Thursday, December 30, 2021

Book Review: The Witches' Sabbath, An Exploration of History, Folklore & Modern Practice by Kelden

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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.

I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday. I apologize for taking such a long hiatus, but I promise it was for a good reason. I have been working on a rather large project, the fruits of which everyone should see next summer. I am super excited and know you all are going to love it! With the bulk of the project complete, I have time again to attend to my blog. Despite not having time to write, I have had moments here in there when I have been able to read so today I come with a book review.

The Witches' Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore & Modern Practice by Kelden is hands down one of the best witchcraft books I have ever read. It seamlessly combines folklore with modern witchcraft, offering historical and practical advice for modern-day traditional hedgewitches regarding the Witches' Sabbath. The first three chapters focus heavily upon folklore and history, with tons of in-text citations to back everything up. If you have been following my blog for a while, you know I love nothing more than a well-researched and well-cited witchcraft book. I was not disappointed with Kelden's work, and applaud him for taking the time to do so.

Chapter four focuses on hedge riding, the practice of spirit flight. Kelden very briefly covers the history of hedge riding and includes exercises to help you traverse the axis mundi or world tree. I love that he offered multiple perspectives from multiple cultures on what the axis mundi 'looks' like so that readers can find a system that they relate to and works well for them. For me, this has always been the Yggdrasil, the world tree from Norse mythology, for a variety of reasons. However, I never thought to use the Greek mythology of Olympus and the Underworld in such a way, but it makes total sense. Knowing that there are many witches out there that work with Greek deities, this would make a great axis mundi. Kelden also includes recipes for flying ointment, tincture, and tea, which I can't wait to try myself. I am always looking for new ways to reach an altered state of consciousness prior to hedge riding and look forward to using his suggestions.

The book continues by diving into how modern witches influenced the development and understanding of the Witches' Sabbath, describing how it came to be a part of traditional witchcraft, Wicca, and other forms of witchcraft. I always find this information fascinating as there is so much drama that surrounds it. It's always mostly old white men arguing over the validity of their lived experiences as if we witches don't experience things differently. Anyone who has traveled to the Otherworld will tell you it changed from person to person. The experiences I have there are not invalid because another witch did not experience the same thing. I love the Kelden touches on this as well, explaining that we each experience the Sabbath in our own way. Furthermore, he is sure to explain that while much of the witch trial testimony was given under duress and torture, the fact still remains that people worlds and centuries apart gave similar testimony. I think a lot of people overlook this when they are quick to dismiss the claims of supposed witches from the witch trials. True, they were probably not witches, but they were provided valuable insight into the folk beliefs of the time, beliefs that run through multiple cultures, suggesting they are part of ancestral memory.

Finally, Kelden makes the book accessible and inclusive. He promotes using local witchcraft and designing a practice that works for your situation. This is most easily seen in his discussion of the compass round, where he suggests using magical correspondences for the cardinal directions according to where you live. I have written about this before, and love that Kelden addresses this as well.

I honestly have nothing negative to say about this book other than I wish it was longer. I wish that he had taken it a couple steps further and included some personal stories in the book. Other than that, this is a book that is sure to delight any witch that is interested in the Witches' Sabbath, hedge riding, traditional witchcraft, or folklore. There are some great beginner tips here, I believe this book is better suited for more experienced witches who are looking to take their craft to the next level. The Witches' Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore & Modern Practice by Kelden is available for pre-order now and will be released January 8th, 2022. 

Until next time!

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