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June 3, 2015

The Witch in the Box: Modern Witches on TV

Metal Movies

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Is it just me, or does it seem as if in recent years, TV shows have upped their game. CDH and I actually don’t have a TV aerial, and we try to limit our watching of shows online to save on bandwidth and focus more on our gazillion other projects, but it can be hard to stay away from such a tempting array of shows. Every week a friend is recommending us something new to watch.

I’m a bit weird about TV. I would often prefer to see a show I’ve seen before again than take a chance on something new. I have Gilmore Girls on repeat, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen Black Books or Sherlock, but I still haven’t got around to watching Orange is the New Black or Game of Thrones or beyond the first season of The L-Word. But in the last week I’ve been craving something new, and it happened that another blogger mentioned The Secret Circle, and I’ve been reading a huge stack of occult books recently, and before I knew it, I was pulled down the rabbit hole of witchy-TV.

Witchcraft in all its forms has always fascinated me, as has the image of the witch throughout history. There was a fascinating article in The Guardian in Feb this year – Season of the Witch – exploring why so many young women are drawn to various aspects of ‘the craft’ and looking at witchcraft and the image of the witch as a form of women’s activism. “To reclaim the word witch is to reclaim our right, as women, to be powerful,” are the words of Starhawk in her 1979 work The Spiral Dance. “To be a witch is to identify with 9 million victims of bigotry and hatred and to take responsibility for shaping a world in which prejudice claims no more victims.”

Witchcraft is making a comeback. And there is nowhere that is more obvious than in popular media. Ignoring old favourites like Charmed (I love the first few seasons of this – then it just got really silly), and Sabrina the Tennage Witch (never really enjoyed – wasn’t Goff enough) here are some of the more popular TV shows starring witches in recent years:

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The Secret Circle, 2011

The Secret Circle was a series of three books written by L J Smith. I was obsessed with these books in high school, as they arrived at our local library at the height of the late 90s/early 00s witchcraft obsession. I must have read them more than ten times. But it was only recently I discovered that they’d made the books into a series. The show departs from the plot of the books a bit, and they have shrunk the coven-size from twelve down to six. But so far (I haven’t finished the season yet), it’s quite moody and dramatic and beguiling – everything you want from a teen witch series.

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American Horror Story: Coven, 2014

A spinoff of the insanely popular American Horror Story (which I haven’t seen), Coven follows a group of descendants of the Salem witches as they fight for survival in a boarding school in New Orleans. I am a sucker for teen stories set in boarding schools, and you throw in a bit of magic and supernatural goings-on, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a winner (hello, Harry Potter). I haven’t seen this yet, either, but it is definitely on my list.

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Witches of East End, 2013

This series is also loosely based on a novel – Melissa de la Cruz’ Witches of East End, which I plan on reading before I watch the series. Joanne Beauchamp is a mom who is trying to keep her family’s history of witchcraft secret from her daughters, Freya and Ingrid. But on the eve of Freya’s marriage to a wealthy newcomer, events force their mother to reveal the truth. Chaos ensues. I believe this series just got cancelled after two seasons, but from the clips I’ve seen it looks to be worth a watch anyway.

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Sleepy Hollow, 2013

A modern retelling of the Washington Irvine story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this series follows a resurrected Ichabod Crane who rises from the grave in an attempt to vanquish the Headless Horseman once more. Crane’s wife, Katrina Crane, is a powerful witch who had placed a spell on her husband before the Horseman killed him in 1781. She appears to Crane in dreams in the present, and causes a whole host of trouble.

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Salem, 2014

This 13-episode series creates a dramatic tale of love, politics and betrayal based on the 17th century Salem Witch Trials. It follows the forbidden romance of John Aiden and Mary Sibley against a backdrop of political and religious discord. Although the story itself is invented, it’s based tightly on real events, and many of the characters are historical figures. I’ve watched the first episode and I am hooked – it looks as if a lot of attention has been paid to questioning the motives of the trials and making a statement about what can happen when religion and politics are allowed to intertwine.

In other witches in film and TV news, my favourite witchy film of all time, The Craft, (fashion inspiration for my entire life), is being remade by Sony. I reserve judgement on all remakes until I see the trailer, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing this unless they make it really fucking good. Like, Nick Cave does the soundtrack or something. There’s not cast or release date yet, so maybe it won’t even happen.

Have you watched any of these shows? Which do you recommend? Are there other awesome witchy-TV shows I’ve missed out?

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3 Comments on “The Witch in the Box: Modern Witches on TV

Sue Carballo
June 15, 2015 at 1:34 pm

The American Horror Story one is not a spin off but one in a series of American Horror Story seasons, which included Asylum which was completely amazing!

I highly recommend Coven as, altho there is a teen witch focus,there is also some brilliant adult witch inspiration, including a truly frightening vodoo witch storylinex

steff
June 18, 2015 at 1:19 am

@Sue – thanks for the correction. This is next on my list of things to watch, because it looks awesome and I love the concept. I am looking forward to it \m/

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