Episode 80 – Call and Response

Episode 80 – Call and Response

Summary:

In this month’s episode, we’re responding to some of our listener mail and feedback. We’ll talk about interfaith relationships, doing magical research, folk magic in the Western U.S., and address some questions about technical issues with the show.

Play:

Download: Episode 80 – Call and Response

-Sources-

Some of the books and resources mentioned include:

Upcoming Appearances

Cory will be holding talks/discussions which you might find interesting at:

Blog Post 152 – What’s Happening & What’s Yet to Come

Howdy everyone!

First of all, I hope that the blog hasn’t been too much of a let-down to you lately. Things in real life sped up, so blog stuff (and by extension, podcast stuff) had to slow down a little. But we are still trying to get several posts a month and at least two shows a month up on the site. The new resource button on the side bar should also be useful if you’re jonesing for a NWW fix, as you can now browse through the back catalog of posts by looking at their subject matter, and probably get a heck of a lot of reading done (if you’ve read every post we’ve written, you’ve gone through 180,000 words or so…go you!). There’s a lot here to peruse on a variety of subjects, so get comfy and enjoy.

In the process of creating that resources page, I noticed several things. First of all, I noticed that some areas have been heavily covered, and others much less so. When it comes to magical systems, I have tended to write about the things I know, or at least the things I’m actively learning about.  There are some systems that I’ve written relatively little about, so as I start organizing my “to-do” list I’ll be thinking about ways to cover those other systems a bit. I probably won’t ever write as much about Afro-Caribbean magic as I do about hoodoo or braucherei, but I know I’ve got questions about the former, so I may bring you along as I ask those questions. My posts on holidays are severely lacking, too, so I think I’m going to force myself to really tackle some of those.

I also noticed that a poll we did a while back indicated that most readers want more practical stuff (techniques, methods, recipes, etc.) and information on herbs, roots, and curios than anything else. So I’ll try to add some of that in, as well.  I think some book lists covering reading suggestions broken down by magical system may be in order, too.

None of this may happen at a breakneck pace—I still have a lot of real-life stuff keeping me busy, too—but there’s a good chance you’ll see some good articles coming up over the next few months on things like ‘gipsy’ magic, the magical uses of honeysuckle and passionflower, St. John’s Eve, and/or Ouija boards. There will probably be more folktales and lore to share, techniques for hot-footing and stop-gossiping folks, and maybe even a recipe or two for magical oils.

Whatever we wind up covering, I hope you’ll come along with us. The journey through the landscape of magical folklore in North America is far from over, and I think there’s still a lot for me to learn (which hopefully means a lot for you to read!).

So much potential! And Spring is in the air, breathing new life into the world! Enjoy, and stick with us! I think you’ll enjoy it. I hope you will.

Thanks for reading,

-Cory

Quick Update – Resources Page

Hi everyone!

Quick, go to our main page! Now, look over there. To the right. Do you see it? There’s a shiny new button for you to push. Go ahead! Push it! I’ll wait.

If you’ve ventured to explore a bit, you’ll see that we now have a Resources page, which takes all of the content-driven articles from the site (contest announcements, updates, etc. are excluded) and lumps them together into categories so that you can peruse them together rather than having to dig through the entire site to find them.

In other words, say you wanted to look at all of the New World Witchery posts on Pow-wow. Instead of searching for that term and wading through pages of results, you can now click on “Resources,” follow the link to “Magical Systems,” and viola! There is an entire section with links to all of the articles we’ve produced on Pow-wow/Braucherei so far. It’s sort of like an index to our site, which allows you to focus what you want to read down into specific subject areas rather than making you victim to my capricious Gemini posting habits (whereby you get a post on hoodoo followed by a contest announcement followed by a post on fairy tales, and so on and so forth).

I hope this will be of some value to you! I’ll do my best to keep it up-to-date. It was a little daunting to get it all put together initially, but I think it should be pretty sustainable going forward. If you have questions about how to use it, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help. And if you see categories that are missing or notice I failed to put something into a category that should be there, please let me know that, too!

Thanks so much for your patience and support with this site! And of course, thank you so much for reading!

