The Gorgon’s Guide to Magical Resistance
edited by Laura Tempest Zakroff
published by Revelore Press – November 2022
Living well really is the best revenge – and the best battle strategy. It’s easier and safer and more likely to bring good results than trying to hurt someone who hurt you.
But sometimes our attempts to live well are actively thwarted by those who seek to harm us out of fear, envy, intolerance, or hatred. Typically these are people with greater power in the ordinary world: more physical strength, more money, and especially more political influence. Taking them on directly may not bring the results we need, and may make things worse.
In the words of Alicia Vervain, “martyrdom is the last resort.”
As any good craftsperson will attest, it’s important to choose the right tool for the job. Don’t grab a pipe wrench when you need a 10mm socket. Don’t use a chisel when you need a small flat blade screwdriver (and definitely don’t do the reverse). Using the right tool makes the job easier and faster, and it reduces the chance of accidental damage.
But sometimes, the right tool for the job is a really big hammer.
The Gorgon’s Guide to Magical Resistance
This is a small (5”x7”), short (134 pages), tightly-focused spell book. It would be entirely appropriate to call it a grimoire. It contains sigils, spells, prayers, and rituals for resisting oppression, especially the legal and systemic oppression of LGBTQ and BIPOC people, and those seeking reproductive justice. It includes magic for protection, magic for resistance, and magic for vengeance.
Because sometimes love and light just won’t get the job done.
The title comes from the Gorgons, beings Greek mythology describe as having snakes instead of hair, with the ability to turn anyone who looks directly at them into stone. As Tempest says in the introduction:
For centuries, witches have been said to be the perverse ones, upsetting the order of society. But what if society needs upsetting?
Tempest then goes into the need for this book:
Right now, we are under attack: the truths of science and logic are being undermined; queer, trans, and reproductive rights are in grave danger; and the powers that be turn a blind eye to climate change, environmental destruction, and basic human rights. If fighting against these violations is perverse, then Gorgons we shall be.
Protecting, cleansing, and cursing
There are 37 entries in The Gorgon’s Guide. None are more than a couple pages. The first is Alicia Vervain’s curse poem titled “Martyrdom is the Last Resort.” It expresses a willingness to die rather than to submit, but makes it clear that “you who sit on your modern-day thrones and make decisions that will never touch you” will not escape unscathed.
River Enodian gives instructions for making a protective charm consecrated to Hekate and to the Gorgons. Sara Mastros presents a ritual for cursing in the name of Nemesis, adapted from her book Orphic Hymns Grimoire. She warns readers to choose their targets carefully and precisely, and warns them that “there are forces lying in wait for your invitation to do harm, and those forces are just as happy to hurt you as someone else. Do not accidentally invoke spirits of blind rage, hate, or vengeance.”
It’s not all curses. Enrique Gomez offers “The Quartz Pentacle” to promote compassion, hospitality, and restorative justice. Jessica Della Janare presents a cleansing ritual, and says “You are not responsible for other people’s stories about you. You are not required to carry them. You are, however, responsible for what you do with them.”
And Tempest offers sigils for reproductive rights, transforming anger into something constructive, protecting transgender rights, and defending transfolx.
These are the entries that stand out to me. Whatever your preferred approach, if you’re angry or scared or otherwise concerned about injustice, there’s something in here you can use.
A follow-up to The New Aradia
The Gorgon’s Guide is a follow-up to The New Aradia: A Witch’s Handbook to Magical Resistance from 2018, also edited by Laura Tempest Zakroff. Much has changed since 2018, and much of that has not been for the better. A new edition is necessary, and so a new book was produced.
The New Aradia is an inspirational and explanatory book. It helps readers understand why things are the way they are and it emphasizes that we are far from powerless to respond. Its writers are some of the biggest names in the modern witchcraft movement.
There’s very little inspiration and exposition in The Gorgon’s Guide. It’s been four years – you know what you need to do. Here’s a sigil, here’s a spell, here’s a ritual to help you do it. It’s a much more narrowly focused book.
A portion of the sales of The New Aradia are being donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center and to Emily’s List. For The Gorgon’s Guide, a part of each sale will go to local and national non-profits on a rotating basis. The initial recipients are Indigenous Women Rising and Holler Health Justice.
Who should read this book?
The Gorgon’s Guide to Magical Resistance is intended for witches and other magic users who are concerned with the state of the world and want to do something about it. I wouldn’t recommend it to a complete beginner, but I see nothing in it that requires advanced degrees to perform.
This book will be particularly helpful to those who are unfamiliar with baneful magic. Once you’ve seen these spells and curses, you’ll have no trouble writing your own… when you need them.
My one caution for newer practitioners is to point out that the many contributors work in many different magical and religious traditions. All of them are valid on their own, but mixing and matching invocations to Hekate, Set, and Babalon (for example) is not advised.
I don’t review books differently based on how I get them, but for those who care about such things, I bought my copy of The Gorgon’s Guide. This is my honest opinion of the book: it’s a very good big hammer.