Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I Put a Spell On You

Anyone who's seen the documentary film 'Spellbound', ITV's 'Great British Spelling Test', or the BBC's 'Hard Spell' and 'Star Spell', will know that these days, spelling has replaced cooking as the new rock 'n' roll. Channel Five have so far failed to jump on that particular bandwagon, but just weeks after trying to harness the pulling power of Jordan by hiring the lead singer of New Kids on the Block, Five last night attempted to capitalise on the national spelling craze with a show called 'The Real Witch Project'. It might feature the wrong kind of spells, but it gives whole new meaning to the word 'miscast'.

This one-off reality show took five women (with a sixth turning up a week late - they're women, it was bound to happen), and persuaded them to try witchcraft for a month. After all, if you can't mess with the dark side on a cheap reality show, when can you? The would-be wiccans included the likes of 28-year-old Mecca (whose parents were obviously bingo fans), unemployed mum of two, Sam, and good Christian girl Maria, who didn't seem to see any conflict between her religious beliefs and becoming an amateur anti-christ for a month.

The girls were introduced to the unlikely named Gaillies Codd, who sounds like an old-fashioned fishmonger, but is in fact a High Priestess who practices witchcraft in a shed in Walthamstow, and under Gaillies' watchful eye, the five formed a coven and decided what they wanted to achieve using the power of spells. Samantha wanted to give up smoking, Maria to stop arguing with her mother, and Hanna to find a parking space outside her flat. World peace obviously hadn't occurred to them. Mecca's most burning desire, meanwhile, was to get her mobile phone back from her ex-boyfriend.

By a stroke of good fortune, Gaillies Codd happened to know a traditional centuries-old spell for the return of missing cell phones, so the women soon set about chanting and wailing at the kind of volume which, ironically, makes a phone unneccesary. That issue sorted, they moved on to Maria's family problems. Gaillies handed her a bunch of leaves, and instructed her on how to use them to cast a powerful spell. Though whether you can really improve your relationship with your mother by waving a salad in the air, I'm not sure. Mine would probably just tell me to stop playing with my food.

This first coven meeting over, the fledgling witches made their way home, where Sam swept through her house with a magical broom (shouldn't she have been riding it?) to rid the place of bad spirits and bring her health, wealth and fertility. Looking at her children, I'm not sure fertility was such a good idea, but her house did look like it could do with a clean.

Mecca, meanwhile, had managed to get her phone back from the ex, stating "it was definitely witchcraft that brought him to me", thus ignoring the bus he'd taken to her flat, while Samantha was introducing us to her partner, Rob. Rob liked to refer to witches as "strong birds", and was about to undergo surgery for a neck injury he'd sustained whilst headbutting a man in a pub. I swear I'm not making this up. Fellow witch Hanna also had a lame duck husband, Steve, whose heart condition was probably less self-inflicted, so the two women joined together to cast a healing spell for their hubbies.

When asked how he felt about being the subject of an amateur spell, Steve responded with this powerful metaphor: "If you paint a front door with gloss paint and you don't put an undercoat on, it'll just peel off. So a little knowledge is dangerous."

I never did understand DIY enthusiasts.

Fortunately the men survived, so the spell must have worked, and at the next coven meeting the girls were joined by Sarah, a bongo player who claims to have had "a blinding moment of clarity". Which is a bit like Stevie Wonder singing 'I Can See Clearly Now'. Maria, who was still finding her Mum irritating, proved how dangerous witchcraft can be by burning herself on a candle, while Mecca announced "I want to get laid a lot", and immediately jumped naked into a bath of rose petals.

Samantha meanwhile had had an argument with Rob, so used the traditional pagan method of overcoming a row, and buried his toothbrush in the local park. Which is sure to placate any man.

Another day, another chance to see Mecca stripping off and oiling up, this time in the living room with some penis-shaped candles. Apparently it was an 'attraction spell', and let's face it, if there's one thing likely to attract men, it's a girl who likes to get naked and announce a penchant for sex.

Back in the coven, the others were being taught the art of tarot reading, tea-leaf analysis, and crystal-ball gazing, before deciding to hold a seance with a ouija board. As luck would have it, they were soon chatting to Sam's dead grandfather, who was swiftly followed by American hip-hop superstar, Tupac Shakur, who wanted a word with Maria. She just happened to be a fan, though quite what a black gangsta rapper is doing hanging out in heaven with Sam's grandad, I've no idea.

By the end of the month the results of the experiment were clear. Mecca got a shag, Sam bought a cooker, Samantha became a Native American stripper, and Hanna forced Steve to do a parachute jump two weeks after his heart surgery. Which shows the benefit of a good life insurance policy. Maria meanwhile had learnt a great deal, saying "I feel I'm a Christian, but I would also do witchcraft now". I'm sure the Pope won't have a problem with that.