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!

TV Shows Pop Culture

Prepare to be bewitched by Diana and Matthew in “A Discovery of Witches” season 2

The first season of A Discovery of Witches has a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.1 on IMDB. I’m leading with this to convince each and every one of you who might have passed on this gem if you thought it was “just another show about witches and vampires.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let me tell you that this story is a true masterpiece and deserves to be watched even by the most convinced fantasy skeptics.

Based on the best-selling All Souls novels by Dr Deborah Harkness, A Discovery of Witches is a tale about supernatural creatures that live among us, but also a tale of community, belonging, history, legacy, and evolution. It is also, undeniably, a love story; perhaps the best I’ve discovered in 2020. 

If you haven’t watched season 1 or read the books, go do that now and then come back to this review, because it will be quite spoilery for season/book 1. If, on the other hand, you are awaiting details about the upcoming season 2, buckle up. 

Something that positively struck me about the adaptation of book 2, Shadow of Night (my favorite!), is how marvelously it portrayed that, as Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont timewalk to 1590 to find the lost Book of Life, their quest inexplicably turns inwards, towards themselves and each other, as they simultaneously face harsh and hostile surroundings. The balance between their world-changing quest and their internal one hits the perfect spot between introspection and action. Which is incredible, considering how much plot there is to establish and unpack, and how many faces to introduce. 

As a historian, Diana hasn’t had a lot of success in meeting her heroes: they all turned out to be different than expected.

The first new character we meet is English playwright Christopher Marlowe, played spectacularly by Tom Hughes, who brilliantly captured Kit’s duplicitous nature and daemonic essence. Kit is Matthew’s best friend, and he is also the first to openly doubt and reject Diana, setting a hard-to-break pattern of hostility that she will face in 1590.

Diana is little more than a refugee in this time and place, with no possessions or connections save for Matthew. It’s clear from the first that her success depends on her partner and on her ability to quickly adapt to and accept societal standards. It certainly isn’t easy for a proud outspoken 21st-century feminist to be thrust in that world, and the outward sexism wearies Diana faster than you can say France. 

“Women own nothing… save what lies between their ears.”

I was infinitely glad that the slights and limitations that a foreign woman such as Diana would suffer in 1590 were, for the most part, established implicitly, rather than with pitiful speeches on misogyny, because how could Diana, a professor of history, expect anything different from the 16th century? What’s better, we are reminded that Diana actually has it easier than most, as a beautiful woman married to a rich, influential, and fearsome man. 

She is warned time and time again that Matthew wouldn’t be the same once in a different context. He does regress to his 16th-century self in front of Diana’s eyes and together with her we discover more of his (seemingly endless) secrets and an even darker side of him. Soon enough, he starts displaying more territorial and vampire-animalistic behavior that Diana doesn’t tolerate for one second, giving the audience no chance to misinterpret possessiveness for romanticism. No, she meets him headfirst beat for beat until he relents. 

“Diana’s getting to know him again in this era,” says Teresa Palmer.

The two share a lot of incredibly sweet and tender moments too, but the season isn’t without their fights, which I appreciated in equal measure. Despite what 1590 might want of her, Diana will never be a passive housewife. She confronts and provokes Matthew when necessary and she always does what she needs to get her way. 

The undeniable chemistry between Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode – together with the spectacular writing – is the reason why the show works so well, easily translating into the best on-screen supernatural couple I’ve ever seen. Their scenes feel even more spontaneous and genuine than in their freshman season. 

Palmer has clearly grown in her role in tandem with Diana herself. The only funny note I have is that as an Australian actress playing an American pretending to be English, Teresa’s Aussie accent came through a couple of times, but it only served to make me smile, like in the instance where somebody asks her where she hails from and she hesitantly replies “Cambridge, my lord… well, perhaps somewhere to the west of Cambridge.” However, she delivers every demanding scene spectacularly. 

“Perhaps somewhere to the west of Cambridge…”

Matthew Goode’s already flawless performance is required to step into divine levels as his character gains even more layers, and Goode will shock you with mind-blowing results. I do not say this lightly, but he will be robbed of an Emmy if he doesn’t win one. 

Diana Bishop might have a hard time adjusting to being Mistress Roydon, but the 16th century presents Matthew de Clermont with a more daunting challenge: to face and battle with his past, his old self and the decisions he has taken, with his conscience much heavier. He is nearly eaten by remorse because he cannot stop or undo everything wrong that happened the first time around. The stakes are much higher now, and his actions have more dangerous repercussions both on the past that now surrounds him, and on the future. 

Old wounds reopen in Matthew, almost to the point of choking him. He’s caught between loyalties (to his father, to his master, to his God) but he never lets that interfere with his love for Diana. No, because every moment of every day he chooses her against the conflicting interests of his past and present self. 

 “He shifts into this darker version,” says Palmer. 

It was marvelous to witness a more vulnerable side of Matthew, with Diana being his guiding light, his anchor, his strength, in a poetic role reversal from last season. The heartbreaking scene where we see him unravel might be my favorite of the series. 

But Matthew isn’t reduced to a broken man. We see different sides of him, in contrast to his stoic presence of season 1. In 1590, Matthew can be playful with his friends, tender with his lover, aloof with his family, assertive and persuasive with great potentates, caring with children… after all that, it’s uncanny but hilarious to see him be chastised by his father like a schoolboy.

On this note, if Diana underwent a sort of generational conflict in season 1, coming to terms with her late parents and their questionable secrets, now we witness multiple characters struggle with accepting their fathers’ legacies and stepping out of their shadows. Matthew and Baldwin have to come to terms, in different ways, with the future/past loss of their larger-than-life father Philippe de Clermont; similarly, Matthew’s revolutionary son Marcus is forced to grapple with the responsibilities brought about by his new role as Grand Master of the Knights of Lazarus that he gained in his father’s absence, and what that means for him and for the world. 

