Hello, beautiful creatures.
Like so many of you, I’m stuck at home: lockdown, quarantine, coronacation, whatever we’re calling the self-imposed isolation so necessary to keep the novel coronavirus from killing more people. Of course, this has its ups and downs. I’m blessed to share lockdown with an incredible partner, two adorable cats, and a house full of more books than you can shake a library card at. No, seriously, we have a book problem… or, as my partner insists, we have a storage problem. Either way, my books-to-read stack is a thing of beauty, inspiring wonder and distress in equal measure. It inspires a kind of guilt, a feeling that I really should be reading more of these books. If you’re anything like me, though, it can be difficult to follow through on that motivation in the midst of what all the marketing emails I’ve received in the past two months are calling “these uncertain, challenging times.”
Still, I managed to pull a slim volume from the to-read stack and break into it, and I’m immensely glad I did. The Crooked Path: An Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft, written by Patheos blogger Kelden, was a delightful read, and my new favorite book on traditional witchcraft.
I’m always a little chary about books on “traditional witchcraft.” Some of that comes from the nebulous and often self-contradictory definition of “traditional witchcraft” as a category of practice, and some comes from the long-standing snootiness and bickering between the various streams of traditional witchcraft and Wicca, particularly British traditional Wicca: Gardnerian, Alexandrian, et al. Being a practitioner of both Brit-trad Wicca and at least one flavor of traditional witchcraft, I find the strife more than a little dismaying. It’s the same kind of internecine conflict one sees all over modern Paganism, polytheism, and occultism, and it’s both appallingly stupid and dreadfully boring.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I cracked open Kelden’s book and found respectful mentions of Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, and Wicca, along with a careful explication of the differences and similarities between traditional witchcraft and Wicca. It was a lovely change of pace, and a good beginning for what turned out to be an excellent introductory text for folks who aren’t familiar with traditional witchcraft. A foreword by English traditional witch Gemma Gary sets the tone beautifully, and the book which follows doesn’t disappoint. Kelden divides his text into logical sections on history, magical practice, spiritual work, and practical craft, offering a host of exercises, rituals, recipes, and meditations, along with some remarkably clear exposition on the nature and practice of traditional witchcraft. This last point is work stressing: Kelden’s writing style is lucid and direct, coming across with authority, but never with an attitude of superiority or contempt, and is utterly devoid of the sort of ponderously arcane verbiage masking a paucity of ideas one often finds lurking within codices on such topics as these2.
So, in short: if you’re interested in this variety of witchcraft, hold off on picking up that trade paperback from England for a bit, and give Kelden’s book a spin first. The Crooked Path is a prime place to begin your investigations into the mysteries of traditional witchcraft. By the time you’ve finished it, you’ll have a better sense of whether or not you want to pay import prices, much less dropping astronomical sums of cash on that foil-stamped goatskin-bound hardcover printed in a limited edition of 93.
The Crooked Path: An Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft by Kelden is available from Llewellyn Worldwide, or your preferred online bookseller.
Until next time, dear ones, please be safe, stay indoors, and wash your hands. ♥
- Yes, that was intentional.