I begin with a message to readers in the far future (this is being published on the internet, after all): do not dismiss this as being a dated reference from the year 2017! The material that is out of date is 17 pages of calendars, versus 270 pages of timeless and useful writing from a variety of great authors!
Ok, dialing it back to the present.
Llewellyn's 2017 edition of the Witches' Companion is everything I'd expect it to be at this point. As in years past, The Companion breaks articles out into categories: Community Forum, Witchy Living, Witchcraft Essentials, and Magical Transformations, finishing off with a lunar calendar marked with exactly the sorts of dates you would expect. In each of these categories you'll find something worth your time - it will be different articles for different readers, but it's practically impossible for nothing to spark for you within these pages.
The first section, Community Forum, is probably the easiest one to find yourself invested in. You'll either discover that you're passionately in favor of something that you never realized until that moment, or else you'll find yourself at odds with the opinion of one of the articles' authors. Interesting takes on mental illness and environmentalism (to name just two subjects) will broaden most readers' perspectives. I found Charlie Rainbow Wolf's "The Dark Aspects of Bright-Siding" to be particlarly thought-provoking, but the entire section pokes and prods the reader in some fashion.
Witchy Living is always a section that I especially like. I feel like there's mountains of prose written in the "navel-gazing" branch of pagan literature, dedicated to trying to answer the Big Questions. Meanwhile, this section (subtitled "Day-by-Day Witchcraft") provides practical guidance for living a pagan life down at ground level- improving your communication skills so that your magical intentions are more clear(!), or even just infusing your household chores with more meaning. The piece entitled "Magickal Reboot", by Charlynn Walls, touches on something I feel like many readers have gone or will someday go through: getting to the other side of a crisis of faith. Not just getting past it, mind you, but actually doing the work to end up in a healthy place afterwards.
The section on day-to-day flows nicely into Witchcraft Essentials, which features a really useful piece by Elizabeth Barrette, "Creating Your Own Coven Website", as well as a great article for where I live, Diana Rajchel's "Sabbats Out of Season: What to Do When You Live Where the Seasons Do Not Shift". Trying to welcome the spring planting season when it's still 40 degrees outside requires a... flexible frame of mind. Michael Furie offers advice in a similar vein in "Seasonal Frustration: How to Celebrate the Sabbats When the Weather is Challenging". I found Lisa Mc Sherry's "Working with the Dark Moon" to be particularly (ahem) illuminating on a topic that had long been settled in my mind; it's definitely worth a read. This section is dedicated to similarly-commendable articles, giving practical guidance for spellwork, rituals, and other aspects of a pagan life.
The final section, Magical Transformations, is dedicated to more esoteric topics that don't tidily fit into any of the other portions of the Witches' Companion. While I referred to these types of things as "navel-gazing" with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, these are certainly topics that bear scrutiny in their time. Shawna Galvins' "The Art of Letting Go" meditates on releasing harmful emotions or regrets, and offers practical advice for doing the same. I am, in fact, particularly impressed with the curation of this section, as it offers a broad spectrum of issues, sure to draw the reader into some positive outcomes in at least one direction.
~review by Patricia Mullen
Llewellyn Worldwide, 2016