Witch & Popcorn


Review of The Woman King

Bright Blessings Film Lovers!

I had the opportunity to watch the film that is ranked number one on Netflix right now, and I’m glad I did. It’s the story of some brave women who united to overthrow their oppressors and convince their king to stop participating in human trafficking. It earned over $94 million and won multiple awards including an African-American Film Critics Association Award and is nominated for many more. It starred veteran actors and some rising stars and won the love and respect of viewers internationally. It is called the Woman King and you can watch a trailer here:



Before I get started bragging about how awesome I think this film is, let me point out that it is said to be based on true events. Yes and no. The kingdom of Dahomey did involve itself in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and they did overthrow the Oyo Kingdom. The woman warriors, the Agojie did exist and were part of the kingdom during the time this film was set in, and there was a king by the name of Ghezo whom stopped participation in the slave trade to sell palm oil instead. Yes, the film says all that.

However, the film makes it out that the Kingdom of Dahomey became free of all other rulerships when in fact they were later defeated by France and France colonized them. The king did back away from the slave trade, but he returned to it because he found that the slave trade brought more wealth than trade in palm oil. The Agojie warrior women were portrayed as freedom fighters who wanted all people to be free, but the king’s elite fighting women warrior Agojie participated in taking hostages who would be sold as slaves, and hostages for human sacrifice were also secured by the Agojie. It was actually the British who ended the slave trade with them. As a matter of fact, Ghezo is quoted as saying, “The slave trade is the ruling principle of my people. It is the source and the glory of their wealth…the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery.”

The film is a feel good one where the sense of justice is satisfied where good overcomes evil and those who are oppressed got to see the defeat of their oppressors. In real life, that’s not how it happened. The Agojie were called the Dahomey Amazons by visiting Europeans and were an elite group of women warriors who served their kingdom from the 1600’s until the 1800’s. They came from a tribal group call the the Fon people, and the female army was raised as a response to the fact so many men were killed in battles, and they needed help.

By the time King Ghezo ruled, the Agojie had been established for many years and he decided to beef up the military and he allowed people who had been captured from outside Dahomey to become members of his military ranks. The Agojie served in the council, where the king listened to their views and the citizens also spoke in these councils. When the French colonized Dahomey, also called Benin, the Agojie were disbanded, but legend has it that some of the Agojie stayed and in secret, assassinated some of the French. The last known Agojie was named Nawi and the film named a main character Nawi as well, but this film character was not based on the real Nawi.

Now on to the film , and why you MUST go see it and why it is so magical. To begin with, the film is a feast for the eyes. The costumes, and natural spaces are spectacular with the towns used in the film are spectacularly gorgeous. There is not one ugly sight in the film and I wish I know how they found so many actresses with such perfect glowing skin. They must have searched the ends of the earth to find the world’s most beautiful women. From the splendor of Gehzo’s wives, dripping with cowrie shells, sparkling gowns, and shimmering makeup to the athletic power of the Agojie, the strength, beauty, and power of women is testified to the second you look upon each character the actresses portrayed.

The pride of the Agojie and the men who were their brothers in battle as well as their unbelievable skills in combat are gloriously attested to in the dazzling action scenes as well as the pomp and circumstance they walked in and out of every scene with. There is a difference in a cold blooded killer and a warrior who oaths themselves to protection of the people who they love, and this film portrays that beautifully. The despair and inhumanity of slavery is showcased from the horrible conditions people captured to be sold as slaves are kept in and the look of defeat in their eyes. One thing about that, however, is pointed out in the film- people may have been overpowered and enslaved, but if for even one moment, there is a sliver of a chance you can fight and escape- TAKE IT. Don’t worry about consequences of failing- you have to try.

Few people who are reading this will have even witnessed the atrocities that people who have been enslaved have- but the lesson is still clear- If some one is trying to enslave you- give them one hell of a fight. In multiple scenes, people who had been trapped and bound as slaves had the opportunity to free themselves, and they did! If you take no other lesson at all from this film, let this be the lesson you learn- Never stand by and let somebody step on you. I am reminded of a poem by Claude Mckay called If We Must Die, and it says:

If we must die—let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”

There will be times in our lives that we are powerless and have to survive miserably until we can thrive again, but there are times we can fight, even if it is quietly. Not everybody is an athletic warrior who physically defends from violence. Some warriors are people who carry food to the hungry to fight an oppressive regime, and then there are also the journalists who write in secret, making sure people know what is really going on. Fight!

