AN INTERVIEW WITH DEBORAH CASTELLANO
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with author Deborah Castellano, who penned the gorgeous book, Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want. It is a substantial and deeply considerate book-grimoire-power tool, full of anecdotes, prompts, glorious ritual, poetic language, and unabashed empowerment. It's magical, it's self-care, it's bold, and it's sensual. It is a true delight to both read and put into practice. I'm so grateful I got the chance to ask Deborah these questions; so, relish in her answers, and please pick up her book!
How do you describe glamour? When so many of us think of ‘glamour magic’, many of us may think strictly of making oneself beautiful physically—which can obviously be problematic in some ways, with certain language. But it’s deeper than that, as you say: “beauty is static, glamour is magic.” That’s why I loved your book so much—it is so much about our inner magic, or that *essence* of self (or self being surfaced or redeveloped). What does glamour mean to you? When did you start practicing it? What inspired you?
I describe glamour as this: beauty is and glamour does. Beauty is so limiting, it's dependent on cultural markers and facial symmetry which most of us can't do anything about. Glamour is what makes you interesting to yourself and others. Almost all the most glamorous people I know in real life don't fit the media beauty mold - the most glamorous people I know are challenging to beauty ideals via age, via size, via gender, via fashion choices and that's what makes glamour so exciting to me. It's how you break the mold, not how you fit into it. Glamour is an action, it's how you chose to present yourself to the world, it's how you express yourself, it's where you refuse to conform.
To me, glamour is so critical because it's what sets you apart. There are so many of us who are awesome writers, there are so many of us who are well researched, there are so many of us who are well connected. So why will your publisher pick you? It's because of how you say what you say and do what you do. Same with singers, dancers, baristas, circus performers, accountants, anything you do that affects your heart and your purse.
To me, glamour is important because growing up in my family, I was never the pretty one. So if I couldn't be the pretty one because my markers weren't there, then I could hack the system. I could be glamorous - I have always been shit at doing my hair, but it could be red as Claire Danes' was once upon a time, red as the bonfires in my heart. I have always only been passable in doing my make up, I could learn to do a really fierce lip and brow and perfume in under five minutes. I learned how to put a style together.
I learned how to make my shyness charming, I learned to be fast on my feet with my wit, I learned to really love my body as it is, I learned how to occupy the space I stand in, I learned how to support others who are less far along in their glamour journey to hold space for them and help them to step forward because that's an act of love, I learned to cook really well, I learned to never stop screaming into the abyss, I learned how to use Instagram decently, I learned that my personal Witchcraft doesn't have to look like any one thing.
I started the baby steps of practicing this when I ran my first convention, SalonCon which was the first Steampunk convention. I was wearing sweats almost every day but I was fiercely devoted to finding a space where people could exchange ideas, learn dance lessons, take tea and I was resolute that there would be no official dress code past wear what makes you feel glamorous and I did my very best to make a space for everyone at that table. I wanted to give people a chance to have a couple days to lead a life that was outside of their daily grind and to examine what it meant to value culture, glamour and creativity.
Glamour magic seems to play into really big important ideas of identity acceptance and/or exploration and existing as a body or human. How can this form of magic help those of us who feel like they maybe need explore the harder, more shadowy, nuanced parts of Self and identity? How can it teach us to take up space?
I think examining our darkest parts is just as important as our light parts. Our light parts are easy to love and except, but that's only half of our glamour. How can you find a way to make depression glamorous? Anxiety? Chronic illness? Fiercer darker aspects? What's more glamorous than a really good villain? Someone who is apologetically themselves (and usually with a really fierce wardrobe), someone who is ultimately in many cases became villains because they wanted to be unbreakable, unstoppable and powerful? Glamour uses your shadow aspects as part of the magic because glamour doesn't have a moral compass as a construction (obviously, you should).
Think about the easiest set of witches to imagine: Glinda the Good Witch and The Wicked Witch from the West. Both of them have their own alliances, both are really glamorous, both of them have their own motivations, both of them have clear agendas for Oz. Both of them are really not afraid to take up space. Glamour can teach you how to take up space because it's not constrained to being a (gender neutral) Good Girl where your whole modus operandi is in people pleasing - it's about leveraging what you have to get what you want and it's up to you to decide what's wrong to do to get what you want.
One of the things I love about your book is that you took the magical “Exploration” explanations to a whole new level. Reading them is a pure literary experience; you list and swim in and use such beautiful words to describe magic and magical practices—and it’s just delicious. As a poet, I loved this. Very decadent, very bold. I am interested, as a writer, on how you approached writing this book? How did it come about?
I've always had a hard time resonating with magic in most occult books. Generally, when I was doing a group ritual, we had a general outline of how to perform a rite but how we filled in those lines was generally a very collaborative experience that relied on trusting each other and your intuition. My personal practice looks the same way.
