Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “Werewolf Magick” by Denny Sargent

Full Title: Werewolf Magick: Authentic Practical Lycanthropy
Author: Denny Sargent
Published: September 2020 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Magic Studies, Witchcraft
Edition Details: 240 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – Requested by me
Rating: {2.5/5 stars}

First Glance

As a therian and animist, I enjoy any opportunity to delve into magic related to shapeshifting and spirit work. This book clearly focused on wolves, which happen to be one of my favorite animals, so I decided to ask for a first look. I received an advanced readers’ copy (ebook) through NetGalley. As usual, I get paid nothing to give my honest opinion.

Positive Bits

The overall idea behind werewolf magick is that we need to (and can) embrace our wild side and go a little feral if we want to really connect to our own power. I’ve written and participated in several different versions of this kind of magic, where you reach deep down to find your inner wildness; it’s a powerful piece of energy work.

The author clearly runs with this wildness, as the majority of the rituals included are wordless. Howls and yips and growls are the only magical words used, and I think that’s a smart approach. It makes it a little harder to plan your ritual, as there are no cue cards, but sound is a good carrier of energy regardless of its form.

I appreciated the notes on animal parts and meat usage throughout the book. As someone who prefers to be an ethical omnivore rather than a vegetarian, I respect the balancing act it takes to honor the animals who obviously had to die in order for you to eat or wear them. There are different ways to approach animal parts (fur, bones, or meat) and they all start with an acknowledgement of death and your role in the process.

Less Enjoyable Bits

I’ll admit that this book is too eclectic for me. There are repeated notices that the author makes no claim at being a shaman, which is all well and good. But then there are random pieces of the Greco-Roman pantheon, modernized versions of old Nordic ritual, and a surprise visit from an Egyptian god. Throughout that mix, we have Gaia used as a name for the Earth as a being (but not as Gaia, the Greco-Roman goddess) and a liberal smattering of mantras from Hindu practices (without any explanation about their source or purpose). The author could’ve used a bit more explanation between rituals to tie together his eclectic pieces, but they were presented as disjointed mosaic pieces.

In the history of werewolves presented, the author travels a familiar and well-worn path of pretending that witches (and, therefore, werewolves) have always existed and were hunted down during the Burning Times. And yet, enough witches and werewolves hid to bring their practices to us today. The truth is, we’ve recognized as a community that the “history” we were taught was a tool to loan authenticity to new practices. After all, everyone respects an ancient teaching, right? Each example of werewolves in the past is dubiously tied together in a string, and it’s supposed to guide us from ancient werewolves to today’s shifters in an unbroken line… that I’m not buying.

Based on personal studies and experience, I found his entire section on Fetches to be misguided. Take it or leave it as you will, but I find that a Fetch or similar thoughtform isn’t an alter ego (wolf or otherwise) of myself. Rather, it’s a separate and directed entity. The author treats the animalself (his word for your animal side) as both a part of you and something apart from you, depending on the working presented. I feel there’s no ambiguity in what is Self versus what is outside of Self, and this makes the entire use of animalself as a Fetch an impractical process – one that I would expect to cause you some discomfort, if not exhaustion. There’s a reason we practice magic with the help of external energies and items other than ourselves.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

The names are less important than the truth behind the powers.

We are smart, feral, amazing beasts who can dress in a suit for work and later that night run naked and howling in the woods under the moon.

Our wild gods are not spiritual metaphors or cosmic entities, they are the dirt beneath our naked paws, the rain that tastes sweet on our tongues, the lunar dance of the tides within us and the fresh scented air of Spring that fills us with green energy.

Is it worth the coin?

No – there are other resources on wolf mythology and shapeshifting that can be found, and I would pick up something more focused if I were studying either topic.


bookdragon, poet, witch

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