Review: The Good Spell Book

With the recommendation of a friend, I began reading The Good Spell Book: Love Charms, Magical Cures, and Other Practical Sorcery by Gillian Kemp as a window into the world of Romany magic.  Kemp operates under the premise that she knows what she knows because of her relationship with the Romany people.  There is no work cited or bibliography.  As a person who does frequent academic research, this claim is a bit of a red flag.  If I were writing a book on behalf of a people, I would do as much research as possible, even if it was entirely oral tradition and credit the people by name, pseudonym if needed.  While I am willing to go along with Kemp’s claim, I urge readers to keep this in mind while reading the book.

As a frequent spell caster, I appreciate the comprehensive structure of the book under the headings of love, health, wealth, and happiness.  If I were to use it as a guide for workings,  I wouldn’t have to dig around the book to find what I wanted.  The one thing about the structure I thought was a bad choice is the author inserts “handwritten” spells that do not necessarily have anything to do with the amain spell on the page.  It’s distracting.  I know the supposed-feel of the book is a tome written by an ancient people, but the author also makes it clear that she is not Romany and is writing from an outsider standpoint.  I like the added wisdom, but I think I would have put the add-ins in their own section.

As for the spells themselves, I do not feel all of them are created equally.  The anointing oil recipes contained in the book seem harmonious and absolutely lovely.  I plan to note them before I return the book.  A lot of the spells utilize elemental principles effectively, such as earth spells for long-term problems.  However, the variety of spells is lacking.  For example, many of the love spells are variations on apple spells, which is fine except I live in an apartment complex and only have so much room for burying apples. I feel it may have been prudent for the author to adapt some of the spells for modern life.  Also, the spell ingredients are also easy to find.  Although to Kemp’s credit, perhaps she did in terms of accessibility of materials.  I like the idea that I could find everything I need in a grocery store.  It’s refreshing.

Bottom line: it’s a good read for the experienced spell-caster.  While the information seems a bit like personal gnosis, I would use these spells in congress with personal knowledge and judgment.

© Ariadne Woods

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