this trilogy more than I love the Harry Potter books — and I really dig the Harry Potter books. I love the intellectual audacity of Pullman’s books, the richness of the characters, Lyra and Iorek Byrnison, and daemons in general. And the stories have my favorite conception of witches, ever: I love how they are so fierce, political, argumentative, how they fly up in the air to study the winds and starlight, how they’re impervious to cold, how their attitude towards love is both light and sorrowful. I love that their daemons can travel great distances from them, and the intensity of the ritual that makes this so. And you know, look at Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala in the movie version: she’s so beautiful!
They understand the gravity of human existence and yet it lands lightly on them because they are so focused on nature and the cosmos. In other words, these witches have their priorities straight.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
I read this book when I was 16, and it’s one of the important personal literary events in my life when I look back in retrospect, shaping almost unconsciously my feminist, political and spiritual inclinations. I’ve written earlier about it, so I won’t rehash it here, but anyone who wants a little fictional paganism/witchery would do well to pick this up — it’s absolutely epic. I know more than a few real-deal pagans and Wiccans who cite this book as a gateway into their interest in alternative spiritualities. I never quite went there myself, and even if you’re not inclined, it’s still an absorbing read when it comes to those literary matters of story and character.
And Of Course, The Craft, i.e., The Best Semi-Trashy Movie About Teenage Witchcraft, Ever
One of the reasons the 90s were so awesome for women was that, in the latter half of the decade, there were all these movies about young female teenage rebellion and empowerment hitting the mainstream: I’m thinking stuff like Foxfire, and yes, The Craft. There are all sorts of late 90s ingenues running around in this movie, like Neve Campbell (i.e., most boring celebrity interview ever transcribed), Robin Tunney and the wonderfully batshit Fairuza Balk. Watching it again, the plot barely hinges together coherently, but man, it is still so satisfying to see these ladies take control and wreak SUPERNATURAL HAVOC. Magic as a parable for hormones: love it!
It’s sort of the anti-Mists of Avalon: it’s semi-campy, trashy and ridiculous, but there’s still an emotional core of righteous anger and power that resonates.