Posts tagged ‘charm’

January 4, 2018

small wonder that spell means both

Small wonder that spell means both a story told, and a formula of power over living men.

From “On Fairy-Stories” by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Note (from Online Etymology Dictionary) in Old English “spell” meant: “story, saying, tale, history, narrative, fable; discourse, command.” The meaning of “a set of words with supposed magical or occult powers, incantation, charm” was first recorded in the 1570s. Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore: “This later meaning of ‘spell’ is generally used for magical procedures which cause harm, or force people to do something against their will—unlike charms for healing, protection, etc.” Also note that our word “gospel” comes from the Old English “godspel” which is literally “good spell” (from god “good” + spel “story, message”).

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October 9, 2013

bless each apple by kind

A Charm Against the Language of Politics
by Veronica Patterson

Say over and over the names of things,
the clean nouns: weeping birch, bloodstone, tanager,
Banshee damask rose. Read field guides, atlases,
gravestones. At the store, bless each apple
by kind: McIntosh, Winesap, Delicious, Jonathan.
Enunciate the vegetables and herbs: okra, calendula.

Go deeper into the terms of some small landscape:
spiders, for example. Then, after a speech on
compromising the environment for technology,
recite the tough, silky structure of webs:
tropical stick, ladder web, mesh web, filmy dome, funnel,
trap door. When you have compared the candidates’ slippery
platforms, chant the spiders: comb footed, round headed,
garden cross, feather legged, ogre faced, black widow.
Remember that most short verbs are ethical: hatch, grow,
spin, trap, eat. Dig deep, pronounce clearly, pull the words
in over your head. Hole up
for the duration.

Published in The Sun magazine (November, 1992, Issue 203).

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