All the best,

-Cory

Quick Update – New Products and Card Readings

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to let you know about some things going on in our Etsy shop, Compass & Key Apothecary. We’ve got a new mojo hand and a new bundle available:

Be Not Afraid! Mojo Bag
The Be Not Afraid! Mojo Bag is designed to provide spiritual protection to those who carry it on their person. The combination of herbs, roots, and other curios in this handmade mojo all have powerful protective qualities according to folklore. The rue used in this bag, for example, has been reputed by Italian magicians to fend of baneful sorcery for centuries. It is thought that carrying a bag like this can boost one’s confidence, repel enemies, and turn harmful enchantments back on their senders. Best fed with our Wall of Flame Oil or with rum in which hot peppers have been soaked.
Cost: $6.00 + Shipping

The Fearless Bundle
The Fearless Bundle includes one (1) Be Not Afraid! custom-made mojo bag and one (1) bottle of our Wall of Flame oil. Together, these constitute a powerful spiritual defense which repels harmful forces and turns wicked spells back on their senders. The oil can be used to feed the mojo bag and on its own. You can save $2 off the total cost (plus a little bit on shipping) by buying these items in this bundle
Cost: $10.00 + Shipping

All products sold as novelties only. Not intended for internal use. Please consult a health professional for medical conditions.

We’re also knocking $2.00 off of the shipping cost of any purchase made in December. I tried to set it up to do this automatically through the Etsy site, but if that doesn’t work I will refund the $2.00 to you after your purchase, so either way you’ll definitely get a discount on shipping.  If you’ve never ordered from our shop, you should know that every order winds up with some extra free goodies thrown in with it, which can range from little bags of herbs to handmade spells and charms to talismans and amulets.

I’ve wanted to make more products available, but it takes a good bit of time to develop each one, plus I usually like to “guinea-pig” my stuff first by sending samples of new things out to customers in the hopes of getting feedback, and that can be very time-consuming. So apologies if a product you want isn’t on the Etsy site yet, but maybe it will be soon. You can always email us and request something and we usually are willing to accommodate.

Speaking of emailing us, I’m also looking to start offering some card readings to folks. At first, I’ll only be doing it by email due to time constraints, but I may branch out into Skype if there’s enough interest. The cost? How about pay-what-you-can? For right now, I’m doing this on a donations-only basis, so as long as you’re willing to donate something to the site (using the PayPal button located in our main page side bar, or you can do it here, too), I’ll read for you. Ideally, I’d love to get at least $5.00 for it, but hey, a buck’s a buck, and if all you can afford is $1.00, that’ll do.

Here’s how the card-reading works:

1)      You email me your question (subject: “Card Reading”) and make your donation (in whichever order you prefer—please make sure to include your real name and astrological sign so I can get a lock on reading for you).
2)      I will do a two-card split reading and an extended five-card reading, recording the cards drawn.
3)      I will write an approximately 1-page report for you on the reading and send it back to you.
4)      You can ask one follow-up question as well, which I will pull 1-3 cards for. I’ll send you an email response with those cards and a summary of their meaning.

I’m using my own system of cartomancy with regular playing cards inherited from my mother, so don’t be surprised if the cards and their meanings are a little different than what you’re used to.

So why all this commercial activity? No, it’s not because of the holidays. Rather, I’m trying to raise money to fund the next year of the site and podcast’s hosting service and there are some magical courses and books that I’m looking at as well. The more I know, the more I can add to the site and show, so it’s a win-win for all of us, right? Plus (and this is a big reason), I’m trying to do a lot more practical work with folk magic, and making new things while offering card readings seems like a good way to do that. So if you enjoy the show or site and want to help contribute to it, please check out our Etsy shop and/or get a card reading!

Okay, thanks everyone for all your support! We really appreciate all you do for us, and hope you’re having a great holiday season!

All the best,

-Cory

Quick Update – Contest Deadline Extended!

Hi everyone!

So we’ve only had a small handful of submissions to our contest, and we really want to get more people to participate to make this audio spellbook concept to be the best it can be. So we are extending the deadline to enter this contest to November 18th, 2011.

