With shows like Charmed coming back for an updated revival, products like Sephora's (now canceled) witch starter kit being packaged, and tarot decks being sold in huge retailers like Urban Outfitters, it's safe to say that "witch" is the hot trend of 2018. When anything becomes popularized in mainstream media it runs of the risk of becoming "uncool," but witches and witchcraft aren't a trend; this isn't a product being sold by instagram models, this is a spiritual practice that long outdates Christianity, let alone popular media. So, as witches and spiritual practitioners, how do we navigate the waters that lie ahead?
Today I want to talk about the recent Netflix release of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I, like many of you I'm sure, loved the show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, so it's no wonder that it has been brought it back into popular media. The show is based off of the classic Archie Comic where Sabrina has to make an important decision, leave the mortal world forever and become a witch or remain in the mortal world and lose her powers completely. This duality is a central theme and the core of the story. Sabrina walks the line between two worlds carving out her own unique path, and in this modern retelling she is truly a feminist icon. She is a fierce friend with a deep love and understanding of the world, many a young woman can learn from this character. When she is told to sign her soul away to Satan and step into her full powers she dissents, showing that she doesn't have to lose a part of herself to be powerful.
And all that being said, I do believe that this is a well written, acted, and directed show, but my qualm is with the misrepresentation of witchcraft. It seems pretty clear to me that those who wrote, produced and directed the show have no real ties to witchcraft or magick, despite certainly having the budget to have been able to hire a real witch for their opinion or guidance. This was evident the moment I heard the shows characters mispronounce the witches new year, Samhain. This is a trivial misstep, one I could have looked over if the rest of the show's portrayal of witchcraft wasn't so myopic.
Ok, I'll just say it, witchcraft has nothing to do with Satanism. I have a lot of respect for Satanism, but it is a religion and witchcraft is no such thing. I'll say it one more time for the people in the back, witchcraft is not a religion! Every religion uses some semblance of witchcraft. Christians use it in prayer and the blessing of holy water, two examples among thousands of instances of Christian witchcraft, and yet this show focuses on making witchcraft out to be the foil of Christianity, a dark twin of the religion.
Before I continue on my diatribe, lets talk about what witchcraft is if it isn't a religion. Witchcraft is the manipulation of natural energy in order to achieve a goal. It is a practice, and one that works well with religious beliefs, believing in a higher power can strengthen your magick, but religion isn't even necessary to be a witch at all! There are plenty of agnostic and atheist practioners out there in the world owning their power as much as the next witch. And before I move on, witch is a gender non specific title, the term warlocks is the stuff of fiction.
But wait Jasmine, Sabrina is a work of fiction!
I know, but my main issue with the show is that it perpetuates a fictional stereotype that I was hoping we as a community were leaving behind us in this day and age where more and more modern witches are stepping out of the proverbial broom closet. In many ways, the idea of what a witch is has changed over the centuries, we used to be viewed as hunchbacked hags with warts on our noses and curses flying from our lips. But now with more people than ever who are finding their way to the craft, especially younger people, I can't help but feel miffed that we lost this opportunity to properly educate an audience. So while I recognize that this is a work of fiction, I can't help but feel like us witches have been let down again.
Am I'm making too big of a deal out of this? I don't think so, representation is important; there was a golden opportunity to give this community a modern voice and the opportunity wasn't taken. Perhaps I can shoulder some blame for having higher expectations, I thought that since it is so easy to share information in this wonderful day and age that the witches of this show would be portrayed as more than just orgy loving Satan worshipers. As I've said, I'm cool with Satanism and I've got nothing against polyamory and group sex, but its negative portrayal in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is tried and trite.
This hedonistic portrayal of witches is narrow and unexciting but also a vast misrepresentation of what a witch looks like. So you may be wondering what I wanted to see, how I wanted to be represented in mainstream media? That's the thing, there is no one way a witch should be, we are everything. We are a community of vast and varied people, all genders, all religions, all races. We can be cruel and we can be kind. Some of us will gladly hex an ex, others would rather bless everyone except their ex. Witches are wise, but most importantly, a true witch is someone who recognizes the power that lies within them. A real life witch is not someone who would ever believe that power is gained from submission.
At the end of the day, I'm not looking forward to the random people who will accuse me of signing my soul to the devil and worshiping Satan after watching, or even just reading an internet article headline about this popular show. It's an old stereotype that I was hoping would die out sooner as opposed to later. I do believe that more and more people are becoming educated and understanding what it is that we do and why it shouldn't scare anyone. I know the global idea of witches and witchcraft is changing, I was just hopeful that The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would aid us in ending the stigma and not add to the centuries long negative hype.
To be honest, the jury is still out for me and Sabrina. I plan to watch season 2 before I decide how I truly feel about the show, I think it still has potential to be great (I mean, did you see evil Sabrina at the end of season 1? sign me up!) So I'll see you on the blog after season 2 drops to talk about this all over again.
Author: Jasmine of Silfren Circle
Jasmine is a numerologist, intuitive tarot reader, and astrology enthusiast from California. Through her work she seeks to create dialogue around self love, insisting that loving yourself is a defiant act in this day and age. She is also a classically trained dancer and visual artist who has to change her hair color every couple of months!