Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “Revolutionary Witchcraft” by Sarah Lyons

Full Title: Revolutionary Witchcraft: A Guide to Magical Activism
Author: Sarah Lyons
Published: November 2019 by Running Press Adult
Genres: Nonfiction, Women in Politics, Democracy, Occultism, Witchcraft, Social Justice
Edition Details: 168 pages, flexibound
Source: Purchased
Rating: {3/5 stars}

First Glance

With the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality raging (rightfully) across the country, this book is part of half a dozen resources I decided to purchase. I’m working from home and fully self-quarantined for safety, but I wanted to make some kind of difference. Part of that has been a decision to put my magic where my mouth is, so to speak.

Positive Bits

The premise of this book is set from the start, that activism is a form of magical action. If magic is about directing power (energy) toward a goal, so is politics. There aren’t necessarily as different as you might think. That said, this book is clearly for direct and physical activism, rather than magical works. If you’re looking for a way to merge action with magic, then you’ll find it.

I appreciated the section on getting in touch with your ancestors, as the author took time to point out that ancestors of spirit (i.e. non-familial beloved dead) are valid. As someone from a small and scattered family, I don’t have the ability to trace back my bloodlines very far. However, there are elders that came before me who directly shaped me as a witch (like Scott Cunningham). With found family being such a bit part of both the witchcraft and LGBTQ+ communities, it’s nice to be reminded that it’s not always about blood.

The book also describes the reality of Trump as America’s Shadow. He’s the culmination of our darkest urges and realities, not an outlier. In discussing this, the author points out how unsurprised some oppressed groups were when Trump got elected; after all, when you spend so much time being mistreated by your country, the idea that there are enough people who think like Trump to elect him isn’t that far-fetched. I can definitely relate, as someone who lived as an LGBTQ+ witch in Texas for a decade… it’s exhausting to face the societal Shadow day in and day out, but some people don’t have the luxury of ignoring it.

In the ritual portion of the book (the appendix), the author explains how you can take premade spells and make them your own by localizing your magic. For example, you can look at the native plants in your area and figure out their magical associations. Once you have a list of local magical herbs, you can use them in place of hard-to-obtain or unfamiliar herbs in spells. Being tied to your area makes your magic more effective, because you’re literally harnessing your homeland (i.e. the land around your home) for assistance.

Less Enjoyable Bits

This book is not about witchcraft for the revolution. As mentioned in the Positive Bits, there’s an appendix of rituals and spells; however, there are only a handful offered and nothing particularly useful for those of us trying to help the activists from home. To be fair, the book was written in the pre-quarantine life we once had, but it was a disappointment to have the focus largely be on direct, in-person activist works.

Occasionally, the tone of the author is dismissive in places I found unpleasant. They brushed off the use of beauty products in a dismissive tone, ignoring the cultural aspects of cosmetics that have existed in mundane and magical life for centuries. They also brushed off deity worship in general. As someone who practices both animism and hard polytheism, I find it a bit disrespectful to dismiss gods and goddesses as a whole due to the vague belief that some worship Mother Earth as “a white woman with long hair and conveniently placed leaves”. The attitude is sporadic in a few topics rather than existing throughout the book, so it’s not a deal breaker if you’re interested in the rest of the book. Just be aware that some areas might make you irritated.

One magical issue that I found questionable was the entire section on “Magic in Action: Shape-shifting and Soul Flight”. Call my old school, but I don’t think one of the few magical practices you introduce in a beginner’s witchcraft book should be leaving your body. Period. It’s mentioned without first considering the processes of grounding and centering, and it comes before even basic meditation instructions are given(!?). While I don’t have a deep need to hold off on astral travel, soul flight, shape-shifting, and similar topics until you’re initiated a dozen levels into a coven, I *do* feel like there needs to be quite a bit more work toward basic self-awareness before leaving yourself behind.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Just like in magic, politics is about feeling the flow of power, finding it in yourself, and combining it with other people’s to make something happen. – page 7

Initiation is any ritual or event that sort of breaks open your brain and makes you realize the world is a lot weirder and bigger than you previously thought. – page 39

Reality is malleable, like the code in a computer. It’s both highly structured and highly able to be fucked with. – page 96

Is it worth the coin?

No – this book isn’t about witchcraft so much as it’s about finding a spiritual tie-in between activism and witchcraft. The pieces I enjoyed are all available with more depth in other books, and the rest is just a really big protester pep talk with witchy sprinkles.

Author:

bookdragon, poet, witch

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