Like many kids, I used to believe in magic. I believed in fairies and trolls, and looked for evidence of pixies in my garden; I used to think the tree spirits would talk to me if I could only figure out how to hear them, and I left notes under rocks and studied where the rain smudged the letters, in the hopes it would reveal a fairy-message. I absolutely, unequivocally, believed. My conviction for magic extended to myself, and I believed whole-heartedly that I was a witch. I don’t know where this idea came from, but for most of my childhood I felt, or rather, I knew, that the blood in my veins was witch-blood, and that I naturally possessed the special knowledge that only witches did.
I still have the book from The London Dungeons gift-shop that I filled with spells and, looking back, it’s somewhere between adorable, pathetic and evidence of my pedantic book-keeping. My spells were divided into chapters, and before each one there was a page with the signatures of everyone I allowed to progress to the next section. I felt that the mystic secrets I disclosed were sacred and powerful, and I needed a record of my confidants, should they be used for evil.
The spells themselves were mostly to do with school, often relating to exams or homework – the spell for a test is to spin around 3 times and hold a buttercup: use wisely – others are a bit sadder, like the “notice me spell” or the “be confident at parties spell”. My favourite has to be the “make the new kid at school feel comfortable spell.” A lot of them are footnoted with added instructions, often to gesture to an item that would increase the power of the spell, but wasn’t essential, and most of them included a series of rules and cautions. Do NOT under any circumstances look at the stage while you do the “break a leg spell,”and if you recite the “be confident” incantations more than twice you will be, and I quote, “dancing like crazy forever!”
I look back at my spell book and see a child with a great imagination and an obsession with control. I used my witch-practice to cope with stressful situations and assert some sense of agency in a world that was largely dictated by adults. I grew up without a religious practice, and I think my witchcraft was my way of finding order in a world that was full of chaos and unfamiliarity. I could do nothing more than revise for the grammar tests I would routinely fail, learn my lines for the school play and speak to the new student – but I wanted to believe there was more to it.
I have been thinking about magic recently because things feel bleak. The pandemic has thrust us all into a scary, unfamiliar environment that, for the most part, we have absolutely no control over. I have felt the little kid in me looking for new versions of the spells I used to rely on, and ritual and introspection have certainly played huge parts in maintaining my sanity over lockdown. In truth, the past year has turned us all into those little kids, just trying to hold onto their faith in magic.
*In part II, I’ll be speaking with Witch and Astrologer Grace Mcgrade on what magic means in the midst of a pandemic.*