Real Witches on Whether ‘Hocus Pocus’ Causes Offense: ‘Disappointing at Best’

In a newly emerged video mumbo jumbo Actress Kathy Najimy reveals she was concerned the 1993 flick would upset actual witches. As it turns out, some practicing witches say they insult the film, while others simply see it as light-hearted, spooky fun.

Najimy also stars in the just-released sequel, Hocus pocus 2, which delivered a big dose of ’90s nostalgia despite lukewarm reviews. The actress returns as the witch Mary Sanderson, who joins sisters Winifred (Bette Midler) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) on a quest to steal children’s souls in (where else?) Salem, Massachusetts.

The revived clip is from Najimy’s 1993 interview with Katie Couric when she was promoting the release of the first film.

“I understand that you had serious reservations about taking on this role because you didn’t want to offend or stereotype real witches, is that correct?” Kuric asks.

“At the risk of rolling America’s eyes,” Najimy replies, “I just support all groups, whether it’s women’s groups, gay groups, or racial groups, and I know there are groups of witches out there.”

She then explains that she is not a witch and does not know any.

“But when I read the script, I thought this really perpetuates a cliché about an evil, ugly witch, and I know there are groups of really strong women who kind of band together and [are] very spiritual and powerful,” says Najimy. “I didn’t want to be part of perpetuating that myth.”

news week reached out to several witches and witchcraft experts to see what they thought of the film series. Like any other group, magic practitioners are not monoliths.

Kathy Najimy, Hocus Pocus, Witches
Kathy Najimy poses during the “Hocus Pocus 2” premiere in New York City September 27, 2022. The actress is making headlines over a decades-old clip in which she says she hopes the first film doesn’t offend “real witches.”
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

“For the good of all”

Penny Cabot is the daughter of Laurie Cabot, a famous high priestess and official witch of Salem. Penny wrote to news week that while both mumbo jumbo Movies were “imaginative and funny with colorful characters,” she was discouraged that the plot depicted “witches as children eating” and causing harm.

Penny explained that her mother has long resisted such harmful stereotypes, which Hollywood has consistently exhumed. Followers obey the threefold law, she wrote: Everything anyone does comes back to them, three times. The law emphasizes doing no harm and practicing “for the good of all.”

“This is one of our cornerstones in the practice as Cabot witches and in many other traditions as well,” Penny said. “At a time when inclusivity and acceptance are at the forefront in our culture, is [blatantly] Portraying us as harmful is disappointing at best.”

Reality vs. Fiction

Other witches see the films a little differently.

Mat Auryn, bestselling author of Psychic Witch and Master magicstudied with Laurie Cabot, who previously railed against the way witches were portrayed in the 1987s That Witches of Eastwick.

Auryn wrote to news week watching that mumbo jumbo October is a tradition for him, and he pressed play on the sequel as soon as it aired. He thinks the second mumbo jumbo paints witches much fairer than the first. It helps explain that in their youth the Sanderson sisters viewed witchcraft as an outlet for spiritual empowerment.

The author also commended Najimy for her 1993 remarks.

“Watching the Kathy Najimy clip fills my heart with joy. As a 90’s kid, I’ve loved them since I first saw them sister act‘ Auryn wrote. “To see her endorse her genuine concern for the real effects of practicing witches and pagans was very touching and spoke volumes to her heart.”

Another lead writer isn’t upset by the films either.

Sarah Lyons is the former house witch for VICE and the author of How one Study Magic: A Guide to History, Lore, and Building Your Own Practice. she wrote to news week that most witches are adept at distinguishing between real life and fiction.

“There’s the witch of legend and film and the witch of story and reality, and there’s usually a pretty big gap between them,” Lyons said. “I do not get it mumbo jumbo or their sequel attempt to portray actual witches or witchcraft, so personally I’m not offended if they take some liberties with the portrayal.”

“Development of Perceptions”

Tourism business is booming in Salem this year, according to Rachel Christ-Doane, the education director of the Salem Witch Museum. she said news week This part of what the museum does is explaining the “evolving perceptions” surrounding witches.

Witch trials shook Europe even before they took Salem by storm, Christ-Doane said. The word “witch” itself has taken on modern meanings in recent decades, and has gradually shed some of its negative historical connotations.

Christ-Doane thinks mumbo jumbo was a “great, very sweet” film. Much of it was filmed in Salem, and the filmmakers never claimed to tell the real story behind the town’s witch trials.

“I don’t find it offensive in any way,” she said. “It’s just part of popular culture.”

Hocus Pocus 2, Belissa Escobedo
Actress Belissa Escobedo appears at Univision on October 3, 2022 to promote “Hocus Pocus 2” in Doral, Florida.
John Parra/Getty Images

maintenance of stereotypes

Lights, Camera, Witchcraft Author Heather Greene called Najimy’s concerns “predictive for 1993” amid the satanic panic. Greene is a witch who is also an editor, film historian and religious journalist and recently wrote a thoughtful article discussing the mumbo jumbo Guess.

Although each film perpetuated certain stereotypes about witches — such as being ugly, power-hungry, evil, and dangerous — Greene wrote to them news week that there is a “distinct difference” between the two.

The first film borrows heavily from cliche, albeit in a comedic way, Greene said. but Hocus pocus 2 Viewers learn that the Sanderson sisters’ past is steeped in trauma and “puritanical oppression.”

“And ironically, the sisters’ backstory is actually another stereotypical witchcraft tale, but of a very different nature,” Greene wrote.

She added that in the sequel, “Nature seems to be the source of the magic, not Satan.

midwives as witches

Real Witches also praised Najimy’s historical knowledge in the decades-old clip. In it, she explains that some of the women suspected of witchcraft were in fact midwives and healthcare workers. And the idea of ​​witches eating children dates back to that time.

It’s a point where Auryn applauds Najimy for being right. He wrote that the baby-eating trope stems from the fact that many accused witches in Europe “were midwives and helped treat miscarriages, and knew herbal formulas to induce abortions, which quickly made them targets of the church.” .

The franchise may not be perfect in the eyes of some witches. But Penny stressed that there is “room for redemption” in a possible future installment: “You have the perfect opportunity [Hocus Pocus 3] to make their witches vegan.”

news week has reached out to Najimy representatives for comment. Real Witches on Whether ‘Hocus Pocus’ Causes Offense: ‘Disappointing at Best’

Rick Schindler

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