You can read the full description of the contest in our original blog post on it, but here’s a quick summation of the rules:

  • Share a favorite spell that you’ve used and which works for you
  • Files <5 minutes in length, in .mp3, .m4a, AAC, or .wav format
  • Tell us who you are and where you’re from, generally
  • Please tell us all spell components and describe actions carefully
  • Send us your file at compassandkey@gmail.com , subject line: “Audio Spell Contest”
  • Deadline November 18th, 2011

For those of you who’ve already entered, we still have your names in our proverbial hat, but if you’d like to increase your chances of winning, you can get an extra entry by doing the following:

  • Posting about the contest w/ a link back to this page in Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Sending us an email or leaving us a comment here telling us that you’ve linked the contest

We’ve got a better lock on the prizes, too! We’re going to do books by authors who have appeared on our show, including:

Prizes and winners will be picked at random, but any of these books would be a great addition to a magical library.

If you’ve already submitted and want to do another entry, feel free! Every submission gets you an entry into the contest.

Here’s hoping we hear from you soon! (Pretty please? With magical cherries on top?)

-Cory

Blog Post 131 – Miles to Go

[NOTE: This is a very long personal entry. It doesn’t really reveal any new information about North American Witchcraft. If you regularly read the blog for its information content, please feel free to skip this entry. Thank you!]

Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
All through the dragging day,—sharp underfoot
And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs—
But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road
A gateless garden, and an open path:
My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

If you’ve been a long-time listener and/or reader of New World Witchery, you probably know that I have significant trouble remembering my dreams, or even gaining access to them at all. I’ve gotten plenty of great tips to help me with dreaming, particularly when it comes to the type of dreaming I crave most—dreams infused with magic and witchcraft. I’ve tried herbal pillows, a cup of mugwort tea before bed, mirrors under my pillows, prayer, and dreamcatchers. I’ve kept a journal by my bed to record the few and far between dreams I receive as best I can in the dark—a technique that does at least yield some results, though inevitably I wind up with gaps of several months from one page to the next.

I haven’t tried everything, of course. Deep breathing exercises, focused and guided relaxation to pre-recorded visualizations, Lunesta, and other options are still open.  But I have attempted a number of methods to get into the dream world and really use that space, only to find my marginal successes frustrating in their inconsistency.

Up to this point, I’ll admit, dreaming has bothered the hell out of me. I can’t seem to do it right, or to get what I really want out of the experience.

What I want, of course, is probably the big problem. I have seen for several years now a tendency among witches and magical practitioners to encounter their gods, daemons, spirits, fetches, fairies, and otherworldly entities of choice in dreams. Sometimes the dreams come unbidden—even unwelcome—and seem to be very nearly disastrous for the one having them. I recall Peter Paddon talking about an encounter with the Dark Mother figure which involved a series of terrifyingly bloodthirsty dreams that left him shaken to his core. Which was the point, yes, but it was also unnerving for him. Other very close friends have shared their dreams with the community involving scenes that could come from fairy tales or horror films or an amalgamation of the two.  And always, always, I read with envy their experiences and wonder when it will be my turn.  And ever I sense somewhere there’s a voice saying “Patience. You do not understand, yet.” Those gods, those spirits, those fairies, those beings of that Otherworld, they simply do not want to meet me in dream space. They have given me little fragments of dreams to appease me from time to time, but always I find myself holding me an empty plate, husks, shells, seed pods, or splinters.

Recently, Laine & I went out into the midnight woods to work a little witchcraft. As always, we high-stepped and staggered our way past the outermost portion of the dense tangled wall separating tightly-mown lawns and garden pavers from shin-deep undergrowth and the scratchy whisper of treetops moved by the lightest wind. We lost our way, though we’ve traveled the paths beyond the thicket several times in all seasons. We expected to lose our way because our destination in the woods is an old stone chimney in a small clearing carpeted with periwinkle vines that we both take to be enchanted. Every time we go visit—especially at night—it seems to move in time and space. This visit was no different, and we found that even though we were sure we were close, we couldn’t see the chimney until we turned off our flashlights, took a deep breath,listened to the woods around us, and turned our lights on again. Rising up before us not ten feet away we saw the chimney, waiting patiently. Had it been there all along?