As Diana and Matthew prepare for a journey within their journey that sets in motion unexpected events in the future, chaos and uncertainty ensue in present-day Venice, Oxford, and Sept-Tours. While a good 75% of the action is focused on the main couple, we do check in on the other characters, even if not as much as fans might hope (missing my fave Miriam!). Matthew and Diana’s storyline is so full of complications, with unexpected obstacles at every turn, that it needs to take center stage; the events in the present are allowed to move at a much slower rate. 

The source material to cover is massive and mostly told from Diana’s point of view, except for a couple of sporadic chapters to keep us updated on the present. In the show, we simply have to follow more characters. I know more casual watchers will lament the convoluted storyline that might be perceived as compressed, but as a fan of the book, I guarantee the producers did nearly everything in their power to save time without making too important changes. Almost no character in the huge cast is erased (just the one, sigh) but they cleverly altered the timeline and inverted the order of certain events to condense. The only way they could’ve adapted Shadow of Night better is if they’d been granted a longer season. 

Before we conclude, a word on certain characters I have not yet mentioned. Gallowglass is everything I wanted him to be. Painfully loyal to Matthew and quickly fond of Diana, he brings in a comedic and vibrant energy from the first moment the camera sets on him. Steven Cree portrayed him perfectly, just as every book fan might hope. 

Matthew’s mother Ysabeau never fails to deliver elegant sass mixed with intensity. She had me in tears in episode 6. Newcomer Phoebe Taylor might shock some, but I was enraptured by her character and Adelle Leonce’s performance. 

Having seen the first 7 episodes of season 2, I can certainly say the show succeeded in capturing the essence of Shadow of Night. The writing has only become more powerful, the world-building and atmosphere always inviting me to get lost in ADOW’s world. Books fans will enjoy many Easter eggs — pay especially close attention to the murder cases and other crimes happening in modern-day Oxford and the early mentions of blood rage. 

Every single detail in the show is perfect and full of meaning. The crew who worked on the sets and costume departments deserves multiple awards for recreating Elizabethan London buildings and costumes from scratch, a feat that sounds easier than it is. Just an example of the exquisite cinematography: I couldn’t help but notice that as the School of Night is talking about the changes in Matthew, a golden “MUTATIO” is engraved on the wall behind Kit. It’s a minuscule detail, but isn’t there where the devil lies?

Behind the familiar feuds between witches, vampires and daemons, this story truly strives to find the answer to one proto-Hamletic question, “why are we here?”, investigating humanity even within the supernatural.

A Discovery of Witches is the best fantasy show on air. Season 2 will leave you on the edge of your seats and begging for more when it premieres on January 8. Find out where you can watch it based on your location here!

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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 It Happened Once

I Googled the Salem Witch Trials so you don’t have to – and they are hella confusing

As a part of our Halloween series this year, since we’ll be mentioning witches a lot, let’s talk about the Salem Witch Trials and how the events that took place do not make any sense.

Honestly, after reading a bunch about the “trials,” I still do not really understand what happened or why it happened. Suggestions about fungus causing illnesses and other analyses on political issues within Salem at the time are speculations that are often used to try to explain the trials. But, you have to admit that there are a bunch of missing pieces in the story. The whole thing sounds like complete chaos to me!

I have so many questions. Like, why did they randomly believe the claims of young girls without any true evidence? Who really thought that allowing spectral evidence was a good idea? How were the accused supposed to prove to a court that they were not actually witches? And lastly, what were the true reasons and motivations behind this tragedy?

So let me explain what all went down in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693.  It all began when the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, the minister of Salem Village, began having violent fits, intense contortions, and uncontrollable outbursts such as screaming. After a local doctor in Salem could not find anything physically wrong with 9-year-old Elizabeth Parris an 11-year-old Abigail Williams, he diagnosed them and other young girls within the community that showed similar behaviors and symptoms with bewitchment. This first diagnosis of witchcraft led to the imprisonment of over 200 people and 20 hangings throughout Massachusetts.

Puritan pioneers first settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. During this time, the Puritan communities established their own theocratic government systems. Theocracy is a form of government largely led and structured by those who believed to be divinely guided. The government and legal system are structured based on religious law.

You still with me?

The Puritans believed that the Devil could give individuals on Earth powers in return for their loyalty. (and that isn’t even the most ridiculous claim) Those who received powers from the Devil were called witches. The principle of witchcraft became prevalent in 14th century Europe, where between the 1300s and 1600s, thousands of people, the majority being women, were executed for accusations of witchcraft. Under the legal structure in Salem, an individual who consorted with the Devil was considered a criminal. The punishment for committing such a crime was hanging, yikes!

During the time of the Salem Witch Trials, the community was stressed and struggling. The King William’s War put a strain on the community’s resources. Additionally, there was a rivalry between wealthy families and the working class that depended on forms of agriculture. There was also an on-going smallpox epidemic and fear of attack from neighboring Native Americans. The stressful and anxiety-fueled climate of the community led to ongoing tensions and suspicions among the Puritan villagers.

After the diagnosis of bewitchment, a few of the “bewitched” young girls blamed three women for bewitching them. The first is Tituba, an enslaved woman from the Caribbean bought by the Reverend Parris. The second woman was Sarah Good, a homeless beggar.  And lastly, an impoverished elderly woman named Sarah Osborne. Of course, all three of the accused women were considered “outsiders” based on race and/or class. (Is anyone shocked?)

It remains unclear if the girls were persuaded or forced to accuse these three women. However, I think that the social statuses and positions of the women in society should be considered when trying to interpret the potential reasons that these three women in particular were actually accused of the crime of witchcraft.

