Authors: Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate
Publishers: John Murray (UK/AUS/NZ edition) Overlook Press (US edition)
Publication date: June 2009 (UK) – October 2010 (USA)
Also available as an e-book
How did the one small island of Britain, and the country of England in particular, become so steeped in magical practices across the centuries, and why has it given birth to the finest magical fiction ever written?
English authors such as J.R.R.Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, and J.K.Rowling dominate the world of magic in fiction, but from the earliest times England has also acted as home to generations of eccentrics and scholars who have researched and explored every conceivable occult art, and now more people practice magic in England than at any time in her history.
The Book of English Magic, authored by Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate, surveys England’s magical past from the moment the first humans inhabited her shores to our present-day fascination with all things magical. Historical explorations and biographies of leading figures are combined with interviews with modern-day magicians which reveal the extent to which magic is alive and well in England in the 21st century.
‘This will remain the standard work for years to come.’ The Sunday Telegraph
The image of the magician is exciting and tantalising, and familiar to us all. Think of Merlin or Gandalf and we think of excitement, mystery and adventure. But what do we feel or even know about real magicians – those figures who throughout history have practiced the kind of magic that for centuries was a forbidden art?
For reasons that will become clear as the 562 page The Book of English Magic unfolds, England has fostered the greatest variety of magicians in all the world, including not only the delightfully eccentric, but also figures who have played significant roles in the development of the arts and sciences.
Secretly we would all probably like to know a magician, or perhaps be one. And – extraordinary as it may seem – there has never been a greater opportunity to fulfil either of these ambitions, since there are now more practising wizards in England than at any other time in her history. Some will see this as an example of the triumph of irrationalism, others as evidence of a rebirth in an understanding of the world that is only now being touched upon by the most advanced physicists and cosmologists.
Whatever your beliefs about magic, this book is designed to introduce you to some of the most interesting contemporary practitioners of magic, and to many of the most important figures in the magical world of previous centuries. And to help you begin experiencing for yourself the world of magic and enchantment that has succeeded in intriguing generations of seekers, this comprehensive survey of English magic includes a rich menu of magical things to do and places to visit.
Co-author Sir Richard Heygate runs a successful software company and has a special interest in alternative worlds. He is also co-author of Endangered Species.
‘A richly illustrated and erudite treasure-house of a book.’ The Good Book Guide
‘This will remain the standard work for years to come.’ Suzi Feay, The Sunday Telegraph
‘This large, cheerful, handsome book’ Jon Barnes, The Times Literary Supplement
‘A monument to the hold magic has on the English imagination’ Matthew Kilburn, History Today
‘A model of clarity and comprehensiveness.’ Liz Williams, author Empire of Bones
‘I wish all books on occult history were as clearly written, as entertaining and as full of fascinating facts.’ The Bad Witch’s Blog
‘Once in a blue moon a book comes out that you get a feeling is going to be a classic. Within minutes of receiving an advance copy, the Treadwell’s staff all got that prickly feeling on the back of the neck. … This is a big book, a real door-stopper. Yet, it’s an introductory volume to magic in England: part history, part practical, part resource guide, part theory. Illustrated, filled with interviews with practitioners and experts, it is the kind of newcomers’ book that an intelligent novice dreams of. The two authors spoke with many of the most senior people in the British magical community, and their commentaries (interspersed through the book) make fascinating reading, and serve as a personal touch to guide the reader. Wicca, druidry, runes, John Dee, Golden Dawn — all in their English setting.’ Treadwell’s Books
‘The tone is playful and serious, respectful and amused…This is not just a book about magic though, but a book of magic, and some of the most appealing sections are the ones that urge you to have a go yourself…This will remain the standard work for years to come. There’s the additional attraction that all this is bound to infuriate poor Professor Dawkins.’ Suzi Feay, The Sunday Telegraph
Sometimes we open a book and know straight away that it will become a classic in its field, and “The Book of English Magic” is one of these. At first glance it’s a 560 page history of magic in England, which “of all the countries in the world….has the richest history of magical lore and practice”. It celebrates the wild and eclectic mix that makes up English magic, bringing together its major streams and traditions from ancient times to the present day.
