Witches at the cinema and on TV: the Sabrina case and the perseverance of tradition

Witches at the cinema and on TV: the Sabrina case and the perseverance of tradition
The tradition of witchcraft is lost in the mists of time. The cinema and the most contemporary TV series try to give the set of traditions typical of paganism a particularly attractive response to the new generations, losing, however, the set of historical and social references to which these beliefs belong.

All contemporary production which has paganism and witchcraft as its main theme, unfortunately, lacks a real historical component and, instead, refers to concepts typical of neo-pagan religion and, sometimes, even Satanism. Not wanting, in this place, to demonize any kind of belief or religion, we want to retrace what are the main chapters of paganism in relation to pop culture and which, in our opinion, are the themes that have been too much abused and distorted. br>

The Sabrina case

I have subtitled this article The perseverance of tradition in a sarcastic sense, since the latter, in the latest film and television productions, is always the same for almost a century of cinema it has been handed down to us. Witches are enemies, or they are good, but there is no real historiographical and sociological reconstruction on the matter, except for some very scarce productions. But, without wanting to give entertainment products the prerogative of reconstructing historical cross-sections, "witch" themed films and TV series cannot even convey that thin line that exists between good and evil and which often overlaps.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA In The Terrifying Adventures of Sabrina there was, instead, the desire to report the drama of a girl torn between what is right and wrong, of a witch in search of her own vision of the world and magic. A more plausible narrative, closer to a reality that we do not know if it exists or not, following a whole obscurantist tradition that started from the Middle Ages and has reached the present day: the one that condemns paganism as an idolatry of evil.

In the first three seasons of The Terrifying Adventures of Sabrina we witnessed a pressing staging precisely on the themes that distinguish modern paganism and Satanism. A thoughtful construction of what are traditions that exist today and are particularly widespread, regardless of their reliability.

One tradition, a thousand interpretations

In view of the release on Netflix of the fourth and last season of The Terrifying Adventures of Sabrina, we wanted to summarize what is an ancient Italian and European tradition that, over time, has lost its historical and cultural matrix, getting lost in a myriad of clichés and do-gooders. If there is something that certainly cannot be reproached with the TV series starring Sabrina Spellman, it is that it is do-good and not full of themes and concepts that are historically and socially rooted in part of the pagan tradition, that is the cult of evil. br>
As we all know, good and evil, in many cinematographic and non-film sagas, are destined to always clash, clearly distinct and different, they are not two sides of the same coin, but opposing factions. In Sabrina, on the other hand, we see that the demand for good and evil coexist, not peacefully, but that the boundaries are not so well defined. This is historically quite true. Especially in Italian witchcraft, well rooted until the beginning of the last century in much of that area that is now part of Emilia Romagna, according to which good and evil were only two forces deriving from a single matrix: the man himself who, from time to time, he turned to one god rather than another to obtain different effects from his own invocations.

The border between reality and fantasy is always very blurred, especially when it comes to traditions that lose their roots in the dawn of time and that no longer have a written documentation provided. Today it could have been very interesting to carry out an in-depth study of all those ritual and cult practices typical of the ancient tradition of Italic witchcraft. But you know, man destroys what he himself creates, out of fear or superstition, out of desire for power or out of simple ignorance.

Stories of witches in cinema and on TV

Surely that of the witch is a very emblematic figure in the history of cinema and television series. She is an icon that becomes an emblem of wickedness and wickedness first and then of freedom and emancipation. The figure of the contemporary witch breaks away from all the stereotypes in which she had been relegated and reduced until a few years ago, loses her broom and flies towards new lives and stories to tell.

There is not only Sabrina as an example of an emancipated woman and witch, wanting to separate for a moment from the whole Rowlinghian tradition, we can find many examples that speak very clearly and in a mature way of the phenomenon of witchcraft.

I cannot fail to mention The Vvitch by Dadiva Eggers, 2015 film starring Anya Taylor-Joy. This film follows the path of "conversion" of the young Thomasin in New England in the first half of the seventeenth century who from a simple girl became a conscious witch. The story is dramatic and cathartic precisely because it wants to bring out the hardness of a life choice so compromising, full of risks and pacts that you have to go down to to get what you want. The witch, in this case, becomes a real symbol of female history, of the condition of women and of what one would like to achieve but she is always too far to reach.

_MG_2498.cr2 Another film that describes well the condition of redemption is definitely The Witches of Salem by Rom Zombie. Certainly strong and iconic film, almost blasphemous, some might say, due to the explicit references to the Christian tradition, upside down and written in a totally upside-down key. A serious film that speaks of pain and loss, of despair, of feminine strength that pushes the witch to manifest herself for what she is and not for what, instead, she would like her to be.

Unfortunately, however, much of contemporary cinema, including the Harry Potter saga, finds it hard to show the historical drama that witches, or those that have been defined as such by the sources, have had to undergo for their affirmation and, as already mentioned, emancipation. A drama that has been perpetrated for a long time and that still today is overshadowed and treated in a superficial way to say the least.

On TV, however, the discourse changes and in addition to The Terrifying Adventures of Sabrina in the course over the years we have had the pleasure of seeing several products that have managed to transpose a small and large drama linked to the condition of witches, starting from the literary tradition. The same TV series Streghe has highlighted many borderline aspects of these ancient practices linked to paganism and, consequently, also to the Catholic world (just think of all the ritual practices concerning exorcisms of which the world of cinema and TV is now full).

Possible hypotheses

If the possibility of looking for a sort of precedent for the start of a new tradition linked to this fantastic vein of witches has failed with the cancellation of The Terrifying Adventures of Sabrina, a new renaissance is still possible. The importance of narrating witches' stories and supporting them with solid historiographical research (which goes far beyond the medieval persecutions and the Salem affair) would also be desirable to fully understand the issue of female emancipation.

A great substratum of culture that has not yet had a great appeal on the masses could, instead, have it looking for new ways of telling true stories, bringing to light the most unspeakable and hidden events of a phenomenon that is too often silenced and which, in a century of cinema history, has taken on the appearance of a speck. Witches can be the starting point for a new feminist literature based on action, highlighting the contradictions of a society which, after all, is not that modern, not even at the end of the 2020 quarter.

If you want to continue living the stories of The Terrifying Adventures of Sabrina we recommend you follow the comic series. You can buy the first volume at this link.

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