I will readily admit that when I started watching American Horror Story I did not know what to expect. Suffice it to say that I was not expecting a series whose premise changes completely from one season to the next. (Shall we discuss my confusion when Season Two had nothing to do with Season One aside from certain members of the cast?) Underneath the twists and turns are themes as old as time itself – infidelity (Season One – Murder House), sanity (Season Two – Asylum) and oppression (Season Three – Coven).
For 13 glorious episodes, I faithfully wore black on Wednesdays. To say that American Horror Story: Coven was the best season to date is not hyperbole. New Orleans, a city renowned for its otherworldly connections, was the ideal setting for a story hinged on witchcraft and voodoo. Guiding a refreshingly diverse cast, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk weave a multi-layered tale of oppression while simultaneously enabling the powerless to overcome their adversities. The empowerment of the “other” – regardless of the reason for otherness – lead to some great television. Whether it was Kathy Bates’ Delphine being buried alive by Angela Bassett’s Marie Laveau or Jessica Lange’s Fiona languishing in her personal hell of monotony and “domestic bliss” with the Axeman, no not-so-good deed goes unpunished.
With Season Four (Freak Show) about to start, I am left wondering what ground there is left to cover and looking back wistfully at our time in the colorful city of New Orleans. So if you find yourself longing for a glimpse into the lives of these glorious women, check out these books. Who knows? Perhaps there is a bit of the craft in all of us…
My favorite character from Coven was Marie Laveau. Each year, thousands of pilgrims visit the celebrated New Orleans tomb where Marie Laveau is said to lie. This tome, while not for the academics among us, paints a vivid picture of a woman who has truly achieved immortality. Voodoo Queen is the first study of the Laveaus, mother and daughter of the same name. So that begs the question – who did we meet last season?
I can remember watching this movie on HBO every October (many moons ago). When I got a bit older, I discovered there was an entire series devoted to Mildred Hubble and her trials at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. I was over the moon, though not on a broom. Forever striving to prove herself, I do believe a see a bit of Coven’s Cordelia in our beloved Mildred.
No discussion about witches is complete without examining the hysteria known as the witch trials. The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasure trove of historical accounts of accused witches from medieval Europe to colonial America. It brings to life stories like that of Eunice Cook who was tried for attacking a girl with a rock and subsequently buried with a stake in her heart. Let us not forget stories of women like Jane Jacobs who was so often accused of witchcraft that she took her accusers to court on charges of slander. The Penguin Book of Witches sheds light on the reality behind the legends.