Spells, Salves, and Pills
On page 213 of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Quentin thinks while confronting the depths of his sadness, “Wasn’t there a spell for making yourself happy? Somebody must have invented one. How could he have missed it? Why didn’t they teach it?”
And I thought to myself: if there was a spell like that, I would use it. I mean, provided it didn’t have any unwanted side effects. But if all I had to do was point a wand at myself and chant a few words, I would use it. Not all the time, but sometimes. Most of the time. No one wants to struggle; no one wants to be down or anxious or moody. But if there was a spell that could help keep emotions in balance? Sure, I’d take advantage of it from time to time. Wouldn’t you?
Then I thought, if there was an ointment that I could rub on my skin to make myself happy, I’d probably do that too. It would be akin to sunscreen, except it would protect you from negative energy buzzing through the air. If all I had to do was rub a salve on my skin and it would keep out all the unwanted thoughts and feelings, help me to regulate reality so that I wasn’t being led astray by fear or worry, I would massage that cream in. Again, provided that it didn’t have massively negative side effects. But if it was well-researched? If the benefits outweighed the drawbacks? Then yes, pass me the tube. Wouldn’t you?
So why do we have such a stigma around drugs that we ingest that accomplish the same task?
When it’s magical: bring it on.
When it’s topical: rub it in.
When it’s internal…
When it’s internal, there is suddenly this layer of judgment. What is okay for the outside of the body is anathema inside the body, even if it accomplishes the same thing.
Despite being a health editor and having read countless pieces about depression, I had never thought about the stigma in quite this way until I encountered a hypothetical spell in a book.
I am still on the first book in the trilogy, and at this point, Quentin doesn’t know that spell for a specific reason given later in the chapter. I don’t know if he ever gains knowledge of that spell in the future, and if he does, if he chooses to use it. But wouldn’t you?