If you haven't got a date for Halloween yet don't despair, maybe you just need a little magic. Start with Titania Hardie's new book, Bewitched, which offers loads of spells for affairs of the heart. Titania is a third-generation British white-witch (as in positive/good, not pale), and takes care to ensure that her spells can be done with easily found implements--some of my favorites include one to advance a love affair, by decorating ginger cookies with suits of cards painted in edible gold leaf, and another to freeze an unwanted third party out of your life with an acorn and an ice-cube tray. Of course, I'm as skeptical as the next guy, having grown up to see each and every ghost and goblin encountered by Scooby Doo revealed to be a real-estate speculator in a sheet--so I called Titania, who's also a BBC star, and asked her some hard-hitting questions like, "Really? Can magic really work in our technology-swamped age?" "Magic is probably more relevant today than it was at any time," she replied. "In the same way that romantic literature was important when people wanted to break away from all the rational thinking that the Enlightenment had spelled out, I think people are more aware today then ever that there are answers you can't find through science and medicine, and that the human factor is so much more complex than that. We need to remember that we are more than just cells and microbiology and atoms."

And the spells will still work if you're a skeptic? You bet, said Titania: "In truth, if someone goes into trying some of the magic spells with some degree of skepticism or a slight degree of self-mocking, I think that's a healthy thing. If someone sits down to use their magic with the view that this would be nice if it works, it would really cheer me up, or it would really be jolly good fun, rather than, 'Gosh if this doesn't work I just don't know what I'm going to do,' I think they're much more likely to have a successful result, because their whole demeanor, and everything they put out into the cosmos in terms of their thought-forces, is much more easygoing. Magic is simply thoughts going out into the ether to reach that person that you would like to reach. In the case of love spells, you're always sending your love to somebody, whether it's a known somebody or an unknown somebody. Even if you'll be performing a spell for love to come into your life with no particular person in mind, it is certainly true that you will attract much more positive love... if you are relaxed and easygoing."

Well, this all sounds nice and good, and if people are skeptically placing Matches ads, they may as well skeptically cast spells--but what happens if people start going around and casting spells for each other's spouses and whatnot? It's not even an issue, said Titania, because "the first rule of magic you learn as a trainee witch of any kind is that anything you do comes back to you in the power of three--so if you wish to take somebody away from someone with whom they're already settled you're inviting someone to do that to you at least three times as badly. If you're interfering with someone else's destiny then that is really casting around in trouble. If you do win this love affair--and you may be able to make your magic powerful enough to do just that--just how much guilt and regret are going to follow you? It's far better to say: Right, something's gone wrong here, I seem to be in love with someone who doesn't seem to be very available, let's just start again, and cast around out there and say, I'm ready for love, I really want someone who's going to make the right partner for me."

In case I hadn't been convinced of the power of Titania's spells by her lack of spooky rhetoric and her intriguing heritage--one of her grandmothers was a British witch, the other was a Sicilian country-woman with an interesting bag of tricks of her own--as I was saying my goodbyes, Titania interjected, out of the clear blue, a few pointed pieces of advice on specifics of my personal life. A real-life almost-ghost story--honest. (Bewitched: Titania's Book of Love Spells, by Titania Hardie. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 120 pages, $24.95.)

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