At first my hackles rose at the exclusion of Welsh, Scots and Manx mages,(further volumes in the pipeline perhaps?) and I wanted to shout “British” at the top of my voice, then remembered that Life is following Art here, as readers of “Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell” will remember.
Interspersed with the very readable but scholarly history we have articles by and biographies of mages and sages both historical and modern, which are very revealing and great fun, along with magical places to visit and magical things to do. If you are new to this “extraordinary ‘other’ world” in which magicians live, you will be led towards it gently and safely; and even if most of the practices, people and places are familiar to you, it is still a great read. For other practicing esotericists there is the guilty pleasure of checking who is in and who is out, and how many friends and colleagues get a mention. And it’s not too cliquey for newcomers to the field!
I was pleased to see that the unknown and uncelebrated, those who have been working out of the public eye are honoured, as well as the more famous faces. As Alan Richardson points out, “The real magicians I know ….have full-time jobs in the normal world, where their workmates know nothing about their “other” lives.”
The people we know of from their published writings are but the tip of a magical iceberg.
Nit-picking apart, I particularly enjoyed Penny Billington’s lists of fiction relevant to each chapter.As Dion Fortune knew, concepts hard to grasp in textbooks or lectures are more easily assimilated through “occult fiction”, and tend to germinate more readily in the mind too. I was really pleased to see Lobsang Rampa get a brief biography. Rampa and Dennis Wheatley led me into the byways of occultism through their fiction at an early age, thanks guys! Nice illustrations too. This really is the ideal Yule/Christmas gift, so guess what my friends will be getting…. Inner Light Book Review
‘…all of us, unless we are turnips, are touched by the numinous nature of life, the sense that there is more to things than meets the eye.Therefore the history of magic does not merely concern the vanity of secret knowledge and the quest for dubious powers but also the art of seduction and the quest for meaning.
So they are all here in fabulous array, the quacks and the innocents, the serious nerdy dreamers and the bravura jokers, the drop-out priests and sublimated women, working in that area of our experience where nothing can be scientifically proved – or disproved (very convenient) – and which they call magic and which I prefer to call poetry.
Stonehenge and Avebury, Merlin and runes and crop circles, freemasons and ley lines, Tolkien, CS Lewis, Rowling and Pullman, King Arthur, Camelot, alchemy and astrology and fortune-telling, numerology and ESP, Rosicrucianism, on and on it goes… I especially loved the olde worlde woodcuts and engravings by way of illustration, the detailed instructions on how to do magic for yourself…Best of all is the end, when the authors compare a book to a magic wand, conjuring up “a new world with every turn of the page”.
No writer could resist that.’ Duncan Fallowell, The Daily Express
‘A magical mystery tour…’ The Times
‘A massive, somewhat disconcerting compendium’ Val Hennessy, The Daily Mail
‘I wish all books on occult history were as clearly written, as entertaining and as full of fascinating facts as The Book of English Magic by Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate.
It is a big door-stop of a book and when I got it, about a week ago, I thought it might take me ages to get through. But it certainly didn’t – instead I didn’t want to put it down.
The Book of English Magic reminds me of The Dangerous Book for Boys – which teaches grown-up boys (and girls) how to thrash someone at conkers, race a go-cart or swot up on the solar system in a nostalgic style harking back to some golden childhood that probably never existed, while still imparting useful skills for adults, perhaps with their own kids. Although, of course, The Book of English Magic teaches how to dowse for water, cast a spell or swot up on the famous magicians in English history rather than anything as mundane as conker fights.
I’m sure the similarity between the books is deliberate, with this being published at the same time as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince reached English cinemas, boosting interest in anything schoolboy-wizard related.
