Monday, July 3, 2023

Book Review: The Magic of the Otherworld by Morpheus Ravenna

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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.

Man, this has been a year for books. It's not often that I am super excited to share a review with you all, but I am certainly excited this time. The Magic of the Otherworld: Modern Sorcery from the Wellspring of Celtic Traditions by Morpheus Ravenna (sí/hír) is a comprehensive guide to modern Celtic magic based on folklore, historical documents, mythological texts, and hír experiences as a practicing witch. Drawing upon ancient Celtic traditions, Ravenna provides the groundwork for a modern Celtic practice rooted in animism, polytheism, and the Otherworld. As a hedge witch, I found this book to be the next step for those interested in Celtic traditions and spirit work, as much of what is covered in this book is paramount to my current practice, which I am building by combining Celtic and Norse traditions (to honor my ancestors on both sides of my family tree).

The Magic of the Otherworld is broken down into nine chapters and an introduction. While I know some people may wish to skip over an introduction and dive right into the material, I do not suggest that here. Ravenna lays the groundwork in the introduction, introducing the reader to core magical Celtic concepts, such as cóir, the Celtic concept of "rightness, order, or justice," and cultural appropriation versus appreciation, as well as introducing how the content in the book will be approached. Ravenna's approach to magical ethics within the Celtic framework cannot be overlooked or skipped and is honestly a breath of fresh air compared to more modern Wiccan takes and the Three Fold Law. From the introduction, the reader is introduced to a variety of magical topics, including purification, protection magic, spirit work, poetic sorcery, divination, sigils, necromancy, ancestor work, binding, cursing, and conflict magic. 

Ravenna takes a very academic approach to Celtic magic throughout the book, which I found refreshing. Each chapter contains a breakdown of the mythological texts, folklore, and archeological evidence to support the different Celtic magical practices outlined in the book. These are supported with ample citations, expert opinions, and thorough analysis, allowing the reader to fully understand the historical context and precedent for the magic. I am so appreciative of this, as I am personally trying to connect more with the magic and practices of my ancestors. This historical context and analysis help put the magic into perspective for me and truly honor the practices of my ancestors in a modern way. Despite this academic approach, the text is inviting and conversational. At no point did I find myself struggling to read a passage or bored. Ravenna also includes "Sorcerer's Tool Kit" and "Story" sections in each chapter which offer the reader modern applications of ancient Celtic magic. In the "Sorcerer's Tool Kit," sí provides practical spells, rituals, and recipes to begin practicing what is discussed in each chapter. These are just frameworks, and Ravenna encourages the reader to build on these outlines and make them their own. These spells, rituals, and recipes are usually followed by a "Story" where sí discusses how sí has used these practices in hír own life. These stories provide an excellent example of what the magic can look like, which I always appreciate. Understanding what a spell can look like helps me visualize its purpose, come up with new ideas, and make the spells and rituals my own.

Ravanna is quick to say in the closing that sí has only scratched the surface of Celtic magic in this book, focusing more on the magic sí practices often and is most familiar with. This means that fertility, family, hearth, and abundance magics are left untouched. Honestly, I was okay with this. There is so much information packed into this book alone that it's impossible to discuss it all here, let alone quickly integrate it into one's practice. This is a book I will keep coming back to and I hope Ravenna expands on it by writing another book addressing the 'missing' topics. I love hír approach to constructing modern practices using historical texts, magical ethics, sigil creation, animism, consent, trance, spirit work, and so much more. Honestly, if you are a hedge witch and you don't pick up this book, you are missing out. The trance and spirit work alone is worth reading.

I have absolutely nothing negative to say other than there were times the book was repetitive, but this is only because Ravenna wrote the book so that it could be read out of sequence. Sí does not suggest this, and neither do I, as the concepts within the book build upon each other. You don't want to try cursing magic without first understanding how to properly protect yourself.

The Magic of the Otherworld: Modern Sorcery from the Wellspring of Celtic Traditions by Morpheus Ravenna is set to release July 8th, and is a must-read, especially for hedge witches and those interested in Celtic magic. I am so thankful I was given the opportunity to read and review this book, and can't wait to get my hands on a physical copy. As I said, this is a book I will keep coming back to. I kept highlighting passage after passage on my Kindle and knew immediately that I needed to have a physical copy to highlight, write notes, and add tabs to. I know this is a book I will forever reference and you likely will too. You can pre-order your copy now wherever books are sold.

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