The Secret Circle is already a phenomenon in the states and is set to take the UK by storm. Like all supernatural dramas it attracts teenagers. A new series on TV always has a lot of media publicity and there was certainly a gap in the market for a thrilling tale about a circle six teenagers are born into; a book of shadows each of them finds reveals their true identity as powerful witches. Only nine episodes have been aired as yet in the UK, and already the series has touched upon topics involving demons, dark magick, witch hunters, spells, curses and sigils. Obviously the main characters are hormone fuelled teenagers, whose lives consist of dramas surrounding sex and difficult relationships; death and destruction; secrets and lies. It echoes influences from and including Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, supernatural, Harry Potter, LOTR and The craft, which is actually mentioned by one of the characters: Faye Chamberlain, whose personality is similar to that of Nancy. Whether it was the direction or the books it was based on, the main influences were of course history itself.
Although The Secret Circle is fiction, the writers have used factual and historical references. They use symbols taken from The Key of Solomon, use by the correct hour and moon phase, utter spells in Latin and explain that quartz crystals magnify power. Over the episodes the characters speak of experimenting with herbs, energy work and using tools like wands. One of the characters: Dawn Chamberlain, makes reference to the circle reading “Aleister Crowley’s 777” and “Holdons spellcraft”, as they are apparently “the basics” for the foundations of magick, along with their personal book of shadows, handed down to them through the generations, a legacy which go back to 1696. The writers focus on psychological play, flouting the boundaries of real magick, manipulating its workings for dramatization, and use dark magick like demonic possession for a horror element with graphic visualization. There is no sympathetic or lesser magick shown being performed, and simple chants used have an immediate effect. Any experienced Pagan and witch will know that a majority of the time, the spell spoken will not have an instant or physical reaction in the way it is portrayed on the TV; a potion drunk or a poultice used for medicinal reasons having a quick affect on the body is more believable. But waiting for a spell to work for days or weeks does not make good television.
The characters are able to affect the elements for good or bad by their will, they use spells, potions sigils, chants and crystals to heal, hurt and control; doors are opened and curtains closed with a telekinetic type power. This yet again demonstrates intent is what makes for a charmed life or a cursed one. Its magick seen through a child’s eyes: a demand and then a reaction or change. However some see potential for these and similar acts to be realised; these sorts of things are possible, but perhaps on a smaller scale and in a different context. The changes a true spell works to effect are manifested in a more complex way, conversely to the way depicted. Whatever someone thinks about supernatural television dramas, it begs the question: Aren’t some young people watching these programmes and becoming confused by the deceptive content, and the distorted views on witchcraft? The characters in The Secret Circle do although appear to suffer the consequences of their actions when using magick without respect, experience and good judgement. It is sad to say that many Pagans who have not been taught well also fall into the trap of experimentation, without the possession of such qualities.
The latest threat the circle has to face is an ancient religious society of witch hunters. They have come to expose and kill the teens in the circle. Witch hunters once ruled over witches and Pagans; the King James Bible included the famous translation “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. This bible and another book called the “Malleus Maleficarum” or “Hammer of the Witches” was supposedly used by the inquisitors to detect and condemn witches. It may be interesting for the Pagan community to see what light witchcraft is shown in as it often sparks controversy, and incites unfair rumours among people whom do not desire the Pagan culture and witchcraft. The similarities between The Secret Circle, New Age Paganism, or traditional witchcraft may at first appear as there are many, but are really few and far between. The series does however high light some interesting questions, some which are lines from the programme itself, some which are often discussed within real Pagan circles, and others which may be relevant questions to ask in reaction to the programme, such as: Does fate exist and if so, can it be changed? What good is magick if you can’t save the ones you love? Do witch hunters still exist? Is there a place for witchcraft in today’s society?
Magick circles are designed to protect witches although according to one episode a circle of sulphur and iron will prevent a witch from using her/his powers. There are real accounts of torturing Pagans and supposed witches with burning iron and sulphur. In the episode titled “Masked” Jake Armstrong says that “all you need is mandrake root and some blood, and a personal item which has absorbed some of the witch’s energy.”Apparently this goes in a witch’s bottle, which is spelled and a match dropped in; this then kills the witch. This idea was based on a real devise, many are found in archaeological digs or when houses are demolished, although its function and the evidence of it working are debatable. On another episode a character, an elder: Jane Blake tells the teens the only ways to kill a demon is to either burn it or drown it. A bit of research will show that people believe there are many ways to kill a demon.
The mechanics of the universe are not easily discussed, and the study of dark magick and demonology may be perceived as a dangerous subject by most. There are flickers of true magick hidden behind the drama and exaggerated powers. Some characters present negative attitudes towards dark magick, and statements that great power attracts darkness are repeated. As the series carry’s on it will be interesting to see if this divide between dark and light will become more pronounced. The teens will undoubtedly carry on running from danger, and Cassie Blake the main female and main protagonist will surely be kidnapped again. Apart from them being witches they are all confused, angry and damaged adolescents. Hopefully the real adolescents and future Pagans who watch the series will want to understand witchcraft better, and know to not follow in the footsteps of Cassie, Adam, Faye, Diana, Melissa, and Jake.