It was never what I consider to be Betty Crocker Spellwork where you add two eggs to the box (the book) and voila! Magic! Magic to me has always been about beauty, it's always been about performance, it's always been about the heart of dark, your goddesses and spirits, about asking for what you want and then just a little bit more than you deserve.
It's about bravery and being really present with the experience. I don't have anything against Betty Crocker Spellwork per se, but I've never been a person who could follow the recipe exactly, I always want to add things and take things out and change the bake time. I like a box cake on occasion as much as the next person but my magic has never looked like that. I wondered if there were other people whose magic didn't look like that either. I think it's important to hit your objective with your spellwork, I don't think all of us getting there the exact same way is the important part.
How do you think gender roles and also the non binary and glamour magic intersect?
I think glamour gives an opportunity for everyone to step forward into their gender role of choice and really embrace it. If you want to be the butchest dude who ever duded, there's lots of space for that. If you want to be the femme-est femme who ever click clacked, there's plenty of room for that. If your gender isn't binary and you have specific ideas about what gender means to you, there's a whole lot of room at the table for you too. Glamour is for everyone and I think especially for people who don't fit into a specific mold or who take a specific mold and deliberately turn it askew.
What can a person do tap into their glamour instantly? Like, right now?
Dress with intent. The makeover montage isn’t new. If you want to sound really scholarly about the makeover montage, it’s called kosmesis (which is also fun to say). It’s been around since ye olde Iliad days when Hera and her girl posse wanted to keep messing with the Trojan War so they make Hera look fiiiiiiiiiiione to Zeus, have her sex him up and when he falls asleep they zap him with magic to keep him asleep so they could go about their warfare business without Zeus making frowny faces at them.
So, if playing dress up Barbie/Hera worked for Trojan war business, believe me, it’s going to do something for you on a Tuesday at the office. Think about what kind of impression you want to make for whatever you’re doing (going to a PTA meeting to face down Sheila, going on a date with someone you might like-like, getting your spouse to agree to watch a million episodes of Real Housewives, trying to skate out of work at 3 on a Friday, impressing a new group of friends at a cocktail party, bowling with your college dorm mates and you need to borrow bio notes, whatever it is you do).
Think about what you want to wear to accomplish whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to have a little solo dress up party. Get a glass of wine. Put on some music. See if you really like what you are wearing and how you look in it. Do your hair, skin care, make up, fragrance, whatever is applicable to go with it. When it's time to wear your chosen ensemble, really embrace it. Use your intent, chose your items carefully, think about the outcomes you want.
You mention “reframing” in the book—the idea that you can learn to see yourself in a way that challenges the narrative you’ve already decided on about yourself. And a lot of what you suggest is digging into the power of how you present yourself, wearing colors, bringing a small part of your magical looks to your boring old workplace. I think there’s this idea that if we change the way we look or explore glamour that we aren’t necessarily self-accepting. You tackle this complexity and nuance in your book, and I’d love to hear how you came upon these thoughts in your own life!
I think that the most feminist thing you can do in life is to not let other people (unsolicited) tell you how to present yourself to the world. I think that means if you never ever want to wear make up, you never ever have to wear make up. I think that means if you want to wear false eyelashes to bed, you should do that every night. Your glamour is such a fierce part of you, it can only thrive when you're being authentic to your own glamour, not someone else's. This is really important in my life because it's part of how I keep my autonomy, it's a critical part of my resistance. I started reframing things in my life to see if I was really reacting to something or if I was just using old bad programming.
Where do you think your book departs from more traditional witchcraft texts?
I am occasionally accused of being having written a self help book. And you know what? I did. Because that's what witchcraft is for. It's a tool for the oppressed, it's a way to fight dirty to even the playing field out. It's the tool of the desperate, the underprivileged and the overworked. If you are turning to the dark arts to get you what you want, it's because you don't have enough resources to get you there using any other means.
If you can't see that you need to do the practical work and maybe have some help in doing it and do the witchcraft to get to where you're trying to go, this book isn't for you. If you want a million plug and play spells where you don't have to think about what you're trying to do and why you're trying to do it and how you're going to do it, this book isn't for you either. It's full of hard work, difficult self examination and spells that require you to be an active participant in your craft.
Something that I love about your book is that you talk a lot (and fascinatingly so, with tons of anecdotes and interest stories) about one’s “Great Work.” Can you talk more about what this Great Work is?
