Friday, April 19, 2024

Women in Music Videos: Delta Rae Revels in Feral Feminism (pt. 1)

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Delta Rae’s Resurrection:

In their 2015 song ‘I Will Never Die’, folk-rock band Delta Rae sang, “You can bury my body, but I’ll never die,” and they intend to keep that promise. On July 1st, they announced that they were leaving Big Machine Label Group and “going independent again.” The news came with a Kickstarter link and a multi-tiered goal for their fans, harkening back to the Kickstarter that funded their original album, Carry the Fire, in 2012. They set their goal for $30,000 so they record the first of their two sister albums. Within thirty minutes, they reached their goal. The Kickstarter kept building.

Their announcement also arrived in the midst of a perfect storm within the music industry. In my first two articles on music, I discussed the context of pop-country musician Taylor Swift’s struggle against her ex-label Big Machine Records (BMR), its founder Scott Borchetta, and its new owner Scooter Braun. The original announcement and Swift’s subsequent letter dropped on June 30th, the day before Delta Rae revealed their newfound independence from BMR, which had been in the works since last year. Swift has called out Scott Borchetta for his mistreatment and manipulations. Artists Jimmy Wayne and Robin April Newman have also spoken out about BMR and Borchetta. Delta Rae has stayed mum about the label group, but in an interview with the band, music journalist Emily Yahr wrote that, “[Delta Rae] grew frustrated as their singles fizzled on the radio and they weren’t able to release a full album.” Bandmember Ian Hölljes further explained that, “We were just feeling a little hemmed in by the need to conform to one genre[.]”

Swifties began to promote the Kickstarter in solidarity, and that’s how I learned about Delta Rae’s independence, as a fan of both. On July 3rd, the band then tweeted about ‘The SWIFT’ tier that “represents [their] commitment to shine a light on other independent female artists[.]” The statement encapsulates their progressive views related to artist’s rights and women’s empowerment that dates back to their indie beginnings.

The group consists of siblings Ian, Eric, and Brittany Hölljes; as well as Elizabeth Hopkins, Grant Emerson, and Mike McKee. They named their band after the protagonist from an unpublished story by the Hölljes’s mother; it focuses on “a girl from the south who invokes the Greek gods and calls them back to earth.” Those intertwined themes of women’s empowerment and blending cultures appear throughout the band’s career. They made an indie splash in the country-folk scene back in 2011 with their lead single ‘Bottom of the River’ and its supernaturally-charged music video (mv). Known for their gospel harmonies, evocative lyrics, and high-quality video production, Delta Rae is surging forward with the master recording rights to their upcoming two sister albums. In their Kickstarter video, Eric summarized the two albums as divided between their two main sounds: “The Light is going to be all that gospel-tinged, sunkissed pop music with the big harmonies that we love making, and then The Dark is going to be all that Southern Gothic, soul-swamp like ‘Bottom of the River’,” (t. 1:10-1:23).

For now, though, I want to focus on the two videos that defined the current arc of their career. ‘Bottom of the River’ (BotR) remains one of their most popular singles and videos, and its overall aesthetic has shaped the band’s career. The video follows a woman being led to a witch trial. Last year, they reinvigorated their creative spirit with a new single, ‘Do You Ever Dream?’ (DYED?), about a woman working through an emotionally despondent relationship. Its mv followed the character on a vision quest, building on the themes of naturalism and emotionality in the song. Brittany sings BotR and DYED?, subsequently playing the characters in their related mv’s. Both were directed by Lawrence “Law” Chen, a Chinese-American director known for working with indie acts and for telling diverse stories. (Chen also directed the mv for Delta Rae’s song ‘Scared’, but I will be mostly excluding that video since it has very different themes, visuals, and a different singer.)

I recently examined the concept of ‘feral feminism’, defining it as “a reclamation of the body and the wild, of all things associated with the feminine […] [that] is best embodied by feminine archetypes of the ‘Other’ like the witch[.]” Most of my scholarship about the witch came from Silvia Federici’s 2004 book, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, a Marxist feminist study of the rise of capitalism and its relationship to witch hunts. That book dominates my reading of their first video. In this article, I will focus on the witchy elements of feral feminism in BotR, and in my next piece, I will analyze DYED?.

Overall, these Delta Rae videos embody the tenets of feral feminism because they portray women achieving self-actualization and empowerment in different but related ways, and specifically in ways that with a woman’s journey into becoming an ‘Othered’ archetype. ‘Bottom of the River’ addresses the societal constraints that cage and catalyze the ‘witch’, framing it in terms of the supernatural, the body, and class.

