[Revised 2/17] Books for Witches, Diviners and Spellcasters
Hi, everyone. A while back (a long time ago, actually), I started an annotated bibliography on books about witchcraft and magick, and I’ve updated it once (last November).
Since then, I’d been keeping a list of things I need to add to it, but didn’t get around to actually reworking and updating the list a second time until today.
Largely because I can’t really go outside much today because of the smog. But anyways, here it is. I’ve also included divination-related books in this version, whereas previously they were separate.
I hope you find something on here that suits your fancy! Happy reading! Also, yes, I do want to do more book reviews on this blog, so if you’d like a longer review of one of the books listed below, let me know and I can write one.
For Absolute Beginners
Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, by Judika Illes. Even better than the Weiser Field Guide to Witches - this book is huge and chock-full of information. It’ll explain in easy-to-understand language how the concept has developed throughout time, why witches do what they do, and different types of witches.
The Weiser Field Guide to Witches, by Judika Illes. This gives an excellent look at the historical lore concerning witches, from the perspective of a witch herself. It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, but it does have some information that won’t be found elsewhere.
The Modern Guide to Witchcraft, by Skye Alexander. Great book for those who’re really absolute beginners and are wondering what witchcraft is all about. Skye takes a very postmodern, utilitarian, and unfailingly honest approach, and it’s geared towards those of almost any belief system.
Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard, by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. Attractively packaged and readible for almost all ages, this is a great (mostly) non-denominational look at the foundations of magical practice. It’s extremely detailed. Some of it only applies to Zell’s own tradition, but it’s quite useful, anyways.
Protection and Reversal Magick, by Jason Miller. This gets a little woo-woo at times, but he gives good advice on how to avoid serious problems that can come up as you begin to practice. Take with a grain of salt, though - some of this has the potential to make you feel paranoid.
City Magick, by Christopher Penczak. If you’re at all interested in tech witchery, or just want to practice magick within an urban setting, do check this out. It is by far the best look at the subject I’ve seen, and his discussion of urban tutelary spirits is worth the price alone.
Power Spellcraft for Life, by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. Nicely done, quite secular book providing basic beginner information regarding writing original spells and workings. It does fall prey to the trap of just listing correspondences with little information at times, but also contains a great deal of detail about ritual timing, raising power, and other topics essential for the beginner.
Sorcerer’s Secrets, by Jason Miller. This is a decent volume that describes a lot of techniques you don’t usually see in books, such as gesture and gaze-based magick. Be warned that Miller writes extensively about manipulative techniques, but it’s useful theory regardless of how you put it into practice.
Witch’s Bag of Tricks, by Melanie Marquis. This is not recommended for beginners, because the whole point of this book is to help existing practitioners refine and improve their already-established techniques. It’s got some novel ideas in it, and I like the author’s approach to symbolism in spellcasting.
Direct Magick (Energy Work)
The Un-Spell Book, by Mya Om. This non-denominational guide to working with magical forces is filled with useful exercises that go beyond the author’s previous work. I recommend reading this after reading Energy Essentials.
Instant Magick, by Christopher Penczak. Excellent beginner’s guide for those who don’t have access to a lot of fancy tools or prefer to work without them. This book won’t instantly teach you magick, but it will help even a seasoned practitioner find quicker, less-complicated ways of achieving results.
Energy Essentials for Witches and Spellcasters, by Mya Om. Though I balk at the use of the term “energy” to describe magical forces, this book is worth a look. It’s a bit like a workbook, with various exercises. Expect a lot of pseudoscience, though, and there are many religious references, but the techniques are solid.
Hedgewitchery and Astral Travel
Ecstatic Witchcraft, by Gede Parma. This is actually probably my favorite book on this subject, even though hedgeriding is only a part of what the book discusses. The only bad thing I can really say about this book is that it’s really not recommended for beginners, and it’s helpful to have the basics of visualization already mastered (for example) before doing the exercises Parma recommends.
By Land, Sky and Sea, by Gede Parma. This book goes into even greater details regarding different ways of conceptualizing the cosmology of hedgeriding, and I find it a very refreshing book that appreciatively draws from a number of different perspectives while grounding itself, so to speak, with the overarching metaphor of land, sky, and sea as the three worlds.
The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft, by Christopher Penczak. Penczak is usually a pretty mixed bag, and this book is no exception. It gives a lot of good practical information and a very in-depth exploration of the three worlds (a useful concept), but it’s primarily framed by Wicca, so it might not resonate with those of other faiths and particularly those who aren’t pagan at all.
