Glamour as a pop cultural and magic(k) concept is one of those weird topics, where the word is tossed around a lot but never really talked about.
My personal experience with the concept is that like a lot of the practices that are centered fully in the body, you just don’t do it (blood and sexuality, nothing will get people going faster than blood and sexuality). It doesn’t matter if you can’t get people to tell you what it is that you’re not supposed to do-you just don’t do it. In this area, however, I feel like you can make the same argument about contouring (the act of redefining the facial plane via the use of multicolored foundation or other cosmetics) or corsetry-and you could make the argument that you’re looking at mundane glamouring.
My suspicion, as a Pagan trained in sociology, is that the issue here is deception; at its core glamour is about the illusion of a changed appearance. Therefore, if we acknowledge the potential of such an ability (which you’ll notice I’m not saying that there is-this is a folklore column and this is an idea rooted in Scottish fae lore) we are acknowledging that we have the ability to deny our base appearance. This is where I made my cosmetics analogy-if you are not comfortable with the concept of an empowered glamour, where does the act of -literally painting ourselves into a new facial structure- fit into the ethos?
Glamouring is where two of my current favorite hobby horses slam head first into each other-fae lore and beauty. The glamour, at its most basic, was the way that the fae were able to move through the mundane/human realm without being ‘outed’ as the non-human entities that they are. I actually -will not- split the lore away from pop culture right now because I honestly feel that the symbol has shifted enough that you would be talking about two different concepts and honestly I find the current sign more interesting right now.
Humans are magpies when it comes to body modification. We have been for a very long time-whatever your personal stance on the subject, we really like to paint ourselves pretty colors and shove shiny things into our skin. I think that the love/hate relationship with glamours has to do with that draw-why wouldn’t you want to change yourself if you could? As with most, if not all, things fae, pop culture has slowly shifted the meaning of the intention to emphasize the hiding aspect of the spellwork-and the deception. We have a weird relationship with the idea in a culture where no-make up make up is arguably becoming the beauty norm. The tension between the drive for beauty and the desire for authenticity in social interaction is best highlighted by the warning that I discussed at the beginning of this entry; it’s hard to find a Pagan discussion that doesn’t warn about the ‘Harm None’ aspect of the Rede.
They just aren’t fond of telling you who exactly it is that’s being harmed.
The pop culture association is where things get interesting for me-and why I said I’m actually more concerned with the current sign more than the folklore. As time went on, the deception turned into manipulation; glamour isn’t about being pretty, it’s about being pretty and powerful. I have actually written on the beauty imperative in academic settings, and beauty is a dual edged weapon in western society. It’s terrible to be ugly, but it’s even more terrible to be attractive-for to be attractive is to take (potentially unworthy) power in a social setting. Pop culture isn’t full of images of people being jealous or blindly following the ugly characters; it’s the pretty ones you have to watch out for. Mean Girls anyone?
As with all of these type of columns I write about I am neither confirming, nor denying, or even commenting on, the nature of the belief set. But if you read enough urban fantasy novels, watch enough fantasy style media, or play enough table top games, the glamour will start creeping in as a concept. It has its own TV Tropes entry.
You know you’re onto something if you have your own TV Tropes entry.