Reviews & Interviews

Book Review – The Book of Shadows: A Journal of Magick, Spells, & Rituals by Anastasia Greywolf

Book Review

The Book of Shadows

A Journal of Magick, Spells, & Rituals

by Anastasia Greywolf

Publisher: Wellfleet Press

160 Pages

Publication date: October 5, 2021

 

 

This new addition to the Wellfleet Press collection of “Mystical Handbooks” is an impressive looking combination between a beginner’s guide to magick and spells and a journal to record progress in spellcasting. The book promises a foundation in witchcraft basics, reviews of what you need to become a witch, and over 40 spells and rituals aimed at transforming and improving your life.

The first thing I noticed about this book was the beautiful presentation. From the striking, gothic-inspired cover to the detailed and colorful illustrations within, this is a very pretty book. This contrasts harshly with a few glaring typos – the editor should know the difference between “aid” and “aide”! This shouldn’t be too much of a distraction but as an editor myself, and in such an otherwise gorgeously presented book, it made my eye twitch a little.

The intro goes through basic definitions of spells and rituals, the origin and use of the word “Magick”, and how to use the journal. It’s both accessible and easy to read, ideal for new learners and a good refresher for more experienced witches.

There’s a section on Witchcraft Essentials, which if I hadn’t been reading this book for review, would have made me put it down and give up at that point. The author emphasises the “importance of colors, herbs, and crystals to better prepare you for spellwork.” Of course, you don’t need any of these tools to be an effective witch. While I appreciate that crystals are a popular tool, encouraging new or beginner witches to go out and buy crystals is devastating for both the environment and the people caught up in the appalling work practices associated with the mining of precious and semi-precious stones. If you buy crystals, please research and buy as ethically as possible, or look for pre-owned crystals that you can cleanse and repurpose.

The “Tool Kit” indicates that every witch has to have 14 fairly specific items, including smudge sticks (only First Tribes smudge, it is a sacred practice for them, and anyone privileged enough to be taught by someone who can use this skill appropriately) and an athame or alternative blade, which not all witches use. Some readers may really appreciate this list but others will find it at odds with their path or practice. I find any instruction that tells you “you must have these exact tools for witchcraft” a bit of a red flag, and readers should take this with a pinch of salt. Of course, experienced practitioners will shrug at this and make their own minds up about what to use. It worries me that “newbies” are being told to buy all this stuff, even encouraged to look at specific retail websites. Consumerism is rarely in the spirit of witchcraft, although of course, everyone has different views on this. Thankfully, the author discourages the use of White Sage, sacred to some First Tribes. However, the author states that smudging is a part of many traditions, when it’s not: other traditions have smoke cleansing or saining.

In a similar vein, the author states that soy candles are better for the environment, but soy contributes to devastating swathes of deforestation. I feel like the author is coming from a good place, but rather than researching the “facts” they’ve provided, they’ve perhaps repeated something they’ve been told in good faith. Again, always research the impact of your candles and other tools and look for certified sustainable products.

The reference sections like the color magic and herb correspondences are simple but extremely beautiful and well laid out. I also love the different options given for a cauldron, such as a large shell – something I actually utilise myself! There are good safety warnings around flower essences and essential oils – something often missing from books of this ilk.

The book very quickly moves into simple and then more complex oil blends, and how to anoint; setting up altars and consecrating/cleansing; moon phases and other aspects of many witchcraft traditions. A few of these are simplified to the point of inaccuracies. An example is stating that the new moon and dark moon have the same energy – possibly debatable but every tradition I’m aware of treats them differently – and stating that the full moon is the most powerful phase of the moon. Anyone who works with Hekate will raise their eyebrows at that statement!

The spells section really embraces the “journal” aspect of this book. Each spell has a section for notes and results, and any modifications made. I really like this aspect as I’m a serial noter! What a great way to keep a record of your progress as you learn more about magic and witchcraft. The notes section has questions relevant to the spell in question, prompting the reader to really explore various aspects of the spellwork. The author also has fantastic advice about clarity of purpose or intent, and ways to achieve this. This is by far my favourite section of the book as it’s useful for new practitioners, but also a great reminder to more experienced magic users or spell casters of the vast variety of spells out there and uses for magic, and the many different ways of preparing and carrying out spell work.

Yes, there’s a love spell section, often problematic in many volumes. But you know what? This author manages to pull together a collection of ethical and mindful love spells focused on attracting particular attributes, healing oneself, or dispelling negativity. There is no coercion or messing with another’s energies; it’s more about working on yourself to make yourself happier. I love that.

Overall, this book has its ups and downs. I love the presentation. It’s gorgeous, and would make a beautiful solstice gift for anyone who loves “grimoire” style books with incredible illustrations. It does, sadly, fall into the trap of so many current Magick manuals of muddling sacred practices from closed cultures into modern witchcraft, sprinkled with some misinformation. It’s difficult to avoid this, as so many “facts” are shared over and over (like the soy candle sustainability fallacy) so try and make sure you do your own research about what tools and practices are actually good for the environment and ethical. The spells are well thought out and accessible, not path specific, and fascinating to read. And the journaling aspect is a win for anyone who, like me, loves to keep records and look back on them.

 

 

Anastasia Greywolf lives in the Northeastern U.S. and is a founding member of her Coven, the Coven of the Moonbeam Ravine. She has decades of experience as an herbalist and a witch. She’s also penned two other books apart from The Book of Shadows. These are Love Spells: A Handbook of Magic, Charms, and Potions and Witchcraft: A Handbook of Magic, Spells, and Potions, both in the same Mystical Handbook series.

 


The Book of Shadows: A Journal of Magick, Spells, & Rituals (Mystical Handbook, 9) on Amazon
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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors & Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.