This week I have a review of a book that I originally said I wouldn’t review. Initially I didn’t want to post a negative review for something that by all rights just wasn’t meant for me and was probably just fine for someone else. But I changed my mind.
I feel like I tend to always love the stuff I get sent for review (and I genuinely do love stuff when I say I love it) but this was something I really, really didn’t like. Since I’ve never had this kind of feeling about a book sent to me for review I felt weird about reviewing it.
But since it was sent to me to review, here we are. They can’t all be glowing endorsements and I owe it to you to honestly share the duds too.
I received this book back in December 2018 and it was released for sale at the beginning of January this year. The book is kind of an editorial creation from Adams Media (a division of Simon and Schuster) and doesn’t have an individual author attached to it. The full title of the book is Hex Your Ex and 100+ Other Spells to Right Wrongs and Banish Bad Luck for Good.
The overall target market for this book seems to be the newbie witch. It’s also got an overall tone, aesthetic, and focus that kind of screams “Tumblr witch.” That should pretty much give you an idea of who this book is meant for and further explain why this just wasn’t for me.
At about 222 pages the book has 11 chapters, plus an introduction and index. Six chapters focus on actual spells while the first five chapters look at working magick, tools to use, magickal timing, etc. The book’s introduction opens with the “magic pill” hook that everyone looking at books like this often seeks:
Leave bad relationships behind. Stop backstabbers in their tracks. Beat out the competition. Reclaim your personal energy. Your secret weapon? Magick!
Magick gives you the power to make the changes you need to be your best self and live the life you’re always dreamed…or at least make things a little more tolerable.
Magick = your best life! Oy vey.
Though hokey those big claims are par for the course with books like these. This is what they aim to sell, the idea of magick being something you can just “whip up” and BAM, results! Throughout the book that’s reinforced with reminding you that essentially the solution to all your problems is magick. And in case you’re wondering what exactly this book means when it talks about magick, it defines magick as…
…the act of consciously creating circumstances using methods that defy scientific logic.
It explains that by setting an objective in your mind and feeding it with energy, focus, and willpower then you’re doing magick, and by that logic you’ve been doing magick your whole life. The trick is that now with this book you’re learning…
…how to cast spells purposefully, to turn your luck around. All it takes is desire, a little training and practice. Once you discover the secret, you’ll be able to write your own destiny.
While this isn’t necessarily wrong when it comes to magickal thinking, it’s certainly very simplistic and even feels like it is trying to make this all seem somewhat pedestrian.
This whole first chapter, titled How To Make Magick Work for You, barely scratches the surface of the basics of working with magick, including a very bare-bones outline for casting a circle.
The biggest problem I have with this chapter, especially when seeing the circle casting, is that it misses out on talking about one essential component of all magick; energy.
There’s never any talk about raising or directing energy in any form. Instead the focus is on positive thoughts and what feels like simply going through the motions. For instance with the circle casting there’s nothing about how to do the energetic work to cast the circle but instead just a list of physical motions to take. Walking in a circle isn’t casting a circle. So, congrats, you just walked in a circle around your room? Yay, magick!
The next few chapters go over more basics including different types of magick, the use of words in spells, tools, and the explanation of spells verse rituals (which they say there is no difference, spells are rituals….they say spell, rituals, rites, and celebrations are all the same thing…they aren’t).
And when you’re going to use your pentacle for spells always remember that the “correct way” to display it is with one point up and two points down! I love how it was important to make that distinction but without any explanation about why, what the points mean, with upright verse reversed means, and under what circumstances you actually would want to use it the other way around. Again, just do what we’re telling you and think happy thoughts and your magick will work.
The rest of the preliminary chapters are more of the same, just very basic info in the most basic terms with no actual explanation of anything. Someone realized that this info needed to be present in some form so they figured “let’s put this stuff in here and be brief. We don’t have room for all of that plus all the spells, and people are here for the spells!”
So let’s talk about the spells. That is, after all, the focus of this book, so we have to talk about it!
JESS DISCLAIMER: I personally am not of the black magick/white magick, “harm none,” “love and light” witch variety. Many of you who are familiar with me already know that. I am of the mind that all magick is gray and even “white magick” can turn “black” with the wrong intentions. I am not against hexing in the right and extreme circumstances. I’m certainly not pro-hexing someone who annoyed you are Starbucks but I’m all about hexing or binding someone that has or intends to cause you physical harm, for instance. You can read about my thoughts on cursing here. My comments going forward regarding “shady” spells and the “red flags” is largely in consideration to the type of audience likely to pick up and read/use this book…i.e. I wouldn’t give these things to a newbie.[/info_box]
Despite the book being called Hex You Ex there isn’t a lot of hexing going on, or at least it doesn’t appear to be that way on the surface. Anyone who understands magick and how the use of words with magickal intention can manifest will quickly see that there is some shady stuff in this book. To the layman or casual magickal seeker it will seem pretty benign.
I’ll spare you from a spell by spell commentary, but I’m going to talk about one love spell in particular that illustrates the questionable nature of a lot of what you’ll find in this book. It’s a spell called Talisman for Next-Level Relationships.
The intention behind it is to stabilize the connection between you and another person in order to secure a commitment in a relationship, whether that means not seeing other people or even getting a marriage proposal.
Right away that’s a red flag there for me. In the description of the spell being guided to “stop pushing for a commitment and give your partner the space he or she needs,” however the verbal portion of the spell is as follows:
I love you and you love me
Together we shall always be
And live in perfect harmony.
Uhh…sound the fucking alarms! NO! (Jess does not advise love spells cast on specific people based on personal experience that she was dumb enough to put herself through more than once.)
