Review of “Season of the Witch” (1973) or “Hungry Wives”
by Sophia diGregorio
(I am a huge fan of this movie and this is my second review and analysis of it at this blog. The first one is entitled, “Traditional Witch’s Review of the 1973 George Romero Movie, “Season of the Witch,” aka. “Hungry Wives” and “Jack’s Wife, and the third one involves an analysis regarding Green Man symbolism, entitled “Green Man Nature Spirit Symbolism in George Romero’s Movie “’Season of the Witch or Jack’s Wife’”, which follows this post chronologically.)
About Season of the Witch or Hungry Wives
“Season of the Witch” was originally filmed and directed by George A. Romero in 1972, but not released to theaters until 1973 as “Hungry Wives.” The original title was “Jack’s Wife,” which really describes the main character, Joan Mitchell (played by Jan White), who, as a suburban, middle-class housewife has no real identity of her own.
Although, the director has expressed regrets about this film, which was one of his earliest efforts, it is truly an amazing work of art and one I just can’t stop watching. It is outstanding for its script and its actors, but possibly the first amazing thing about the movie is the opening dream sequence, which makes wonderful use of symbolism to tell us almost everything about the main character in just a few minutes.
Although, Romero denies any personal belief in “the devil,” it is evident that someone was familiar with the work of Paul Huson and his book, “Mastering Witchcraft,” which is quoted throughout the film. Rituals are taken verbatim from the book, in fact, the exact symbol of the Goetic demon Vassago from Huson’s book is used in the conjuration rite, along with other spells for new witches.
Season of the Witch seems to tell two stories depending upon the viewer’s perspective. Based on the deeply divided reviews of this film, it seems that those unfamiliar with witchcraft see a completely different movie than those familiar with the subject.
Other viewers are confused about the kind of witchcraft that is portrayed in the film, which is not Wicca. Wicca, although not entirely unknown in the U.S. at the time this film was made, was not very popular. It was certainly not popular with the author Paul Huson, who was originally from England and familiar with British Traditional Wicca. Wicca, mainly in the form of Neo-wicca, would not become popular in the U.S. for another 20 to 25 years.
This movie is, at least, as relevant now as it was back in the early 1970s when the Women’s Movement was first getting underway. It may be even more relevant now as women’s basic human rights in the U.S. are more threatened than ever by extremist Christian organizations and the increasing violence of the secular patriarchy.
The Representation of Witchcraft in This Movie
Some reviewers have complained that there is too little about witchcraft in this film because we only see a couple of ritual scenes at the end. But, the theme of witchcraft runs throughout this film from beginning to end, if you know what you’re looking at. This film is not an in-your-face kind of horror film and it is sure to disappoint people who are looking for something sensationalistic. What it is is a remarkably realistic movie about real witchcraft.
From the beginning, we see that Joan has the power to dream things that later happen in one way or another. For instance, her dream of being locked up at the dog pound by her husband is realized that night at the cocktail party. They do a Mad Lib reading wherein,”Jack Mitchell works at the dog pound.” Joan’s psychiatrist, who locked her into the kennel in her dream, is present at the party, too. And, while these things are subtle, they are the kinds of things that happen to people when their psychic abilities begin to open up.
At the cocktail party, Joan’s best friend Shirley mentions a friend of theirs who is involved in witchcraft. The following night, the two of them visit this lady and Shirley has a tarot reading. Joan expresses both an interest in and fear of witchcraft. The tarot reader gives a very accurate reading, acknowledging to Shirley that her husband has been having an affair and describing the woman involved. This is something Shirley already knew about, but had not told anyone else.
After the tarot reading Joan and Shirley return to Joan’s house where her daughter Nikki and her boyfriend, Greg get into a discussion about the power of the mind. Joan has never met Greg before, but she’s had a dream about him, in which his sexual services were offered to her. During the discussion Greg expresses his doubts about the reality of witchcraft and says its effects can all be explained psychologically.
Joan’s dreams continue to carry a great deal of meaning, especially to the viewer, because they tell a lot about her life and her state of mind, however, they become increasingly frightening and violent. Some of the nightmares feature an intruder wearing a Green Man mask. Interestingly, this mask has been interpreted as a “devil mask” by some viewers. But, the Green Man is Puck or Robin Goodfellow, a familiar motif in pagan literature and lore as a spirit of the forests and nature, also, at times associated with lust and licentiousness.
Read more about Green Man Symbolism in Season of the Witch at the hub: “Green Man Nature Spirit Symbolism in George Romero’s Season of the Witch or Jack’s Wife.”
From time to time throughout the film, when something significant to the plot happens, we see a shot of of an interesting bull figurine, which represents the pre-christian era. It is a representation of the Sacred Bull of Mesopotamia and has been used to represent pagan gods and goddesses, such as Moloch of Canaan and Hathor of Egypt.
After Joan comes home early and overhears her daughter having sex with her boyfriend, the girl runs away. Her husband is angry at Joan’s response to the situation and hits her across the face. As Joan’s oppression becomes more profound, her interest in witchcraft deepens and she continues to read more about it.
With the song, “Season of the Witch,” by Donovan playing in the background Joan shops for all the ritual items and things she needs to set up her altar, paying for it all with MasterCard!
When her husband returns from his most recent business trip, Joan has to pretend that she’s still Catholic. But, we see that her witch powers have grown because as her husband speaks angrily on the phone with a colleague during dinner, a pitcher on the table rocks back and forth.
