Witch Lit: How Fashionable Writers Are Reinventing The Witch

From the fairy tales learn to us as youngsters to the costumes each Halloween, the determine of the witch has been with most of us for our complete lives. Unkempt and warty, the witch of our childhood was usually a repulsive creature flying on a broomstick beside her toad or black cat.

But current years have marked a reinvention of this historical character, giving her a contemporary twist in a brand new subgenre of literature that some are calling “witch lit”.

The novels which were categorised as belonging to this new subgenre usually take inspiration from historic occasions such because the witch trials of the medieval and early fashionable intervals.

A.Ok. Blakemore’s award-winning novel The Manningtree Witches (2021), for instance, is about within the city of Manningtree in 1643 simply as Matthew Hopkins begins his hunt in opposition to witches. Jenni Fagan’s brief novel Hex: Darkland Tales (2022) revolves, partially, across the story of Geillis Duncan, one of many first girls to be accused of witchcraft within the North Berwick witch trials.

We are able to see this resurgence in movie and TV too. In Netflix’s Wednesday (2022), the younger protagonist learns about her magical heritage via her ancestor Goody Addams, who was accused of witchcraft within the 1600s.

Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in Netflix’s Wednesday. Vlad Cioplea/Netflix

Fashionable exhibits like Outlander (2014), The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) and A Discovery of Witches (2018) additionally prominently characteristic historic witchcraft beliefs and practices.

The witches featured on this new media are not often akin to the soiled hags that appeared in older tales. The brand new witch is commonly lovely, without delay darkish and gothic and ethereal and wild.

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The trailer for Hocus Pocus 2.

Even Disney’s sequel to Hocus Pocus (2022) incorporates a extra sympathetic model of the Sanderson sisters. Winnie Sanderson, though nonetheless a child-killing witch, now turns into a girl who values her coven of sisters above all else.

In all of this, one factor is obvious: the story of the witch is being rewritten and a brand new sort of story is taking its place.

Kirsty Logan’s Now She is Witch

An necessary addition to the witch lit sub-genre is Kirsty Logan’s Now She is Witch (2023). It completely captures the magic of this type of story. The novel follows Lux, a lady who sells poisons and poppets, and the mysterious Else who’s in search of revenge in opposition to a lord who kills girls for witchcraft.

Lots of the parts we now have come to anticipate from witchcraft literature are evident on this story. Via her protagonist, Logan picks on the hypocrisy of the rhetoric used to sentence witches. As Else places it: “Males need girls however it isn’t their fault, it’s as a result of girls are depraved”.

Lux can be on a journey of self-discovery. She is making an attempt to grasp the place that she occupies on this planet and the names which were given to her, be it maiden, mom, crone or witch. The place this novel actually finds its brilliance, is within the moments that it strays from the trail that has been set out for it on this style.

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Kirsty Logan photographed by Simone Falk. Courtesy of Classic, Penguin Random Home

The medieval setting of Logan’s story feels actual and textured however there may be additionally an otherworldly, nearly carnivalesque feeling to the novel. The journey that Lux takes via woods populated by a vibrant forged of characters, is sort of paying homage to the voyage Little Crimson Driving Hood takes to her grandmother’s home. Although Lux is as a lot a wolf as she is a misplaced little lady.

In her novel, Logan is making use of not solely historic beliefs round witchcraft but in addition folklore and fairy tales. Her witch is difficult: highly effective and one way or the other additionally powerless, lady and typically man and typically neither and typically each, actual and made up, harmful and harmless, lady and wolf.

On the centre of the story is a starvation from each Lux and Else to be allowed to be greater than only one factor, to easily exist with out worrying about what phrase or function can be used to outline them.

Understanding the witch craze

It isn’t solely in tv and literature that the witch has gained recognition lately. Feminist activists and writers similar to Silvia Federici and Mona Chollet are turning to the witch as a determine of injustice, energy or rise up.

One look via the part of TikTok that has been affectionately named WitchTok reveals a lot of individuals figuring out as witches and calling out for energy via the usage of therapeutic crystals or tarot playing cards.

At a time when feminine our bodies are nonetheless policed in lots of elements of the world, the witch retains the facility to talk via historical past and throughout generations. Maybe this strategy of rewriting the witch is definitely giving writers a brand new approach to inform the tales of ladies.

Lucy Atkinson, PhD candidate, Artistic Writing, Durham College

This text is republished from The Dialog beneath a Artistic Commons license.