The spell calls for wrapping strands of your hair and the other person’s hair around a gold or silver ring, which is then put into a pink silk pouch along with some crystals. Then you sprinkle it all with salt water before blessing it with incense and then placing it in the “relationship sector” of your bedroom (so now we’re bringing some Feng Shui into the mix, again with no explanation).
This whole spell is extremely simplistic when it comes to the spell it self, however let’s go back to the main concept that this book is trying to sell; magick is based in really powerful thoughts and visions in your mind. If you’re using these words and fully believing what you’re doing, you could be setting yourself up for a problem. That is unless you’ve had a talk with your intended “target” and told them about your magick, confirmed you both want the same thing, and they’re OK with what you’re doing. But since one of the suggested reasons to use this spell is to prepare for “dreaded” relationship talks, I’m guessing that hasn’t happened.
What I’m getting at is that there is no discussion about ethics. Any mention of ethics and magick is boiled down to literally two sentences:
Generally speaking, however, most witches observe one basic rule: do no harm. Most also agree with the old saying “what goes around comes around.”
Beyond that the only other mention of ethics and “rules” is a short break down of black, white, and gray magick. But it’s funny that they say that black magick is…
Anything done to harm or manipulate another person or to interfere with his or her free will…
By that definition alone a good portion of what’s in this book would be considered black magick.
Again, this is beyond simplistic to the point where they also say…
Have you ever cursed some jerk for stealing your sparking space or cutting ahead of you in a long line? That’s black magick too.
Well consider me the queen motherfucker of black magick then!
I won’t even bother getting into the “Spell to Set a Jealous Partner Straight” which ends with you “gifting” you partner with a (charged and intention-filled) wax talisman formed as part of the spell without any guidance on telling them what it’s for or why you made it.
Throughout the other sections of the book you have spells like the “Spell to Become a Millionaire” and the “Spell to Mint Your Own Money” both focused on attracting big bucks for nothing more than the sake of attracting money. There’s also a spell to “defuse” a co-worker’s “bitchiness” through improving their self-esteem (because “negative people are filled with fear”). And if you’re tired of getting stuck in long checkout lines there’s a spell to ask “Sheila the shopping goddess” for help.
There’s even a poppet spell, “Spell to Bind a Backstabber,” for dealing with a troublesome co-worker. In it you say to your target’s effigy that you “bind your ill will and render you powerless against me”. Then you take your bound poppet to your workplace and dig a hole in the ground and bury the poppet there.
The “yikes” isn’t because these are necessarily bad spells or things I’m against. My problem is handing these spells to people without any solid understanding of what they’re doing or how it can go south. Spells like the above mentioned money spells lack purpose (attracting money for money’s sake almost always fails or falls far short) and while there is a “with harm to none” tossed in most of spells there’s never any talk of what the “harm” could be, so there’s a lack of understanding the magick as a whole.
Like with money spells, when you ask for money to come from any source, you could get it from an inheritance when a family member dies or through a court settlement after you find yourself wheelchair bound from a car accident. But most people probably don’t even consider these things so, in my thinking, the “with harm to none” doesn’t have any meaning
And I still have no idea who the fuck “Sheila the shopping goddess” is because naturally this book doesn’t tell you. How do you actually know who you’re talking to and calling on? Maybe I don’t like Sheila’s taste in shoes, why do I want her help when I’m shopping?!
Then there’s the issue that spurred me to write a post earlier this week about poorly advised crystal practices; every spell in this book that calls for the use of crystals instructs you to wash the stones with “mild soap and water” before using them. Not only is the soap part just unnecessary and potentially damaging, but many of these spells us stones that shouldn’t be “washed” in water. Some are too soft and not water safe (amber) or potentially toxic in water (turquoise…which ironically is being used in one of the spells to ward off illness).
Some of you may remember I was asked to write a book like this for a publisher last year that I ultimately walked away from, and I’m extra glad I did after seeing this book because this exactly the kind of book they wanted. They didn’t want any real info or explanations, just lots of attention grabbing spells to address people’s big desires and problems.
Books like this give me a lot of mixed feelings. I know they are aimed at people who are either not magickal practitioners but have these problems and are looking for a “magic pill” solution or who are new and looking for a collection of spells to try out. They are written in a way that will grab the attention of certain a reader demographic by playing on current trends and aesthetics in order to sell with the spells designed to use easy to find components and the most simple of actions. That isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is definitely less than noble.
The mixed feeling is that while most people will be doing half-assed spells (through no fault of their own, they’re just following lacking instruction) and others are going to be doing this just for a laugh, the chances of any big effects manifesting, positive or negative, are slim. So on one hand it doesn’t matter, I suppose. However, someone who uses a book like this and has some level of knowledge but lacks a deeper understand of magick and ethics could run into some real issues.
Then you have people like me, and maybe you, who might pick up a book like this because it’s cute. We might like the aesthetic but we aren’t going to use the spells “as it.” Instead the book may work as inspiration to create spells of our own.
But let’s be honest, people like me, and maybe you, aren’t who this book is meant for. I just even question how good it is for the audience it’s meant for.
At the end of the day I don’t recommend Hex Your Ex. If you’re someone who’s a practiced witch and you’re looking for a book of spells to inspire the creation of your own spells, it might be helpful. Overall, it’s fully of “edgy” spells that your inner angsty teen will love, but if you don’t know much about magick and you’re looking to learn solid spellwork, you’re going to be lead astray and would do well to look elsewhere.
Adams Media provided me with a copy of Hex Your Ex for this review. The opinions I shared about this book are my own, and Adams Media did not tell me what to say or how to say it, nor did they provide any monetary compensation for this review.