This is where the whole thing launched full speed into a downward spiral to me. The imprisonment of the three women led to further paranoia in a society that already suffered from numerous stresses. Good and Osborne claimed that they were not guilty; while Tituba confessed and named other witches who were working along with her against the Puritans to receive repentance. In response to Tituba claiming other individuals were also practicing witchcraft, the governor of Massachusetts ordered the establishment of the Court of Oyer and Terminer to pass judgment on witchcraft cases.

The accusations of witchcraft continued to spread across the Massachusetts colonies against mostly women and a few men (which I did not know). Similarly to Tituba, those accused confessed and named others who practiced witchcraft. The court allowed testimony based on spectral evidence. This refers to evidence that is based on visions, dreams, and a person’s spirit. The testimony was based on witnesses claiming that they interacted with or saw a person’s spirit, in place of basing testimony on a person’s physical actions. The trails lacked focus on truth and investigation. Under religious practices, the courts preferred that the accused confessed, asked for forgiveness, and vowed to not engage with the Devil again.

After years and the (unlawful) deaths and imprisonment of so many people, the Court of Oyer and Terminer was finally replaced with the Superior Court of Judicature, the testimony of spectral evidence was no longer allowed, and the trials were deemed unlawful. In 1697, the General Court ordered a day of fasting and soul-searching due to the events that had occurred during the trials. Additionally, in 1711, the families affected received reinstitution and the restoration of the names. However, it was not until the 1950s that Massachusetts formally apologized for the event.

The whole story is definitely a lot to digest, but it did give me a lot to think about.

While many aspects of the Salem Witch Trails are perplexing, within this tragedy remains lessons that should be reflected on and questioned today. It remains crucial to have objectivity, to think about the consequences of unjustly punishing individuals, to be cautious of the use of fear within the justice system, and to foresee the damages of groupthink going unquestioned.

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Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

Netflix’s Bulbbul and the too common depiction of Bengali women as witches

Content warning: mentions of rape and suicide. Also, spoilers.

Bulbbul is a Netflix original movie that is a hauntingly beautiful supernatural thriller. I deem it to be a fairytale, rather than one which delves more into the horror genre, because tackling the demons of patriarchy is honestly the fairytale we all deserve.

Bulbbul is the tale of a child-bride during the Bengal presidency in India, who is a victim to patriarchy, domestic abuse, and rape, subsequently dying of trauma. She eventually turns into a demon (but is deemed as a Devi or a Goddess) and slashes men who do women wrong. The entire movie with the red and pink overtones, the late 19th-century British regality and Bulbbul’s jewels and sarees is a feast for the eyes. The domestic abuse that is portrayed is triggering and heart-wrenching, but true in this modern society nonetheless. However, my article is not a review of the movie but a link to the relevance with modern Bengali society in current times.

I am sure Sushant Singh Rajput’s case is currently famous, not just because of the significance because of his mental health struggles but because it has become an entire conspiracy theory. I am not commenting on either the justification of making it into a conspiracy or even trying to argue about whether it is a murder case or not. I am simply going to direct the relevance of the case with the movie that is Bulbbul.

Rhea Chakraborty, who came forward as Sushant’s girlfriend right after his death in June, has been accused of aiding and abetting into the murder of Sushant, and consequently allegedly accused of money laundering and shifting his assets. Rhea is an actress who was found with huge lumpsum amount of money transferred from Sushant’s bank accounts. Sushant was believed to have been murdered for money. This whole conspiracy aside, I bring her name into this article for a legitimate reason. No, I am not going into the conspiracy takes, but talking solely about Rhea Chakraborty here. Rhea is a Bengali woman, who has been accused of witchcraft and dark arts solely because she is Bengali and an independent woman.

The sheer mass of comments against Bengali women in India (I am a proud Bengali) has left my mind numb. Bengali women are headstrong, opinionated, and independent and have been fighting patriarchy for the longest time. We women are raised in a familial household where we are taught to rebel. Since Raja Rammohan Roy helped abolish Sati (the burning of live women along with their dead husbands on the funeral pyre), Bengali women have come forward and advocated for women. Our community has managed to help and break through the patriarchal sociological roots, with the help of men and women alike. We are taught to embrace our sexuality, and encouraged to be whoever we want to be.

Characters in Bengali works created by women such as Mahasweta Devi, Ashapurna Devi, Leela Majumdar, etc are feminists and have been breaking patriarchal barriers for a long time. To accuse us of witchcraft and black magic because we happen to be strong is literally equivalent to witches being burnt alive in Salem.

This is why I decided to pen my incoherent thoughts into an article, because what else can a writer do?

Netflix’s Bulbbul depicts a child bride’s transformation into a young woman who gets brutally beaten up and raped and eventually transforms into a demon during a blood moon. Bulbbul and her brother-in-law Satya share romantic intimacy because they are closer in age, and frequently share stories about witchcraft and demons amongst themselves. Bulbbul who gets married to the very old Indranil at the tender age of five finds comfort in Satya who is almost a friend from the beginning of the movie. Their relationship, however, drives Indranil, Bulbbul’s husband, into a jealous, angry rage. He beats her mercilessly, mutilating her legs. While recovering from her grievous injuries, she also ends up raped by her other brother-in-law, Mahendra, and thus she ultimately dies.

So, we as viewers can equally predict that it is Bulbbul who has turned into a witch, Daayan, and is killing men around in the Bengali city. This prediction might be unsurprising but doesn’t fail to make our hearts ache.

