This edition of Pagan Voices reflects on the 1996 release of the movie “The Craft”, and the impact it had on the broader Pagan community, Witches, and their practice. Is there a Pagan voice or artist taking action you would like to see highlighted? Contact us with a link to the story, post, audio, or image.
It has been said that art imitates and reflects life, but that has not always been the case with cinema and television when it comes to Witchcraft and Paganism.
However, the release of the film, “The Craft”, in 1996 brought many practices in modern Witchcraft to the big screen in a way that was different from previous films.
Most importantly in crafting (no pun intended) the portrayal of Witchcraft was that one of the technical advisors for the film was an actual practitioner, Dianic Priestess Pat Devin. Devin drew on actual Wiccan practices to help guide the scenes to create a more authentic representation of magical rituals.
Another important factor was that one of the main characters, Rochelle, played by Rachel True, was a person of color.
“The Craft showed us witches that were edgy, beautiful and powerful. For Black witches like myself it was one of the first times we saw a witch that looked like us in the character of Rochelle, most brilliantly portrayed by Rachel True. It’s no wonder the rallying cry of ‘We are the weirdos,’ will live on as one of the most iconic lines ever. Here’s to another 25 years, and the film continuing to be loved by generations to come.” – Lilith Dorsey, author of Orishas, Goddesses and Voodoo Queens and Water Magic
Despite the elements of fantasy and horror of the film, it helped to capture the imagination of many younger people who were just starting out on a magical path, and fueled a desire for spiritual practice that reflected their values in a more authentic way.
“I was 18 years old when The Craft was released. By then, I identified as Wiccan, but I hadn’t undergone any formal training, and I didn’t have any community yet. There are many films and TV shows featuring witches, but I had not seen the kind of witchcraft I had read about and that I was learning and experimenting with until I saw The Craft.
Before it tilts to horror, The Craft presents a vision of sisterhood, female empowerment, and magic that spoke to me. It gave me a sense of what my Craft could look like. My practice has matured, of course, but those themes are still important to me.
I still love The Craft. I enjoy it in a campy, nostalgic way, but I also think it was progressive and a standout among the 90s teen films.” Cosette Paneque, Priestess and Aboricha
“In 1996 when The Craft came out, I was a sophomore in college. I had just really started exploring different religions. The Craft was definitely a movie that piqued my curiosity. I know of course that a lot of the movie was “Hollywood” but it still was an influence to get me to look deeper at into the occult.” Ryan Denison, Georgia Steward for the Troth, founder of Heathen Men United and the Pagan and Polytheist Educational Research Symposium (P.A.P.E.R.S.) at the Mystic South Conference
Even for some with longer histories of magical and spiritual practices, the movie highlighted the potential of a Witch.
“In 1996 when that movie came out, I was just under the apprenticeship of one of my first teachers. Before the movie, I didn’t have a good talking knowledge of the past…or any of witchcraft’s history. To me, witches were still dressed up evil for Halloween.
The Craft was one of those movies that began to bring the wise women – and the exact definition of a witch – to my understanding. And it’s movies like The Craft, and Practical Magic, that led me to read more and to look deeper into these things. It brought me to a place of understanding who I was as a witch, and the good news (for that girl from Kansas) is I’m a good witch.
I like to look at different religious paths and spiritual traditions to find our common ground. This movie brought me to a bigger confidence in what our common ground is: as wise women, herbalists, and women who tend to the spells and the magic of life.
Some places still see witches as the black hat wearing crooked nose having evil women, daughters of the devil. They fear, because they don’t feel they can speak intelligently about something – in this case, magic and witches – so they fear it. Movies like the Craft showing women in circles, worshiping the trees and the ancient goddess, allow us to dig into the primordial mothers and who they were, and who we are now.” – Sangoma Oludoye, Sacred Activist, Yoruba priestess, and founder of Kindred of Sangoma.
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For others, it was a mixed bag.
“The Craft came out a few years after I started my formal magickal training and generated some mixed feelings for me. On one hand, it was lovely to see something representing Witches with just enough reality to make parts feel authentic and give us a reference point for people who thought the idea of real modern Witches was a crazy thought.
“On the other hand, it had enough show biz special effects and unreality to it that I spent many years after explaining to people that the magick in the movie was not really what any of us did as Witches. People had a hard time understanding it was a movie. It was fun, but not the life-changing event for me that it was for so many others.” – Christopher Penczak, author and co-founder of the Temple of Witchcraft
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“I was working in a metaphysical store around the time “The Craft” was released, but I really was not paying a lot of attention to pop culture in the form of movies and TV. I remember being caught completely off guard when a young customer wanted to know if we carried a book they could buy that had spells for changing their hair and eye color. They might have been the first, but they would not be the last person to make such an inquiry.
Once I realized that the movie was the source of these requests, my response was often, ‘Clairol is best way to work that kind of magic.’
Nonetheless, after the movie’s release, it inspired a lot more young people to seek out some type of authentic magical practice.” – Star Bustamonte, TWH news editor
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The popularity of “The Craft” anticipated other films and television shows like, “Practical Magic,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Charmed.” They all incorporated some form of magic or the occult that held authentic elements of real magical practice; some even involved practitioners for authenticity. Trends that continue to this day.