Wien: The coven

by Elise Wien | 2/8/17 2:05am

In religion classes we learn that calling something magic is a way to delegitimize it. If what’s happening here is religion (holy, legitimate), what’s happening there is magic (profane, illegitimate).

Kayuri brings a statuette of an owl into our room. Its eyes are yellow beads.

Corinne: “Get that thing out of here. Owls are shape shifters.”

I return home later that day to find the owl outside of our room.

I text my roommates: “Mirror piece is magic this wk / help w ideas pls / owl shapeshifter?”

Corinne: “That’s not magic. It’s bad medicine.”

Today is the Super Bowl, and Kayuri is wearing: a mesh Atlanta Falcons shirt, a camouflage Falcons hat, a pair of Falcons knee-high socks and a red boa. She spends her morning in the library.

Kayuri: “I would fight someone here in New England territory. No one’s said anything to me but I can tell, by the way some of them are looking … I’d fight them.”

Before every test, as in every single test, assessment, or interview since high school Advanced Placement exams, Kayuri has listened to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and “One Thing.”

Kayuri: “Sometimes I forget to bring my headphones so I have to make my phone quiet and put it up to my ear.”

It’s now Tuesday night, as in two days later, as in the night before this article gets published. The owl is still outside our room; the Falcons lost the Super Bowl; you, presumably a conscious entity, understand: it is bleak. Magic seems a far-off prospect.

I remember the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (WITCH), a group I learned about my freshman winter. They were a late-1960s socialist group within the women’s liberation movement, and they held theatrical protests including gathering on Wall Street to put a public hex on the financial district.

They had their faults, of course, including tactics that seemed to shame women in what seems like an unproductive manner. One such action, as described by Cynthia Eller in her book “Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America”: “At Max’s Kansas City (an ‘in’ restaurant with the Would-Be-Beautiful People), the Coven distributed garlic cloves and cards reading: We Are Witch We Are Women We Are Liberation We Are We, chanted ‘Nine Million Women, Burned As Witches’ (historical fact), and questioned women customers about selling themselves like pieces of meat for the price of a dinner.” Here, they practice what gender studies scholar Alice Echols calls a, “we’re liberated, and you’re not,” type of contempt. I also question whether race, queerness and (dis)ability were centered in their actions — I can’t find any demonstrations that seem to suggest so. One also has to imagine the immense privilege that one has in order to name her group a “Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell.” I vacillate here because I know this excludes some women who would be endangered by such a label, and at the same time I can feel the power of the name, taken ironically or otherwise.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my roommates and I are witches.

We cast spells on the financial aid office, which is why, though Corinne’s still here, she texts us, “the school has threatened to kick me out 4 times.”

We cannot find the spell that will keep her from getting a hold fee on beginning of term check-in because her tuition hasn’t come through yet. Because the logical thing to do for someone who is short on cash is to charge her a $50 late fee as she is in the process of getting that cash to school. If anyone has tips on how to make that potion (and/or has access to a human tooth), hmu.

We have in our possession a piece of President Hanlon’s hair for future use, and we are the reason it snowed today (you’re welcome).

Kayuri’s ability to function given the amount of sleep she gets, plus the fact that she got us a room together sophomore fall after we received our housing assignments in different areas (some sorcery involving the Living Learning Communities): all signs point to witch.

You know all those “blood drives” in the Hop, hosted by the “American Red Cross”? That’s just us.

The power of the coven increases when you live together, and the best witches come in threes: Macbeth’s Weird Sisters, the women of Hocus Pocus, some third example that I can’t think of right now.

Sometimes a term will go by here and we’ll look back at it thinking, “How did I get through that?” Friendship, support, grit and something mystical, maybe, we can’t quite catch.

As for the fights we have not yet won, it’s not that the magic doesn’t exist; it’s just that we haven’t quite figured out the spells yet (or so we hope).