Review: Supermarket Magic by Michael Furie
Warning: this post is going to be long and ranty. EDIT: yeah it’s now 3 posts. SETTLE IN.
I really wanted to like this book.
Honestly, I don’t know where to begin. I’m starting this review before I finish reading the book because there’s so much to say.
I started this book with high hopes for it. It looked good. A book about accessible witchcraft done with mundane items from the grocery store? Yes please!
Sadly, it barely lives up to that one criterion.
The first two chapters are okay. Furie is writing from a Wiccish point of view, which I would be more okay with if he stated that upfront and didn’t write so many “All witches believe/know/do/say” type statements.
He’s also very much a believer that his way of doing magic is the right way. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with his methods — they do work for some people, after all — but it is irritating that he can’t even acknowledge that there are more ways to skin the proverbial cat. Instead, it’s “Do magic this way or it will never work.” Yeah, ok buddy.
Despite these two issues, the first couple of chapters do have some useful stuff — namely two mini-spells for dealing with anxiety/people-crush at the supermarket. That’s something that should be touched on, so I’m glad he did.
Then we get to the ethics section and…Morrigan take the wheel.
Ethics for Lazy People
This book literally tells you that if you put the caveat “with free will and for the good of all!” into your spells, you never have to worry about unintended consequences.
“Well, if you send all your magic out with the intention that it be for the good of all, you never ever have to worry about unforeseen negative consequences from accidental, irresponsible, or so-called black magic. Any spell you cast with the intention of “for the good of all” already has a built-in safety net to prevent any and all controlling or cursing elements of a spell from manifesting in the first place, thus saving you from having to endure the consequences.”
No. Just no. This is 100% wrong and it’s basically an ethical bandaid for lazy people who don’t to actually think about what they’re doing. You can’t put a boilerplate cover-your-ass disclaimer in your spell and then wipe your hands of any consequences. That’s not how this works.
101-type books need to stop teaching this bullshit because it’s creating scores of magic practitioners who don’t think about what they’re doing before they do it, and then get to cry victim when they get bit on the ass.
Look — if you do the legwork before casting a spell of figuring out possible consequences and either can’t find any negative ones or they seem very unlikely to you, then putting a small disclaimer in the spell isn’t a bad idea. It might not work, but if you’ve done that work of thinking about the ethics, then you already realize that. It’s a just-in-case, hopefully this will kick in if it needs to but it likely won’t need to. Like tornado insurance if you live in BC.
That does not mean you can just slap a disclaimer on all your magic and never think about the ramifications, or that the disclaimer will make you safe. It will not make you safe.
If you are fucking around with magic, you need to be ready to accept the consequences of what you do. Good or bad. You can’t hide behind the boilerplate and whine that you didn’t know so you shouldn’t be punished. Well, ok, you can, but it’s not going to work and it’s just going to irritate anyone who might be able to help you.
Infinity of Bullshit
In this same ethics chapter he talks about how all witches are taught about the “Infinity of Solution” concept, which is “the belief that no one needs to suffer for our happiness to exist”.
Ok. A) That’s patently bullshit. Should we be trying to destroy others in order to feed our own happiness? No! That’s an asshole move. But that doesn’t mean that our happiness might not inadvertently cause suffering for someone else.
Example: spiders are perfectly happy in my house, including in places like my shower or raining down on my hair. I am a massive arachnophobe. Those spiders’ happiness adds to my suffering, and vice versa: for me to be happy, they need to be evicted. We try to do this as humanely as possible, but sometimes they’re suicidal.
This is how life is.
“But Morag,” you say, “Maybe he wasn’t talking about beings like spiders but just other humans. Surely other people don’t need to suffer for us to be happy!”
Ok, fine, here’s another example using humans only.
My friends are constantly getting pregnant. Every time I turn around, there’s another pregnancy announcement on Facebook. Every one of these announcements cuts me like a knife through my heart because I desperately want to be pregnant and we cannot afford it. We have been ready for kids for 2 years now and we have no options until I graduate from my new field of study and hopefully get a good paying job.
I have maybe 8 years of childbearing left. The clock is ticking, and I don’t graduate till December or do my practicum till January. I’m looking at at least another year before I can even start my new job. Every day we do not have a child, I am suffering. And my friends’ happiness adds to that suffering.
