Ever since I began exploring the vast online universe, the way that Internet technology shapes our language and communication has fascinated me. One of my particular areas of interest is the use of emojis and the notable shift towards the convenience of expressing ourselves in pictographs, the earliest known form of writing, but not because we have regressed – on the contrary, I perceive this as evolution. That is an entirely different topic for review which I will leave to the linguists and sociologists as this is not intended to be a scholarly missive; I write this from the heart and through an interest that has been piqued by the way tradition intersects with progress. Discussion and opinion is welcomed, possibly debated but never judged.

My main literature and language interests are entrenched in folklore, particularly fairy tales and magic. The latter is practically the most generic term I could conjure but both topics span time, culture, geography and language in a way that has always held my fascination and which has undoubtedly been informed by the massive, two volume Reader’s Digest anthology The World’s Best Fairy Tales that my mother bought me when I was a child. I could have killed a troll with them, they were so heavy and I read them until they were near to falling apart.* (I also remember there was a colouring book containing Fritz Kredel’s illustrations that accompanied them). Unfortunately, none of these fine publications made it to my adulthood with me; my mother gifted them, along with the rest of my extraordinarily large library to her local school after I left home.

Years of therapy, mother. Years.

Anyway, back to my childhood, where making mud pies in the garden became experiments in alchemy as I tested the possible magical properties of dandelions and quartz. I wrote tiny charms on leaves with a dressmaker’s pin and sat on my swing, muttering garbled incantations because somehow I knew that their nonsense did not matter – it was their intention that was important.

There was that one time, when I was about nine, that I did dally with my own take on burning in effigy but it (probably) didn’t work and it took weeks to get the odour of singed Barbie out of our coal shed. Yes, I set fire to a plastic thing in a building designed for fuel storage – unsupervised, with matches and propellant; this was before a time when social media would throw their collective apron over their heads and shriek for child protective services to respond.

Child or adult, we have all discovered or dabbled with danger one way or another and that includes matters of the occult; the reports of curious teenagers who have lost their minds after ‘playing’ with Ouija boards are rife across popular culture, both through urban legends and factual accounts. Yet, most of us will have read our daily horoscope report, wished on a star, rubbed a token for luck or kept a mascot; superstition has been so normalised that most of us wouldn’t turn a hair at counting magpies, or peeling a fruit skin to find out the first initial of the person one will marry. All such supernatural traditions and activities are considered quite innocuous and were in practice long before JK Rowling introduced us to Harry Potter, thus spawning a generation of scarf-wearing, stick-wielding, bobble-hatted, mini-wizards. Again, all harmless stuff – I don’t recall a clamouring of sensational news stories of accidents or injuries in the playground relating to “Reducto” or any other Hogwarts-inspired charms, jinxes or incantations. Not even a concussion at Kings Cross (which continues to amaze me). Granted, there is always a dark side but it depends if you decide to embrace it or not, that is your choice and I am not simply talking Star Wars (just ask any Harry Potter fan about Lord Voldemort); so, trust in your instincts and if something feels right, do it – if it feels wrong, do not.

Of course it was inevitable that our more mysterious pursuits were going to recreate themselves on the Internet. I can remember some of the first online ‘fun’ services being Zodiac and Tarot readings and here we are in 2017 where things have evolved to the point that for the last couple of years, emoji spells have been lighting up Twitter timelines. They are, in a very broad sense, spells that are constructed from emojis (the small images of expression used in electronic communication) and cast via social media with the purpose of creating positive outcomes and preventing negativity. This really is not a ‘new’ practice – the delivery may be high tech but the root lies in the arcane and basic sigil magic.

Broadly previously published an article called “How to Cast Spells Using Emoji” (October 29th, 2015) and mischievously suggested: “Instead of subtweeting your ex, why not cast an emoji unbinding spell instead?” The piece goes on to explain how to prepare, craft and cast emoji spells, providing examples and even advice on the ethics of spell casting.

What does an emoji spell look like? Pretty much like this:

Fortune: 🔮🔒💠🎲🙂⚜🖇🔓🔮 #fortune #emojispell ✨

Positivity: 🔮☀️✨💕😊💕✨☀️🔮 #positivity #emojispell ✨

Sleep: 🔮🎐☄☁️🌙☁️☄🎐🔮 #sleep #emojispell ✨

Healing: 🔮🏥❤️🌱👨🌱❤️🏥🔮 #healing #emojispell ✨

Protection: 🔮💕👩💕🔮 #protection #emojispell ✨

You will notice that all of the above samples are palindromic and the aesthetic principle is acknowledged here although, practicality suggests that it is an unnecessary symmetry and wholly subjective.  Also, each emoji spell above begins and ends with the Crystal Ball emoji (🔮), symbolizing a circle of protection as well as being a common signifier for an emoji spell. Whether a circle of protection is required for all emoji spells or not (I think that protection should always be invoked) you don’t have to use the Crystal Ball emoji (🔮). Spell casting is a hugely personal thing and you might want to use an emoji that has more traditional connotations, like the Candle emoji (🕯️) or Fire emoji (🔥), that is specific to your purpose. Do your research by all means but combine that with your instincts and of course – do no harm

So, are emoji spells witchcraft and is the practice authentic? Are emoji spells dangerous? The previous examples are perfectly harmless in essence but, there are definitely doubters and to those great and terrible critics, I posit this:

Casting any supportive spell is no different to wishing someone “good luck” (🍀) or offering to say a prayer (🙏) for them and there are emojis that have been adopted to illustrate both of those sentiments. Why should any other form of affirmation be any different? I sense no harm.

