SOCIAL MEDIA

Monday, May 2, 2022

Book Review: The Modern Craft edited by Claire Askew and Alice Tarbuck

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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.

This is the second book I have read lately that is composed of a series of essays from numerous witches and pagans, and I have to say I am enjoying hearing from a number of voices in a single book. The Modern Craft: Powerful Voices on Witchcraft Ethics edited by Claire Askew and Alice Tarbuck is a radical collection of essays on the ethics of witchcraft. Essays include such topics as decolonizing your practice, practicing witchcraft while disabled, gender-fluid hierarchies, cultural appropriation, and the problems found in online witchcraft communities. Essay contributors largely belong to marginalized groups, their voices being amplified in this publication, and include such witches and pagans as Lisa Marie Basile, Lilith Dorsey, AW Earl, Iona Lee, Simone Kotva, and Briana Pegado.

Since this is a collection of essays, each chapter or essay deals with a different topic centered around ethics, inclusivity, and intersectionality. This is the first book that has come across my shelf dealing specifically with these issues, issues that desperately need to be addressed in our community if we want to continue to be able to call ourselves welcoming and open to those in need. Witchcraft and magic have traditionally been used by the marginalized to attain some control over their life situations, fight injustice, and otherwise make life easier. If we, as a community, want to continue this tradition, we need to recognize that cultural appropriation, white supremacy, homo- and transphobia, and ableism have no place here. It feels like every day we are fighting a new battle, but it's one we need to continue to fight. This book is a great place to start if you are just coming to witchcraft or are looking at ways to make your own life and practice more inclusive.

The first essay introduces the concepts of what is a witch, the language we use to describe witches and witchcraft, the historical implications of these words, and how language can help marginalized groups because witchcraft is an act of rebellion. This essay will certainly pump you up and get you ready for the coming essays. This is followed by an essay on practicing witchcraft while poor. This is a topic near and dear to me because while I certainly grew up with enough, I have not always had enough as an adult. Furthermore, constantly participating in capitalism degrades our environment and disconnects us from the world around us. You do not have to purchase expensive herbs and crystals to practice witchcraft. You can create your own correspondences and use materials you find and they will work just as well if not better than ones imported from far-off lands. I felt this essay paired well with the final essay on practicing witchcraft while disabled. The final essay, however, takes a different approach than the others. While the vast majority of essays are guides, the final one is written as a day in the life of. It was really eye-opening as an able-bodied person to see how those with a disability that limits mobility celebrate and practice witchcraft and paganism. Reading this essay made me rethink some of the spells I have written, and how I can make future spells more inclusive to those lacking the means or ability to practice as I do.

There are several essays addressing LGBTQIA issues, such as transitioning and using ritual to aid in this process, finding LGBTQIA friendly deities, raising non-binary children in witchcraft, rethinking masculine and feminine, and trans-exclusion in the occult community. As someone who has volunteered at LGBTQIA homeless shelters, mentored LGBTQIA youth, and worked to create a safe and inclusive environment in my classroom (of which I currently teach at least 2 transgender and 6 queer students), these essays really spoke to me, especially the essay discussing trans-exclusion. So many people attempt to use 'biological' sex to dismiss transgenderism without having any idea what they are talking about. As a biologist, I can tell you biological sex is so much more complicated than X and Y chromosomes and the idea that science is being used to be exclusive is disgusting.

Other essays include online occult communities and the problems associated with these groups (why I am no longer a member of many of them), how to decolonize your practice and the word shaman, the ethics of animal sacrifice and how racism has been used to distort actual African traditional religions and practices, cultural appropriation, the ethics of witchcraft capitalism and ecology which dives into the ethics of the crystal industry and potential alternatives.

While I took extensive notes on each essay, my thoughts and feelings simply cannot be summed up in such a way as to make a great blog post. Instead, I encourage you to purchase and read this book yourself. Hopefully, you come out the other side more empathic and open to changing your own practice. I cannot recommend this book enough and highly encourage you to pre-order your copy of The Modern Craft: Powerful Voices on Witchcraft Ethics edited by Claire Askew and Alice Tarbuck now. with that being said, I did have one issue. One author said that white sage and palo santo were the same things (not true) and that palo santo is better because it's sustainably harvested from dead trees (both true and not true). I feel like this mistake was a big oversight on the part of the editors, but its easy to overlook in light of the rest of the book.

Until next time!

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