The answer is yes.. If you’ve been watching any of the new tv shows like Sleepy Hollow, American Horror Story or have heard news of Maleficent or Into The Woods, than you know that Witches are the new Vampires, but how did it get to this point? We were burning them two hundred years ago. How has something so steeped in mystery and misunderstanding become the new face of Hollywood?
This is when I tell you that we at MITNG, in our relentless need to get this kind of information to you, spoke to one of the leading experts in the field of the Occult and Demonology, SORRY….I had promised Craig and them…wait, what? What I meant to say is, that I did some web surfing, in a vague effort, to help you understand these purveyors of magic, just a little bit better and how they have and always will be, ripe for the picking in Hollywood.
As far back as I can remember, the world has always been fascinated by witches. The female witches in particular, represent a level of independence, that most men found threatening and alluring, although they would never admit it. The first record of a witch goes as far back as the Old Testament. Although what I’m about to tell you was supposedly omitted from the Bible years ago, it still stands as one of the first records. The story goes like this…in the beginning when G-d had already created man and he was lonely, he created a woman. Most of us know this woman to be Eve, but did you know there was a prototype? According to Jewish myth, the first woman was a very strong and independent succubus/witch, named Lilith and unlike Eve, Lilith wasn’t created from the rib of Adam, but was made from dirt, filth and sediment and not pure dust, to be exact, but for all intents and purposes, she was the physical manifestation of “his equal”. So when G-d said she had to obey Adam and have kids for him and yadda yadda yadda…Lilith wasn’t having any of it and ran away.
Adam complained to God: ‘I have been deserted by my helpmeet’ God at once sent the angels Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof to fetch Lilith back. They found her beside the Red Sea, a region abounding in lascivious demons, to whom she bore lilim at the rate of more than one hundred a day. ‘Return to Adam without delay,’ the angels said, `or we will drown you!’ Lilith asked: `How can I return to Adam and live like an honest housewife, after my stay beside the Red Sea?? ‘It will be death to refuse!’ they answered. `How can I die,’ Lilith asked again, `when God has ordered me to take charge of all newborn children: boys up to the eighth day of life, that of circumcision; girls up to the twentieth day. None the less, if ever I see your three names or likenesses displayed in an amulet above a newborn child, I promise to spare it.’ To this they agreed; but God punished Lilith by making one hundred of her demon children perish daily;  and if she could not destroy a human infant, because of the angelic amulet, she would spitefully turn against her own. 
Whether fact or fiction, it’s a pretty ballsy move, to place a woman in direct defiance of G-d, especially in those days. I like to think the scribes were living vicariously through Lilith, thus they were able to anonymously speak out about their feelings toward the church by making her the embodiment of evil. This incarnation laid the ground work for women to look to her for guidance
For the true historians…forgive me if I jump around a bit. I’m not an expert.
The witch would undergo several manifestations before becoming the “wack-job on a broom stick” version, we know today. I think it’s pretty safe to say that that image of her came along when witch hysteria was taking hold of England. A lot of that had to do with the Black Death (1348-1350). That sickness wiped out millions, so when people began questioning why, many began providing their own answers. This and the Spanish Inquisition of 1478, created fertile ground for the persecution of practices deemed to be Satanic. There were even some who worshiped the same God, who were being persecuted, and had to flee. Whether true witchcraft was even being practiced during those times, I don’t know, but there are reports.
One such report comes from Ireland, Kilkenny to be exact. Dame Alice Kyteler (1280 – later than 1325) was the earliest known person to ever be formerly accused of witchcraft. Her, so called crime, predated the Black Death and the Inquisition, so perhaps she was legit. We may never know, because she skipped town before she could be formally tried, but her gimp…oh that poor bastard, was tortured until he confessed he was a witch and served under Alice. He was burned at the stake. She was also accused of money lending , adultery and murder so there’s a lot going on in this saucy tale. Behold.
