How do you spell relief? 

The other night on "Politically Incorrect," I heard Wendy Mallick from "Just Shoot Me" offer an idea that she and some of the other nitwits in her drumming circle had come up with -- that instead of dropping bombs on Afghanistan, wouldn't it be great if we dropped things like medical supplies and food. And -- here's the corker -- women.

I didn't tape the show so I don't have the verbatim transcript, but because she mentioned a drumming circle I got the idea that, during some sort of incense bender, she had a vision of these mother goddesses floating to earth and healing Osama bin Laden's inner child with Celestial Seasonings Tea, wheat-free carrot cake and a snifter full of St. Johns Wort. Forget that what the Taliban does with women is Just Shoot Them.

This annoys me, not because I don't like New Age, but because, to some degree, I do. This type of hooey is bad PR for those who believe but don't have a head full of angel farts. The line between how we'd like the world to be and how it is, is wider than a '70s tie ... as most of us know.

Bewitching hours

That being said, it doesn't mean that making things the way we want can't be a little fun, and pagans definitely have the corner on fun ways to cajole the universe, because they invented spells. From the era of Samantha Stevens up through Harry Potter, all kinds of Americans like to watch the casting of a good spell whether or not they put any credence in the art. Books like "The Book of Spells: Over 40 Secret Recipes to Get Your Own Way in Love, Work and Play" have mushroomed in popularity, offering all kinds of goodies for those who know the proper placements of incense and candles, accompanied by a little concentration, faith and a few well-chosen words. It's nothing that Catholic priests haven't been doing for eons when you think about it.

Of course, as Edina Monsoon said about dieting, if it worked, everyone would be doing it. I like the idea of spells, but to most people I know they're as kooky as that idea of parachuting yoga teachers into Afghan-istan to open bin Laden's chakras. So in the interest of bringing magic and non-magic types together, I've tried to think up some spells that use the same basic idea as those in the above-mentioned book, but which also incorporate more grounded elements so as to be palatable to those who still think black is only for funerals. In honor of Harry Potter's film debut, then, a little practical magic.

Spell to Increase Prosperity: Place a green candle, scented with sage, in the center of a circle of gold coins. Light the candle and meditate on your visions for prosperity. Now get up, go on and find a job.

Spell to Promote Peace Within the Family: Write the following on a square piece of paper: "Tide and time receive my wish and grant me new beginnings" (from above-mentioned spell book). Smear with honey for sweetness in all your endeavors. Get on the phone with an airline and buy three tickets to Vegas for you and your hardest-drinking friends during Thanksgiving weekend, then e-mail mom and tell her you have anthrax and can't make it for dinner. Tell her it's the venereal kind and that you're very contagious; just the other day you coughed on the cat and it fell over dead. Throw the honey paper away before it attracts ants.


Spell to Attract Love: Make a heart-shaped pattern on the floor using sage leaves and inside place two pink candles, one representing you, the other, your future beloved. Go out in the world and be startlingly attractive, fit, conversational, smart, witty and dripping with money. Have friends start rumors that you can put your feet behind your head (if you're a girl) or that the size of your endowments are only exceeded by the size of your checking account (if you're a boy) and if these come back to you, laugh knowingly and change the subject. Act unavailable.

Spell to Bring Happiness in Times of Sorrow: Place yourself inside a circle of bright yellow flowers. Be sure the circle is in front of the television and that your phone and e-mail are both turned off. Say the magical charm, "What's on the Cartoon Network?" Then watch Bugs Bunny until you forget what's bothering you. If mournful friends drop by and burden you with their troubles, repeat the incantation, "Oh, blah blah blah, that's all you ever say." After straightening any wall hangings made askew by slamming door, enjoy peaceful solitude and laugh at the funny parts.

Spell to Get Upgraded to First Class: Wear or bring your special good-luck talisman to the airport (we are assuming it's not a sharp object). When you get up to the counter, ask if there are any available seats in first class and if they are empty, can you be upgraded for free? Hey, we've heard that sometimes these things work.

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