There are witches among us.
As Halloween grows near, it seems the right time to talk about power and spells, although this is not about cackling and cauldrons.
Rather than witches, perhaps I should call them enchantresses and sorceresses, that’s nearer after all and separates their intentions and effects.
The Enchantress may not be what you expect when you meet her. Hearing about her, you may have anticipated physical beauty so exquisite it would steal your breath. Her face and figure may not be perfect, but it is her spirit that draws people to her. Her attraction comes from within, from how she lives her life, what she does, her energy that makes you think she is about to break into dance and teach you the steps. She doesn’t push or force though, she gives freely and openly. There is a light about her and her smile can chase away the shadows from the darkest corner. She is truly enchanting, and doesn’t even mean to be. That’s part of her power.
But there’s another kind of sorceresses, a woman casting her spells knowingly and with a purpose. Unlike the Enchantress, who may never have been beautiful but who possesses charm regardless of her age, this one was once beautiful and gloried in the power it brought her.
But her beauty is fading, ebbing away with each year, the only remnants old photos that she looks at longingly. She remembers the time when she was the centre of attention and is determined to gain that again. She can still captivate but it’s harder now and her choice is limited. When she does snare someone in her trap she won’t let them go. A man caught this way (and let’s say it is a man, although these archetypes aren’t constrained to any one sexual orientation) is there to feed her need, not for sex but to be worshipped. She does give him sex, that’s one of the ways she binds him to her, but for her pleasure is about what his surrender brings.
She will separate him from others in his life: his wife, other lovers, friends. She will do it subtly, making him think it was his choice. She will convince him they don’t understand him, that they are demanding and take from him, all the while draining away his essence for herself. Her insinuations will wind themselves inside his mind until he relies on her to be his guide through life’s maze, even though he thinks he is in control.
It’s no surprise Circe lived on her own island. She needs to distance her lover from anyone else who could influence him, make him see through her manipulations.
As monstrous as she is, you can feel sorry for her, the only worth she sees in herself is her vanishing beauty and power. There have been historical times when you could even admire her, times when women had no value outside of their looks and desirability. She would be a striking figure in a medieval castle or the Court of Versailles, and her influence may even have wrought some good.
But in an age where woman can stand on their own, earn on their own, support themselves on their own, she is a dangerous creature. She feels no sisterhood, women are only competition to her.
They are so different these two, the Enchantress (who is not innocent but never means harms) and this other one, let’s call her the Grae Woman. And what happens when they come into contact?
The Grae Woman rarely has female friends, and if she does she exists in a state of subtle warfare with them. The Enchantress and Grae Woman seldom cross paths, but sometimes the latter feels her power over her lover slipping. He may have met the Enchantress by chance, as happens in fairy stories, and been drawn to her, simply enjoying being around her, sharing her adventures.
The Grae Woman will indulge this for a while, understanding it is important for him to renew his passion for life so he can then give her the vitality she needs. But she will make sure the Enchantress never gets too close, binding him to her once again with invisible chains, “She wants too much from you,” she will whisper to him.
The Enchantress knows something is not right and may even be tempted to save him, but soon realises it is more important to protect herself. She walks away, living her own life.
It all sounds so grim doesn’t it, and not how fairy tales should be, the good withdrawing from the battle. But as I said it is possible to pity the Grae Woman, and her lack of a life filled with joy and genuine affection.
So as Halloween knocks at my door, that’s where I’ll leave her, the Grae Woman, no doubt baking All Soul Cakes. She may need to watch out, witches and ovens have a long history after all.
But for us, it’s much more fun to be with the Enchantress, to go dancing through the streets as the worlds open up before us, and be filled with wonder and joy.