The Witches We Love
A study in Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic and The Craft
Welp, I wrote this post, I was super happy with it but just wanted to add a couple links, and then of course - I somehow lost the whole draft. So here I am, writing it all again. Sigh. Serves me right for writing in Gmail.
Anyway, here we go! WITCHES.
For me, it's hard to pinpoint exactly when I became obsessed with witches. Elmira Gulch will always be the quintessential witch to my mind, having worn out my family's VHS copy of the Wizard Oz at the age of 4. But what a witch COULD be. What she stood for....those doors opened to me with 1993's Hocus Pocus.
This movie was made specifically for me and my fellow baby millennials and in my memory, was a work of cinematic genius. Apparently, that wasn't always the collective understanding of this movie, and it was even considered a box office flop at the time. No matter! The Millenials saw this film about 3 witch sisters from Puritan Salem brought back from the dead by a virgin on Halloween for the treasure that it was - and since its failure in the 90s, it has grown by the sheer will of its fans into a cult classic and become one of Disney's most popular Halloween properties, even garnering a sequel nearly 30 years later.
This movie is a must-watch for me every October. Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are oddball delights and the cast of kids that take us through the witchy danger are pitch perfect in their performances. And then there's Bette Midler. I know Bette Midler is a legend of stage and screen despite not really being familiar with her body of work, but I BELIEVE it because of her performance of "I put a spell on you." And while these elements contribute to making Hocus Pocus the enduring cinematic delight that it is, it is loved - I believe - for one simple reason.
We love Hocus Pocus (yeah, I said we, for our purposes today, you must love the movie too) because at its core, Hocus Pocus is a story about WITCHES.
But why witches? What is it about them that makes us sit up and take notice?
The witches of Hocus Pocus were the perfect introduction for me as a wee 90s baby who only really knew witches in sticker and Halloween decoration form, and of course the Wicked Witch of the West. The Witches of Hocus Pocus were, for me, a much more mature idea of the witch - a protagonist version of the witch. They were funny, and weird and powerful and - probably the reason Hocus Pocus works so well - very very dangerous. The witches of Hocus Pocus really lean into the Puritan fears of a witch - the Sanderson sisters are out to KILL. THESE. CHILDREN. The stakes are HIGH, pg rating be damned. Their mission is EVIL. And still we love them.
Why? I like to think its because they are, as one trick or treater yells at them halfway through the film, "weirdos." They aren't just 'bad guys'. They're outcasts. They're misfits. And despite that, they are powerful.
But so what? So's Maleficent, and Ursula. What separates the Sanderson sisters from those famous witches?
Perhaps it's the fact that there are three of them - perhaps part of their appeal is that they are sisters. Whatever their dark intent, their malicious mischief, they are united in helping each other succeed.
A sisterhood of weirdos.
Just look at Practical Magic! Another New England tale of witchcraft gone awry, Sally and Gilly Owens are guided in everything they do by the power of their relationship as sisters. No matter how misguided, inconvenient and dangerous. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for the Stevie Nicks, dried flowers, knitted blankets, farmhouse kitchen, artisan soap, aesthetic that runs through the whole thing - I'm only mortal, I can't help it! We all love, it don't we? We all want a three story century home by the sea where we can eat brownies for breakfast and have a loving aunt make midnight margaritas and nurse our hangovers with herbal teas.
But more than that, we want someone who loves our weirdness enough to sign up to burry the body right along side us. Right? I mean, right?
Maybe I’m being a bit idealistic because I never had a sister. And I know relationships can be complicated - I have enough friends and family with sisters to know not all of them will sign up to raise ex boyfriends from the dead with you. I mean just look at the Sanderson sisters - Winifred is happy to nearly kill both her siblings in multiple casual instances.
So perhaps the appeal of the witch is not necessarily in sisterhood in the literal sense, but in a spiritual sense. A found family of your exact brand of oddball to support you and stand with you through the hard times.
Consider The Craft. A group of misfit teens dabble in witchcraft and goth attire and chaos ensues. “We are the weirdos, Mister,” Nancy famously declares as 90s teens jumped out of their bean bags and cheered. Yes, ok, the magic got away from them and indeed, people died. I already established witches are dangerous, it comes with the territory. But it was in the friendship of the girls of The Craft, their tight little circle of loners and losers, that they managed to tap into their inner power, and support each other as they worked it to its fullest potential. Without the circle of weirdos, their power would have never been tapped.
And I like that idea. I like the idea that there’s something powerful in each of us, and it just needs the right support to flourish. I like the idea of a found family of people who see what makes us different, and likes us all the better for it. The idea that if you’re standing outside and apart, there’s someone standing there with you.
And I think that’s why I like the witch. Why so many of us do.
She’s powerful. She’s dangerous.
And she’s almost never alone.
What’s your fave witch movie?
What I’m Working On
The AI book’s edits have been delivered and so now I am all about getting ready for Halloween and working on my Oz story as well as my graphic novel.
Also, there's less than month now to the release of the paperback of the sequel to The Bear House, Scales and Stardust coming November 14! If you’re interested in pre-ordering (and I would be oh so grateful because pre-orders are a big help to authors!) you can find it here!
And of course, Fridays are Zombie Shark Highway posting days! The last chapter to be released was chapter 18 - the end is in sight now. If you have chapters to catch up on, you can find all the available chapters in the ZSH section of Authorstrator. Or consider upgrading your subscription and download the full ebook!
What I’m Reading
I’m nearly finished The Hunger - I got sidetracked by Cursed: An Anthology which I have also been really enjoying.
I didn’t read it, but I watched The Fall of the House of Usher. I didn’t love it as much as Flanagan’s previous efforts (Haunting of Hill House is still my fave) but it was a good offering for the Halloween season.
This post fromabout the uncanny in horror was a great read and perfect as you embark on any scary story writing you might have planned. ‘s post about the panopticon in social media is a chilling read that I really enjoyed.
And that’s it from me!
Happy Halloween :)