History Ancient Practices

The history of witches can teach us a lot about ourselves

I was a child angel for several consecutive Halloweens. Dressed all in white, with a halo attached to my head and gauzy wings sprouting from my shoulder blades, I smiled beatifically at the camera. It was what I wanted, in my heart of hearts, too: to be pure, angelic, and perfect.

I never would have been a witch for Halloween. Witches wore black, had tall pointy hats, warts on their noses, cauldrons in which they mixed up hateful potions. Witches are the antithesis of angels. At least until I grew a little older and started investigating my own feminism and realized: witches are just women with a bit of power. That’s why they’re scary. That’s why they’re “bad.”

Growing up, I was also under the impression that witches were merely fictional. That magic wasn’t real, and it only existed in TV shows, movies, and books. These days I know better. There are witches out there — I even know some — and rather than being wart-ridden, cackling wretches who exist to eat the hearts of pretty young maidens, they are genuinely some of the kindest, most caring people I’ve met. They just happen to have a deeper connection to nature and the spiritual realm than many of us. Though witches do not have to be women, many are (at least the ones in my circles) and I think that makes the fear glow brighter.

Witches are just women with a bit of power. That’s why they’re scary.

In America, we’re almost all familiar with the Salem witch trials. But it turns out people were being burned at the stake for witchcraft across the Atlantic even decades before those famous burnings. In Europe, over the course of approximately 400 years, as many as 60,000 people were killed for being accused of witchcraft. According to one theory, it was economically driven by the religious leaders of the day.

As someone who grew up in an evangelical household, I never questioned that negative view of witches, which was that anyone who did not follow God was, obviously, following the devil. It took years of unlearning for me to reach a place where I didn’t see the world through such black and white lenses. I’m now rather fascinated by witchcraft and witches. According to an article on, “Many modern-day witches still perform witchcraft, but there’s seldom anything sinister about it.”

In my experience, witchcraft is often a pathway for people to tap into their deepest selves and to connect to the universe around them. There is also a legit religion, Wicca, whose believers practice witchcraft. 

“Many modern-day witches still perform witchcraft, but there’s seldom anything sinister about it.”

In pop culture, witches are sometimes seen as evil. I can’t stop thinking about the witches in Stardust, a movie I must admit I adore, who were power-hungry and willing to kill and destroy anyone in order to preserve their youth. Evil is in the name of the Wicked Witch of the West, too. 

Of course, pop culture witches aren’t all bad. Take Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although she goes through a dark phase, she’s ultimately seen as fighting her evil urges in order to be good.

One of my favorite witches in pop culture is Wanda the Scarlet Witch of Marvel fame. To be fair, I’ve never read the comic source material, but the movie and TV show character, played by Elizabeth Olsen, holds a very special place in my heart. She does terrible things in her grief and pain, and frankly, I can relate. I watched (and sobbed through) Wandavision earlier this year because though I’ve never confronted the specific griefs Wanda faced, I have my own share of trauma I’m trying to deal with on my own, without hurting others.

Do you see the lesson we can learn from the way witches in pop culture navigate their powers? How their tales, whether fictional or real, can be relatable for all of us suffering grief, trauma, or depression?

I think, ultimately, that if you were an angel or a witch for Halloween, it’s fine, as long as you have respect. Respect for the choices of others that might be different from yours, and respect for the people populating our lives who look a little different, act a little different and connect a little differently.

Read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness!

For more Tempest History, check out our Ancient Practices series!


7 creepy Christmas folklore characters that will make you do a double-take

Read more of our holiday stories here!

If you, like me, lost track of time this year, you might have forgotten that Christmas is right around the corner. This isn’t the first Christmas that will be celebrated in a pandemic, and it likely won’t be the last. While I only ever casually observed the socializing customs of the very broad category of Christmas celebrations, it feels strange and jarring to have to sit this one out indoors. To cope with this, I dove into the literal spirits of Christmas – monsters and witches, evil and cunning characters from Euro-American Winter Solstice folklore and mythologies involving end of the year gift-givers.

Turns out, Christmas origin stories and the associated cast of magical beings are far less cheery than the jolly old white-bearded man with hearty laughter, largely crafted by companies trying to sell Christmas to consumers through material objects and essential experiences. In fact, many of the traditional stories depict variations of child-eaters and abusive magicians who reward well-behaved children with gifts and terrify the unruly ones into submission, essentially serving as disciplinarians.

Beyond the biblical references of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts for a Baby Jesus, Christmas also marks the end of the Winter Solstice period, a time when the air is thick with supernatural possibilities and earthly shifts. To give you a glimpse into these interconnected and dynamic universes, here’s a list of 7 characters associated with Christmas time folklore from around the world. You’re forgiven if you mistake this for a list of Halloween horror stories:

1. Père Noël and La Père Fouettard in France

A winter morning scene, a person dressed in red robes and an oversized white beard and red hat holds a staff and addresses a group of young people (Père Noël). To their left, a person dressed in shabby dark robes and black beard is standing (Le Père Fouettard)
[Image description: A winter morning scene, a person dressed in red robes and an oversized white beard and red hat holds a staff and addresses a group of young people (Père Noël). To their left, a person dressed in shabby dark robes and black beard is standing (Le Père Fouettard)] via böhringer friedrich on Wikimedia Commons, license [CC BY-SA 2.5]
Père Noël, also called Daddy Christmas, has several incarnations from Argentina and Brazil to Turkey. Over time this figure has become associated with the traditional English Father Christmas in the popular imagination, despite their differing origins. Père Noël is a typical Christmas figure bringing gifts for the well-behaved kids and responding to letters addressed to him. In fact, he is responsible for boosting the culture of children writing letters to Santa from around the world – apparently, a 1962 French law stipulates that a French child sending a letter to Père Noël by post must receive an answer! But the character who really stands out in this version is La Père Fouettard, the hot-tempered Father Whipper who beats naughty children and serves as a foil to the benevolent St. Nicholas. Father Whipper has been depicted as a cannibal, a flogger, sometimes dressed in shabby robes with an unkempt beard, and a once-evil butcher of children who is now duty-bound to serve Daddy Christmas deal with errant children. While Father Whipper has diverse counterparts across Europe, he has become linked to racist characters like the Dutch Zwarte Piet or Black Pete, caricatures rooted in colonial history that associate sinister and the proverbial evil monsters of Christmas with racialized images of colonized Black and Brown subjects. A heady concoction of thinly-veiled racial stereotypes and Euro-centric holiday fervor? Totally didn’t see that one coming.