Is part of me happy for them? Of course. But the rest of me is in agony.
There is no way for that to be avoided. Your happy announcement is going to hurt someone you love — someone struggling with infertility, or loss of a child, or extreme poverty that makes it impossible to even consider starting a family.
And when — if — it comes time for us to make that same announcement, it will cause suffering for my other friends.
Of course we should try to minimize suffering around us. When it comes time, I will be reaching out privately to those friends I know are struggling, to let them know ahead of time so they can brace themselves. But if we predicate our happiness on no one ever suffering from it then we will never be happy.
Finally, point B.
WHAT WITCHES ARE TAUGHT THIS, MICHAEL? BY WHOM?
I have been practicing witchcraft since I was ten years old. That is twenty-two years. I have studied many different forms of witchcraft, including various types of Wicca. I have literally never heard of the Infinity of Solution before.
There are A LOT OF WITCHES out there and the ones I’ve already talked to about this book? They ALSO haven’t heard about this BS.
If the witches you know are the ones who know this, STATE THAT. Stop trying to talk for all of us.
Sick Gainz, Bro
Yeah, we’re still on the ethics chapter.
Furie also says that magic should never be done for personal gain. That old chestnut!
He goes on to “clarify” that he distinguishes between spells that would actually better your life and spells that are frivolous. While the example he uses is probably pretty frivolous (a spell to get a better car than your neighbor’s), this entire section is slapdash and honestly irresponsible.
Who decides what’s frivolous? Who is the arbiter of what personal gain spells are acceptable versus those that are not?
Plenty of newcomers to witchcraft are too TERRIFIED to do spellwork for themselves because it might be ~frivolous~. They’ve had the NO PERSONAL GAIN refrain shoved down their throats by irresponsible 101 books and it sticks.
I know because I used to be one of them.
Later, thanks to studying things that aren’t NeoWicca, I learned to look at magic differently. To sum it up: “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.”
There is nothing wrong with doing magic for personal gain, and in fact it’s a great place to start to warm up your magic muscles.
I Thought We All Ran on Pagan Standard Time
For some reason, he also harps a LOT on spell timing in the ethics chapter. He actually lists as one of the “rules” at the beginning of the chapter that you MUST do spellwork according to the phases of the moon.
I’ll give him this: he at least does go into astronomy a little to back up his beliefs on how the moon phases affect us and our magic work. It’s the bog-standard “full moon for blessings, waning moon for getting rid of, waxing moon for drawing to you, new moon for shadow work/etc” that is so common in so many forms of Wicca-inspired witchcraft. Personally, it’s what I ascribe to, too, so I liked seeing the astronomy stuff in there to give it another level.
However, I’ve met plenty of witches who don’t ascribe to those meanings or even give two shits about the moon, and even one whose entire view of the phases was opposite.
Astrological timing can help with your spells — IF that’s what you ascribe to. But it’s not a rule that you need to work by the phases of the moon and even if it were, it certainly wouldn’t belong in the chapter on ethics, for Selene’s sake.
Here’s a Secret: The Secret is Bullshit
The ethics chapter ALSO goes into a lot of detail about things returning to you, peppered with super-liberal use of “The Secret” style philosophy which…I mean I don’t think I need to get into why that is a load of horse manure.
I do think we need to be conscious about what seeds we sow, but that’s not the same as “Think positive and life will be rainbows shooting out of the asses of kittens!” Which is what The Secret basically is.
The one thing I actually liked about the ethics chapter (which probably should have been in the magical basics chapter, but I guess he needed to pad his word count): he mentions specificity and generality in spells and a general rule as to when to use each, which makes a lot of sense.
Basically, he says that when you’re doing a spell to draw things to you that to be general or vague usually works better than to be specific. But when you’re doing a spell to banish things from your life, you want to be more specific. The example he uses is if you cast a general spell to remove all the obstacles from your life, you might lose the obstacles you actually like and choose to keep around — like your friends, spouse, kids, pets, etc. Plenty of things that are good in your life can also be obstacles, so with that sort of spell it’s good to be specific.
Generally speaking, though, the ethics chapter knocked my initial estimation of this book from 3/5 broomsticks down to 2/5…and I thought it would stay there.
I was wrong.
This review is getting pretty long so I’m going to break it into two posts. Join me next time when I talk about more horrific bullshit in a book that shouldn’t have it!
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