A Song in Summary:

The mv for ‘Bottom of the River’ has always captivated me, its visuals straddling the line between familiar and refreshing, like a folk tale remade. The Hölljes brothers wrote the song, while Alex Wong produced it, and before a performance of BotR, Eric explained that, “[W]e wanted to write sort of an Old Testament, biblical, Gothic story,” (t. 0:53-0:58). They succeeded.

A Christian blog, The Fine Art Diner (TFAD), also analyzed the mv back in 2012, and much of my analysis of BotR will be rooted as a response. (It gets a bit meta, since the song itself is structured as a call-and-response.) Brittany sings the main vocals as well as plays the witch, simultaneously innocent and macabre in her white nightgown, accentuated by her pale blonde hair and fair skin, blood-red lips, and her leather belt and boots. The storyline follows her being dragged from her house and led down a dirt road by a mob, presumably to a witch trial, before she uses her unseen magic to free herself. With everyone around her either dead or unconscious, she sashays into the darkness, followed by two bewitched farmers.

It remains one of my all-time favorite mv’s.

Filmed at the Duke Homestead, a historic site in Delta Rae’s hometown of Durham, North Carolina, the video opens on a full moon burning up the night sky. The camera then cuts to the two farmers (Grant Emerson and Mike McKee) laboring in front of the house, the witch inside combing her hair and humming an unknown tune. Two men and a woman played by the Hölljes brothers and Hopkins then break into her house, grabbing the witch and chaining her wrists, as she struggles and screams. Viewers see the first hint of the supernatural in her reflection. The witch had been seated in front of a dressing mirror, and her reflection watches as the mob swarm the room. As everyone leaves, the now “ghoulish” reflection blows out the lamp, the sudden darkness a transition from a cut screen to the front of the house.

A Split Woman:

TFAD explains the chains’ symbolism and then later considers the witch and the mirror in context of Snow White adaptations, likening her to the Evil Queen:

[T]he “witch” […] is chained, and that not only reveals to us her “criminal tendencies,” but reveals a symbolic fact about her: she’s chained to her sins. […] [Her] divided reflection is just even more sinister because she’s not just bringing herself down into evil, but anyone she can drag down with her. […] [D]id the witch “trap” the mob in coming to get her so she could do them all in and be rid of them? Probably.

Their argument is flawed and inaccurate because the chains are forced onto her by society, more representative of the societal constraints imposed on all women. TFAD also cites her reflection as proof of evilness, but her face becomes “ghoulish” only after facing threat and persecution. While the Evil Queen has often been depicted as a witch and/or having magical powers, the Evil Queen and wicked stepmother archetypes function in contrast to a heroine. TFAD’s connections oversimplifies the mirror as a symbol by just applying it to Snow White. I do not think that reading applies to BotR since Chen uses a similar mirror-reflection bit in DYED? to refer back to the band’s original mv, connecting the two. To briefly touch on DYED?, Brittany’s reflection also briefly watches her, and in that video, her character is experiencing an existential crisis because of a failing romance. Something is going on with this witch psychologically.

Reflections and mirrors often appear within media as sources for epiphanies — physically facing the self to get at the psychological. The witch never looks at herself while she brushes her hair, she blinds herself to who she is. Thus, the distorted reflection stands as a metaphor for cognitive dissonance and dissociation, both of which are reinforced by the conflicting, often low-level trauma that comes from societal messages about womanhood.

Asserting the witch’s guilt, without any evidence of her trapping the mob, ignores the socio-historical, cultural context of witches, reinforcing the victim-blaming that permeated early scholarship on the witch hunts (Federici p. 312-313). It assumes that any “witchy” woman — particularly the woman who lives alone and expresses her sexuality — poses a threat to her community and does so with malice. That a woman’s mere existence, without proof, is poisonous, a temptation. We know nothing about this witch’s history or her relationship to the community. Though the mv’s sparse narrative leaves the details open to be filled in by viewers, we are clearly meant to sympathize with the witch. We follow her journey, see up close her fear and eventual revelatory triumph as she embraces her power.

