“Under Your Spell” Talk Traces Legacy of Witches, Women

Witch enthusiasts waited around the Rose O’Neill Literary House cauldron for “A Tea and Talk” with Dr. Cristina Casado Presa’s “Under Your Spell—The Psychology of Witches,” on Halloween night.

Dr. Casado Presa, associate professor of Spanish, began with a slide which said, “We are the granddaughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn,” from this January’s Women’s  March.

Dr. Cristina Casado Presa stands in front of a slide with a poster from the Women's March. It reads, "We are the daughters of the witches you weren't able to burn." Her talk, held on Oct. 31, highlighted the oppression of women through the use of the witch stereotype.

Dr. Cristina Casado Presa stands in front of a slide with a poster from the Women’s March. It reads, “We are the daughters of the witches you weren’t able to burn.” Her talk, held on Oct. 31, highlighted the oppression of women through the use of the witch stereotype.

The victimization of a witch “can bring in so many sides of [a woman],” she said.

Her main interest in witches, and the purpose of this talk, is buried in European history. Dr. Casado Presa said she was “bewitched” and amused as a child by Maleficent, the villain in “Sleeping Beauty.” She failed to see why so many people hated her and remembers siding with the villain for not receiving an invitation to Aurora’s party.

She shared the story of how witches came to be and their place in this world through folklore, religion, and art mediums. Throughout the talk she stressed the importance in trusting these creatures and understanding them.

The taboo of witches, Dr. Casado Presa said, is prevalent to this day: committing “sex crimes” — providing abortions and contraceptives — against men, being in big organized groups, and healing powers.

While audience members laughed at this, accusing a woman of witchcraft was a well known scapegoat that could have ended in death, she said. Dr. Casado Presa said society has seen witches as mistresses who “consort” with Satan because “assertive women” are out of place in a male-dominated world.

The marginalization of witches, or outspoken women in general, who receive distasteful reactions, does not just happen to women, Dr. Casado Presa said. It is “inherent to anyone who has power,” she said.

“Women don’t burn at the stake, but they’re silenced,” she said. She referenced the recent Harvey Weinstein allegations after Rose McGowan, an actress in the show “Charmed” was banned from Twitter.

Dr. Casado Presa addressed the recent adaptations of “Maleficent” and “Wicked.” The romanticization of these female characters is distasteful, she said, because they’re not portrayed as actual women. Rather, these characters transform into villains when bad people or events affect them, instead of having always been villainous.

Later, Dr. Casado Presa talked about a witch’s most noticeable power today: sisterhood.

“They’re magic and always had the possibility of realizing the impossible,” she said.

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