Once upon a time, books on magic, mysticism, witchcraft, and the occult were rare and difficult to find. Today, in the 21st century, however, we are
inundated by them. How do you know which are worth reading? The Witches’ Almanac helps you separate the wheat from the chaff with our recommendations
A Legacy of Druids: Conversations with Druid leaders of Britain, the USA and Canada, past and present, Ellen Evert Hopman, Moon Books
Well-known Druid Ellen Evert Hopman’s most recent offering is a collection of clever interviews she’s conducted with some of the preeminent scholars, practitioners, artists and musicians connected to the modern Druidic faith and its legacy.
It certainly fulfills its criterion as a series of conversations - the book is easy reading and rather engaging, and in many instances feels as if you’re sitting at a table with the author and her chosen interviewee sipping hot beverages. Her choice of questions, though usually all starting at a basic origin query, divert into some interesting, detailed, and at times surprising territory. It’s all rather affable, but minor disagreements about philosophy and practice still crop up within - sometimes seemingly out of nowhere - and it’s fun to watch the sparks fly politely on the page.
Interestingly, all of the interviews appear to have occurred during the year 1996, so the book acts as much as an anthropological study as it does a snapshot in time. Each interview shows in many ways not only just how forward-thinking and optimistic things were two decades ago, but considering the topics in question, just how timeless the shared experience of nature’s power can truly be. Well worth a spot on the shelf.
Esoteric Empathy: A Magickal & Metaphysical Guide to Emotional Sensitivity, Raven Digitalis, Llewellyn
Some of us have been in the occult game for a long time, and have heard the word “empathy” so often it makes us twitch, especially when uttered by a nearby youngling who seems to be preening more than practicing, so to speak. However, if said youngling is referring to this book, rest at ease.
And be jealous.
Esoteric Empathy will leave many of us who began our occult training decades ago to wish a book like this had come out “back in the day.” Not only does it go over the simplest (but of course, most crucial) basics of dealing with esoteric and emotional sensitivity (as well as their darker manifestations such as addiction and dependency) but it is chock-bloody-full of exercises, meditations, spells and chants from various disciplines, each designed to hone and train the will and sensitivity of the practitioner.
Scientific empathy studies and mass-media concerns are folded and wedded with Buddhist and Hindu mantras, hand mudras, Qabalistic pathworkings, energetic shielding practices, sigils and correspondences a-plenty. It is kind without coddling and informs without judgement or dragging out a point. Esoteric Empathy is simply a psychic self-defense handbook par excellence. Recommended for preening younglings, twitching elders, and all practitioners in between.
Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas
by Claudia Muller-Ebeling, Christian Ratsch and Surendra Bahadur Shahi
An absolute tour-de-force! Generated from over eighteen years of research, this gorgeous hardcover volume gives an in-depth look at the customs, traditions, myths and legends of the Himalayan Shamans. The everyday lives of modern practitioners are respectfully examined and revealed with hundreds of high quality color and black-and-white photographs, detailing the many plants and tools of their traditions.
Fans of Muller-Ebeling and Ratsch’s previous effort Witchcraft Medicine will also not be disappointed. Chapter after chapter of this book imparts recipes for sacred drinks, incenses and smoking blends regularly used by the Shamans. Many of these are, of course, poisonous and/or psychotropic and commonly found within a Traditional Witch’s herb closet. As such, the authors compare and contrast the legend and lore of the Himalayans with that of the Western witches and wortcunners of old.
Reading this book was like discovering a brand new world drenched in echoes of home.
Communing with the Ancestors: Your Spirit Guides, Bloodline Allies, and the Cycle of Reincarnation
by Raven Grimassi
Communing with the Ancestors acts in many ways like a retrospective diary, drawing the reader into the personal experiences of Grimassi’s decades of occult practice. Throughout, his own accounts of spiritual contact are compared to the lore of various mystical traditions, from Huna to the Akashic Record and back again.
As expected, the book deals extensively with concepts associated with ancient ancestor cults. However, Grimassi keeps it fresh and interesting by splicing these together with modern DNA theories concerning genetic memory. In addition, he intersperses the text with a variety of mystical exercises designed to enhance one’s own understanding of their place within an ancient chain of manifestation. A fun and interesting read peppered with snippets of wisdom.
Azoetia: A Grimoire of the Sabbatic Craft, Third Edition
by Andrew Chumbley
Andrew Chumbley placed the Sabbatic Craft and Crooked Path Sorcery traditions on the proverbial map through this brilliant and inspired masterpiece. Melding Traditional Cunning Craft and Typhonian Gnosis, Sabbatic Rites and Zos Kia sigilscapes, he helped spearhead and in many ways revivify the modern Traditional Craft movement.