2. Grýla of the mountains of Iceland

Model figures of Grýla (right) and Leppalúði (left) hanging out on Akureyri's main shopping street, Hafnarstraeti. They are giant-sized with drooping heads and bodies.
[Image description: Model figures of Grýla (right) and Leppalúði (left) hanging out on Akureyri’s main shopping street, Hafnarstraeti. They are giant-sized with drooping heads and bodies.] via Anosmia, license CC BY-ND 2.0
A terrifying character in Icelandic Christmas-time folk tales, Grýla is a cave-dwelling troll married to her third husband Leppalúði. With her mischief-making 13 troll children, the Yule Lads, Grýla descends upon the general population during Christmas time. Various descriptions of Grýla can be traced back to medieval Icelandic prose texts or Sagas and Old Norse texts. She is typically visualized as a giant troll who preys on misbehaving children, abducting them and cooking them in a cauldron, or in some versions of the story, carving up their stomachs with a knife. Grýla’s 13 children aren’t as dangerous as her, but they do leave behind rotten potatoes in the shoes of ill-behaved children. Even the family pet, the fierce Yule Cat, is known to devour people who do not receive clothes as presents for Christmas. While the public image of this bloodthirsty family has softened over the years, they were once infamous for making children shiver in fear. In 1746, families were banned from repeating these menacing stories to their children to keep them in check! While not all of us are quarantining for Christmas in Iceland, the best way to avoid any version of this very colorful family is to just stay indoors, wear a mask when going out for emergencies, and be a decent human being.

3. Frau Perchta of Alpine Austria and Southern Germany

A person wearing a witch's mask with exaggerated features like a long nose and fierce eyes looks at the camera. They are wearing a long witch's hat.
[Image description: A person wearing a witch’s mask with exaggerated features like a long nose and fierce eyes looks at the camera. They are wearing a long witch’s hat.] via Holger Uwe Schmitt at Wikimedia Commons, license CC BY-SA 4.0).
Christmas witches fascinate me because of the long history of twisting and turning involved to obscure some of their Pagan roots, fierce goddesses and female spirits, sanitizing them to fit the version of Christmas established by the Protestant Reformation. One of the most terrifying of these is Frau Perchta, the half-demon associated with the 12 Days of Christmas who is infamous for entering homes and slitting open the bellies of the misbehaved, disemboweling, replacing their innards with straw and rocks and stitching them up again. Also known as the “Spinning Room Lady” obsessed with whether you’ve finished spinning flax and tending to your house by Twelfth Night, Frau Perchta is considered to be a descendant of Germanic Pagan goddess figures. She also sometimes flies through the night with a demon army in tow, leading the Wild Hunt and leaving mischief and disaster in her wake. Both impressive and dreadful.

4. La Befana: the Italian Christmas/Epiphany Witch

A small figurine of La Befana, portrayed as an elderly witch wearing a green witch's hat and holding a broomstick.
[Image description:A small figurine of La Befana, portrayed as an elderly witch wearing a green witch’s hat and holding a broomstick.] via Naturpuur – Own work, CC BY 4.0
I’m going to cheat a little here: in most instances, La Befana isn’t really nightmare material and is probably just a chill and misunderstood old lady on a broomstick. But I love a good witchy story, and it particularly interesting to me how witches are almost always placed in a spectrum ranging from old, ugly and unpalatable to old, ugly, and matronly. Ageism? Sexism? The Protestant Reformation in the 1500s that deployed stereotypes to challenge people’s fixation with Pagan goddesses? We’ll never know! La Befana lies more towards the homely end of this spectrum: a character who has been part of Italian folklore at least since the medieval ages, she rides a broomstick, is great at housekeeping, and brings gifts for Italian children on the eve of the 6th of January or the Day of the Feast of Epiphany. She climbs down chimneys, leaves behind colorful candy and gifts in socks (or little dark candy in lieu of coal, if the children have been naughty), and hits those who gaze upon her. In some origin stories, she is closely associated with the Three Magi or Wise Men whom she either hosted or dismissed as they were on their way to Bethlehem. She is said to have later regretted her decision and followed after them, hopelessly searching for Baby Jesus and bringing gifts to all children she encountered. She is also sometimes depicted as a victim of a tragedy which left her childless, causing her to roam the skies in search of children to give gifts to. At other times, she’s also been portrayed as stealing naughty children for her husband to feast upon.

5. Tió de Nadal in Catalan mythology

A bunch of log faces are pictured together, each bearing a pair of eyes, a nose, and a red hat.
[Image description: A bunch of log faces are pictured together, each bearing a pair of eyes, a nose, and a red hat.] via OK – Apartment, license CC BY 2.0
I’m cheating again with this one but this is by far my favorite type of mythical character. In Catalonia and across different parts of Spain, an anthropomorphic Christmas Log, equipped with eyes, a nose, short legs and a hat, is a rather inexplicable gift-bringer. In the weeks before Christmas Eve, this hollow log is stuffed or “fed” with small presents, turróns or traditional Christmas nougat, and other candy. On Christmas Eve, this log is “beaten up” while families sing songs to implore it to defecate presents, until the contents of the log are “pooped” out (Caga tió or poo log) to reveal the gifts. The origin story here is quite hazy, and to an outsider without context, this might appear incomprehensible. But hey, what better way to bond during Christmas than making incessant poop jokes about a funny-looking piece of wood?