The witch Bulbbul, who has imbibed within herself the fearlessness and blood-lust of Kali, is killing men to save the women, because that is what she has become reduced to. Her death brings her the solace that she never received in her otherwise destructive marriage filled with marital abuse. She kills her rapist and to see a woman get justice brings us unequivocal happiness because we can’t stand torturous depictions of patriarchy even in movies. It is satisfying to see the men get what they deserve.

Why Bulbbul stands true in modern times, despite being set 200 years ago is because patriarchy hasn’t faded, even though centuries have passed. Women who can think and fend for themselves are still called a “fucking bitch”. Bengali women are still being termed as witches. I can’t deny Rhea’s involvement in Sushant’s case, and I won’t comment about the entire murder/suicide spin. But you can’t take this situation to paint an entire community of women in a disgusting light.

Unlike the movie’s portrayal of Bengali women, not all Bengali women are witches. Yes, we are independent and strong, vocal and determined. And, we want to destroy rape culture, and protect women. However, we don’t use our dark magic powers to dominate males. Like Lady Lazarus, “…we eat men like air.” And, if all of us had the power to manipulate magic, we would have ended misogyny, sexism, and solved problems of climate change long ago.

Our community boasts of unapologetic women, witches even, like the ever-powerful Ipsita Roy Chakraverti. We are not ashamed of what we are and who we are. Perpetuating misogynistic stereotypes and enforcing the idea that Bengali women are witches is disgusting. Again, little else can be expected from the rape culture normalized society like ours. However, like Bulbbul, our pain as women living under misogynistic shrouds rings through and every day we try to be better feminists.

Bulbbul is a devastatingly beautiful tale of a predictable story but with a supernatural, beautiful twist. With fantastic acting by Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwari, Paoli Dam, Rahul Bose and Parambrata Chattopadhyay, and wonderful direction by Anvita Dutt, it will make your heart ache.

Watch it on Netflix because it will move you to tears by the end of it, and make you want to believe in magic so you can destroy the evils of patriarchy. So you can stop womankind from being called “witches” in a derogatory way.


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TV Shows Pop Culture

23 times Margo from “The Magicians” was the High King of sass

If you’re looking for an incredibly sassy main character, Margo is for you. The Magicians is a tv show that deserves more popularity than it gets, and so does Margo Hanson. So many important themes are explored, and everything is always seen through the experiences of millennials.

And don’t even get me started on how good this series is for sexual and racial representation.

You can watch seasons 1-3 of The Magicians on Netflix. Season 4 will premiere on January 24. In the meantime, binge the first seasons and enjoy some of the finest moments of Queen Margo, played by the amazingly talented Summer Bishil, being a sassy feminist queen.

1. “You are not gonna cock out on me.”

Margo Hanson
[Image description: Margo saying “I’d say pussy, but let’s be honest, which one is tougher?”]
Shots! Fired! Margo is right; anatomically, pussies are tougher. They push full babies out. She likes reminding people of this fact.

2. “I’m a very smart, very liberated woman.”

[Image description: Margo facing Price Ess of Loria]
Ess had no idea the hurricane he’s dealing with. Margo is possibly the most liberated character on television right now.

3. “Get over yourself, Ned Stark.”

[Image description: Margo telling Eliot “Get over yourself, Ned Stark.”]
Eliot: “Since when are you, Fillory Clinton?”

Margo: “Since I’m me.”

The Game of Thrones references on this show are endless, and we love it.

4. “Mansplaining is a bad thing.”

[Image description: Margo saying “Mansplaining is a bad thing.”]
Pick: “But I’m a man. Explaining. Is that not mansplaining? Perhaps you could woman-splain it to me.”

Margo: *facepalms*

Margo bringing 21st-century lingo in Fillory and then dealing with the misunderstandings and complexities of the English language is fun to watch.

5. “I chose [to be High Queen]. And I have had to fight for every shred of authority. And no offense, but you can’t understand because it was handed to you.”

[Image description: Margo saying “I chose it. And I have had to fight for every shred of authority.”]
Eliot is Margo’s number one supporter, but sometimes Margo has to remind him of his white man privilege. The people of Fillory won’t accept the High Queen’s authority as easily as they accepted the High King, but she will make them. She just wants to do some good to all her people; she will make them love her.

5. “We’re stuck in some epic fantasy that likes to behead heroes halfway through season one.”

[Image description: Margo saying “if we even are heroes…”]
“…We might be comic relief.”

The meta on this show is one of the greatest things.

Spoiler alert: they don’t all make it to season 2, but nobody was beheaded (not for lack of trying).

6. “So this is what the patriarchy smells like?”

[Image description: Margo saying to the council room “So this is what the patriarchy smells like?”]
“It’s not the freshest.”

The woke High Queen won’t take this blatant misogyny that belongs in the Middle Ages.

7. “Did he just call me a virgin?”

[Image description: Margo saying “Did he just call me a virgin?”]
Margo takes sexual freedom very seriously, okay? She won’t be here for slut-shaming of any kind, and that includes pretending to be a virgin when she’s not.

8. “I used to think that pirates were kinda cute in a Johnny Depp sort of way, but the fact is, the real thing is kinda dirty and fucked up in a Johnny Depp sort of way.”

[Image description: Margo saying “Jack Sparrow”]
Abusers will be held accountable. We all thought Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow was the coolest thing ever when we were younger until the domestic abuse accusations came about.

9. “That is not totally consistent with the books.”

Margo and Quentin
[Image description: Margo saying “Jesus. That is not totally consistent with the books.”, Quentin agrees, “No, it’s not.”]
We love a nerd queen who takes her source material seriously and is upset when the plot is altered. This is also a big meta moment because The Magicians tv show is tonally very different from the books it’s based on.

We often forget that Margo is indeed a big fantasy fan. She knows the Fillory books almost as well as Quentin does, and she made Eliot read Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire. (Although he disappointed her by only reading the Wikis.)

