My thoughts on Kelden’s Witches’ Sabbath

As I write this, the morning after Imbolc, I await Winter Storm Landon’s arrival. Rain is pelting the canopy over the back door, evolving ever so slowly into sleet, before the increasing eventuality of voluminous snowfall that threatens a visit to these haunted climes.

It seems a good time to share with you my thoughts on The Witches’ Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore, and Modern Practice by Kelden, especially in light of recent events.

I was riding a high after watching the latest episode of Kindred Spirits featuring paranormal investigators Amy Bruni and Adam Berry, which presented a ritual, The Shroud of the Revenant, from Greg Newkirk of Hellier fame. I love that kind of innovation. But that high was soon soured by Travel Channel’s latest paranormal entertainment series, Vampires In America, which is the very worst sort of sensationalist garbage that damages the entire paranormal community. Couple that with the gods awful documentary, The Book of Secrets: Aliens, Ghosts, and Ancient Mysteries, and, well, my resolve was all but shattered.

So, writing this review is, in many ways, cathartic —a way to rekindle my faith in the magical community, and a reminder that there is a wealth good to be found there. It just requires a bit of digging sometimes.

First, allow me to share Llewellyn’s introduction:

Discover the Hidden Depths of the Sabbath

Take flight for a mesmerizing exploration of an event long shrouded in fear and mystery―the Witches’ Sabbath. Kelden presents an in-depth examination of the Sabbath’s historical and folkloric development as well as its re-emergence within the modern practice of Witchcraft. From discussions on the folklore of flight and the events of nocturnal gatherings to enchanting rituals and recipes, you’ll find everything you need to not only understand the nature of the legendary Sabbath, but also journey there yourself. Offering impressive research and compelling stories from across Europe and the early American colonies, this book is the ultimate resource for discovering an oft misunderstood and overlooked aspect of Witchcraft.

Includes a foreword by Jason Mankey, author of The Horned God of the Witches

I received an advanced copy of The Witches’ Sabbath in mid-December just as my bout with the dreaded plague was sinking its tendrils into me. This book was a gift from the gods as it was a welcome distraction from my discomfort. While the book was released in the US in January, its February release in Canada and the UK helps alleviate some of the guilt I feel for not reviewing this book sooner.

Beyond addressing the book’s content, can I first gush over Tim Foley’s gorgeous woodcut that graces the cover? I love the colors, the stark blacks, and the otherworldly imagery that takes me back to my childhood, when I first took those fateful baby-steps into the world of witchcraft. Delicious by all accounts.

As for Kelden’s work, it is a wonderful read. A bit disjointed, perhaps, with an odd narrative, but I sort of like it. Kelden’s writing style matches the theme and tone of the book, which is both a concise and comprehensive exploration of the Witches’ Sabbath, in folklore and in practice today.

This is the place of wild magic, beyond myth and fantasy, where the shadow realm thrives outside this earthly realm and awaits for initiates to discover its location. Kelden does a masterful job of invoking the essence of its true nature, of presenting it through solid academic research to give it substance, but also through fanciful examination of legend and lore to expand upon its majestic presence beyond the veil.

The Witches’ Sabbath is whimsical and fantastic and wholly enchanting. It is a promise, an affirmation, if you will, of all that is wonderful and magical and dangerous about the world of witchcraft. So much of this has been lost in the past few decades. It’s nice to see the satanic majesty of it all reaffirmed.

Beyond the academia, you will find a wealth of practical exercises and spellwork to align yourself for visiting the Sabbath, should you fain to do so. While I found some of the exercises somewhat lackluster, overall it’s an ambitious undertaking, and I recommend it on many levels.

I see this work as imagination fuel. While the path may not be exactly the one you wish to travel, the very idea of it can lead you toward the proper trail where fancy becomes reality.

A delightful read that I recommend without hesitation, Kelden’s The Witches’ Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore, and Modern Practice is available wherever books are sold. You’ll certainly want this one in your home library.

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