Book Review: Pagan Magic of the Northern Tradition; Customs, Rites and Ceremonies by Nigel Pennick




This is a brilliant book and an absolute treasure trove of esoteric information you will not easily find elsewhere! I was pleased to be asked to review it as I had already set the intention to post a review – because this author deserves more readers.

In this book Pennick describes how magic was deeply embedded in the everyday life of pre-Christian societies in Northern Europe. People believed in magic both because it worked and because their whole worldview was inherently magical. In this book Pennick examines the underlying principles of this work and how different forms of magic are powered and used.

When we speak of the Northern Tradition many people think of Scandinavia and perhaps Iceland but this book also explains the local expressions the Northern Tradition took in e.g..England and other Germanic countries. It has a far wider range than some books I have read on the subject and I love the way he explains local differences and “flavour” in such detail. He must have done a lot of research! He also appears to personally interview people who know about “the old ways” wherever possible, meaning that I find references and material in his books that I not have encountered in other texts. I would buy his book for that reason alone and since reading it I have recommended it to shamanic teacher colleagues with an interest in Norse shamanism or The Northern Tradition.

My favourite chapter is Chapter 4: Astronomy and the Winds because it is very difficult to find quality information about the way the ancient Norse peoples viewed the night sky. In most books this is dealt with by making reference to only about two asterisms (or single planets) and myths (usually the goddess Frigga’s spindle and the giant Aurvandil’s Toe) but Pennick goes way beyond that and I was thrilled to find the information – even if some it might be highly speculative and reconstructed (according to the author), it helped me see my beloved night sky through a Norse lens of perception.

Another thing I love about Pennick’s writing (not only this book) is his immense knowledge about ancient time keeping, feast days and special occasions and so forth. Reading his books I feel a compulsion to reinstate some of those ancient holidays (holy days) in my own life and celebrate them again.

As a matter of fact I myself wrote a number of contributions about Scandinavian festials and feast days for a book that will be published later this year, edited by Lucya Starza. The title is Every Day Magic – A Pagan Book of Days: 366 Magical Ways to Observe the Cycle of the Year. Here is the link if you want to reserve your copy:



Pennick’s book has a glossary at the end which is immensely useful for people who are new to this tradition and allows reader to flick back the pages for a quick refresher on what certain words or phrases mean.

All in all this book is a treat and a book I will dip into over and over as a source for inspiration and information for classes I teach or answers to questions my students ask.

Highly recommended and it will go on the reading list for my students of Norse Shamanism in both Sweden and the US!

Imelda Almqvist, London, 18 May 2017


Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books on 26th August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally. 

For her courses in Norse Shamanism (in both Europe and soon coming to the US as well) please visit the following webpages