The Dark ‘Arte’ of Glamour

I remember during my childhood, that my mother had a fascination with certain movie stars. She would ‘fall in love’ with the characters they portrayed, believed that they were wonderful people in their actual lives and placed them upon a pedestal. Occasionally she discovered information about them which surfaced within the media concerning their private lives. This resulted in huge disappointment and my mother’s view drastically changed as they ‘fell from a great height’ off the pedestal she had place them on. Certain people are adept at hiding their ‘true selves’ and use it as a tool to manipulate others.

In the Pagan world we have many ‘celebrities’ or renowned individuals using various titles e.g. authors, speakers organizers and entertainers. Some portray a glamorous ‘persona’ and are selective concerning the information revealed about themselves. Some may be skilled in taking one grain of truth, embellishing that and into misleading information. Some even take on the persona and image of characters in popular magical movies and copy their attire and imitate their characteristics.

Others may dress and imitate remowned witch’s e.g. Patricia Crowther, Doreen Valiente, Ithell Coulhoun, Alaistair Crowley for instance. Their adoring followers, loving the magical fantasy of the character and the mystical land they inhabit, will believe without question all they are fed, viewing them high upon the pedestal where they have placed them. Observing this process has stirred my curiosity to research this particular subject.

The Dark ‘Arte’ of Glamour

Glamour began quite literally with magic. Growing from the Scottish gramarye around 1720, glamour was a sort of spell that would affect the eyesight of those afflicted, so that objects appear different from they actually are. Sir Walter Scott anglicized the word and brought it into popular use in his poems:

“You may bethink you of the spell

Of that sly urchin page

This to his lord did impart 

And made him seem, by glamour art

A knight from Hermitage”

Not long after his death in 1832 the word began to be used to describe the metaphoric spell we cast upon one another by being particularly beautiful or fascinating. It wasn’t necessarily a compliment (“There was little doubt that he meant to bring his magnetism and his glamour, and all his other diabolical properties, to market here,” from an 1878 novel) but by the 1920s—not coincidentally, the time women started developing the styles that we now recognize as glamorous—the meaning had shed much of its air of suspicion.

Not that we’re wholly unsuspicious of glamour. Female villains in films are often impossibly glamorous, for as fascinated as we are with the artifice of glamour, we’re also a tad wary of it. Glamour keeps its holder at a distance, and it needs that distance in order to work; watch the magician’s hands too closely and you’ll spoil the trick. It’s unkind to glamour to call it strictly a trick, but neither is it inaccurate: On a person, glamour is a series of reference points that form its illusory quality. We perceive red lipstick and hair cascading over one shoulder as glamorous because we understand it’s referencing something we’ve collectively decided is glamorous. The same is true of glamorous looks with less direct artifice—say, a world traveler in a pith helmet and white linen—but in becoming a reference point, anything we code as glamour becomes artifice, even if it’s not about smoke and mirrors. It’s not hard to get glamour “right,” but since glamour is a set of references—a creation instead of a state of being—you do have to get it right in order to be seen as glamorous as opposed to pretty, polished, or chic. We don’t stumble into glamour; we create it, even if we don’t realize that’s what we’re doing. Call glamour a performance if you wish. It’s equally accurate to call it an accomplishment.

In 1939, Glamour—took on an additional definition. In 1932, publishing company Condé Nast launched a new series of sewing pattern books featuring cheaper garments more readily accessible to the downtrodden seamstresses of the Depression; its more elite Vogue pattern line hadn’t been doing well. Seven years later, Condé Nast spun off a magazine from this Hollywood Pattern Book called Glamour of Hollywood, which promised readers the “Hollywood way to fashion, beauty, and charm.” By 1941 it had shed “of Hollywood” and had already toned down its coverage of Hollywood in order to focus on the life of the newfound career girl; by 1949 its subtitle was “For the girl with a job.” That is, Glamour wasn’t about film or Hollywood or unattainable ideals; Glamour was about you. That ethos continues to this day: Glamour might have a $12,000 bracelet on its cover but will have a $19 miniskirt inside, and its editorial tone squarely targets plucky but thoughtful young women who want to “have it all.”