Shortly after Laine and I started working together, we did a guided visualization in which I read a pathworking to her and she attempted to relax and go into a trance-space. For my part, I found the experience calming and pleasant, but not terribly magical. Laine, upon coming “back,” more or less confirmed the feeling. It had been a fine exercise, but not terribly resonant. I have had past-life regressions done by a professional hypnotist several times, and only one seemed to ever click. I’ve tried pathworkings from other magical workers—some of them brilliantly written and full of symbols and keys to spiritual insights—and found that they don’t strike the chord that simply reading a fairy tale from an Andrew Lang or Grimm’s book does.

I’m a very cerebral person, someone who enjoys being in my own headspace tremendously. On any given night when I finally get ready to go to bed, I’ll wash my dishes in the sink, put a few things aside for the next day, and then start thinking about something I’ve read, or seen, or experienced in the past day or two or twelve. I start muttering, framing a discussion with myself—ever a Devil’s advocate, and deeply in love with that role—until I’m finally at full-tilt and thirty minutes or an hour have slipped by. What was to be a midnight bedtime has suddenly slipped to 1 a.m. or later, just because I can’t stop talking to myself about some idea that won’t let go.

I dream of being a teacher, a professor particularly, and helping students make sense of folklore and stories and mythology in their own lives. I dream of making a living with words, of thinking about them and about how people use them. I dream about stacks of books piled high by my bed, poring over papers from pupils which contain threads of brilliance buried beneath mounds of “proper grammar,” and “technical skill.”  I dream of carrying my 1 a.m. conversations into a classroom, a room full of young devils waiting to catch me in a mistake, or catch some respectable author in a mistake, or catch themselves in a mistake. I dream of devilish intellects and diabolical minds which are hungry for new ideas, just as I am.

When it comes to witchcraft, however, the life of the mind falls short for me. Dreams are not the place where my witchcraft works. They help me from time to time, but mostly they only make me confident that I don’t really need dreams. I need real experiences, ones I can’t rationalize away, ones that happen and that jar me out of my perceptions of reality. Experiences that scare me a little, and remind me how much of witchcraft is just overcoming fear.

I’ve told the story before—probably several times—about my accidental meeting of the Black Man of the Crossroads. I had gone out to work a ritual for a completely unrelated entity, and after I emerged from behind my hiding spot, I was startled by the presence of a man in dark shadow, standing directly under a streetlight. I didn’t address him, and instead pretended not to notice who he was. I often look upon that experience as a failure of my own will and a giving in to fear, but at the same time it made me aware of something very profound: it’s all real. Witchcraft, magic, and sorcery are not simply psychological operations for me—they are true, actual experiences that can be fraught with physical danger and which can completely unhinge my notions of expected reality in a split second.

The night not long ago when Laine and I went to the woods, we worked our magic and prepared to go. At the last moment, we decided to do something else, a very particular bit of witchcraft which involved asking for a sign when we finished. Almost immediately the ground just around the chimney started to rustle with the sound of skittering feet. Some of the stones on the chimney started to glow—possibly with the faint moonlight, though I think something else was behind it. And a firefly, the only one we saw at all that night, came out of the dark forest straight towards us. It circled over our heads a while, then flew off again into the dark woods. The experience was immediate and real and we both recognized it as it happened, then continued to be awed by it for hours afterward.

I’ve heard from a number of folks lately who write regularly in the magical community—particularly bloggers—about how they see their experiences and practices being co-opted by casual readers who then turn around and write about the exact same incidents with nary a nod to their witchy progenitors. I understand that frustration. Many people in the magical community work incredibly hard to establish a functional practice of their own. Jumping in feet first without doing all the work of establishing such a practice, without making that journey independently, can lead to a shallow type of witchcraft. Something which may look mysterious and magical on the surface, but which ultimately crumbles when poked and prodded by more experienced and knowing fingers.

