A review of 'The British Book of Spells and Charms' by Graham King
The British Book of Spells and Charms is written by Graham King, the former curator of The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle England. The author draws upon his extensive literary collection to create a resource of folk magick that was practiced in the U.K. hundreds of years ago.
This book gives us a glimpse into the days of old. It is divided into various sections including good luck and protection charms, healing charms, cursing and removing curses, and so on.
The book begins with a short introduction on witchcraft and then goes on to explain what spells and charms are. Referring to the use of horseshoes for good luck and hagstones for protection.
There is a lot crossover of Christian ideology and terminology in these spells. Mentioning Christ, Saints, the Holy Trinity, or the reference of psalms and reciting the Lord's Prayer. Even though the origins of the spells and charms may predate Christianity, they will have been altered slightly to be accepted by the church.
There is also quite a lot of spoken incantations. The author references this old charm for healing which is still apparently used today:
"Bone to bone,
And vein to vein
And vein turn to thy rest again.
And so shall thine [the name of the injured person]."
Some of the spells recorded in this book are quite in-humane, such as the use of frogs, cats, spiders, and so forth. For example one spell requires burying a frog in an ant hill and grinding its bones into a powder to be added to the food of someone whose love you desire. Or tying a live spider around your neck in pouch until it died to cure whooping cough.
One of the strangest things I came across in this book was the use of an executed persons hand to cure illnesses. Or the "Hand of Glory" which is essentially a candle made from the hand of a hanged person used to render a person motionless or powerless.
Overall, this is a weird and wonderful book. While I certainly won't be incorporating many of the spells and charms in this book into my daily practice, it is fascinating to learn how witchcraft was practiced in England long ago. I would definitely recommend this book if you are curious about British folk magic.