Indeed, the closest thing we see to her tempting the townsfolk is when she hums to herself. (The audio itself is difficult to hear with all the crickets, making it less likely that the farmers heard her.) It reminded me of Sirens from Greek and Roman mythology. Other storytellers have created witch characters with siren-like powers, such as Sarah Sanderson in Hocus Pocus. Still, this witch hums to herself and never directs her attention to the men outside. They do look up at her house. The men are the farmers that she later disappears with, so this could have been the moment she bewitched them. Or not. The timeline of her magic and her moral alignment remain intentionally ambiguous. Her sexuality and sexual presentation remain in the privacy of her own home as well.

It took me a while and several rewatches before I picked up on the inner narrative and how Brittany’s character self-actualizes into a true witch. The mob drags her from the house, from security without self-understanding, and the witch is forced to reach within herself and accept her ferality in order to save herself. The mv condenses a heroine’s journey into wide swathes of folkloric convention.

When the witch begins to sing the opening chorus, she is fearful, the lyrics both a plea and a self-soothing technique: “Hold my hand/Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down to the bottom of the river/Hold my hand/Ooh, baby, it’s a long way down, a long way down.” In the comments section, accounts will often point out the lyrics’ connection to the infamous witch trials by water, in which women were thrown into a body of water and tested to see if they were buoyant. It’s often invoked as a metaphor for the double standards women face in rape culture because while those who sunk were pulled from the water, proving their innocence, they risked drowning. And historically, there were accidental drownings during these trials.

A John William Waterhouse painting? A band after my own heart.

The lyrics themselves refer more directly to baptisms and holy water, as evident by the first verse: “The Lord’s gonna come for your firstborn son/(His hair’s on fire and his heart is burning)/(So go to the river where the water runs)/Wash him deep where the tides are turning.” (The parenthesized lyrics refer to the parts sung by the other band members.) This verse alludes to stories like Moses and Achilles. In the former, which is Biblical as the songwriters intended, a baby boy is saved from a king’s wrath because his mother places his basket in a river, sending him away. And in Greek mythology, the nymph Thetis plunged her son Achilles into the River Styx to make him invulnerable, though she held him by the heel, and thus that became his weak spot.

So while the lyrics are a warning to the listener, in the video they are an expression of the witch’s own fears. Her reflection uses magic before she does, blowing out the lantern in her house, and her inability to stop the abduction hints at a latent gift, one she’s disconnected from. She’s dissociated from herself, so she probably turned away from her magic or denied its existence. But the witch soon loses her fear and when she does is key to her subtle character growth.

As she sings the pre-chorus, the camera pans away from her, towards the two farmers who have been watching the procession. Their eyes are now black, demonic. They nod at her in a way to suggest their support, and when she reappears on screen, her posturing and emotions change. She walks more aggressively, and she leans into the mad witch stereotype, widening her eyes and thrusting her face toward the viewers. These changes also fit into the second verse, one  filled with darker lyrics that include ravenous wolves and violently pushing the baby into the water, explicitly stating to let him “drown alive.”

When she sees the farmers and their black eyes, she sees proof of her magic. We know that they’re under her spell because they’re the only ones left standing after she frees herself, and they follow her into the woods. It’s possible that she bewitched them without knowing it, her first chorus and pleading for companionship an accidental spell. Her sudden change — her switching into a confident, sexually-empowered figure — reflects a confirmation of her inner worth. For the video’s climax, the witch disappears the chains around her wrist, confronting the mob. She shushes them and presumably conjures the wind that then appears. She faces the camera, her hair magazine-messy in that windblown way. When she turns back around, the mob has vanished save for the band members. She has left her abductors dead/unconscious under a tree, recalling the hanging trees from the Salem witch trials.

On the whole, she was dissociated from her own reflection, so she needed to see herself in another way. And that’s all she needs to embrace her power. Interestingly, the farmers’ eyes are wholly black, recalling the age-old quote about eyes being windows to the soul. The windows are shuttered so she can’t look into them. She stares into the darkness and must find herself in there. And she does.

Duality Through the Body:

In my first piece on feral feminism, I wrote, “[The witch’s] body as self-controlled monster, decorated by certain symbols like the pointed hat and the red lips, demonstrates the mutability of normalcy.” Brittany’s costume was one of the most memorable elements from the video for me, initially (and not only because I too want hybridized outfits that combine soft dresses, leather, and tough boots). The outfit pulls together contradictory pieces to communicate the witch’s potential and place in culture. Her appearance echoes that of another feminine horror figure — the woman in white. Though typically a ghost, the woman in white can be any haunting, fear-conjuring woman in fiction. The witch and woman in white share many similarities since the latter appears in stories that highlight “love, sex, betrayal, murder.” The archetypes are two sides of the same coin, the witch more rooted in the body and in community (or rather how misogyny affects a woman’s connection to both.)

