Lyz Mancini
May 03, 2015 6:00 am

Today is the 19th anniversary of the supernatural thriller The Craft. In honor of almost two decades of witchiness, we’re running this essay on the joys and perils of teenage witchcraft.

I was dressed in black lace and cloud print pajama bottoms when I decided to cast a spell. I had arranged three candles so they formed a triangle in front of me on the worn wooden floor of my bedroom I placed a white candle in the middle and lit it with the one lighter my parents hid in the kitchen Lazy Susan behind the brown sugar.

As I blew out the last candle, I thought about the boy with the frosted hair who sat behind me in science. He would love me by tomorrow, so said the book. (Wicca for Teens, for which I owed the library $12.56 cents in overdue fees.)

“Lyz, what the hell are you doing? Are you holding flammable cloth over a ton of candles?” my mom yelled. “Ugh,” I thought. “Now I will never find true love.” I was supposed to collect the rose petals, let them dry for a week in between two sheets of aluminum, then scatter them in a burbling stream. But like, who has time for that? And where can you even find a burbling stream in the dead of winter in Syracuse? I was destined to die alone.

The Craft did it for me, although I don’t think the moral of that movie was to turn teen girls onto witches. It also gave me a crippling fear of bugs, watched from under a blanket in my best friend Brittany’s basement while her stepdad was upstairs snoring in a Lay-Z-Boy recliner. These girls were just so cool, with the ability to alter their eye and hair color in the swish of a wrist, they could seek revenge on Marcia Brady, and they could even make the cutest boy fall in love with them.

My casual fixation led to copious viewings, and then dusty beautiful old books and cool alternative how to from women who worshipped nature and the feminine side of religion. Sure, I appreciated the mystique of the religion. but….it was always, always about love spells. No other religion offers love spells.

I spent Sundays at the local Catholic church. I always thought of it as a nice ritual, what with getting dressed up and staring at the back of a the bowl haircuts in the next pew. But I never felt all that connected to it. My dad would sneak me gum from his tweed jacket pocket, and I just counted the minutes until the donuts served after mass. What appealed to me about witchcraft is, well, it seemed to more concretely offer a solution to a problem that I had at 14: I really wanted a boyfriend. And witchcraft, say what you will about it, has real, clear recipes for How To Get People To Like You Back. Eye of newt seemed a lot more attainable than the affections of a ninth grader.

I wanted to be pushed up against a locker and kissed deeply, and for some scrawny 13-year-old boy with a cracking voice to tell me he loved me. Being social seemed exhausting and hard, and no matter how hard I tried I could not get cleavage to happen. So I turned to good old-fashioned paganism. I bought a bunch of crushed velvet and learned to love the smell of sandalwood. There were so many love spells, and they all came with disclaimers about how messing with someone’s emotions are not to be taken lightly. I didn’t. In middle school, no one takes emotions lightly.

Apparently my mom had been onto my newfound obsession for quite some time, although she didn’t reall care until my religious curiosity threatened to burn the house down. She always wanted me to think for myself, to question things. Our town was small and very Christian, and so when a nosy librarian helped me check out eight books on Pagan rituals on a semi regular basis (likely with a few Judy Blumes and VC Andrews’ in there for good measure), she took it upon herself to call my mom.

Once I was caught burning things in my bedroom at midnight, I had to give up my altar. Candles were banned regardless of their healing powers. I was allowed to explore my beliefs, but not at the price of arson. I still love the musky incense smell of an occult bookstore, and will read your palm after a few glasses of wine. My apartment always smells a little of sage, because you can’t smudge a place of its negative spirits too much. Whoever dates me in October will have to spend some time with Sarah, Nancy, Bonnie, and Rochelle at least once. “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” does work, at least in my head, as long as you use your skinniest friend. I try my hardest every winter to pull off knee-high socks, and if anyone ever suggests a theme party, I pipe up with “90s?? The Craft?? I’ll get my school girl skirt and crosses out of storage. Wait, just kidding, I actually have them right here.”

I wouldn’t say I date my boyfriend because his sister lives in Salem, but it’s definitely a perk. When I pray or ask for strength, the “higher being” I speak to feels like a lady to me. I imagine her in a floppy hat, a bevy of crystals on leather string, and a dramatic cat eye. So I guess Stevie Nicks. People even trust me with candles now.

Every once and a while, I find myself repeating a spell in my head as a mantra of sorts. A boy with a beard and a book on the train, the checkout guy who asks if I have a Duane Reade Rewards Card, the artist covered in paint who suns himself outside a coffee shop I walk by. To the boys I have dated? Who knows…it might not have been your choice.

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