Part 2. Digital magic: A Conversation on The Cyber Spellbook

By Cancan Wang and Line Henriksen

About a year ago at a casual lunch, we started talking about magic. We were both fascinated by the dissemination of ‘magical memes’ that spread curses and luck on the internet, and wondered why these digital spells flourish, and what they might indicate about the role of magic in a digital context. Recently we came across The Cyber Spellbook: MagicK in the Virtual World (2002) by Patricia Telesco and Sirona Knight. Sitting separately in front of our computers during the Danish Corona virus quarantine, we thought this might be a good time to talk about – and write a short text on – magic. After all, one might need a spell for good luck (preferably a digital one to maintain social distancing) in the time of a global disease outbreak. This text is an excerpt from our online conversation  – mediated by Zoom – around the text on the cover of The Cyber Spellbook, as well as its Amazon reviews. This digitally mediated conversation ended up touching on issues such as spellcasting, conjuring, and temporality in a digital sphere. In case you’re looking for more in-depth engagements with the topic of magic and technology, see the works of e.g. Briana Pegado, Nazila Kivi and Simone Natale + Diana Pasulka.

This is part 2 of 1. Find the first post here.

ACT II

Image 3
Figure 3. A screenshot of the reviews of the book

Wang: Should we try the seven exciting customer reviews?

Henriksen: Let’s do it!

W: Kello said “a good place to start, but kind of outdated.” That is funny. It is a comment from 2016. Again it is the idea of newness. Like looking back 14 years.

H: it is kinda interesting how cyber witchcraft can become outdated. Feel dated. And the next review is “really cool!” But it is from 2017, and I like that. Cool that somebody who came later in the future didn’t mind, and weren’t concerned about it is being outdated.

W: Really cool. And it is a dashing four star!

H: Exactly!

W: I think for us, when we first got to know this book, even though we thought microwaves and lawn mowers are funny, but the concept of cyber spellbook, for me at least, the term ’cyber’ triggers a modern sense around it.

H: I keep returning to the idea of microwaves and lawn mowers, and I really like it. I like the magic in the mundane, the enchanted mundane, and how everyday objects appear humourous and funny but at the same time it makes sense that these things that we occupy our days with, that they would be endowed with some sort of magic. But let’s see what other people say.

W: So Terry said

While I applaud the idea of Innovation, this book just felt too tongue-in-cheek for my tastes. There’s a lot of correspondaces that are rehashed from other books.

So Terry thought it was old because it has been there before.

And some of the ideas for modern tools and appliances as magickal tools or correspondances for use in magic is just way too hokey.

W: Hahaha!

H: Come on! Other people thought it was cool.

W: Show some support! Right, so we come to much earlier now.

H: Yeah. 2002, Caroline.

W: A New Age witch from California. What is a New Age witch?

H: I don’t know.

W: Just checking … Oh! There is an article in 2018. “The US witch population has seen an astronomical rise.”

H: Yeah, I just saw it, yeah.

W: Yeah. And then they are talking about …

Some witches reject Wicca in it’s current form as a New Age less than perfect edition of witchcraft.

Wow. Interesting. So, ok. She said, Caroline said:

For the first time in Pagan history, these two Witches have finally put together a book that speaks to our times. It’s up to date.

H: In 2002 it was up to date, according to Caroline.

W:

We all use electronics and techno tools in our magic today. I’m keying this review on my computer, which is one of my main cyber-witch tools.

H: Cyber witch tools!

W: Computer as cyber-witch tool.

All witches with fully functioning and open minds will want this book handy in the libraries to refer to. After all, we live in a techno world not the Dark Ages.

H: So, this was ahead of time, cutting-edge. But that was 2002, obviously. That’s more than 18 years ago.

W: Now we move to another 5 stars. Walter Shaw: “A new era of Wicca. I enjoyed both of these authors earlier works”. Ah, so they did have … let me just do this quickly … yes, she did have plenty of other books published before. For example, Patricia Telesco has published ‘Kitchen Witch’ and also ‘Your Book of Shadows – How to Write Your Own Magical Spells.’ There’s also ‘Cat Magic’!

H: Noooooooo! That is so cute. I need it.

W: I found so many relevant books now … Can you hear me, though? I feel like my connection …

W: Hey Line!

H: I’m sorry, I don’t know … I think my internet just crashed. I don’t know, sorry!

W: Don’t be! I thought I was like, is my connection gone …

H: My internet is not the best.

W: Do I need to make you co-host again? Right, let me … is it working?

H: It is, yes. Here we go. Ok, so we now have all the reviews of The Cyber Spellbook. What do we think? What’s going on here? We wanted to see if it’s possible to do a spell book. It seems like it has already been done.

W: Yes, but we never really read the book, that’s the problem.

H: Obviously we’d have to read the book and learn more about magic, but I think it’s interesting that it’s there. And that there seems to be an ability to think magic and conjurations and spellcasting through the tools you use, and that these will always be embedded in the time you’re of.