This Third edition of Azoetia: A Grimoire of the Sabbatic Craft is just a downright beautiful book, from sigilized dustjacket to graceful typeface. This is especially appreciated as Chumbley’s style, though certainly resonant and poetic, is not known for its brevity. Xoanon’s newest layout allows the text to breathe in a way previous editions have been unable, giving this grimoire the perfect balance of readability, ornamentation and resonance.
Due to a perpetual pledge of quality over quantity, only a few thousand printings will be released at a time, limiting one’s chances of getting a reasonably priced copy after the initial have been purchased. If it hasn’t already sold out by the time of this review, I’d strongly suggest acquiring one.
Secret Medicines from Your Garden: Plants for Healing, Spirituality & Magic
by Ellen Evert Hopman
Mind-blowing! Hopman has found a way to pack a veritable treasure trove of herbal lore into a clear, precise and engaging volume. The contents are organized beautifully, starting with a primer on wildcrafting and the “doctrine of signatures” while following with a season-by-season guide to harvesting and utilizing nature’s potent healing energies. The first six chapters alone are worth the price of admission. The following ten will take one’s knowledge of natural medicines, both historical and modern, to dizzying heights.
Wildcrafting, wortcunning, plant signatures, recipes by the dozen, Native American Animal Medicines, tinctures, poultices, formula theories as well as easy-to-read charts and glossaries make this book very difficult to put down for long. In addition, 96 gorgeous colored plates help you safely identify many of the more commonly used herbs. A wonderful addition to the library of any naturalist, herbalist, witch or alchemist.
How to Use a Pendulum for Dowsing and Divination.
by Ronald L. Bonewitz and Lilian Verner-Bonds
Always been interested in those lovely little pendulums at your local metaphysical shop but have no idea how to use one? This handy little kit may be precisely what the doctor ordered. In it, Bonewitz and Verner-Bonds have given the novice diviner a slew of meditations and spiritual exercises designed to enhance one’s intuition and spiritual sensitivity.
In addition they cover proper hand techniques and various pendulum divination styles, mostly concentrating on a series of intuitive color drills that help guide the budding augur toward a more thorough understanding of subtle vibrations and resonances. Comes with a 160-page guidebook, pendulum and a series of fold-out color charts.
Icelandic Magic: Practical Secrets of the Northern Grimoires.
by Stephen Edred Flowers
Those unfamiliar with Flowers’ (aka: Edred Thorsson) work will be glad to know he has a wonderfully breathable writing style, easily drawing one into the meat of the text without bogging them down with unnecessary digressions or superfluous language. Those familiar will find similarities to his brilliant Hermetic Magic, albeit with fewer pages and an obviously Northern focus.
The first few chapters deal with the tale of how these fascinating Icelandic works evolved, highlighting the various Pagan, Catholic and Protestant influences found within. After the foundation is built, the reader learns about runic staves and sigilization methods drawn from and inspired by the Galdrabok, a grimoire Flowers translated and published back in 1989, as well as other lesser known and incomplete codices from the region.
Don’t let the slenderness of this volume deter you. Like in most of his works, Flowers packs each page with scholarly tidbits, simultaneously teaching both history and occultism with clarity and ease. A must-have for any fan of Norse spiritual traditions, occult history or sigil magic.
The Art and Science of Hand Reading: Classical Methods for Self-Discovery through Palmistry.
by Ellen Goldberg and Dorian Bergen
Anyone interested in palmistry will be hard-pressed to find a book more thorough than this one. Classical planetary correspondences are melded with crisply defined pictures of hands, hands and more hands. As if that weren’t enough, they regularly compare the rudiments of palmistry with other western mystery traditions such as Kabbalah, Hermeticism and Astrology, seamlessly melding instruction with inspiration.
From broad general interpretations to the most minute details, mounds, lines, spacing, phalanges and much more are illustrated clearly, with Goldberg and Bergen helping the reader combine all the myriad parts into a clear and cohesive reading. Well-written and well-designed, this book is a simply beautiful bible of palmistry. Highly recommended.
Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells.
Claude Lecouteaux has analyzed more than 7000 spells from numerous magical traditions. As passed down from ancient Babylon, Egypt and Greece, these words and the rituals surrounding them have survived through the millennia because they work! Moreover, as scholar Claude Lecouteux reveals, often the more impenetrable they seem, the more effective they are.
This Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells is an unprecedented work. It draws from thousands of medieval accounts and famous manuscripts. Lecouteau examines the origins of each word or spell, offering detailed instructions on their successful use. We find spells for protection, love, wealth and healing, with a charted evolution showing how a spell can morph down through the centuries.
Presenting a wealth of material on magical words, signs and charms, Lecouteux also explores the magical words and spells of ancient Scandinavia, the Hispano-Arabic magic of Spain, the ancient Egyptian traditions and customs that have stayed in use until the present day.