But I would say the book’s style is no bad thing, whatever the reason behind it. It makes it very easy to read while still being extremely informative.
The book begins with the ancient roots of magic – cave paintings and standing stones left by our early ancestors. These hint at prehistoric attempts to tap into the power of the land, honour the dead and ensure good hunting – although no-one today really knows their purpose. Chapters move forwards through the centuries, covering druids; Anglo-Saxon sorcerers; Merlin and the Holy Grail; witches and warlocks; alchemists’ attempts to make the philosopher’s stone; John Dee in the Elizabethan age; cunning folk; freemasonry; the 18th-century Age of Reason leading into the Victorian era and a renewed fascination with magic; Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune; and finally the modern era of “The Wizards’ Return”.
Each section includes potted biographies and personal accounts by experts in the traditions covered. You may not go along with everything these luminaries claim, but it is interesting to read their stories alongside those of others. One of the lovely things about this book is that it seems to encourage the reader to take what interests or inspires them and ignore the rest.
There are also lists for further reading – both fiction and non-fiction, ideas for places to visit to see the sites of occult history for yourself and suggestions for practical magic experiments to try at home (perhaps sometimes using metaphorical round-ended scissors). It even offers warnings called “Traps for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, including not getting too attached to theories that may be proved wrong and not letting fortune telling dominate your decision-making. Very sensible.
My only real criticism of The Book of English Magic it is that it sometimes claims for England important figures and movements that weren’t entirely English. This includes author CS Lewis, as was earlier pointed out by a reader of my blog. CS Lewis certainly lived in England, and the book does state that he was born in Ireland, but I could understand the Irish feeling that he shouldn’t have been in a book dedicated to English magic at all.
Nevertheless, as an English magician myself, I can’t help feeling a little thrill of pride in reading a book that states “of all the countries in the world, England has the richest history of magical lore and practice” ‘… A Bad Witch’s Blog
‘This book is such a treat! The writing is lucid and wonderfully easy to read, yet conveys an astonishing amount of information. Although I am very well-versed in the subject, practically every page contained things I didn’t know, and while it is indeed a perfect book for the “intelligent novice” it’s far more than that – it’s a serious, in-depth survey of a massive topic. Philip Carr-Gomm wears his erudition lightly, but this is no light-weight study; co-author Richard Heygate vividly portrays the insights of the many contemporary magicians he interviewed.
Fact after fascinating fact, idea after intriguing idea, character after eccentric character, all described with intelligent appreciation and the occasional tongue in cheek. A generous sprinkling of delightful anecdotes – my favourite being a gentleman named Cyril Hoskins, who fell out of a tree while trying to photograph an owl and “while suffering concussion had given permission for a Tibetan lama, with the full name of Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, to inhabit his body.” Bless! Only in England. Note, please, that it’s an OWL – the bird of wisdom!
The book is also very well put together – nice paper, gorgeous cover, decorative section headings, lots of illustrations (Mr. Rampa is shown with an enigmatically smiling Siamese cat). Little “potted biographies” of notable figures are set into the text, so it’s perfect to read in little snippets….but beware! I opened it with the idea of leafing through first, reading more thoroughly later…several hours passed.
It would have been a wonderful book even were it merely an historical account, but at each step the book does more – it invites the reader into the reality of magic in several ways. First are the many interviews with real people, who speak of their magical experience and work. These “open up” the book by providing windows into other lives; it is as though a druid and a shaman, an alchemist and a dowser came by for a cup of tea and sat talking at the kitchen table until late. And each of them is someone we’d be happy to have stay overnight, so we could resume our conversation in the morning.
Another way the book reaches out to us is the “interactive” section at the end of each chapter, which presents Things to Do, from ley-hunting to Renaissance astrology, alchemy to ESP. The suggestions include some that are ideal for the whole family, but also others suitable for considerably more advanced students. There is in each section as well a comprehensive resource guide, including both print and online sources and, most excellently, sources in fiction, for those who know that fiction is often truer than fact! The innocents among us are warned, in sections called “Traps for the Sorcerer’s Apprentice” of the various delusions that await the unwary.
