1. TheEndOfMrsY

    TheEndOfMrsY Active Member

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    Witchy elements?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by TheEndOfMrsY, Dec 8, 2020.

    Looking at entwining some elements of lore of english witchcraft into my novel.

    Looking for aspects that could relate to paranoia, women empowerment and obsession.

    More of a mental illness based novel so looking for things a bit more subtle i can incorporate if that makes sense?
     
  2. montecarlo

    montecarlo Member Supporter

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    Don't know if it helps, but I just picked up a copy of Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.

    May provide some inspiration for you.

    - MC
     
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  3. TheEndOfMrsY

    TheEndOfMrsY Active Member

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    Fantastic! Thank you so much!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2020
  4. The inquisitive writer

    The inquisitive writer Member

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    I am a member of a few pagan groups on Facebook. Paganism and witchcraft are incredibly diverse, encompassing several different religious or secular practices, and as such can be a source of obsession or paranoia in the same way that any ‘mainstream’ religion might, given the practitioner’s personality. Every random happenstance becomes an omen of things to come, every coincidental discovery is a sign or message of some kind (“I found three black feathers today, what does that mean?” Probably that the crows have been particularly active today), and people can become obsessed with looking for these signs everywhere they go. There are people who won’t do anything without consulting the tarot cards first. Someone trips over twice in one week and believes that they are cursed somehow. Since every practice is different, there is no one book or source that people can go to for information or to learn their craft, there are a million different resources, often with conflicting views and information, and it is easy to become paranoid over whether or not you’re doing it the ‘right’ way, especially when you’re constantly being told that the wrong way opens you up to attack from negative energies or malevolent spirits.

    On the other hand, paganism and witchcraft can be extremely empowering to women. The masculine and feminine aspects of the spirit are seen as absolutely equal, and much emphasis is placed on the Devine Feminine (creativity, empathy, intuition etc) regardless of the gender of the witch. Female figures are highly regarded in many practices, goddesses are respected as much as their masculine counterparts and Earth herself is revered as the mother of all life. Since women who were regarded as witches centuries ago faced horrific persecution, there is a sense among many female witches of reclaiming the craft.

    Note: much of this is generalisation. Since witchcraft has no set rules and many witches practice alone, paths can vary greatly. One witch may work with a whole pantheon of deities, while another may work with none. Some are religious beings while others are purely spiritual. One witch may set great store in the power of crystals/astrology/divination etc to aid in their craft, while another may prefer to rely on his/her own energy and nothing else. Not sure if any of this helps, but I hope something here may be of some use to you.
     
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  5. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not quite sure what you are asking for.
     
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    You most definitely should read some Angela Carter! I don't think she wrote about witches specifically, but she incorporates elements of mythology and fairy tale and there's definitely some female empowerment. Plus her style is just incredible.

    The Bloody Chamber

    ^ Check the Look Inside for a taste.
     
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  7. TheEndOfMrsY

    TheEndOfMrsY Active Member

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    Thank you! I actually love angela carter and i have the bloody chamber sitting on my bookshelf unread so i think ill take a dive it in :)
     
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  8. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Here's what I would keep in mind if I were writing about witches.

    Fairy tale and myth are metaphorical ways of expressing profound human truths. The various creatures are mostly, if not all, outward expressions of inner traits. So really fairy tales were psychology.

    For instance the idea of the witch from Hansel and Gretel is an old woman offering candy and cookies to lost children and seeming to be nice and grandmotherly in order to lure them in, where it becomes clear she wants to devour them. Pretty clear metaphor—often people who have horrible intentions will hide them behind a facade of kindness that they've developed over a lifetime of practicing manipulation. Manipulative or abusive people seek out the vulnerable and lure them in with seeming kindness but then begin to emotionally manipulate or even emotionally blackmail them once they've got their trust.

    The idea of devouring another person is also metaphorical. If the more vulnerable person is too weak to make their escape and begins to feel horrible because they're being constantly harangued and manipulated and taken advantage of, and meanwhile the abuser seems to be getting stronger and dares to blatantly reveal their evil intents knowing the weaker one can't fight against it anymore, this is a form of devouring. In terms of psychological health and internal strength, one is getting smaller while the other grows.