Ascension Magick, by Christopher Penczak. There’s a chapter or two in this that address alternate ways of conceptualizing the architecture of reality, and it’s pretty helpful for a hedgerider. Beyond that, this book is mostly about ceremonial magick, but it’s a (mostly) good book. Certain parts (such as the bit about UFOs) are a little off, in my opinion.
The Shamanic Witch, by Gail Wood. This book is really best suited for someone who practices Wicca and, besides the background info and cosmological descriptions, is really only useful in the context of that tradition. If you’re Wiccan or willing to pick around a lot of Wiccan-talk, though, this is a good foundation.
Witches, Werewolves and Fairies, by Claude Lecouteux. It can be hard to find scholarly works on these phenomena that are affordable, but here’s one I personally enjoyed. It details many accounts of journeying experienced by both pagans and Christians in earlier times, and gives a good description of the concept of the astral double, the architecture of the soul, and other topics throughout history.
Betwixt and Between, by Storm Faerywolf. This book is mostly a guide to the Feri tradition of witchcraft, but while I myself don’t practice that, those who do seem to know a lot about hedgeriding! The book has several chapters on the subject and is highly recommended for this reason.
The Psychic Energy Codex, by Michelle Belanger. A lot of people have strong opinions about this author, but this is book actually provides a lot of good information about so-called “energy work” which can be a step in the right direction for those wanting to ride the hedge.
Psychic Dreamwalking, by Michelle Belanger. In this book, Belanger discusses, essentially, how to use your non-waking life as a vehicle to for journeying, and while I myself don’t usually dreamwalk, much of what she says applies to hedgeriding in other states, too.
Hedge Riding and Hedge Witchcraft, by Harmonia Saille. I only mention these two in order to say that they’re best avoided. Saille tries to give a comprehensive look at the phenomenon, but it’s poorly-written and overly New Age. The negative reviews of them on Amazon really cover the problems with these book in more detail than I ever could.
Magical Writing, Words, and Symbols
Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells, by Claude Lecouteux. Mostly a historical text, this book isn’t exactly practical or terribly useful. It is, nevertheless, incredibly interesting. It’s a bit difficult to navigate, but worth a glance.
Composing Magick, by Elizabeth Barrette. A very general, but well-done, look at writing in a magical context. Some of the ritual templates are slightly specific to religious witchcraft traditions, but most information is widely applicable.
Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink, by Susan Pesnecker. Focuses both on the physical act of writing as a magical act, and the mental state associated with it. Highly recommended
The Modern Witchcraft Grimoire, by Skye Alexander. This book is for those who want to create their own grimoire. It gives fairly good advice for doing so, as well as providing hints and tricks for spellcasting and useful correspondences.
Planetary Magick, by Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips. If you want to work with the planets at all, particularly in a highly ritualized context, I recommend this book. It’s large, comprehensive and gives a good foundation beyond what you find in general astrology books.
Practical Planetary Magick, by Sorita d’Este and David Rankine. Shorter than I would have liked, but a useful reference to have on your shelf, with excellent tables and appendices in the back. The meditations are also quite useful.
Practical Elemental Magick, by Sorita d’Este and David Rankine. Should be read alongside the other book by this pair. Comprehensive guide to working with the elements in a ritualized fashion. Not as accessible to newbies as Lipp’s book, but good for seasoned practitioners.
The Way of Four, by Deborah Lipp. Though mostly geared towards Wiccans, I found this author’s in-depth treatment of the four elements highly fascinating. I will note that it’s probably best to get the print version of this book, as it contains exercises and quizzes.
Ingredients and Correspondences
The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook, by Karen Harrison. I cannot praise this book enough for its concise and well-formulated approach to astrology, herbs, and magick as a whole.
The Weiser Concise Guide to Herbal Magick, by Judith Hawkins-Tillirson. This is excellent for anyone who’s interested in any kind of magick. Yes, the focus is generally herbs, but there’s a lot to be learned here about Kabbalah and other correspondence systems, as well.
Mixing Essential Oils for Magic, by Sandra Kynes. Fills a very difficult gap in published knowledge regarding the use of essential oils by discussing, in great detail, how scents interact with each other and how to create a formula that’s not only palatable, but evocative.
Dunwich’s Guide to Gemstone Sorcery, by Gerina Dunwich. Given the New Age fascination with all things shiny, it was quite a chore to sort through the myriad crystal books to find something with good information. While far from perfect and not exactly devoid of fluff, this book does give a level of detail about the lore surrounding gemstones not seen in many other texts.