Books about magic tend to have been written – with a few exceptions – either by people who “believe in it” – tiresome in their credulity – or by academics who by definition don’t – equally tiresome in their elaborate, futile attempts to explain the obviously non-material in materialist terminology. It’s a real pleasure to encounter these authors’ refreshingly balanced approach.’ L.R.Fredericks, Amazon Review
‘As someone who is both a ‘magician’ and a ‘magicKian’ this book is a profound gift – a magical masterpiece no less! There is often no middle ground between the ‘two magics.’ The former is usually an attempt to imitate real magic, practiced (often) by sceptical folk who are well versed in psychology, linguistics subtleties and other means of ‘pulling the wool over peoples eyes.’ The latter often takes no notice of some of the necessary balances and healthy scepticisms of the former. This book does! It is both mystical and psychological, supernatural and rational, heavenly and humble.
The two authors, who clearly (and wonderfully) represent different approaches, manage to serve up a delightfully well written, intellectually stimulating, un-put-down-able adventure into all things magical (from merry old England’s perspective). No stone of Albion remains unturned. They lead us (readers) into magical encounters wonderful and weird, and not only academically but practically too – offering wonderful ‘what to do now’ pointers and exercises into gaining our own magical experience.
This book clearly involved a tremendous amount of research which, I must say, is evident on every page, and not only in terms of scanning wizard’s grimoires, diaries and biographies but face to face interviews with the modern day witches, shamans and alchemists.
Also for those who love a book to look like a book – well, you’re in for a treat. When this arrived in the post I tore off the wrapping paper and, for a while, just sat there in awe. It is a marvelously fine volume which begs to be lovingly lifted off the book shelf – almost in slow motion. One needs to take time with this book, not just skim read. It demands a little preparation before indulging. Find an appropriate period where you won’t be disturbed, make a large pot of coffee and draw near a side table, sit back in a comfy chair and prepare to be taken through Narnia’s wardrobe into an enchanted world where anything is possible.
We need books like this – oh we so need them in our disenchanted modern world of instant everything – not least to remind us older ones that Narnia does in fact exist!’ Mark Townsend, Amazon Review
‘The Book of English Magic explores the curious and little-known fact that, of all the countries in the world, England has the richest history of magical lore and practice.’
The scene is set. Armed with magical maps of England and London, we take our seats on the charabanc for a geographical and historical excursion through the trackways, villages and cities of England, in search of magic in all its forms.
This is a thorough and well-researched journey with knowledgeable and trustworthy guides; the Open University study tour of the occult rather than the Blackpool illuminations trippers’ special. Yet it reads so well and easily that absorbing a wealth of information feels like a recreational delight.
This book was crying out to be written; presenting us with the continuity of magical practice on one small island from prehistoric times to the present day.
So the bus starts and the authors, our tour guides, lead us through the magical eras. The tour schedule is packed and there are many fine photographic views through the windows as we travel. We will journey from our Ancient roots – caves and the hidden treasures of the land – to The Wizards’ Return – the renaissance of English Magic in the twenty-first century.
By its conclusion, the trip will have taken in the worlds of, respectively, the ancient Druids; the Anglo-Saxon sorcerer; Merlin, King Arthur and the Holy Grail; Witches and Warlocks; Alchemists and Puffers – including such notables as ‘The Queen’s astrologer, Dr, John Dee, and ‘The shag-haired wizard of Pepper Alley’.
Emerging from the Elizabethan era we are inducted into the mysteries of Freemasonry and the Power of Number; the Secret Chiefs, Hidden Masters and the Adepts of the Rosy Cross of the Rosicrucians, Theosophists and Ceremonial Magical orders, to be brought firmly into the modern era, ‘Opening Pandora’s box’ with The Great Beast and the Priestess of the Sea.
