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Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Not (Just) a Beginner Book

           Before posting announcements about my new book, Familiar Unto Me: Witches Sorcerers and Their Spirit Companions, my last blog post was about intermediate and advanced books and training.

          People often bemoan the lack of advanced books on magic and NeoPaganism. It's easier to write beginner books, and with a beginner book, you don't have to wonder if people will have the background to understand or use what you're writing. It's still important to have books that move out of that beginner comfort zone.

          In my post on intermediate and advanced materials, two of the options for advanced work and advanced material were either perfection of basic elements or in depth focused exploration of a specific subject.

          Familiar Unto Me falls into the latter category. The text covers just about everything you could cover on familiars and treats ideas often related to familiars. We look at practical elements, the nature of the idea and the nature of the relationship. We explore the history of ideas and beliefs that build a worldview in which familiar spirits can exist. We look at several options for acquiring them across several different approaches to magic. We look in depth at a particular case of a group working with a familiar, and we look at how familiar spirits can tie into efforts to create new living traditions of spirit work.

          It is a deep dive that covers a broad range of elements of a specific topic.

          So the book is well suited to intermediate and advanced audiences because of its thorough treatment of a singular topic. It can also be useful for beginners, not necessarily people reading their first book or two, but people who are starting off and figuring things out. Exploring specific topics in depth can still be useful and interesting in that phase. This will also introduce a lot of more intermediate concepts, ideas, and practices, which will give readers who are still in the beginning phases of their explorations some direction around where to explore. Since it covers a range of traditions, it will still serve the beginner who wants to add work with a familiar to their spiritual experience.

          It does not introduce beginner techniques. There is no grounding or shielding, there is no work on energy, or scrying, or clairvoyance. We don't introduce what conjuration is, or what spirits are, or how to communicate with them. Readers intending to work the material in this book will need some skills and knowledge in those areas. This post will include some suggestions at the end for books which will help establish those elements for people who need them.

          The book does cover all the elements needed to acquire a familiar in several systems of magic, and so anyone with basic magic skills will find a method which is workable for them.

          It also breaks down benefits and difficulties of different types of spirit work. While this is an underexplored discussion, it's important, and well suited to intermediate practitioners trying to decide what directions to focus on. This will also be useful in guiding beginners who are starting to explore spirit work.

          The wide range of perspectives addressed and the far reaching depth of exploring every corner of the idea of familiars means the book has a wide range of audiences it can serve, but will also have material that just isn't for some of its readers. Hopefully, people will appreciate the thoroughness and enjoy the parts that are relevant to them, and find interest in looking at approaches outside of their practice. With this wide range, while the book serves advanced and intermediate practitioners, it has a lot to offer for those starting their journey as well.

          If you find yourself looking for an introduction to some of the elements and skills that underlie this book and the practices contained, here are some options. You don't need all of these. Most readers will be ready to pick up Familiar Unto Me and just run with it, but if you're feeling like you need some more background, any one or two of these will probably close the gaps.


The Sorcerer's Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magic by Jason Miller - a general introduction to the skills and practices of modern sorcerers


Living Spirits: A Guide to Magic in a World of Spirits by BJ Swain - includes introductions to scrying and spirit conjuration and explains a wide range of spirits and how to work spirits into practical magic


Seven Spheres by Rufus Opus - an immersive, potentially initiatic, approach building relationships through spirit conjuration designed to be simple and user friendly. Introduces new students to conjuration and spirit work


Luminarium: A Grimoire of Cunning Conjuration by BJ Swain - avoids a lot of theory and ideas and focuses on laying out simple skill building practices to make you more capable at spirit conjuration. Provides a simple system of spirit conjuration. Designed to be able to take a complete beginner through introducing the idea, using preparatory practices, and gathering tools into readiness for their first conjuration in as little time as possible.


Folk Witchcraft: A Guide to Lore Land and the Familiar Spirit by Roger J Horne - a collection of witchcraft folklore and introduction to witchcraft ideas which can be used for building witchcraft practices drawing on historical content and ideas


Consorting with Spirits: Your Guide to Working with Invisible Allies by Jason Miller - This book covers many elements of spirit work and several useful ideas to consider while exploring spirit work. It presents a couple approaches to working with spirits. Many of the ideas and practices here can be pair with approaches to working with a familiar. 

Sex Sorcery and Spirit: The Secrets of Erotic Magic by Jason Miller - will introduce elements of sexual magic which may help the magician with spirit work and provide more background for those looking to use the sex magic practices described in Familiar Unto Me

Image: High King Margo. From SYFY's The Magicians. Went with this photo because Margo is in grad school for magic, so it fits the theme of intermediate and advanced work...also...Margo is the ultimate bad ass and I'd be honored to have her reading my work on Familiars. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Cover: Arise Witch Queen!


The original draft of Familiar Unto Me looked at basic ideas and practices, but didn't explore the history, cultures, mythologies, and folklore related to those practices. When I decided to explore those things it led to a lot of opportunities for interesting research and presenting interesting information and conclusions.


