Greetings and salutations!
If you read this blog, then it’s probably safe to assume you like to read in general (and even if you don’t, maybe books of magic are a different story). We’ve hinted a bit at something we’re trying out for 2020 in a few episodes, and with the release of our latest episode (Episode 157 – Evolving Witchery), we began what we’re calling the “New World Witchery Book Club” for 2020. The basic idea is that we’ll pick a book (or a small series of books–we know everyone already has piles of books by their bedside so we don’t want to overburden you) and then read it in sections each month. We’ll discuss the writing, the actual information, historical context, practical applications, folkloric roots, and just about anything we can come up with.
For this year, we’re going back to our own roots and looking at a pair of books that greatly influenced both Laine and I as we were starting out: Scott Cunningham’s Earth Power and Earth, Air, Fire, & Water. These books are chock full of folk magic, albeit somewhat adapted through Cunningham’s eclectic Wiccan approach. We think we’re going to unpack some really good material here, especially as his focus on what he calls “natural magic” very much overlaps with the sorts of folk magic we find here in North America.
The basic breakdown for reading this book will be as follows:
Reading Plan for Earth Power and Earth, Air, Fire, & Water
- January: Earth Power – Preface, Introduction, and Part I (Ch. 1-4)
- February: Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Preface and Part I (Ch. 1-5)
- March: Earth Power – Ch. 5 (Earth Magic); Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 6 (Earth Power)
- April: Earth Power – Ch. 6 (Air Magic); Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 7 (Air Power)
- May: Earth Power – Ch. 7 (Fire Magic); Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 8 (Fire Power)
- June: Earth Power – Ch. 8 (Water Magic); Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 9 (Water Power)
- July: Earth Power – Ch. 9 (Stone Magic), Ch. 10 (Tree Magic); Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 10 (Stone Magic), Ch. 11 (Magnet Magic)
- August: Earth Power – Ch. 11 (Image Magic), Ch. 12 (Knot Magic), Ch. 15 (Mirror Magic); Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 13 (Star Magic), Ch. 16 (Mirror Magic)
- September: Earth Power – Ch. 13 (Candle Magic), Ch. 14 (Wax Magic); Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 12 (Candle Magic)
- October: Earth Power – Ch. 16 (Rain, fog, & storm Magic), Ch. 17 (Sea Magic); Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 17 (Wishing Well Magic), Ch. 18 (Sea Magic)
- November: Earth, Air, Fire & Water – Ch. 15 (Ice Magic), Ch. 14 (Snow Magic)
- December: Earth Power – Afterword; Earth, Air, Fire, & Water – Ch. 19 (Creating Your Own Rituals), Afterword
We will also try to put out little reading-related blog posts to offer ways to expand upon whatever we discuss and keep the conversation going each month.
These books were staples on our shelves growing up, but we also know that not everyone has a copy yet, so we’ve got some good news on that front, too! Firstly, Llewellyn Publications has agreed to offer our listeners and readers a 20% discount on any orders of Earth Power or Earth, Air, Fire, & Water you make between now and June 1st, 2020. All you have to do is go to www.llewellyn.com and pick up those books, then use the code “SCOTT20” at checkout for the discount (you must be logged into your Llewellyn account to use the code, but it’s an easy and free signup). They frequently have free shipping and other discounts going on, too, so check them out and stock up on some magic books!
The other way we want to make these available to you is, of course, a contest! We’ve got two copies of each of the two books we’ll be giving away (thanks Llewellyn!), with each winner receiving a copy of both Earth Power and Earth, Air, Fire, & Water. How do you enter?
- Support us on Patreon! If you’re already a Patreon supporter, great news, you get an automatic entry in the contest! 🙂
- Share this post on your social media (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram especially) and tag us (or come back and leave a comment with a link where we can see your post)
- Share a picture/post showing and/or describing what “natural magic” looks like or means to you on Twitteror Instagram. Tag us if you can, and make sure to use the hashtag #newworldwitchery when you post so we can find what you’ve shared easily.
That’s up to three entries per person! All contest entries must be completed by midnight Eastern Standard Time on January 31st, 2020. We’ll pick two lucky winners on February 1st and send them their copies of the Cunningham books (as well as maybe a bonus item or two).
