Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival; A Magical Anthropology
By Melusine Draco,
Published by Moon Books August 2013
So how do you review a book that you loved and hated, that you were given by the publisher and that you have not quite finished, but it is time to review it anyway??
In a word, Honestly.
Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival, by Melusine Draco is written by intelligent, critically thinking witch who is polemic, which means argumentative, but in a challenging way rather than in a troll in the dungeon way if that makes sense. To put it plainly I get the feeling that Melusine would call a spade a spade and what’s more burry you with it if you crossed her.
This has created a book about the Pagan Revival that I loved and hated, a book that I agreed with and didn’t agree with. I spent a lot of time yelling ‘would of it killed you to put dates of publication in your references’ combine with ‘oh that is an interesting way of looking at that particularly bit of history’ and ‘oh I didn’t know that, most interesting.’ Over all this is a book that challenged me and best of all, made me think which are the types of books that I enjoy reading and get the most out of.
Right from the introduction you very quickly get a sense that Melusine is a person who has very little time for the ‘love and light brigade’, nor fools. So it is obvious to see where the author s’ filters are, how she sees the world is always useful to know, well I like to know this, as it helps with understanding the wider context of the book. The down side to this is that there is a somewhat of a condescending tone in places, and some of what this writer says can be very challenging. However having said that, I do enjoy having my assumptions challenged, in a way where I can see a new viewpoint and decided for myself which one I think is more accurate. The upside though is that is not the over explained flowery prose that is sometimes found in other books.
The author has obviously had years of practical experience as well as being well read of the subject of Modern Paganism, Magic, Witchcraft, History and a passion for the topic, which shows in her writing. In the introduction Melusne sets out an interesting frame work of how she sees Pagan information, knowledge, wisdom and understanding, which she further breaks down into ways of approaching knowledge, wisdom and understanding, animistic, eclectic, syncretic and synergetic . Like I said this book has much food for thought content and things that make you think about what you are reading.
Melusine starts out examining the roots of Modern Paganism and its revival, in a similar way to most other books on Modern Paganism, by starting in the ancient past. And while she does reference the material she has used to paint this particular angle, there is a distinct lack publishing dates in the referencing. There is not even dates of publication for the various source materials and books that in the bibliography. For me this becomes an issue because what was truth, several hundred years ago, is no longer truth today. Lets face it was once believed as truth that the earth was flat, and so things were understood with in that context until Galieo said no it was round and Collumbus and his ship did not fall of the edge of a flat earth, then the contexts changed.
This too is true of the Pagan revival, when Gardner first wrote Witchcraft Today, Wica and Witchcraft was an ancient fertility mystery cult with an unbroken line, whereas today we understand that it is not as simple as that. Instead it is understood that the belief and practices of magic, in a variety of forms from folklore, and legend has always been about in various forms, and that there have always been people who have unexplainable gifts, all of which you can read about in Traditional Witchcraft and the Pagan Revival, just remember that it is missing the contextual giving dates. See I told you I loved and hated this book. Ok I will stop ranting about dates now.. *coughs*
Melusine writes an accessible book while not dumbing down the subject down so much as to make it twee. She also challenges the reader and commonly held beliefs about Modern Pagan History, but again not so much that you are unable to disagree or come to your own conclusions. In several places the author provides several view points and opinions for the reader to mull over, and think about. Which is most excellent.
Sprinkled amongst the pages are tantalising snippets of information, such as the idea/theory that it was the Black Death that instigated the change of approach the church to convert the population to a more aggressive plant, which ultimately led to the witch trials. A most interesting theory that I would like to know more about. And it is this snippet and others similar that temp the reader to further study into the history of not just Modern Witchcraft and Paganism but also historical Witchcraft. It is this aspect of the book that I love. I love books that encourage me to think, questions, and that challenge my strongly held beliefs and understandings of Magic, Witchcraft, History, and Paganism in General.
So do I recommend this book for purchase, yes, it is intelligent, well written, thought provoking and accessible. Melusine, has researched her topic very well and come to some interesting conclusions regarding history and the Pagan revival. Just remember that publication dates of source material give context and read it with a critical eye and questioning thinking mind. I am also quite curious as to the authors other books in the Traditional Witchcraft series, to see what she writes like about a practical topic rather than a historical one, as she strikes me as someone who walks her talk, and doesn’t just write about it.
I have several Moon Books on my reading pile, now which I will be looking forward to reading, as this publisher is picking interesting and thinking authors to publish surely a boon to pagan publishing.. and what’s more they sent me copies of three books to review.. yay me..
This book gets 4 cups of tea out of 5, cause of not having the dates.. and you can pre order it at Amazon