3 out of 5 stars seems to be my go-to number with many book reviews but unfortunately this one is really another 3.
I would like to say on the offset, that those who have subscribed to my blog and have been reading the book reviews will know I go off on tangents. This is because I see it as more than just an opportunity to review the book but get a good discussion going on topics that I’ve found within the book. So bear with me :-).
Firstly this book is not for those who wish to get away from Wicca-centric spellcraft, as this is really another Neo-Wiccan text on spells. For those like me, who like to explore and employ other forms of spellcraft I’d rather suggest Judika Illes, Cat Yronwode, Claudia R Dillaire and even Dorothy Morrison.
Secondly, much of the book is filled with Superstition, something I find irritating, as I’m not much into superstition, as they are often borne out of fear rather than any actual knowledge. I think information on superstitions have their place but not really within a spellbook.
On p9 she refers to spells as a witch’s prayer. Of course I’ve expressed before that this is not really the case, as spells do not always rely on a higher power of any kind, and prayer is a way in which to communicate, praise, thank and ask the gods or spirits for help.
She states that spellcasters can belong to any religion, or no religion at all (p10). I always find it annoying when people say only Wiccans can cast spells, so I’m glad she included this.
In chapter 1 :Crafting the Magick, she marks out traditional tool of witchcraft… erm. Those that she mentions are in fact the tools of Wicca and Ceremonial Magic (Athame, Wand, Pentacle, etc). To practice witchcraft none of these tools are even required. Witchcraft is the craft of a witch, anything can be used to cast a spell, herbs, crystals, will, etc. She claims that the Athame has sometimes a white handle. In my own studies the Athame has generally a black handle not white, it would be the bolline that has a white handle. But this could merely be a difference of tradition.
“The first step is to research the magickal correspondences to find the herbs, deities, colors, planets, Elements, and other things that relate to your intent, and then decide which of them you want to work with. The more magickal correspondences you incorporate into your spellwork, the more potent your magick will be” (p16).
It always bugs me when deities are listed as correspondences for a spell. That is Pop-wicca, where gods are not looked at as actual beings or even forces but rather as tools, like a particular crystal, and instead of a relationship being developed with the god, they are taken for granted as a correspondence. I believe that if you really want to work with a god for a particular spell you really should do the work and get to know them first.
She also says ” Rhyming incantations are not only traditional, but they are said to be more powerful because of their magick-making rhythm” (p 16). Rhyming is not for everyone, sometimes they don’t sound right, and sometimes in the effort to rhyme you lose the actual intent of your spell. Rhymes are not more powerful, they are just easier to remember, so they are good for beginners, but really I’ve worked many a spell without a rhyme and they were whoppers.
In her section on the elements she talks of the elements, these are not integral to witchcraft but they can be useful. She mentions Roman gods of the wind but actually is using Greek names rather than Roman ones.
When she talks of the ethics of love magic, I agree with her sentiment that love magic is no different than using our own romantic tricks (makeup, perfume, heels, a nice suit etc) to catch the attention of a possible mate (p21).
She goes on to frequently asked questions and describes various understandings of magic and magical practice. She feels that Christians are casting spells when praying. I don’t really agree with this, they may be working magic, but not casting a spell, a spell is a spell. A prayer is a prayer, and sometimes they can overlap but they are not synonymous with each other.
She hits the nail on the head with stating how unbalanced the three-fold law is on p 29.
In chapter 2: Magickal Correspondences, she talks about magical correspondences in more detail. She claims that blue is used for baby boys and pink for baby girls. This is sexist nonsense and was actually opposite as blue was said to be delicate where, pink was part of the red spectrum a more active, aggressive colour. Pinning colour onto a particular gender or sex is silly.
She claims that orange is a Taurus colour which I have never to date heard.
She goes over various correspondences for the days, lunar cycles and astrological correspondences.
Chapter 3:A Time For Magick is about timing. I disagree with “spur of the moment magick rarely brings success” magic is fueled a heck of a lot with intent, it is also fueled by the tools we use, timing may help, but when push comes to shove, it is the nature of your intent and potency of your focus that will decide whether a spell will work or not, not some days of the week and times of the day.
“And those who practice spellcraft in accordance with the energies of the lunar phases refrain from all magickal activity until the time of the dark moon passes” maybe if you’re a superstitious type, who never practices darker aspects of the craft and does not work with dark deities, then sure, but I find this laughable.