So that is the basic idea, and even a chance to win some books. Not a bad way to go into the new year!
We hope you’ll join us as we work our way through these books, and share your own thoughts and interpretations of the material as well.
Thanks so much for reading (all the books!),
March month of ‘many weathers’ wildly comes
In hail and snow and rain and threatning hums
And floods: while often at his cottage door
The shepherd stands to hear the distant roar…
The ploughman mawls along the doughy sloughs
And often stop their songs to clean their ploughs
From teazing twitch that in the spongy soil
Clings round the colter terryfying toil
The sower striding oer his dirty way
Sinks anckle deep in pudgy sloughs and clay
And oer his heavy hopper stoutly leans
Strewing wi swinging arms the pattering beans
Which soon as aprils milder weather gleams
Will shoot up green between the furroed seams
~John Clare, The Shepherd’s Calendar: “March”
Dear Listeners and Readers,
Here we are in the lovely springtime, knee-deep in the grime of new life, planting seeds to bear fruit under other moons than this one. In a few days, we will (hopefully) be releasing our March episode, which deals with that selfsame celestial sphere, and on that show we’ll be announcing our latest contest. Since you are a dedicated and devoted fan of our work, however, you get a little advance warning and some extra time to work on your entries.
So what do you have to do for this contest? We’re looking for family, regional, or local folklore on two topics. Send in your lore about:
- Anything related to the sun, moon, and stars. Did your family tell stories about specific stars or constellations? Did they hold moon-gazing parties or eat moon cakes? Were there special things you were supposed to do during an equinox? Share your heavenly lore with us and get an entry into the drawing!
- -OR –
- Share your lore about devils, demons, and “bad” spirits. Was there some spot supposed to be haunted by the devil near where you grew up? Were you forbidden to play Ouija boards because of demon possession? Share your most diabolical tales and enter that way as well.
You can even enter in each category! (Only one entry per category per person, please. You can share as much lore as you want, though). Simply email us with the subject line “Spring 2015 Contest” at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll get your entry (or entries). Make sure to let us know where you’re from/family background, and what name (if any) you’d want us to use if we read your entry on the show.
Deadline: Midnight, April 30th (Walpurgisnacht), 2015.
So what is up for grabs if you decide to share a bit of your devilish or stellar side? We’ve got three potential prize packages we’re offering for this event:
- Prize Package The FIrst – Grimoires Old: A copy of The Long Lost Friend (Hohman, Daniel Harms, ed.) & The Black Pullet (anonymous but very important grimoire in the New World)
- Prize Package The Second – Grimoires New: A copy of Peter Paddon’s Grimoire for Modern Cunning Folk & Robert Chapman’s Pow-Wow Grimoire
- Prize Package The Third – Get Lucky: A bottle of our Crown of Success oil, a lucky charm or two, and a copy of 54 Devils thrown in for fun (you know, lucky at cards…)
If those are appealing to you (or even if they’re not and you just want to participate), please send in your lore to email@example.com and know we’ll be absolutely thrilled to hear from you. Questions about the contest or lore are welcome at that address, too. Good luck!
All the best,
-Cory & Laine
Happy New Year to you!
Today I thought I might share a few of the things from my holiday stocking, as well as other treats and delights I’ve been enjoying lately. I got a very lovely and eclectic selection of books & music, some of which might be of interest to folks here, so if you find something among the pile that you like, I’d love to know!
The first thing I want to mention is a beautiful copy of Crossway’s Four Holy Gospels. It’s the English Standard Version (ESV) of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John illuminated using contemporary art by Makoto Fujimura. It’s a big, gorgeous clothbound edition and conveys a great deal of the mystical nature of these texts. I know it’s a bit odd to recommend a Bible of sorts on a site with so much magic and all, but if you’ve been around us for a while you know that we’re equal opportunity when it comes to mysticism and magic. So if you’re looking for a good heirloom version of the gospels with a little artistic magic, this is a good one to have.