Real Alchemy, by Robert Allen Bartlett. Excellent book, lots of history and detail. There’s a strong focus on tradition within the text, yet the author is quite accommodating of his audience and describes alternate methods that work better in a modern context.
Spagyrics, by Manfred M. Junius. With a highly-developed academic tone and attention to detail, this book is a meaty look at traditional alchemy. I recommend this more for intermediate practitioners due to the sheer density of information.
The Goodly Spellbook, by Dixie Deerman and Steve Rasmussen. The title sounds horribly fluffy, but this is a hidden gem. It explains obscure concepts like alternative alphabets and potential uses of musical notes, as well as plant lore and other bits and pieces. Definitely worth checking out. It’s way more than just “a book of spells.”
Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells, by Judika Illes. The title sounds trite to some, but it delivers. This book has spells from almost every culture and spiritual philosophy, as well as a very detailed formulary. I read it when I’m bored sometimes, too, just because I always learn some tidbit from it.
Book of Spells, by Nicola Pulford. In most editions, this book is absolutely gorgeous and describes spellcasting traditions from a variety of perspectives and traditions. Recommended for those who already understand the basics, as this book jumps straight into spellcasting and gives only a small amount of information about how things work.
Modern Magick, by Donald Michael Kraig. I received this as a gift several years ago. It is essentially a workbook meant to be completed slowly, step by step, and while the format will not appeal to everyone, it’s a good easy-to-read introduction to ceremonial magick.
Familiar Spirits, by Donald Tyson. Though geared towards ceremonialists, any practitioner can likely learn a thing or two from Tyson’s interesting stroll through the whys and wherefores of spirit work and thoughtform creation. This is by far the best book I’ve seen on the topic of familiar spirits.
Secrets of High Magick, by Francis Melville. The most recent edition of this (the one I own) is lavishly-illustrated and full of rudimentary, yet useful information. He stresses the basics of ceremonial practice, and his writing style is very accessible. Highly recommended for absolute beginners.
My Life With The Spirits, by Lon Milo DuQuette. This is a memoir of a ceremonial magician, but it gives a good look at the magickal mindset in a highly developed form from someone who’s experienced quite a lot. I have major issues with DuQuette’s approach to Qabalah, but his memoirs are worth a read.
Liber Null and Psychonaut, by Peter Carroll. Classic book of chaos magick. I consider it required reading for almost anyone interested in the occult. Even if you have no love for chaos magick, do give it a read, just to understand how influential Carroll is, and why.
Hands-On Chaos Magic, by Andrieh Vitimus. Knowing some of the people involved in the creation of this book, I’m a bit biased towards it. That said, even if I didn’t know them, I would still recommend it. It’s especially interesting to read alongside Liber Null and Psychonautin order to see how the chaos “current” has developed over the years.
Pop Culture Magic 2.0 by Taylor Ellwood. There aren’t a lot of books on using pop culture symbolism in magick, but this one is nearly perfect. The author writes in a highly erudite, literate fashion, while still being accessible to newbies. Many useful resources cited, as well, so prepare to branch off a bit while reading it.
Triumph of the Moon, by Ronald Hutton. An inside no-holds-barred look at the history of Wicca and Modern paganism. Highly recommended. This is sort of the book that fluffbunnies don’t want you to read.
Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult, by Richard Metzger. Lots of facts and history of magick in the context of Postmodernity. This is different from the Crowley text of the same name, which I wouldn’t recommend unless you want to focus on his tradition.
The Place of Enchantment, by Alex Owen. This is a purely historical text that documents the occult revival within the context of Modernity. I remember it being very good, but please realize I haven’t really picked it up much since graduating, and it might just have served my mindset at the time.
The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley. Make sure you actually own (or have access to pictures of) the Thoth deck before you dive into this. By far one of the best books on Tarot ever published. The prose is often dense and purple, but in this one book, Crowley teaches so much about Tarot and it’s connection to the Western Mystery Tradition. I can’t really say much more - it must be experienced.
The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, by Arthur Edward Waite. I recommend this book because it is a classic and was introductory for many older readers. It will teach you to read and gives insight into the methodology behind the Waite-Smith deck specifically, particularly his use of what are essentially parables and why he does this. Do not expect too much esoteric information, but read it anyways.
