Interviews,  Reviews

Book Review and Interview – Witchcraft Unchained by Craig Spencer

Book Review

Witchcraft Unchained:
Exploring the History
and Traditions of British Craft 

Written by Craig Spencer

Publisher: Crossed Crow Books

243 Pages

Release Date: June 22, 2023





Bright Blessings, readers,

When I saw this book was available to review, I jumped at it, and before I could say “thank you”, my editor sent it to me. Why did I specifically want to review this book? Because it is rare – rarer than rare. Today, few care about the history of the craft. Most pagans and witches want spell-books instead of learning about the roots of our craft. Some of us witches do want to learn, so I was very excited to see a book published about this.

That’s not to say “nobody cares” about the topic – but not everybody does. It is “boring” and “fundamental” information not everybody bothers with. It won’t make your spells more effective, and it won’t teach you how to draw money or lovers. It tells you about other witches, many of whom are no longer alive, and whose magic was very different form mainstream magic of today. Today, magic has gone mainstream, and that is not because today’s witches are extra special. It is because yesterday’s witches fought for our rights and proved that our practices are legitimate. A big part of my training as a priestess was learning about witchcraft from years ago and the people who made damned sure there was a place for people to practice. So I’m thrilled this book is out.

First, I’d like to share the author’s bio! On Crossed Crow’s site, it says,

“Spencer is a Lancashire born Anglo-Italian witch who practices Traditional Lancashire Witchcraft. His academic background earned him a Bachelor of Science degree with honours form the University of Salford and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of Central Lancashire. He is an integrated therapist and reiki teacher. In how downtime, he enjoys reading, learning new languages (currently Mandarin “ni hao”), and his love for all things comedy and horror. Craig can be found on Instagram @WitchcraftUnchained and Twitter @CraigSpencer90. Other works by Craig Spencer include Aradia: A Modern Guide to Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gospel of the Witches published by Llewellyn Worldwide.”

The book is well researched and well written. What one would assume is an exploration of the author’s individual group practices, this book delves into the past century or so of British Witchcraft. Our elders such as Cecil Williamson and Raymond Buckland are written about of course, and no one tradition of modern British Witchcraft is advocated for. Spencer has broken the book up into nine chapters plus a section for his closing words and of course he includes a forward, intro, bibliography, and index. The chapters explore our elders, and founders of modern witchcraft traditions, defines terminology, discusses Sabbats and Esbats, ancient gods, initiation as a witch, how to be protective of the Craft, the difference between the Kabbalah and Qabalah, and what sacred sexuality is and isn’t. Before I go any farther, this book is so well written, I feel every individual who calls themselves a witch ought to read it. So, in light of this, instead of doing a summary of each and every chapter, I will review one of the chapters in depth, sharing some of Spencer’s writing.

In his chapter titled “The Gods,” Spencer understands that not all witches had the luxury of forming a relationship with pagan goddesses and gods early in life. Right at the beginning of this chapter, he discusses different ways witches can start building these relationships. He writes,

“One scenario for introduction to a deity, though less common, is when an individual hears a call from that deity presenting in an archetypal form instead of a more readily identifiable persona. When this happens, it is often to people who did not plan on building a relationship with a deity at all.”

Unfortunately sometimes, a lot of the lore and knowledge about a deity is lost, and Spencer writes,

“When a deity calls and there is no reliable information available on how to reach out and build a connection, it can be rather frustrating and often leaves people feeling like they have hit a wall in their spiritual growth and personal development.”

What then? He has solutions. He points out that some British people did not give faces to their gods but considered their gods to be the very things they represented like rain, thunder, or the earth, and the Romans influenced them to make more humanistic images of their gods. So, he recommends getting to know the Triple Goddess and the Dual god, and how they interact with one another. Then wait for them to communicate directly with you, because if you have a true relationship with a deity, they will certainly speak to you. He points out that goddesses like Hekate and Brigid were often portrayed as three different women with their backs touching one another, and the archetypes of Maiden, Mother, and Crone united are modern day forms of these triple goddesses.