Another very powerful magical lesson, and the one I found to be the most powerful magic in the film was the strength of women. Many of us are raised to believe that god is a man who created women inferior to men who he created in his image. My tradition says “My goddess gave birth to your god” and believes the goddess is most powerful and it is she who comes before all. I saw amazing representations of the mother goddess in this film. Viola Davis, playing the powerful general who led her people to freedom, even defying her king to rescue some of them, sets the screen on fire no matter what film she acts in, but this may be her finest performance yet. Her character, Nanisca would be elevated to kingship at the end of the film, but not before showing herself as a true goddess.

Nanisca became an Agojie young and had been captured and raped many times before somehow escaping. However she was impregnated and successfully hid the pregnancy, but had to give the baby away to avoid being cast out of the Agojie. Years later, Nawi, who was the baby she birthed, would be thrown out of her adoptive home for refusing to allow men to mistreat her. Nawi was taken in and trained as a warrior and rose from early training to become the best. Nanisca discovered through a scar that Nawi was her daughter and was terrified of Nawi or any of the other girls she was training to be Agojie being kidnapped and either sold as slaves of being “used by men” as she called it. The Agojie were said to be virgin warriors in the film, and it was a safe place to be for women who had no protection from men’s abuse. So many years after the repeated raped, Nanisca was still traumatized and instead of being bitter, used her pain to protect other women and girls.

Nanisca argued against the King’s advisors against slavery, saying that the powerful protect people, even if they are from other tribes and that nobody deserved to be enslaved. She told the king continuously that no amount of riches were worth being involved in the slave trade and that they could sell palm oil and other resources instead of human beings. The Oyo kingdom oppressed the Dahmey, and Nanisca and her King Ghezo decided to overthrow them. In a battle with the Oyo, a few of the Agojie were kidnapped, including Nawi, and Nanisca told the king they must rescue them.

The King had a different plan, however, to elevate Nanisca to equal royal status of him so they can rule together, and he ordered her not to do the rescue. She snuck out to rescue them herself, and on her way out she saw some male warriors look at her, and they let her pass without argument. As a matter of fact, some of them and the Agojie followed her, and a major fight breaks out after which the Oyo are completely overthrown. Upon her return with the rescued Agojie, Nanisca expected King Ghezo to remove her from her position, but instead he said she did what was needed instead of being obedient and he elevated her to rulership.

Another lesson from this film is to do what you know to be right no matter what anybody says. Even if you risk your job and the respect of people- do the right thing anyhow. “That is what makes a leader” Ghezo says to her after she did what she knew was right despite what he told her. Nawi, also does what she feels is right, and that is what earned her a place as an Agojie in the first place. In another part of the film, Nanisca is under attack, and instead of fleeing as Nanisca ordered her to do, Nawi finds a way to foil the entire attack. Nanisca would have been killed had Nawi not stepped in. Always do what you know to be right.

Sisterhood of women is another magical lesson. It has been said by some historians that oppressive men throughout history have sought to separate women from one another. Many believe that the most powerful bonds are not between men and women who are sexual partners, but between women. The Agojie warriors took the new girls who were training under their wings, treating them as family, and watching over them. In battle, the women watched each other’s backs, and when they were captured in war, they rescued them.

I could go on forever about this amazing film, but I will say one more thing about it and that is that the writing is inspirational and very moving. Speeches from Nanisca and King Ghezo about sovereignty and love of the people are moving and the way Nanisca nurtures all the Agojie reminds us that even if we don’t have a so-called family, we can make our own.

Oh, don’t take my words for it. Go see this film like yesterday!!!!!!

Happy Viewing and Blessed Be!



About the Author:

Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.

A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.

Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!

Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.

All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, Lord Shadow, and she became a Third Degree High priestess in 2022. She belongs to the Black Dragon Clan.