Glamour isn’t downmarket any longer; it’s more aimed at the middle market—or, as a marketing poster once floating around the office read, “masstige.” It’s all too fitting that the once-downmarket sister of Vogue is titled Glamour. To the eyes of a nation emerging from a depression, the concept of glamour might have seemed faraway—but it also seemed accessible in ways that the gilt-edged Vogue wasn’t. The “girl with a job” knew that with the right sleight-of-hand, she could purchase aspects of glamour found on the magazine’s pages, pick up a tip or two about home economy (if one must be bothered with the terribly unglamorous domestic life, why not make it economical?), and find out how to enchant her suitors or husband—and she wouldn’t necessarily need money or social status to do any of those things. She just needed the know-how of glamour. Glamour magazine doesn’t target the highest end of the market, nor does it assume that its readers have the cultural capital of the modern-day gentry (“How to do Anything Better” is one of its more popular features; readers might learn how to make a proper introduction or throw a dinner party). At first glance this might seem counterintuitive to the spirit of its namesake, yet it’s anything but: With these specific moves, Glamour reinforces the notion of glamour as something actionable. In knowing that most of its readers, however stylish, aren’t among the cultural illuminati, Glamour acknowledges that maybe they have need of casting the occasional spell—which, of course, Glamour is happy to supply.
I should say here that I worked for Glamour magazine for several years as a copy editor. I share that not only to disclose my relationship with the magazine, but also because my specific post there—as a professional grammarian—was tethered to the concept of glamour more than I realized. For gramarye, the root word of glamour, also gave birth to the word grammar. Given the dual etymology, I think it’s only fair to declare all Glamour grammarians to be sorceresses. The route is fairly straightforward: Gramarye at one time simply meant learning, including learning of the occult, and it’s this variant that went on to be glamour. Grammar stayed magic-free and pertained to the rules of learning, eventually becoming particular to the rules of language. But the two are linked more than just etymologically: Both grammar and glamour function as a set of rules that help people articulate themselves and allow us to understand one another. I understand you are telling me of the future by the use of words like will and going to; I understand you are telling me about your vision of yourself with red lipstick and a wiggle dress.
Some may argue that the rules and articulations of glamour are confining. They can be, when taken as feminine dictates, but they also make glamour democratic. It’s easy to aim for class or sophistication and miss the mark, for there are so many ways we can make unknowing mis-steps. But because glamour relies upon references and images, with a bit of thought and creativity almost anyone can conjure its magic—and unlike fashion, glamour doesn’t go in and out of style, so you needn’t reinvest every season. You can be fat and glamorous, bald and glamorous, poor and glamorous, short and glamorous, nerdy and glamorous, a man and glamorous.

Perhaps most important, you can be old and glamorous. In fact, age helps. (Children are never glamorous; neither are the naïve.) Glamour’s illusion doesn’t make old people look younger; it makes them look exactly their age, without apology. Glamour can channel the things we may attribute to youth—sex appeal, flirtation, vitality—but it also requires things that come more easily with age, like mystery and a past. Think of the trappings of adult femininity little girls reach for in play: not bras and sanitary pads, but high heels and lipstick, those two most glamorous things whose entire point is to create an illusion. A five-year-old knows that with womanhood can come glamour, if she wishes. She also knows it’s not yet hers to assume.
In case it’s not yet clear: I am a champion of glamour. That’s not to say I’m always glamorous; few can be, and certainly I’m not one of them. I like comfort far too much to be consistently glamorous. But I’m firmly in glamour’s thrall. When I am walking down the street (particularly 44th Street, in the general direction of an excellent martini) in something I feel glamorous in—say, a certain navy-blue bias-cut polka-dot dress with a draped neckline, clip-clip heels, a small hat, and the reddest lipstick I own—I feel a variety of confidence that I can’t channel using any other means. It’s not a confidence that’s superior to other forms of assurance, but it’s inherently different. It’s the feeling of prettiness, yes, and femininity and looking appropriate for the occasion. It’s all of those things, but the overriding feeling is this: When I am feeling and looking glamorous, I am slipping into an inchoate yet immensely satisfying spot between the public and private spheres. You see me in my polka-dotted ‘40s-style dress, small hat, and lipstick, and you may think I look glamorous—which is the goal. But here’s the trick of glamour: You see me, and yet you don’t. That is, you see the nods to the past, and you see how they look on my particular form; you see what I bring to the image, or how I create my own. Yet because I’m not necessarily attempting to show you my authentic self—whatever that might be—but rather a highly coded self, I control how much you’re actually witness to.

