Everyday Magic: Rituals, Spells & Potions to Live Your Best Life, by Semra Haksever
Hardie Grant Books, 9781784881924, 159 pp., 2018
There’s a lot of talk these days in occultnik circles about the commodification of magick, and
Everyday Magic capitalizes on this trend. Often times that discussion comes across as gatekeeping; long-time practitioners don’t enjoy seeing easier access and basic information available for newcomers. Some rightfully criticize mass-marketed attempts at profiting off people’s lived religious traditions. At best, these hesitations are thoughtful pauses questioning capitalism; at worst, exclusionary snobbery.
Personally, I find the increase in books, objects, and information a boon to our mass over-culture, as well as for the wider occult and magical communities. I remember looking for information in the late ’90s and being quite put off by what little I could find. I might have not dragged my feet into polytheism and witchcraft so (comparatively) late if I’d had access to better stuff. So, when I see well-designed books on using magick in one’s daily life, I am pretty enthusiastic and open to seeing an entry point for all the “past mes” out there.
Unfortunately, with Everyday Magic, Semra Haksever’s offering is depressing and it fuels the easy access haters’ arguments.
Haksever’s tone is friendly, welcoming, and enthusiastic. The design of the book is lovely and clear. And that’s the best I can say about it. It might be appropriate for someone in junior high just approaching an interest in the craft.
However, I would never give this to my kids or anyone else and here is why: in her introduction, Haksever tells us she dropped out of her college psychology major because “it was waaaay too much maths and rats and stats for a spiritual soul such as [her]self.”
I threw the book across the room.
I cannot count how many well-educated, scientists (engineers, robotics designers, heavy coders, and other math centred fields) I know in the occult world! I myself have an advanced degree (theology), which required learning Latin, the “math” of the language world. Suggesting that science and math are incompatible with spiritual people reveals the worst dumbing-down “love and light” nonsense in our current era.
It is clear that Haksever has absolutely no knowledge of her topic’s history. Has she never heard of Hildegard von Bingen? Saint Hildegard lived in the 12th century and was a mystic, musician, scientist, herbalist, and medicine woman, and many other things! She was a genius. While St. Hildegard existed within the Christian tradition, she is a well-respected mystic. She was brilliant and spiritual. And she is not the only one.
Two pages later, Haksever gives us “The History of Magic.” It is three paragraphs long. The first sentence references “thousands of years ago” and two sentences later jumps to the early modern era. She makes sweeping statements with little context and no footnotes of any kind. A brief history does not require footnotes, but sweeping generalizations do.
In one- to two-page bursts we get mini lessons in everything from astrological signs, moon phases, sigil crafting, spells, crystals, elements, hoodoo, and more. While the simplicity could give the gist of things a reader could learn more about on their own, knowing the background of the author (fashion stylist for 10 years, “bohemian entrepreneur,” and too spiritual for science) suggests that this is all she has to offer.
An introductory book to witchcraft does not have to be arcane, in depth, or complicated. But it does have to be solid, and the reader should come away from it with the sense that the author understands her subject better than most people. Everything about this book reads as though she googled “witchcraft” and collected her search results. Sadly, Everyday Magic suggests quick capitalization on a trend. It in no way adds to the community, the broad field of magick, nor would I gift this to a young person. There are better introductory books out there.