witchcraft

A Real Witch’s Look at The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

*This post contains Spoilers*

I recently finished watching part 2 of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and I have to say, I loved it. I never wrote about my thoughts on the first part of the series or the holiday special so I’ll be covering my thoughts on everything that’s aired so far.

When talking about it with others who watched the show my main criticism of season 1 was that it was literally too dark (is there no budget for a few light bulbs so that I can physically see what’s going on?) and that the blur thing they kept doing with the camera was disorienting.

I’ve been asked if the way the witches are portrayed was offensive to me. Honestly, no. I don’t really get offended at the way witches are portrayed in fiction because it’s fiction. An argument can also be made that it was somewhat of an accurate portrayal for how witches were historically viewed. Witches were not always thought to be human, but entities that caused problems for humans, and they were considered to be in league with the Christian devil. In Sabrina, to be a witch is to not be like a mortal human, and to be bound to Satan. So it’s drawing on a particular way of viewing witches that has existed for some time in folklore.

Being associated with Satanism doesn’t bother me because I know what Satanism is actually about. I figured if anyone were to be truly offended at that portrayal, it would be actual Satanists. Come to find out there was a lawsuit about the show’s use of the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue in a misappropriated way (implying the statue is associated with or promoting evil), which was later settled in court.

The portrayal of the Satanic religion as the equal but opposite religion of fundamentalist Christianity was strange to me, along with the way the characters relate to it. This was actually the most off-putting to me at first because of the way I personally understand witchcraft in relation to religion. It took me a bit to get past my feelings about it and see the messages behind it. This show has a variety of social and political messages within it that play out within this religious framework.

The way the religion of the Dark Lord is portrayed is a cultural critique regarding fundamentalist religion and is made to make you think about the ways in which unthinking devotion is harmful. After all, many atrocities have been committed by people who are just following the directives of their religious leaders. It still happens today where people point to their religion as a scapegoat for intolerance and tyranny, and where old traditions are kept despite how dehumanizing they may be.

It’s also a bit of a cautionary tale on who you hitch your wagon to and what the consequences of that may be. Making pacts with any kind of being (especially of a spiritual nature) is serious business. Not following through on your end of the bargain is often disastrous.

Portraying something as inhumane as cannibalism (the Feast of Feasts episode in season 1- The ‘Feast of Feasts’ is also the name of the Eastern Orthodox Easter Celebration) and touting it as “tradition” whether you like it or not is a powerful and jolting statement. It’s upsetting enough to make you think, “who cares about traditions? This is wrong” and that’s the point.

Eating another witch, who is chosen in the fashion of Hunger Games, in remembrance of a witch who offered up her body as sustenance when the coven was starving bears a rather striking resemblance to the symbolism of communion in Christianity. It’s a graphic display akin to transubstantiation. If the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ, you’re kind of a cannibal (no judgment. I understand the beliefs behind transubstantiation and communion, but it’s still kinda cannibalistic).

The central struggle of many of the main witches to follow the directives of their religious leader despite how they feel about things internally is potent. The social pressure Sabrina faces to conform despite her own convictions and the shame her family faces for her disobedience and questioning is common amongst sects of people in prominent fundamentalist religions. Father Blackwood’s bid for men’s power over women in the coven is pretty self-explanatory in how it relates to gendered societal struggles today.

The dichotomy of “we’re not evil we just worship the embodiment of evil” is an irritating display of cognitive dissonance that I personally struggled with witnessing while I watched the show, and it’s also something that irritates me in real life with people who use their religion as an excuse for their own displays of cognitive dissonance. But every character has their own motives, and again, it plays rather well into the message against mindless religion and the pursuit of power. The ends justify the means for the witches in this show. This is often the case in real life as well.

We get to see how the many power struggles happening within the coven results in tragedy, as it often does in real life with abused power within religion. I liked seeing this religion crumble by the end of season 2. It was a liberation when Satan was dethroned and Lilith took the crown she deserved.

By the way, can we just take a moment to admire Lilith (the real Lilith)? The first dissenter. The liberator of women. Adam’s first wife who said no to inequality and submission in the garden. Sovereign queen and mother of witches. Seeing her crowned in this show after taking back her power warmed my little witch heart because fuck yeah, she deserved it, and she will be a damn fine leader.

I’m excited to see where the next two seasons go from here now that power and freedom have been bestowed upon witch-kind, now that Zelda is the high priestess of what remains of the coven, now that Ambrose and Prudence are on their mission to kill Father Blackwood for his treachery.

I don’t really care about Sabrina’s mission to get Nick back, though. I mean, she sucks at developing good plans or thinking things through and the whole “my boyfriend is the most important thing to me and I’ll risk your lives for him” vibe that goes along with it is grating. But… my thoughts on the characters themselves and favorite moments from the show are reserved for my next post!

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