Released in 1958, this is a delighful romantic comedy starring James Stewart and Kim Novak.

Gillian Holroyd (Novak) is a modern witch. She makes her way in the world selling collectables and antiques in her shop, kept company by her familiar, Pyewacket, a siamese cat. Everything is going well in her life until she meets Shep Henderson (Stewart). They develop a guarded friendship, but that changes when Gillian learns that Shep is engaged to be married to her old college rival, Merle Kittridge (Janice Rule). Determined to have the final say, Gillian casts a spell over Shep to draw her to him and away from Merle. But there was one thing she hadn't expected: falling in love.

With a supporting cast including Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold and Elsa Lanchester and an offbeat story, this is a must see for any fan of Stewart or Novak.

Bell, book, and candle shall not drive me back
When gold and silver becks me to come on.

King John
William Shakespeare

The three titular objects of this node refer to the rites of excommunication and anathema within the Roman Catholic Church. Anathema can only be declared by the Pope while excommunication can be performed by lesser clergy, but the symbolic use of bell, book and candle appears in both instances.

After reading the declaration of excommunication, the officiating cleric will shut the Bible, ring the bell, and extinguish the candle by casting it into the dirt. Shutting the Bible represents excluding the anathemized from the word of God. The ringing of the bell echoes bells rung in mourning for the departed, as the sinner is now "dead" spiritually within the Church. Dousing the candle flame snuffs the light of the doomed's soul. All in all, a rather weighty curse.

Bell, book and candle are often referenced in wicca, New Age and/or other pagan and "occult" traditions because, historically, those found "guilty" of witchcraft were often cast out of Christian society via this rite. The symbolism is weighty enough to have been adopted by other magical (or magickal) systems, although it is rare in these instances that the book used is the Holy Bible.

Actually, as with many bits of "Wiccan lore" about "The Burning Times", this is semi-false. The real rite begins "Ring the bell. Open the book. Light the candle." That the witch would be considered an apostate is correct in that a witch or a warlock is defined as someone who has reneged on Baptism: that is, no Baptism, no witch. Actually, the Bible is used in historic witchcraft rather frequently, in that European historic witchcraft is a synecretic faith, that uses elements of Christian symbolism along with pagan survivals, bits and pieces of Kaballah, and, sometimes, simple invention. What made the opposite belief an urban legend was, of course, the popular film, which drawing from the "Discovery of Witches", also held that witches couldn't fall in love, cry or blush, and would inevitably float in water, as well as giving the name "Pyewackett" to a familiar (Siamese) cat, as opposed to an imp (form not described).

In short, this is on par with the complex exegeses written by people who, having been introduced to formal Astrology by listening to "Hair", try to square the Moon being in the Seventh House (thus indicating an unstable partnership) and Jupiter (the Father God) being aligned with Mars (the War God, and therefore in context shorthand for the Military-Industrial Complex) with Peace, Love, Recycling and Instant Nookie.

That said, I really enjoy the film, if only as a snapshot of the post-War Manhattan delineated in Grove Press's wicked little book, New York Unexpurgated. Back in the days before Stonewall and our present era of acceptance, the whole island was rife with weird little subcultures: walk down the right street, step into a bar or a gift shop, and you'd suddenly go down the rabbit hole. What you'd find there might be anything from a small ethnic minority's cultural center to a whole other world (Warlock Shoppe, anyone?), centered on sex, religion, drugs, music, food, or all of these, combined in any one of myriad ways. "Why yes, this is a Kurdish carpet, woven by Yazidi Satan-worshippers in Nineveh. Care for a glass of tea?" In the world of the film, witches sound rather like old time gay men, in that they can fool around, have friendships and blow off...steam, together, but can't really have long-term relationships or openly marry. Of course, it's better nowadays, but I can't help but think there's something lost...

I kind of wish the film would have ended with Ernie Kovacks, playing a William Seabrook surrogate, finding the company amenable, becoming a witch.

Someone leaves town, someone comes to town...

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