It is not exactly an industry secret that the most popular, and thus most common, books to come out of the spirituality publishing houses are "101" books. I imagine that for every practicing pagan in the world today there are 20 more people with a copy of The Spiral Dance or something from the Scott Cunningham library on their shelves, and publishers want to help those people find a new 'perfect' book. It's fine, there's a lot of truth to the idea that a person can hear the same message 10 times and there's something about how it's delivered on the 11th go that finally clicks for them. So, with an open and curious mind I delved into Eclectic Witchcraft: Old Ways for Modern Magick by Charlotte Wilde. Immediately, the benefits of a freshly written text are revealed; the tone of the writing is very contemporary, and is instantly accessible (I should think) to someone graduating from TikTok videos and google searches in search of a more thorough education. I also respect that some hard-won lessons probably went in to the Disclaimer that is presented even before the table of contents, laying out some practical advice concerning fire, essential oils, and even therapy. Bravo.
The meat of the book has a lot of good to it; I'm only going to start with a gripe because it has to do with the beginning of the book. Chapter 1, 'the Basics', is 10 pages long. Those 10 pages cover meditation, visualization, and fundamentals of energy work - raising, directing, and grounding. To be clear, the author does not baldly say 'ok, you read the chapter, you know how to do this stuff, let's get to the good part!', but in a book like this I believe form follows function and an impressionable reader will pick up on this brief primer. There are exercises, but I would like to see more; perhaps a progressive series rather than 1 single energy work guide to cover all of that material. This is not an issue in this book alone; clearly the publisher mandate for these books is to move things along, presumably to keep reader interest? I don't sell books, I can't pretend to know their thinking, but it does not seem to be principally in service to educating the readers properly.
So other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln? Yes yes, leading with what bugged me may be unfair, but it is the first impression that the book makes. Getting past that, though, there really is a lot to like about 'Eclectic Witchcraft'. The progression of subjects makes a lot of sense, and frankly I appreciate that the Wheel of the Year is up front in Chapter 3 rather than buried in an appendix. Wilde gives us good sections on tools and the elements (which actually doubles as a primer on correspondences if you squint just a little bit), with break-out sections on crystals and herbs before starting in on what you might call the practical application portion of the book, beginning with spell jars. In fact, it isn't until Chapter 15, nearly the end of the book, before we broach the subject of what I'd call free-form spellwork. This is admirable patience for a book like this - which, dead-horse beater that I am, highlights the dissonance of that brief first chapter. Nevertheless!
The author's writing style is clean and approachable; it is unlikely that a curious reader is going to bounce off of the prose for being opaque or confusing. There are no chapters that seem short-changed (ahem) or egregiously off-base, so a new practitioner walking away from reading this book won't have their head filled with bad information that will need to be unlearned. As I said before, there's value to multiple takes on getting started. If, for example, Raymond Buckland is feeling a little dated to you (or the new person that you're recommending books to), and the more recent gems like A Witch's Guide to Crafting Your Practice just didn't do the trick, absolutely give Eclectic Witchcraft a go. Charlotte Wilde has a distinct voice and point of view, and there's a good chance this will be the right guide to ring that bell for you.
~review by Wanderer (he/him)
Author: Charlotte Wilde
Llewellyn Worldwide, 2023
p. $18.99, pp. 264