A Great Work is an alchemical term which is a fancy sort of way of saying you're going to shake up your inner ant farm really, really hard and collapse a bunch of tunnels and freak out your ants completely while you try to get what you want. Your Great Work will shift and evolve with the work you actually do to accomplish it - whether by shifting what the goal is due to changing your process or by changing the goal because you've accomplished the Great Work so now you need to scale up, it's the framework used to get what you want. I think most of us are afraid to name what we want because there's power in a name and there's the fear that you'll get up the nerve and ask and you won't get it.
But glamour isn't a guarantee, it's a way to make the odds be more in your favor. Not ever in your favor. More in your favor. Which is really powerful if you can work with that, if you can accept that you might not get what you wanted. Even if you do, there's no end point until we drop dead. In Into the Woods, Cinderella starts her journey with the desire to go to the festival. By the second act, she wants to sponsor a festival. That's a significant and important change in her Great Work and shows her Great Work evolved with her.
I recently listened to your interview with Fat Feminist Witch (love!!). You mention that while you give readers a sort of framework, you don’t expect them to listen to your every word. Experimentation, self-autonomy, and intuition is encouraged and I adore that! I absolutely subscribe to that idea.
Can you talk more about how people can work with magical books, like yours, while also listening to their own intuition?
I was very lucky that my (witchy adopted) aunts were really, really into critical thinking as part of my witchcraft and it's been a really key part of my personal practice to look at how I do things, why I do things, what will I do with a bad outcome, what will I do with a good outcome, what will I do with no outcome at all? Thinking about all these things really shaped me as a witch and it's really shaped how I express myself as a witch.
I don't have to live with the results of your glamour work, I don't have to live with the results of where you pointed your moral compass, I don't have to live with the results of your Great Work (accomplished or not). You do. You are the captain of your ship and you are responsible for steering it. That's why it's so important to draw your own lines, create your own witchcraft and make your own boundaries. If you feel sick inside at the idea of doing something, you should listen to that because you have to live with yourself. If something is telling you to take a calculated risk, you should do that too because that's how you grow and develop in life and as a witch.
For people who might, say, have chronic illness (I ask because I do) or who struggle to feel beautiful or present as one wants to present, how can glamour magic play be used?
I have a chronic illness! I have fibromyalgia. I also live with depression and anxiety. So part of the place I come from is, oh girl. I really know how hard this is. You have to get up and do it anyway. I try to think about archetypes that would be helpful to me and figure out how to use them as part of my glamour.
Like, Glamorous Sick Girl is totally an archetype in old movies and literature. So, okay, I can barely brush my teeth but what can I do to feel glamorous? I can wear my fancy robe that I saved up for and my favorite smoking slippers. I can sprawl on the couch and watch old movies with my archetype in action and pretend I'm sprawling glamorously. I can put on a little perfume to suit my mood. I can say mantras to one of my goddesses. I can talk to people in my life like I was a Glamorous Sick Girl and say something a GSG would say.
The struggle to present the way you would want to present is a very real and important struggle along with feeling present in your own body. Glamour magic can be used to step forward into what you are working to present yourself as.
Some quick and dirty glamour magic for working on that:
Get a glamour secret weapon. What is something you wear all the time? A fragrance, a piece of jewelry, moisturizer, a lipstick, anything that touches your skin and you can wear every day.
Enchant your item by holding it and putting your intention into it every day for ten minutes a day for eight days. After that, wear it daily until you see your intention manifesting and then wear it as needed.
As you are working on this, let’s do a little quasi-alchemy. Why not you? Get some spirulina powder from your health food store or Amazon. Mix: ½ teaspoon spirulina, ½ lemon, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar with 2 cups spring water (or filtered water). Spirulina is antioxidant rich, lemon is cleansing, honey is a natural energy source, raw apple cider vinegar is healing.
Together, this will make your skin look radiant. It’s easier to be in touch with your glamour if you literally love the skin you’re in. Put everything in a glass (with a little room for stirring).
Put your intention in the glass. Stir it all together clockwise while focusing on your intention. In Omnia Paratus! (Ready for anything!)
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble. She is a frequent contributor to Occult/Pagan sources such as the Llewellyn almanacs, Witchvox, PaganSquare and Witches & Pagans magazine. She writes about Charms, Hexes, Weeknight Dinner Recipes, Glamoury and Unsolicited Opinions on Morals and Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more! In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV. She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding creative director of Luna Luna Magazine—a digital diary of literature, magical living and idea. She is the author of "Light Magic for Dark Times," a modern grimoire of inspired rituals and daily practices. She's also the author of a few poetry collections, including the forthcoming "Nympholepsy." Her work encounters the intersection of ritual and wellness, chronic illness, magic, overcoming trauma, and creativity, and she has written for The New York Times, Narratively, Grimoire Magazine, Sabat Magazine, The Establishment, Refinery 29, Bust, Hello Giggles, and more. Lisa Marie earned a Masters degree in Writing from The New School