Now, that’s part of the whole problem we feminists have with the visual construction of femininity: The codes speak for us and we have to fight all that much harder to have our words heard over the din our appearance creates. But within those codes also lies a potential for relief, for our own construction, for play, for casting our own little spells. That’s true of all fashion and beauty, but it’s particularly true of the magic of glamour.

The New Enquiry

Definition of Glamour

“Any calculated, carefully polished imaged designed to impress and persuade.

Many magical operations are designed to impress and persuade. In some cases the spell has been directed at an individual that the worker is attempting to persuade or influence in some way. Attention given to personal glamour can be a deciding factor in the outcome of that working. Studies have shown that most people make a decision about a new acquaintance within the first thirty seconds to two minutes of interaction. It is within your power to influence that decision not only with magical action, but with a carefully crafted image, as well as communication skills. This naturally applies to interactions of both a personal and professional nature.

When I was in New Orleans this past fall at the Folk Magic Festival, one of female attendees of the festival approached me and commented on how I was “The most elegantly dressed man there”. I don’t say this to brag, because trust me when I say that I won’t be featured in a Calvin Klein ad anytime soon. After she made the comment I began to try to explain to her that I consider personal image another tool of sorcery. She nodded her head in agreement, but it seemed clear that it had never occurred to her to utilize it as such. Some magicians will dismiss the notion of mastering glamour as an art. They feel that if a working is powerful enough than that is all that matters. More experienced workers know that magic works better on a path of least resistance. Proper glamour application can provide just that. No point in creating a mojo hand to command respect and power, when your entire wardrobe comes from a ‘Hot Topic; designer . I was once guilty of that myself. Unless of course the circle that you are attempting to influence and image you are attempting to project is of a gothic nature.

What many tend to forget in regards to glamour, which Postrel pointed out in her presentation is that glamour was once thought of as being rooted in magical practice and witchcraft. Consider the etymology of the word itself:

Glamour (n.) 1720, Scottish, “magic, enchantment” (especially in phrase to cast the glamor), a variant of Scottish gramarye “magic, enchantment, spell,” alteration of English grammar (q.v.) with a medieval sense of “any sort of scholarship, especially occult learning.” Popularized by the writings of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Sense of “magical beauty, alluring charm” first recorded 1840. As a verb, by 1830s, from the noun. Via.
The way that is applied may have been changed, but the intent has not. Your chosen look can project an air of enchantment, magical beauty, or alluring charm if you craft if that way. As Postrel states, “Glamour is all about transcending the everyday”. People are rarely drawn in, attracted to, or impressed by the average or every day. Be it mystery, beauty, power, success, or sex, people are attracted to and long for the things that they do not encounter on a usual basis. If you can successfully embody and project one or a combination of these things, than you can influence and persuade a great many people.

Two things to remember when crafting your image which Postrel also points out are that glamour is an illusion and should appear effortless. This is the balance that has to be understood and mastered. As an illusion it is essentially a deception, or misdirection, like a stage magician performing a sleight of hand. Also much like a sleight of hand maneuver it should be practiced and honed until it seems as if no effort is needed to pull it off, until appears to the target to be magic. Practice in front of a mirror, work on your mannerisms, walk, body language, posture, etc. Do this so that nothing about you ever comes off as unauthentic, forced, or awkward. Glamour is enchanting and elegant; you should strive to be as well. People will often ask, “why not just be yourself”? You are being yourself, just cultivating, practicing, and projected a beneficial aspect of yourself that few take the time to do. There is a part of everyone that is sexy, mysterious, powerful, and so on. You are merely tapping into that with your image ad when done successfully those that are attracted to such things will respond. Look around you, glamour is used all around you to influence and persuade, and marketing, and the like. Shouldn’t you tap into that power?

