Last weekend I picked up this very pretty book at a remainder warehouse: Lucy Summers, Hex Appeal: Seductive Spells for the Sassy Sorceress, illustrated by Lucy Truman (Sydney: ABC Books, 2004).
The same book was issued at the same time with different imprints in the UK, US and Canada, but all copies were printed in Singapore. It is a lovely printing job, sharp, vibrant colours, with sparkles, holograms and a mix of gloss and matt finishes. But it is the fabulous Brady-Bunch artwork by Lucy Truman that sent me reaching for my money.
The text is pretty much what you’d expect, the sort of breathless enthusiasm about mating that only a hormone-addled teenager would find appealing. The book is totally devoid of politics, or rather, it demonstrates no political awareness whatsoever. Witchy-wise it is no better, but I’ll get to that.
An example: what do you do if you want to talk to a boy? Not ring him, apparently. You wait for him to ring you, and if he doesn’t do that you cast a spell to get him to make him do it. You might wonder, like I did, why shouldn’t a girl make the phone call herself? In what sexist backwater is it wrong for a girl to indicate she has any will, opinions or options of her own?
Then there are instructions on how to be a Goddess in the Bedroom, which will enable a woman to fulfill a man’s every desire (Which goddess isn’t clear—presumably not Kali [काली].) So, what do you do if he is not satisfying your desires? Not tell him, apparently. You cast a spell to get him to do the right thing. What!? Looks like we have really slipped into Lucy Truman’s 50s-inspired bizarro-world again.
And if your man has bad habits, bites his nails, complains all the time etc, and it has got so bad you are ready to leave him, what do you think you should do? Not tell him, apparently (though it is implied that dropping hints is okay). You cast a spell to get him to do the right thing. Why exactly would a sassy—meaning impudent, outspoken, provocative, self-assured, spirited, bold, vigorous—Sorceress not tell her partner that his nail-biting was giving her the shits?
At this point you will understand why I have only dipped into this book long enough to admire the artwork. Read it and you’d find yourself saying something like “Grow a spine you pathetic maggot” while throwing the book through a window.
Then there is the whole witchy thing. The book is full of spells, but none of the pictures show anything like serious spell work. It is all pretty candles, washes and lotions. Oh, and shopping. And though the instructions include an alter there are no gods and goddesses. (“the names of gods and goddesses associated with love have purposely been avoided where possible”). In fact, there is a reassuring note explaining that “None of the spells in this book could summon harmful forces.” Damn strait they couldn’t.
Still, the book encourages you to cast a spell for the most frivolous reasons, and to cast a spell to do things which you should probably get off your arse and do for yourself. It is like the Weasley twins apparating across a room to grab a cookie.
One of the things that frustrates Ged in The Wizard of Earthsea when he is in the Academy on Roke, learning how to use his magical skills, is that the most powerful Master wizards never do magic. Eventually, and at great personal cost, he finds out why.
In Cate Tiernan’s Night’s Child—the final book in the Wicca (or Sweep) series, Moira is similarly frustrated that she never sees her famously powerful mother, the most powerful witch in generations, do any “real” magic. In the end she wishes she did not know, and had never witnessed, the power her mother wields.
In both cases, the powerful demonstrate their power and their wisdom by knowing when the use of magic is required and when it isn’t, when it is necessary and when it isn’t. It is the whole, “with great power comes great responsibility” thing.
In this book “with great power” comes the ability to place your self-worth in the hands of someone else, to value yourself according to how much attention you generate in a room of strangers, and how well you protect and stroke the ego of “your” man. In other words, the ability of a young woman to mutilate her own soul. This sure as hell isn’t my idea of being a sexy witch, because week and needy narcissism is never sexy.