6. The Dutch Sinterklaas and the (problematic) Zwarte Piet

Two people, Sinterklaas (left) and Zwarte Piet (left) appear in costume. Zwarte Piet is played by a person in blackface, dressed in a white fulled collar and maroon garments. Sinterklaas wears red robes and an elaborate headgear, and carries a staff.
[Image description: Two people, Sinterklaas (left) and Zwarte Piet (left) appear in costume. Zwarte Piet is played by a person in blackface, dressed in a white fulled collar and maroon garments. Sinterklaas wears red robes and elaborate headgear, and carries a staff.] via Michell Zappa on Wikimedia Commons, license CC BY-SA 2.0
The Dutch Sinterklaas, based on the early Christian bishop Saint Nicholas, is one of the European figures closely related to the modern North American Santa Claus, the jolly gift-giver. But Sinterklaas has been a subject of controversy due to his companion and helper Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), a character who has historically embodied racist stereotypes about colonial subjects and been portrayed by players in blackface, wearing exaggerated wigs and full lips. Recent protests have tried to challenge the place of such traditional portrayals within contemporary socio-political movements for racial justice. Zwarte Piet first came into prominence in the 19th Century. The Dutch benefited from the transatlantic slave trade, and Zwarte Piet is thought to be a victim of this trade, fashioned as a dark-skinned helper, said to be a reference to the Moors of Spain. He is depicted as intimidating or whipping naughty children. To gloss over the racist imagery, some have recently tried to explain Zwarte Piet’s dark skin as a result of climbing down a soot-covered chimney. Reforming tradition to accommodate contemporary cultural concerns? Some traditions are best forgotten.

7. … Capitalism?!

At the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, a person dressed in red Santa Claus robes, white beard and hat, sits on a giant sleigh with a huge red sack at the back. Others dressed in green like elves sit towards the front.
[Image description:At the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a person dressed in red Santa Claus robes, white beard and hat, sits on a giant sleigh with a huge red sack at the back. Others dressed in green like elves sit towards the front.] via Beyond My Ken, license CC BY-SA 4.0
This might seem like a cop-out but hear me out! The biggest nightmare is obviously the kind of capitalism that locates the value of Christmas in overtly ostentatious material displays, encouraging unsustainable consumerist behavior over the values of socio-economic justice which the original Saint Nicholas of the poor and the destitute stood for. Since the late-19th Century, targeted advertisements for Christmas shopping appeared. Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” and subsequent illustrations served as the direct inspirations of the modern Santa Claus in the U.S.A. Santa was later popularized through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and Coca-Cola advertisement campaigns. It’s interesting to note how much of the present imaginaries of Christmas figures have become dominated by this jolly Santa shaped by people who wanted to sell things during Christmas season. Truth be told, it feels a little anti-climatic after the horror stories of child-eaters and hell-raisers, but I suppose capitalism was the true enemy from the start.

From disembowelment to potential bankruptcy, there really is no middle ground when it comes to Christmas. The evolution of Christmas figures never truly stop (ever heard of Sexy Santa?), resulting in ever-entertaining stories for the holidays. I’ll be getting back to my Christmas horror stories and trying to imagine flying witches bewildered by a world already upended by the pandemic.

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Book Reviews Book Club Pop Culture Interviews

Witches are at the forefront of the Suffragette movement in Alix E. Harrow’s “The Once and Future Witches”

Why have regular activists when you can have activist witches? I found the perfect combination of the two in Alix E. Harrow’s new novel The Once and Future Witches.

We’ve all heard the witch tales told to us as little girls – the Wicked Witch of the West was a popular one in my childhood. She is so widely hated by people because of the inconvenience she causes Dorothy, but I secretly liked her better. She made the story. Why are we taught that the witches are always the villains of the story?

Author Alix E. Harrow recalls tales told in her childhood, “There are witches in so many of our stories,” she says in an exclusive interview with The Tempest, “creeping along the margins, waiting at crossroads and hexing babies; I guess it was only a matter of time before we started dragging them out into the light.” And drag to the light she did.

The Once and Future Witches is a novel that centers around injustices that, sadly, are still all too familiar to modern-day society, legal, economic, social and racial. The story is set in 1893, during the time of the suffragette movement, and did I mention that the main characters are activist witches?

Harrow admits that the idea wasn’t entirely hers: “I wish I could say it came to me in a dream, but the honest truth is that I was trying really hard to come up with a new novel idea, and my husband said, ‘you should do witches, but like, activists.'” And from there, The Once and Future Witches was born; a story combining the modern understanding of witchery with the age-old movement of the Suffragettes.

The protagonists of the book, the three Eastwood sisters, display a sense of morality that isn’t heard of from witches in the tales stemming from centuries ago; they are activists fighting for their rights as women. But can they balance witchery and activism? 

There are so many characters that you come to love in this book; my favorite happens to be James Juniper, the youngest of all the Eastwood sisters, on a journey to leave her traumatic past behind. She also happens to be the most dedicated to her roots and a proud witch – something that is consistently frowned upon within the pages of this book and is a trait that makes her incredibly appealing in the new age of activism.

Juniper is the first to become involved with the women’s suffrage movement, later involving her sisters. However, the movement itself is not just for the rights of women, it also serves as a coverup for the Eastwood sisters’ own growing power throughout the city of New Salem; a force that reconciled the sisterhood of these three and brought forward a new sisterhood between the women of New Salem.

Agnes Amaranth is the middle sister and a solitary individual, and Alix Harrow’s favorite: “I had a newborn and a two-year-old while I was writing this book, and the idea of a character who found strength in motherhood, rather than sentimentality or weakness or softness is one that mattered a great deal to me.” 

Last but certainly not least, we have Beatrice Belladonna, the eldest of the sisters and the insatiable bookworm of the trio. Beatrice is bursting at the seams for knowledge of her ancestors and finds herself digging deeper and deeper into her emotions and knowledge about witchcraft with the aid of her new friend. Beatrice’s love of books resonates with many readers and although on the surface Beatrice has less going on in her life than her sisters, it is truly a wonderful experience to watch such an introverted character bloom into a powerful presence. 

My favorite thing about The Once and Future Witches happens to be how starkly different each of the Eastwood sisters are: there’s a part of everyone in each of these sisters, making them relatable to any reader. It is also quite refreshing to see the characters find pride in being women in a time where it was shunned.

But, throughout History, where there are women, there are injustices and at its very core, The Once and Future Witches is a story about all of these struggles whilst being a disliked member of society. As Harrow so wonderfully puts it,  “All of us grew up on stories of wicked witches. The villages they cursed, the plagues they brewed. We need to show people what else we have to offer, give them better stories.”

