Any struggle to differentiate between Wicca and traditional witchcraft ends with this book. Christopher Orapello and Tara-Love Maguire make clear from the outset of Besom, Stand and Sword that their magic lies with the land. While a gross oversimplification of the differences, Wiccans plant its feet, wrap some roots in the earth and reach up – towards deities, stars, and transcendence. In traditional witchcraft the practitioners plant their feet and reach down. Orapello and Maguire describe daring liminal work from ancestors to meeting the Witch Queen, a gateway spirit (not deity) that is part of their practice.

The importance of this book likes in how different it is. It doesn’t take the semi-academic poses of the material available on 1734/Robert Cochrane. It doesn’t exist in the same universe as anything publicly available by the likes of Gardner and Cunningham. It doesn’t give much in the way of tidy recipes to follow. Not once do the authors claim the work of witchcraft is easy. This book departs completely from the witchcraft books of the 90s, most of which had long passages on ethical considerations, the rarity of curses, and several basic safety precautions.

This book acknowledges the reality of curses, gives instructions on how to cast the evil eye, talks in clear terms about poisons and ethnobotanicals, and puts forth rituals that go to the scary places. This is the whitewashed witchcraft of decades past back from its grave digging expedition. It’s all the more powerful for its time underground. Give this book to frustrated advanced workers looking for a new perspective. Give it to those looking for an older, forgotten perspective. Give this book to people insisting that Wicca comprises the whole of witchcraft just to rattle their cage. That’s who this book is for.

Highly Recommended.

~ Diana Rajchel

Authors: Christopher Orapello, Tara-Love Maguire
Red Wheel Weiser, 2018
pp. 304, $22.95