Helen Adam and Black Magic: Visions in the Light of Tradition

by Kristin Prevallet

Visionary trances crafted from old and contemporary poems, rituals, and other magical sources. Always healing, always affirming images of love to allow what can’t be easily or otherwise be spoken.

As a poet, teacher, and practicing clinical hypnotist I am a weaver of words and a believer in their power to effect positive change in our lives – when they are used with care and grace.

And it was through poetry that I came to believe this. But there is one story that leads me here, to my first post for Poetry Witch Magazine.

When I was in graduate school at the University of Buffalo, I had a job working in the Poetry/Rare Books Collection at the University of Buffalo. Always a good place for a strange encounter of the logos kind.

I found myself in a corner of the archive in which unpacked boxes were stacked up. I opened one of them (clearly, I hadn’t paid attention to the cautions against curiosity that led to Pandora’s fall from grace!)

I found a scrapbook marked, Black Magic. I opened it and found myself absorbed by eccentric collages of beautiful women cut out from fashion magazines, passionately conversing with insects and wild animals.

I was entranced, and from that point forward made it my project to catalogue the archive of Helen Adam. The book that I edited and introduced, still available (click here), collects Adam’s collages as well as her charmingly gruesome ballads. 

I hadn’t really thought about Helen Adam as a student of The Lore until long after she had died, and long after my edited collection of her work was published. I was in a bookstore that had found her library buried in a state warehouse—a tale in and of itself that sparks proof of supernatural intervention. (You can read about it here.)
The first book that I saw was GYPSY SORCERY AND FORTUNE TELLING: ILLUSTRATED BY NUMEROUS INCANTATIONS, SPECIMENS OF MEDICAL MAGIC, ANECDOTES AND TALES by Charles Godfrey Leland. It was badly damaged by roach stains, but it had her markings and so of course I had to buy it.

I put it on my shelf, and to be honest, have not picked it up until this moment as I sit down to write my first post for Poetry Witch.

It is interesting how the past, the passions and pursuits of our youth, the research and thoughts forged so long ago, continue to weave and intersect the fabric of our lives into rich conversational tapestries.

Here is an excerpt from a section that is of particular relevance to the content I’ll be writing for Poetry Witch – posts that I hope will lead my readers into spells of thought that affect positive change in your worlds. Spells that are as magical in their poetry as they are in any practical effects.

Regarding the issue of “curing certain disorders of afflictions by means of spells or verses,” Leland writes:

A certain word is repeated many times in a mysterious manner, so that it strikes the imagination of the sufferer.

He then goes on to describe a disorder that was of particular concern to people living in the Romanian countryside: the bite of the Wolos, a wooly caterpillar, whose bite is as painful as the sting of a bee and whose side effects can be crippling.

The effecting spell is so poetically curious that it begs replicating in full here:

Wolosni—Wolosniceh!

Holy Wolos.

Once a man drove over empty roads

With empty oxen,

To an empty field,

To harvest empty corn,

And gather it in empty ricks.

He gathered the empty sheaves,

Laid them in empty wagons,

Drove over empty roads,

Unto an empty threshing-floor.

The empty laborers threshed it,

And bore it to the empty mill.

The empty baker (woman)

Mixed it in an empty trough,

And baked it in an empty oven.

The empty people ate the empty bread.

So may the Wolos swallow this disorder

From the empty ___________ (Here the name of the patient.)

Leland writes that, “…what is here understood by ‘empty’ is that the swelling is taken away, subtracted, or emptied, by virtue of the repetition of the word, as if one should say, ‘Be thou void. Depart! depart! depart! Avoid me!’”

And so goes the subtle power of words to weave spells through ambiguity, indirect suggestion, repetition, and poetry to bring a person into the healing state.

My next post will continue this thread but if you’re interested in learning more about how this works, check out my Trance Poetics trilogy – a series of three books that will teach you how language works in conjunction with your body’s self-healing mechanisms.

Until then, repeat gentle thoughts to yourself and hard thoughts about how you can take action to make the world a better place.

Sending you all that is light in love and language,

Kaye

2 thoughts on “Helen Adam and Black Magic: Visions in the Light of Tradition

  1. Pingback: Visions in the light of tradition | TrancePoetics

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