Witchery is an essential part of history and literature. From the tales in the literary canon and children’s books to the ones in crime history and newspapers, it’s fair to say that witches haven’t always been depicted as the most just beings. The author of The Once and Future Witches dives deep into the set of fears surrounding the inversions of the natural order. Witches are often portrayed as promiscuous rather than chaste housewives; they prey on children rather than bear them and they curse houses rather than keep them. The nineteenth-century nailed in the gender roles of our society with witches being the feminine form of evil – but not the protagonists of this book. 

The Eastwood sisters alongside many of the other characters find themselves facing an age-old battle that women appear to be destined to fight for the longevity of their time. “I wouldn’t necessarily want to declare that it’s some sort of grand allegory for the #MeToo movement, which involves real women in the real world.” Harrows says, “But all the injustices my characters deal with – legal, economic, social, racial, are absolutely still with us.”

Whether it’s an issue of classism or the economical stance of women in society, Harrow taps into our innermost subconscious, allowing us to see an age-old story with modern eyes in the best way; through the lives of witches. “I think the thing that fantasy can do better than any other genre is literalize experiences that are metaphorical – it can make the invisible suddenly visible. Women’s sociopolitical power is an invisible, uncertain quantity that shifts according to class, race, sexuality, ability, and identity. But with witchcraft–I could make it visible.”

The Once and Future Witches was a great read for me personally: though I’ve never villainized the witches, I’ve never thought to put them in the position of the heroes either. I was surprised just how much I connected with the main character James Juniper – her wit and charm as well as her pride had me rooting for her the entire way through. And although witches have never been traditionally written as humane, this was the most human I’ve read them to be and definitely the most I’ve connected with them.

This book is eloquently crafted and depicts the long-lasting journey that women have been on since the beginning of time and fills you with a sense of righteousness. Remnants of beautiful yet powerful messages are hidden in the charming words you’d come to expect from an Alix E. Harrow’s story. “With my first book (the take away) was a sense of wonder and nostalgia. With this one, it’s righteous anger, and the thing underneath righteous anger, which is almost always hope.”

We are hosting a giveaway of the book on our Instagram, stay tuned! Or, if you absolutely can’t wait to read “The Once and Future Witches”, get it now on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores here or on Amazon here.

History Forgotten History Lost in History

What the Blair Witch fable reveals about 17th-century women

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series!

The summer of 1999 was captured by The Blair Witch Project, a documentary-style movie that burst into theatres and enthralled audiences.

The Blair Witch is barely seen in the film, just as a towering terror that wipes out the lives of a few curious teens. But that’s not how the story began. Filmmakers drew the inspiration for the Blair Witch from the fable of Moll Dyer. The story did more than scare children, it revealed how women were portrayed in the 17th century.

The story of Moll Dyer

Moll Dyer was an elderly, single woman who lived on the outskirts of a small Maryland settlement in the late 1600s. We’re not sure exactly what she looked like, as there are very conflicting opinions. Some sources cite her as a “hag” while others recount her as a lovely older woman. All sources describe Dyer as exceptionally tall for a woman, with most men in the town barely hitting her frail shoulders. This difference already made her an outsider, and her oddities did nothing to remedy that.

Dyer’s exploits upset the townsfolk. She was not wealthy and so would seek out monetary contributions or request food. But for the other residents of this Maryland town, this behavior was not as concerning as her frequent incantations and habit for foraging for herbs.

Dyer was an outcast, so when the townsfolk experienced a frigid winter, they had an easy target to blame. The only explanation for this terrible season could be a vengeful witch. In 1697 an angry mob swarmed Dyer’s modest home. There was no trial and she didn’t even have a chance to explain herself. The mob set Dyer’s home aflame. But they didn’t stick around to see her burn.

Dyer fled her burning house and hid in the woods. However, due to the cold temperatures, she froze to death before she could make it to safety. Dyer was found with her hand reached up to the sky and knees perched on a rock. Dyer’s body stayed in this position for days, until someone found her petrified body.

From that point on the townsfolk believed Dyer had used her final strength to curse them. And they all lived in fear of what that curse would bring.

Moll Dyer may never have lived. It’s very possible that her story is all that ever existed of her. But the Blair Witch fable reveals cultural perceptions of women during that time, and for the years after when the story was shared around packed campfires.

Witch” was a term thrown at women who existed outside of cultural norms. Women who were unmarried, divorced, widowed, childless, had too many children or were too outspoken. With that characterization, it’s easy to understand how Dyer was thrown into the category.

Throughout the fable, It’s clear that Dyer made a fatal mistake. She remained unmarried. This romantic choice meant she was already a social pariah. Dyer did not conform to traditional family values that ruled colonial society. Because she did not have a husband to support her she had to wander into the town to beg for sustenance. This reminded the townsfolk of her curious antics whenever she was in sight and placed an emphasis on her otherness.

Lasting impact

Women have been blamed for hardships since Adam and Eve, witchcraft claims were just the latest installment of a misogynistic trend. When men were unwilling to take responsibility for their failings or insecurities, they would project them onto women who were outside of their social circle. But these prosecutors wouldn’t have been successful without the willful approval of their female counterparts. Women turned against each other for the approval of their community. These fables are built upon settlers turning against the most vulnerable, and then controlling the narrative after they condemned the innocent.

In 17th-century terms, all of Moll Dyer’s actions may point to “witch,” but that’s not a 1999 thought. This story lived on for hundreds of years, retelling the same narrative. People in the 20th century anticipated vengeance based on irrational fears from 1697. The misplaced anger of a starving town has led to the continued tale of an exiled older woman cursing the innocent. Dyer’s true story has been erased by her persecutors.

Part of woman's face looking into camera while crying
“Blair Witch Project” still from John Squires via

The Blair Witch Project’s guerrilla marketing campaign left viewers confused about the authenticity of the film and led to a lasting impact on marketing and horror movies for decades to come. But the “real” Blair Witch left a lasting impact on the perceptions of women in American colonial society. 

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History History of Fashion

Historically accurate Halloween costumes to wow any Zoom party this year

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series!

We all know the biggest issue with Halloween costumes, the historical inaccuracy (as well as the insensitivity). 

How many times have you looked at a sexy scientist taking jello shots and thought “That looks nothing like Marie Curie!” If the answer is more than five, this article is for you. There needs to be more historical accuracy in Halloween costumes. We can keep the magic of the season alive as well as our 7th-grade history textbook.