But now comes the clever twist.
Periodically, after introducing the magical periods and areas, with illustrative potted biographies of significant figures, the authors relinquish the microphone, passing it to a ‘guest compere’, a contemporary scholar and/or practitioner of the type of magic being discussed. Through personal anecdote and academic findings, a practical, modern perspective is given to such arcane areas of magical practice as shamanism, wicca, druidry, alchemy, and so on, with ‘guest presenters’ ranging from the relatively unknown to those famous in their field. It is the experience that counts, allowing us direct connection with contemporary practical magical working. And the results range impressively from successfully selling premises by Druidic invocation to having ‘the metal of your consciousness’ totally transformed by Enochian magic.
And at the end of each stage along the journey, the charabanc stops, allowing time for our own explorations. These are suggestions for practice of each type of magic, so the opportunity is there to, for example, (from Chapter One) join lost knowledge groups; go ley hunting; learn dowsing; seek crop circles and explore holy wells; with resource lists of reference books, maps and websites as backup. And when we have finished our explorations, there is a list of relevant occult fiction of the period to help us to engage imaginatively with the subject matter. Then, back on to the coach and off to the next period.
Arranging such diverse sections of material and information must have been challenging, but the format they’ve adopted definitely works. The separate sections are clearly defined with visual strategies including varying borders, margins and font modifications.
To paraphrase Steven Skinner, commenting on Dr Dee, none of the wonderful, eccentric charlatans/showmen/magical adepts protrayed in these pages should be taken out of a wide historical context; each is not ‘a blip in magical history, but a continuity.’ From Stonehenge to the backstreets of magical Covent Garden, through countless generations of seekers, magic has surfaced to enrich the knowledge of successive generations.
Take your place in this history: buy this book and step on the bus!’ Penny Billington, Amazon Review
‘What Carr-Gomm and fellow author Richard Heygate have achieved is to make you feel like you are spending time with two very knowledgeable friends…a ‘must have’ for any Pagan library.’ Pagan Dawn, The Journal of the Pagan Federation
‘Good value for money with over 550 pages…and may even be destined to become something of a modern classic.’ The Cauldron
‘[There is] a big, vital narrative in this book. The Introduction states that ‘…of all the countries in the world, England has the richest and most varied history of magical lore’, and it makes this point well, giving a glimpse into the enchanted undergrowth of England’s culture, countryside and ancient cities.
This is a good thing; everyone but the English are proud of their cultural roots – as if English was the language of the observer, the special case of a non-magical tradition, viewing with a detached eye the weirdness of other cultures, when in fact we have the richest magical culture in the world.
Despite its flaws, I think this book is destined to become a beloved work of reference for a fair few magicians. I can imagine dusty copies reached down years hence from the shelf, a treasury of magical resources, a little bit like the role Julian Cope’s magnificent ‘Modern Antiquarian’ plays in the exploration of sacred sites.’ Dave Lee, Chaotopia Review
‘The book is an unusual jigsaw puzzle: each chapter is a piece which can be understood on its own, but when all the pieces are fitted together they form a bigger, coherent picture. It shows that the English and their magical paths are like a patchwork quilt of different fabrics, forming a colourful and harmonious whole like an English field system seen from the air. English magic has not developed in isolation but has been enriched over the centuries by waves of incoming traditions, a demonstration of the English gift for absorbing new ideas from diverse sources. In consequence, English magic is full of those oddities, curiosities and eccentricities which are traditionally the hallmarks of England.
