Book Review: Alive with Spirits by Althaea Sebastiani

Overview of Alive with Spirits

Alive with Spirits: The Path and Practice of Animistic Witchcraft by Althaea Sebastiani, published by Weiser, is a book that I’ve been personally excited to read since Weiser mentioned it on social media. Sebastiani doesn’t disappoint, either. She starts off with what I consider a thesis on the philosophy of animism, in that it isn’t something you believe but rather, something you embody through daily practice. Sebastiani continuously breaks down societal barriers and programming that prevent most from fully taking on this worldview. She states that Animistic Witchcraft and Polytheism typically go hand-in-hand (and from experience as a Polytheist and Animist, I concur), but that other paradigms of Witchcraft also can see the world through the lens of animist. Alive with Spirits is an excellent book for the modern witch, no matter what type of Witchcraft you practice; for beginners, this is a foundational text to the true power within witchcraft-connecting to the Land, its spirits, and viewing all as connected and part of a community. Sebastiani gives tips on working with spirits, how to define boundaries in your practice with these spirits, and most of all, developing the intuition every witch needs to discern different spirits from one another, as well as when it could just be a fantastical thought of the mind/ego. Towards the end of the book, Sebastiani goes through material that helps the reader embody what it truly is to be an animist and witch, while connecting to the Land and its inhabitant spirits. Sebastiani argues that witchcraft isn’t just something you believe in, or practice, but rather, something you embody, and she makes this point multiple times throughout the book, and backs up these lessons with thought provoking journal prompts, as well as practical and easily practiced exercises that change your perspective on witchcraft for the already practicing witch, and will help the beginner witch grow into the truest form of witchcraft possible. Sebastiani also gives sections pertaining to communicating with spirits, manners and other pertinent topics dealing with spirit work and animism. The book ends with a glossary of terms mentioned throughout the book, giving definitions that are easily understandable to reference as you read through the book.

Personal Thoughts on Alive with Spirits

Normally, I read through books at a breezy pace, especially if the topic interests me. However, I found myself taking my time with this book, allowing the material to seep in, and take its hold on me. I found myself connecting to my local spirits and Land even more than I had before. This book awakened an even deeper appreciation for the Land around me, while also connecting me with the Fae and other spirits local to me. Some pretty amazing things have happened since in my personal life, and I feel more connected as a Witch and Pagan than ever. The exercises in the book helped me break down some lasting impacts of a materialist society that kept me separated from a truly animist view of my craft, and I have noticed a lot of growth, not just in my spiritual path, but also in my everyday life, since embarking on the journey this book took me on. I appreciate Sebastiani’s gender-neutral take on the Craft, which is sometimes hard to find in Witchcraft books (men can be witches, too, after all). Sebastiani ditched the formality of modern ceremonial Craft, in favor of a truly connected type of Craft that I feel hearkens back to what Witchcraft was most likely involved with, the Craft our ancestors and Mighty Dead most likely practiced. On a scale of 1-5, I give Alive with Spirits a 5; this book is excellent for beginners (especially those who don’t feel a call to the more ceremonial types of Witchcraft out there, such as the more classic Wiccan texts), and intermediate and advanced witches will find themselves evolving and growing, changing their perspective on the very nature of the world, the spirit world, and everything around us. Sebastiani succeeds where many others have failed (in my personal opinion) in describing animistic witchcraft, and making it accessible to anyone, regardless of theistic belief, locality, ancestry, or any other way of identifying oneself. This is a book on witchcraft, pure and simple, without the pantheon based interpretations, although one can certainly put these practices together with any pantheon(s). This is the book every witch should have on their shelf!

Althaea Sebastiani has devoted her time fully to working with spirits and religious education, assisting others in navigating their deeply spiritual practices. She has made spiritual counseling and education her focus, especially within the context of witchcraft and animism. She is the author of a few other books, including By Rust of Nail and Prick of Thorn. You can find her @LadyAlthaea or at 


About the Author:

Hello there! I’m the Modern Merlin, and I’ve been a Polytheist Pagan, Witch, Sorcerer, Wizard, Mystic, Ceremonial Magician, Shaman and Soothsayer for 15 years, worshipping and working with deities and spirits from many cultures, including Ancient Greece, Rome, Norse & Germanic, Celtic, Egyptian, Sumerian, as well as Yoruba & Voodoo deities. I study and practice Astrology as well as Tarot and other forms of divination. I give readings and spiritual services on my Facebook Page, The Modern Merlin, as well other free informational posts for everyone to see!