With great celebration and joy and fanfare, the day we’ve waited for is finally (FINALLY) here! In this episode, we’re discussing the breathtakingly beautiful, dramatic, moody premiere of A Discovery of Witches TV on Sky, Shudder, AMC Plus, and Sundance Now.
Today is the day when we can finally gush–in extraordinary detail–about costumes and sets and lighting and adaptive choices and casting and the work of art that is the second season of this remarkable series. In addition, we get to talk about HATS and Matthew being a clever little sausage. Lucky us. So, without further ado, please pull up a chair and let’s get this Elizabethan Vacation off to a grand and glorious start.
As a side note, we 100% goofed and forgot how to podcast and this episode has a little bitty spoiler section between 1:06h-1:14h. In the future, we will relegate those naughty little buggers to the Spoiler Corner.
We’ll be live-tweeting every episode of A Discovery of Witches TV Season 2 as the series is released on streaming platforms, so please join us every Sunday evening at 7pm EST, 4 pm PST using the hashtag #ccalchemy.
Because the universe (and La Harkness) are generous indeed, Deb will be doing a #Witchalong every Sunday at 11AM PST, 2PM EST on her Instagram and Facebook. Peep her details below:
In the meantime, please follow us on Twitter or join our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers, to connect with us and other fans squealing with joy about this remarkable premiere. We can’t wait to connect with you and celebrate the triumphant return of Matthew and Diana and all of our favorites.
There is so much magic in store for us in Season 2 of A Discovery of Witches — and not just the cinematic kind! Shadow of Night is central to Diana’s development as a witch; she discovers the depths of her powers and asks important questions about her magic and her place in the world. We’ve long been curious about how the production and creative teams behind the television show would illustrate Diana’s magical education with Goody Alsop and her growing understanding of how her power can change the world. By all appearances, we have a lot to look forward to — time travel! Weaving! The potential for familiars! The search for the Book of Life! Diana’s journey from reluctant witch to powerful weaver is one of our favorite storylines in the All Souls Trilogy and we can’t wait to see it take shape on screen. To whet our appetites for magic of all kinds, take a peek at this lovely behind-the-scenes video shared by A Discovery of Witches TV on Instagram. Are you following them, yet?
Which of Diana’s remarkable powers do you hope to see on display in Season 2? What spell do you wish you could perform?
We’ll celebrate the premiere of Season 2 with a live-tweet on Saturday, 9 January 2021, at 7pm EST. Use the hashtag #ccalchemy to join us and invite your friends!
In the meantime, follow us on Twitter or join our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers, to connect with us and other fans dreaming about the magic and wonder of Season 2. See you tomorrow!
Y’all. We’re only nine sleeps and a wake-up — or ten days — from the premiere of Season 2 of A Discovery of Witches TV on Shudder, Sundance Now, and AMC+ on 9 January 2021. To get properly excited, we thought we’d share our thoughts on what we’re most looking forward to about Season 2.
One of everyone’s favorite aspects of Shadow of Night, the source text for Season 2 of A Discovery of Witches TV, is how it whisks the reader into Tudor England — full of real people, real intrigue, and real events. From early production stills, trailers, and behind-the-scenes sneak peaks, we can certainly expect to encounter our favorite historical people and places from the books on-screen. For many of us, this is a wonderful opportunity to attend the court of Elizabeth I in the company of Matthew Roydon, her shadowy spy, and to peruse the extensive library of John Dee. Thanks to the incredible production team at Bad Wolf, we’re in for a phenomenal tour of Tudor England and Renaissance Europe–warrens, libraries, castles, countryside, and everything in between. If you haven’t already, take some time to watch this incredible “Behind the Magic” feature from New York Comic Con this fall and get in the mood for some A+ historical tourism.
If you can’t get enough, you should also check out the fabulous Biography Sundays in the All Souls Discussion Group on Facebook — there are book discussions, chapter questions, and lots of great details about characters (real and imagined!) from the All Souls Universe.
We’ll celebrate the premiere of Season 2 with a live-tweet on Saturday, 9 January 2021, at 7pm EST. Use the hashtag #ccalchemy to join in the fun and keep your eyes peeled for our updated release and live tweet schedule.
In the meantime, follow us on Twitter or join our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers, to connect with us and other fans eagerly awaiting the return of our favorite series in just. ten. days.
Tell us which historical figure you’re most excited to see in Season 2 in the comments!
