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Legend of the Witches (1970) & Secret Rites (1971) [DVD + Blu-ray)

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For the majority of film, recreations of rites and rituals are kept tasteful, giving the whole film a sense of educational value.

Although not very long, this film gives a good picture of modern witchcraft and its advancement and resurgence in 1970s Britain. With no connection to Witchcraft, I can only imagine this was added to the set because of the Alex Sanders connection to Notting Hill. After a little insight from Sanders, the film focusses on Penny, a hairstylist living and working in Notting Hill in the 1970s and her journey from being an occult enthusiast, to joining Alex Sanders coven.

You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. As the film progresses, we are given first-hand experience of the initiation of two witches into the coven, one of which is Penny.

An evocative, esoteric exploration of witchcraft at the end of the 1960s – including night-time ritual, reflections on the history of Wicca and a black mass. The film opens up with a terrific sequence showing some wildlife in the forest before moving to a group of naked people doing a ritual. If it is hard evidence of modern witchcraft practises you are looking for, this is probably not your best bet, although it does give some insight.We start, though, with a version of the Wiccan creation story of Diana the moon and Lucifer the sun.

The 39th release in the long standing BFI Flipside strand sees the release of two far out British films. Sharing the secrets of initiation into a coven, divination through animal sacrifice, ritual scrying, the casting of a 'death spell', and the chilling intimacy of a Black Mass.Overall, the film is generally shot and executed in good taste even where some of the depictions and scenes take a little too much artistic licence. Followed by the introduction of Catholicism, where we are given information regarding the integration of Catholicism and old Pagan teachings. The use of cord to tie up members and the sword to cut these cords, is however, significant in modern witchcraft, and other depictions of events in the performance of the mass’, seem accurate as far as I can tell. We are a fly on the wall for the next series of rituals carried out by Sanders and the High Priestess.

There then follows quite a lengthy look at the Bayeux Tapestry and its intertwined pagan images, before we are transported to Cornwall and a small museum, housing relics from the grave of a known witch. Despite this, Legend of the Witches takes a relatively subdued and more in-depth look at witchcraft, though it has been accused of straddling the line between the serious-minded and the seedy. The accompanying booklet (only available with the first pressing) is arguably the best extra of all with a number of illuminating essays from experts on cinema and paganism. Although nice to see, it is difficult for the director to fully encapsulate the significance of these objects on film and the shot is simply a scan over objects as the narrator goes on to talk about spells and the doll effigies with pins stuck into them.Once the two candidates are initiated, we are given more opportunities to watch the filming of certain Wiccan rituals, including a marriage and those associated with the ancient Egyptian Gods.

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