Wyrd Wednesday: Book Reviews (Part I)

Normally I post book reviews on Mánadagr, but man, this week has been a real bear. I lost a friend to cancer over the weekend, another friend announced on Monday that he has been placed in hospice and does not have much time left with us, and I was, in a word, distracted. That’s the thing about getting older — the longer in the tooth you get, the more people you have to say goodbye to. We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that we are eternal beings, enveloped by flesh and bone. Our soul and spirit, once released from this plane of matter, embark on new adventures throughout the multiverse — those dimensions that intersect with this material plane. This knowledge does little to alleviate the sadness. I feel deeply for their family and friends. It is an enduring cycle of grief that subsides only when we become the one grieved for.

Hm, maybe these thoughts would have been better suited for a Monday.

How about we look at not one, not two, but three books today? I’ll split these into two blog posts, with the main focus being on the second blog. The first, which you’re reading now, will cover two books, but, also, will not really be a review of either, but rather my gut impressions. To be fair, I ended up skim reading both in the end and neither will find a permanent home on my bookshelves.

Beginning with the lesser of the two, I read Rise of the Witch: Making Magick Happen Your Way by Whiskey Stevens and it was… not good. I don’t like to write bad reviews. I’d much rather lead you to a good book than to dissect a book that doesn’t work for me. Sort of the “if you’ve got nothing good to say” approach. This one, however, stuck in my proverbial craw a bit.

Here’s what the publisher had to say about it:

Rise, Witch, Rise

It’s time to claim your magical power and build a practice that is wholly yours―one that spiritually fulfills you and reveals your purpose. More than a how-to guide, Rise of the Witch is a deep exploration of the inner workings of witchcraft and your integral role in creating magick. Whiskey Stevens provides a comprehensive look at both the basics and more advanced topics, taking you from the history of the Craft to shadow work and everywhere in between.

Rise of the Witch teaches a wide variety of magickal skills, such as creating and casting spells, harnessing powerful energies, and making sacred space. Whiskey also empowers those who are hesitant to come out as witches or need to keep their practice secret. Packed with guidance on the elements, tarot, intuition, and more, this book helps you fully embrace your unique brand of magick.

Includes a foreword by Panda Bennett, creator of Stardust Soul Oracle and host of the YouTube series “Witch Hunt”.

Look, I don’t want to beat up on the author too much. That’s just not my thing, but there’s nothing new in this book. Nothing. It’s just a rehash of ideas by far better writers. There are no interesting takes, no fresh or interesting divergences or developments. There are no innovations.

She has chapters on initiation, tarot, shadow work, and more, but she never comes across as an authority. She’s comes across as young, inexperienced, and someone who is playing dress-up.

But that’s my two cents. I would not recommend it.

The second book, Paganism for Prisoners by Awyn Dawn is far better, while still falling a bit short. It has a terrific introduction by Christopher Penczak, which gave me high hopes for what was to follow. The thing is, there is almost a great book here. Like Rise of the Witch, it treads very common ground, but I felt the author lost focus.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

After being incarcerated for her struggles with drug addiction, author Awyn Dawn began to actively look for her spiritual side―and she found it in Paganism. By developing a profound relationship with the gods, Awyn gained greater clarity and a deep sense of peace. You can, too, with help from this empowering guide to starting and strengthening your spiritual practice.

Providing dozens of easy-to-use exercises, Paganism for Prisoners shows you how to embrace Pagan teachings and learn from deities, ancestors, and spirits. Explore the power of meditation, self-reflection, rituals, and devotions. Meet the gods and goddesses of Celtic, Norse, Greek, Roman, and other mythologies. You’ll also discover the power of the elements, the moon, the Wheel of the Year, and your own intuition. Through this book, you’ll manifest amazing change within yourself.

Her journey is amazing, and I am thrilled that magick helped her find her way, both in and out of prison and addiction, and if the book would have stayed in that lane, then I would have been shouting from the rooftops about it. Unfortunately, for me, it strayed too far from this premise.

I guess the crux of the matter lies in that I wanted so much more from this book. I wanted it to feel more personal. The author has a comfortable writing style. There are a lot of positives here that she can build from and I would certainly read something from her in the future.

While Paganism for Prisoners did not deliver for me personally, I do feel like there is an audience for this book and I hope it might work for you. Give it a look here.

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