10. “I am not your sweetheart.”

[Image description: Margo ready for battle]
Louder for the people in the back! Margo reminds Ess that they may have slept together, but that doesn’t give him the right to think of Margo as his.

11. “I’m here to motherfuckin’ parlay, Ms. King.”

[Image description: Margo saying “I’m here to motherfucking parlay, Ms. King” to the Pirate King.]
“You just took my goddamn boat, which tells me you’re not one to pay attention to a safe word.”

This scene where the feared Pirate King turned out to be a woman was nothing short of iconic. Margo proves just how bisexual she is when she admits the King is indeed very hot and she would love to engage in certain activities, but they have more pressing matters at hand.

The scene also serves as a foreshadowing for Margo being elected High King later in the season.

12. “We’re gonna put our Jimmy Choos so far up your ass; you’re gonna taste next season!”

[Image description: Margo declaring war on the Kingdom of Loria.]
War declarations done with style. Margo does not tolerate being toyed with.

Ess and his kingdom of Loria will rightfully face her wrath.

13. “I call high queen!”

Margo putting her crown on
[Image description: Margo putting her crown on, a Fillorian forest in the background]
Not that there was any chance at all that Eliot might choose anybody other than his best friend and life partner to rule beside him, but Margo likes to state what she wants loud and clear. We love an assertive queen.

14. “Wage gaps? Thigh gaps?”

[Image description: Margo arguing with Eliot that they’re not doing enough to civilize Fillory]
Margo is firmly committed to destroying sexism in her kingdom, even if they are centuries behind… and she’s not too happy with how little progress they’ve made in two seasons.

15. “You’re acting like this is your first regicide.”

[Image description: Margo saying “You’re acting like this is your first regicide” in a Fillorian forest.]
They’ve killed a god before if that counts! But the Fairy Queen played by the one and only Candis Cayne will prove to be a worthy enemy and almost impossible to beat.

16. “Dude. You’re gonna leave a mark, and I don’t like that in a non-sexual context.”

Margo pointing her finger at Eliot
[Image description: Margo pointing her finger at Eliot disapprovingly.]
I dare you to find a better line. Margo is constantly teaching her friends and the audience that one should never be ashamed of their sexual habits and preferences.

17. “Get your feet off my throne!”

Margo looking fierce
[Image description: Margo looking fierce]
Do not touch Margo’s throne with your dirty feet, Quentin. Don’t test her, she’s already threatened to kill you twice today, and you’re one of her best friends.

18. “My crown is just as heavy as yours.”

[Image description: Margo telling Eliot “My crown is just as heavy as yours.”]
Queen Margo is definitely not buying the king’s supremacy. She reminds Eliot of this fact every time she needs to, just as she should. Let’s destroy the outdated notion that a king holds more power than a queen.

Especially since they’re ruling as equal monarchs, not as queen regnant and consort.

19. “It’s 2018 babe, the ladies are leading.”

Margo and Eliot
[Image description: Margo telling Eliot “It’s 2018, babe. The ladies are leading.”]
Eliot: “You’re always leading.”

This was from a promotional video called “Royal Advice with Eliot and Margo,” not from the actual show, but hey, they’re in character, so it counts, right?

20. “If you keep drinking, I will seriously cut a bitch.”

Margo and Quentin
[Image description: Margo taking Quentin’s glass away and saying “if you keep drinking, I will seriously cut a b*tch”]
Quentin: “Not cool. Those grapes died for nothing now.”

Margo: “Those grapes died so you might live.”

Margo knows very well how to deal with a drinking problem, and she’s all about Quentin quitting drinking. Her methods might not be the most popular but they seem to work.

21. “I’m ready to go full-on-’07-Britney.”

Margo and Eliot
[Image description: Margo telling Eliot “I’m about ready to go full ’07 Britney”, with on-screen subtitles saying “I am prepared to beat her to death, with an umbrella, if necessary”]
Margo and Eliot’s iconic coded conversation was so full of the ’90s, and 00’s pop culture references that it required on-screen translation to English. Anyone not from our generation would have had no clue what they were talking about.

22. “Vaginas. The leading cause of death in men.”

Anatomy book
[Image description: Margo pointing to an anatomy book and saying “Vaginas.”]
[Image description: Margo saying “The leading cause of death in men.”]
“Worst of all, they bleed. Every month. In fact, mine’s doing it right now.”

Margo took it upon herself to teach the kid some sex ed. And she might have scared him just a little in the process…

23. “Ovary up!”

[Image description: Margo telling Tick to “Ovary up!”]
No explanation needed here.

Margo truly is an iconic character that teaches great life lessons to everybody watching the show. We’re so thankful to have her and we can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next season.

Eliot and Margo
[Image description: Eliot kneeling in front of Margo and kissing the back of her hand, saying “High King Margo, long may you reign.”]
Long may she reign!

TV Shows Pop Culture

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is wickedly good

When I was younger I wanted to be a witch. I’m not talking about signing my soul to Satan and all that, I just wanted magical powers. I blame my love of witches on shows and movies like Charmed, Halloweentown and of course the OG Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

That was my favorite show as a child. I loved the hijinks and Salem’s sassy lines. I appreciated the love connection between Harvey and Sabrina. There is a lot to love about the original sitcom, but I don’t want to compare it to the newest Netflix reboot.

I’ve had the pleasure of watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina early. The show is produced by the same team who brought you the wonderful mess that is Riverdale. The premise is simple: Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka), a half-witch, half-human must choose between her mortal life or the path of darkness. It’s a trope we’ve long grown tired of. A woman forced to choose between two things she really loves!  What will she choose? How will she muster up the strength to leave her boyfriend behind?

