Archive for the ‘Overlook Press’ Category

The Book of English Magic – By Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate

By Katrina Rasbold

Much can be derived from the dedication of this delightful book which reads, “To all the magicians of England, who have allowed us to understand, and sometimes experience, the extraordinary ‘other’ world in which they live.”  Drawing from the magical world of the Motherland that brought us  J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, and J.K.Rowling, the authors take us on an extensive exploration of the many facets of English magic with tremendous honor given to the ancestors and pioneers who brought magic to the recorded world.

As a practitioner of the arts for nearly three decades, I can truthfully say that there is very, very little about magical practice that is not addressed at some point in this book.  Although magic of the past is explored (and quoted) at length, the applicability to today’s Craft is also made very clear and the authors do a fine job of linking the past to the present.

One of my personal favorite sections is a discussion on the distinction between different kinds of Witches in Chapter Five, “Skin-Turning and Spellcraft,” primarily because the writers distinguish themselves as being extremely educated and reliable in their historical accuracy.  Whereas many modern day writers still cling to the clearly (and definitively) disputed and disclaimed notion that Wicca is an ancient, secret religion that survived the dark ages of persecution to flourish, reborn, in modern society, Gomm and Heygate dive right into the factual side of history by labeling Wicca as a new religion Gerald Gardner created.  They go on to herald it as [paraphrasing slightly] an offering to the world of a way of spiritual celebration that was admirably suited to an era dedicated to throwing off the shackles of sexual repression, validating the tremendous value of Gardner’s contribution while deftly sidestepping the inflated mythology that previously surrounded the path he created.

Of course, there is far, far more to English magic beyond Wicca, but the above segment aptly conveys the objectivity and respect with which the entire book is presented.  Too often, a book about magic that is primarily factual in nature lacks personality and warmth as it relays a dictionary-like listing of every line of rhetoric the author can dredge up from the work of others.  I am pleased to say that such is not the case with this beautiful collection of interesting and useful information.  It is extremely readable and one can easily leaf through any of the pages and find a mesmerizing bit of info that will keep you intrigued for much longer than you originally intended.

The Book of English Magic makes a wonderful reference material or personal submersion into the world of magic.  You will learn more than you ever imagined possible and sometimes have to literally put the book down for a few minutes to process what you have just read.

Having spent 3 years of my life living in East Anglia where British magic is as thick as the fog in Autumn, it was extremely enjoyable for me to revisit bits of information I’d forgotten and learn plenty I’d never known.  My children are arguing over who is going to read the book next and to me, that is as high of an endorsement as I can offer.

Many thanks for the opportunity to review this lovely piece and to the authors for their no doubt exhaustive dilligance in creating such a lovely collection of fascinating and intriguing information.