Magic in Popular Culture
It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, so for my new readers let me explain that MIPC stands for Magic in Popular Culture; and it is the name of a series of blog posts in which I take a spell, ritual, or belief from a fictional source and analyze it against real world magical theory and practice.
The Witches of Eastwick
Today, I will be discussing the Banishing Spell as seen in the 1987 film Witches of Eastwick which is based on the book of the same name. The story revolves around three bored housewives who also happen to be witches, who out of their own need for love, affection, and companionship summon a lover over cocktails one night. The following day a mysterious man, Daryl Van Horn, appears in town having bought up a local landmark and proceeds to seduce the witches one by one without the others knowledge.
Once they get over their initial jealousy of one another, the witches settle into their four-way relationship with Daryl. Under his influence the witches allow their appetite for sex and power to get out of control, which they quickly regret when one of their spells results in the death of an enemy. When the witches try to break ties with Daryl he turns on them bringing their worst fears to life. It is then that the witches use all the tricks he has taught them to attempt to banish, or send him away.
The spell begins as the women gather Daryl's personal concerns together and reduce them to ashes with a fire kindled in a copper pot. The ashes are incorporated into a wax doll made in Daryl's image. Though it is not explicitly stated in the movie, the witches aren't even sure that Daryl is his real name so it appears that instead of naming the doll they repeat the words they used to summon him in the first place.
The doll is then stuck with several pins causing Daryl a great deal of physical pain. Next, the doll is covered with feathers from a down pillow and the three witches blow on the feathers resulting in a violent wind that hurls Daryl into a church. The witches then consume cherries and spit the pits out on the doll and again this results in Daryl violently regurgitating the cherry pits and juice on the parishioners, who presumably, thought him possessed. Finally, Daryl appears to confront the witches who toss the doll into a fire and is destroyed after which Daryl disappears in a puff of smoke.
When I first sat down to analyze this spell, I thought that some elements to it were quiet good and in line with real world theory and practice, such as incorporating Daryl's concerns into a doll; other aspects seemed sloppy and unnecessary. For instance, if the goal of these witches is to simply send Daryl away what was the point of the pins and cherries? Why not simply burn the doll up and get rid of him?
The answer is rather simple. As we discover Daryl isn't just a mere man but rather the Devil himself (or at least a powerful spirit claiming to be the devil) in human form. The witches inflicted physical pain and suffering on Daryl in order to weaken him, the wind forced Daryl into a Holy place, thus possibly weakening him even more. These acts of violence served to break Daryl down to a point that they could ultimately destroy his human form by melting the waxen image in fire. However his destruction is not complete and he still exists as a spirit, as we saw at the close of the film when he visits his children through the television screen.
I would say that with a few tweaks here and there, this spell absolutely has the potential to work as intended when performed by a competent magical practitioner. For example, one might melt the doll slowly over 7 days as the moon wanes. Your mileage, however, may vary.
- Review: Witches of Eastwick (Book)
- Buy Witches of Eastwick (Book)
- Buy Witches of Eastwick (Film)
- Review: Widows of Eastwick (Book)
- Buy Widows of Eastwick (Book)