The astonishing diversity and complexity of English magical disciplines are explored both comprehensively and accessibly, enabling the neophyte reader to work through the text swiftly and select an area of interest with ease. The more learned will find the book a useful summary of many aspects of magic that are not always covered in one source book, and it is up to date. Not much more could be asked of an introductory volume that, in fact, amounts to an encyclopaedia. The authors are to be congratulated on what is clearly a labour of love.’ Alexander J Betts, Albion Magazine
REVIEW FOR US READERS:
In England’s Green and Pleasant Land
Back in the Seventies, when I began my magical studies, it never occurred to me that nearly every tradition of magic that I could find came from a single small island perched off the northwestern shores of Europe. The few books on the subject that were readily available in those days, when they said anything at all about the origins of the teachings they transmitted, traced them back to the mystery temples of Egypt or the lamaseries of Tibet when they didn’t retreat into obscure mutterings about Atlantis and Lemuria. None of them described the material between their covers as “English Magic.”
The irony is that every one of them did in fact teach English magic. Whether they passed on tidbits of Wiccan lore or scraps of esoteric Freemasonry, outlined Dion Fortune’s polarity workings or Aleister Crowley’s sexual magic, taught the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram or gave instruction in the Enochian calls, they drew the great majority of the magical teachings they had to offer from occult traditions that derived from England.
Now it’s only fair to say that had I known that curious detail, it would have done nothing to diminish my fascination with magical lore. The fantasy fiction that whetted my desire for wizardry in the days before I realized that magic had an existence outside the world of fairy tales was itself mostly from England: J.R.R. Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, and the brilliant but now forgotten children’s author Joan North were the writers I loved most in those days. More generally, England itself had a firm place in my imagination, as something like an archetype of the opposite of everything that surrounded me in suburban Seattle, Washington. England was a place where knights and castles actually existed, where standing stones millennia old broke the sweep of grassy downs, where the thought of ancient magic coursing through the landscape wasn’t as preposterous as it seemed where I lived, in a place where all the history I learned in school started very little more than a century before I was born.
That was my version of the very common American love affair with Britain, and as the example shows, that love affair is a complicated thing. When cultural critic William Irwin Thompson, in his visionary work At The Edge of History, described America as a country with tremendous energy but no history, he touched on something that’s all the more central to our national imagination because it’s based on a profoundly one-sided view of our past. I was never taught, for example, that a hill rising up above the Duwamish river no more than an afternoon’s walk from the house where I spent most of my teen years was once the center of the world.
Its name was Sbabadil in those days, and it was the place where the animal powers of Coast Salish legend chanted the world into being from a lump of mud Muskrat brought up from the bottom of the sea. A mile or so away, in the rundown suburb of Belltown, another hill standing up stark above the floodplain was the house of the old rain spirit Squlats, Stormwind’s grandmother, and one of the most moving scenes in the great Duwamish epic of Northwind and Stormwind took place there. I would have loved reading about Northwind and Stormwind if I’d had any way of finding out about the story in my childhood. Instead, I read about Gandalf, the Light Maze, King Arthur and the heroes of the Mabinogion.
The fascinating thing is that the American projection of history onto England has something of a mirror image on the other side of the Atlantic. When my wife and I were traveling in England a few years ago, we stopped for supplies at a supermarket in St. Albans, and noted that English supermarkets, like American ones, have little motorized rides at the front door to absorb the excess energy of small children on shopping trips. The device at this store was a little car which bounced and jolted around, going nowhere. What made it interesting was the imaginary landscape painted on the wall in front of the windscreen. It was a highly condensed English version of America: huge skyscrapers on one side, tall cacti and desert scenery on the other, and a great sweeping cowboy-infested plain reaching away to distant mountains in between.
Now of course England has its own grand architecture, and the views from atop the Sussex downs are as sweeping as anything on America’s Great Plains. Still, America seems to be the place where the English park their dreams of limitless space, just as England is the place where Americans park their dreams of deep time. To put it another way, as a chance-met acquaintance said to me on that same trip as we walked among the stones of Avebury, the difference between the English and the Americans is that the English think a hundred miles is a long distance, and the Americans think a hundred years is a long time.
