Practical magic

The Goodly Spellbook

I was Dorie the Good Witch the Halloween I was 11 — a costume I styled from a black cocktail dress, black pointed cap, black Mary Janes and multicolored striped socks.

A proud moment — but also my last juncture with the occult. Until now, that is. Hefting (and I do mean heft — the 475-page tome is a workout) a copy of locally written bestseller The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems (Sterling, 2005) by Coven Oldenwilde’s High Priest and Priestess •Diuvei and Lady Passion, I decide to give magic another go.

Why not? What with attempting something like upward mobility, balancing the sobriety of homeownership with the antics of two dogs, maintaining a marriage and all the rest that comprises a busy adult life, I have plenty of need for a little assistance from the universe. Or the gods. Or … well, you get it.

But can a beginning spell crafter turn her luck around overnight?

Spell one

Dear Diary: Have perused the spells and made my selections. My top pick, admittedly, was an attraction spell to appear beautiful, but the instructions were rather involved: “Just before the Witching Hour on a Friday during a full Moon, travel to a secret wood or outdoor field. Place three vials — one each of water, wine and salt — close at hand.”

Vials, no prob. But if you’re a dedicated urban dweller, the secret wood or outdoor field are harder to come by. Would McCormick Field pass? Not sure.

The spell variations provide some hope: “To become gorgeous as a Goddess, stealthily slip adoors just before dawn on Beltane (May 1) and bathe your face in flower dew.” Sadly, the prescribed day for rubbing my mug in damp daisies is six months off. The book offers, “For a luminous visage, grow damask roses.” Note to self: contract green thumb.

Botox suddenly seems much simpler.

But if I am to have injections of botulism, I’ll need to rectify my cash-flow situation, so I select a spell to conjure abundance. Necessary implements: rice, a special kind of green food coloring, a glass bowl, a chopstick and green candles to set the mood. Most of this I have in my kitchen, and the rest — two apple-scented votives and a tube of emerald-colored gel intended for frosting — is purchased at Ingles.

“Few tools are required and just about anything you’ll need is readily available or easily made yourself,” the book warmly promises. And, in fact, the chapter titled “Spell Ingredients are Everywhere” offers more encouragement for the beginner: The novice spell caster can collect string, pins, rusty nails and broken glass from around the house, and search yard sales for wicker, rattan, silver and wood items.

“Take advantage of fortuitous events to help you gather spellwork ingredients,” continue the authors — who, in the non-witching world, are Steve Rasmussen (a long-time Xpress writer) and activist Dixie Deerman. “Although it may take some time, take the trouble to peel off any burrs that stick to your cape — they’re extra-magical because of this …” Note to self: Acquire a cape.

As per instructions, I mix green dye into white rice, stirring clockwise — or sunwise — with my chopstick while invoking the “prosperity Goddesses.” When the rice dries (sometime after Antiques Roadshow), I sprinkle green grains into my wallet.

Then — what the heck — I toss a few into my checkbook and tax file.

Spell two

Dear Diary: Arriving home from a stress-relieving yoga class, I’m met with a darkly unwelcoming envelope from the IRS. Am I, perhaps, developing a skill at reading auras, or a sensitivity to negative energy? Or are all sentient beings wary of the tax department?

Anyway, bad news: Seems I owe on a miscalculated back tax form. My abundance spell either hasn’t had time to take root or was undone by my own mistrust. Yes, I admit it — though I never voiced my skepticism aloud, I’d glanced askance at one of the spell’s required ingredients (“green food color gel” indeed).

The Goodly Spellbook advises, “Invoke the 24-Hour Rule and wait at least a day before you make any negative comments or pass any judgments about any spell or rite.”

Chastened, I get to work on my next spell — knot magic. This is a simple activity aimed at binding (figuratively, not literally, despite the use of twine) someone or something to the practicing witch. I have the preferred hemp cord on hand thanks to former hippie leanings. Standing in my kitchen, I simultaneously imagine the thing I want to bring into my life (can’t reveal what, as I don’t want to jinx it — if that’s possible), rock back and forth, chant the knot spell chant, and tie the appropriate number of knots in my string. Having missed knot-fashioning in Girl Scouts, I wonder about my resulting chain — and then quickly replace that doubt with positive thoughts.

Dear Diary: Must admit I’m torn between feeling silly with the chanting and the autistic rocking, and feeling intrigued by the possibilities. What’s next? Scour the lawn for lucky shamrocks? Procure some alfalfa to tie over my door? Make a rainstick? (The latter will no doubt come in handy while tending damask roses.)

Spell three

“Divine early and often,” encourages the Spellbook. As I’m not fluent in runes or Tarot, I try the easy method: concentrating on a question while crumpling a piece of paper and then tossing it. Apparently, if the ball falls to the right, the answer is yes. Left is no, center is maybe and bouncing off another object foretells an obstacle. I hit a lot of obstacles — possibly more to do with practicing in a cubicle than with my destiny? Or maybe I’m just obstacle-prone. Note to self: A crumpled tea-bag wrapper produces more maybes than a clean sheet of paper.

Prone to headaches (I spend a lot of time slumped un-ergonomically in front of my computer), I decide to attempt an anti-migraine spell. Strangely, since my foray into magic, I’ve not so much as cracked my bottle of Excedrin. Still, a little extra anti-pain mojo can’t hurt. (Also, toting this two-and-a-half pound book around strains my shoulder. Suggestion: A pocketbook-sized guide to spellcraft.)

But the Spellbook‘s headache-remedy ingredients are a little farfetched: a shed snakeskin in my hat (I have been considering wearing more hats) or a crown of ivy culled from the head of a statue of a goddess (not sure ivy is my look, nor are vine-sprouting goddess statues in abundance despite that this is Asheville). Luckily, there’s a quick fix. “Sadly, Christian zealots destroyed many idols,” the book reports. “Undeterred, Pagans simply substituted a red cord for the ivy.”

So, with flashy red ribbon in hand and wearing a lapis lazuli pendant to prevent computer eye strain (far more fashionable than the other suggestion of rubbing my eyes with the tail of a black cat), I’m fully prepared for a day of computer-gazing. Though, now that I think of it, the Spellbook‘s mentions of secret groves, open fields and dew-dipped petals have me thinking of the other, more mystical worlds that exist beyond my office. Perhaps the best headache cure would be getting away from my desk for an afternoon and taking a walk — with or without cape — in the woods.

Local authors •Diuvei and Lady Passion will discuss and perform magic from The Goodly Spellbook at Malaprop’s Bookstore (55 Haywood St.) on Friday, Oct. 28. 7 p.m. 254-6734.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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