Enchantment Cover

1. How does Katherine May define enchantment

2. In her description of the “spirit of this age,” May switches to the collective “we” pronoun. Why do you think she chooses to bind “us” together, especially when asserting that “We are tired. We are the deep bone-tired of people who no longer feel at home. We can see no way out of it”? How do you feel, belonging to this group?

3. May recalls learning the lesson that “beauty is impractical” and “not for everyday folk like us.” There is a sense of spiritual beauty throughout the rest of the book, especially prevalent in the author’s description of hierophanies. What do you think about the practicality of beauty, physical or spiritual?

4. May dedicates this book to her son, “Bertie, the boy who grows branches in his head.” We witness her struggle to figure out how to share the lessons she has learned about enchantment with her son. What do you think is a parent’s role in passing down enchantment?

5. On her forest outing with Bert, May delineates the “three layers of experience” that occur during a walk, the last of which is her “favorite phase of all, an open space in which [she is] nothing for a while.” Throughout the rest of the book, the author continues to regard the state of “nothingness” as something to reach for. What do you think is the appeal of “nothingness”?

6. May denounces “uniform happiness” in favor of fire, as fire “brings us back into contact with the cycle of life, with the limits of our control, and with the full spectrum of human feeling. It teaches us hard lessons and burns through our fragile illusions.” From the beginning of the book, she consistently makes note of how difficult it is to fully tap into the world around us. Is living with destruction an essential price to pay to find enchantment? 

7. May relays the story of “The Boy Who Drew Cats” in her exploration of “deep play.” She notes the act of humility it takes for the boy to follow the abbot’s advice but maintains that “the boy’s true submission is to his cats.” His surrender to both forces is what saves the boy’s life. While it takes humility to submit to a conventional path, it also takes humility to submit to our childhood sense of play. Why do you think we so often end up turning away from play? 

8. May states that we “must learn to know with our hands rather than our heads.” What does it mean to “know with our hands”? Why does May believe it conflicts with what’s in our heads?

9. At the end of the book, May heavily advocates for the act of storytelling, declaring that “we need to double down on storytelling, and find new ways to tell out our meanings.” She proposes that “that is what we’re meant to do: remake our stories until we finally find the one that fits.” What do you think is the significance of telling a story, compared to reading one?