But I also understand the other side of the equation. For those who are—more or less—plagiarizing witchcraft from other witches, it may be because they finally found something that works for them. Or in many cases, it may be that they’ve found something that they think finally works for them, and in their enthusiasm they wind up stepping on a lot of toes putting this new-found practice into place. In those cases, however, I think what the new folks are really finding is their own starting point, a launching pad into deeper witchcraft. One day they may discover that they have gone in a completely different direction and now they are writing about practices which other newbies are co-opting to form their own loose foundations. It doesn’t make the plagiarism right, but it does put it into perspective.

I leave in a few days to continue the pursuit of a dream. I’ll be studying and reading and engaging in linguistic deviltry. I’ll be spending time in one of my favorite cemeteries anywhere (this article is peppered with photos from this gorgeous graveyard). I’ll be going into woods and waiting at darkened crossroads to see what turns up. I’ll be carrying mojos to help with study, personal mastery, and prosperity. I won’t be putting mirrors under my pillow, burning incense to help me astrally project, or playing pathworkings on my iPod. I will be looking for passionflowers and sassafrass roots in the woods. I won’t be invoking four elements, calling on a nameless God and Goddess, or using an athame. I will be asking my ancestors for help, and using my playing cards to find out what they say.

I will be practicing my witchcraft, which comes from my experiences.  It involves meeting a Man in Black at a crossroads, physically fighting my way through brambles and poison oak, looking a coyote or a buck dead in the eyes at twenty paces.  It relies little on dreams, which I have only recently come to understand.  It doesn’t bother me anymore that I don’t have dreams rife with witchcraft, because that doesn’t fit who I am. It works amazingly well for others, but not for me.  What works for me is going to real graveyards at midnight, real forests under the light of a full moon, real crossroads where unexpected visitors can turn up at any moment.  I’ve still got the kind of witchcraft that lives in my feet and hands, my eyes and breath, and it is my own brand and it is beautiful to me and it works for me and…

And if someone takes what I do and runs with it, if I see half a dozen blogs on North American folk magic appear in the next six months, if I read about people going into forests which seem to shift and change as in fairy tales, well that’s okay. We’re all making our way, and I’ve got miles to go before I sleep, too.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll talk to you all soon…

-Cory

[Special Thanks to those I consider my teachers. They have influenced me profoundly whether they know it or not: Sarah Lawless, Stephanie Palm, Morgaine, Janus, Mrs. Graveyard Dirt, Robin Artisson, Peter Paddon, Gar Pickering, Vance Randolph (& dozens of other folklorists), Cat Yronwode, Juniper Cox,  Zora Neale Hurston, Concha, Brujo Negro, and far too many others to mention here. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today.]

She’s Here!!!

This is a quick post to announce the newest member of the New World Witchery family, my daughter!  She arrived safe and sound on the evening of March 16th, and is doing quite well.  Mama and daddy are very proud, and her big brother is already giving her kisses (though we don’t expect that to last long).  Here’s a picture of our lovely little girl:

I probably don’t have to say this, but the blog will not be getting much attention for a week or two (though I do have a few articles in the works, and a podcast nearly ready for release, so it won’t be completely silent here).  Likewise, the Etsy shop is down for a bit, though I do have several things already in the works there, too. But for now, I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who’s sent love, support, prayers, spells, and good wishes to us during the difficult past few months.  It’s all paid off beautifully in the form of a gorgeous girl.  Now all I have to decide is what type of pony to get her first…

Thanks for everything!

-Cory

Quick Update

Hi all,

I had been hoping to do several more posts this week than I have, but unfortunately life got in the way.  My wife, who is carrying our second baby, had to go to the hospital this week due to fears about pre-term labor.  All seems well now, but she’s on a form of bedrest which means I’m having to pick up a lot of slack as far as childcare and housekeeping are concerned.  I’ll probably have less time to write (and sadly, podcast) over the next month or two, so please accept my apologies in advance for any diminished content.

I hate having to say my personal life is interfering with my passion and making any kind of announcement here, but I thought that you all should know about it.  I’ve still got several articles planned (and a few that will be popping up in non-internet sources soon, too) and Laine and I always have the podcast planned about three months out, so we’ll definitely have stuff out to you, but please be patient if things don’t come quite as frequently as they have been.

Here’s hoping all is well out there with you!  Thanks for reading, and for your support and understanding!

-Cory

Quick Update – Holiday Lore Contest Reminder

Hello everybody!

