Posted by: Nyxks | July 20, 2008

The Real Witches’ Handbook

The Real Witches’ Handbook
by Kate West © 2008
Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN 0-978-0-7387-1375-5
198 pages
$15.95 (U.S.) $15.50 (Canada)
Reviewed by: Mike Gleason

How do you react to title like this one – The Real Witches Handbook? Does it sound pretentious to you? How dare Ms. West insinuate that hers’ is the REAL way to do it? Actually, that isn’t what she is insinuating at all. What she is saying is that this is a book for those Witches who live in real world – the world with fulltime jobs, families to raise, and bills to pay; the world where a temporary altar is far more likely than a permanent, dedicated one; and the one where you don’t have the luxury of spare time and money for elaborate rituals.

If you are looking for elaborate rituals accompanied by deeply profound thoughts, you will likely be disappointed with this book. The rituals are designed for the solitary practitioner who is not inclined to ceremonial observances. They represent decades of involvement in various forms of the Craft, and the realization (too often lost on the newbie) that intent is far more important than form and format. A Sabbat may be celebrated as movingly by a walk through the countryside as by a formal ritual.

The thoughts and wisdom expressed by Ms. West are really quite profound, no matter that they are homey and “common place.” Far too many people today assume that “everyone knows” certain “common sense” things, and thus fail to pass that information along to their students. I have lost track, over the decades of my Craft involvement, with the number of “aha” moments when something has suddenly crystallized for me and a companion has said “I thought everybody knew that.” Everyone has different life experiences, so don’t hesitate to look for the obvious answers, and don’t over-think things.

I can find points to disagree with (“.magick, making changes by force of will.”), but find far more to agree with. In the above example, I would probably change “force” to “use,” since “force” seems to indicate one can cause change simply by brute strength. On the other hand, I fully agree that “.self-initiation, or more correctly, self-dedication” is a good description of the individual’s decision when dealing with the newbie who has no formal coven training.

While not necessarily a great book, this is without a doubt a well-written book and it definitely deserves to be on the short list of books which should be available to loan to inquirers and those who care about the seekers.


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