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Embracing The Word 'Witch'

A woman dressed as a witch is framed by a statue in downtown Salem of Samantha Stevens, the witch on the TV show "Bewitched."
A woman dressed as a witch is framed by a statue in downtown Salem of Samantha Stevens, the witch on the TV show "Bewitched."

This Halloween season and beyond, some women are embracing the word “witch.” We’ll ask why.

Witches and broomsticks are easy fun on Halloween.  We all know the cackling profile, the pointy hat, the black cat riding shotgun, the “bubble, bubble toil and trouble” incantations.  In history, women branded witches have had a rough go.  Witch hunts.  Witch burnings.  Witch trials.  Hollywood has given us all kinds of witches, from sweet to terrifying.  These days, some are just embracing witchiness, as a kind of deep, liberating feminine power.  This hour, On Point:  the witchy way. —Tom Ashbrook


Alice Hoffman, novelist and author of more than 30 books, most recently “The Rules Of Magic.” (@ahoffmanwriter)

Constance Grady, culture writer for Vox. (@constancegrady)

Laurel Zwissler, professor at Central Michigan University.

From Tom’s Reading List:

Vox: Lorde Is The Celebrity Avatar Of Pop Culture’s Witch Obsession — “And every pop cultural aesthetic needs a celebrity avatar, somebody to perform the aesthetic and thus embody all of the contradictions and fantasies and anxieties the aesthetic creates. For the pinup aesthetic of the ’50s, and its attendant obsession with sex and virginity and innocence, that was Marilyn Monroe. For the witch aesthetic, it’s New Zealand pop star Lorde.

Vulture: Why The Witch Is The Pop Culture Heroine We Need Right Now — “The magic of the witch in this particular moment is that both the traditional, villainous witch and her feminist, heroic opposite are equally alive in the cultural consciousness.”

New York Times: Yes, This Is A Witch Hunt. I’m A Witch, And I’m Hunting You —”When Allen and other men warn of ‘a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere’ what they mean is an atmosphere in which they’re expected to comport themselves with the care, consideration and fear of consequences that the rest of us call basic professionalism and respect for shared humanity. On some level, to some men — and you can call me a hysteric but I am done mincing words on this — there is no injustice quite so unnaturally, viscerally grotesque as a white man being fired.”

Excerpt of “The Rules of Magic” by Alice Hoffman:

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