So let’s go through the five best historically accurate Halloween costumes for this Halloweekend. 

1. Nurse / plague doctor

Sexy nurse in a red and white dress next to a pandemic doctor in a full robe and beak
Sexy nurse vs. equally sexy plague doctor on Amazon & Wikipedia

Sexy nurses are SO overdone, and not even historically accurate! Where are the masks? Gloves? Very long pointed beak? Throughout multiple pandemics, nurses have had to work tireless hours in unsafe and dangerous conditions. To honor that, please wear this functional plague doctor costume instead.

This look is SUCH a conversation starter for talking to the guy who dressed up like Big Bird. This plague doctor will prevent you from spreading covid due to the large beak shaped helmet. It will also keep people at least 6 feet away from you, mostly due to your terrifying appearance.

You can get a great plague costume here. If you’re into DYI costumes, all you need for this look is: black jeans, black boots, black shirt, black cape, black top hat, and a beaked mask, which you can get here. Most, if not all, of these things should be in your closet or available at the nearest Khols.

2. Lifeguard/Lotte Baierl Hass

Lotte Hass looking into the distance with her hair blowing
The very beautiful Lotte Hass via Diving Almanac

Lifeguard costumes provide no real protection from underwater terrors. Anyone can just wear one of those without getting certified. Very scary. And the costume materials are not exactly breathable, not optimal for saving the lives of drowning party goers. Instead of an impractical lifeguard let’s turn out attention to “The first lady of diving” Lotte Baierl Hass.

Hass was an underwater photographer, underwater model, diver, and all-around very cool water lady. She went on to become a producer and help her husband Hans Hass create underwater documentaries. This costume is easy, just be an incredibly beautiful Austrian woman who is very good at diving.

3. 1970s cop / 1970s crisis worker

Police officer with thick mustache and glasses
Very full mustached police officer via

Do you know what’s historically not sexy? Dressing like a cop, specifically cops in 1970s movies. They did not read Miranda Rights to the accused in any of those. It does not matter that the mustache looks cool, or that the blue matches your eyes. Stop it! There’s a love of the 1970s cop with the blue uniform and big, bushy mustache. Let’s shift that love to a less appreciated audience. The 1970s crisis worker.

What hotter than a mental health professional using de-escalation training to get someone the assistance they need? Literally nothing. Getting someone addiction treatment is so much sexier than locking them up for their substance use disorder.

The crisis workers of the 1970s were generally social workers, due to underdeveloped further resources. To complete this look you need some very light wash bellbottoms, a tie-dye sweater, clogs, and a critical lack of funding.

4. Witch / 17th-century 20-year-old widow

female witch it white dress floating
Very spooky widow via Aishwarya Sadasivan on Giphy

Sexy witch costumes are a Halloween staple. But they don’t REALLY show who witches were. A Witch was, in general, just a normal lady who did something that men didn’t like. Sometimes they just did not have men constantly around them. Here are just a few things that led men to call women witches:

  • Getting divorced
  • Being widowed 
  • Being a spinster 
  • Having female friends
  • Having too many kids
  • Not having enough kids
  • Having sex
  • Giving off weird vibes 

With so many things that would historically get you called a witch, you have a lot of costume options. May I suggest the 17th-century 20-year-old widow? For this costume just dress like a regular woman but go around telling people “My husband no longer controls me or my land because he is dead.” You’ll be charged with witchcraft by November 1st for sure.

5. Cowgirl / Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane wearing a cowboy hat and a large jacket
Smizing Calamity Jane on Wikipedia

Everyone enjoys a good rodeo, but typical cowgirl costumes are often coated in racism wrapped in faux fur. So this Halloween we should remember some bad-ass women while we look cute as hell. And for this task, we turn to Calamity Jane.

Calamity Jane was a frontierswoman sharpshooter who knew how to rock some male pantaloons. She was a cowboy with the best of them. She would drink copious amounts of whiskey and lie about her adventures, much like a frat boy during a typical Halloween party. For this costume, you mostly just need the attitude that you own the place. I would recommend reading some of Carrie Bradshaw’s blog posts from Sex and the City.

Now that you have plenty of costume ideas I can’t imagine it’ll be difficult deciding what to be this year.

Just because you can’t leave your house doesn’t mean you can’t be historically accurate.

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Makeup Lookbook

10 last minute Halloween makeup looks for anyone who still doesn’t have a costume

It’s the spookiest time of year again! Halloween is just around the corner, pumpkins are having their yearly moment and children’s blood sugar levels are spiking. Halloween and I have always had a love/hate relationship – every year, I plan the perfect costume, my busy schedule results in me frantically doing last minute shopping, and in the end I’m left wondering whether it was all worth it. I know I can’t be the only one, either. Let’s face it, a lot of us are really busy and while we want to partake in Halloween festivities, life and work usually get in the way. There is, however, a solution to all of our problems: Halloween makeup.

[Image description: A girl wearing sugar skull makeup and a black hat looks directly in to the camera.] Via Unsplash.
As people are packing stores looking for the perfect costume, you can opt for an easier, more affordable way to achieve a Halloween look. Sure, costumes are great, but sometimes all you need is the right makeup look to be just as spooky or cool.

Luckily, with the help of some of YouTube’s most trusted makeup artists, you can get spooky in a snap.  Below is a list of 10 Halloween makeup tutorials that will help you pull a last minute look together in no time.

Look 1: The Sugar Skull

This look has been my go-to for a while now, and I’ve always received loads of compliments on it. Word to the wise: you may want to trial this the night before, just in case. It’s a lot easier than it seems though, trust me!

Look 2: The Cat

Another Halloween makeup look that I’ve done before, this one’s not only adorable, but is also incredibly easy. You’ll be surprised by how many people think this look took you longer than it actually did.

Look 3: The Comic Book

This comic book look is as fun to look at as it is to create. If you want to kick things up a notch, add a colorful wig to the mix and bust out your inner Archie character in this creative Halloween look.

Look 4: The Witch

The Wicked Witch of the West look is a go-to for a reason. This Halloween classic never gets old, and it’s a relatively simple one to pull off. All you need handy is some green body paint, or even just some green eye-shadow. For those of you that want to stray away from the green witch look, there are other equally wicked alternatives that you can find here.

