It has a sad and misunderstood history, but witchcraft still has a role to play

Our fascination with witches has long surpassed witchcraft being a crime punishable by death. They are a cultural obsession, it seems, that is always with us in one guise or another. In recent weeks it’s been Netflix’s reboot of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Sky One’s A Discovery of Witches, as well as an episode of Doctor Who focusing on the Pendle witch trials. The only shift has been packaging witchcraft as a more grown-up take on women attempting to take control of their own destinies.

As a teenager, my friends and I were self-subscribed members of Wicca, the “white witch” religion. Growing up in a rainy mill town in Lancashire, with little in the way of diversion, our cultural diet consisted of Heathers, The Craft and other moody 90s films. At sleepovers we did Ouija boards and whispered “light as a feather, stiff as a board” as one of us lay corpse-like on laced hands, her arms crossed over her chest. Later, I’d lie awake as the wind and rain battered down from the moor, thinking of the guns my friend’s father kept hanging in the hallway.

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