TFAD concurs with these recurring themes as they note that, “[T]he [witch] has blood-red lipstick, a detail drawing us to her mouth, symbolic of the appetites, usually those of the flesh, [reinforcing] the idea of the life of sin.” TFAD then goes on to cite a Whistler painting as a counterexample. In the painting, the woman in white stands on top of an animal rug because, “symbolically […] she has put her animal passions “beneath her,” she has subdued them.” TFAD considers the witch’s belt as an example of her having fallen into sin and moral weakness, yet their counterexample undermines their claim. The leather belt does not overwhelm her appearance; it balances out the pop of red and hardens her dress, making the look more cohesive if you add in the boots. Rather than her image being dominated by one particular piece as evidence of her personhood being dominated, her costume pieces balance one another. (Again, the witch demonstrates no desires besides some personal grooming, since we only see her nicely dressed with make-up in the privacy of her home.) Though the witch begins the mv dissociated from herself, her outfit reveals a budding existential cohesiveness, on the threshold of self-realization.

While considering the outfit’s dual elements, I was reminded of the concept of the grotesque. The soft, white, virginal slip contrasting against the erotically-implied animal leather. Marginalized people often face conflicting messages about themselves and their place within the world, and woman’s inherent Otherness in society engenders this perpetual discomfort with herself. That’s a reason why I think stories by and about the marginalized resonate so much today in genres like horror and psychological thrillers — Jordan Peele’s filmmaking triumphs and the rising popularity of domestic noir. The grotesque, often applied in such genres, offers a vehicle for processing that discomfort. An essayist for Owlcation defines the grotesque as

both an artistic and literary term, and is a bit difficult to describe, as it is less of a solid definition, and more of a range between a number of different qualities. The Grotesque is primarily concerned about the distortion and transgression of boundaries, be they physical boundaries between two objects, psychological boundaries, or anything in between. […] Furthermore, the Grotesque often contains a sort of fusion of human with animal, vegetable, machine, or some other combination.

The witch is grotesque because she is always liminal, always resisting total definition.

As I also discussed in my other piece, capitalism, witches, and the body are deeply intertwined. The rise of capitalism happened alongside European witch hunts, which helped to legitimize the stripping of bodily autonomy from women. Capitalistic philosophies stress a disconnect between mind and body (Federici p. 289). Today, the grotesque and its focus on the body are partially transgressive because of that disconnection from and subsequent commodification of the body. In terms of feral feminism, the grotesque is a different way to understand ferality and the messy complexity of womanhood.

That’s where the leather belt comes so much into play. It encapsulates the witch’s transgressions in the eyes of her community. In their analysis, TFAD mulls over the belt, considering it as a contrast to chastity belts. Instruments associated with controlling women’s sexual behavior more so than protecting them from sexual assault. The leather belt on the other hand has no significant locking mechanism, though remains secure, giving its wearer total autonomy. It’s no chastity belt, more resembling a girdle than anything else. And I’m not talking about the modern girdle used for shapewear, the kind that would invoke the justified wrath of Jameela Jamil. Oh no. I am referring to the historic and mythological girdle as a sword belt, the kind worn by the Amazonian queen Hippolyta.

Wonder Woman #33 – Secrets in the Sand (Aug. 1989) Diana finds the Golden Girdle of Gaea

Though the witch is not a physical warrior, the character and general archetype fall into the same realm as the Amazons. We may praise Amazonian warriors in the current century (case in point: Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman), but that wasn’t always the case. Throughout the late 90s and 2000s, blogger and former grad student Ailia Athena ran a site called ‘Paleothea: Women in Greek Myths’, though she eventually sold it in mid to late 2011. Her site helped to foster my feminist perspective on Greek mythology and understand how stories change depending on whatever culture they’re being filtered through. In regards to the Amazons, she explains that they served as a cautionary tale for ancient Greek women, particularly Athenian women: “As [scholar] Sue Blundell says, “Whatever the reason for this, we can be sure that it had nothing to do with heartwarming messages about the empowerment of women.” […] Amazons exist through Athenian myth, and in those stories, they never, ever win against Greece.”