The little snippet of Latin Lord Burghley quotes to Diana (Vanitatis vanitatum, omnis vanitas) comes from the Vulgate translation of Ecclesiastes 1:2, a verse which translates as “Vanity, vanity, everything vanity.” It’s a curious bit of verse for a Protestant, as it comes from the official version of the Latin Bible dating from the 4th century.
If you’re interested in Lord Burghley as a spymaster, there’s a current BBC series airing on PBS that looks pretty interesting.
“Because if we are not in the audience chamber at Richmond Palace by two in the afternoon tomorrow, Elizabeth will arrest us both.”
Going to court in Tudor England was no small thing. First of all, the Tudor palaces were explicitly designed to restrict access to the monarchy and channel people of different rank into appropriate spaces. Because only the most important (and affluent) people made it into the presence of the king or queen, it paid to appear in court dressed in the finest clothing money could buy. In Tudor times, proximity to the king or queen was the quickest way to attain favor–and thereby improve your title and fortune. However, if Elizabeth I felt that you slighted, betrayed, or otherwise disobeyed her, the consequences could be brutal. Court was complicated, political, and highly performative.
In Shadow of Night, Elizabeth I’s court is located at Richmond Palace, the lost palace of the Tudor monarchy. Henry VII died in the palace and it became Elizabeth I’s favorite — she died there in 1603 and her body made the journey to Westminister Abbey from its gates. In the mid-seventeenth century, after the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and his administration systematically stripped the palace until only a few bits and pieces remained. You can still visit the site of Richmond Palace in southwest London today.
“And silver and black are the queen’s colors. That’s why Walter is always wearing them,” Mary explained, smoothing the puffed sleeves.
Elizabeth I had a vast and impressive wardrobe. As she grew older, she apparently leaned into the image of herself as the Virgin Queen and preferred to dress in black, white, and silver — colors she believed represented purity and virginity. Throughout Elizabeth’s reign, England remained under strict sumptuary laws — Elizabeth I believed that her courtiers should dress according to (but not exceeding) their rank. This is why Elizabeth has a bit of a fit when she notices Diana’s borrowed ostrich feather fan — a luxury restricted to gentlemen and above by the sumptuary laws. Fans in particular were a symbol of wealth, and fixed fans were a bit of A THING for Elizabeth I (you can see all of her fixed fans in her portraits here). Ostrich feathers came into fashion in England in 1552 and remained popular for the rest of the sixteenth century.
Three days later on the feast of St. Brigid, we set sail on our long journey to see the Holy Roman Emperor, find a treacherous English daemon, and, at long last, catch a glimpse of Ashmole 782.
“Your father is treating me like a woman of the time. I’ll manage, Matthew.”
Ah, look. We’re back to gender politics in Shadow of Night. Surprise, surprise.
Now’s as good a time as any to talk about what I mean by “gender politics” when we talk about it on the podcast or when I talk about reading gender in the All Souls Trilogy. Gender has an enormous influence on our lives. We see, understand, express, and experience gender in a thousand different ways — how we talk, how we dress, how we move, how we see and understand ourselves in comparison to how other people express gender. Gender impacts the way that we navigate the world — how we expect to be treated, how we understand events that happen to us, how we approach risk, how we perceive the boundaries of good/bad/acceptable/appropriate behavior. From birth, we’re assigned a gender and many of us are raised in conformity with that gender assignment.
Fundamentally, when we talk about “what men do” and “what women do” or what’s acceptable for them, we’re talking about power. Talking about power — how we use it, what we do with it, how it shapes the world we live in — is talking about politics. The question of gender politics in literature asks how we portray characters as “masculine” and “feminine,” how much agency or power we give them, how gender determines their importance or power in the text, how characters are marginalized, exploited, emphasized, or celebrated based on gendered expressions of power, etc. This is complicated enough when you’re reading a contemporary text set in a contemporary time period. It’s even more complicated when you’re reading a contemporary text set in a historical time period where contemporary ideas about gender interact with “historical” ideas about gender, or at least historical ideas about gender as the author portrays them.
The quotation marks around the word “historical” aren’t mocking, and they aren’t judgmental. It’s a way of noting that, in writing, we choose every word. We have the power to construct a world how we see it. No work of human creation will ever actually capture history, so we have to be mindful of the fact that when you write, you choose to emphasize, de-emphasize, construct, or otherwise incorporate certain ideas as you do it. Accordingly, the “historical” ideas about gender in Shadow of Night are certainly based partially in “history,” but they’re also based in the story we’re telling and the way that characters interact based on gender is constructed.
