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New Voodoo Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

New Voodoo Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina June 10, 2021

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Image courtesy of Netflix. All rights reserved.

The following guest post by Tehron Gillis does a deep look at the depictions of Voodoo and the ATRs in the popular show Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

So Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (CAOS) is over and done. Lets pick at what remains and see just how well they did with their depiction of Vodou through their character Mambo Marie A.K.A Baron Samedi. Oh boy.

Inspiration

As a witch show CAOS sets the bar kind of high when it comes to inspiration. The mythologies that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina references are usually deep in their representation, whether it be Abrahamic mythology that holds the series together, or the more obscure like the Eldricth terrors. This is so much so that they actually integrate them into the plot of the series. This was not the case with the religion of Vodou.

At first the series tries to cement the legitimacy of their depiction of these traditions by having a very confusing conversation about the real “Real Hoodoo Vodou”. As someone who watches tv with the captions on it was odd to see Voodoo (pronounced Vu-du) spelt Vodou (pronounced voh-du). Not only are they pronounced differently they are also two different religions. Voodoo is the New Orleans religion of the African Diaspora, while Vodou is the Haitian African Diasporic religion. What makes this more odd is that the character of Prudence asks for the Hoodoo Vodou. Hoodoo is another separate folk practice of African descendants in the United States. This was a poor attempt at establishing legitimacy. CAOS relied heavily on the exoticism of Mambo Marie to deflect from what was at times terrible writing.

Another instance of CAOS getting lost in the sauce is the whole Met Tet confusion. The definition of the Met Tet was not the worst but it was still incorrect. So much of knowing one’s Met Tet is tied to a person very identity. To truly understand the relationship would require some knowledge of ADR cosmology and most, like CAOS, cannot or will not do the work. Furthermore even their own definition doesn’t work in the context of the show: Mambo Marie said that everyone is born with a Met Tet that watches over them from their birth. How can Edward be Zelda’s Met Tet when the lived concurrently? The answer would have been to have made Hecate her Met Tet if they were handing out Met Tet’s.

And then there was the Baron Samedi of it all. This just made no sense. Firstly, there is a female gendered Loa counterpart for Baron Samedi and her name is Maman Brigitte. She is the first woman buried in every graveyard just as the Baron is her husband and very often seen as the first man interred in the cemetery. She could have been her Met Tet which would have made sense there are some similarities between Hecate and Maman Brigitte. Like Hecate, Maman is many faced, since she is the first woman in every cemetery she presents with many different faces. As the Crone both Hecate and Maman Brigitte are known to hold sacred wisdom. And both occupy the realm of the dead. Missed opportunities left and right.

Execution

It was lame. It pains me to say but it was just lame. There where no moments where I said “Look out y’all Mambo Marie is bout to do something cool”. There were no special effects. Not a white energy barrier when Mambo Marie was dancing. No cool montages while making veves. Nothing. There was no effort put into the spell casting which is disappointing in a witch show.

Depiction

So Mambo Marie gets the honor of fulfilling both the mammy and the Mandingo trope in CAOS. As the Mammy it is her responsibility to help the white characters on the show’s storyline along. She has no interest of her own, no goals, and nothing to gain in the story. She is just here to be the most helpful negro she can. Which she is. She saves Zelda and takes out an Eldrich terror then… she leaves. And before she leaves comes out as the Lwa Baron Samedi. So the priestess who she was having sexual relations with was actually the male gendered Lwa. Black males have long been the focus of white sexual desire. Depictions of black males who have again no self interest or anything to gain from the plot and are only kept around as sexual partners of their white protagonist are many. There is so much here about culture, gender, and sexuality here to unpack.

Overall I give CAOS a 2/5 in their depiction of Vodou. In my opinion, it was obviously added ad hoc with little thought or care. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Tehron Gillis
Tehron Gillis is a Westchester based slam poet and writer, is a voodoo initiate and rootworker. Practicing magic and tarot for over a decade, Tehron works towards exploring LGBTQ and ethnic themes in the craft. You can read more about the author here.

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