The W.I.T.C.H. List

August 4, 2022

In a piece called "Why are we all so into witches right now?", LitHub writer Molly Odintz states that witches "represent the spirit of female rebellion, or at the very least unapologetic female weirdness." A Woman In Total Control of Herself, or W.I.T.C.H., by extension, is something to be celebrated. We look at six (the spookiest number) witchy reads by women and non-binary authors in this same spirit.

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The cover of ARMS by Madeline Sonik. The book's title is in blackletter-style gothic script in gold, and an image of a woman rising from a body of water, with tangled, witchy hair and her eyes peacefully closed, arms spread, evokes a magical feeling.

1. The novella-cum-Wiccan healing manual

A classic from the Amazon First Novel award finalist archives, Madeline Sonik's  Arms (Nightwood Editions) is a travelogue of the weird: a woman's quest to retrieve her arms after she loses them in a freak accident. Her journey takes her through a callous and strange-yet-familiar world, and Sonik deftly weaves in elements of Wiccan rituals and alchemy, making this a uniquely useful piece of fiction! In fact, Arms in its original form was Sonik's dissertation for the 13th House Mystery School - a transformational incantation to assist those who read it in the recovery and rebirth of the creative imagination.

 

The cover for Sodom Road Exit. A vintage-style photo of a roller coaster is partially obscured by wisps of pink smoke.

2. The 90s era horror story that queers the genre

A lot of horror stories are set in amusement parks, and quintessential horror franchises fired up in the 1990s (ScreamI Know What You Did Last Summer). The protagonist in Amber Dawn's  Sodom Road Exit (Arsenal Pulp Press) - the down-on-her-luck, school-indebted Starla Mia Martin - is being followed by an inexplicable force since returning home to her home in Crystal Beach, Ontario. The ghosts that come to call on Starla invite desire over fear, making this book a testament to healing and community in the face of generations of trauma.

 

 

 

The cover of The Paradise Engine, which looks like an old art deco theatre decoration, entirely in black and white.

3. The two Vancouverites contending with mysticism, a century apart

In  The Paradise Engine (NeWest Press), author Rebecca Campbell weaves the tale of graduate student Anthea trying to restore a historic theatre in Vancouver, while in that same theatre a hundred years earlier, a tenor named Liam tries to build his struggling music career. Both are confronted with a dangerous form of mysticism - Anthea's best friend is lost to it, and a growing cult of mystics is forming on the coast of Liam's BC - proving that sometimes, the most important kind of witchiness is knowing when magic has gone a little too far.

 

 

 

The cover of Samantha Garner's The Quiet is Loud, designed like a tarot card with an abstract illustration of a woman in the centre. She has a moon for a face and stands above a burning tower set into water, flanked by crows and snakes. An open book is in the background.

4. The Filipinx soothsayer who is forced into the public eye

Combining Filipino and Norse mythologies and tarot card symbology, Samantha Garner's speculative fiction novel  The Quiet is Loud (Invisible Publishing) introduces us to a veker - a figure who can predict the future - named Freya Tanangco. Having spent most of her life in hiding, fearful of the scorn and violence that vekers often face, Freya is forced into the public sphere and accepting her unique mantle when her predictions take a turn for the worse, and the lives of her loved ones are in danger. 

 

 

 

The illustrated cover of The Witching Hours, showcasing a woman's hands at a desk full of witch-like objects - a skull, tarot cards, candles, thread and buttons.

5. The comics anthology saying "heck yes" to witchy folks

The comics anthology  The Witching Hours (Cloudscape Comics), edited by Hannah Lou Myers and featuring 11 stories from women and non-binary creators, is all about embracing the witch within. Tales include Filipino folklore, a historical overview of witch trials in the middle ages, even a recipe for strawberry bread, from contributors A Woodward, Jess Pollard, Kris Sayer, Kathleen Gros, James Brandi, Eden Cooke, Krista Gibbard, Tuna, April dela Noche Milne, Monica Disher and Hannah Myers.

 

 

 

The cover of Yaga, where the title emerges in pink neon out of a dark green hedge.

6. The play saluting a real one from the annals of witch history

From D&D to Castlevania to John Wick, the terrifying figure of Baba Yaga and her house on legs is firmly planted in the modern imagination. In Kat Sandler's play  Yaga (Playwrights Canada Press), Baba Yaga isn't a stereotypical "hut witch" but a sexy, modern woman who just might be turning a small town upside down when a yogurt heir goes missing. Tired of having us only see Yaga through the male lens, Sandler's play takes back Baba Yaga's story into women's hands, and the result is hilarious and triumphant.

 

 

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What witchy read will you take on next? Let us know in the comments, or at @alllitupcanada.


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