The case was brought in 1324 before the then Bishop of Ossory, Richard de Ledrede, an English Franciscan friar. The bishop wrote to the Chancellor of Ireland, Roger Utlagh ( Outlaw ), to have her arrested but this rebounded on him, the Chancellor being her first brother-in-law. In fact de Ledrede himself was jailed by Sir Arnold le Poer, the Seneschal of Kilkenny, her fourth brother-in-law. John Darcy, the Lord Chief Justice traveled to Kilkenny to investigate the events and vindicated the Bishop, who again attempted to have Dame Alice arrested.
After some months of stalemate, one of her servants, Petronella de Meath, was tortured, and confessed to witchcraft, implicating Kyteler. After this, Kyteler was condemned. She fled the country, presumably to the Kingdom of England. She appears no further in contemporary records. The Bishop continued to pursue her lower-class followers, bringing charges of witchcraft against them. Petronella de Meath was flogged and burned at the stake on November 3, 1324. Her daughter apparently joined Kyteler in England. Kyteler’s son William Outlaw was also accused inter alia, of heresy, usury, perjury, adultery, and clericide. After “recanting”, William escaped relatively lightly, being ordered to hear three masses a day for a year and to feed the poor.
This was one of the first European witchcraft cases and followed closely on the election of Pope John XXII (1316–1334), to the Papacy. In 1320, he had witchcraft added to the list of heresies.
Then of course there were the Salem Witch trials of (1692-1693) and we all know how that went down, but I think Salem is where most American’s formulated their opinions about what witches were and unfortunately, most of those opinions were wrong. With all religion comes paranoia, the Puritans having fled England to practice their faith in the new lands, were all alone in this strange world, so new ideas had to be formed to keep the flock from straying and when anyone is given something precious, especially a child, and that thing promises power, sometimes it’s too good to pass up. Things like knowing the future or beguiling an infatuation, is a time honored tradition and is primarily what witches were used for. This dates back to the Oracles at the Temple of Delphi. Course they didn’t call them witches then, in fact they became useful in swaying political decisions…you see where I’m going? We all see what we want to see, but what the fuck does all this have to do with witches in Hollywood. Nothing…I just thought you might like to know a little history and now for the good stuff.
There are two men, I ordain, for being solely responsible for ushering in the era of the witch into Hollywood and the effects can be felt to this day. Walt Disney (pictured left) and Victor Fleming (lower right). Walt Disney, as you all know, gave animation a new face with films like Snow White,Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Victor Fleming directed the one film that canonized the broom and pointy hat, The Wizard of Oz. Of course you can’t mention these artist without mentioning the source material Oz (L.Frank Baum) and…well pretty much every Disney film produced in the late thirties and early forties, The Brother’s Grimm.
These two “single-handedly”, made witches cool. They gave them a face, some likable some, not so much, but they were always memorable and seemed to be what audiences wanted. Course, no witch film was ever complete back in the days, without a song or two in the film, but films with music in them was what Hollywood was serving up for a very very long time. The witches on film today tend to be a bit more serious. They’ve gotten rid of the striped socks and replaced them with fishnet stockings in most cases and tube socks and sneakers, in others.
In 1964 television brought the cauldron to tv with Bewitched starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York, until March 25, 1972, when the show was cancelled. In the seventies directors touched, ever so lightly, on the witch genre, but at a time when horror was all anyone wanted to see. So we got films like Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” and Daughter’s of Satan (1972). This new look on the craft was exploitative to say the least. Most of these films back then contained young women dancing around a fire naked or being tortured sexually by church inquisitors. No more song and dance and no more yellow brick roads, the witch had a new look or at least appeared to have a new look and it wasn’t all good. That is, until the eighties.
To keep up with the magic, film directors like Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg, were throwing down, directors needed to reinvent this genre again. Offer up some magic, but with a real story and real consequences. The 80′s saw witch films such as The Witches of Eastwick, Warlock (1989), Spellbinder (1988), The Little Mermaid (1989) and Teen Witch (1989).