    I just realized this is why the witch lived in a gingerbread house. It's a food metaphor, and she's metaphorically a cannibal who wants to eat the children, so it makes sense she would lure them in with food. I also just realized, the bread crumbs play in as food too. The kids naively leave a trail of them to find their way back home, but birds eat them so they get lost. This could represent the fact that hungry creatures roam the woods (the world). And in a sense, the bread crumbs being devoured is foreshadowing of what lies in store for the kids.

    The old hag is a woman with none of the attractive qualities, a harsh croaking voice, rude and obnoxious and crass, who has no decorum or manners and will insult and mock anyone who crosses her path. People like this are frightening because they show none of the restraint that most of us demonstrate in social situations, they'll say and do horrible things that can wound people. But sometimes they'll also reveal a truth someone doesn't want to face, that nicer people would never reveal.

    If someone goes a little too far along this route and becomes too ugly or harsh, they would be seen as an ogre rather than a witch. A witch is the more human version of this archetype.

    Then there's the idea of the young beautiful witch. Understand there can be multiple different ways to interpret each of these, I'm keeping these tied together thematically in order to show a certain spectrum I see revealed. To be considered a witch, at least in the sense of the Salem witch trials, a person has to be manipulative. So a young beautiful witch is one who seems to be the opposite of the old hag, but is actually just the younger version, not yet jaded by a cruel life and not yet harsh and openly manipulative.

    This ties in with the biological fact that beauty is a very ephemeral thing, it tends to fade with age, and a sweet disposition tends to belong to the young as well. Most people as they age lose these traits. So the young sweet witch uses her attractiveness and seductive abilities to take advantage of men. It's really just a different way of luring vulnerable people in with candy. You're drawn in by an attractive exterior only to discover, too late, after you're hopelessly in love, that this woman has ill intentions she's very good at hiding. Maybe she wasn't aware of that herself, often manipulators don't see themselves as such. And the idea is that as this type of witch grows older she becomes a hag. It's the inner nature manifesting itself in outward form (which is how fairy tales work).

    Beauty is a form of power, and power tends to corrupt unless someone has a highly developed moral code. Often attractive people become narcissistic and take advantage of others. But beauty also has its hazards. It attracts the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of people frequently.

    I've also seen in movies something midway between—a middle-aged woman who seems to be in mid transition between the 2 extremes.

    In order to write like Angela Carter you'd want to study human behavior and learn to see the fairy tale elements in ordinary people. We all have them in us, and some people can see them fairly clearly. You also want to read a lot of fairy tales, maybe download books of them from Archive.org and Project Gutenberg, and learn to see the real human types in the fairy tale archetypes.

    Of course I only discussed a couple of the well-known fairy-tale types here, there are other ways to interpret witches.

    To me all of this suggests a story of a young female afraid she'll turn out like her mother and grandmother, and maybe her older sisters are already well on the path.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2020
  9. TheEndOfMrsY

    TheEndOfMrsY Active Member

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    The reason i want to use some of these elements is to show the psychological state of the main character so i think using a witch rather than an other fairy tale myth will highlight what i need to do best so you put it really well!

    Bang on!

    A lot of the reasoning i want to use these kinds of elements is to hightlight the strong sense a lot of women have of ending up with traits of their own mothers they dont want rather than the ones they have.
    For my character; i want to use these elements of lore to highlight my characters state of mental wellbeing and feelings of their position in their own life and feelings of "power" in spaces she doesnt feel as powerful as she should.

    Ive always found fairytales alluring and i think they have different meanings as you get older. I think you can apply them to situations to explain certain characteristics of others (like you said) and a general sense of feelings most people have in particular situations.

    I toyed with using a wolf like creature to show vulnerability like in Little Red Riding Hood but i think the general theme of that (dangers of strangers and naivety... and some would say sexual violence) isnt the themes my character is going to explore.

    But thank you! This has given me a lot to research and explore. I think its time I revisited Angela Carter whilst I write this piece.
     
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