She talks about planetary hours, and gives clear understandings of how they work and what they are. They have just never interested me, but this is a nice inclusion.
Chapter 4: Divination Before Incantation
My favourite section of the book is on these tarot readings before spells, If you’re a tarot lover and like to practice magic this may be very interesting to you. She goes over the major arcana meanings as related to what type of spell you are going to cast, which may be very helpful.
Chapter 5 is about Amulets, Talismans and other objects and charms.
on p81 she talks about Helena Blavatsky but calls her incorrectly Helena Blavanskyma, this may have just been a typo, so I’ll not withhold stars for this, as I’ve made many a typo in my own blog posts.
Chapter 6:The Magick of Wax and Wick
Talks about candle magick, interesting folklore, and beginner information.
Chapter 7: A Book of Shadows
Contains spells and rituals, and includes her own “tradition” Bast-Wicca.
Chapter 8:Fertility Magick
A small chapter with folklore and some spells.
Chapter 9: Weatherworking
Plenty of folklore and superstition, and a few spells to try.
Chapter 10: A Kitchen Witch’s Miscellanea
On p143 she claims that plants exposed to heavy metal and rap music will not grow or will die, this is a load of bull, I’ve listened to metal my whole life, and my dad played it almost constantly in our old house, our plants have always grown and been beautiful. The only things that have killed my plants are dogs, black frost, root rot and the occasional pest.
p147 she talks about the “witch-burning era” we all know by now this is a misnomer.
“Women who practiced the magickal arts of the Old Religion needed to take every precaution against arousing the suspicion of those looking to find incriminating evidence of witchcraft” p147. This is all a load of hooey. There was no Old Religion as such, this was a myth perpetuated by Gardner, Murray and Buckland. And men were themselves persecuted during the trials.At the onset she buys into Witchcraft being a religion and a pre-christian religion at that (p9). I find it dangerous to keep perpetuating such myths. Although witchcraft was likely practiced before Christianity, as magic has been practiced in many ancient cultures, it was never a religion in and of itself.
All the focus on the witchcraze is so limiting and has nothing to do with our religious or spiritual beliefs as modern witches. It is like people are trying to act like they were just as persecuted as the Jews were by the Nazi’s. They are not comparable. Witchcraft was not a religion, and nor was everyone killed a witch or even witch friendly. Constantly perpetuating this myth of the “burning times” is pathetic.
Chapter 11: Yuletide witches, Superstitions and Spells.
On p 173 she offers a recipe for yule cake which I might try out this year instead of the flop of a yule log we made using Dorothy Morrison’s recipe (swiss roll cake, is not easy to make), or a cheat yule log which is basically just a swiss roll covered in chocolate icing.
Chapter 12: Sybil Leek
She dedicates a whole chapter to Sybil Leek. Some of the claims should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Chapter 13: Black Magick
There is no outright cursing in this chapter, it is more to do with how to send back psychic attack and such. It reinforces fear and in my opinion this chapter brings the book rating down quite a bit.
Dunwich says that there is no such thing as black or white magic but still calls “negative magic” black magic. The biggest problem with the terms white and black magic are the fact they come out of racist perceptions of black being dark, unenlightened scary and evil, and white being enlightened, light, pure and good. Many people strongly deny the racist connotations, but even struggle poets and many pagans can see the danger of such a term. Then comes that silly concept “Grey magic” in between them echoing miscegenation. Magic is magic it has no colour, it is not evil even it if it is used to harm that is like saying a hammer is evil as it can easily turn into a murder weapon. And even though I have needed to employ a curse or two or three I’m not a “black witch” because I’ve done so. What I’ve done is merely the magical equivalent of back-handing someone who threatened me, my boyfriend, or my family.
I’ve encountered many pagans who refuse to see out of the black and white frame and it always makes me wonder why they chose paganism in the first place, as many pagan religions are not Manichean. For a small part of my practice I myself was interested in Duality and Binary but as a Third-Wave feminist and a Witch I chose to drop the notion entirely, as there are more than just opposites in this world. For many people Duality is helpful, but for me it just created problems, especially theologically as a religious witch.
I’d recommend this book to a beginner, but I’d be careful of historical claims of witchcraft as the Old Religion posited in this book, and the Manichean world view. Amazon.com offers many positive reviews so give it look!
Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul (Ed Patricia Telesco)
Autumn Equinox (Ellen Dugan)
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