British witch casts a spell on Oprah

Will magic help her score a spot on the show?

Published October 1, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Television host Oprah Winfrey has proved she can put a spell on an author's career, but now an author has apparently put a spell on Oprah. Britain's best-known witch, Titania Hardie, the author of William Morrow and Company's upcoming "Enchanted: Titania's Book of White Magic," knows what wonderful alchemy an appearance with Oprah offers a book. So she is calling on some extrasensory connections to land herself on the ABC show.

When reached at her home in Pilton, near Glastonbury, Hardie confirmed that she cast the spell but conceded that she has yet to experience any celestial pull. "I think it's backfired at the moment," the 40-year-old white magic woman said with a laugh. "I gather that Roseanne wants me. So I must be getting my direction wrong."

How does one get in touch with Oprah's sixth sense? Hardie explains that she rolled out a pentagram of yellow ribbon ("Ribbons symbolize the beauty of a cord with other people," she observes in "Enchanted"), then placed a candle in the middle and sent the "Beloved" star some "nice benedictions." While she wouldn't reveal the wording of these thought waves, she did mention a premonition that Oprah was having some problems with her house. (Winfrey could not be reached to confirm the premonition.)

"I would really like to meet Oprah," Hardie says. "It must be difficult to be an intellectual person doing a populist's job -- and she is that." She added that in 1996 she was scheduled to appear on the show but was bumped at the last minute.

She has less complimentary words for Oprah's pal Toni Morrison, whom she takes to task for the negative references to witches in her 1977 novel "Song of Solomon." "How could she not see that she's throwing centuries of bad press back at witches?" Hardie wants to know. "I will very good-naturedly and very poetically send her a sweet note saying how much I admire the book, but I don't think she's noticed that she's victimized another marginal group."

Hardie, who moved to England from her native Australia in 1984, says that her Cornish grandmother, who practiced the white magic known as Wicca, inspired her to become a witch. One of Wicca's tenets is "harming none," and so readers will discover no harmful spells in her upcoming suede-covered book. Instead they'll find instructions for making a healing potion and a love lotion and for casting positive spells.

Hardie has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Sydney and is pursuing a second degree, in literature, at the Open University. She devotes much of her time to battling negative stereotypes about witches. When asked about her reputation as the best-known witch in Britain, she said, "I don't know whether that's a compliment or not."

By Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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