I have never seen glamour mentioned in connection with conjure practice. However if you look into the old lore, and descriptions of many conjure men and woman, you will see that they created images for themselves that projected power and mystery to attract and persuade clients. Actually being able to project that onto a client is one of the secrets to being able to help them. I will let you all ponder that for a while. I know that I learned to importance and of image presentation early on from my mother before I ever learned any conjure. I remember asking her once, why she was going through the trouble of doing her hair, makeup, and the rest just to run to the store. She replied with the old phrase, “you never get another chance to make a first impression”. I have heard people exclaim, “I ain’t trying to impress anybody”. Well the fact is no matter what, you are leaving an impression, as a sorcerer you should be in control of that impression is at all times.

Also we all know that feeling that washes over us we know that we look good. Look good and you feel good. Feel good and you begin to attract good, in whatever way you perceive it. Looking good effects us and thus those around us on a metaphysical level.

Crossroads of Sorcery


Ethics of Glamour

At the end of the day, you can look at glamour two ways:

1.You are leveling the playing field in an unfair world so you can manifest all the wonder you are working to manifest.

2. You are manipulating those around you to get what you want, which is the purpose of Witchcraft.

Obviously, if you want to feel really justified in everything you do ever, you should think:

If you like feeling like the dangerous type and the implication that you are a bottom feeder, you should consider the second statement

If you actually want to get somewhere with glamour, you should consider both.

Manipulation is such a harsh word. As someone who “reads” as feminine in some way, it’s one of the worst things that can be said about you because in society’s view, it separates you from all your soft, squishy maternal instincts that we all supposedly have. That makes you a user. That makes you a gold digger. That makes you a climber. That makes you self-centred and what is worse than being called that when you are supposed to put everyone else’s needs before yours if you want to be a Good Person?

Which is why, if we’re being completely honest here, if you are good at glamour it’s because you are manipulating others without them noticing. That’s the part of the ‘Arte’, the subtlety. If you get caught out for trying to manipulate those around you, the stakes are really high. Possibly because you might be getting burnt at one (metaphorically now, less so even two hundred years ago).

Let’s pretend everyone has common sense here because that’s a fun game. You should have a moral compass. If you can’t sleep at night because you did something crazy,guess whose fault that is? . All your actions (and inactions) have consequences which is really tedious but a true fact.
The thing is, all of us, even the more introverted side of the spectrum, chose to have lives intertwined with others in some fashion. We do things we don’t want to do all the time for each other for all sorts of reasons – as a sacrifice on the altar of love, to carry favour, to right a wrong we’ve committed, to even an uneven internal score card, because it makes the other person happy which makes your life easier. We don’t think much about it because . . .if you have to worry about being a manipulative soap opera villainess, how would you ever get anything done?

And that’s the point of glamour, really. To get things done so you can further your ambitions. You are also forming connections with others. Maybe some of those connections are self-serving, but some connections that start as self-serving can develop into sincere affection and some connections that start as sincere affection can quickly become a negative situation. Remember no one’s hands are spotless, but also remember that Lady MacBeth couldn’t sleep at night until she was so sleep deprived that jumping off a parapet sounded like a fine idea. Remember that Witchcraft is used by the disempowered and life isn’t fair, glamour isn’t required to be either.

What do you Want? How badly do you Want it? What are you willing to do to get it? What pacts will you whisper to your goddesses and spirits? What promises will you make? What will you tear out of yourself? What will you suffer?

Witches & Pagans


3 thoughts on “The Dark ‘Arte’ of Glamour

  1. Pingback: Why a Bully plays the role of Victim | Laetitia Latham Jones

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