I am a tremendous fan of Scarlet Imprint, publisher of fine magical books. Their books contain more than occult information, more than poetry, though they are certainly full of both; they are bound spells. I have read several of Scarlet Imprint’s works. I don’t always agree with the authors in their fervor or specifics, but I usually agree with the general themes. I almost always find myself thinking about their ideas long after I’ve finished a book. I’m still chewing over XVI, which I read over a year ago.
When I saw that Scarlet Imprint would be releasing Apocalyptic Witchcraft, by Peter Grey, I knew immediately that I had to have a copy. The book aims to serve as a rallying cry to those who would embrace a living witchcraft as a means to rebel against the status quo. I am completely on board with this mission.
Scarlet Imprint, as an entity, judging from the works they publish, and this book specifically, aims to push the magical community toward action in the world. While we need skill and abilities that allow us to function in the mainstream world, our task is not to cozy up to the status quo, but wreak havoc and defend our chosen values. This book is the least hippie call to action against environmental pillage I’ve read.
I feel that the less said about any of Scarlet Imprint’s books the better. They are best experienced first hand (and there are a variety ways one can do that – super fancy, fancy, paperback, and digital editions, an option for every budget). I will say I was gripped by the writing, entranced by many of the ideas, and still a little confused at the end. But then Grey warns the reader on page i that he ‘does not aim to please.’ ‘This is not a how-to book, or a compendium of folk remedies, nor is it a list of rituals for you to follow, nor strictly history.’ (pg i)
Grey situates witchcraft not historically, but contextually. Yes, witchcraft is skill; yes, it has history and lineages; but that’s not what is most important. The core of witchcraft is ‘a force, not an order. Witchcraft is rhizomatic, not hierarchic. Witchcraft defies organization, not meaning.’ (From A Manifesto of Apocalyptic Witchcraft, p 15) How shall we use that force? Why shall we grow? What is our meaning?
The book speaks primarily to people who travel a path of Traditional Witchcraft, though it does not exclude other like-minded people. Grey expresses the core nature of witchcraft, though not through the lens of lineage, techniques, or historical developments. He focuses primarily on poetry, blood, and transformation. It’s a strange book. It both doesn’t seem to fit all together, and yet hangs together beautifully. I need to read this book a few more times.
The extended chapters on poetry, especially that of Ted Hughes, and Grey’s way of unfolding history feel a little meandering. The opening and closing chapters were for me the most powerful, and I wanted more of that. However, I will follow Peter Grey down any rabbit trail any day of the week. His meanderings have more fire and poetry in them most of what I read about magic combined.
What does ‘Apocalyptic Witchcraft’ mean? I’m still not entirely sure. I do know it means action and fearlessness. It means enfolding art into whatever it is we do. It means embracing magic as a philosophical, artistic, and practical way of living – not just as a spiritual orientation. I know Grey is tapping into a Current that is pulling many people forward right now. I feel it, too, though I am not able to articulate it in any way at this time. Ultimately, each of us will need to find out what apocalyptic witchcraft means for ourselves. Good thing Peter Grey is pulling us forward with his vision and art.