Friday, December 4, 2020

Book Review: Year of the Witch by Temperance Alden

book review, local witchcraft, wheel of the year, witchcraft, witchy, occult, protection, cleansing, spiritual, pagan, neopagan, magick, magic, spells, rituals, witchy book review

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

As we are settling down into colder weather in Georgia, I am happily devouring the books on my shelf. I fell behind in the Fall months due to work, but I am working diligently to catch up. Teaching in the time of COVID is no easy feat, and has resulted in much of my life being put on the backburner. But hey! Thank you to those of you who stuck around through the lack of posts the past several months. I appreciate it.

Today I have another book review for you, dear readers; a popular one at that. Year of the Witch: Connecting Nature's Seasons through Intuitive Magick by Temperance Alden has been popping up everywhere in the witch community. It's probably one of the hottest books on the market at the moment, and I was thrilled when Weiser reached out and asked if I would like to review this book. I actually had it on my Amazon wishlist, especially because I follow Alden on Instagram and love her budget-friendly witch tips. This book didn't disappoint!

Alden covers a variety of topics, not just the Wheel of the Year. She discusses creating a more sustainable, local practice, something I quite enjoyed and fully support. As an environmental science teacher and witch who advocates for local witchcraft, I was extremely appreciative of these chapters. Furthermore, her recipes, spells, and rituals also support sustainable, local practices, encouraging the reader to use local, in-season produce, local ingredients, and she is mindful of how spell ingredients should be disposed of. Alden supports working with no supplies when possible because the magic comes from within you, not from the objects you are using. These only enhance your spell work, not do the work for you. She also offers expert advice on how to create your own correspondences for your magical objects found in your area, allowing you to build a deeper relationship with and respect for the world around you. Her method is very similar to my own, so I can vouch that it works, and I second her proposal that all witches be familiar with how to create their own correspondences. 

What I loved most, however, was that she used science and history from actual scientific and historical sources to support her claims. All of these sources are cited in the back of the book for reference. As someone who loves peer-reviewed journals, I always appreciate when another witch uses such sources to support their claims. This makes the book authentic and "real." I have found that in books talking about the sabbats, that some of their information has since been debunked, but yet this inaccurate information is still floating around. This is always a sign to me that the author has not kept up with current research and I find that to be a shame. Because of the research and time put into the book, I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters on each sabbat. The rituals were simple yet effective, their intention explained, and the recipes were to die for. I can't wait to veganize her bread recipe! It was actually one of these rituals to help you banish the dust and form a new habit that solidified my adoration for Alden. She states in the spells introduction that she finds herself becoming 'lazy' and depressed in the Spring. Girl...that spoke to my soul. Spring and Summer are NOT my seasons either, and like Alden, I much prefer Fall and Winter. I am the most productive and happiest during the Fall and Winter months, especially Winter! Finally, Alden encourages her readers to adapt the Wheel of the Year to fit their needs. These holidays were created during a vastly different time in a very specific location. Many of the practices and themes of the sabbats no longer hold true in modern times or for those that live outside of Europe. Alden encourages her readers to adapt the Wheel and create your own, individualized practice, which I love!

However, as with all books, there were a couple of things I didn't like. First, Alden suggests that birth control somehow disconnects you from the natural world, as implied when she discusses how much closer to the cycles of the natural world she got when she quit taking hers. This completely disregards individuals like myself that must take birth control for health reasons. I am no less in tune with nature than I was before the pill, and this idea that man-made medicines somehow decrease your magical ability has got to stop. It's false and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. There was also a point I felt like she was dismissing anthropogenic climate change by using the Milankovitch cycle as evidence. Yes, the Milankovitch cycle accounts for some long-term climate change, but the difference between natural and anthropogenic climate change is the rate at which it is occurring. However, I think Alden simply didn't communicate well in this section, because her later stances on sustainability suggest she does recognize anthropogenic climate change is an issue. Finally, Alden uses a ritual that calls upon Lilith, who is not a goddess open to all to use. Lilith belongs to the Jewish faith and Judaism is a closed religion. You must be born into it or convert to it. Spirit Roots has an amazing article on Lilith and why her use in non-Jewish witchcraft is inappropriate.

Overall, however, I was delighted with Year of the Witch. It's current, relatable, sustainable, local, and empowering, for new and old witches alike. I especially encourage older witches to check this book out so you can relearn some of the history of our holidays. It's always a good idea to remain current, and if something is not longer serving you or us as a community, why not create something else that's better? You can order Year of the Witch: Connecting Nature's Seasons through Intuitive Magick by Temperance Alden now.

**There is a date error in her date section. Alden lists Summer Solstice on June 6th. This is widely incorrect. It's usually around June 21st.**

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  1. Sweet Willow, please do not worry for a moment. Your readers are here for you and welcome your stellar posts - no matter the pace - with open arms.

    Thank you so much for another honest book review (and for specifically touching on how you feel this title is one that is apt to appeal to long-time witches). I've not read this title yet myself, but have also been eyeing it for a while now.

    What an interesting theory to put forth regarding the use of BC. Like yourself, I do not feel, especially as a multi-chronic illness warrior witch, that it - or most - medications necessarily hampers one's ability to be fully in tune with either their own body/spirituality or nature and seriously wish this mindset would. Let us firmly hope that this mindset - within the Pagan/witchy community as a whole - soon goes the way of the dinosaur.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

    1. The idea that I should always be hustling is real. Fuck capitalism. Haha!

      I really hope the idea that any medication hampers your magical abilities really needs to die. We should be lifting witches up for doing what is best for them and their health.