Spencer explores different literary interpretations of triple goddesses including Aleister Crowley’s and Robert Graves’ as well as Sigmund Freud’s and he goes back much farther. Regarding what the Neoplatonist Porphyry wrote, he writes,

“Casting our timeline back to the third century, we meet the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry (234–305 CE) who wrote about the aspects of the Triple Goddess in his work On Images. Although the triple moon symbolism used by Crowley (new, half, and full moon) is only partially hinted at here, it is a strong indication of the Triple Goddess being remembered in her three key aspects. But, again, the moon is Hecate, the symbol of her varying phases and of her power dependent on the phases. Wherefore her power appears in three forms, having as symbol of the new moon the figure in the white robe and golden sandals, and torches lighted: the basket, which she bears when she has mounted high, is the symbol of the cultivation of the crops, which she makes to grow up according to the increase of her light: and again the symbol of the full moon is the Goddess of the brazen sandals … And, again, the Fates are referred to her powers, Clotho to the generative, and Lachesis to the nutritive, and Atropos to the inexorable will of the deity.”

What you get from Spencer is both education on ancient lore, and it makes you think of how you can apply it to your own practices. He also discusses something a lot of pagans speak of often – the Dark Mother. He defines the Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects of the goddess, discusses what both classical and contemporary literature say about all of them, and then he discusses the divine masculine. Spencer traces the worship of the Horned God from as early as cave paintings and says though the Horned God was not quite in a triple form, he did have a dual form. Spencer discusses him as a god of vitality and as having the potential to do all things but also a god of sacrifice and death and then resurrection. He writes,

“The two aspects of the God, expressed as sex (or life) and death, are tied to the process of the human condition. When I was training in past life therapy and clinical hypnotherapy, one of my assignments called for a discussion on the link between fear and sexuality. Within this work, discussing the link between sexuality and death was inevitable. The following extract of my writing from that assignment perfectly expresses the interrelatedness of these two aspects of the God: ‘The link between fear and sexuality, which could be further reduced to primal pain and pleasure, is linked in a manner not too dissimilar to the conscious and subconscious mind. When one instinct is dominant in its expression, the opposing or complementary opposite is suppressed or inhibited. When one needs to fight or flee, sex and intimacy provide no useful survival strategies and are therefore inhibited to allow the appropriate survival urges to take precedence.  Likewise, in times of war, the rates of pregnancy and births tend to increase. In this instance, the fear instinct becomes inhibited or suppressed so that the instinct to reproduce takes a dominant position. This can be seen as a way of compensating for the potential loss of lives during a dangerous time and protecting the genetic line in case of invasion and the threat becomes a more personal issue.’”

He then discusses how the goddess and god interact with one another to and he then discusses how to reconnect to these deities. He has a journaling exercise, and he really seeks to help the reader connect. He advocates really spending time communicating with your deities and says not to just focus on the very first aspect of your deity that is presented to you. He writes,

“Although the first aspect you identify with represents your strongest alignment, it is important to remember that the divine has other aspects and by getting to know them too, you build a stronger relationship with the divine as a whole. This in turn will strengthen your magical practice as your connections will become stronger. You may also find that your altar setup changes at certain times of the year as well as the type of magic that you are called to use. Embrace the natural unfolding of these changes as you establish new connections and keep notes of your progress and newfound guidance.”

This is a book to educate and help people get to know their own personal magic. He does not preach belief or one particular way to be a witch, but he shares things that Traditional British Witchcraft traditions focus on and helps to explain to people who do not belong to those traditions what they entail. Sure, some magic is included, but more is about personal growth and how to do meaningful spiritual rituals. There are prayers included, but this author knows that being a witch means KNOWING a lot. It’s not all book learning, but it’s not all instinct either. This is a well-rounded book for today’s witches- who he rightfully expresses will become the witch elders of tomorrow.

Before I provide the link to this awesome book, I lucked into the chance to interview Craig, and you can read all abut what he had to say!

Interview with Craig Spencer

(PaganPages.Org) Lady Saoirse: How did you become a writer? What are some of your goals when you write? 

Craig: Prior to writing my first book, Aradia: A Modern Guide to Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gospel of the Witches (Llewellyn, 2020), I had no intention of becoming a writer. Of course I’m sure we all have a book in us somewhere, but it was never a conscious effort. I had an idea that I would have loved to see in print, something I hoped someone would write and publish. I was casually mentioning it while scrolling on my phone when my mum encouraged me to put my own idea on paper. I did just that – typing away at my computer – but I never imagined it would make it into print. It was picked up and has been well received. Knowing I had other thoughts and ideas that I would love to see done, I followed that initial advice and have become an accidental writer.

The main goal I have in mind when writing a manuscript is based on a 2012 Christmas film titled It’s Christmas, Carol! (starring Emmanuelle Vaugier and the late Carrie Fisher). The film, which centres around a ‘scrooge-like’ publisher, concludes with the concept of publishing books that ‘deserve to be read.’ I keep that in mind throughout the writing process. Does this book deserve to be read? Following the release of my latest book Witchcraft Unchained: Exploring the History & Traditions of British Craft (Crossed Crow Books, 2023), and the feedback I have received, it would appear that it’s a good strategy to use.