Joan Performs a Conjuration from Paul Huson’s “Mastering Witchcraft”
Joan does a ritual, as recommended in Paul Huson’s “Mastering Witchcraft,” to renounce Christianity. We see her opening up a page of the bible and writing the Our Father prayer backwards. Afterward, she attempts to bring her daughter’s boyfriend Greg to her by means of witchcraft. When this fails or, at least, doesn’t work quickly enough, she calls him on the phone.
To many viewers this appears as just a little extra-marital sex justified by dabbling in witchcraft, but it is far more than that. We know from Joan’s own words that she is very sexually repressed. This programming is related to her relationship to the conventional morality of the patriarchy and the Catholic church. Reversing this kind of repression is not a simple matter, but anyone who has done it will recognize the procedure in the film. After doing the ritual to renounce her Christianity, she embraces witchcraft by having sex with Greg and breaking down the psychological and emotional barriers she has attached to sex.
In other words, this is not sex simply for the sake of sex. At least, it isn’t to Joan. She is using him for her own purpose. Although, Greg (and a lot of viewers) believe this is just a “cop out.” It isn’t. It is a method of deprogramming one’s self that is used by many women who escape a misogynistic mind control cult.
Joan tries to conjure a spirit with the help of Greg. The sigil of the Goetic demon Vassago will be immediately recognized by anyone who is familiar with it. Although, the spirit is renamed “Virago.” The word “virago” means a strong, brave or war-like, Amazon woman, which seems to indicate that this entity represents her own power.
The conjuration is a success. We know this because we see a cat (the form taken by familiar spirits) entering through a basement window and crawling up the stairs. When Joan leaves the room and comes back, she sees a strange cat standing in the middle of the circle and she screams.
In the final scenes, Joan’s nightmares seem to come true in a very real and violent way. These scenes are woven in between scenes of Joan being initiated into the coven.
At the end of the film, Joan is sitting among her friends at a cocktail party, again. But, this time she looks very regal and powerful. Someone comments about how good she looks an her last words are, “I’m a witch.” According to Romero, during the filming of the scene as she said these words, the ceiling cracked above her head. He called this one of many coincidences that occurred during the filming.
The Theme of Misogyny
Throughout the film, we see hints of the varying types and degrees of repression the women suffer from. Joan has a daughter, thus fulfilling what woman’s purpose was thought to be by some people at this time. In fact, there are still people who think this way. She finds her role as Jack’s wife unfulfilling and lonely and she feels more like the family dog than a real human being.
At the beginning, we see a woman at the party being assaulted and degraded. While this man should have been prosecuted or, at least, chastised for what he did, it is just brushed off. Anyone who has been in this situation knows that all of the blame always falls on the victim or she is told that it’s no big deal and just something she knows she has to put up with.
The sexualized sense of ownership that Jack has of his daughter Nikki is disturbing, although it is subtle. It, too, is the sort of thing that many people might write off as just the words and actions of a concerned, loving father. But, it is in fact a form of sex abuse and we can imagine that it is something he has made a habit of. In the patriarchy, wives and children, especially daughters, are property. As Jack tells us when he hits Joan, they are to be brutalized into conformity, if necessary.
Some of the last lines of the film are from misogynistic police who say that “she’ll get away” with what’s she’s done to her husband. “Women always get everything in the end,” one of them says bitterly.
This film depicts something that was really happening in the 1970s and is still happening today, which is the fusion of the original Women’s Movement with witchcraft. This is why “Season of the Witch” is mentioned in “What’s Next After Wicca? Non-Wiccan Occult Practices and Traditional Witchcraft,” in reference to the growing interest in this subject of witchcraft as a social under-current in the 1960s and ’70s in the U.S.
I can’t recommend “Season of the Witch” strongly enough to anyone interested in the portrayal of witchcraft in movies or witchcraft, in general. This film has been called “feminist” by some and maybe it is, given the era it portrays and the way in which this is done. But, more than this, it is a film about the lives of women and about witchcraft. It depicts both realistically. It has as much value as a lot of great literature that gives us historical insights into the lives of people. Although, it is hard to imagine a film more relevant to many women’s lives.
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“What’s Next After Wicca? Non-Wiccan and Traditional Witchcraft“ was written to show the true history of Wicca in Britain and the development of neo-Wicca in the U.S. It tells the benefits and the drawbacks of what has become the most popular, accessible and socially acceptable form of witchcraft. Wicca is the most popular aspect of the occult today, but it is certainly not all there is. This book encourages readers who want more to continue their exploration of witchcraft and their study of its origins.
It was written by a metaphysical bookstore owner who often heard the question, “What else is there?” Find “What’s Next After Wicca? Non-Wiccan and Traditional Witchcraft“ by Sophia diGregorio at Amazon, Barnes & Noble.
Other books by Sophia diGregorio
This entry was posted on August 17, 2013 at 6:51 pm and is filed under Black Magic, Clairvoyance, neo-paganism, occult, spell books, spell casting, tarot, Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca with tags Black Magic, British Traditional Wicca, Catholic Church, film review, george romero, green man, green man motif, green man symbolism, hungry wives, initiatory witchcraft, jacks wife, Joan Mitchell, Mastering Witchcraft, movie review, non-wiccan, not wicca, occult, occult films, Paul Huson, review, season of the witch, traditional witchcraft, Traditional Witchcraft with tags demonology, vassago, virago, whats next after wicca, wicca. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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