I’m five years old and I watch Hocus Pocus for the first time, Disney’s Halloween special, born in the same year as me, 1993. Like all the other kids, I laughed at the Sanderson Sisters’ demise, understanding even then that they died because Winnie didn’t like being called ‘ugly’-- isn’t vanity a woman’s flaw?
“We are witches, we are evil,” Winnie tells her sisters. I’m five, and I don’t know what she means. I don’t the witch is evil because we made her that way, cast her in the likeness of those we feared most so she couldn’t fly. I don’t know the smell of burning flesh and piercing screams ingrained in the spines of those who dared to speak up, be promiscuous, or be different.
Witches, oh bitches, you do deserve to burn.
I’m ten years old and I watch Hocus Pocus. This time, I think, it looks like fun. Like fun is watching these women adapt in the face of adversity, acting in a single-minded shrewdness, and being confident, sexy, and intelligent. Understanding, even then, that these women were uniquely talented.
Witches, oh bitches, I want to be like you.
I’m fifteen years old and I watch Hocus Pocus and I know why the virgin was a boy. I know why Allison refuses to light the candle, why Dani can handle the pressure when Max can’t. Opposed heroes and antiheroes, all equal in wit and skill. These women all impressive, each of them a witch in their own way. Understanding, even then, what is means to be a witch.
Witches, oh bitches, I finally recognize you.
A witch is the woman who strives for self-sovereignty, who is persecuted in attempts to be herself. A witch is the woman who stands up for her rights, who is told she should back down. A witch is a woman who knows how to be sexual, how to speak, and how to carry the burden of life inside of her. A witch is just a woman; a witch is me.
Every single day we learn to make magic out of air that does fill our lungs, water that doesn’t bring peace to parched throats, and scraps that barely fill the bottoms of our bellies. Our magic is persistence, built on foundations of memorized hardships and shared experience. Our magic is potent and volatile, daily changing the world around us.
Oh witches, oh bitches, thank you for what you have taught me.
Keshia Mcclantoc is originally from Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Her work has appeared in The Tower and The Mantle. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In her free time, she writes, starts queer feminist discussions, and has conversations with her cat.