Book Review: Llewellyn’s 2018 Witches’ Companion

Llewellyn's 2018 Witches' CompanionLlewellyn’s 2018 Witches Companion: An Almanac for Contemporary Living is the 10th installment in their Witches Companion Series, which started in 2008. Per usual I absolutely love the cover and want to have a backyard and then make that crescent moon flower bed. For those new to the series, “almanac” is a bit inaccurate, as the book is really just a set of short articles with a calendar in the back. My reviews of the 2016 and 2017 installments are on this site (click years to view). The articles range between six and twelve pages long with the average article being ten pages, very digestible if you are looking for a book to pick up and read casually. They’re divided into four sections: “Community Forum,” “Witchy Living,” “Witchcraft Essentials,” and “Magical Transformations.” The final section has a calendar from September 2017 through December 2018 that has the same information as Llewellyn’s Witches’ Calendar and Witches Datebook in a monthly grid format. Per my tradition I will be discussing my favorite articles below.

“Exonerating the Warlock: A Brief History and Revision of a Misunderstood Term” by Storm Faerywolf

I love linguistics and revision, so there was no way I was going to be able to resist this article. While ‘witch’ is a catch-all term with no gender, it can feel like there’s no term for witches who identify as men. In this article Faerywolf (I can’t with the name, I’m sorry) talks about how he identifies as a Warlock. The term, which means “oath breaker” is often not used or frowned upon, and the author argues for an attempt to reclaim it. I wasn’t completely won over, but I do admit that the umbrella term ‘witch’ doesn’t work for a lot of people, including my own partner.

Worshipping Widely and Cultural Appropriation by Deborah Blake

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time you know Deborah Blake is going to be on this list. Her discussion of cultural appropriation in her book Everyday Witchcraft was very influential for me, so when I saw the title of this article I was excited to read it. Cultural appropriation in the witchcraft and pagan communities is a huge issue at the moment, maybe now more than ever, and I’ve been working through my own opinions for years, trying to decide how I feel (yes, an article from me is in the works). Blake’s article discusses some of the issues with pagan deity devotion, to which there are really no ‘rules’ formally speaking. However, her example of her friend who is “a White woman” (and I have no idea why white is capitalized) being “called by … an African goddess” made me uncomfortable (39). Maybe it’s because I live and teach in the American South, but I know a lot of people who would be angry about this. Like I said, article forthcoming.

“Embracing Being Broken: How to Avoid Spiritual Bypass” by Stephanie Woodfield

This article discusses a Hindu goddess who I had never heard of before: Akhilandeshvari whose name means “never not broken.” The article discusses the power of this ‘broken’ state and embracing the hard parts of life that are inevitable, but that so many wish to avoid (as futile as it is to try). The article also discusses the problem of “spiritual bypassing” in the witchcraft community, which I knew was an issue, but never saw it put to words before. Basically, the idea is that a lot of people want to skip over (or bypass) the painful parts of life with magick, but that’s not how life works. This is not a new idea, as the author cites an author from the 1908s, but an important one to consider in all of our Crafts.

“Creatures of an Elder World: In Pursuit of Shakespeare’s Three Witches” by Linda Raedisch

As a literature teacher who has delivered Macbeth to students and daughter of an independent Shakespeare scholar, there was no way I was going to leave this article off the list. The article discusses Shakespeare’s famous witches and where they may have originated, including the Norns of Norse mythology, who I love. The etymological connection between the wyrd sisters and the Norms is rather interesting.

“Crystal Magic: Not-So-Common Calcite” by Ember Grant

This article could also be called “A Defense of Calcite,” since it argues for the use of this crystal, which a lot of people overlook. Calcite, Grant explains, contains properties that exist in our own bodies, making it excellent for spiritual work. Optical calcite, known as Iceland spar, has the property of double refraction, meaning a piece will work as a magnifier. It’s very cool to see in person, actually. Since Calcite is one of my partner’s favorite crystals, I enjoyed reading this article about it.

“My Mother’s Funeral: Bringing Pagan Ritual into Death” by Jane Meredith

The majority of this article is a description of Meredith’s funeral for her mother, and a description of how, as a pagan, she was comfortable adapting ritual into this form. The article, to be frank, is an odd mix that I don’t think will resonate with every reader. You get the simultaneous impression that Meredith loved her mother, but that her mother never really approved or was proud of her. It’s a sad mix, and not in the way you’d expect. The article is also deeply personal, really only discussing application of pagan ritual to non-pagan funeral in the last page, and only then in generalities. Regardless, I found the article captivating, in part because witchcraft and paganism shy away from the realities of death, which this article discusses.

“Insect Totems: Creepy, Crawly, Buzzy Wisdom” by Tiffany Lazic

My aunt and uncle are entomologists living in Ohio doing a biological survey of the mountain they live on, so an article that defends bugs is for me. The article itself is light and not close to exhaustive, but suggests some insects and critters to look out for, and what lessons we can take from them, rather than shooing them away (or worse). Witches and pagans often draw lessons from the natural world, but few people look to or bond with non-beautiful insects (I’m looking at you, butterflies). Lazic argues for giving them a second look, and giving them a chance to teach us something.

Conclusion

Maybe it’s just my own growth as a witch, but while I found the articles above thought-provoking, I didn’t find much in this edition of the Witches’ Companion to be practice-changing. Also, and as a literature and composition teacher I must say this, there were some unforgivable typos. One within the spoken part of a spell and another that changed the meaning of a sentence were particularly egregious, but the worst was one author misspelling their own name. One article is called “Attention Must Be Paid,” and I suggest that whoever is responsible for proofreading follow this advice. All that being said, the 2018 Witches Companion is interesting and beautifully illustrated read.

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