Monday, 27 March 2017


I’m a pagan, so people often ask me if I ‘do’ magic spells. The answer is – not often. As few as possible, in fact. There’s two main reasons for that. I’m not a discontent sort of person, I tend to be happy with my lot. Okay, an ocean-going yacht might be nice….but honestly, I suspect it would only be another thing to clean. The other reason I don’t do magic is that I believe that once a spell is cast, if the result isn’t as instantaneous as one was hoping, then that magic hasn’t worked. So I avoid doing lots and lots, on a weekly or monthly basis, so that I can heartily prove to myself that when I do some magic, it really has an effect.

I’ve experienced quite a few (definitely a high percentage) of successful spells in my time. The secret always seems to be desire (LOADS of it), strong intent (preparation and concentration are important) and then… pwuffff! allowing the wish to go…out into the ether, the astral, the spaces between particles…wherever you think wishes might go once you release them.

The letting go is last is the most essential part. Hanging onto hopes, desires and dreams doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, it holds you back. Everyone knows someone who has spent most of their life pining after the thing they always wanted but never got. This makes a person shrivel up. It stops them loving the life that is actually out there for them.

At a druid gathering with my first lap harp
One of the earliest pieces of magic I remember physically compiling and releasing took place about twenty years ago. My friend had been given a beautiful harp,  with a sonorous tone and extraordinary carvings in beautiful wood.  Out of the blue, I found myself looking it over and fervently wishing for a harp like that. I stroked in lovingly, and was allowed to play it, for a few moments. Harps are very forgiving instruments, and instantly it made angelic sounds for me. But I said nothing. I knew that this harp had cost far more than I could ever afford – harps are very expensive.

The following week I was at a Druid Camp. It was high summer and there were tents all over a huge field in the West Country. The first workshop I went to was pretty arbitrary; Making a Mosaic Tile. I had no idea why I’d chosen it; I’m not good with my hands, or able to work with shape and colour with any panache. Quite quickly, among all the art-and-crafty types around me, I felt out of place and rather uncomfortable.

Then I had a flash of inspiration. I wouldn’t worry about art. I’d make a spell. I worked all through the morning, to create a mosaic tile with the picture of a harp. I put my deep yearning for a harp into every bit of ceramic I glued onto the base. 

Perhaps because I wasn’t concentrating on getting an artistic likeness (something I do find hard!) in the picture, it came out okay. It looked like a harp. People commended it. I left the workshop alone, and found a sunlit glade at the edge of the campsite. I lay the tile down and called to the spirits of the place to hear my call. I was asking for my very own harp. Then, I let the desire go…pwufff!

That was Saturday. The following day, the friend with the beatuful new harp turned up at the camp, to give a workshop herself. She pulled me to one side, as we shared a meal in the cafe tent. “Nina, you know I’ve got a new harp, don’t you?” I nodded, trying not to let my eyes show the envy I felt. “Well, it occurred to me – you could have my old lap harp!” She produced it from under a piece of black velvet. 

It wasn’t as glorious as her new, carved harp, but that didn’t matter. It was for me, to make my own music on.

“Jim told you about my mosaic, didn’t he?” I said. But she just looked puzzled. She’d had no idea I’d been doing harp magic. As she’d got ready for the camp, she’d passed the old harp and thought, “I’ll take that with me for Nina.” In my view, that was not a coincidence. My magic, which had materialised out of a strong, sudden yearning, and executed with care and intent all that previous morning, then let go, by dedicating my desire to the spirits of the place, had wafted up out out, until it reached my friend's generously-hearted mind.
Learning to play a harp isn’t easy. You have to hold your fingers in an odd position which I’ve never really mastered. But I could already play the piano a bit, and this was just a naked piano, wasn’t it? I discovered that I was fine, so long as I invented (I hesitate to say ‘composed’), little tunes of my own, often with little songs that half drowned out my early mistakes. And the lap harp was very portable; I could take it into the wild to play on my own or to other druids (druids are very forgiving!)

The following April, my birthday arrived At the druid grove that month I was given my birthday present from my family. It was a harp, carved into the shape of a swan, with a golden chain around her neck. She was already named, Yewberry. I was thrilled that my original magic had such a lasting effect. 

At the book launch for In the Moors
Since then, my connection to magic has mostly been part of other people creating their own magic, to stunning effect. But about six years ago, I an idea came to me, a story about a shamanic practitioner, Sabbie Dare. This book would be a thriller, in which Sabbie discovers that the people who come to her for help include those in deep trouble…people threatened by crime…people caught up in crime…people capable, even, of murder. She soon understands that it is her nature, through her connection with the spirit world, which draws these people to her. And, slowly, she learns that her ancestral past also has that link. i

t felt like a good idea, so I started writing. Once I’d sent a draft to my agent, I created a piece of magic to send it on its way. This, like the ceramic tile, was a physical act, which I hid in a small golden casket (that I found in a charity shop – not really gold, of course!). On that equally magical day when my agent rang to say that I’d been offered a three-book contract, I dismantled the items inside the golden casket. 
The first Shaman Mystery, available from Amazon

That work had been done…all I had to do now was write two more books!

Interested in magic? You can find every spell known (almost) in The Element Encyclopaedia of 500 Spells by Judoka Illes (Element Books). You can read more about British Shamanism in Singing the Soul Back Home by Caitlin Matthews (Connections Book Publishing) and more about the history of druidry in Blood and Mistletoe, by Ronald Hutton. Also try the website for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids 

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