As I said when I first got it, the book is a very relatable, down-to-earth introduction to witchcraft, that makes magic seem like a real and natural part of life, rather than a mystic art only accessible to the chosen few. The author describes the book as being for seekers, “people who, at this moment in their lives, might describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” ” (viii). He goes on to compare these seekers to the Fool of the tarot deck, reminding readers to embrace the journey, while also using caution in the first steps.

I love that this book approaches new learners in a way that encourages their excitement, but doesn’t ignore the complexity of learning about a way of life that is, for many, wrapped up in deeply held spiritual beliefs. “Every cool new thing you can learn comes with a long history of people misusing said cool thing in ways that might take advantage of a person who’s in a vulnerable space for self-exploration and spiritual seeking,” he warns (ix). Because of this, he’s written a book “for those who are seeking a connection with magic and the wonder immanent in nature with respect for others, an appreciation of science, and without the urge to drop half your paycheck on supplies” (ix).

See? Magic can be rational and respectful, and still really cool.

The introduction to the first part supplies a number of helpful definitions to help distinguish between magical practice and spiritual beliefs, and then we’re into chapter one: Pop Culture and Witchcraft.

This chapter is a fun examination of witches in tv and film, starting with the underrated Eglantine Price of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and working through fairy tales, all the way up to American Horror Story. I enjoyed reading his take on the fictional witches I have loved (and the note that apparently I was really missing out on something when I skipped The Good Witch on Hallmark), and their place in a seeker’s journey. There’s some very thoughtful analysis in there on the way our society views these fictional characters and how that has helped, hurt, or confused our understanding of some cultural practices that are, in fact, very real.

Chapter two gets into defining what makes magic real or fake, and separating “mundane and minor magics” from that which is created for entertainment (20). The author is careful to avoid either discounting science, or insisting that magic is scientifically provable. He questions the need for “legitimacy on paper,” instead asking the simple question: “Did magic work for you?” (25, 26). He then goes on to discuss the danger of placing unrealistic expectations on magical practice, and to remind readers that spells don’t always get the intended results. The argument is something akin to a pastor announcing that “God works in mysterious ways.”

He ends the chapter with the admonition that “For magic to be successful, it must be possible,” going on to describe it as a probability game that practitioners can affect through their own intentional actions (26). This leads into the next chapter, “When Magic Fails,” so I’m not going to say much more about it this week.

Addressing the fact that sometimes science does support our understanding of how and why certain magical practices work, he closes with a Terry Pratchett quote that appears to be a response to Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law*: “It doesn’t stop being magic just because you know how it works” (27).

This text is, in general, more impersonal than Alice Tarbuck’s A Spell in the Wild (which is as much a narrative memoir of a magical year as it is an educational exploration of the craft). It is, however, no less accessible, often using humor and cultural examples to make connections between research and analysis. The casual textbook, How-to/DIY-Guide style makes it an easy reference that I’m sure I will come back to as I continue my journey. I’m really enjoying learning from both books with their differing approaches to sharing their knowledge and experience.

*“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” (Arthur C. Clarke).

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