In an age when magic is commonly either traced back to the distant past or consigned to it, this odd habit of thinking goes a long way to explain why it was that the vast majority of the magical lore available to an eager student in 1970s America came from England and nowhere else. Still, there’s at least one more factor involved, which is that England has in fact produced much more than its share of important esoteric and magical traditions.
It wasn’t a passion for Englishness that attracted me to the Golden Dawn tradition of magic, the first system I seriously studied, or later on drew me to the modern Druid movement; it was that the first was among the most comprehensive, detailed, and functional systems of magical practice in the world, and the second combined effective and satisfying magical and spiritual teachings with a reverence for living Nature that I had come to feel was essential to any valid response to the troubles of our time. Still, it so happens that both these traditions, and many others, did in fact first come into being on English soil.
The remarkable relationship between England’s green and pleasant land and some of the most influential magical traditions of the modern world forms the territory that Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate have set out to explore in detail in The Book of English Magic. The result is well worth reading, and for several reasons.
First, of course, there’s the simple pleasure of reading, because The Book of English Magic is a lively and interesting book about a lively and interesting subject. It’s also a very good general introduction to magic: not just the history and teachings of magic, though it covers these in quite some detail, but some of the basic practices as well, for Carr-Gomm and Heygate spice their narrative with descriptions of how to perform many of the elementary types of English magic. An abundant selection of resources for further reading and study makes The Book of English Magic among the best sources anywhere for those whose curiosity inspires them to go beyond what any single book can teach them.
Still, to my mind the best thing about this admirable book is that it draws the distinction none of the books I studied in the Seventies managed to make. It is, precisely, a book of English magic; it links the panoply of occult traditions it surveys to that small island off the northwest coast of Europe where so much magic, and for that matter so much of today’s global culture, had its origins; in the process, in the friendliest possible way, Carr-Gomm and Heygate throw down a gauntlet that I hope many other authors around the world take up.
For there are many other traditions of magic that didn’t originate in England, of course; every land and every people in the world have magical teachings and practices to share. By turning over the most popular occult traditions of the present time to show the “Made In England” label on the bottom, The Book of English Magic challenges today’s magical practitioners—and the many other people interested in magic and the occult—to recognize that like every other creation of human culture, magical traditions are rooted in particular places and histories, and to look for the magic that might be hidden in plain sight where they live, as Sbabadil was hidden from me in my childhood. Some of the readers who pick up that gauntlet may well write books of their own about the magic of their own homelands, or the lands in which they now live—and they would be well advised to take detailed notes, as they read The Book of English Magic, for they will find no better example of how to take on such a task and accomplish it with aplomb.
John Michael Greer
Author, The New Encyclopedia of the Occult
Grand Archdruid, Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA)
‘I cannot praise this book enough both for its content and its style. It is a hefty tome at over 500 pages but beautifully bound and (once you get over the odd use of a lighter typeface for ‘practitioner’ contributions) designed. It may not be cheap but it is excellent value.
The structure is worth commenting on because, quite simply, it works and it puts to shame a lot of the shoddy editing that you currently get in the publishing industry.
As you read through the many testimonies in this book, you will see people with serious academic accomplishments rub alongside people whose status in society may be ‘lowly’ but who are accomplished in their abilities to see things the rest of us do not or in giving some sort of ‘spiritual’ service to others. The respect of each for all and of all for each is in marked contrast to cultures that ‘look up to’ priests, rabbis or imams and leave their spiritual thinking at the door of the church, mosque or synagogue.
This is not to denigrate the latter – they have their role as community religions which contain many strands of deep intellectual engagement, mysticism and consolation – but the structural difference (despite the High Priestesses and Grades of some advanced magical and pagan traditions) is that power comes from below instead from above. The wicked tantric Crowley was seeking to liberate his followers, even from their allegiance to him!
Highly recommended and enjoyable – a book I shall keep close by my desk for reference.’ Tim Pendry, www.Goodreads.com