Posted in [witchy reviews]

[Witchy Review] “New World Witchery” by Cory Thomas Hutcheson

Full Title: New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic
Author: Cory Thomas Hutcheson
Published: April 8, 2021 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Witchcraft, Folklore, Mythology, Magic Studies, Folk Magic, American Culture
Edition Details: 480 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – Request via NetGalley
Rating: {3.5/5 stars}

First Glance

As a long time witch, I’ve studied various paths and cultures to see what speaks to my spirit. American folklore and practices are, I admit, one of my blind spots. I don’t connect to any one region because of being a military brat, so I lack the personal history and ties to a place that others might find spiritually relevant. When I saw this book available for review, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to look into my own country and culture for spiritual inspiration.

Positive Bits

The premise of this book is outlined very early on: “In some ways, I am hoping that picking up this book will be like unearthing a box buried at the crossroads for you and finding it stuffed full of folkloric odds and ends – a veritable treasure trove of witchery, if you will. Each little piece will tell you something about magic, and let you put together your own picture of folkloric witchcraft here and now.” As you explore this book, it truly dives into a variety of sources, from local tribal traditions to immigrant practices from other countries that settled here. The details are also regularly tied back to the current occult movements that match them, allowing you to draw the line between past and present with ease.

I enjoyed the author’s take on magical ingredient correspondences. I’m a big fan of finding your personal connection and symbolism in magic, and they took the time to mention something they get out of each item rather than rehashing the correspondences you find in every other sourcebook. In the same section, there’s an exercise that involves looking at your favorite foods or recipes and considering what magicks they would represent based on their ingredients – which is something I’ve done before, and it’s fascinating to look at your food in a magickal light (particularly if you’re an avid cook)!

Each section has interesting tasks to try, called The Work. After you’ve been exposed to one type of magical folklore, you’re invited to explore it within your own spiritual path. Several of them contained great questions to meditate or journal on, and I found myself pausing to consider how they related to my practice. I enjoy interactivity in books, so this is a major bonus point to the book as a whole.

Less Enjoyable Bits

This book is very heavily focused on folkloric knowledge, with much smaller sections tying it back to modern witchcraft. While intriguing if you like history and folklore as topics, I found myself a bit disappointed to slug through 480 pages of folklore when I had thought there’d be more active rituals and practices to explore. Considering how often folklore related to witches dips into talk of worshipping the Devil, I found myself less interested in the information provided when it was steeped in stories from that angle.

On the flip side, there were mentions of folklore that greatly intrigued me… only to be presented in one or two sentences and then never referenced again. For example, I live near the Chehalis tribe in the Pacific Northwest, and they were mentioned in a section about moon folklore. Apparently they see the moon as masculine, but we get one note to that effect and then nothing further. Living so close to multiple tribes, I wish more Native culture had been included as part of American folklore. Too often, we treat Natives as “other” and less American than the immigrants who supplanted them.

I think this book is geared toward an audience who wants to explore American folklore and folk magic but doesn’t want to dive into research alone. If that’s your focus, then it’s a good guide to jumping off points for exploring our history. If that’s not your cup of tea, then this book is a long and difficult trek through a portion of American history.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Be a magical magpie if you wish, and gather the shiny and beautiful things you like, but acknowledge that you are a magpie and not a bluebird or a cardinal, even if you add a few of their twigs or feathers to your nest. Be grateful and humble towards the magic and the people behind that magic, and you will find that magic opens up all sorts of new possibilities for you. – 8%

Being seen and heard, and feeling that spiritual forces are available to you – that is a kind of magic all its own. Witchcraft is a nuanced craft, and magical healing can go well beyond easing the symptoms of a cold or buying away a wart. It can reach into the very heart of us and work its transformations there as well. – 22%

As we reach the end of our journey here, I invite you to take a look at the rising popularity of the witch in a different way: she is hiding something. She is glamorous and beautiful, bold and unapologetic, standing up for rights and demonstrating ferocity to all who see her. And in between all of that, she may light a candle or turn over some cards to see what part of the future she can change. – 96%

Is it worth the coin?

No – unless what I described is what you’re looking for. It wasn’t the guide to American folk magic that I had hoped to find, but it had value for someone exploring folklore for folklore’s sake.