Lady Saoirse: What drew you to use your writing to educate and help people?

Craig: Partly the reasons I’ve already mentioned. If someone is going to buy my book, then it should have a purpose. Witchcraft is such a small niche, so variety is needed to escape the trap of having another book that just says the same as the twenty that came before it. People care more than ever about being well informed and dispelling misinformation. That is why I write to teach and help people. If we don’t share the knowledge that we have, then we are depriving people of something valuable which helps to build and strengthen our community. There is nothing better than seeing how your work affects people in unexpected ways and it really is rewarding to see how people take the seed of your work and grow it into something wonderful.

Lady Saoirse: Talk about your personal spiritual path. What opened you up to it, who has been a major influence on you, and how do you identify?

Craig: I identify as a witch. In all honesty I can’t really say when I became a witch. I feel like the Craft has always been there for me in one form or another. It helped that I had family to turn to in order to explore and I was never pushed down any particular path. I feel that you will always be drawn to what is right for you if you are given the chance to find it yourself. Luckily, I had that opportunity. I refer to my Craft, if the need arises, as Traditional Lancashire Witchcraft, because it is heavily rooted in where I live. That said, I don’t see witchcraft as being divided into many branches. We, the people, bring variety but the Craft is a power which I believe has no true boundaries.

Lady Saoirse: There are a lot of spell-books, but Witchcraft Unchained goes above and beyond to educate. What made you decide to do a book with history and practice as opposed to a book that is more mainstream and focuses on spells and potions?

Craig: I love the mainstream angle of books on witchcraft, but the history often gets neglected today. I feel this has allowed misinformation to spread and I feel bad for people new to the Craft. They try to find sound information, but with so much contradiction it becomes impossible to spot a good book from a bad book. People who have practiced longer don’t have that same issue, but when we first started the misinformation was few and far between. I needed to give time to a book that would allow anyone to be able to spot the difference for themselves as well as addressing more long-standing misconceptions that have in recent years become dividing points in the community. A thriving tree needs strong roots to grow tall and strong. A community isn’t much different. I’ve already had messages from people expressing their gratitude for helping them navigate some more complex topics of witchcraft, and I’m glad that it has helped them to overcome an unnecessary obstacle in their own path.

Lady Saoirse: You write a lot about our elders who came before us in Witchcraft Unchained. Where do you feel witchcraft is heading? What do you feel is in the future for modern witchcraft?

Craig: The Craft, at present, is taking an active interest in inclusivity, becoming aware of its former biases, addressing appropriation issues and becoming aware of the importance of its ‘family history’.

Moving forward, I feel that the Craft will start to undo the misconceptions and overcome, slowly but surely, the rogue elements that cause it to regress in its development. I expect to see less of the labels that cause division and false elitism and move towards a more co-operative community where sharing information is more accessible. The Craft will attract more people and it will become slightly less commercialized as it reaches back to its occult roots. A blend of old and new ways of thinking that will undoubtedly make the community stronger. The signs of this are already becoming visible and I, for one, look forward to seeing this more mature form of witchcraft flourish.

Lady Saoirse: What are you working on now and what plans for future projects would you like to share? 

Craig: I have two manuscripts taking shape at the moment. Without giving too much away: One is an idea I had quite a few years ago which will explore the Craft traditions of my own regional practice. The other, which I expect to be my next released work, is a spellbook, but will have an educational twist that I haven’t seen done before. I am excited to see this one released in particular because I feel the approach will put more power in the hands of the witch – allowing for more creativity and personal preference.

Lady Saoirse: Please provide any links you would like to share. Pages? Videos? etc.? 

Craig: All links for me can be found at
My author Instagram account and my Twitter are probably the most active places to connect with me as well as my YouTube content. Readings (Tarot, Rune and I Ching) and spellwork can be arranged with me via my DM’s on Instagram (author account) and Twitter. Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. I am very grateful. Many Blessings.

There you have it, folks. Beautiful words from an amazing author who has gifted a phenomenal book to our community. Don’t take my word for it. Read the book. You can buy your copy directly from the publisher here: Witchcraft Unchained: Exploring the History & Traditions of British Craft — Crossed Crow Books


Witchcraft Unchained on Amazon



About the Author:

Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.

A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.

Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!

Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.

All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, Lord Shadow, and she became a Third Degree High priestess in 2022. She belongs to the Black Dragon Clan.