Playing fast and loose with the supernatural

A few days ago I saw a discussion among readers of so-called cozy, witchy romances in which most of the fans preferred fantasy versions of witchcraft over novels that made even a lightweight attempt at reality. What we’re talking about here is contemporary fantasy, stories that take place within our own world as opposed to those set on another planet.

This is what I find when I search for witchcraft on a clip art service. While it’s what we think, it isn’t reality.

Wisely, I think, I said nothing. I’ve read a few of those cozy witchcraft novels and, even though the storylines were interesting, my primary thought was that the authors were playing fast and loose with the supernatural. That is, the stories had little or nothing to do with either real Wicca or real traditional witchcraft. The witches in the stories were given powers and rituals that real witches don’t have OR they continued to follow the long-time portrayals (by Hollywood and the Christian Church) of witches as satan worshippers.

While that’s a convenient approach, it’s about as irresponsible as telling a story about–say, the Presbyterian Church or General Motors or Walmart that doesn’t stick to established facts about these organizations. Yes, I know, if makes novels more exciting if a Presbyterian a minister has a wand and can use spells out of the Harry Potter books. But it’s false.

The practices of real witches are very tame when compared to the cozy romances and horror novels written about them. Maybe that’s why authors and a lot of readers like the phony fantasy versions. During the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when the triple feature horror-rama presentations at drive-in theaters were doing big business, the silver screen was awash in symbols from multiple religions and belief systems that–for the sake of a scary story–were turned into a cesspool of evil to earn a buck.

In addition to witches, mystics, shamen, psychics, healers, herbalists, visionaries, and others have been slandered by the mainstream as people associated with evil and/or scams of one kind or another. This has given authors and filmmakers an “anything goes” license to make up whatever nastiness they want about the supernatural and those who believe in it. You may think the Salem witchcraft trials are far away, but the attitude behind them is still with us.

Humans seem predisposed to distrust anyone they can label as “other.” Most often, this ignorant habit focuses on other races, foreigners in general, and people from another part of the country. But it also includes witches, shamen, and healers. Why does this happen? Brainwashing from mainstream religions that routinely accuse people who don’t even believe in the devil as being worshippers of the devil. And, the fact that mixing long-time fears about the supernatural into a riveting movie or novel will bring in a lot of dollars.

The majority of our population seems to fall into two camps of people: (1) Those who believe the supernatural is bunk, and (2) Those who believe the supernatural is evil. If one ever pointed out that many church-going people believed in Christian (and other) mystics of the past, we were told that such people don’t exist now. Sure they do. They’ve been frightened into keeping quiet.

All of us have mental capabilities we can develop: hunches and premonitions, intuition about our ailments, feelings about our connections to the Earth as a living organism, and the ability to strongly influence the course of our lives. It’s sad that we overlook all of this because we’re told it’s evil or mindless superstition. So no, I don’t like those cozy witchy novels and Hollywood movies that play fast and loose with the supernatural because those things are holding us back.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three novels in the Florida Folk Magic series that portray hoodoo as it really is.

 

 

 

We have been speaking of magic

It’s almost impossible to make a list of magical techniques that could possibly serve as a recipe or a how-to manual for those wanting to learn. The techniques are varied, usually arise out of one’s belief system and/or life’s path, and depend upon the seriousness of those approaching the art and craft of the methods that resonate with them.

Personally, I think we can produce “magical results” without the need of rituals, candles, wands, athames, Tarot cards, and other paraphernalia. The power is within us, not the equipment. If the equipment, crutches as I view them, helps, then there is not need to avoid it. We all use what facilitates our intentions.

For many, the “equipment” helps because society in general tends to discount magic, so it’s often difficult to practice it in a negative environment of science and logic. I have found Tarot cards to be helpful as well as readings from the I Ching.  When I have used candles, it was for focusing my gaze more than for their color or for the herbs that hoodoo uses to “dress” them.

If spells and paraphernalia help you achieve results. there’s no need to get rid of them.  Altars and herbs and candles don’t fit my lifestyle, so I don’t use them. However, they may work for you.

Your mind’s focus is the important thing whether your embrace traditional witchcraft, Wicca, Transcendental Mediation, the Seth Materials, Rosicrucian techniques, various Lightworker approaches, or a mystic attunement based on your religion or spiritual outlook.

In the final analysis, we create our own realities whether we use spells, meditation, various forms of biofeedback and self-hypnosis, dreams, or a positive-thinking approach to life. Such things seem more important to our success than the spells and rituals of one system or another.

It takes courage and perseverance, I think, to approach the world from a mystic’s or psychic’s point of view, and to suggest to family and friends that there’s more to reality than logic or the inputs produced by the five senses. Perhaps it’s best to remain quiet about such thing rather than to be labeled by society as a crazy person.

An author can hide behind his stories by using magic in them that s/he doesn’t mention in every day life. What one says about one’s beliefs is a difficult choice to make,

–Malcolm

 

Review: Alice Hoffman’s ‘The Rules of Magic’

The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Rules of Magic,” the prequel to Alice Hoffman’s 1995 bestseller “Practical Magic,” sparkles with the same wisdom and magical realism as the witching story of Sally and Gillian Owens did twenty two years ago. The characters, stories and writing style of this stunning prequel fit hand-in-glove with the characters, stories and writing style of “Practical Magic,” not an easy bit of conjuring for an author to face when going back to a story she told before she truly knew the magical rules when she first wrote about them.

This backstory about Sally and Gillian’s aunts Franny and Bridget (AKA “Jet”) focuses on a theme about life’s curses and blessings and what individuals wish to make of the fate and destiny they are given. Early on, Franny and Jet’s mother asks the sisters whether they’re opting for courage or caution in their unfolding lives. Their answers make for a cohesive story. Clearly, Alice Hoffman opted for courage when she traveled back to 1995 to continue the story of the Owens family.

The book contains wonderful surprises, making it much deeper than a family tree tacked on to the front of a famous novel many years later. The book offers its own multiple levels of depth and angst and joy while changing in positive ways the way many of us who read it will view the characters and themes of the original novel. (Emerging writers considering magical realism as a potential genre for their work will find both novels to be a demonstration of how an author can utilize magic and realism seamlessly in novels set in today’s world.”

While the ending of “The Rules of Magic” represents the best of all possible worlds for the two novels and their characters, turning the last page might be depressing for some readers. The reason is simply this: nobody wants the story to end because when it comes down to it, we need these characters, their joys and sorrows, and their magic in our lives.

View all my reviews

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.