Tag Archives: spells

What if our muses are aliens from other worlds?

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“The Muses are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts in Greek mythology. They were considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in these ancient cultures. They were later adopted by the Romans as a part of their pantheon.” – Wikipedia

museMany of us learned the classical definition of muses in school. We had to memorize their names along with those of all the other Greek and Roman gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and ill-defined entities.

When we studied long-dead writers whose books were part of the acceptable canon, we quickly saw that many of their muses weren’t from the pantheon, but were imagined as wispy, ephemeral (real or imagined) women who–when captured by artists–looked like they were dying of consumption or, possibly, syphilis.  I told my professors I didn’t want anyone or anything like that hanging around giving me writing advice. This met with disapproval.

Later, when my muse showed up on a dark and stormy night, she turned out to be a whisky-drinking, spell-casting woman who looked (I’m not making this up) like a hell’s angel biker. She had a “write this or else” kind of attitude. It took us a while to come to an understanding.

But now I’m starting to wonder if all those Greek goddesses, consumptive women, and more modern whisky-drinking muses are illusions or, worse yet, aliens taking their instructions from a fully cloaked mothership in orbit around the earth. I often thought cats got their instructions from a similar source, but that’s another post.

So, here we are, slaving away writing fiction, all the time thinking we’re making it up, using our imaginations, joking about what our muses want and don’t want, &c., when it turns out, we’re drones taking dictation from a race of beings from (possibly) the Klingon Empire who want to hack into our brains and influence our destiny via what we perceive to be home-grown works of art, music, drama, and literature. Sort of like the matrix, but worse.

Is there a way to prove this? Of course not. All attempts at proof will–due to the prime directives of our otherworldly muses–sound like fantasy, science fiction, fairy tales, and insanity. I also notice that whenever I try to sabotage my muse as a way of protesting the mothership scenario, I get writer’s block. The only way I’m getting this post written at all was by drinking my muse under the table. (I’m trying to hurry before she wakes up.)

I’ve tried a variety of witches’ and conjure women’s spells, but they seem (so far) capable of getting rid of haints, demons, and the hexes from bad people. Muses are another kettle of spirits. So far–after a lot of dutiful testing–I’ve learned that they’re susceptible to booze. Here’s what that means. You’ve got to practice learning how to hold more liquor than your muse can hold. When she’s drunk and you’re not yet drunk, you can write, paint and compose without interference. For me, that means keeping a bottle of single malt Scotch and/or a quart jar of moonshine on the desk at all times.

If you want to be your own writer rather than the pawn in somebody’s cosmic game of chess, you might want to consider the benefits of this approach. Sure, you might go broke or die of liver failure, but that’s a small price to pay for the sanctity of your art.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Eulalie and Washerwoman” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” novels he wrote while trying to get rid of haints.

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Got Cops on Your Tail? Try oregano.

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If you like Italian-American food, grilled chicken and vegetables, or ramping up the dressing for your tossed salad, you probably have oregano on your spice rack.

oreganoI like growing it because fresh is better than dried for most things and it gives a nice scent to the garden. Or, perhaps you use it as a dietary supplement to reduce LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.

However, unless you’re a fan of folk magic or frequent your neighborhood conjurer, you probably think of this tasty herb primarily as food rather than as protection.

Conjure Uses

Unfortunately, these require a bit of work; that is to say, you won’t keep the cops and annoying lawyers away by putting oregano in your spaghetti sauce.

That would be too easy, right?

hoodooherbAccording to catherine yronwode at herb-magic.com, oregano “is widely believed to be a protective herb with the power to ward off troublesome and meddling individuals, especially those who may wish to interfere with one’s personal financial dealings. Furthermore, oregano is said to have significant power to keep the law away.” She is the author of a handy book for conjurers called Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic.

  • Got Cops, Do This: Dig up the footprint of the police officer and stir it up with oregano, redbrick dust and black mustard seed and place the mixture outside at the corners of your house.  A large “X” at your doorsteps will help.
  • Got Nosy Lawyers, Do This:  A mixture of cascara sagrada bark and oregano burnt on charcoal in an ashtray or grill prior to your deposition or court date is said to turn destiny in your favor.

A good conjure woman or curio shop may also recommend burning special incense, using oils and lighting candles in addition to offering you packets of court case and keep-the-law-away powders.

I’m by no means a conjurer. As I research my next book, I am fascinated by the folk magic uses of culinary herbs, plants with purported medical uses and common household materials.

Needless to say, I make no warrants or promises for oregano in your life.

For additional conjure and herb information, see Kitchen Hoodoo -Using Oregano in Hoodoo, Conjure and Candle Spells and Cooking With Magical Herbs.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Jim Crow era novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat” set in a KKK-infested north Florida town in the 1950s.

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Looking for lust in all the wrong places

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While doing research for another short story that  includes a few conjuring tricks, I came across a lust potion.

lustclipartTraditionally, a fair number of people stop by their local root doctor’s house for a little help getting lucky in love or gambling (which are pretty much the same thing, at times). While you can pick up powders and oils such as “Follow Me Boy (or Girl)” to persuade others to find you attractive, many practitioners don’t like tampering with a prospective lover’s free will.

It’s one thing to cast a spell to keep your spouse from cheating on you; it’s another thing to compel somebody to fall in love with you–that wouldn’t be true love, right?

This lust potion is powerful stuff. Heck, right after reading it and visualizing how it might work, I chanced to see a picture of the late Grandma Moses and my immediate reaction was, “Whoa, that chick is hot.”

Some writers have been criticized for, say, putting too many details in their work about how to cause death and destruction, that I feel I must say that causing lust in ones readers might be almost as dangerous.

