1. The spell for making lids pop off easily.
Brigit invented this spell herself. Well, she learned it from an ex-boyfriend, who told her the rough shape of the spell in an attempt to entice her to marry him. It had ginger, and acacia, and a bit of nutmeg. She had left the boyfriend, and experimented with the spell. The dried ginger powder worked, though fresh nutmeg was crucial. She kept ginger in tiny jars in the kitchen just for this reason—though only jars where the lid easily popped off.
Andreas had no idea she had a spell for this. Early in their marriage, he had complimented her jar opening skills, and asked whether or not she had a secret. In the heat of the moment, she couldn’t imagine admitting that the old wives’ tale of women stealing ex-boyfriend’s spells was true, and so she laughed it off instead. “No magic,” she’d said, flexing her muscles. “Just strength.”
But the truth was, it wasn’t shame that held her back from admitting the truth. Everyone was always trading “family secrets”; the free market of ideas was never really tied to blood. But she loved that Andreas had given her this—he had accepted her strength at face value, praised her in front of peers, and had never shied away from asking her for help. Birgit was better at opening jars than him, and he handed her the weird ones repeatedly. She accepted, smiled, and made sure he never saw the pinch of ginger.
2. The spell for removing food-based stains from undyed clothing.
Petra had taught him this. She’d told him so he could tell Birgit—it was one of the family spells he’d gotten during his Blessing ceremony. But the first time he’d stained his shirt over dinner, Birgit had been mad—she’d warned him it would happen twice, and even offered him her napkin. So he’d taken out that stain while it soaked in the sink, and the next morning he’d proudly shown it hadn’t stuck around. He was pretty sure Birgit actually knew about this spell—she’d simply started leaving all the stained clothes in a bucket in their shared bathroom. He’d come home from work, and stub his toe on a bucket with an apron inside. He’d sigh, and grab his premixed packet (still the one his mom made him, with the ingredients written on the back in small, neat handwriting) and then start whispering the necessary words.
Yes, he was stubborn. But also: it was nice, when he came home sometimes, to be able to help Birgit, in the exact way that she needed, with no expectations that she do it herself.
3. The spell for increasing your portion size.
This isn’t the spell that Petra would admit to being her secret spell though—if her Gardener asked her, looked her in the eye, and waited, thread ready, Petra would tell them the spell for getting rid of herpes. No, this spell was her special secret. It was the spell for the end times. Or, a spell that helped her survive the war.
The spell required four elements—alfalfa, calamus root, fennel, and parsley. Like a few higher level spells, it was extremely picky about both freshness, and exact measurements. You couldn’t pre-measure this mix—it needed to be weighed and measured and chopped moments before it was uttered.
With all that effort, she’d expected the spell to be something phenomenal when she first heard of it. But it wasn’t; it didn’t even double the amount of food. It increased it by about half. It couldn’t be applied to a pot of stew—only to one portion of it. Outside of war times, the spell was useless. It didn’t make a whole new plate, and so if you were short, it only helped if you could increase multiple people’s portion sizes.
It was one of those spells that, outside of war, was forgotten. But during the war? It had been Reeder’s most powerful currency. For a while there was a rumour that a child’s tooth, freely given, would increase the yield of the spell. Petra had taken her youngest sister’s tooth—she had consented, of course, but that was before she realised this could include pain—but it hadn’t worked. She still kept the tooth in her pouch—in case.
4. The spell for reaching things that are just out of your reach.
Heike learned this spell from the teenager that volunteered at the preschool. She goes three times a week, and the girl is usually there. Heike likes her, but she seems to have no interest in this work. This makes her an excellent mark.
Heike is quick and sly—she’s the youngest of four after all, a classic accident child—and this girl isn’t equipped to deal with her. She taught her the spell for reaching things, and even gave her a hand full of fennel seeds to complete the spell. The fennel tastes bitter in Heike’s mouth, but it’s definitely worth it for all the illegal things she’s gotten her hands on.
5. The spell for gaining more sensation in your tongue.
Anja was at that stage in her life where she experimented with magic. It was a time when you talked to all your friends, and compared strange spells, family recipes, and cultural rumors. Sometimes people explored spells, and tried to create their own.
Of course, they had all watched the very badly made presentation in school about making spells—Spells Are Tools, Not Toys—and every year for Carnival Anja’s friend Ralf dressed as Dierk, The Cool Teen Who Died When He Made Spells His Toys. Yes, there was a good reason not to play with magic, but there was an even better reason to try: it was exciting. It was different. When magic worked, when Anja used a new and unusual spell—a thrill ran through her.
But really—the spells weren’t the point. The point was the large bonfires out a Bombcrater Pond, the good weed, and the kissing. So really, no one would be surprised to find out that Anja’s spell was a simple one—one both her grandmother and her father knew, unbeknownst to her. But right now it was her secret, one that she believed she created, and it was phenomenal.
6. The spell for aborting an unwanted fetus.
Catrin had one foot in the house, and one foot out. It was the problem with being the oldest child, and she knew this. She was the one to drop Heike at preschool as she went to her classes at the University. She picked up her Grandfather Torsten from his workshop, and dropped her Grandmother Petra at her sewing circles when she’d forgotten the way. She was integral to her family, and it made her all too aware that she was too young to start her own.
But she never told her mother when her monthlies stopped. She didn’t even tell Martin, her boyfriend of nearly two years. She just walked straight to the Gardeners, and they gave her the spell, and a small packet of ingredients. When she bled later that day, she went to her mother, and cried in her arms. Her mother never asked about the spell—she just held her. And Catrin was so grateful.
She thought about throwing away the ingredients. But in the end, she’d felt Petra’s spirit guide her, and she hid the packet under her mattress. Just in case she had to use them again.
7. The spell for sturdy walls.
Torsten kept that spell from the war. He knew there was one going around to increase portion sizes too, but he never met someone who actually knew it. Everyone seemed to know an associate who knew that one, but everyone in his social circle only knew the wall one. And there seemed to be so many recipe bags for the portion one flying around. It made it feel like it wasn’t working. This one though? It worked.
His house had survived the war. Few others had.
8. The spell for having only sons.
Andreas, 44 / Jürgen, deceased
Birgit was one of four children; the three others were boys. Andreas always thought it was good luck, and then Jürgen, Birgit’s father, pulled Andreas aside, and gave him the secret spell for having boys. He was amazed. He was almost positive Jürgen’s wife Petra didn’t know about this, and it felt wrong. Like he was manipulating something he shouldn’t.
He never used it, but when they all stood around Jürgen’s grave, he felt strangely guilty. He was left bearing a secret, and he didn’t want it. He decided not to discuss it with his ghost though, as berating the dead was considered rude.
9. The spells for glass-blowing things. The spell for numbing your fingertips, and the spell for keeping the glass warmer for longer, and the spell for gentle pulls, and the spell for easy movements.
All these spells were combined in a song that Torsten’s father had taught to him, and that Torsten was supposed to teach his only son. And yet Andreas didn’t want them—he was a secondary school math teacher. He had no interest in spells around glass—he wanted spells for keeping pencils sharp and not losing his chalk. Torsten had asked him, sadly, whether or not he’d ever have any sons, so he could teach them. Andreas had shrugged, and looked away, embarrassed.
Sometimes, when Torsten watched Silke curled up in a corner, gently embroidering the trees growing in their yard, he wondered if she would ever ask him about his spells. He dearly hoped so.
10. The spell for always dividing any drink, food, or substance equally between four sisters.
Silke would be happy to share this with anyone, if anyone ever asked her. No one has, as of yet.