Compared to other witchcraft books, this one is quite different. I have a few issues with it, but hey, there was no usual talk of deity worship and fluffy spells and equally fluffy witch lore. Nope. This is deep. It’s not the most organized book, but it’s full of useful, enlightening information that would be especially helpful for beginner witches. You won’t learn how to cast spells or contact spirits. Instead, this is an in-depth guide to finding the witchcraft that works for you.
I didn’t mind the author sharing her life as a witch in the beginning of the book, but I’m aware that not everyone is fond of someone talking about themselves for more than ten pages. Nonetheless, her story about becoming a modern and traditional practitioner is interesting.
Although tradition has power, it is not the be-all and end-all of witchcraft, a magic that is anything but dogmatic. It’s refreshing to see another (and especially regional-focused) witch encourage innovation while also respecting and looking to tradition for guidance.
When it comes to the history of witchcraft, the author gets a little carried away, specifically with the theory of “witch blood” and how apparently some people believe it has angelic origins. She goes on about this for a few pages, even though she then claims it doesn’t resonate with her or seem relevant to her practice. It was… interesting, to say the least.
But I have to admit that the “it could’ve been aliens, you never know” comment really amused me as a UFO witness.
Yes, my witch hat is made of tin foil.
The book delves into the question of what makes a witch, but the author clarifies that it’s ultimately up to you to define it because it’s your path. That might sound vague and confusing, but it’s true. At the end of the day, “witch” means something different to everyone who claims the title.
I also appreciate how the author points out the difference between witchcraft and spellcraft. Witchcraft is more than just spells. Witches walk between worlds, communing with the spirits and/or tapping into the intuitive side for others or themselves.
To make the paving of your path easier, the author came up with a clever acronym, which is RITES: Roots, Inspiration, Time, Environment, and Star. From looking into your heritage for magical information to listening to your inner guidance, this will undoubtedly help anyone new to witchcraft. Unlike a number of books on the subject (usually written by Wiccans), this one won’t tell you not to hex or curse, but to be responsible and aware of possible consequences.
There’s an emphasis on practicality in this book. The author understands that, like corvids, witches tend to be attracted to shiny things, but a kitchen knife can prove just as magical as a fancy athame. What matters is the meaning it holds for you and that it gets the job done. Although there’s nothing wrong with buying things, it’s important to remember that witches in the old days used what was available to them, and that’s what the book is getting at.
It’s also a relief to see a more traditional witch dispel misconceptions about witchcraft, including the edgelord nonsense. You know, the “witchcraft is tears and blood and piss” claptrap. Not saying it can’t be, but that isn’t everything. I’ve always felt the craft was an enigma, taking many faces and subverting others, and this book confirmed my feelings in descriptions that made me go, “YES!”
The “Art of Spellcraft” section is worth mentioning. Rather than parroting the “everything is energy” schtick, the author explains that it’s a matter of the physical affecting the metaphysical, the microcosm affecting the macrocosm. She includes all the different types of spellcraft, such as banishing and blessing and cursing, to name a few.
The following sections are intended to help you understand the making of successful spells and nature of magic, along with rituals and creating a sacred space and whatnot. The author didn’t forget to include the subject of gods and spirits, either, and her views are interestingly multifaceted. That can be said for the rest of the book, though. It shows you how witchcraft is never exactly black and white, but many shades in-between.
The few issues I mentioned? Well, I don’t think most witches would find a problem with the “A Witch’s Manifesto” section, but I do. One statement I can’t quite agree with is that no one is entitled and the world doesn’t owe us anything. By that logic, we don’t owe the world anything, either, for the sheer fact that we didn’t even get a say in our births (at least not to our knowledge, which I refuse to believe is fair if we somehow consented in spirit).
We’re here now and can only assume personal responsibility, yes, but would it kill us to be more compassionate?
Probably, since that’s not how the real world works. Ideally, the least the world could do is give us a society in which our basic needs are met. I know, I know. Very utopian of me. I’m not going to get political in a book review, though, so I’ll just leave it at that.
What follows the entitled statement is the claim that we belong to the land, planet, and universe, but they don’t belong to us. I’ve always found this idea strange because nature is full of hierarchies and territorial animals. What makes what they do any more natural than what we do? Because they don’t live in insulated homes or go food shopping?
Humans are doing what their intelligence has enabled them to do over thousands of years—become the dominant species. Y’all are gonna hate me for saying this, but I gotta be honest: you can thank nature for letting that happen.
Now, I’m not saying it’s right to bulldoze every forest in the world as if we own the place. We have a responsibility to bear in mind the consequences of our actions and the suffering of other species. It’s just when witches (or any people, for that matter) act as if nature or the universe is all good and pure, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Give any other animal our intelligence and I can assure you that they, too, would dominate in their own ways. Bottom line: life is a (power) struggle for creatures with biological and psychological needs and it shows. That’s just the universe we live in.
I really did enjoy this book. It isn’t perfect, but it’s devoid of fluff as well as edgelordiness. It’s, dare I say, balanced. Authentic. We could use more witchcraft books written from a practical, versatile, and less biased perspective like this.
4 full moons out of 5