Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want, by Deborah Castellano
Llewellyn Publications, 9780738750385, 216 pp., 2017
I enjoyed Glamour Magic, and I very much agree with Deborah Castellano’s ideas about using glamour as a magical tool. However, the title of the book is misleading, as it’s not really about glamour magick, but rather about the function of glamour in magick. It’s about getting what you want from life. This isn’t a criticism, since Castellano does interesting things in this book. She writes well, and uses widely disparate influences to illustrate her ideas, including mythology, fairy tales, and the lives of saints and historical figures.
She defines glamour as “What makes you exciting and interesting to others” early in the book, and takes pains to distinguish this type of personal charisma from the culturally-sanctioned notions of glamour that involve the trappings of consumer femininity– the “lipstick and stilettos” variety of glamour, if you will. I was curious to see how she would address the issue of glamour without reinforcing western cultural norms of beauty. The concept of glamour itself is tied to problematic ideas about what constitutes attractiveness in late capitalism (such as glamour and beauty being young, white, cisgender, able-bodied, and feminine) — and I wondered how Castellano might go about addressing these complexities. In the end, she didn’t spend too much time on how a reader might access glamour in practical terms, which I think was a missed opportunity given what I thought was the premise of Glamour Magic. Yet she does a great job of encouraging readers to interpret glamour as they see fit, taking into consideration their own gender presentation, preferences, and comfort.
She spends much more time on the reason for acquiring this glamour: to accomplish your goals, or what she refers to as “your Great Work.” This is laudable, and made an invigorating read, but I missed the glamour in the glamour magick! I believe that glamour is often maligned as superficial, so the task of a modern book about witchcraft and glamour is to destigmatize the concept for readers who are conversant in feminist politics that rightly eschew prescriptive ideas about how we should look. Of course, this task is further complicated if a writer doesn’t want to reinforce those prescriptive ideas, and seeks instead to affirm readers in their own iteration of glamour. I think Castellano got most of this right, but she didn’t delve into the concept of glamour as much as I hoped she would.
In a few chapters, she uses a fable, myth, or a historical story to illustrate a point that she goes on to discuss. I wish those sections had been set out from the rest of the text somehow, or that their use had been more consistent. My only other criticism is that the book was slightly disjointed in some sections. I know Castellano has had a long-standing and widely-read blog, so perhaps this reflects an excellent writer who is used to writing shorter pieces? For example, there’s a long passage where she recounts a visit to the famous NYC immersive theatre exhibit Sleep No More. Not only is this passage straight from her blog, but it felt out of place in this book. Each chapter ends with a ritual for the reader based on the ideas there. I didn’t do any of them. I found them too esoteric, lyrically overwritten, and weirdly specific in their set up. I would have liked if she’d kept them more simple or adaptable to readers’ inclinations.
I still remember reading The Satanic Witch, a terrible book by Anton LaVey. Amidst all the retrograde, silly, and gender-normative rhetoric, he stumbled onto some interesting ideas about glamour which I never forgot. There is lots of information in that book about how a (presumed female) Satanic witch might leverage her sexual allure and appearance — her glamour — to achieve her goals in life. His advice, though, is interesting: Exaggerate and maximize whatever features you feel stand out the most for you. If you’re fat, wear tight clothing; if you have large lips, make red lipstick your signature; if you’re tall, wear sky-high heels; and so on. I think these ideas get to the heart of glamour magick, and that advice has the added benefit of being wonderfully subversive and counter to mainstream beauty advice, which tends to emphasize shortcomings and lack.
My point is, I felt Castellano trod lightly on the actual subject of glamour, perhaps out of a commendable desire not to patronize or make readers feel inadequate. This is not to say Glamour Magic was disappointing, as I did like her emphasis on using glamour to accomplish your goals — the “Great Work” she often refers to. I like this advice a lot, as I’ve not seen that focus often in the many books on witchcraft I’ve read. I think the Great Work is hugely important to make a life invigorating and rewarding. The examples she provides are long-term projects like writing a book or becoming a hospice nurse. I love reading about goals, and Castellano has wonderful ideas about how witches can use their goals to energize their lives (and their witchcraft also!).
I like Castellano’s writing a lot. She writes lyrically and uses interesting examples to demonstrate her ideas. I confess that, given the title, I had hoped for a witch-approved treatise on how to achieve occult glamour. Having said that, any book that encourages witches to set and achieve ambitious goals — and to see those achievements as manifestations of magick — is pretty awesome too. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in using witchcraft to manifest their dreams and goals.