Spellwork & Magic

Witchcrafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic

A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic
by Phyllis Currott
Broadway Books


Having recently attended Phyllis Curott’s workshops at the Starwood festival, I looked forward to the release of her second book, Witchcrafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic with anticipation, and I was not disappointed. Written in the same engaging, conversational style as her first work, Book of Shadows, her second effort is a book about “Witchcraft without rules,” an interesting concept that might help Pagans think more and spout dogma less.

I enjoyed the theological ideas Currott articulated in this work. Far too many recent books are of the recipe/spellbook variety or poorly researched rehashes of previous works, with lots of speculation masquerading as “authentic ancient wisdom” from some Celtic country via some dubious family link that the author cooked up.

Thankfully, Witchcrafting isn’t like that at all. This is a work that doesn’t just describe the how, when, and where of practicing Witchcraft, but most importantly, the why of the Craft. She shows us why we should do a ritual at a certain time or season, why we call on the elements as we do, and why magic works. This alone puts the book far ahead of most of its competition.

The author includes exercises and spellwork throughout the book, meant to assist the reader in communing with immanent Deity. This refreshing marriage of theory and practice makes this book successful for both the novice and elder Pagan.

A few problems mar the book. For example, Curott states that Wicca is the only religion in the Western World that has a Goddess worshipped equally with a male God. That is simply untrue; and ignores plenty of other religions, such as the Native American religions, and the West African diaspora religions of the Caribbean, Latin America, North and South America, which make gender equality part of their pantheon as well.

To compound this problem, Curott lists the goddesses White Buffalo Woman and Yemaya, not as divinities from their own religions, but as Wiccan goddesses. Excuse me?

I am not saying that Wiccans cannot revere these Goddesses, but to call them “Wiccan” is ludicrous, and blatant cultural imperialism. Practitioners of Native American religions already have grievances with New Agers appropriating and misrepresenting their spiritual paths; they don’t need a prominent Wiccan priestess jumping onto the wannabe bandwagon and proclaiming White Buffalo Woman as a “Wiccan Goddess.”

The other bit that I found disturbing was in a grief ritual that she was advocating as a spiritual practice. One of the most interesting parts of Curott’s theology is that she advocates that Wiccans learn from nature, rather than from books. Fine and eloquent advice indeed, especially for many of the urban Pagans out there who “love Mamma Nature, so long as she doesn’t get too close.”

In this ritual, which should take place by a natural body of water such as the ocean, or in her own words, “even a small stream,” the practitioner is to take one cup of salt dissolved in three cups of water, and in the process of crying out her grief, pour the salt water, representing tears, into the waterway. This ritual is repeated as necessary, up to once a day, until she feels better.

What is wrong with this picture?

If this ritual is to take place in the ocean or brackish water, I have no problem with it. However, when Curott states, “a small stream will do,” questions pop up in my mind. How small of a stream, and is it inhabited? And what are repeated applications of saline water doing to the organisms who live in the fresh water stream? If you love nature, then why in the name of all that is holy would you take a fresh water stream and dump salt into it, which is toxic to the creatures that live there?

The problem of the grief ritual is easily solved; a pinch of salt in three cups of water would perform the same function, and do less harm.

Other than those flaws, I found the book to be thought-provoking and compelling. It was a fascinating read, and the exercises were useful, not only for a novice, but for a veteran Witch like myself. I look forward to more from Curott, and I think that as she learns a little more from nature, she will be on her way to becoming not just a “Good Witch,” but a “Great Witch.”


RATING: 3 ½ Broomsticks

» Originally appeared in newWitch #01

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