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Welsh Witchcraft: A Guide to the Spirits, Lore, and Magic of Wales, Mhara Starling, Llewellyn Publications, 2022
Mhara Starling rightly names authenticity as a hallmark of Witches, and indeed she is refreshingly authentic herself. A native Welsh speaker, she began her journey into her craft as a Neopagan until she found her path in the traditional beliefs and practices of the very land on which she lived. She offers her own perspective unapologetically, explaining how her own approach to magic weaves folk practices together with the mythology of Wales and a spirituality based on it. This is, in fact, what sets her work apart from both Celtic spiritual and religious systems such as Druidry as well as from texts devoted exclusively to the rich folk magical traditions of Wales. She employs both, integrating them into a seamless tapestry of Witchcraft that is wholly Welsh and wholly her own.
Witchcraft is inherently personal, and Starling walks the fine line of openly acknowledging the variability of experiences people might have—particularly in religious settings—and adhering closely to the historical practices and beliefs of Wales. She also frames familiar elements of Pagan Witchcraft such as the use of wands and cauldrons within the Celtic milieu, explaining their relationship to Celtic mythology and providing explicit instructions about how to acquire them in a traditional manner. Just as significantly, she does not feel obliged to Wiccanize her practice by including tools which do not have a basis in Welsh spirituality.
Seekers newer on their paths would do well to explore the world Starling beckons you into—as would more experienced practitioners of magic. Welsh Witchraft deserves a place on the shelf for its unique perspective. Perhaps you already have some Welsh fairy tales and a book of folklore or herbal charms from the region—it is highly unlikely that their authors actually grew up chasing fairy lights through churchyards on Anglesey as Starling did. Her spells are mostly either traditional ones or her interpretation of traditional charms and invocations but what sets them apart is her real-world insight into how each fits into a modern practice. Her deft way of introducing the reader simultaneously to folk magic and religious understanding is so seamless that it is difficult to imagine that folk charms and Celtic spirituality (such as Druidism) have typically been understood as distinct from one another. Mhara Starling has created something truly beautiful in her own practice of Welsh Witchcraft, and in her book, she invites you to share it.