Just as a responsible writer wouldn’t put the directions for making an A-bomb out of the stuff in a medicine cabinet, a merciful storyteller shouldn’t put the directions for causing lust in a story. Heaven help us if somebody rushed into a Walmart and sprinkled this stuff around or threw it out the car window on I-75.

Where would we be today if Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had listed the ingredients in their “Love Potion No. 9” classic back in 1963? We know the stuff smells like turpentine, but (fortunately) dowsing oneself in paint thinner doesn’t cause amorous feelings in normal passersby. But thank goodness we don’t know the complete recipe.

So, I’ll mention the potion in the story without the recipe and let all my readers who are looking for lust in all the wrong places create their own opportunities. Oddly enough, the potion includes nutmeg. Using nutmeg by itself won’t cause lust, though it might make a person remember their favorite pumpkin soup.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat, a 1950s-era novella about a black cat named Lena who helps  her best friend do magic.

What if Harry Potter Bought the House Next Door to You?

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WHAT IF?

Few questions are more important to a writer. So, what if Harry Potter bought the house next door and wasn’t shy about who he was and what he could do? Really, Harry Potter himself, not Daniel Radcliffe.

Of course, the real Harry Potter—if there is one—is part of a secret world that “in real life” we would never know anything about. There’s a reason for that: people who are different are usually shunned, persecuted or worse.

The first traditional rule for the adept—alchemist, psychic, shaman, wizard—is KEEP SILENT. If he lived next door to any of us, the real Harry Potter would probably appear as unassuming as Clark Kent in the Superman stories.

But, as long as we’re playing WHAT IF?, let’s say Harry is sick and tired of staying in his figurative closet. (Actually, he did stay in a closet at his foster parents’ house—what a nice touch of symbolism on Rowling’s part).

Time for the Welcome Wagon

When a new family moves into a neighborhood, people are curious. They drop by with pies and casseroles partly as a way of starting things off with a friendly “hello” and partly as a way of getting a look at the new folks to assess how they’re going to fit in. Times might be changing, but even today there are many neighborhoods in which the “welcome committee” will be displeased if a Black, Jew, Muslim, or Gay answers the door. In other neighborhoods, Whites, Catholics, and Japanese “don’t belong.”

In scholarly literature, those who don’t belong are often referred to as The Other. They are outside the mainstream. In the Harry Potter books, witches, elves, wizards and giants are outside the mainstream of English society. Even within the magical world itself, there’s a hierarchy about who’s “in” and who’s “out.”

Fantasy offers readers unlimited opportunities to come to terms with what’s different, what goes against the mainstream scheme of things, and to consider whether the consensus reality of “real life” must be engraved in stone or not. Fantasy lets us safely question “what is.” While reading a Harry Potter book or watching a Harry Potter movie, it’s easy to feel simpatico with Harry, Ron, Hermione,  and Dumbledore, and perhaps even to feel a bit sorry for the everyday people in London who don’t know anything about the magic in their midst. Just think of all they’re missing!

But What Happens When We Get to the End of the Book and the Last Movie?

Here come Harry’s friends!

Picture this. The moving van has pulled away and the new family—who looked normal enough while carrying boxes into the house—has gone inside. So, you put together your best cherry pie or your favorite Hamburger Helper meal (depending on your skill in the kitchen), and you go next door and ring the bell.

A dark-haired guy comes to the door. He’s wearing well-aged dungarees and a polo shirt. He smiles and says “Hello.” But, before you can introduce yourself, his son—whom you can see down the entry hall in the living room—shouts Avis! and a flock of pigeons appears out of nowhere and flies past you en route to the wide open sky.

What happens now?

  • The guy who answered the door says, “Hi, I’m Harry,” and acts like the thing with the birds didn’t happen.
  • You ask, “How did he do that” and Harry says, “No big deal, it’s just James Sirius having a bit of fun.”

It’s not quite like seeing it in the movie, is it? As I play with this WHAT IF question, I like to think that the world has progressed a lot between the time when TV viewers were watching Rob and Laura Petrie at 148 Bonnie Meadow Road in the Dick Van Dyke Show and all the Wisteria Lane families on Desperate Housewives. We are more likely to welcome Harry today than we were in the 1960s, aren’t we?

What do you think happens if Harry Potter moves in to your neighborhood and, along with his wife Ginny, makes no secret of his skill with spell casting and potions? Will the neighbors accept him with open arms the way they did while reading Rowling’s books, or will they stay away?

This is not a WHAT IF question I plan to use for the plot of my next novel. If I were Dan Brown, I might show that Rowling’s books weren’t fiction at all and that the guy next door is probably attracting the wrong kind of attention from, say, Homeland Security, the mob, and various terrorist groups. If I were Katherine Neville, I might show that in spite of his skills, Harry needs the help of my protagonist, say, Bill Smith, who has to go on a search for the real Nicholas Flamel to save the neighborhood. Or, if I were Tom Clancy, I’d probably have a couple of CIA operatives show up to assess “which side” Harry was planning to help “win” with his most powerful spells.

Do We Want the Fantasy Characters to Just Stay in Their Books Where They Belong?

We love fantasy whether it’s epic, contemporary, urban, steampunk, heroic or another sub-genre. In the books, Harry Potter was viewed as the hero who saved the magical world and (by readers) as one of the most-loved characters in fiction.

But WHAT IF Harry, Ginny and the kids moved into your neighborhood. Would it all become one happy family with baseball games on Saturdays and Quidditch matches on Sundays? Or, would Harry, Ginny, and their friends from Hogwarts and Diagon Alley remain separate in their house and yard as The Other?

What I think would happen and what I would like to see happen don’t match up here. Even so, I like asking the question WHAT IF?

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, including the 2011 novel Sarabande from Vanilla Heart Publishing.