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In Competition No. 2395 you were invited to write a rhymed witch’s spell to bring someone or something either good or ill.

William Dalrymple in his excellent book From the Holy Mountain lists some quaint old Nestorian spells: ‘the anathema of the Angel Gabriel against the Evil Eye’, ‘a charm for binding the guns and engines of war’, ‘the charm for a cow which is excited towards her mistress’.... Although I invited benedictions as well as curses, curmudgeons that you are you didn’t offer a single one. Commendations to Basil Ransome-Davies and Noel Petty. The prizewinners, printed below, get £25 each, and Ralph Rochester, whose cantrip struck me as especially potent, is rewarded with £30.

To Lead Travellers Astray

The honey-bee has missed her hive.

The fox has lost his earth.

The blind-mole clambers up above.

The squirrel digs beneath.

The wild-goose circles widdershins.

The swallow does not come.

The homing-pigeon flaps her wings

But does not find her home.

The headless chickens lead the way.

The lemmings follow on.

The sightless kittens go astray.

The light of hope is gone.

The wanderers vanish in the gloom.

A wildfire guides their feet.Their anxious kinsfolk pace the room.

The pretty infants bleat.

Ralph Rochester

Turn the cantrip, three by three,

On my rival interviewee.

May he first have a massive wait

For a crowded train that’s very late,

Which puts him in a dreadful state,

That hot and flustered he will get

And have to sit in pools of sweat;

And just before his turn comes, let

Him spill hot coffee down his tie;

Next, splash the rest upon his thigh,

Making his voice go squeaky-high,

And draining all his confidence,

So all his answers make no sense;

Smite him with noisy flatulence,

Then let a sudden flash of sun

Illuminate his flies undone.

Brian Murdoch

Vanishing Cream

(a spell to make a teacher disappear)

Hocus pocus, stalk of crocus,

Eye of moke that’s out of focus,

Tongue of lizard, hair of wizard

Minced up with a turkey’s gizzard —

Stir the brew and let it stew.

Cook it through till it turns blue.

Round it dance till in a trance,

Then advance with ghastly chants.

Paste it thinly on our books

So that when she comes and looks

She’ll inhale the noxious fume,

Disappearing from the room.

Dorothy Pope

Let a pheasant’s blood congeal

With the brains of baby seal;

Add the claws of dancing bear

To the hind legs of a hare;

Stir them in the cauldron’s spawn

With the guts of slaughtered fawn,

Frightened rabbit’s ears that quiver,

Wing of grouse and goose’s liver,

Broken beaks of fighting cocks,

And the head of hunted fox;

Let them bubble, twist and squeak

Like the hearts of those that seek

To disrupt with raucous hoots

Hunters in their old pursuits.

In the weaving of this spell

May they feel the curse of hell.

Frank Mc Donald

Squeak of bat and bark of dog,

Hoot of owl and howl of cat,

Hiss of snake and croak of frog,

Caw of crow and snarl of rat,

Whine of wasp and buzz of bee,

And a hungry buzzard’s cry,

Burn them all on a CD,

Edit, mix and amplify.

Then beneath a tamarisk

At midnight on the first of May

Play your tweaked, eclectic disk

Loud and long till break of day,

Wishing all the while for what

Would make your happiness complete.

It will happen, or, if not,

Wait a year and then repeat.

G.M. Davis

O sweet satanic ladies,

A favour I entreat:

Kindly turn my husband

Ever since we married

He just slobs around all day;

Damsels of the darkness,

Make him edible, I pray.

When he isn’t in the house

He simply disappears;

Time to make a meal of him —

Prepare the feast, my dears,

And not because I fancy him

(He rarely turns me on),

But if I scoff the bugger

I’ll at least know where he’s gone.

Mike Morrison

No. 2398: XI plus extra man

You are invited to write an entertaining piece of prose (maximum 150 words) incorporating in any order the following cricketing terms, but using them in a non-cricketing sense: bat, Chinaman, swinger, maiden, stump, duck, nightwatchman, slip, bouncer, hook, sweep, appeal. Entries to ‘Competition No. 2398’ by 23 June.