Look 5: The Clown

Although the finished  look is absolutely terrifying, putting it together is surprisingly easy. To top it off, majority of the makeup products used in this tutorial can be easily substituted with products you already own. This Halloween makeup look will have you looking equally spooky and cool.

Tip: The white contacts worn in the video are optional, and the look works just as well without them!

Look 6: The Unicorn

I haven’t tried this one yet, but my goodness, isn’t it pretty? My inner child is leaping for joy just looking at it. While it seems more complicated than it actually is, this tutorial will have you looking like a mermaid-unicorn hybrid in under twenty minutes.

Tip: If you want to achieve this Halloween makeup look, but don’t want to over-spend, consider using dupes – anything by NYX is a great option!

Look 7: The Mermaid

One of my favorite things about this tutorial, aside from the fact it’s a mermaid, is that it uses affordable makeup. Majority of these products can be found at your local drugstore! Also, who doesn’t want to be a mermaid? And remember, you can customize the mermaid look any way that you want.

Tip: I do advise what she suggests – using the fishnet stockings – as they will bring the look together a lot more easily.

Look 8: The Deer

I actually tried this look last year and fell in love with it. It’s easy to do, the finished look is super cute, and I promise you’ll get lots of compliments! Also, it’s more skin friendly for those with sensitive skin.

Look 9: The Scarecrow

This is such an easy look to accomplish. You can legitimately swap any and all of the products she uses for dupes that are more affordable. And once you’re done, you’ll be left looking like the most adorable scarecrow in the world.

Tip: The actual tutorial starts at 1:10!

Look 10: The Zipper

I haven’t tried this one yet, but I’m dying to. It’s a relatively simple Halloween makeup look that requires little effort, yet looks amazing. You can also swap the colors she uses and create your own unique version. If the rainbow look isn’t your thing, fret not! There are loads of other alternatives for this look!

Tip: Liquid latex is not for all skin types. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to skip this look or find a product that is more sensitive skin-friendly.

Bonus: Scar from The Lion King

For my Disney lovers! Find your inner evil lion and give this Halloween makeup look a try. Then do some vocal exercises and a quick run through of ‘Be Prepared’ and you’re ready to go!

Tip: The actual tutorial starts at 2:10!

Movies Pop Culture

Here’s why I absolutely cannot wait for the reboot of ‘Charmed’

’90s babies can rejoice at the fact that a reboot of Charmed is nearly here. When I heard the news, I was incredibly excited – after all, Charmed was my favorite childhood show ever. I was also worried: the Rocky Horror reboot was a fuckup, and I don’t want my dear Halliwell sisters to be disrespected in the same way.

But so far, the reboot looks promising. The CW has promised that the fresh take on the ’00s classic will be more feminist, which is already interesting. The cast of the reboot includes Madeleine Mantock, Melonie Diaz, and Sarah Jeffery. This is exciting because the three main actors are Latina – which is quite a change from the previous cast, which wasn’t diverse at all. More excitingly, it looks like Diaz’s character is entangled in a romance with a detective played by Ellen Tamaki. The original show looks pitifully white and straight in comparison to the reboot. Not to mention that it includes Rose McGowan who’s seriously such an asshole nowadays.

[bctt tweet=”The ‘Charmed’ reboot will include people of color and queer women – making the original look pitifully white and straight in comparison.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Growing up, Charmed was one of my favorite shows ever. It ran between 1998 and 2005. Since every show hit South Africa slightly later than it hit the states, I watched it when I was about 7 to 12 – meaning Charmed was a huge part of my childhood. Now that I’m a practicing witch and Pagan myself, my love for witchy things has only deepened.

Jessica Lange in 'American Horror Story: Coven'. She's putting on a pointy witch hat and saying, "Who's the baddest witch in town?"
Image description: Jessica Lange in ‘American Horror Story: Coven’. She’s putting on a pointy witch hat and saying, “Who’s the baddest witch in town?” Via GIPHY

Firstly, something I love about Charmed is the clothing. Every time I re-watch an old episode, I feel like I got sucked in a time machine and landed in the early ’00s. The Halliwell sisters often take advantage of the vampish, witchy fashions that were popular at the time. They often sported crushed velour, scalloped hems, chokers, cowboy boots and slip dresses – and, because of the cyclic nature of fashion, those looks were really in last year. I envied the Halliwell sisters’ wardrobes, and I still do.

My love for Charmed goes deeper than the sartorial choices, though. The show was an exciting mixture of action and drama. On the one hand, the Halliwell sisters had to navigate normal social issues, like their careers, their relationships with one another, their romantic lives, motherhood, and grieving over their sister. On the other hand, they were badass witches – the most powerful witches in the world, in fact – working together to save the world and protect their loved ones from evil supernatural beings.

[bctt tweet=”The appeal of Charmed is just like the appeal of witchcraft itself. It epitomizes power within femininity.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The appeal of Charmed is just like the appeal of witchcraft itself. It epitomizes power within femininity. It combines nurturing and action, femininity and toughness, emotionality and a willingness to fight. The sisters have men in their lives who care for them, but they’re more than capable of protecting themselves.

A GIF of Rose McGowan playing Paige in 'Charmed'. She's saying, "Power's good. I like power."
Image description: A GIF of Rose McGowan playing Paige in ‘Charmed’. She’s saying, “Power’s good. I like power.” Via GIPHY.

For example, think about Piper – she stops at nothing to protect her family from harm, she manages to manage a club and then a restaurant, she’s a great mother, wife, and sister and a brilliant witch. She’s tough, brilliant, and matriarchal – and I love complex multi-dimensional female characters. None of the witches are forced to choose between their magic ancestry and their families, as for them it’s one and the same. They all go on to have three children each while maintaining their identity as witches. Essentially, they end up passing their magic onto future generations.

Something I love about witchcraft is that it shows us how magic in the traditionally ‘feminine’ crafts – potion-making, cooking, herbalism, nurturing. Scrying, which is using a crystal to find someone or something, is such a mom activity – if anyone can find something I lost in my room, it’s my mom. At the same time, it rejects notions of traditional femininity because it contradicts the idea that women should be powerless. While femininity is often seen as weaker than masculinity, magic suggests that there is a power beyond societal oppression – a power that can be on the side of the marginalized. Magic isn’t limited to women – most traditions allow men and non-binary people to practice – but it certainly subverts gender roles.

