Book Review – Pure Magic by Judika Illes

Book Review

Pure Magic

by Judika Illes

Publisher: Weiser Books

320 Pages

Release Date: April 1, 2022





Originally published as Earth Mother Magic in 2001, and later as Pure Magic in 2007 and The Big Book of Practical Spells in 2016, the newly updated Weiser Classics edition of Judika Illes’ first book Pure Magic boasts a new foreword by Mat Auryn and a new preface by Judika Illes.

My own first experience of Illes’ work was when I acquired The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts a few years after it came out. That monumental volume has been with me since, and while I have occasionally used it for magical practice, I have to admit that like most people, I use it much more for reference and research than praxis. The relationship between that book and Pure Magic is similar in nature to Thomas Aquinas’ own Shorter Summa which he wrote as a condensed version of his encyclopedic Summa Theologica. Whereas The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells included everything plus the kitchen sink, Pure Magic condenses this work and extracts the most important and valuable practices to form this guide to fundamental magical practices. It’s also a more personal look at Illes’ understanding of magic, as well as her own practice.

In Part One: Magic 101, Illes explores personal power, basic ideas and models of magic, and earth-based magic. She gives a glossary of some common magical words and ideas, along with some information about energetic and psychic work. She also discusses the elements, color associations, and useful magical supplies and ingredients. This section lives up to its name Magic 101, and a lot of this information will be familiar to anyone who has practiced magic in a European or American magical tradition, but it provides a nice summary if you’re looking to return to those basics.

In Part Two: Other Powers: Your Magic Allies, Illes discusses animals, spirit beings, metals and minerals, and botanicals, and how these can be used as tools or allies, depending upon the circumstances and intention of the magic working. Animals are discussed in both spiritual and natural terms, and some basic methods and rules are set down for interacting with spiritual beings in this section. She also discusses ancestors and spiritual forces, ranging from Baba Yaga to Hecate, with whom many witches work. Finally, she explores some correspondences and spell-work that can be done with crystals and botanicals, including many recipes for various sorts of botanical preparations. This part of the book is appealingly simple and not overwhelming (as it can be in some similar books…), and the spells contained seem very focused and to-the-point. 

In Part Three: Spells, Illes lays out a comprehensive catalogue of effective spells for various intentions. This part of the book is similar to the bulk of her Encyclopedias, but tends much more towards the practical than some of the spells contained in those books. This section includes spells for aura-cleansing, protection, psychic enhancements, divination, luck, beauty, love, marriage, fertility, childbirth, infants, children, money, healing, and death. The book then ends with a short botanical appendix, bibliography, and index of spells. 

Something that I have always enjoyed about Illes’ work is that it presents a very broad and inclusive perspective of magical practices, and Pure Magic is no different. Whereas her Encyclopedias accomplish this inclusivity through volume and variety, Pure Magic accomplishes it through balance and democracy, allowing many different viewpoints to have a seat at the table while trying to form a centered and focused practice that has room for all. This book is a classic exploration of magical theory which is going to go on my bookshelf between Starhawk’s Spiral Dance and Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, as I expect to return to it repeatedly.


About the Author:

Judika Illes is an author, editor, card reader, educator, aromatherapist, and spiritual advisor. A lover, student, and practitioner of the magical arts since childhood, her numerous books include the bestselling Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells, Encyclopedia of Spirits, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Daily Magic, and Magic When You Need It. Judika teaches in the United States and internationally, live and virtually. Follower her on Instagram @judikailles.


Pure Magic on Amazon



About the Author:

Sarah McMenomy is a visionary artist, author, and witch. Pulling inspiration from trance states, dreams, auras, psychedelia, and the natural world, she weaves together themes of nature and the occult in her artwork and writing. She has created art and written for books, magazines, games, and more, as well as producing digital fine art prints and acrylic paintings. 
She is the creator of The Entanglement Tarot, a hex-shaped occult Tarot deck designed for spell-craft. 
She is co-runner of Pagan Pages, for which she also writes articles and book reviews, and she also publishes art on her Portfolio site and other work on her Tumblr.