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Breaking the Spell

Tunnel d'arbres

Is our country under a spell?

After the last presidential debate, I felt the need to wash away a residual toxicity, so I indulged in a long bath with a light read. I picked up my copy of The Joy of Witchcraft, a novel billed as “A Humorous Paranormal Romance.” I needed something light.

I admit to a secret curiosity about witchcraft. I’ve wanted to understand who witches were and who they are today.  I know they got a raw deal for centuries. Folks in power labeled them as evil, while forgetting that the true evil is to label other groups as evil.

In the Middle Ages, women who were healers, naturopaths, shamans, spiritually sensitive or just strong members of their communities could be rounded up and labeled witches. If you were afraid of a woman’s power, in Europe or the United States, you could call her a witch and she would be humiliated or burned at the stake.

Thankfully today,we don’t put women on bonfires – we just use words like “piggy,” “aggressive”, “fat,” “strident,” “bitchy” or  …

Anyway, back to witchcraft. The art continues today, and I’ve wondered how much it overlaps with herbalism, energetic healing, spiritualism, or using affirmations, stuff that no longer sounds so weird.

Modern day witches may have their special vocabularies and secret rituals that make them sound cultish, but then again so do the followers of self-help gurus like Tony Robbins or Werner Erhard.

Reading The Joy of Witchcraft

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-6-38-45-pmThe book is fictional and fun, and no tricks of the trade are divulged. But one scene made me pause.

The witches at the Jane Madison’s School for Witches are under threat. As they gather on the lawn outside their school, a stag enters on to the property, followed by a huge dog. The stag disappears, and soon the dog reveals itself as a monstrous, two-headed creature with special powers, a beast that is violent and nearly impossible to kill with traditional swords and daggers.

The situation begs for some witches magic. But as the group of witches stand together and watch the dog, their special powers start leaching out of them. In the presence of this brutish animal, they cannot remember their witches spells, protections and curses. They can no longer access who they know themselves to be. All they can do is stand and watch in horror as their guardians try, ineffectively, to defeat the beast – that is, of course, controlled by a dastardly villain.

With the presidential debates still in my mind, I began to see a bizarre parallel to the witches’ dilemma.

Could it be that some of us in this country are also under the spell of a brute force that is draining away our powers of wisdom and compassion, cutting us off from our knowledge of who we are, and rendering us impotent to act  in the face of a two-headed monster that will not go away?

Watching all the media hype, have we frozen in place, forgetting who we are?

What will it take to wake us out of the spell?

I don’t have time to write a novel, because the situation calls for immediate action,  but I have an answer:


Vote your conscience, vote your preference, just vote.

By voting you can start breaking the spell that may be entrancing us, politically and culturally.

Don’t take what you have for granted

Years ago, I did a performance piece, a monologue, about a woman named Ly Sieng Ngo, a Cambodian refugee and community health worker, who had been a young woman when the Khmer Rouge invaded her city, thirty some years ago. As the Khmer Rouge approached, no one imagined what was about to happen. Her family, well educated and privileged, were going to lose everything. Most of them would die. Ly Sieng would be sent out to the jungle to spend four years facing the horror now known as The Killing Fields.

Often when I finished performing her piece, I was shaking. Although I was only standing in her shoes vicariously, my body imagined the smallest part of her experience and reacted. Ly Sieng once told me, “The body can’t take it,” explaining how she learned to go numb in order to survive.

Years after the Killing Fields, having come to the United States where she recovered, slowly, from the trauma, Ly Sieng would say to her nieces, “In this country, we have so much. Do not take what we have for granted.”

Ly Sieng’s lesson still rings true: do not take what you have for granted.

Returning to the idea of witchcraft, it’s time to gather our collective forces and cast off any secret spell of impotence. We cannot stand on the sidelines not using all our powers.

Break the spell.


5 Responses

  1. So well conceived! So well said!

    Yes, the parallel between our paralysis and a fairy-tale spell points out the emotional significance of the fairy-tale (well, fantasy novel) on the one hand, and the social significance of being stunned into inaction, on the other.


  2. Sally, you got it spot on as usual. I can only vote with my voice. Vote for what is right not just in the biggest mega circus in town but vote for right choices everywhere, everyday. Sometimes, the mind gets muddled up but if we listen to our heart, the story is always fairly evident.

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