[bctt tweet=”Witchcraft shows us how magic in the traditionally ‘feminine’ crafts while rejecting traditional notions of femininity.” username=”wearethetempest”]

That’s something that I’d really love to see from the reboot of Charmed – more feminism, more gender-role-challenging, and more bold clothing choices (really, I don’t want to seem shallow, but the clothing is really important to me). The original Charmed was praised by critics for its pop-culture timing, and it looks like the reboot has the timing right too. Now that both representation in pop-culture and witchcraft are timely topics, the show looks like it’s primed to do well. Let’s hope the reboot doesn’t disappoint!

Gender & Identity Life

22 things every millennial witch totally understands

Witchcraft is becoming increasingly popular among millennials. Many millennials are identifying as witches in terms of culture, religion or spirituality. More and more of us are leaving atheism and monotheistic religions in favor of Paganism, Wicca and other forms of witchcraft. In 2009, ABC noted that 342,000 people identified as Wiccans, compared to 134,000 in 2001. In more recent years, the #witchblr tag on Tumblr and the #witch tag on Instagram have both become incredibly popular. News outlets from The Guardian to the Pacific Standard have noticed the increase in people who identify as witches, particularly young women.

Why is it so popular? It could be because we’ve come to associate witchcraft with feminism and equality, or maybe because we’re looking to the otherworldly to solve the problems faced by our generation. It could also be because iconic pieces of pop culture like Harry Potter, The Craft, and Charmed have piqued our curiosity when it comes to magic. Either way, witches are all over social media, and more and more people are becoming interested in the esoteric.

All witches are different because there are so many different traditions, factions, and philosophies – but most of us still have a great deal in common! If you’re one of the many millennials who’ve come to embrace witchcraft, you’ll probably relate to most, if not all, of these situations.

1. When someone breaks your BFF’s heart, you have to resist the urge to curse them.

A GIF from the movie, "The Love Witch", where the main character is about to kill and sacrifice a man.

Most witches don’t believe in cursing others, but karma spells are usually fair game. Don’t test us!

2. Your skeptical friends bash astrology – but then lose their keys and hook up with their exes during Mercury retrograde.

Oprah Winfrey shrugging as if to say, "I told you so".


3. You’ve had to postpone a spell because you can’t seem to find the right materials anywhere.

A GIF of Winifred from the movie 'Hocus Pocus'. She's making magic over the cauldron.

How am I meant to make a dreaming tea if mugwort is never in stock in my town?

4. You invite your Tinder dates over to read their tea leaves or tarot cards.

A GIF from the movie, 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'. Professor Trelawney is encouraging Ron to read his tea leaves.

Witchcraft and chill. What better way to get to know your date?

5. You try to sneakily find out your crush’s time of birth so that you can calculate their natal chart.

Kim Kardashian lurks behind a bush. She looks like she's sneaking or eavesdropping.

Just ask them straight up, and tell them you’re into astrology. Their reaction will be more interesting than their rising sign, I promise.

6. … and then you cry when you realize their chart is totally incompatible with yours

A scene from Baz Luhrman's 'Romeo + Juliet'. Romeo, played by Leonardo di Caprio, is crying and shouting, "I defy you, stars!"

I believe wholeheartedly in astrology, except for when it tells me some hard truths.

7. You have longed to find a coven of your own.

A GIF from 'American Horror Story: Coven', wherein the coven of witches are walking down the street, dressed in black.
Digital Spy

Some witches, known as solitary witches, practice on their own. The rest of us prefer practicing magic with a coven.

8. You get annoyed when people call the #MeToo movement a “witch hunt.”

A GIF of model Naomi Campbell saying "Don't compare yourself to me ever".

Abusers are not witches. Comparing a time where women were abused and murdered to a time when abusers were being held accountable is ridiculous.

9. You spend all year looking forward to Halloween.

From the movie, 'A Nightmare Before Christmas'. The character is saying 'There's only 365 days left 'til next Halloween!'

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not only is Halloween around the time of some sacred witchy festivals, it’s also a great opportunity to be surrounded by spooky, otherworldly aesthetics.

10. You have to hold yourself back when a guest puts their keys or coffee mugs on your altar.

A gif from 'Bridesmaids'. A child is sitting on a couch, saying 'You're making me uncomfortable.'

It’s not a table – it’s a super sacred space! Don’t pollute it with your bad energy.

11. Lana Del Rey’s new space witch persona truly speaks to your soul.

Lana Del Rey in her music video for 'Love' from the album, 'Lust for Life'. She winks and smiles at the camera.

The idea of Lana living in the Hollywood sign and blessing us with intergalactic, witchy tunes is so comforting. Nothing but respect for MY president!

12. You panic when you suddenly remember that the moon is full – and you haven’t left your crystals out to recharge.

A GIF from the movie 'Practical Magic'. Nicole Kidman's character is saying, "Blood on the moon. Where's my tiger's eye? No, no, no."

Waiting for a whole new month to cleanse and recharge your crystals is too inconvenient.

13. Your bookshelf is full of esoteric books and witchy fiction.

A shot from Snow White, where the evil queen is looking through her bookshelf of magic-related books.

The ultimate dream is to own a library full of books about runes, Paganism, Wicca, tarot, herbs, astrology, sigils, numerology, moon phases, candle magic, crystals, and more.

14. You wanted your cat to be a familiar… but they keep knocking things off your altar.

A big, fluffy cat knocks a glass off a coffee table.
Huffington Post

They might not always be great sidekicks when it comes to magic, but cats are truly some of the best companions ever.

15. You spend too much time scrolling through the #witchblr tag on Tumblr.

A GIF from 'New Girl'. One character, Nick Miller, is saying "It is perfectly fine to go on Tumblr all day."

…and mentally bookmarking spells, rituals, and books to try.

16. When it’s Friday the 13th, you’re both excited and scared.

Michael Scott from The Office saying, "I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious."

I never know whether I should feel very lucky or very unlucky. Either way, I’ll definitely pet a black kitty if it crosses my path!

