Spoiler alert: this article contains spoilers for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
You never know what you’re gonna get with a reboot. At least, that’s what I found with Netflix’s latest 90’s revival, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
This is the shadow Satanic version of the 90’s sitcom original - a little more Rosemary’s Baby and a little less canned laughter, and certainly no talking cat which I must admit, as I find myself four episodes in, has been a bit of a hurdle for me. Salem, Sabrina’s familiar and in my opinion – star of the original series – doesn’t talk in the reboot, he just chirrups and hisses. My fond memories of Salem borrowing Sabrina’s computer and impersonating a woman in an online chat room are long gone.
I really feel for Sabrina this time round, though. She has a lot on her plate as a half-witch half-mortal who has grown up in a Satan worshipping coven, alongside her aunts Hilda and Zelda and cousin Ambrose (my new favourite character). He’s a pan-sexual warlock, who has been under house arrest for 75 years.
The series kicks off with Sabrina’s 16th birthday fast approaching. She has to decide if she is going to accept her “dark baptism” and sign her name in the Book of Beasts, binding her to be at the Dark Lord’s mercy, and go to study at the school of dark arts to learn her craft. It’s obviously a huge dilemma however, because this would mean leaving her friends and boyfriend (a reimagined Harvey Kinkle) behind.
When Sabrina points out that the Devil is ill mannered, all I could think was, 'as if he would care'
Don't worry, you’ll be happy to hear that Sabrina doesn’t sign her name in the big bad book and manages to wrangle her way out of doing a deal with the Devil in a very confusing panto style witch trial court case (the coven of Satanic witches who obey the Devil didn't really resonate with me. When Sabrina points out that the Devil is ill-mannered, all I could think was, 'as if he would care!'). She comes out on top at the end of it but something tells me the Dark Master may not be the type of guy who takes no for an answer that easily…
I'll be very honest, as a practising witch I find the whole 'Satanic witch' thing extremely uncomfortable to watch. Modern day witchcraft to me is about good vibes, self-empowerment and girl power. I have been practising for as long as I can remember, my own witchcraft is all about self-care, empowering yourself and spreading cosmic vibes. The stereotypes of witchcraft that we often see in TV and film make me cringe and my defence mechanisms start to go in to overdrive as the clichés of power hungry, evil, hexing, pointy hat wearing, devil worshipping, blood sucking witches roll in - this formula gives witches a bad name.
There are few rituals and talk of magic in the early episodes, but I did see the show align with the girl power I recognise in the way Sabrina feels for her friends – look out for the time she sets up WICCA, the Women’s Intersectional Cultural and Creative Association. It must be said that this is something she did in her mortal life at school, though, and is presented almost separately to the part of her life that hovers closely to the dark side.
There are other similarities with witchcraft in the real world. Sabrina’s dark baptism takes place on a blood moon eclipse, which is probably one of the most powerful moons to perform a spell beneath. I don’t worship the Devil, so struggled to connect with these witches, but I do know how to protect myself from negative energy. With that in mind, I must admit that I was a little shocked to find when Aunt Hilda instructed Sabrina to take a bath in salt and rosemary to clear a curse, and she was absolutely right! They are great for cleansing spells, but if the devil is involved, I would definitely have added some lemon, sage and some clear quartz crystals for good measure.