Yes, it is a tired trope. But by the end of the season, Sabrina Spellman grows into her own, not only as a witch but as a woman. From the first episode we see Sabrina struggling to accept the fact that on her 16th birthday, the day of her dark baptism, she might be signing away her autonomy.

Once a witch signs her name in the book of the beast, she belongs to the Dark Lord. Sabrina wants the power, but she always wants to retain her freedom. It’s Prudence (Tati Gabrielle), a marvelous witch, who reminds her that having both freedom and power is an unrealistic feat for women like them: “He’s a man, isn’t he?” It’s this dichotomy between freedom and power that really sets a grim tone for the series. These women are powerful but also trapped in their own prison created by the Dark Lord himself. Even the Church of Night is dripping with sexism.

It’s the sumptuous visuals and self-aware lines that really portray a haunting and chilling world of Greendale. Sometimes I was frustrated with Sabrina’s love of the mortal world (Let’s be real, being a mortal is a snoozefest). The world of Wicca is enticing and much more interesting than anything the world of Greendale an ever offer (Orgies! Sacrifice!).

There is a lot to say about the season, but I would break down the highlights and downsides of the show.

The highlights were, of course, most of the female characters. The best ones, the evil ones, were fully fleshed out and human. Witchcraft has always been viewed as a practice for women. A community of women sticking together and having their own power.

Aunt Hilda (Lucy Davis) and Zelda (Miranda Otto) are of course here to lead Sabrina and guide her. The two are completely reimagined from the sitcom, with Zelda being much sharper and witty then Hilda. Netflix’s version of Aunt Hilda is sweeter and more docile, which isn’t bad. I just wish there was a little more edge in her character.

Ambrose Spellman (Chance Perdomo), Sabrina’s cousin and guide is also a delight. He’s pansexual (hello representation), smart and yes very handsome. His character arc doesn’t rely heavily on Sabrina, he can shine as his own separate entity. I hope to see more of him next season.

The A+ role goes to Ms. Wardwell or otherwise known as Madame Satan (Michelle Gomez). She is cunning, manipulative and evil. Everything a good witch should be. Even when she’s trying to manipulate Sabrina into doing her bidding (per order from Satan himself) you kind of almost… root for her.

I would also say that the side characters, Susie (Lachlan Watson), Roz (Jaz Sinclair), and Prudence shine in their own light. While Susie’s storyline could use a little more character development, the two other characters who are black women prove they’re more than just tokens. Roz deals with the possibility of disability and Prudence struggles to maintain her own power.

The greatest downside, however, is attributed to the focus of the mortal world and Sabrina’s romance. Sabrina and Harvey falling in love is canon. You cannot tell the story of Sabrina the teenage witch without including Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch). The problem is the relationship between the two of them is so boring I found myself rooting for Sabrina to fall in love with the sexy, charming warlock Nicholas Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood). It came to a point where I was yelling at her from my screen.

Why is she so in love with him? I mean is that love really worth giving up a life of awesome magic, for a man with the personality of a wet towel? I would say no.

Besides the failed Harvey romance and lack of voice from our favorite cat, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a deliciously wicked show. The intertwining of themes like freedom, power, and womanhood really blend together to bring wonderfully supernatural horror show.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina streams on Netflix on Friday, October 26th.


My secret life as an undercover fangirl (and how I finally came out)

Remember when being a nerd was considered bad? When “nerd” and “geek” were used as insults for socially awkward people with glasses? Luckily, we have progressed.  

Once upon a time, there was a big stigma towards people who admittedly loved fantasy and sci-fi, now the world is obsessed with Game of Thrones and the Marvel films have broken all kinds of records in every country.

I remember middle school and being teased for liking books with dragons at age 13. I remember bringing books on class trips and getting eye rolls when I explained that yes, there’s magic in this one too. So after a while, I started becoming super secretive about my passions. Not that I ever denied them, but I created a different Facebook account to discuss “nerd things only.” It was the age of Facebook groups and pages.

Then one day I discovered fanfiction. I was reading theories about the upcoming Eragon book, and I stumbled upon a fanfiction site. I was completely sucked in. I’m positive that the number of hours I’ve spent reading fanfictions up to now amounts to several months, if not years. Soon I found myself writing fanfiction. I realized it was something I’d always done, in my own way: even as a child, when sometimes I didn’t like how a certain scene played out or a certain book’s ending, I would rewrite it – albeit in my childish way – and pretend my version could replace canon. I can’t say that I ever became notorious for my fics, but I had a decent following. People would email me asking for updates and send me reviews or comments.

I signed up for Twitter long before it was cool, and I was told by a peer fic writer to use my fanfiction username. I discovered fandom Twitter in its early days when it was merely a safe space for us to freely discuss without being judged before it became the problematic and toxic place it is now. Then I signed up for Tumblr. All of this undercover. Never once did I ever mention my name on these platforms, and it wasn’t because I was afraid the “creepy people from the internet” would see me; on the contrary, I lived in fear that somebody I knew IRL would find out I blogged about fantasy books at night.

As the years passed and fandoms grew on social media, I became ““popular”” (note the double quotes) and respected in several fandoms. This gave me the confidence to stop being so secretive about what I did online – it was nothing bad, after all – and I started opening up to my closest friends about it.

Popular culture also underwent a huge shift: thanks to many successful franchises in the 2000s like Harry Potter, Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, etc., fantasy became more and more normalized. By 2011, when the last Harry Potter movie came out, nobody used “nerd” as an insult for fantasy-loving people anymore, because you had children, teenagers and adults alike crying in theaters about the end of an era. An entire generation wasn’t afraid to show their emotions because we all grew up with these films and books, and it was the case that the rest of pop culture kept up. In the 2010s there have been hundreds of fantasy films and television shows that were blockbusters. You didn’t have to be a nerd to like them, you simply had to go see them.

