Everyday Witch A to Z by Deborah Blake

Everyday Witch A to Z: An Amusing, Inspiring and Informative Guide to the Wonderful World of Witchcraft
Deborah Blake
Llewellyn, 2008
264 pages

Blake, in her second book, has created a collection of short encyclopedic entries on a variety of topics related to witchcraft. Aimed at being both entertaining and useful, it’s a brightly laid-out text with a wide variety of presentations for the information therein.

I found it to be a mixed bag, personally. Here are some of the things that stood out to me:

Likes:

–There’s a good bit of humor mixed in with the information, which makes it an entertaining read. The “input” from one of Blake’s cats, Magic, is absolutely adorable (though useful as well), and there are some cute puns tossed in, including in section headers.
–There are footnote citations in addition to a bibliography. This pleases me, since it gives at least some idea of where Blake got her information. Unfortunately, the footnotes mainly refer to direct quotes, so there are still a lot of books in the bibliography whose contribution to this book are unclear. However, the footnotes that are there are a definite step in the right direction!
–I like the odd bits of information that I haven’t run into before. I was really curious as to what would be included in the “X” section, and found out about Xorguineria, a Basque form of witchcraft. And there are other gems here and there that, even after over a decade of practice, were brand-new to me.
–This isn’t just an encyclopedia of information. There are spells, advice column entries, and other tidbits scattered throughout, which makes it a practical guide in a lot of ways. It’s sort of a mix between book and magazine–but with a longer shelf life than the latter!

Dislikes:

–I know the tone is supposed to be light-hearted and fun, but it often goes beyond humor and comes across as an attempt to snag the teen demographic (many of whom don’t care for the “teen-friendly” writing aimed at them), whether that was the intent or not. Sometimes a conversational tone can be too casual, and there are several places where this happens.
–Some of the source material is suspect. For example, on p. 10 Blake cites Yasmine Galenorn’s assertion that “son of a bitch” was originally a compliment because “bitch” was supposedly a euphemism for a/the goddess. I would have preferred to see a more solid historical source for this information (I’d lay odds that it ultimately comes from Barbara Walker or another similarly sketchy “scholar”).
–A lot of the material is witchcraft 101 rehashed and barely skimmed over to any depth. In trying to get a wide variety of topics in there, from herbs and stones to ritual etiquette to various deities, the reader is left with a cursory bit of information on most of them.

Some people are going to love this book, and the light-hearted tone. Others are going to look at the things I didn’t care for, and possibly others, and not consider it to be serious or well-researched enough. I think it is a book that has a definite audience, primarily among newer folks who may head to the big box stores to get some introductory information. They may very well find this to be an appealing choice, and it’s definitely a lot more fun than some beginner’s texts. However, I would add the caveat that, like a lot of the typical Llewellyn “skim over a whole bunch of topics in one book” stuff, that it should serve as a gateway to deeper research on what the reader finds most interesting, particularly because of my misgivings with some of the source material.

Personally, I liked Blake’s Circle, Coven and Grove better, but I’m probably also not the ideal audience for this newest book. Therefore I’m giving it…

Three pawprints out of five.

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