In addition to the gospels, I got a copy of an excellent book called Kanaval: Vodou, Politics, & Revolution on the Streets of Haiti. It’s a photojournalistic look at the Haitian carnival costumes, parades, and traditions, and it will be of extreme interest to anyone captivated by the rituals of Vodou(n) or other African Traditional Religions. A number of lesser-known loa show up in the text, and there are oral histories from participants in the celebrations that are simply unmatched in recent history. In addition to the book and its magnificent photos, there are two accompanying CDs (one of which I received along with the gospels from my in-laws—I have an amazing family). One is called Spirits of Life, which has a number of ritual songs, and the other is Rara in Haiti and plays some of the more celebratory carnival jazz-style music. I also bought myself a simply wonderful new magical psalter from Troy Books: The Charmer’s Psalter, by Cornish witch Gemma Gary. It has fast become one of my favorite magical books and travels with me everywhere now.
Shifting from the authentic to the entertaining, I’ve been very much enjoying this year’s run of American Horror Story, subtitled Coven and set in a world of New Orleans Voodoo and witchcraft. I actually introduced Laine to the show, and she’s taken off running with it, consuming the first two seasons as well (subtitled Murder House and Asylum). I’m sure we’ll wind up discussing it more elsewhere, and it’s generating some controversy around the Pagan blogosphere, but if you’ve not checked it out and enjoy good, immersive horror, it’s fun to watch, in my opinion.
In that same vein, I’ve also been enjoying the kitschy-but-witchy antics of Witches of East End on Lifetime. I can’t say it’s a must-see, but the episodes I’ve seen have been enjoyable and if you’re a fan of things like Charmed, this might be fun, too. Might.
A lot has been going on in the podcasting universe lately, too. I’ve been tuning in to a couple of new shows, including The Kindle Witch with Faelyn, Pagan Life Radio with Brent/Raven, and one called Disney Story Origins. The first two offer some nice new elements to the Pagan podcasting world. Faelyn uses her show to explore books in a sort of book-club format, while also sharing a lot of neat moments from her own practice. Brent/Raven uses his show to create a really neat community space for talking to Pagans working on specific goals, or just get into good discussions about the role of Paganism in contemporary society. The Disney origins podcast is a gem, where the host compares and contrasts the stories that inspired Disney movies to the films and explores how that translation happens. The most recent episode gets into the excellent recent film Frozen and its inspiration, “The Snow Queen,” by Hans Christian Andersen (a section of which was included in our Yule show this year).
I’m also sad to say we’re losing at least one of our podkin for a while. Gillian at Iron Powaqa recently announced she’s taking an open-ended break from recording to focus on other projects. I completely understand her reasons, but she will definitely be missed. I fear this will be a trend, as several podcasters have disappeared this year. On a happier podkin note, Fire Lyte has published his first book of poetry, The Playground, which is available in several formats now. If you’re a fan of his poetry, this is definitely a book to get (plus it supports Pagan podcasting, which is always a noble cause). Finally, if you’ve not been listening to Peter Paddon’s revitalized podcast, do so! It’s the reason New World Witchery even exists, and he’s an absolutely charming fellow (all puns intended).
That’s all the news that’s fit to print for me this week! What was under your tree this year?
Thanks for reading!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org , 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:
- American Shamans by Jack Montgomery
- The Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints, & Sages by Judika Illes
- The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook by Denise Alvarado
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?)
-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 32-
This episode looks at the particular practices of Voodoo and Hoodoo around New Orleans. We have an interview with spellbook author Denise Alvarado, several excerpts from folkloric and magical texts, and even some music.
Download: New World Witchery – Episode 32
First, my apologies for the sudden cut-off in the interview. That was a technical difficulty on my end, but we still got almost a full 30 minutes of discussion with a stellar guest, so enjoy!
Mules & Men, by Zora Neale Hurston
Voodoo in New Orleans, by Robert Tallant
Black & White Magic of Marie Laveau, by NDP Bivens
All songs were taken from the Florida Folklife collection, and are available here: http://www.floridamemory.com/collections/folklife
The songs were “Crow Dance” and “Oh Mr. Brown,” both sung by Zora Neale Hurston, and “Sissy in the Barn,” sung by the children of Carver Elementary School in 1954.
Guest & Announcements
Denise Alvarado can be found at her website, Mystic Voodoo.
Please also check out her books, The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook (soon to be released in an expanded edition by Weiser Books), Voodoo Dolls in Magic & Ritual, and The Voodoo Doll Spellbook. You should also subscribe to her journal, Hoodoo & Conjure Quarterly.