Okay. Back to Philippe and Diana. Since the 1970s and the emergence of the feminist movement in the humanities, students of women’s history (like Joan Kelly-Gidol) have questioned whether the “periodization” of history (“the Middle Ages,” “the Enlightenment,” “the Industrial Revolution”) actually reflects the experience of all people — women, people of color, etc. — or only the experience of European men of a certain socio-economic background. See, for example, J. Kelly-Gidol, Did Women Have a Renaissance?. The point being that a European woman’s role changed very little between the “dark” Middle Ages and the “enlightened” and “artistic” Renaissance. European women had no political or financial independence; they remained dependent on men for financial and social status and remained largely at home. Politically, women had only one card to play — they could be married into other families for strategic reasons. Once married, they were required to maintain their husband’s household. Renaissance women had no sexual freedom; their “honor” belonged first to their father and then to their husband because the legitimacy of heirs remained a dominant concern of the ruling classes.
But this is only part of the story, as the Renaissance also produced incredible and notable female leaders, artists, writers, and scientists. In the last few decades, there has been an emergence of scholarship dedicated to exploring the role of women during the Renaissance. Would you care to guess what the literature has to do with Philippe and Diana? There’s a lot of great scholarship on the role of Renaissance women in… the history of science and medicine. No surprise, since the history of science is Deb’s specialty. If you haven’t already, you should check out her book on science in Elizabethan London — The Jewel House. Scholarship in the sciences and medicine recognizes that occult practices — potions, herbal remedies, alchemy, and astrology — contributed to the development of the scientific method and expanded our understanding of the natural world.
For me, this chapter has always had special meaning in terms of Diana’s development — she’s taking initiative, she’s problem-solving, she’s engaging with and participating in the culture around her rather than remaining passive. With a little bit of background reading, I think it’s also possible to tease out additional themes — the theme of subverting the dominant power structure, the layered conflict of gender and power in the Harknessian version of the Renaissance, the theme of challenging the assumptions that you make and the questions that you ask. Here, I think the reference to “women of the time” is a bit sly — we assume that women in the Renaissance were decorative housekeepers (I’m being deliberately glib, so hold your horses) with little autonomy, but the truth is more complicated than that. You just have to look a bit more closely.
For additional reading, check out:
Findlen, Paula. Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy.
Nochlin, Linda. Women, Art, and Power.
Parks, Katharine. Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection.
Rankin, Alisha. Panaceia’s Daughters: Noblewomen as Healers in Early Modern Europe.
Schiebinger, Londa. Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science.
Thorndike, Lynn. A History of Magic and Experimental Science.
It was the first time I’d been in this church, and I looked around with curiosity. Like many religious buildings in this part of France, Saint-Lucien’s house of worship was already ancient in 1590.
The Auvergne has a rich religious history — it is home to a series of famous Romanesque churches like the one described in Saint-Lucien and served as the site of the Council of Clermont that led to the First Crusade in 1095. Romanesque architecture is characterized by semi-circular arches. The arches derive from the Roman style; after the fall of the Roman Empire, architects and builders lost many of the techniques required to build large vaulted spaces and domes, but the rounded arches survived. The Romanesque style is one of the first architectural styles to span all of Western Europe — you can find diverse examples of the style from Italy to Poland to Scotland and Spain.
In the Real-Time Reading Companion, Deb reveals that the inspiration for Matthew’s church is the church of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy.
High above there was a beating of wings. A dove had flown through the clerestory windows and lost its way among the exposed roof beams. It struggled, freed itself, and swooped down into the church.
The dove is a powerful symbol in many traditions. In Christianity, the dove symbolizes peace and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16, Luke 3:22). In early Christian art, doves appeared as funerary symbols representing the eternal peace of the soul returned to heaven. In Judaism, the dove is a symbol of the people of Israel and a sign of life following the flood. In classical mythology, doves are associated with Aphrodite and may be considered as symbols of love. In the text of Shadow of Night, the dove may symbolize redemption, or hope, or the promise of renewed faith. We discussed the dove and the church extensively in Episode 24, The Trauma Express. The Daemons discussed Chapter 10 of Shadow of Night in Take 34! The One With the Baggage.
We’ll see you next on 5 December, when we have to see to some things in a certain hay barn.
Do you have questions, comments, or thoughts about the Real-Time Reading? You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Twitter @chamomilenclove, or find us in our Facebook group, the Chamomile & Clove Clovers. We can’t wait to hear from you.