  2. Off topic question - do you have any suggestions for online witchcraft communities?

    1. I am apart of a number of Facebook groups, but there is only one group I adamantly enjoy being apart of and that is Witchcraft & Chill. Unfortunately they are temporarily archived, but will hopefully be back soon. Apothecary At Home has a wonderful community for subscribers of their box and The Witch of Lupine Hollow has a group called Empowered Modern Witches that is great as well. Hopefully that helps!

  3. I had this book on preorder and I cancelled my order after she took to Instagram and said “all British people can fuck off”. Now I am in no way a patriot and am the first to say the history of Britain is awful, however her reasons were because of historical events from hundreds of years ago. It wasn’t the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last to hear of her distaste for the British people. Therefore I unfollowed and cancelled as I am sure she wouldn’t appreciate my British pound in her pocket.

    1. Now that is an absolute shame. I tried to go back and find the post you are referring to, but I failed to find it. Would you mind sharing it with me? There is absolutely no reason to attack the British for historical mistakes. I am all for attacking the colonist nature of the white man and learning how to decolonize our witchy practices, but that doesn't justify hateful language toward others.

    2. I am sad that I am paying for the sins of our fathers but every nation has a past .all of us need to be providing the world with positive energy /magik.I thought our next battle after we step out as witches would be convincing men that they are witches also,but no I am fighting race hate for been a married white British witch ! Really quite funny if it wasn't so sad

    3. Most definitely. Its a shame we have to fight racism and discrimination in our community as well as outside of it.

  4. Wow! Milankovitch cycles?! You are up on your science, gal. I used to be a bit skeptical of the global warming thing. It's part of a hysteria and I always believe those are part of efforts at social engineering. Then I read a brief article by a scientist in which he summarized the argument against CO2 increases being due to volcanoes and similar natural processes. Apparently the ratio of carbon isotopes from tectonic activity and that from burning fossil fuels is quite different. The large majority of increase in CO2 has the isotope signature of fossil fuels. End of story.

    One thing I don't get about witch's adherence to the Wheel of the Year is the use of the old European calendar. This calendar abandoned the lunar cycle for a solar one and simply created conventional months. This represents the supremacy of the grain farmers, tax collectors, and money lenders over the fishermen and herders for whom the motions of the moon was of practical importance. It isn't even about knowing the planting time with pinpoint accuracy since weather conditions create bigger differences in that than solar calendar accuracy provides. It's about fixing terms for payments and the like. So why use this as opposed to a natural calendar where new moons and full moons are the holidays as well as the soltices & equinoxes?

    As with the New Age attempts to restore the worship of the national religions of pre-Christian Europe, this is just being nostalgic, just choosing to venerate one or more abandoned state religions because it isn't the one witches suffer under now. All of these systems were invented, just as the arts, music, and letters of those cultures. We can do better. Use these traditions for the clues they give to how the magicians who invented them really thought and worked. Re-invent the Sacraments for the use of witches. Straighten them out along the way: 4 blessings - birth, acceptance into the community, mating, eldership; & 4 curses - dismissal, divorce, exile from the community, and death. Celebrate one of the blessings on the full moon and mourn one of the curses on the new moon.

    Just as Wicca has had to come to terms with its fake origins and the discovery that the so-called old religion of Europe was the survival of earlier state religions, not witchcraft, so it should come to terms with the need to abandon those old state religions, their calendars, their foods, and the rest. They were no better than the ones we have now. The ancient Mediterranean countries destroyed the shores of that sea, silting up their own harbors with the soil they were letting wash away by cutting down trees and growing grains in an area not natural adapted for them. Even now Europe, E. Asia, and N. America could save soil, labor, & money by replacing grain cultivation with chestnut tree cultivation. Let's forget them and modern W. Civ. at the same time and invent a new future based on the rule of nature and magic practice.

    1. Well...I do hold a degree in biology and geology and currently teach environmental science so I should be "up on my science." I am first and foremost a scientist.

      Much of the desire to hold on to the Wheel of the Year, at least for European and European-descended witches, is its connection with our ancestors, not food production. My mom and dad both trace their roots back to Scotland and Sweden. I connect deeply with the festivals and customs of both regions, knowing that historical versions of the holidays I celebrate were celebrated by my ancestors. Furthermore, the sabbats correspond with the changing of the seasons, marking major dates throughout the year and therefore changes occurring in the visible world around us. The moon cycle is celebrated every month with not just the full and new moons, but the full cycle. Lunar magic is central to most witches practices, but they aren't big holidays. Finally, many witches hold onto these sabbats because they remind them of the holidays they celebrated as a child, especially those that come from an Abrahamic background. The sabbats offer an opportunity to celebrate similarly to what we did for Easter and Christmas. While the Wheel of the Year is largely recognized as a modern version of a melting pot of celebrations, many witches find it relatable and magically sound, and that's all that really matters in the end. I celebrate a number of holidays both on and off the Wheel of the Year. We only have a short time on this earth; why not celebrate as often as possible, eh?

  5. That's a good answer, Willow. I admit I expected invective of some sort (Paranoia runs deep. Into your heart it will creep... "For What It’s Worth" by Buffalo Springfield).

    I think you've just confirmed that the main motivation to adhere to the Wiccan calendar is nostalgia. If you can accept that magic is the extension of the will into parts of the world not normally under its influence (including other neural networks in ones own nervous system, other persons, this outer world, and the Other World), then you can accept that what enhances magic may not enhance Wicca and vice versa.

    If Wicca is a palliative, a lollipop to make us feel better after the sling and arrows of outrageous fortune (and the deliberate cruelty and mayhem of life since the paleolithic), then how is it better than liberal Christianity or Buddhism? Is it mostly about knowing others who share ones tastes, problems, and social status? If so, then how is it better than being a Goth?

    I suggest that it is possible, even practical, to create a magical practice which is to Wicca as modern medicine was to Medieval medicine: with theory, tests, and big improvements for almost all of us.


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