Don’t forget about the Second Annual Pagan Podkin Supermoot in Salem, MA, on the weekend of Sept. 17th, 2011. Find out more details about the event and opportunities to come meet us in person at the PPSM2 Website. [Laine respectfully asks that she not be in any photographs, due to privacy concerns—Cory will be happy to wear a wig and pretend to be Laine, however].
I’ll also be at the West KY Hoodoo Rootworker Heritage Festival (event site) teaching a course on “Biblical Magic & Sorcery.”
My ambitions got ahead of my time last week, so I am behind in posting about magical books in American traditions. I thought today, though, I’d start at the cheap and plentiful end of the spectrum in the hopes that I might make up for any lack of posting.
Chapbooks—small, cheaply made books usually containing no more than a hundred pages or so—have been a part of the New World landscape since Colonial times. Many of the most important texts leading up to the Revolutionary War were published in chapbook format, such as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. These booklets, which were also frequently referred to as “tracts” or “pamphlets,” were cheap to make and cheap to buy, and could often be found in the stock of travelling peddlars (also known as “chapmen,” where the term chapbook comes from).
In addition to political messages, these little books frequently served as repositories for folklore and folk music, fairy tales, religious information, poetry, fiction, almanacs, and most importantly to us, magic. I’ll be addressing the topic of almanacs separately, as they have had a tremendous influence on the occult in America, so in this post I’ll focus primarily on the booklets of magic which circulated in North America from the 1600’s until modern times.
Early occult chapbooks generally originated in places like London or Scotland, and bore titles such as Dreams and Moles with Their Interpretation and Signification (London, 1750), The Fortune Teller & Experienced Farrier (Exeter, 1794) or the Spaewife, or Universal Fortune-teller (Scotland, 1860’s). They contained advice on interpreting signs, reading palms and other body parts, and performing basic divination such as taseomancy (tea-leaf reading). Some examples of the esoteric knowledge they contained:
- When a woman dreams she is a man, and is not married, she will have a husband; or if she’s without children, she’ll have a son, but if married ‘twill be ill to have a son; and to a maid-servant, much incumbrance [sic]; ‘tis very fortunate to a harlot, because she will forsake her evil ways. (Dreams & moles)
- Either he or she that has a mole on the upper part of the ear, and on the right side of his belly, shews the party guilty of such crimes as may endanger their life. (Dreams & moles)
- [On Palmistry:] The liver line, if it be straight and crossed by other lines, shews the person to be of sound judgement. (Fortune Teller)
- To dream you are pleasantly sailing on calm water, denotes a peaceable and quiet life. (Fortune Teller)
- A Mole on the hip, shows that the person will have many children. (Spaewife)
- A face naturally pale denotes the person very amorous. (Spaewife)
- He that hath a great and broad mouth is shameless, a great babbler and liar, proud to an excess, and ever abounding in quarrelsome words. (Spaewife)
- He that hath a decent beard, handsome and thick of hair, is good-natured and reasonable. (Spaewife)
Some of these books gave medical advice as well, and instructions for livestock management. In The Fortune Teller & Experience Farrier, author Ezra Pater tells anyone with a horse suffering from a cough to “take five or six eggs, and lay them in a sharp white-wine vinegar, till the shells be somewhat soft, then fling them down his [the horse’s] throat and it will cure forthwith.” Such remedies would go on to be de rigueur for magical practitioners in rural locations, and especially in the New World. The reasons for the popularity of such simple guides probably stems from their low cost, but also may have something to do with the rough medicine of frontier life. In many cases, settlers lived days away from good medical or veterinary care, and so a small practical guide would be indispensible to a rural family. As for magic’s entanglement with practical medicine, I can only reiterate that until very recently (the mid-to-late twentieth century really) there was no separation between the two, especially not in rural communities. Not everyone used every remedy, and not everyone used magic, but they were not at odds with each other, either. I find the best analogy here is a cookbook: just because you have one hundred recipes doesn’t mean you cook all of them. In most cases, you specialize and repeat the recipes you like or are best at, and those become your signature dishes.
