- Category: Reviews
How to Enchant a Man:
Spells to Bewitch, Bedazzle
by Ellen Dugan
(See below for ratings)
Editor’s Note: We got both of these reviews more or less simultaneously. We’ll let you decide whether this book is a bomb — or a blast.
All women must be in love, asserts Ms. Dugan on the first page of Enchant. “Think about it… every woman is either in love, working to keep the flames burning, looking for love, denying that she needs love, recovering from a relationship… or bemoaning the lack of a good man in her life.” My partner Dami read this passage aloud to her 17-year-old daughter, to which both responded: “blink blink blink, No.” Dugan might claim they’re in denial.
Frankly, I expected to give this book a quick zero-broomstick rating. Apparently another “snag-a-man” spell booklet, Enchant immediately rubbed me the wrong way. Upon reading this book, however, I must give Ms. Dugan credit. She specifically warns against manipulative magic in the first chapter, then reminds readers to “Act like a Goddess… put aside old pre-conceived images of yourself and… allow… love and enchantment to come into your life.” Not bad advice, really.
If only the other advice in this book was as good! Although Ellen includes some practical hints for sensuality and self-confidence, her take on magic(k) is exceedingly fluffy. She repeatedly refers to “magick” as “the art and science of creating positive change.” Really? Positive? Before riffing on Uncle Aleister’s spelling and definition, his biography might be in order, too. “The goddess [sic.],” Dugan continues, “is a kind and loving deity.” Ellen, meet Kali, Hera, and the Morrigan. “Witchy and enchanting women have ‘fun’ all the time,” she insists. “Why? Because magick is a joyous thing.” Dugan’s own anecdotes, though, contradict this sentiment. Considering that Dugan has been “a practicing Witch for over twenty-four years,” I’d expect her to know better. This isn’t just trite ― it’s dishonest.
This dishonesty extends to Enchant’s so-called “spellwork.” There’s some New Age psychology involved with Dugan’s correspondences, but real tradition is nowhere to be found. Even her witchcraft is fluffy; rather than referencing authentic spells of attraction, Dugan makes up doggerel instead: “Lovely pink roses and fresh peppermint smell so sweet/ Bringing affection and energy that can’t be beat.” I guess it beats Belladonna and cat urine, but couldn’t it at least have scanned properly?
This superficiality creates hilarious ironies, too. Referencing love, she quotes libertines like bisexual Byron, drug addict Baudelaire, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, who fathered perhaps seventy-five kids and whose quoted song “I Put a Spell on You” remains one of the creepiest stalker anthems on record. She advocates “beauty and joy” and “harming none,” then invites readers to call upon Lilith (“winged Goddess of seduction”) for great sex. Dugan even quotes “an old saying in the Craft” that actually came from Joseph Campbell ― the 20th-century, boys-club mythologist. Such mistakes undermine Dugan’s credibility. I’m not expecting The Lesser Key of Solomon here, but some basic homework would have been nice.
Fluffiness aside, Enchant’s flaws include a “one size fits all” approach to men and women (assuming that all women want a man, or vice versa); superficial views of romance and relationships; provincial takes on flirting, clothes, and cosmetics (“Men love high heels”? Not always, no); a patronizing view of men in general; and an hectoring approach that tries to seem casual but winds up condescending. “Aaaaack!” writes Dugan, “I can hear some of you hyperventilating right about now. Okay, time out. Do you need to breathe slowly in a paper bag, or are you pulling yourself together? Let’s take a deep breath here and calm down, [sic.] and behave like grown-ups.” The whole book reads like this, and some passages caused it to be hurled across the room. Lest one claim that that book was written with women in mind, let it be known that said thrower was my girlfriend.
Okay, so what’s good about Enchant? The book’s best feature is Dugan’s call to confidence. Attractiveness, she maintains, comes not from spellwork but from focus and self-assurance. Agreed. She also warns against manipulative magick (while championing manipulative behavior…), offers sound advice for flirting and dating (“Don’t sit with other women all night… Smile!”), and encourages women to embrace their inner Goddess-selves. Frankly, that’s about it. I give Enchant a single broomstick for its message of self-empowerment. For women who are already confident, informed, and sexy, though, this “magickal” take on Schneider & Fein’s reprehensible The Rules has little to offer.
RATING: 1 Broomstick
Love spells are part of the lore of the witch — the same lore that says we’re all ugly, warty hags who can dry up a cow’s milk with a glance and fly through moonless nights on our broomsticks. As easily as we cause trouble we can cast our glamour to entrap a man who would otherwise never give us a second glance (the warts, you know). Since we’ve all gotten past this illin-formed lore, love spells have become a bit of a dirty topic — and with good reason. Most love spells are manipulative and have all sorts of ways they can go wrong. Ellen Dugan is the first author (to my knowledge) to write a book of love magick that is 100% free of manipulation.
How to Enchant a Man is a straightforward collection of spells to bring back, reawaken, or otherwise manifest romance and love in your life. Although written for women, the principles could probably be used by men and I had the feeling that they would work no matter the gender you are trying to attract. Dugan is very clear about her rules of magick: harm none — no one at all, don’t manipulate another’s free will, don’t target a specific person, respect the elemental and natural forces, honor the God and Goddess, and follow the rule of three (whatever you send out will return amplified three times over).
A key element of this book is Dugan’s use of the word “enchantment” by which she means the classic definition of “to influence by . . . to attract and move deeply; rouse to ecstatic admiration.” For her, enchanting another person is as much about being in love with yourself as any other. She says: “A Witch does not hunt for love; instead she attracts it and draws it to her… you should focus on yourself and make yourself joyful and content first.” Unlike the plethora of women’s magazines that make us feel inadequate all the time Dugan wants us to be the best we can be: happy, confident women. Our love magick spells help us use our best assets and make each of us enchantresses — not the fairy-tale or romance novel variety, but flesh-and-blood women who are irresistible.
To this end Dugan begins by offerring tips on reading (and expressing) body language and flirting that feels a bit 1950s, but without the “how to marry a man” smarminess. Dugan’s spells are specific in intent and use natural forces — day of the week, lunar phase, physical elements, and astrological signs — as well as candles and scents to add extra power to your intention. She includes a nice collection of charms and flower-based spells alongside a couple of intriguing Goddess workings. I found her Sabbat-based spells particularly excellent.
Some of what she says can seem insulting: men sometimes come across as horn-dogs looking for full breasts and a rounded backside, that can be seduced by a good bra, silk negligee, and inviting body language. As a woman, I know how not true this is. As a person living in the United States in the 21st century I also know how true it can be. Wearing something sexy to bed is arousing and part of what makes it so is your attitude while wearing it. Throughout the book we are treated to Ms. Dugan’s wonderful sense of humor and delightful sense of play. She is clearly in love with herself and shares that joy with other women — we should all be so in love with ourselves!
RATING: 5 Broomsticks
— LISA McSHERRY.
» Originally appeared in newWitch #17
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