Richards begins his book with an extensive introduction to the land of Appalachia and the spirits of the land. Having grown up in the area of the Southern Appalachians, spent my summers on the Qualla Boundary in NC and attended college in Bristol, VA, a stone's throw from his hometown of Johnson City, TN, all I can say is he makes me homesick! I KNOW the places he's referring to and when he talks about the mountains, it's obvious he has a deep love for and connection with the land spirits in this particular part of the country. Reading Jake's writing is like sitting on the porch in the evening with a glass of sweet tea, talking to a friend and watching the lightning bugs come out! He so evocatively captures the spirit of the land in which he lives that it makes me forget I'm not there any longer. One of the things that most impresses me about this book is the fact that he speaks of making connection with the land spirits and making offerings.  Too many books these days are all about taking and not a reciprocal relationship with the land spirits. I found this highly refreshing in this book. He also says not to expect
to be immediately accepted, which I also find good, sound advice.

He speaks of honoring the ancestors which is SOOOOO familiar to me.  I still remember as a young child going to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of the dead on Memorial Day. He explains many traditions and practices that trace back to the African Americans, Native Americans, and Scots Irish folk who populated the beautiful country in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia, while acknowledging the roots of those customs and practices are
sometimes far over the oceans from American shores.

Many of the practices he speaks of are familiar to me from my childhood or at least through the stories that my own ancestors told.  My mother used to wear an asafetida bag around her neck as a child for protection from sickness and be given a tonic every spring of sulfur and molasses, and when I was stung by a bee at an early age, she chewed tobacco and applied it to the bee sting to draw out the poison. Throughout the book, he gives many practices and beliefs that are easily adopted by a magical practitioner of any path, although there are also some that I would be hesitant to adopt if I were not a Conjure practitioner. To me, it would feel too much like cultural appropriation to cherry pick a lot of these items.

The one thing that I can see that might be a stumbling block in this book is the heavy reliance on the King James Bible in the practices. Too many pagans that I know of have a knee jerk reaction to the Christian Bible and would not be comfortable with this practice. It's not for everyone for sure. My own experiences with Protestant Christianity of the Southern Baptist persuasion would make it difficult for me to become a Conjure practitioner.
That being said, he did open my eyes to an entirely different magical way of looking at the Bible and making it compatible with magical work that is refreshing. All the previous works I had seen that blended Christianity and Witchcraft took a much more Catholic road, working with Saints and Archangels. This is definitely Protestant based, and yet, having grown up in the region, I have seen it work. At the time, I had NO idea that it was magical work or Witchcraft, but looking back, I would say yeah, it was there. I just didn't know what I was looking at. And maybe my ancestors didn't realize it either.

At any rate, let it be known that I LOVE this book and look eagerly forward to future writings from Jake Richards. I highly recommend it to more advanced practitioners, but think that beginners might find it difficult to be comfortable with, especially if they've had a bad experience with Protestant Christianity.

~review by Rowan Moonstone
Author: Jake Richards
Weiser Books 2019
p.207, pp. $18.95

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