Ancient Greece considered the ideal woman veiled and silent, whereas the Amazons were everything but. Along this cultural continuum, we’ve had the stereotype of the man-hating, unkempt b*tches that followed each succession of the women’s rights movement. The dangerous women went from throwing spears and stirring up potions to blogging about feminism and owning Internet trolls. (And I mean that in the best way possible.) War never changes.

Hippolyta, daughter of the war god Ares, received from her father a magical girdle. It appears in the story of Hercules (under his Greek name of Heracles), as he needed to obtain the belt for his ninth labor. In most variations of the myth, she fell in love with him and offered her prized possession willingly. But Hera, Goddess of Marriage and Queen of Olympus, despised Hercules and interfered. She disguised herself as an Amazon and spread rumors that Hercules planned to abduct their queen, so the Amazons understandably attacked him. Another version has him fighting Hippolyta for it. In both stories though, Hercules kills Hippolyta and takes the girdle. And in the more prevalent myth, Hera as the preferred domestic woman helps to bring about Hippolyta’s downfall.

Hippolyta gives Hercules her golden girdle (Manchester Museum)

(Dr. Adrienne Mayor, a scholar who’s written about the Amazons, has tweeted ancient pottery art that depicts these contradictory images of a powerful woman destined to fail. Connie Nielsen also read Mayor’s 2014 book about the myths in order to prepare for her role in Wonder Woman, so I have a new book to add to my never-ending reading list.)

Bandmember Elizabeth Hopkins plays a woman from the community, and early in the video she drags the witch down the road. “[Hopkins’s character] signifies women,” TFAD writes, “(and I am glad they did it this way because that’s a more traditional view on femininity).” Though men hold the definitive power in patriarchy, women who abandon innocent sisters for whatever reason act as agents of their own oppression.

Overall, the witch character has the mystery and fear associated with the woman in white as well as the grit and separateness associated with the Amazons, thus embodying elements of the grotesque. She arouses fear and suspicion in her community because she differs herself from them, even if only in private.

Community Hierarchies & Class Tensions:

In 1947, filmmaker Maya Deren summarized the witch as a deviant who survives. She explained the hostility against witches as rooted in fear regarding the fragility of ‘normalcy’: “[B]asic to the myth of witches there is that idea that if you just leave them alone they might not bother you. Which of course is true. It is only when one tries to make them surrender their own order that they put up a fight. It’s a matter of not wanting to get pushed around,” (p. 34). Deren’s observations fit the literary and historic records because as an archetype and stock character, witches live on the fringe of society. Witches often physically isolated themselves in wood-side cottages or mountainside castles. In the real world, witches were often the women healers and the politically-minded, rebellious peasant or Caribbean slave.

The witch exists and agitates at the center of communal tensions — the crack that threatens to swallow everything up. TFAD discusses social hierarchies, describing the Hölljes brothers as representative for acceptable strata: “The members of the mob symbolize the professional/business class (the man in the vest and tie), the other man [in work clothes] symbolizes the working class.” With her “traditional femininity” and feelings of disgust towards the witch, Hopkins’s character functions as a stand-in for women conspirators to misogyny. College step dancers portray the hooded men who form the dancing crowd and who suddenly wear Chinese demon masks when the witch realizes her powers. The masked figures remain ambiguous, possibly demons. I personally interpret them as the faceless masses that make up a community, while the band members play the archetypal figureheads. These masses follow whatever figure holds the most power, hence them easily falling under the witch’s control. They are so ephemeral, they disappear after she frees herself and disposes of the figureheads.

In terms of American culture and witches, BotR contrasts its Southern Gothic setting against a New-England phenomenon, as pointed out by Sing Out!. The clashing cultural signifiers can actually be traced to the class tensions that formed the European and Salem witch trials, which I will discuss in a bit. Sing Out! also points out that the mob and its chained prisoner evoke a chain gang and attribute it “racial coding of the video’s imagery”, though I disagree on that front. We see only a woman in chains, and her physical appearance implies vulnerability with her being in a white slip. (Her abductors learn soon enough their mistake of underestimating her.) American racism and the witch trials are linked in terms of violence and fear-mongering — an insight from Philosophy Tube, who noticed the interconnectivity of witch hunts against women and Klan lynchings of black Americans (t. 15:46-20:29) — but I don’t think the chained imagery applies in this context. The mob’s antagonism of the witch recalls specific class-based, misogynistic violence.