Magic moves with the times – that is why it is remains constant. For me, my craft is in the very fiber of my being; physical and spiritual. It is the way I live my life; helping others, passing on knowledge, telling and re-telling stories. I didn’t learn it from a book or crouched at the knee of some robed mage; it has always been there, inside of me – it is just what comes naturally to me.

Would I cast an emoji spell? Why not? I have my own interpretations and ideas on the subject. For example, many emoji spells ask for Likes and Retweets to gather charge and increase their power.

This can be interpreted as the online extension of a focused group who are singing, praying and/or chanting in unison to increase the reverberation of power but, although I am not opposed to the notion, I am a solitary creature so my personal preference would be to refrain from that type of call to action.

Were I to cast an emoji spell in earnest, I would expect that any interaction from others would be entirely organic; like the one that may possibly have brought you here in the first place:

#productivity #creativity #emojispell ✨

Finally, not everyone wants the world to know about their crafting and maybe that is one of the reasons that emoji spells might be viewed with suspicion. Spell casting is largely an extremely personal and private activity so if you want to keep your emoji spell under wraps, you can; the principle is the same but just email your emoji spell to yourself.

Blessed be.

*I do not and never have advocated the killing of trolls; no trolls were harmed in the writing of this blog.

© Mel Lampro


I keep telling myself that I have done writing about cancer and that I have nothing left to say on the subject but, I continue to prove myself wrong. Frustrated by the recent #ChallengeAccepted, black and white selfie campaign and inspired by a stupendous piece I read this morning from fellow polka dot aficionado Rebecca Wilkinson (go read it and share the living daylights out of it), I have taken the decision to run the gauntlet with this one, too. One last time. Probably.

Enough is enough.

Before I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2015, I was already living with the debilitating effects of Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Esophageal Spasms, Anxiety and Depression (if you don’t know what these so-called ‘hidden illnesses’ can do to a body and a mind – go and look them up). Finding out that I also had a massive tumour hiding in and around my spine was akin to laying the proverbial straw to break my back.

Recently, I wrote a guest blog for the Macmillan Cancer Support online community (“I am a badass”) in which I pulled no punches about what it is like, in my experience, to fight cancer.

This past weekend, my band (Braver than Fiction) played a show at The Ship Inn, in Sheffield. Local photographer, Phil Tyas just released a set of photographs he took at that gig. This is one that I was initially going to reject because I did not think it was flattering – then I checked myself.

In this photograph, I am bolstered by the morphine that allows me to stand without wincing yet I am simultaneously exhausted from the effort. I am near-blinded by the sweat that is pouring into my eyes because, if you look closely, in contrast to my superfluous, post-chemotherapy facial hair growth, I have virtually no eyebrows and, you can clearly see that sweat soaking determinedly through my hair (what there is of my former crowning glory, as it slowly grows back). This is not because I just rocked out (although in my own stilted way I did), this is a constant state of being for me due to the lingering effect of my invasive cancer treatments, including intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I cannot wear make up to “make me feel pretty” (as I am so often urged to do) because it slides off in seconds, like my already-melting eyebrows, the vestiges of which you can just about see in the photograph. I cannot wear wigs “to give me confidence” because they are too uncomfortable – I would just overheat until I passed out. I gained weight until I was double my usual size but I cannot exercise to the level I need to in order to shift it (diabetes is just round the corner, for sure). Fashionable clothes? Thank goodness I was never a slave to trend or I would be excommunicated from the Church of Couture, for certain! Look closer and you can even see the residue on my neck from the fibers of the dozens of black bar napkins I was mopping myself with and the arid landscape of skin texture that came with my treatments, ageing me by more than a decade in less than a year.

But, in this photograph, I am clearly happy in the moment; enjoying my once in a blue moon chance to forget that my life has been prematurely shortened and the quality of that same life is unquestionably diminished.

I also forgot my song lyrics twice during this set. That sort of thing happens all the time in daily life, too; my memory and concentration have been ruined by cancer and the associated treatments for it. I struggle to open the packages my medication comes in because of the pain in my hands and my deteriorating co-ordination.

Standing hurts. Sitting hurts. Walking hurts. Lying down hurts. I manage to sing in my band roughly once a month, usually for no more than thirty minutes but my physiotherapist, health advisor and haematology consultant all agreed to encourage me to carry on singing because that itself is an excellent workout; plus, they all know how much I love performing so psychologically and physically, it is good for me.

It took eighteen months for me to be able to do that.

I did not earn any money from this performance. I was transported to the venue by my wonderfully supportive band mates and brought home by an equally caring neighbour. All the same, I was completely drained and several days on I can hardly move for the resulting pain I am experiencing.

Nevertheless, the DWP (my former employer, ironically enough) have just removed my Personal Independence Payment (PIP) after an assessment by a woman who is probably not a cancer specialist and who has never met me before, knows nothing about me nor how my conditions impact my routine but observed that I could make a journey to the appointment unaided (I took a bunch of painkillers, then I took a taxi) and that (while sitting) I was able to raise my arms and lift my legs off the floor. Therefore, I apparently don’t need any extra help, nor the funds to provide it.

For fucks’ sake. I can’t even wipe my own arse properly.

Am I complaining? You bet your own arse I am! I am weary of being considered ‘brave’ – I may be a badass but, I am broken.

It is approaching the first of the month and the bills I need to pay to cover essentials (like my rent) will not be honoured.

Well done to ATOS Healthcare and another statistic leveled by them. I will just sit quietly and browse through the black and white selfies of friends and family on social media, although I rarely see them in the flesh, whilst I wait for the bailiffs whom I expect will be dispatched like winged monkeys way before my appeal is even considered.

I will selfie that.