Goddess of Filth by V. Castro

For the horror book club I lead I chose a short book for December, knowing that everyone gets more busy. Goddess of Filth by V. Castro is 3 hours, 40 minutes on audio. The summary includes a quote that captures the beginning nicely:

Five of us [Lourdes, Fernanda, Ana, Perla, and Pauline] sat in a circle doing our best to emulate the girls in The Craft, hoping to unleash some power to take us all away from our home to the place of our dreams. But we weren’t witches. We were five Chicanas living in San Antonio, Texas, one year out of high school.

After they form the circle, they call upon an old spirit to come to them. And come she does. Fernanda, who is preparing for college in the fall, starts acting weirdly, very sexual despite being a virgin, smearing black lipstick around her mouth, speaking in Nahuatl, and sitting on the lawn naked. Her eyes look caiman, we’re told. There’s something. . . inhabiting her.

In contrast, the other character Casto focuses on is Lourdes, who continues working at Sonic, a fast food restaurant, after high school. It is Lourdes who comes up with the idea to contact a professor of languages who knows Nahuatl and figure out what Fernanda’s “inhabitant” is saying.

My book club discussed whether Goddess of Filth is even about possession, a common subgenre in horror movies and books. Essentially, we decided no. The “inhabitant” is the eater of sin, sucking secrets out of people, or outright destroying them. In fact, the goddess emboldens Fernanda, a straight-laced, straight-A, virgin to seek out the pleasure she is too scared to acknowledge. To enjoy her body and her attend to her attraction to a guy named Reuben. After she is intimate with Reuben, Fernanda admits to the goddess that she picked him because she knew he would be sweet to her, which is a comment I wouldn’t expect in what is marketed as a horror novel.

The other aspect that makes Goddess of Filth arguably not a possession novel is the fact that Fernanda is still there, able to make decisions and talk, though she’s often communicating with the goddess inside her instead of her friends or her overbearing mother. Is this a horror novel?

Castro still uses the trope of the Catholic priest to oust the demon, but the goddess, who teaches about colonization and history of the girls’ ancestors, isn’t a demon. And she’s going to show readers how a Catholic priest can abuse his power within a community, and what she does with trespassers.

An interesting novella that blends the stereotypes of a possession novel with Nahuatl culture, and overall empowers women to be present in their bodies and defeat abusive people in privileged positions.


  1. This sounds like an interesting comparison to My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Rather than a supernatural parasite, this sort of inhabitation sounds more like symbiosis. The idea that she is connecting with the goddess and maybe becoming stronger or more complete as a result feels like it would take the story in unexpected directions. I might need to listen to this one the next time I work out in Chicago.


    • And it’s a shorty of a book, too. I have another review coming up of a novel called Jawbone by Monica Ojeda that had a similar vibe. 5-6 Hispanic girls are playing with devilish things, and shenanigans happen. I like that word choice — “symbiosis.” That’s a good one. This novella also reminded me of that vampire (or is it?) novel by Elizabeth Engstrom, Black Ambrosia. And considering My Best Friend’s Exorcism, it seems like there’s a lil group out there of books about women being empowered by demons, rather than oppressed.


  2. I know I saw the movie The Craft but I don’t remember a thing about it, ha ha! I used to watch scary movies when I was a teen and in my 20’s. SOME scary movies – nothing too gory! Anyway, this one doesn’t sound up my alley but I’m glad you seem to have had a good discussion out of it. And kind of you to choose a short one for your club.


    • The Craft was EVERYTHING to girls like me when I was growing up. And lately I’ve just been reading more and more about how being a witch or demonically possessed in fiction in movies is empowering for women, even if it’s distressing for men. I love that it’s a weird way of fighting the patriarchy. You should revisit The Craft. You will get ALL the 90’s feels.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a woman goddess empowering Fernanda to break out of the conformist culture she lives in (religious, anti-women, etc.), which freaks out all the authority figures. It’s really not a demon possession book in the true sense that we use in horror.


  3. This does sound quite different from the stereotypical possession story. From your description it sounds more like it’s about being allowed to do the things someone secretly desires to do, a removal of constraints.


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