Witches

Witch: 1. A person, esp. A woman, who professes or is supposed to practice magic, esp. Black magic; sorceress. 2. Slang. An ugly or malignant woman; hag. 3. A person who uses a divining rod. 4. To affect by or as by witchcraft; bewitch; charm.

Witch is a complicated word. At its worst, throughout history it’s been a label used as an excuse to persecute men and women for crimes that could scarcely be proven. One word,  one whiff of an association with witchcraft was enough to torture, maim or kill a woman.

Today, it remains shorthand for describing someone in less than desirable terms. For me, it encapsulates the tension that has existed since the New Testament labeled women as the origin of temptation and sin and thus agents of the Devil. From that moment on, women had the power to trick, mislead, ensorcell, bewitch and in all ways lead men stray. Now wrap your mind around the fact that females are feared for possessing that much power, but still denied the right to vote for hundreds of years.

I decided to play with the theme of women being witches – both in practice and by accusation – in my third book because of the dominant role evangelicals play in national politics and the fact that Olivia would be working to elect a woman president. Here’s how it plays out in Book 3:

What are you looking at?” I asked.

            “You,” she said. “I’m looking at a video about you.”

            “What the hell are you talking about?” Josef asked.

            Rather than tell, Elsa opted to show. She pivoted her screen and restarted the video. There, clear as day, despite our best efforts to destroy the images, was me being hit by the car and not falling down or even moving during the impact. That image was followed by a grainy picture of me floating in the reservoir just before the EMT must have come to rescue me. Elsa increased the volume just as the pastor began speaking.

“This is Pastor Richard Goodbury. Do you remember that I told you that there is evil among us and that women who do not heed the word of God will suffer the wrath of the Lord? Well, here is proof that there are witches among us, working to corrupt our way of life. Behold a woman who does not die and like her ancestors hundreds of years ago, floats to the top of the water when she should have drowned. These are signs that the devil is among us. Keep an eye out for this woman. She must be brought to us to answer for her sins.”

“Merde, that is not good Olivia,” my father said.

I don’t want to give away too much, but Olivia’s life as a witch coming into her own powers is both a blessing and a weakness as she goes up against her old nemesis Stoner Halbert. The book is obviously another fun, sexy adventure, but it’s also my way  of revisiting old tropes about women and the labels used to discredit us when we are too assertive, too sexual or too direct.  

The irony is that women running for President of the United States practically need black magic to win. The images we have of what a woman should be are caught between the more diverse, equitable lens of younger generations and the older, more traditional men and women who find assertiveness to be rude and too aggressive. Throw in issues about beauty, body image and clothing and you really do need magick to help navigate the treacherous demands of one hundred and fifty million voters!