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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Book Review: So Potent Art by Emily Carding

book review, literature, Shakespeare, So Potent Art, theatre, Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream, witchcraft, pagan, neopagan, witch, witch book, witchy book review, witchy reads

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I don't know about the rest of you, but I love reading, and not just occult books. I love literature so much that I named all of my cats after famous authors. Among my favorites is Shakespeare and Shakespeare is full of the occult. So when So Potent Art: The Magic Of Shakespeare by Emily Carding popped up for me to review, I jumped on it quickly.

So Potent Art is a practical, yet academic approach to the magic and occult of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. This is a pretty dense read, but well worth it whether you enjoy Shakespeare or not. Each of the chapters discusses in great detail different aspects of the occult including the planets, elements, Hermeticism, alchemy, witches, and fairies, and ends with how the construction of the Globe theatre made the plays even more magical. Carding backs up her claims with extensive examples, including quotes and references with an academic analysis of the sources in question. To make her academic approach easier to follow, Carding spends time summarizing each of Shakespeare's works covered in the book, making it perfect even for those unfamiliar with some of his less popular plays. I have to say, despite my absolute love of Shakespeare, I was not aware of how deeply entrenched in esoteric lore his works actually are. I found the chapter on the planets and elements and how different characters are associated with each fascinating.

In the process of discussing different occult elements within the context of Shakespeare's works, Carding offers exercises at the end of each chapter that incorporates both modern witchcraft and Shakespearean works. I previously covered 5 Unsuspecting Tools of the Hedgewitch where I discuss the importance of poetry in hedgecraft and how it can be used to write spells, rituals, and correspondences. Carding does an amazing job of not only discussing magic and esoteric lore in Shakespeare's works, but applies these principles to practical, modern exercises any witch can use, much like what I discussed in my own post. Again, you don't have to be super familiar with Shakespeare or enjoy his work to benefit from the exercises Carding discusses at the end of each chapter. Some of the exercises include how to create sacred space using play characters, tarot card spread influenced by Shakespearan ghosts, how to summon spirits using play verses, and even a forgiveness spell. None of these uses any deities, which I absolutely loved. For witches, like myself, who do not believe in or work with any deities, having secular spells and rituals is a huge bonus as well as a learning opportunity. The ritual for creating scared space was absolutely gorgeous and I cannot wait to make it a staple in my own practice, calling upon the energies of the characters from some of my favorite plays, including Titania and Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream (my favorite play, by the way). I also adored the spirit summoning using different lines from Shakespeare's works and Carding's encouragement to use a similar technique to write your own spells. For the tarot spread, Carding includes an example of her own cards and how to interpret the cards in reference to the ghosts featured in Shakespeare's plays. I am the type of person that needs to see how something is done in order to do it, so I appreciate the discussion of how she read the cards. 

This book, however, is not just for witches; it's for anyone interested in Shakespeare and theatre. Carding, a thespian herself, spends a lot of time discussing how actors and actresses can channel different characters using their planetary, elemental, and alchemical properties, allowing one to really connect with the character on a deeper level. The final chapter includes a ritual play, perfect, again, for those involved in the theatre. These same theatrical practices, however, can also be used in witchcraft to develop a better relationship with the planets, elements, and alchemical properties as well as how to use them to your advantage in your day-to-day life. I can also see much of this book being invaluable to literature teachers, especially those teaching British literature, plays, and Shakespeare. I know this book would have been beneficial to me in college simply from an academic standpoint. Everything is referenced and sourced, with a complete bibliography at the end. I am a sucker for bibliographies and well-cited research!

While a dense read, I really enjoyed Carding's approach to Shakespeare and her unique insight into using his works in your magical and theatrical practice. Being a dense read, this book will likely take you some time to get through, but I promise it's well worth the effort if anything for a better understanding of the exercises throughout the book. So Potent Art: The Magic Of Shakespeare by Emily Carding is available now so be sure to snag your own copy today!



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