The image of white women in chains alludes to sexual slavery, an intersectional threat to women throughout humanity’s history of war, pillaging, and rape; one that Indigenous and black women suffered on top of slave labor in the colonies. So while race definitely connects to sexual violence in the South, BotR aims at mixed imagery, telling a fuller story about witchcraft, women’s empowerment, and the cultures that would burn it all away. Indeed, women in chains as shorthand for sexual availability is so ubiquitous that Disneyland’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ ride had a bride auction that featured a chain gang of women crying into their handkerchiefs.

In my opinion, the witch’s abduction recalls the epidemic of sexual assault against working-class women in the fourteenth century, which helped to numb the European public to the forthcoming mass torture and murder of women. Federici highlights the public, nocturnal gang rapes in most French cities that consisted of men “breaking into their victim’s homes, or dragging their victims through the streets, without any attempt to hide or disguise themselves,” (p. 88). The misogynistic violence was so pervasive that, “On average, half of the town male youth, at some point, engaged in these assaults.” They were working-class men themselves and by laxing sanctions against sexual assault, governments helped to channel class frustration against the rich towards those at the bottom. It was classic divide-and-conquer at the expense of women.

Though there are no overt sexual elements in ‘BotR’, the witch’s outfit expresses vulnerability and sexuality. The chains and her fear create a visual echo of the past. But we know that this is the witch’s triumphant story because she breaks them.

That being said, BotR’s setting does recall Salem. The Duke Homestead is a white clapboard home with paned windows, more ambiguously Americana and colonial than architectural styles associated with the South, such as plantation homes and dogtrot cabins. With its stained-glass windows and porch latticework, the house implies comfortable living and solid middle class, possibly extending towards upper-middle class. The Duke Homestead is where “the nation’s largest early-20th-century tobacco firm” was founded, so its visual implications line up with its history.

In 1987, historian Carol F. Karlsen wrote The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England, adding much needed feminist scholarship to studies of Salem. A reviewer summarized Karlsen’s research as uncovering intersections of class and misogyny:

Karlsen’s work […] focuses on the position of accused witches as largely females placed in precarious social and economic positions, often because they stood to inherit, had inherited, or lost an inheritance in property. Karlsen […] points to these “inheriting women” as being socially vulnerable in a patriarchal culture.

The witch appears to live alone in that house, with enough means to possibly hire the farmers, who labor in her front yard at the beginning of the video. Rather than this being an attack on an overly sexual woman, this attack reveals a community’s resentment and suspicions towards a prosperous single woman. One who is possibly at the intersections of inheritance. And the attack mirrors real events of working-class men taking their frustrations out on a fellow proletariat. It is easy to dismiss a beggar, to strip her of her power. A woman with means has a better chance of surviving, period, and the resources to craft credibility. Her signifiers of her ‘witchiness’ are also easily removed, making her that much more of a threat to the social order — her grotesqueness just normal enough that any girl could become ‘infected’.

When I first started drafting this idea, I discussed it with a friend, and she pointed out a mistranslation in the Bible: the line “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” from Exodus. European witch hunts peaked in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and that fervor bled into the literature of the time. Thus, when the King James Bible was published in 1611, it came out during a period of intense anti-woman persecution. The word that ‘witch’ replaced originally referred to a poisoner, the implication being that it was a poisoner of wells because who else could easily commit mass murder in an arid climate in Biblical times. My friend learned this while in Catholic school, and we had a difficult time finding official, scholarly sources on the topic, indicating that this fact was common knowledge. It took some digital digging, but I uncovered statements about this mistranslation from trusted sources that include theologian Charles R. Butler Neto and Dr. Robert Blackey, an Emeritus Professor of History (p. 11). While the word did not directly refer to witches, they are associated with poison as all villainous women archetypes are. Poison as metaphor works because the witch’s existence threatens the community by offering a different path. She does not have to curse a neighbor or conjure monsters from Hell. She just needs to present herself and offer her being as an alternative, tempting in that trick-and-treat way. And that is poison to patriarchy.


For their final Kickstarter update in September, Delta Rae wrote, “[W]e woke up to discover that with 5,160 Backers and $451,457 pledged we are the most backed indie band in Kickstarter history.” And I am excited to also tell you that Delta Rae already has plans for more witchy music like a Southern Gothic musical, protest songs, and “mystical music videos.” With that kind of Kickstarter, it all comes down to waiting now.

Images courtesy of Delta Rae, DC Comics, Manchester Museum, and John William Waterhouse

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