This is just a quick reminder that we’ve got our Winter Lore Contest on right now, but time is running out to get your entry in.  We’re looking for information centered around the winter holidays, specifically local or family:

  • Practices
  • Customs
  • Traditions
  • Songs
  • Recipes
  • Stories
  • Crafts

Please make sure you tell us what area you are from (generally), and if you would like us to use your name on the blog/podcast.

You have until midnight (Central Time) on Monday, December 6th to submit your lore via blog comment or email, so don’t delay!  You can still get an additional entry if you tweet, blog, or otherwise spread the word about the contest and send us the link.

The prizes are:
Two Runner-up Prizes – Signed copy of Judika Illes’ latest book, The Weiser Field Guide to Witches

One Grand Prize – A Compass & Key Hoodoo Starter Kit, with a selection of oils, botanicals, curios, and other products for budding rootworkers.

We’ve gotten a number of excellent entries, but we still would love to get some more, so please submit before time runs out!

Thanks for reading (and sharing)!

-Cory

Blog Post 102 – 15 Books

Hello everyone!

I recently saw a rather interesting post from a friend on a social networking site in which she listed her “Top 15 Most Influential Books” when it comes to witchcraft.  Since I posted a book review last week (and since most book reviews going forward will likely be shared between this site and the Pagan Bookworm site), I thought that continuing that “bookish” trend might be good.  So this week I will be posting about various texts which have a place North American magical traditions.  Some will be of the grimoire type, and others may just be good reads, but hopefully all of them will be tomes you get much pleasure and use from if you crack the spines and turn the pages.

To start with, however, I’m going to re-use that meme and list my own Top 15 Most Influential (Witchcraft) Books.  These are not necessarily books that I think of as “great,” or even in some cases “good” books.  Many have erroneous information or are, at best, a good starting place for further exploration.  All of them, however, have help shape my study of magic, folklore, and witchcraft in some way, and that’s what this list is really all about.  I’m presenting them in a (roughly) chronological order, since that’s how I best remember them.

TOP 15 MOST INFLUENTIAL (WITCHCRAFT) BOOKS
(2010 Edition)