It’s important for you to notice that because these films most certainly involved women, these films could easily be referenced as the state of women at the time the film was made. Witches of Eastwick found three powerful witches (Susan Surandon, CHER and Michelle Pfeiffer) set upon by this demon played by Jack Nicholson. During this time you had films like Working Girl…get it? I don’t know, I was trying to make a connection, but failed miserably. However, the witches in the 80′s are getting sexy again, well…there was never a time when witches weren’t sexy, but you get my meaning. What’s also funny, but obvious, is that most of these films are watched by women.
You see I’ve always said women are the Earth Mother’s. Their ability to create life, connects them “like no other” with the spirit world. Divination, clairvoyance, astrology, incantation, are mostly practiced by women. Sure, there are a few warlocks out there, but most of the problems that are called upon by a witch to cure, usually entails that of a feminine nature. Mind you, this is neither good nor bad, but something I noticed hanging with Wiccan’s ( a pagan religion introduced in 1954) and working at a mineral store, in Orlando Florida. We all want to connect with something higher, it just so happens that higher seems too high at times and sometimes it’s easier to connect with something tangible, that’s not to say witchcraft doesn’t have it’s share of the fantastic, but so does the Bible. We do what works.
So let’s fast forward the chronometer pass the 90′s, past movies like Hocus Pocus (1993) , Witches (1990, a brilliant film I must say) and The Craft (1996) to the 2000′,s where we see the rise of the vampire. Stick with me, I am going somewhere with this.
If there was ever a period in time when the witch in Hollywood most certainly saw it’s imminent defeat, it was in the early 2000′s. Films like Queen of the Damned (2002), Day Watch (2006), Let the Right One In (2008), Twilight series, Underworld and True Blood, were all the rage and virtually wiped out any memory that witches even existed. Sure you’d could still find books being written about them, but for the most part Hollywood wasn’t having it, the vampires were too strong. It seemed adult and tween novelist, were doing any and everything to make these bloodsuckers more likeable or sexy. But in 2005-2010ish, a strange thing started to happen on shows like True Blood, the story took a turn for the whimsy. It began incorporating/crossingover, by having the vampires battling witches. Around that same time the Bill Willingham book FABLES was being considered for adaptation by ABC. A hugely popular book that chronicles the lives of real life fable character’s who had been exiled from their home world. The story’s central character’s are witches from children’s story, given a modern twist of course. So now, nearly a decade later, A shift starts to occur and the witches are slowly coming back. ABC, unable to secure the rights to FABLES, creates their own version of the story and calls it Once Upon A Time (not to be confused with Once Upon a Time: In Wonderland, but kinda sorta the same) also due out this fall. That show is followed by another fairly-like show Grimm and just like that…they are back…and now, in the year of our Lord 2013, we have shows like American Horror Story: Coven, Sleepy Hollow, Witches of East End, Oz the Great and Powerful, Hansel and Gretel, Disney’s Maleficent (based on the character from Sleeping Beauty), Snow White and The Huntsman, PIXAR’S Frozen, Into the Woods (based on the Broadway musical) so on and so forth.
In hindsight they only took a break for about ten years before reemerging, but this emergence happens to be with great fervor. It’s like something snapped, cause people are loving themselves some witches right now, and that’s fine, they do have a history of doing well in the cinema, but will they be portrayed in the right light? I’m optimistic, especially with the level of writing coming out of the studios these days and rightfully so. They do exist and have existed for thousands of years. They even live near you. No, they aren’t wearing anything special, outside of a five star pendant of quartz wand around their neck, but they are today’s practicing modern witches. I don’t know enough about them to really go depth about what their lifestyle entails, but there’s enough of them in the U.S. alone, to warrant a certain level of respect when portraying them on screen. I’ve visited places like Salem, Mass, Cassadega, Fla and Sedona, Az and I’ve seen the covens and they are good people and are respectable followers of Earth magic.
Alright some of the shows like AHS and Sleepy Hollow do tend to do a good job of not making them completely cheesy and let’s be honest, I don’t think America’s gonna buy into that any more, but there are still some movies/tv shows, that shouldn’t be made, but we will have to wait and see if I’m right. Nevertheless, expect to see a lot of them in the near future cause something tells me they aren’t going away anytime soon.