The depiction of witches in U.S. mainstream media has varied greatly over the years. Some witches are presented as haggard and conventionally unattractive women draped in black, stirring concoctions in ominous pots. Others fit into the classic childhood fantasy image of a witch with green skin, pointy hats, and flying broomsticks. And then there are the attractive, mysterious witches who blend perfectly into society while secretly wielding their dark powers against enemies. Though these images are all vastly different, there is one thread that tends to bind many of them together: a prominent focus on the White experience.
Black burial sites are struggling for survival. Such struggles should be interpreted as elemental battles over the meaning, matter, and worth of black life, history, and memory. Take the Boyd Carter cemetery in Jefferson county, West Virginia, a historic African American burial ground that’s been active since 1902. In early April 2019, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection approved a permit for a natural gas pipeline extension to be placed within feet of the historic cemetery. If built, the pipeline would transport gas to a planned heavy manufacturing facility roughly a quarter-mile to the east.
Have any conversation with a witch today about where they go for their magical inspiration and they’re more than likely going to namedrop The Hoodwitch. The site for “everyday magick for the modern mystic,” The Hoodwitch offers free meditations, rituals and horoscopes alongside a carefully curated selection of crystals, herbal smudges, books, and tarot cards for everyone from beginners to full-on occultists. Bri Luna, a seasoned Bruja, and the founder and Creative Director of the site started her online destination for all things mystical over five years ago and has since grown it into a company that operates both URL and IRL.
The video for Princess Nokia’s “Brujas” opens with a striking yet intimate visual: A group of brown women clad in all-white wade in a body of water, tightly interlocking hands against the horizon of a gloomy sky. An indigenous song scores the cinematic scene as the camera hones in on a single figure veiled in blue, a reference to Yemayá, the ruler of the seas in Yoruba and Santería religions.
Then, the video cuts. The women reappear on screen—but this time, they’re modern-day brujas performing a seance in the woods.
Brujería, the Spanish language word for “witchcraft,” is typically used to refer to various spiritual practices that have been used by African, Caribbean, and indigenous Latin American populations for centuries. The West-African Yoruba religion, for instance, is estimated by some anthropologists to have been practiced for thousands of years. And Santería (also known as Lucumi) is an Afro-Cuban religion that took shape alongside the rise of Spanish colonization—and the arrival of Roman Catholicism—in Latin America in the 15th and 16th centuries. Today, brujería—and its accompanying bruja (Spanish for witch) title—are being taken up by a growing community of primarily Latinx women and femmes who want to tap into the mysticism of their heritage, often sharing images of their practice through social media or incorporating bruja culture into their creative pursuits.
Read More – The Young Brujas Reclaiming the Power of Their Ancestors – Broadly
I never finished watching The Help.
This wasn’t due to trying, it was mostly out of frustration and exhaustion. I hate the “noble negro” archetype used in the film, one of black people putting aside their personal wellbeing and happiness for the benefit of a white person. When one of the characters declines payment for her contributions because she “just wants to tell her story”, I nearly rolled my eyes out of the back of my head. It was a white fantasy, like Lord of the Rings, a magical place where systemic racism doesn’t exist and minor characters are happy to serve in the background. I was also slightly insulted that a movie like that could exist when so many people were having conversations about Crash, another white fantasy race conciliation film. Several years later one of the stars of The Help, Viola Davis, spoke out in 2018 about her regrets of being involved with that film. In an interview with the New York Times, she spoke of her current opinions of the film as, “I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard. I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.” These sentiments were largely shared by black audiences who were exhausted of movie narratives where black people’s stories were marginalized for a white protagonist. Later, in 2018 a film came out that would go on spark some of the same debate, stoking more controversy by winning a Best Picture Oscar. That movie being Green Book, which was produced by the Help actress and MA star, Octavia Spencer. Her new starring role in MA, reunites her with The Help director Tate Taylor.
This June Hollywood’s tomb of old ideas will creak open yet again and present the tale of an ancient Egyptian tomb disturbed by a bumbling archaeologist and/or action-adventure hero, who inadvertently and unwittingly unleashes a curse.
Wes Craven had a gift for reading the room. He was always in touch with where society was and made his movies accordingly. A Nightmare on Elm Street perfectly married the rise of the 70’s slasher to the bombast of the 80’s. New Nightmare was a bellwether for the ironic self-awareness of the late 90’s upon which Scream then fully capitalized. But looking back, arguably Craven’s most reflective and socially relevant work was The People Under the Stairs.
The Craft (1996) is a film that came out around the time I turned 13. A freshman in high school and firmly established as a minority within a minority in my predominantly white/European immigrant working-class suburb right outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a painful observation. I was constantly confronting micro-aggressions about what kind of Black person I was supposed to be, and wasn’t, from all of my peers. I was the weirdo. And I found myself socializing with other weirdo’s who were the pop culture nerds, especially those who liked genre films and TV (The X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer consumed my life for many years) as much as I did.
“‘Are you OK?’ is going to be on my tombstone, with an etching of me looking concerned,” Rachel True tells me with bone-dry sarcasm. She’s elaborating on her point in director Xavier Burgin’s buzzy new documentary, Horror Noire, in which she states that black actresses in horror films like herself often play characters whose only job is to make sure the white female lead is OK. Tropes like this, and the one about black people being the first to die in the genre, are exactly what the insightful new film confronts as it reflects on the last several decades of horror and its portrayals of blackness.