The book is kind of like three, almost four, books in one. The first part discusses familiars more generally. It presents some options from a traditional witchcraft and grimoire perspectives for acquiring familiars and how to work with them.


Part two dives into folklore, history, and mythology in depth. It works to look at ideas that existed in Northern European myth and folklore that present a worldview in which the idea of a familiar spirit could exist. Then it looks at how these ideas relate to practical work.


Part three discusses how a magical lodge obtained and worked with a familiar spirit. This becomes the back drop for looking at how familiar spirits and spirit possession fit into building living traditions of spirit work. It also lets us look at the place of these kinds of traditional spirit work in Victorian revival magical systems, and presents practical methods drawn from those systems for traditional spirit work.


The text covers a very complete range of material and addresses working from various approaches to magical work.


The original draft mentioned figures like Isobel Gowdie and Andro Mann. When I was editing, I was surprised how little I talked about them. This contributed to my decision to explore more folklore and history; I wanted to lean into their stories a bit. There were a lot of other figures and ideas to talk about as far as evidence of early modern beliefs surrounding the witch's familiar goes, some of them were more germane. But, Gowdie is one of the main figures people think of regarding historical accounts of familiars.


When I was considering possible cover motifs, Gowdie again sprang to mind. As the cover came together, it became suggestive of an idea that I really liked.


The lowest layer of the cover is an image from Edmund Spenser's 16th century text, The Faerie Queene. It depicts a beautiful woman with a spear, in a strong and commanding stance amid the trees and long grasses. A man, who appear nervous, looks on as he hides behind a tree.


A middle layer is formed from the text of Gowdie's confession as recorded in Pitcairn. The text describes the familiar imps and the nicknames the witches in the Aulderne coven had received.


Arising from Gowdie's words about witches and faery imps is the image of a strong commanding magical woman.


This seemed like an interesting and powerful composition.


Gowdie's confessions are popular because they have so much detail. They are elaborate confessions, spanning four instances, in which she describes not only what the witches accomplished but the details of their spirit interactions and magical techniques.


Some people look at Gowdie as a hero for witches. Her coven stole from the wealthy, killed nobles who abused the people, and provided a means of power for people who were otherwise poor and downtrodden. She has become a Scottish Folk-version of Aradia in the minds of many modern witches.


For others, she is a tragic example: a young woman we know nearly nothing about, except that she was taken into custody on the accusation of witchcraft. She may have been tortured, she may have been killed; the details of her experience aren't clear and so those elements are uncertain. What stands out most to those who don't like the idea of Gowdie being treated as a powerful witch figure, is that we don't know what motivated her confession. Was she a clever person spinning up magistrates who she knew would convict her regardless of what she said? Was she a delusional person who, driven by suggestibility, imagined vivid hallucinations that fit the desires of her accusers and led her to confess to things which damned her?


We don't, and can't, really know. Critics seem at odds with taking Gowdie's account as being a partially accurate description of her experience, but that is also a possibility.


I think it's important to consider the struggle Gowdie, and others like her, probably encountered. It's valuable to consider that their confessions may have been fabrications caused by a variety of motivations. There is value in considering the possibility of delusions, although a surprising number of people would have been subject to the same delusions, in that case. There is also a value in considering the possibility that these people were witches or magicians and that their confessions reflect their reality as seen through the blurred and dirty lens of a court stenographer's biases.


The cover art reflects that.


Our powerful magical woman both arises from and is obscured by the words which are present. The words reflect the plight of being caught by witch finders because they are sourced from a trial transcript, but the words, themselves, describe the wondrous visionary experience of these witches. The words are obscured, illustrating the fact that trial evidence simultaneously reveals and obfuscates elements of early modern popular magic and witchcraft. Taken together, there is a struggle between the words, the image, and the presentation itself, as each strive to become the central element defining the visual composition. That struggle is like our inability to determine the actual nature of these experiences, even as they draw us in and cause us to look deeply at them to ascertain what they can reveal. Ultimately, through the various pieces, regardless of what the reality was, we are able to see hints that cause us to imagine a woman of power and resistance, birthed from faery magic. We imagine Gowdie as someone who is fit to stand in the presence of the Faery Queen, and whose soul might have descended into the sidhe and barrows to become a magical equal with their powerful residents.


When I think about the cover art, this is what I think about...and I find it exciting. Between those covers, stories, folklore, myths, and history describe a world of exciting magic and spirit experiences sandwiched between descriptions of how we can be part of those same experiences. Hopefully, for those who desire it, this book will help them descend into the world of faeries, imps, and demon companions, and arise as someone able to work magic with their aid, and learn from their knowledge, until they too are competent to dine with the Faery Queen and the Witches Devil as welcome guests, empowered with the tools to navigate such spaces.