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, by Rachel Pollack. This is the epitome of a good modern Tarot book and is really one of the first ones I’d recommend for someone looking for an accessible book on Tarot in a modern context. Very dense in information and history, yet altogether worth it. You’ll want highlighters nearby for this one!
Tarot for a New Generation, by Janina Renée. This is essentially a book for children and teenagers, but I do recommend it for them, specifically, because it is well-written, easy to understand, and helpful to absolute beginners.
Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot, by Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin. This book focuses just on the history, symbolism, and creative process of the Waite-Smith deck. It gives you an inside line on just what Pixie Smith was thinking when painting specific scenes, and is a great look at her life’s work, as well.
The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination, by Robert M. Place. This book will not teach you to read Tarot, but does give an actual, accurate portrait of the history of the phenomena, which is incredibly important and useful. Know your history.
Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, by Lon Milo DuQuette. I hesitate to recommend DuQuette due to issues I have with his approach to Qabalah, but many people ask me for a beginner book for the Thoth Tarot specifically, and this is the closest I’ve come to finding one. I recommend reading this alongside, and not instead of, Crowley’s Book of Thoth.
The Back in Time Tarot, by Janet Boyer. This is more for the intermediate reader, and the entire book details a single, extremely useful technique for familiarizing yourself with the cards, namely by framing past events in terms of how they might appear in a spread.
The Essential Lenormand, by Rana George. This was not the first Lenormand book I picked up, but it was the most influential and intense. Ms. George writes in a personable, touching fashion and brings the concepts of the system home by relating them to life experiences in a way rarely seen. She is one of those authors I literally go all “fangirl” over.
Learning Lenormand, by Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin. This is one of the better beginner books on Lenormand. I’m not going to lie - it isn’t as good as Rana George’s, but it definitely is worth reading if you’re completely new to the system. It’s very accessible, where some of the books I’ll be listing later in this can seem intimidating, or so I’ve been told.
Lenormand: Thirty-Six Cards, by Andy Boroveshengra. This book is intense, but in a different way than Ms. George’s. Expect to be inundated with information and techniques. Another one of those where you really need to take notes or highlight while reading, and read it multiple times.
Secrets of the Lenormand Oracle, by Sylvie Steinbach. This book is organized in a novel and useful fashion by topic, and gives specific techniques for readings on love, money, spirituality, and other topics. Highly recommended, and I tend to use it as a reference book nowadays, looking things up as needed.
The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook, by Caitlyn Matthews. Not for the beginner, nor the faint at heart, this one details a lot of what, to me, seem to be more advanced approaches and techniques. I use this book a lot, and I think anyone else will enjoy it, too. Good information on the connection between Lenormand and traditional playing cards, too.
Cartomancy with Lenormand and the Tarot, by Patrick Dunn. This is more of a special topic book, and best read after you’ve got some familiarity with both Tarot and Lenormand. It’s all about using them in tandem and the synergy between them.
The Luminaries, by Liz Greene. I could really recommend anything by this author, but she’s written so much, and this book is a particularly important one. It focuses entirely on the Sun and Moon in astrology, and gives a good look at why the luminaries need to have a special place in your understanding.
The Weiser Concise Guide to Practical Astrology, by Priscilla Costello. This is focused, as you might expect, on actual interpretation of charts and less on theory, but it gives a good background on that, too. Was quite helpful in my attempts to interpret @xepsurah‘s unusual natal chart.
The Complete Book of Astrology, by Kris Brandt Riske. Very beginner, and very light on intellect, heavy on intuition. A great introduction, but I would not suggest it as the only book you read if you’re really interested in the subject.
Tea Leaf Reading for Beginners, by Caroline Dow. There are only a few books within Llewellyn’s immensely popular “For Beginners” series that I would recommend, and this is one of them. The symbol glossary (which makes up the bulk of the book) is the most useful part.
Tea Cup Reading, by Sasha Fenton. This book goes into some detail (quite a bit, actually) about the history of tea and coffee, and, better yet, how to prepare them in the traditional fashion! A lot of traditional lore is described, as well.
Scrying for Beginners, by Donald Tyson. This is really a surprise find, as I don’t usually expect much from this series, by Tyson knows his history and goes far beyond simple exercises for scrying. He is a bit biased towards mirror and crystal-gazing techniques, but does discuss other methods.
Psychic Development for Beginners, by William Hewitt. Readable, and offers some very practical developmental exercises for those wishing to hone extrasensory abilities. Be prepared to sort through a lot of woo, though.