Six years ago, Game of Thrones was “that show with swords, sex, incest and dragons” to most of my friends. Now I can’t name more than five people who don’t watch it. In the same way, the Marvel Cinematic Universe normalized comics and superheroes, a genre that had always belonged to the underdogs.

Recently I came out of hiding. My Twitter and Tumblr handles are easily attainable. They’re connected to my writing profiles, thus linked to my full name, and I feel comfortable sharing every aspect of me to my friends and the world.

I completely came out of the nerd closet when I founded a Fandom Club at my university, a place for nerds to meet and discuss our favorite books, shows, films, video games, etc., and only then did I realize how many undercover nerds like me there are out there.

There is still a stigma directed at fantasy, that’s undeniable. Being obsessed with a sports team is still more socially acceptable than being a fangirl, even if the former entails staring at dudes running after a ball and the latter includes reading and analyzing pieces of literature, reviewing, theorizing, and often producing your own content. But for millennials, being a nerd is more than acceptable now. It has become cool.

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

Yes, I’m a witch and I have a coven. The truth behind that will shock you.

Growing up in a non-religious household made it hard for me to connect with kids whose families went to church, prayed before dinner, or celebrated religious holidays.

I’ve been inside a church exactly once in my life: when I was 10, after the sudden death of a classmate, for his memorial service.

When I share this bit of information, especially as an adult, the reactions I get vary from disgust to shock to horror.

My family never asked me to lean into any particular faith, despite some members of my family being very religious, and though I wasn’t cognizant enough to appreciate it then, I am now.

I’m glad they didn’t push me.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t have discovered and fallen in love with witchcraft as a teenager, and I wouldn’t have my coven to connect with now.

“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” from the book of Exodus, has been frequently misinterpreted and re-adapted to the more common phrase, “blood is thicker than water.” According to Thought Catalog, the original quote talks about soldiers on the battlefield, whose bloodshed in battle connects them more deeply than genetics.

“Covenant” also refers to a spiritual power of agreement — much like “coven”, which refers to a gathering of any kind, though we now use it to discuss groups of witches.

In the 1920s, Egyptologist, archaeologist, folklorist, anthropologist, and historian Margaret Murray popularized the term “coven” with her claim that witches across Europe gathered in groups of 13, called covens. Though Murray’s ideas are widely disputed, she helped give rise to the neo-paganism movement we call Wicca and provided “historical validity” to witchcraft as something beyond female hysteria and attention-grabbing.

According to Murray’s hypothesis, covens were made up of women who joined of their own free will and were never more than 13 members. Each one devoted themselves to “The Master:” a god who could take on many forms, including animal and human.

Covens would worship him, sacrifice to him, and honor him in various ceremonies.

My coven doesn’t worship a man. We don’t sacrifice animals (in fact, many of us — including myself — are vegan), don’t dance naked in the woods (though some of us absolutely would), don’t swear blood oaths (because it stains).

Those images of witches we see in Shakespeare and on occult-focused TV shows are typically sensationalized and based on myths that have surrounded witches for centuries. Some of us don’t identify as women, and there aren’t 13 of us (though we recognize the power of that number, and The Rule of Three, and the importance of pairs for creating balance).

Here’s what we do: support each other; lend magic to each other when one person speaking their needs and desires into the universe simply isn’t enough; communicate about our successes, failures, desires, and concerns; provide spell tips and tricks when we can’t spend time face-to-face working through things as a group.

By the traditional definition, we don’t fit the mold of a coven at all.

However, if you set aside those technicalities, then it’s clear that our coven is strong, fierce, and powerful. Our individual abilities bring the group together in often unexpected but always wonderful ways, and the force with which we storm through the world is revolutionary and terrifying.

Our friendships are also tighter because we open up our rawest, most vulnerable selves with each other. Sharing a spiritual practice with other people places you into a particularly vulnerable position—the trust required is immense because these people have the ability to hurt the deepest parts of you: the parts that are faithful to an outside power.

Our coven has come together slowly, across miles and jobs and more. Sharing my magical practice with others began with my partner.

We discovered, not long after we first met, that we have both been dabbling in witchcraft for about the same amount of time. Our house is protected by our combined energy, regular smoke cleansing, purification spells, and love.

Last year, when nightmares claimed me night after night, my partner made a small sleep charm to put on my pillow to help me rest. We chose the ingredients together, and they imbued it with love and good intentions and warmth.

It still helps me fall and stay asleep, even when my dreams are strange.

A friend of mine who also acts as my witchy mentor worked with me once upon a time in a crappy retail job. She taught me how to hone my practice and in the process, we became much, much closer than just coworkers or even casual work friends. I opened up to her about the trauma I had yet to process myself, let alone share with others, and she guided me through it with patience, understanding, and advice that I still hold dear.

We live states apart now, but we talk regularly. I rely on her guidance and trust her with closely guarded secrets, and she has never betrayed that trust.

Other members of our coven met through mutual friends.

The first time we all spent time together as a group, we cast a protective circle, asked each other deeply personal questions, and settled in for a night of tarot, smoke cleansing, and group intention-setting. Since then, we have rarely been able to coordinate schedules to hang out — but we still take time to check in when we see each other struggling, through social media posts or in person.

We are brutally, painfully honest with each other about bad habits, mental health, family strife, relationship woes, and trauma. We constantly share our trauma, then work through it as a team, and the feeling is one of utmost, brightest healing, even when it hurts like hell to speak the words or write them down.

Sometimes, we drift. That’s okay.

We accept that things don’t always stay the same.

