Let me first just say that Ariel Gore’s writing is so beautiful that there’s nothing equally as graceful that I can say about it. So I’m gonna keep this light and tell you about the bath I’m taking to go along with the book (oh yeah, I’m writing this from the bath, nice to meet you) but just know that it’s a really beautiful and heart-wrenching story and you should read it. Okay, cool. Let’s do this.

The Bath Book Ritual

Book: We Were Witches
Bath: Salt, 3 cinnamon sticks, a splash of olive oil
Candles: 3 plain white tealights
After Bath: Donated a bunch of clothes to a local womxn’s charity and called my Nana just to say hi

Punk rock witchcraft

We Were Witches is like, the riot grrrl's Book of Shadows. It's the fairytale I always wanted to read when I was a weird little witch kid, you know what I mean? It’s that fairytale, plus it's the early 90's and super queer and DIY as fuck. It plucks all the chords that even Grimm didn't strike (yeah you heard me, that’s some literature talk right there).

Ariel Gore is a queer single mom in the early 90's trying to be a writer while navigating internalized feminine shame and externalized oppression and violence... and also hanging out with the punk feminists and honing her witchcraft. Yeah, I KNOW. Go read it, I'll wait here in my bath.

Magic vs. Magick

One of the things I super love is that the magick in this book is realistic. Um, except for the vignettes about talking deer and stuff, I guess. The spellcasting Ariel does is def realistic, like sprinkling salt in the corners of her house and then flushing it down the toilet to banish bad vibes. That makes me splash around all happy (that and a few ciders) because so much of the witchcraft marketed to us spooky little kids was so obviously bogus (no shade at Willow from Buffy, I will ALWAYS love you). But seriously, books and movies made witches seem entirely made up, like dragons, or reverse-racism. Their witches could shoot sparks from their fingers. That's pretty dope, but I can’t do that. So I thought I couldn’t be a witch. It took a long time to shake that one.

But thank Goddess for Big Sister Ariel; this book retroactively healed a lot of my adolescent wounds. She confirms that magick is real if you work for it. Not like "if you do a money spell the penny in front of you will turn into a million dollar bill plus you'll win the lottery" kind of magic, but maybe you do a money spell and then you'll feel tugged into a cafe you’ve never noticed before where you'll see a flyer for a charity giving away free baby clothes to single moms. And maybe at that charity you'll meet someone who gives you a lead on a job. Magick. So yeah…that was really cool and made it even better when talking deer sorta stuff did pop up.

When I say 'third,' you say 'wave'

ANOTHER very awesome thing about We Were Witches is all the feminism! Yay, feminism! There’s this really cool theme of Ariel learning from the other womxn she encounters, like the lady at the check cashing place who distributes crystals and wisdom from her bra (which is a mood). Readings from Ariel’s college feminism courses and books on witchcraft are peppered throughout the book, which is a very sneaky way to give us some reading recommendations which I LOVE (I’m a Virgo rising, obvi). But wait, we get to read those snippets because Ariel the narrator is READING THEM TO HER INFANT DAUGHTER which is just too good. At one point she crafts a mantra from Audre Lorde’s words: "I become less willing to accept powerlessness" which Is basically the definition of feminist witchcraft and I was really trying not to cry writing this but I’m in the tub so why not?

As the tub drains...

ANYWAYS I could probably write a whole ‘nother book about everything I love about We Were Witches. It’s magick, it’s uplifting, it’s heartbreaking, it’s punk as hell. I’m very grateful to Ariel Gore for sharing her story and thoughts with such strength, and I’m EXTREMELY grateful that she’s still making amazing stuff, which you can find on her website http://arielgore.com/

Since the theme of overcoming shame is so important to this book, shame is what I’m washing down the drain with my bathwater. May it fuck right off.

Buy We Were Witches in our shop or online here and let us know what you think!

Paige Curtin is HausWitch's Shop Manager, bath witch, and blue-haired angel. You can find her at the shop, posting stories at @witchthevote, or baking too many cookies.