Posted by: Nyxks | October 16, 2007

The Roots of Desire

The Roots of Desire
by Marion Roach © 2005
Bloomsbury
ISBN 1582343446
Hardcover
256 pages
$22.95 (U.S.) $27.96 (Canada)
Reviewed by: Mike Gleason

And now for something completely different…a book about redheads. How, you may ask yourself, did a reviewer of Pagan/Wiccan themes books get talked into reviewing a book about redheads? That would be a very good question; thank you for asking. My best explanation would be coincidence, if I believed in coincidence. So let’s call it synchronicity. I had been reading a lot of books this past year – some Craft, some science fiction, you know, a general mish-mash. And I kept coming across references to redheads being associated with Witchcraft; redheads being long-lived; redheads having massive tempers; and redheads being related to the Faerie folk. Then this book was offered to me, and I just couldn’t pass it up. Someone (or something) wanted me to learn about redheads. Voila! Here was my chance.

What is it about redheads that causes such persistent stereotypes and inspires such misunderstanding? Ms. Roach, herself a redhead, looks into the subject in a well-written, informative book.

The author, although not a Witch herself, is a redhead, which is part of what drove her to this work. And, although not a Witch, she made the effort meet with witches in their natural habitat – witch camp in Vermont. The first few chapters of this book lay out the roots of the association of red hair color with Satanic connections.

In her chapter on Witches, Ms. Roach makes one glaring error regarding the events in Salem, Massachusetts. She correctly states that 200 were accused and nineteen were hanged. She says, however, that one was stoned to death. Although Giles Corey died as a result of stones, he was pressed to death (having stones piled on top of him to force a plea) rather than being pelted with stones to cause his death.

Moving into the world of science we encounter Darwin and the field of eugenics and their relationship to the overtaxing of society’s ability to provide for the welfare of “fitter” races and people. This reached its’ worst example, of course, in the Third Reich and its goal of “racial purity.”

This book is composed of many parts – one part scientific research, one part mythology, one part “common knowledge”, and one part personal narrative. Thus it offers enough variations to keep from becoming boring.

It is a fascinating look at a little understood factor of human life. She explores how the human body reacts to differing pigmentation, how people react to redheaded females, how they perceive redheaded males in a very different way, and how perceptions change over time.

While this book has no true relationship to Paganism and Craft, it does contain some information about how common stereotypes came into existence. It isn’t a book for everyone, by any means, but it is informative and fun to read. It is likely to appeal mostly to redheads and those who are attracted to them, but I suspect that anyone who takes the time to read it will enjoy it.

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