I never expected to feel so powerfully connected to this group of people, especially as a young teen when I was first exposed to practical magic. Practicing witchcraft — both on my own and with others — has taught me that the universe moves on its own axis.

We have to let it.

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Meet Eliyannah Amirah Yisrael, creator of the new web series, “Hermione and the Quarter Life Crisis”

Eliyannah Amirah Yisrael is the writer, director, and showrunner of the new web series, “Hermione and the Quarter-Life Crisis”. In the series, Hermione Granger finds herself unsatisfied with her life in her mid-twenties, working at the Ministry of Magic and planning to marry Ron Weasley. She leaves Ron and goes to L.A. to find herself. There she meets Parvati Patel, Draco Malfoy and her witty, feminist, American cousin, LaQuita Granger.  The series is available on the Sunshine Moxie YouTube channel. We sat down with Yisrael to talk about creating this web series, breaking into fanfiction and redefining Hermione Granger. 

The Tempest: Your past work has been so much more serious, this feels like fan fiction brought to life. How did you get into Harry Potter? 

Eliyannah Amirah Yisrael: I was always into reading fanfiction and there were a few that I read that were so good and reading them I thought “I want to be able to do this!” There’s one that’s so good, called “The Fallout”. I played around with the idea of making that into a short film because it’s just so fantastic, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that in a way that would small enough that I could do it independently. And so, this idea has been in my head for a few years that I wanted to do something but kept thinking about adapting something that I’ve loved and last year it hit me that I could do fan fiction in my own way and write a show. So that’s when it (fanfic) became something for me to do as opposed to for me to consume. For a lot us who do fan fiction it’s because we want more of the story because a lot of us feel like it didn’t end right.  

Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis

TT: Tell me about how you created this version of Hermione.

My first introduction to the idea that Hermione could be Black started with Deviantart and Tumblr, and seeing race bent Harry Potter fan art. I just thought “Oh my god,” because I didn’t read the first two books and I had never heard of Harry Potter until I saw the first two movies, so my first Hermione was Emma Watson. I actually ended up reading “The Prisoner of Azkaban” as a favor to my mom because my little brother wanted to read it and she wanted to make sure it was OK but she didn’t have time. I thought “Sure, the movies were cute, I’ll read that book, no problem” and I was blown away by how good it was. Harry Potter became my favorite book series but Hermione, as far as I imagined, was white and I never questioned it because that’s just what I started with. So, when I started to think about her as a Black woman and I started finding blog posts and stories about it, Hermione was presented to me as a Black Londoner from a specific class and that really did influence me. 

TT: So, it’s clear from what’s been previewed about the series that one thing that sets you apart from other work that’s race bent is you’ve taken the liberty to create a sense that Hermione is a part of black culture instead of being this incidentally black woman in the wizarding world. How did you do go about doing that?

 When I think about her in the books it feels like she’d be a whitewashed black character and I wanted to see who she’d be outside that predominantly white school and social circle.  So let’s start with Hermione’s cousin. That was very intentional. I chose to name her cousin LaQuita because I wanted to root Hermione in blackness. Black Americans have really had to create our own culture from scratch, and that’s so different in Britain.  I went to London and I  met a girl whose parents had come from Africa, and I’m sure she hadn’t even thought about it, but she asked me where my family was from in Africa. I had to tell her that Black Americans don’t know. In the US there are last names that are super common because of slavery, and then in the 70’s and there was a movement to embrace a kind of cultural pride and Black people in America started making up names. People make fun of it and they get down on it but to me, it’s this incredible idea- we don’t know where we came from but we are going to reject what’s been forced upon us and by creating our own names we are creating a culture. I find it so fascinating and so admirable. I know the demographics of Harry Potter fans and I thought it would be an interesting way to get Potter fans, in this subtle way thinking about that. I want people to talk about a character whose name is LaQuita and who is a Granger. She’s very much like Hermione in that she’s ambitious and smart and well spoken. LaQuita is all those things and it’s going to be interesting to see how people respond to that. That’s going to go one of two ways, either it’s going to go over really well or people are going to be really upset but hey that’s inevitable.  Beyond the fact that her skin is black, her life is that of a Black person. Of course, I’m an American and I don’t know the intricacies of Black British culture so I did make the choice to make her father an American and that’s why she has family in Los Angeles.

Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis

TT: What’s it been like to actually put together a project of this size?

It’s difficult but I’m so fortunate that a lot people believe in what we are doing and have committed themselves. That’s the hardest part, that’s always the hardest part, getting people that can and will commit. It’s difficult and that’s one of those things my sister gets to see. I’m so proud of her because she’s also our caterer our craft services. And because this is what we want to do and this is our passion a lot of us are making sacrifices and pushing ourselves to our limits. We’re working jobs and just finding the fortitude we need. We encourage each other and sometimes we get frustrated and sometimes we just laugh at how ridiculous it all is.

TT: So what do you want your viewers to take away from this?

I think that if you have a vision for your life it’s really important to commit to that vision and do whatever it takes to make it a reality. I would want someone to take away that your life only has to look like what you want it to look like, and that’s it. There’s literally nobody else who gets a say in what your life looks like you are the only person. Whether it’s TV, society, parents, siblings, friends, you know we’ve all been given this idea of how its supposed to look and what’s supposed to happen and I reject that. especially because when I was 12 I looked around at the adults in my life and I said I wanted to work in a creative field and people called it a pipe dream. It didn’t make sense to me because these people were telling me not to pursue my dream but they were all miserable. So I promised myself that I would not be a miserable adult and thankfully, I’ve been able to stay true to that 12-year-olds promise. I get to choose what my life looks like and that’s what I want people to take away.

Follow Eliyannah on Twitter and check out the first episode of the show on Youtube, new episodes drop April 19th!