about consulting on the movie: "The Craft"
interview by Douglas Eby
Pat Devin is a High Priestess and Public Information Officer of Covenant of the Goddess and an elder Priestess of the Dianic Feminist Separatist Tradition.
Asked about how authentic and truthful were the depictions of witchcraft in the movie "The Craft" Devin notes "It's a motion picture; it's not a documentary, and I did what I could from my end, keeping in mind that the movie deals with four young women who begin to play with magic, and essentially create their own deity. They are not practicing the religion of Wicca. It's sort of 'Girls just want to have fun' - girls just want to play with magic.
"This is very common with young women, and probably has been since there have been young women. It's like, 'If I light a red candle, will he love me?' - that kind of folk magic. Some of the practices that are shown in the movie are actually, in that sense, fairly authentic, and I created some reasonable sounding chants.
The movie included a number of elements for dramatic effect: "They're levitating and doing all kinds of things," Devin notes. "Much, much more interesting than the average Wiccan circle, I might add, where people generally don't levitate or cast balls of lightning around, or have a hundred and fifty million snakes in the room.
"Reality tends to be a little tamer. The highest drama you tend to run into in an average Wiccan circle would be like who gets the last piece of chicken at the feast."
One of the things that moved her about the script, Devin says, was "the fact a number of young women do become involved with magic in a search for a sense of control or power in their life.
"When I was sixteen, I was reading Sybil Leek (this was back in the 60s) and experimenting, so it's not just this generation. Look what happened in Salem with the young girls doing fortune telling. It was the same thing. Young women have, I think, a particular propensity, especially for charms to attract the love of their life; that just seems to be a real big theme in young adolescent girls.
"We used to do a skip-rope when I was about ten years old that went 'Gypsy, gypsy please tell me, who my true love's going to be.' It all ties in to that, and lighting red candles because you love the boy down the hall."
One of the actors in the film, Robin Tunney, commented to Devin, "I notice we don't talk about the Goddess in this script at all." Devin says that a major aspect of the religion of Wicca, one of the things that sets it apart, is the focus on the Goddess, but in the movie the girls have created their own deity, whom they call Manon.
"Did you see [the movie] 'Manon of the Spring?' Devin asks. "I kept joking they were invoking the spirit of a vengeful blond French girl. It turned out the screenwriter got the name from that movie. We intentionally decided to stay away from what I would call a 'real' deity like Kali, or Hecate, because I did not feel it was appropriate to invoke a potentially living deity for the amusement of the masses.
"And I don't want a bunch of teenagers invoking Hecate when they don't know what they're doing. It's disrespectful and believe me if she shows up and you don't know what to do, you don't want her there."
Robin Tunney had wanted a Goddess chant for a scene, so Devin wrote a chant that, she recalls, went something like "Goddess of healing, let it begin, beauty of spirit, beauty of skin, beauty without, beauty within, Goddess of healing, let it begin."
One of the basic tenets of Wicca, Devin explains, is the "law of threefold return, which is that what you send out you get back three times over. If you think Karma is bad, wait till you start playing with magic if you don' know what you're doing. How often in a movie script do you even hear there is an ethic to magic?"
A "fair number" of people interested in Wicca and related topics write in science fiction and fantasy. "Marian Zimmer Bradley goes to all the pagan conferences and hangs out with us all the time," Devin notes. "She just doesn't like being called 'witch.'
She also mentions another group of highly talented people interested in Earth religions: "I remember reading an article where they estimated there were something like 30,000 technopagans working in Silicon Valley," Devin says.
The Film Board of Canada produced a documentary on Wicca a few years ago called "The Burning Times" which was, Devin says, "a historical piece. It makes me cry to see it. Several years ago there was a film that was also historical as opposed to what you see now in entertainment films - a french movie called "Sorceress" - it came around 1990.
"Most movies coming out of Hollywood tend to be pretty sensationalistic. It's much more amusing, if you're Disney, to have witches flying around on Hoover vacuum cleaners and sucking the life out of little children, which is what a lot of us got upset with that movie about.
"The main thing I've been trying to get through to the Wiccan community about this movie "The Craft" is that there will be a lot of opportunity for dialogue. You're going to be able to say, okay look, these girls are not practicing our religion, on the other hand young people getting involved with magic, with occult practices, who don't know what their doing can and od get themselves into hot water - it happens all the time.
"And this is an important thing to know. When these young girls deliberately ignore the advice of a more experienced practitioner - because they just want to have fun, they don't want to hear that there are laws involved, they don't want to think about the theology involved.
"They're teenage girls, they want power in their lives, they want to have a good time, they want to be able to pull elaborate tricks, they want to float, they want to get beautiful, they want to get the boy.
"As an opportunity for dialogue and education, I think the movie will be really positive. My fingers are crossed that it will be okay, and that I won't want to throw myself under a bus when I see it.
Devin took actor Assumpta Serna (who plays a magic shop owner) to some local shops "to show her what they looked like, but what was really interesting was we went to Pico Union to look at some botanicas.
"She's from Spain, so she could speak with the shop owners in Spanish and get more information. A couple of the younger shop people didn't blink when she told them I was Wiccan, which probably indicates a certain amount of overlapping among the younger generation of magic practitioners. There was one fellow who was probably in his fifties or sixties who, when she said I was Wicca, he kind of snarled 'Wicca?' and I could feel my hair starting to curl, and I said I think we'd better leave."
Devin remembers going over to pick Serna up, and hearing on the radio that Elizabeth Montgomery had died. "I was on the freeway and I started to cry," Devin relates. "And when I got home I told my husband I've got to call one of my circle sisters who was expecting a baby momentarily, and tell her she has to name the baby Samantha now, because they had picked out another name. But there was a message from her that she had had the baby that morning and had named her Samantha, without even knowing Elizabeth Montgomery had died. It was like, whoa! Major synchronicity."
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[originally published in Cinefantastique magazine, 1996]
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Scott Cunningham. The Truth About Witchcraft Today
The Burning Times "This beautiful crafted film is an in-depth look at the witch-hunts that swept through Europe just a few hundred years ago. False accusations and trials led to massive torture and burnings at the stake, and ultimately to the destruction of an organic way of life. The film advances the theory that widespread violence against women and the neglect of our environment today can be traced back to those times. Part two of a series of three films on women and spirituality which includes Goddess Remembered and Full Circle." [from abstract on National Film Board of Canada site]
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