Review: Cunningham and Harrington, The Magical Household

Cunningham, Scott, and David Harrington. The Magical Household: spells & rituals for the home. Llewellyn, 1983. Paperback, 168 pages.

I changed my mind: instead of going right into Ann Moura’s other book for review, we’ll do a little palate-cleanser by reviewing this lighter piece by Cunningham and Harrington first.

This isn’t one of Cunningham’s classics, but it’s fun. Divided into chapters such as “Stove and Spoon,” “Bathing and Brushing,” and “By Broom and Rag,” Cunningham and Harrington have combined a romp through historical beliefs and customs about the household with updated suggestions for ways to bless the house and its occupants, and to make every day more magical. Although the historical sources of specific customs are not cited from particular sources, an extensive bibliography provides jumping-off points for further research. Really, though, the benefit of this work is in the authors’ ideas for bringing magic into everyday life: make that bulb of garlic not just an herb, but also a ward for the kitchen, and use your visualization and intent to make a bath an opportunity for magical healing as well as easing aches and pains. Some of the updated versions of older customs are good, as when Cunningham and Harrington provide directions for a Witch bottle to keep away negativity, or for tying old keys into a doorway-protection charm. If you enjoy odds and ends like this, this book is for you; it’s well-enough organized to make sense, although it does hop from topic to topic quickly. If you want full rituals, theaology, or high ceremony, or even detailed investigations of the origins of house-related folklore, you’ll be disappointed.

Perhaps my favorite part of this book is the quote below, about working everyday actions into one’s magical life, and vice-versa: “If this seems silly, remember that these are rituals. Rituals provide us with easily understood, vivid demonstrations of our goals and needs. They are more than powerful psychological boosts, for they set energies in motion, which is the essence of magic.” (60)

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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