Witch Pop – Samantha Stevens

It was a point of  pride for me as an awkward young Ankh that I shared a birthday with Elizabeth Montgomery.  She was someone who I saw every day after school, ageless in syndication,  lovely,  magical, always in trouble (what child doesn’t relate to that?) yet always able to “charm” herself out of sticky situations and back into dorky Darren’s arms.  My nose would never be pert and I possessed no powers,  but I saw Samantha Stevens as the maybe-someday-me… because underneath the perfect housewife/good-girl veneer she was fundamentally different, and that difference was both her pride and shame.   I was different too, but maybe… maybe that was alright. Maybe being different made me special, instead of wrong.

*****

I spent a lot of time in Salem Massachusetts this October – some of it business, all of it pleasure. Salem is like nowhere else. Every autumn the city remembers its brutal history, then atones by embracing the people it once persecuted. Magic in all its forms is celebrated, with parades, balls, ceremonies, and freedom of expression that belies the Puritan feel of the brick and cobblestone streets. There are probably more occult dedicated shops, museums  and venues (open year-round, I might add) here than anywhere else in the world. There is some serious magic afoot, and a great deal of campy fun. Case in point: across the street from HEX – a hard-core old-world witchcraft store, sits a bronze statue of  Elizabeth Montgomery seated on a broomstick and flying through a crescent moon.  The contrast is surprisingly charming and true to the nature of this historic city.

One of the pleasures I had on a recent visit to Salem was lunch with author Judika Illes.  She is as delightful, erudite, and funny in person as she is on the page. Part of the charm of her Weiser Field Guide to Witches is that, like the city of Salem, it is a serious investigation into witchcraft through history that doesn’t ignore the witch’s role in popular culture. There’s real affection for the many dark mistresses of film, books and television, and that is as it should be. How many of us found resonance and inspiration in the characters and story lines of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Bewitched? Most, I’d wager.

And so, with Judika’s enthusiastic consent, I took this picture after lunch.

Here’s a brief history of Samantha Stevens from The Weiser Field Guide to Witches:

As portrayed by Elizabeth Montgomery, Samantha is the star of the hit television series Bewitched. Samantha is a beautiful, blonde hereditary witch in possession of superpowers – she can accomplish virtually anything merely by wiggling her nose.

Bewitched was a revolutionary program. For the first time, a witch was totally and unambiguously a heroine. She is an extremely sympathetic character – intelligent, kind,  sensible, and sensitive. Samantha attempts to juggle the conflicting demands of her beloved husband, Darren, who would like his wife to behave like a regular mortal, and her own family, especially her mother Endora, who find Darren’s desires insulting.

Bewitched aired on ABC from September 17th, 1964 until July 1, 1972, and then continued to air in syndication. The show was phenomenally popular, holding the record for highest-rated half-hour weekly series ever to air from its debut until 1977. For many viewers,  Bewitched was the first program to introduce the concept that a witch might be sympathetic. A bronze statue of Samantha was erected in downtown Salem in 2005.

Because sometimes, different is special, not wrong.

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7 thoughts on “Witch Pop – Samantha Stevens

  1. I also grew up watching Samantha. Mostly in the summer when I was stuck home watching my brother, what an escape it provided. But it always bothered me the way Darren held her back. I always wished better for her, but now that I’m married and have children I get it more than I ever did as a teenager. You have to compromise and sometimes that other person will bug the living hell out of you, but just wait and they’ll make you fall in love with them all over again.

  2. I grew up loving this show (albeit in rerun format). Samantha was a wonderful character with such a warmth about her. Darren, well, my favorite moments with him were when he realized how special his wife was, and that her magic was not really a curse, but part of her nature. Those moments were rare, but potent.

    Of course, who didn’t love Endora? She was the perfect just-a-little-wicked witch. And the rest of Samantha’s family were riotously funny!

    Thank you for a wonderful post! And cheers on having lunch in Salem with Judika! I can’t help but be a little bit jealous 🙂
    -Cory

  3. For those who are interested in the history of “Bewitched” in Salem, please see my books on my website @ palachi.com. The cast were in Salem in 1970 and the Samantha Stephens statue of course was unveiled 35 years later at Lappin Park, partly in appreciation of what the show had done to Salem’s reputation as the Witch City.

  4. This is one of my favorite shows, along with Charmed. Anything involving good witches resonates in me. I have never been to Boston. I will make a point to get there sometime. Thanks for the post. I enjoyed it!

  5. firefairy

    Thank you for this article. As a hereditary witch (from the south, not from Salem) myself, I and my family have religiously (ha!) avoided Salem…or Massachusetts in general. I’ve met several hereditary witches from Massachusetts, and while none had anything bad to say about living there, there isn’t much good either. There are still a great many hereditary witches that are still in the broom closet. It’s nice to see a little bit of acceptance for witches in general, and not just ‘Wicca’.

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