I picked up Ellen Dugan’s book, Practical Protection Magick: Guarding & Reclaiming Your Power, over a year before I read it, then once I did read it, months passed before I wrote this review of it. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to reviewing this book because my views of it are, on the whole, quite positive (you all know how critical I can be of witchcraft books), and I think it deserves a spot in the library of anyone who is interested in the subject of protection magick.
Practical Protection Magick was published by Llewellyn in 2011 and has kind of a ‘look how witchy I am’ style cover, which I hope won’t deter you from reading it. In the introduction Dugan explains that this book on protection magick and psychic self defense exists in the ‘middle ground’ between so-called white and black magick. A lot of purists don’t believe in protection/defense magick, while others don’t feel comfortable with this, shall we say, shadier side of the magickal path. That’s partially because, as Dugan points out, witches either like to consider themselves invulnerable, or pretend that no one in our community is sketchy (yeah, right). The book contains information, spells, and exercises divided into nine chapters that include four elemental-themed (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water) chapters, amongst others. The level of this book is definitely intermediate, though there are things in here that both beginning and advanced witches should find helpful.
I really enjoyed Chapter 1: “Psychic Awareness and Witchery,” which includes a self-assessment to help one determine what their psychic strengths (and, by association, their weaknesses) are. The four types of psychic strengths analyzed are clairvoyance, clairaudience, empathy, and intuition. Most witches consider themselves to be one or more of these things, but having a survey to take and analyze was very helpful. The results that I got provided me with some interesting insights. The section that follows discusses strengths and weaknesses of each type, which I found extremely informative. Chapter 2: “Knowledge is Power (Air)” also begins with a self-reflection; a series of questions to help the reader understand their own magickal background. This is followed by an exploration of psychic attack, including how to notice it, symptoms of it, how to deal with it, and a section on different types of hauntings.
Chapter 3: “Setting Boundaries (Water”) addresses emotional vampires and bullies (including passive aggressive ones), and was another extremely informative and interesting section. Dugan pulls from her own experience, so it’s easy to understand what the concepts look like applied to real life. She occasionally comes off as boastful, like many other witchcraft writers do, but most of the anecdotes are helpful. There is also a ritual included and, as in all the element chapters, a call to the element appears at the end. Psychic vampires are addressed in more detail in Chapter 4: “Guarding and Reclaiming Your Power (Earth),” and I was surprised at how much it resonated. This chapter also starts with a Kurt Vonnegut quote, which makes the literature nerd in me very happy; in fact, there are a lot of quotes within this book as epigraphs, which were an enjoyable bonus.
Chapter 5: “Physical Fitness Equals Magickal Strength (Fire)” completes the set of elemental chapters and has a heavy emphasis on exercise. Looking at some of the reviews online, I’ve noticed that this chapter rubs some people the wrong way, in part because Dugan claims that physical health and magickal health are inexorably linked. I think part of the reason that people get really mad is because Dugan is essentially saying that if you’re overweight and sit on the couch all day, your magick isn’t as strong as it could be. That’s not necessarily wrong, but it isn’t exactly polite either since people can have medical conditions that are beyond their control. Chapter 5 wasn’t my favorite chapter, but Dugan feels strongly about what she’s saying, and she’s sticking her neck out to say it.
Chapter 6: “Warding the Witchery” has one of my favorite spells in the book, a gargoyle warding spell, but also uses the Christian Key of Solomon, which really bothers me. This is because the Key of Solomon is part of the history that links witchcraft to Devil worship and stereotypes/traps witches within a Christian framework. I reject it, but I’ve come to realize that a lot of Llewellyn authors cannot leave Christianity behind. Chapter 7: “Hex Marks the Spot” has the best epigraph in the book (shown in my photo here), a hilarious Irish curse. While it does invoke ‘God’ it is both old and Irish so one cannot fault it for having Christian overtones. The chapter goes into cursing and hexing, and Dugan is obviously against doing flat-out ‘black’ magick, calling it the domain of “wannabees, weekend witches, or dabblers” (142). Strong words! I’m not sure how much I really agree with this statement, as my own views have been in flux lately, but Dugan’s strong authorial voice comes through again in this chapter.
Chapter 8: “A Darker Shade of Candle, Herbal, and Crystal Magick” covers just what the title says: candles/colors, herbs, and crystals for protection and uncrossing spells. Finally, Chapter 9: “Practical Magick” covers moon phases and deities. The book ends with a glossary of terms. I really didn’t intend to review every chapter, but that’s what happened, so I’m going to go with it.
On the whole, I really enjoyed this volume, and feel like I learned a lot from it. There are some parts of it that I didn’t mesh with, but there’s way more good than bad. Sometimes the personal anecdotes ran a bit long, and there are too many pop culture references for my taste, but those are minor complaints. Dugan has strong opinions and is going to present them as facts, and as a witch you have to be able to sort through texts because there’s never (ever) going to be one that 100% resonates with you on every page; we’re too diverse a group for that to be possible. In the end, I definitely recommend this book to any intermediate or advanced witches who are interested in protection magick.