17. You love casting protection spells over your friends and watching them live their best lives.

A GIF from the movie 'Practical Magic'. Sandra Bullock's character is blowing a candle before a spell.
We Heart It

Even if your friends don’t believe in witchcraft, there’s something beautiful about lighting a candle for them while wishing them well.

18. You’re tired of people using the word “witch” as a pejorative.

A GIF from The Simpsons. Lisa Simpson is dressed like a witch. She is saying, 'Why is it when a woman is confident and powerful, they call her a witch?"

If you call me a witch, I’ll take it as a compliment. Thanks!

19. Meeting other witches brings you an infinite amount of joy.

A gif from the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". The scene is set at the Salem Witch Trials. A character says, "More witches!"

There’s nothing like coming out of the broom closet to someone who’s also witchy.

20. There’s nothing more satisfying to you than getting a spell just right.

Related image

Not to mention how smug you feel when you figure it out!

21. Misrepresentation of witches in the media upsets you.

The witch from The Wizard of Oz

Most of us aren’t remotely evil or even scary. Plenty of witches try to use their powers for the greater good!

22. You have a loving, supportive community.

A GIF from 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch' where three witches are performing a spell around a cauldron.

Even if you practice witchcraft without a coven, there are plenty of witches out there who care about you. The community can be the most magical thing about witchcraft.

Love Life Stories

I tried to ease my anxiety with witchcraft

I first came across the witchcraft community on Tumblr, nestled on my dashboard between cat gifs and political musings. These witches not only posted spells from Wiccan writer Scott Cunningham’s famed grimoires, but created their own. The community was made up of mostly young women and girls, unsurprisingly, and after poking around, I found that there was a fairly low barrier to entry.

Herbs were one of the few elements I found to be within easy reach of me. Living in a black family, my pantry was filled with tons of spices, even if most were two years old. I hoarded these herbs for incenses, spells, you name it.

My main objective at the time was to find a job. Because I have social anxiety, I had communication with DARS, a Texas-based agency that helped people with mental and physical disabilities secure employment. They understood my plight and worked with me just fine, but I felt, like always, that I needed an extra boost. Maybe, I thought, a little success magick was what I needed.

I got on Tumblr again and began to compile all the info I needed into a secondary blog. I gathered items—a green candle, basil, cinnamon oil–for a prosperity spell I created. I set up my circle—where my magick would be cast—in my bedroom closet, made up acorns and paprika and incense. I stared into the candle with deep attention. I visualized, I chanted. “I am worthy of having money,” I repeated to myself while mixing my herbs and oils in a china bowl (sorry, Grandma). I decided to leave the bowl on the closet floor overnight.

[bctt tweet=”‘I am worthy of having money,’ I chanted while mixing herbs and oils in a china bowl.”]

Days later, my job counselor Mary took me in for another interview. Compared to my last interview, when I struggled to hold a panic attack at bay as I was surrounded by Mary, the manager and an associate, I managed this time to have more confidence in my voice and what I said – and I snagged the job. I would like to believe how that maybe, just maybe, that day I just happened to be well rested that day. But things…just worked out.

Next thing I tried to get into was crystals. The idea that crystals could protect you while driving (turquoise), make you feel more feminine (moonstone) and get you horny (carnelian) fascinated me. I wanted to work efficiently so I got a tiger’s eye, commonly noted for courage, from Etsy. Metaphysical and magick shops are so common there that the online marketplace seems to have banned selling spells altogether. Ebay made a similar move to ban intangible supernatural services and “advice; spells; curses; hexing; conjuring; magic; prayers; blessing services; magic potions; healing sessions” in 2012.

Sure, it cost me a few dollars. But in a time where people are always looking for the next thing to improve themselves and make their lives totally fulfilled and magical—self-help books, motivational speeches, programs, dares, mantras—crystal magick interested me enough for me to say, “screw it, let’s test this out.”

I wore the tiger’s eye in the pocket of my shirt. I didn’t have some golden aura visibly enveloping me, but I did feel it. After a while, I started thinking about this life enhancing thing: what about the days I forget my tiger’s eye? How can I get the feelings I want from within?

Some days, I would leave the eye at home to see any differences. But I folded. I knew I needed those external forces to work efficiently and be confident in my abilities. I went to Etsy again to buy a rose quartz pendant to help me with relationships. The pendant broke when I tried to put it on before work. I messaged the shop to get a refund. What I got: “Welllll, it wasn’t our really our fault.”

I entered a slump in my witchcraft. I had wanted to get many crystals; now, not having much spare money to waste, I was scared they may not be the real thing. I decided to collect rocks from parks and use them as alternatives.

Broke witchcraft has now become one of my hobbies. I don’t have a set-in-stone program or credo that I go by. I take my time to decide what I want to do. Sometimes I don’t. Despite not trying to do everything by set rules, I still try to make myself more disciplined because at some point I have to (I’m not going to be in my early twenties forever). I still keep tabs on the witches on Tumblr, a community that I’ve found to be open to people of all genders, sexualities and races.

One thing you’ll often hear they say is that witchcraft is a life enhancer, not a replacement for any work. You still gotta push forth with the resumes and the sales pitches. And any young witchling whose asks for spells to help with period cramps or scars and rashes will often get the response of “I’m not a doctor.” I find that to be quite funny, as witches will claim many ‘cures’ for mental ailments like anxiety: chamomile tea for restless thoughts and insomnia, amethyst to ward against nightmares, lavender for just about anything.

When I came across a certain site that said crystals could help with schizophrenia, I wanted to laugh. My brother has had schizophrenia since his teens and I could only wish that arming him a crystal could ease him. I can’t say if witchcraft is ‘curing’ me of my anxiety. Maybe it could work as a placebo for those dark times.

As I’m writing this, I have a letter from a psychologist sitting in front of me. It’s a referral for an evaluation to see if I have ADHD. I don’t know what to really expect from these results. I just know this is something that needs to be done. There is so much I would like to do in my witchcraft. It’s a vast open book of charms, spells, chants that I’m still researching and trying to gain access.

I’ve since quit the job that I ‘gained’ from my spell. Naturally, it didn’t work out. Magick can help you get your foot in the door, but keeping you in that room, takes much more work.