Follow on Facebook for more announcements, and info on the release of Familiar Unto Me: Witches Sorcerers and Their Spirit Companions, as well as blog posts and other items of interest! The book will be out sometime around the middle of this month, possibly a little earlier. The paperback may be as early as February 12th on Amazon with a hardback edition about a week later, and on Barnes and Noble the paperback and hardback are scheduled for approximately February 20th. 



Thursday, February 2, 2023

Announcement: Familiar Unto Me: Witches Sorcerers and Their Spirit Companions - Soon To Be Released


Well, it was about a year ago that I thought I would be releasing this book and my book on Witchblood, but, the extra time has turned Familiar Unto Me into a much more substantial book that has been more thoroughly researched and presents copious additional material and many added avenues of practice. 

I released the finalized table of contents this morning for Familiar Unto Me. Here are the table of contents, the potential back cover description and the description that will be used on Amazon. 

I hope these get you excited for the book. I'm excited for it. Watch this space, and the Glory of the Stars Facebook page for announcements. My anticipation is that it will become available in the next couple of weeks. (The Witchblood book will be the next project I'll be finishing, so follow along for updates on that too.)

Back Cover Text

"Spirits abound. Through most of human existence, humans have recognized that we share a living breathing world with a multitude of embodied and disembodied life. Magic teaches us to go to the places of spirits and entreat them, and to call them to us and bargain with them. But what about the spirits that remain close with us?

 Familiar Unto Me seeks to fill the gap in modern magical literature surrounding the ubiquitous but underexplored phenomenon commonly referred to as the familiar spirit.

 Join us as we explore the basic ideas surrounding what a familiar is, how to acquire and care for one, and how to work with one in magic. Then we will journey through mythology, folklore, and history to explore ideas about familiar spirits. We will look at novel contemporary ideas that have linked to the concept of the familiar spirit and by unpacking how they differ from the folklore which inspired them, consider how they can give us new and additive ways to explore magic. This will lead to a detailed exploration of a magical group's work with their familiar spirit and look at the place of familiars in modern magic.

 Ultimately, our journey will provide you with the tools needed to acquire a familiar and develop a deep and powerful relationship. It will also set you on the road, should you so choose, to exploring how spirit work, and positive possession can contribute to birthing a new living spirit tradition of magical work from the surviving strands of European magic.

 The text presumes you have the essential skills of spirit work. It provides the myths, folklore, and history it discusses in detail for those who may not have as thorough exposure to it. It presents nine rituals and describes a tenth. The rituals are presented with detailed analysis. The text provides options for grimoire magicians, traditional witches, NeoPagan witches, Pagans, and ceremonial magicians."


"The familiar has been a staple element of the image of the witch for centuries. Despite its ubiquity in folklore, art, books, movies, and television depicting witches and magicians, familiar spirits are an under explored element of modern magical literature. Familiar Unto Me changes that by presenting a comprehensive look at familiar spirits.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One introduces and discusses the concept of the familiar spirit. The basics of acquiring, maintaining, and working with a familiar are presented. Considerations for planning your own rituals for obtaining a familiar spirit are discussed, and example rituals are presented. The focus in part one is familiars for witches and sorcerers; the defining elements of each approach to magic and how it impacts acquiring a familiar are discussed.

Part two explores the concept of familiar spirits in Pagan and NeoPagan contexts with a focus on mythology, faerylore, and the history of the familiar in trial evidence and folklore. Copious descriptions of myths, folktales, and faery stories are presented along with detailed exploration of historical figures, literature, and folk beliefs to paint a picture of the worldview and history of ideas surrounding the familiar spirit. Contemporary approaches to working familiars, fetches, and fylgjur are discussed and analyzed along with traditional lore to explore new and innovative magical concepts adjacent to the familiar spirit. Methods for acquiring a faery familiar are discussed along with the presentation of an early modern ritual for encountering a faery queen.

Part three explores the adventure of a group of magicians acquiring a familiar spirit for their lodge. It presents the rituals, details of planning and execution, and a discussion of the experience. This exploration becomes the basis of exploring the role of familiars, and positive spirit possession in contemporary revivals of magic as a path towards creating living spirit traditions rooted in historical European magical practice, informed by the wisdom and experience of living spirit traditions in the Americas. Part three also explores often overlooked role of spirit magic in the Victorian magical revival and the evidence of sex magical practices related to familiar spirits. Rituals for an elemental lover round out the collection of rituals.

The text provides nine rituals. Two of the rituals are presented with variants for the elements so that the magician can work directly and conveniently from the book. An additional traditional ritual is described and analyzed in detail along with comparison to a description of the ritual in a folktale. Each ritual has either some analysis of the ritual, explanations of why it is designed the way it is, or discussion of experience executing the ritual.

The book discusses spirit assistants from antiquity through today. Modes of working for grimoire magic, traditional witchcraft, NeoPagan witchcraft, Paganism and modern ceremonial magic are all presented or discussed."