  1. The Encyclopedia of White Magic by Paddy Slade.  This book was the first book of “real” magic I ever procured.  I’ve talked about it on the show, but the short version is that I was about 11 or so, and I pestered my mother into buying it for me.  Since then, I’ve definitely grown away from its ideas, though I periodically return to it for nostalgic reasons.  It also got me thinking about magic as a folklore-based thing, rather than a sci-fi/fantasy phenomenon.
  2. Earth Power/Earth, Air, Fire & Water by Scott Cunningham.  I know there are lots of folks who regard Cunningham with disdain, but I’m not one of them.   His two books of folk magic, focused on practical spellwork using natural elements, absolutely cemented my interest in spellwork as something more than an esoteric psychological tool.  I still find some of his spells useful, though I’m no longer in tune with his particular worldview or ethical stance.  Moreover, I think that there are far worse books with which one could begin one’s magical studies.  I’ve found over the years that many folkloric sources bear out the techniques described by Cunningham, and I still regard his work fondly.  There are certainly weak points in these books, but winnowing the chaff away is fairly easy with a little work.
  3. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham.  I’ll not launch into another defense of the author, but instead say that this book (and to a lesser extent, his Complete Book of Incense, Oils, & Brews) augmented my practice of magic again and helped me to start making my own spell ingredients.  It also helped me to cultivate an interest in gardening, for which I am most grateful.  This book also has one other great thing going for it: an amazing bibliography.  While it obviously pulls from sources like Culpepper’s Herbal, it also contained references to things like Vance Randolph’s Ozark Magic & Folklore (which is also on this list).  So I am quite thankful to this book, and this author.
  4. Jude’s Herbal Home Remedies by Jude C. Todd.  This was an impulse buy to augment my growing interest in herbs after I had eagerly devoured the Cunningham tomes.  It’s not a magical book, per se, but focuses mostly on the physical properties of herbs and their applications as health and beauty aids.  It provided a wonderful resource for learning how to interact with various herbs and brew potions, ointments, tinctures, etc. at home.  I still turn to it sometimes for home remedies, and it also has a place because later encounters with books like J.G. Hohman’s Long Lost Friend reminded me that most magical workers had plenty of practical, non-magical herbal info at their fingertips, too.  Jude’s book filled that role for me.
  5. Magical Tales: The Storytelling Tradition by R.J. Stewart.  In my sophomore year of university, I participated in a storytelling class that changed my life.  It took fairy and folktales off of the written page and showed me something deeply vital about them emerges when they are shared with others.  I also happened to be taking classes in things like fairy and folklore interpretation using academic studies like Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment and Mary Louise von Franz’s The Interpretation of Fairy Tales.  Into this mix came R.J. Stewart’s book, which looked at the phenomenon of storytelling from the point of view of a magical practitioner.  I know a lot of folks were influenced by Stewart’s The Underworld Initiation, and I think that book is absolutely wonderful.  As far as my own personal influence goes, though, this is the one I’d say really connected to me.   It convinced me that stories contain more than just helpful magical tidbits, but sometimes are magical rituals in disguise, if you’re willing to work through them.
  6. Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend, & Folklore by Lady Gregory & William Butler Yeats.  I couldn’t have really appreciated this book prior to encountering book no. 5 on this list (and going through the courses I did at the same time).  I actually had picked up this text years before because of a passing interest in Ireland which I inherited from my mother (we have family ties back to County Mayo).  After I began to understand fairy tales as something more than fanciful stories, however, this book became an absolute mother lode of good magical material.  I’ve since discovered many of the tales have parallels or retellings in Appalachian and Southern folklore, too, which makes me feel even closer to it.
  7. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm, Jack Zipes trans.  I actually borrowed this specific collection from a girlfriend, and its completeness stuck with me.  It included a number of tales often omitted, and several tale fragments I’ve not seen in most editions.  Particular variants aside, this collection falls into the same category as nos. 5 & 6 on the list.  Again, I didn’t know what I had until long after I had it, and now I don’t think I could live without it.
  8. The Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony by Roberto Calasso.  At some point, I became a bit of a mythology junkie, particularly Greek myths.  I read and re-read Edith Hamilton, Bulfinch, and the textbooks from my college classes on the topic.  I went to source material by Hesiod, Homer, Euripides, Aeschylus, and anyone else I could find.  I’m definitely not an expert, but as enthusiastic amateurs go, I foment with glee when I encounter new Hellenic tales.  When I got to Calasso’s book, however, I was taking an advanced course on mythology at school, and everything completely changed.  It was this book that taught me one fundamental thing about mythology (and likewise storytelling and therefore magic):  it changes.  More importantly, there is no “true” or “right” version of any story, but simply the stories themselves.  Mythology isn’t linear, but a web of tales—sometimes they contradict each other, sometimes they conflict with what we think about the culture, and sometimes they don’t make much sense to us.  In all cases, though, the tales are true at a level not related to cross-referencing and documentation, but someplace deeply human.  Calasso showed me that by bombarding me with the stories over and over again in his book, every time a little different, but all connected together, until I got it.  I really do need to send him a thank-you note for that.
