Book, books, books! I have a lot of books about folklore and legends, but somehow alway find room for more. This week I'm reviewing some recent books I really enjoyed.
First up, let's talk about New World Witchery, by Cory Thomas Hutcheson. This book is a massive, 452-page compendium of magical folklore from across North America. Hutcheson has a PhD in folklore and is the long-time cohost of the New World Witchery podcast, so he really knows his stuff. I was a guest on the podcast several years ago and had a great time.
Like many of my readers, Hutcheson is also a practicing witch, and New World Witchery is written primarily for an audience eager to get its hands dirty and do some magic. Other people will enjoy the book as well - there's so much information in it! - but he includes exercises and tips for those who want to do more than just read.
New World Witchery covers a wide range of topics, with chapters on divination, animal magic, counter magic, necromancy, dealing with the Devil, and a whole lot more. The book draws upon the many diverse magical traditions found in North America, including Hoodoo, Southern Conjure, Mountain Magic, Cuaranderismo and Brujeria, Pow-Wow, and Neo-Paganism. Even if you're familiar with a variety of folk magic traditions you'll definitely learn new things. I did.
For example, in addition to the traditions above, Hutcheson also discusses New England Witchery, which is a favorite topic of mine. I've been studying it for years but I still found new insights in his book. Before reading New World Witchery, I didn't know that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote an article about the hallucinogenic ointments witches allegedly used to fly to their devilish revels. Now I do!
Another book in a similar vein, but also very different, is Folkloric American Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience by Via Hedera. The publisher, Moon Books, sent me a copy for review, but I would have purchased this one anyway.
Hedera is a practicing witch who lives in the Pacific Northwest, and she is also ethnically multi-racial, which shapes the tone of Folkloric American Witchcraft.
Every one of my grandparents were a different ethnicity from the other; my siblings, their siblings and I all have different fathers and thus have different genetic backgrounds. My mother was adopted so I spent a good deal of my life immersed in cultures that I am not ethnically related to but very familiar with. It's an old story, an American one, a magical one... (Via Hedera, Folkloric American Witchcraft, p.21)
While New World Witchery provides you with maximum magical information, Folkloric American Witchcraft gives you the inspiration to use it. Hedera does include spells and charms that you can use, but she is more concerned with finding the motivation to practice folk magic in America's weird, messy, and often violent history.
American folk magic and witchcraft is a crossroads of clashing cultures. Brought together by adversity, theft, enslavement, expansion, love, war and liberty, our culture as Americans is defined by our diversity, and our traditions of magic were birthed first by a synthesis of European, African, and Indigenous spiritual beliefs and superstitions, and then later by all the many parts of the world (Via Hedera, Folkloric American Witchcraft, p. 64)
After reading Folkloric American Witchcraft you'll want to get off the couch and start casting spells. I know money is tight these days for many people, but if you can afford it I would recommend both New World Witchery and Folkloric American Witchcraft. They work together well as companion books.
Finally, and on a totally different topic, there's Mike Dupler's On the Trail of Bigfoot: Tracking the Enigmatic Giants of the Forest, which was sent to me by New Page Books. I am a Bigfoot fan, and really enjoyed On the Trail of Bigfoot. There are a lot of Bigfoot books out there, and I liked Dupler's book because it provides a nice overview of current thinking about Bigfoot.
Dupler addresses questions like the following: Does Bigfoot make structures in the woods? How does Bigfoot communicate? If those topics sound dry (and they aren't), you might enjoy the chapter titled, "Is Sasquatch Interdimensional?" Dupler believes Bigfoot is a physical animal, but does speculate about other dimensions. Here's a description of something seen at the famous Skinwalker Ranch in Utah:
While watching from a bluff one evening, team members saw a strange yellow light appear. This glowing anomaly grew and morphed into a tunnel. One of the crew watched the spectacle through binoculars and, to his amazement, a large faceless black humanoid exited the tunnel and lumbered away. The creature seemed reminiscent of a Sasquatch. The tunnel then dissipated as if it had never been there, leaving the creature in the night with the shaken investigators (Mike Dupler, On the Trail of Bigfoot, p. 117)
I love a strange Sasquatch story, and Dupler includes many in his book, including classics from the 19th and early 20th century with titles like "The Salmon River Devil" and "The Beast of Mica Mountain." Trappers and hunters sure seemed to encounter lots of weird, hairy humanoids back then.
There you have it: books about folk magic, folk magic, and Bigfoot. Perfect beach reading as summer begins!