Melusine Draco combines science, tradition, and pragmatism to produce an outstanding book on magical practices for the beach-and-water loving witch. She does not waste time with long lists of associations or gods, but gets right into the dirt-under-your-nails part of sea witchcraft. The instructions on how to get out of quicksand may be one of the most surprising and valuable pieces ever including in an occult book; the advice to carry a pocket knife might surprise some readers, but is refreshingly sensible. This small gem is just one valuable piece of information in the book – it also shows methods of honoring sea life by preserving its safety, information on cloud shapes and types and the weather that they bring, and it promotes a method of witchery that does very little to disrupt the environment. Draco could write a series on survivalism for witches; anything she has to say on the subject would be better than any Girl Scout handbook.
The only thing that mars the book is a bad habit Draco has developed of sniping at the practices of Wicca. In one otherwise highly valuable passage, her explanations about why a utility knife is necessary is paired with interjections about athame use that are delivered in such a way that you can hear the aggressive, mean-spirited tone in the words. If a reader had already read that far into the book, s/he would already know not to use any personal ritual tools you don’t want damaged by sea salt. The line is not just unnecessary, it’s irrelevant.
It is certainly necessary to distinguish Draco’s practices from Wiccan practices. Wicca often makes an effort to encase the practitioner from harm; traditional witchcraft is very much about exposing the self to the elements. Certainly sea witchcraft demands that level of exposure and risk. This book teaches a formal understanding the tides and promotes looking for ways to build altars from tools already natural to the landscape. Not only is the approach more environmentally friendly than lugging out altar tools, it resonates with much of what the architect Frank Lloyd Wright taught about building design – work with the materials around you.
Full disclosure from the reviewer: I am a North American eclectic Wiccan. Ms. Draco pretty openly dislikes Wicca, particularly from what I can gather American Wicca. This is not the first time I have encountered this ethnic view. I do not take this personally; there are aspects popular in North American Wicca that I find distasteful, just as there are aspects of British Traditional Witchcraft I don’t care for.
My statements in this review are not in any way asking Ms. Draco to change her mind about Wicca – she has reason for her opinions, and I respect that. However, her opinions are often expressed with an additional dose of malice that undermines her considerable authority on magical subjects. While she does not come anywhere near the libel line as she did in a previous book written by her that I reviewed, she often throws in invective against what she perceives (inaccurately) to be popular North American Wiccan thought, often throwing in lines of naked sniping in between her otherwise fantastic text. If Ms. Draco can restrain herself – or just write it in the first draft and then strike it when she revises - I believe her writing will reach its full and excellent potential.
In other words – knock it off. You’re ruining the great thing you created with the ethnocentric crap.
~ review by Diana Rajchel
Author: Mélusine Draco
Moon Books, 2012
150 pp, $16.95