Over time, other chapbooks emerged and became more and more popular. In rural and farm communities, such as the Pennsylvania Dutch areas of the middle Appalachians and the Ohio Valley, little books like Hohman’s Long Lost Friend became household texts. Individual families would also compile their own books, not unlike family recipe books, which might be kept on the same shelf as the family Bible. In many cases, these chapbooks would be the only texts in the home other than the Bible and perhaps a cherished tome or two of literature like Shakespeare. In more urban areas, cheap editions of Grimoires found their way into chapbooks, with publishers like Chicago’s William Delaurence producing a number of pirated works in reduced pamphlet form, including The Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus, The Sixth & Seventh Books of Moses, and Hindu Magic and Indian Occultism. In Owen Davies’ excellent history of magical books entitled Grimoires, he explores the influence of the occult in Chicago:
Chicago may have an image as a grim, grey industrial city, but in the early twentieth century it was also a hotbed of mystical, magical, and prophetic activity. Rural Pennsylvania may have been the cetre of pow wow and New Orleans the home of hoodoo, but Chciago was the undoubted centre of organized occultism and grimoire publication…[it] proved fertile ground for mystical and magical groups. (p.210-11)
Other cities, like Chicago, also began producing quantities of occult chapbooks. Detroit—which had and continues to have a strong tie to hoodoo—was home to countelss candle shops with shelves full of pamphlets on luck, love, and money magic. In Harlem, stores like the Hindu Mysterious Store were selling racks of booklets on occult topics into the mid-to-late twentieth century. Some of the many titles included:
- Terrors of the Evil Eye Exposed
- The Ancient’s Book of Magic
- The Book of Luck
- Sen Chu’s Sure Way Number System
- The Ancient Book of Formulas
- Rajah Rabo’s 5-Star Mutuel Dream Book [sic]
- Aunt Sally’s Policy Player’s Dream Book
Books like these, especially the dream books (which purported to interpret dream symbols into lucky numbers to be used in lotteries), were tremendously popular. While the number of shops carrying such literature has diminished recently, the occult pamphlet remains popular and can still be found in many urban magical retailers.
Today, chapbooks still exist and continue to be published, though in two distinct veins. Some occultists (myself included) like to produce very limited runs of such booklets as artisan items. The publishing company responsible for the marvelous Witches’ Almanac also issues lovely chapbooks such as Spells & Incantations, Magical Creatures, and Magic Charms from A to Z. I’m still working on the illustrations and additional material for our New World Witchery cartomancy chapbook, which will eventually be sold through our Etsy shop. Many classic chapbooks are also still available, such as Henri Gamache’s Master Book of Candle Burning.
The other form in which one can find modern chapbooks will likely lead to scowls from some readers. If you’re ever standing in line at the grocery store, however, look over at the racks of gum and magazines, and usually near the top there will be small, palm-sized books of cheap newsprint paper and glossy stock covers. Some of them are all about alleged dieting secrets and pop psychology, but occasionally you can find little tomes of herbal lore, astrological information, and even love spells. While it may seem unsavory to think of magical literature as an impulse buy in the checkout lane, I would recommend perusing them. They’re often incredibly cheap and sometimes have good information in them, as well as guideposts to other resources that might be even more worthwhile. Of course, you may also find all you can do is line your familiar’s cage with them, too, so browse before buying.
I hope this has been useful to you! If you have any favorite chapbooks or magical booklets, I’d love to know about them! Please leave a comment or send an email and share them with us.
Thanks for reading!
-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 16-
Today we answer some listener questions and present some feedback. Then we have an interview with magical author Judika Illes.
Download: New World Witchery – Episode 16
-SHOWNOTES FOR EPISODE 15-
Laine and Cory discuss favorite spellbooks and how they design their own magical texts. In Witchcraft, Laine looks at the craft of bookbinding, while in Spelled Out, Cory talks about magically binding books.
Download: New World Witchery – Episode 15
Earth Power and Earth, Air, Fire, Water by Scott Cunningham
The Green Witchcraft series by Ann Moura
PowWows by John George Hohman
The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Illes
The Black Pullet
Black & White Magic by Marie Laveau (actually by NDP Bivens)
Hand Bookbinding by Aldren A. Watson (not mentioned by name, but a good resource)