A fascinating potted history of the various magical traditions that can can reasonably be identified as English, with plenty of digressions into theory (light, I imagine – this isn’t something I know much about, but I understood it) and practical exercises. Witty and erudite. Especially interesting to me were the interviews with contemporary practitioners – dowsers, druids, alchemists working with herbs in parked-up vans, astral travellers, chaos magicians, Crowley acolytes, and others. I hadn’t realised that one key commonality of these various traditions is belief in spirits – whether they’re land spirits, fairies, demons, angels, ghosts, manifestations of the subconscious, or something else.
I was intrigued by the focus on English magic, too, post-EU referendum. Why English? How is that defined? The book explains that ‘of all the countries in the world England has the richest history of magical lore and practice’. I don’t know how true this is, and it strikes me as a very bold claim. But the book does do a good job of showing how magical practices and practitioners, including those from the more secretive traditions, have connected with and shaped mainstream English culture and society through the centuries.
There’s lots of details on characters, rituals, and materials, and a wealth of signposting to further reading. It’s a good book and a brilliant research tool, especially if *cough* you’re writing about magic systems.