If you are a practicing witch like I am, you may have watched the Hallmark Channel’s recent airing of the movie “The Good Witch” – starring Catherine Bell as a dark-haired enchantress with a magickal touch, who moves into a supposedly haunted house in a small town and begins to either win over or turn off her new neighbors, depending on their views of her personality and her behaviors.
Not only was I attracted to this movie by its content, but I also have a bit of a personal interest as well… the screenplay for this movie was written by Rod Spence, who grew up and still lives in my hometown of Evansville, Indiana. I’ve never met Rod myself and I do not know whether or not he is a practicing Pagan, but he is known to members of the local Pagan Community, who say he’s a pretty nice guy. He certainly does seem to know his stuff when it comes to writing about witchcraft.
Interestingly, the character of “the Grey Lady” can actually be found in Evansville – she’s a well-known apparition at Willard Library, a local landmark that is the oldest public library in the state of Indiana, having been built in 1885. Willard Library was inducted in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. I can remember borrowing books from this library several times as a child, but I never bumped into the ghost. Because of the belief that the library is haunted, it was actually investigated by The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), and shown on the Ghost Hunters program in the SciFi Channel. (I missed this particular program, so I don’t know if they found anything or not). There are many theories about the Grey Lady and her identity, and some individuals claim there is actually more than one ghost residing in the library. I won’t comment, but if you’re interested in learning more, check out the Willard Library Ghost website. You can even find ghost cameras which have been set up inside the library, and pictures of shadowy figures.
Willard Library at night… could one possibly bump into the Grey Lady?
photo from the Willard Library photo collection
Having grown up hearing the various stories about the Grey Lady at Willard Library, Rod Spence decided to incorporate the character into his screenplay. Thus the Grey Lady of Evansville became the fictional Grey Lady of Middleton, and instead of living in a library, she lived in (and supposedly still haunts) a large old mansion known as the Grey House. Of course, whether or not either ghost actually exists depends upon your own beliefs.
As for the movie itself, I enjoyed it. Considering Hollywood’s flair for drama and hype, I thought this program was pretty accurate, and showed witches in a positive light. While Cassandra Nightingale never really states whether or not she is an actual witch, she certainly thinks and acts like one… and most of us within the Craft would quickly identify her as such.
Yes, the movie does show some of the “stereotypes” of witches, but it portrays them in their actual true realistic aspect, rather than the common myths and wrong perceptions that many people have.
For example, many witches do own brooms, also known as “besoms” – I have two myself, including one that hangs on the wall in my living room mainly for decoration. But I’ve never attempted to fly on one… I much prefer the comfort of my Ford Focus station wagon (besides, it gets better gas mileage). Some witches actually do use their besoms for daily cleaning; others prefer to keep them strictly for rituals, where they are used to sweep out negative energy from the ritual area.
I also own a number of cast iron cauldrons of various sizes, but they get used more for cooking up soups and stews than bat’s wings and eyes of newt. In fact, I’m currently using one to cook up roasted potatoes for dinner.
I’ve also been known to create an herbal potion or two in them, such as the chamomile tea that helped put me to sleep the other night or the rosemary rinse that leaves my hair soft and shiny and smelling good. I do like to use my smaller cauldrons for burning incense, mainly because cast iron is fireproof and as such can withstand the higher temperatures of burning charcoal (I prefer to use loose incense as opposed to incense sticks).
Speaking of herbs, this was another thing I enjoyed about the movie – how it shows witches as natural healers. I’m certified in both aromatherapy and herbalism, and I often use both herbs and essential oils for healing purposes. Folks who know me well can recall the vast collection of various herbs that I kept in my cupboard, and many witches (including myself) often make various herbal products – including teas, salves, incense, soap, etc.
Cassandra’s shop reminded me of the many different Pagan-owned shops I have been in over the years, most of which sell similar products – herbs, oils, candles… even a few masks. I have a special mask myself which was bought in a store similar to Bell, Book and Candle… it looks much like the waves of the ocean.
But most importantly was the way Cassandra herself was portrayed, and the approach she took to dealing with life’s various issues. I thought the movie did an excellent job at showing that witches are basically just ordinary human beings who try to use a little insight and intuition in dealing with people and their problems. We don’t go around town wearing black hats and long capes, casting spells every other minute and scaring the wits out of the townfolk. Yes, we often do get misunderstood and mistreated by people who have the wrong idea about what we are and what we do – I know of Pagans who have dealt with harassment and efforts to run them out of town, much the way some people tried to force Cassandra to leave Middleton. But a little understanding and acceptance can go a long way.
As the movie shows, magick isn’t about doing extraordinary “abracadabra” things. Magick is the art of creating possibilities, and thus as Cassandra (“Cassie”) explains, all of us have the potential to do magick. The biggest part of creating magick is a willingness to embrace change, and having once embraced that change, to utilize it in order to learn more about ourselves and about others. When the son takes the amethyst from Cassie and then proceeds to talk with his school bully, getting to know him better and thus being able to help improve his home situation; one might not think of that as magick, but in reality that’s exactly what true magick is all about. It’s not about casting spells, but about shifting our perception, that we might thus see the truth in everything… and in seeing such truth expand our heart, mind, and soul to discovering new territories within ourselves, and in the world around us.
I enjoyed this movie and its characters. I enjoyed the way it portrayed witches. I enjoyed its connections to my hometown.
I can only hope that more such positive portrayals will come out of Hollywood in the future.
“The Good Witch” will air again on the Hallmark Channel this Friday, January 25th and also on Thursday, January 31st. Check your local listings for the proper time and channel.