Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Witches of Suburbia

Witches of Suburbia

I recently learned of an upcoming talk on the witch craze of the nineties. Hearing this brought back a lot of memories. Unless you were in the right place at the right time you may be unaware that such a thing existed, though as luck would have it, it was around this time that I was pushed out of my natural habitat to an affluent suburban town.

Witchcraft was everywhere as I entered my first year of high school. It was a huge part of pop culture, demonstrated by shows like Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch; and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The work of Gerald Gardner, built decades earlier, became cornerstones to the blooming idea. Contemporary authors like Silver Ravenwolf began spewing out colourful books that made witchcraft palatable for a generation increasingly looking for guidance on basic spells and rituals.

If you want to credit Gardner, Ravenwolf, or any of the myriad of witchcraft writers, past or present, you could easily say that it was them. You could attribute it to pop culture, sure why not? You could even mention rebellion against the church and overbearing Christian parents. Perhaps it was simply a want to return to our roots, to get back to basics- a want that I am wholly sympathetic to. It could have been any of those factors, and sure, I will agree that they all played their part. Though as someone who was around at the time, I’m entirely convinced that it was in fact just one thing that really popularized this movement.

Just like the Anonymous movement can be weaved back to the original inspiration of V for Vendetta, the witchcraft craze of the nineties can be directly followed back to one specific moment in cinematic history,

The Craft.

It was released in 1996. And every young witch took their inspiration from it. The witches who haunted my school halls were directly inspired by The Craft. As if to mirror the film itself there were two main conflicting characters. The natural witch, descended from a family of witches, and the erratic witch, wrestling with her demons. A supporting cast of characters naturally followed close behind.

In all honesty those witches were the first openly practicing occultists I ever met. Yes, I had read about them. I had read Spare and Crowley, hell I had read some Gardner before all of this came crashing into my world. But these high school girls had done something no one else I had ever met was willing to do. They crashed across the social norms of high school the way no punk rock kid or Goth kid could. They didn't dress differently, listen to different music, and declare that they were Christians and good. They weren't rebellious in style alone; they were willing to make that step across long before I had heard anyone, outside of my father do.

It wasn't the first time in history, obviously. And this was no putting it on the line like so many before had done; there was no literal burning at the stake in Suburbia. But they did something no student had done before in my life, they declared themselves different when different wasn't okay. They declared themselves different, and they were.

"We are the weirdos, mister."

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