  9. Aradia, or The Gospel of the Witches, by Charles Godfrey Leland.  Encountering Leland, for me, was like having someone splash very cold water on my face by the bucketful.  I devoured his work Etruscan Roman Remains and his Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune-Telling, of course, with all the tenacity of a budding folklorist.  It was Aradia, however, that really sent me sailing when I read it.  At the time, I was studying with the outer court of a Gardenerian coven, and had to read things like Gardener, Dion Fortune, and other modern occult classics.  When I got to Leland’s book, though, it felt so different, so authentic that I refused to believe its wild claims and actually got angry at it for deceiving me so well.  I’ve since, however, learned that this book is something special—neither entirely true nor entirely false.  More importantly, it is useful, and its mythos grips me in a very strange way.  I can’t come down in favor of Aradia as a piece of unsullied witchlore, historical to its last printed letter.  But I can say that figuratively, it’s as close to a witch’s gospel as I’ve seen yet.  In short, it just “feels” witchy, and makes me feel the same every time I read it.
  10. Call of the Horned Piper by Nigel A. Jackson.  As I branched out and away from Wicca, looking for something I could connect with better, I began to find a lot about something called “Traditional Witchcraft.”  There were dozens of websites, letters (mostly from Robert Cochrane), and books which I suddenly had to read, and in a very brief period I managed to get through most of them.  While there have been a number of very influential and powerful works in the Trad Craft vein that I love, one stands out to me.  Nigel Jackson’s tome is slim, barely the width of a pencil.  It’s a chapbook, really, yet it contains so much information that I can’t imagine life without it (much less because finding a copy is becoming harder and harder to do).  This book is probably more responsible for my religious magical practices than any other, and encapsulates in about 150 pages what many books cannot in 300 or more.
  11. Ozark Magic & Folklore by Vance Randolph.  This is a book that I found first by accident while seeking information on weather lore, then again by chance looking for an herbal reference.  Finally, I was browsing one of Cunningham’s books and saw this title again in the bibliography, and realized I needed to seek it out.  I’ve since read it many times, and it always offers up a plethora of magical information to me.  Randoph’s book is not a how-to, but one could build a complete magical system out of his work.  Yet it also guides one to several other magical books and traditions as well.  This is the book that made me realize North America is full of occult power and lore, if I was only willing to dig for it a bit.
  12. Hoodoo Herb & Root Magic by Catherine Yronwode.  I’ve referenced this book and the accompanying website (Lucky Mojo Co.) so much on this blog and in the show you probably don’t need me to tell you it’s been an influence.  I’ll just reiterate what a valuable piece of work it is and suggest that without it, I’d probably be fairly lost when it comes to making hoodoo charms, mojos, potions, and formulae.
  13. The Silver Bullet by Hubert J. Davis.  Following the ideas gleaned from Vance Randolph, I began looking for other folklore collections from America which might contain a few sprinklings of witchcraft.  A friend suggested I look into The Silver Bullet, and it truly was a revelatory experience.  In the pages of Davis’ book, the complete repertoire of the American witch dances out.  The book’s segments on what witches do, how to become a witch, and what to do to counter curse read like thinly veiled instructions on American witchery taken right out of a cauldron.  Like Randolph, a person could likely develop a complete magical system based on what this book contains.  It is a marvelous book, and one I turn to repeatedly for witchlore.
  14. The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Illes.  This is another one I constantly reference.  Its real influence on me lies in the fact that I share a love of it with Laine.  We both get so much out of it that it acts as a sort of magical bridge between us.  The Secret Garden likewise strengthens that bond—it’s one of her favorite books and another example of magic buried in storytelling which appeals to me—but Judika’s wonderful book (books really—they’re all quite good—but I decided to go with this one as we use it the most) really is our default grimoire at this point.
  15. The Bible.  This one is the last on my list because I’ve only been able to really understand it as a book of magic recently.  I’ve known that certain metaphorical elements of the Bible have always had parallels in world mythology, but it’s only since working with things like Psalms, the Blood Verse (Ezekiel 16:6), and folk Catholic prayers that I’ve come to understand it as a sort of grimoire.  Magic pervades the text, though it often must be disentangled from a lot of theology, history, folklore, etc.  And while I do use the Bible as a sourcebook for magic, I also am not a monotheist, so I have to struggle with certain elements of it.  This is rewarding in its own way, though, and I tend to think of the Bible as a “family” book—since most of my immediate predecessors were Christian (and mostly Catholic), my use of that magic ties me to them, even though I’m not worshiping the same deities they did, exactly.    I also prefer to work with some of the deuterocanonical books, such as the Book of Wisdom found in the Catholic Bible, or the Book of Enoch which is mostly found in the Coptic or Ethiopian Orthodox Bible.  But that’s just a personal preference.

So that’s my list!  Long, I know, and probably way too much commentary, but maybe it will give you some insight into the places I’ve come from and the type of magical person I am.  Or maybe it will give you a reason to catalogue your own influences.  If you do that, I’d love to see them!  Please let me know what books influenced your path, and feel free to post your lists (or a link to your blog if you do a list there) on the comments.

Thanks so much for reading!

-Cory