So many thanks to everyone who joined me for the October festivities this year! I had a wonderful time and am thrilled that folks still want to play along each year. I've drawn the last names (Aly, Gay, Shelby, and Mara have all been sent emails) and I'm wrapping up the final books to head out to their new homes.
I hope these last two months of the year are good to you and yours. Stay well and safe, and thank you again for gathering around the fire with me.
The salt shaker was on its side, little pebbles of the stuff scattered around it. Without thinking I pressed my fingers into the crystals and then flicked them over my left shoulder. Then I laughed and whispered "sorry, sweet devil," as I also happen to have a soft spot for the fellow, which that particular action was meant to thwart. There were a number of times while cleaning, that I did something which might seem strange to others but was unconscious or natural to me. Singing charms while sweeping. Drawing symbols on the doors with saliva or blessed water. Tucking a coin somewhere. Muttering a piece of a psalm. None of it on its own would be considered 'magic' necessarily. But all together, these actions weave together an enchantment to keep my living space safe and healthy.
My grandmother was not a witch. She was a 'good Christian woman' who raised seven children, grew roses like no one else, and kept my grandfather mostly in line. She could also heal a bee sting with a potato, cure whatever ailed you with food from her kitchen, and keep away pests and unwanted solicitors from her door with an ever-present box of Borax. I have never had any doubt that she was magic.
Folk magic is, just as the term implies, the magic of the common 'folk' in a family, an area, or a culture. In many cases the people employing those charms, ways, or songs might not label it as magic. They may consider it a gift from their land or their god(s), a gift passed through a familial line, or simply a learned skill. It was most often what was done to protect a family or home, heal what was harmed, and bring things or people closer (or push them away). Folk magic was, and oftentimes still is, a tool of practicality or necessity.
It is so much more than this, of course. And that is why I am leaving it to these next brilliant authors to introduce us to their studies, practices, and experiences of folk magic. I know you'll learn a great deal from them.
I have four books that present folk magic in beautiful, fascinating, practical (and sometimes painful) ways. Once you've read these books, you'll surely spot magic everywhere, and want to dig into your own familial and cultural history to track it down even further.
Our first book is one that will keep you busy, but the time spent here will bring nothing but rewards. New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic, by Cory Thomas Hutcheson of New World Witchery fame is, frankly, jaw-dropping. It is part history book, part enchanting folktale, a good helping of spellwork, a smidgeon of a recipe collection, plus a wink of devilish fun. It's as though the author took a basket out into the woods and rooted out the treasures of what magic was, and is, and could be, and brought them back just for us.
Magic in plain sight, the witch's flight, friendly spirits and unfriendly (baneful) magic. Tricksters and devils, healing and love, and how to launch a good defense. Creatures, cryptids, spell containers and charms. I don't know that there is any topic that Cory doesn't at least give us a glance at, and he is quick to recommend further reading for those things that excite our interest. What impresses me most, though, is that there is a genuine effort to bring awareness to the places where the pursuit of magic can harm others - racism, cultural appropriation, sexism, and indifference to physical ability/ableness. There are also sections called "Singing Bones" where we are introduced to healers, witches, and magical folk in history. There is no question that those who were considered 'other' were not usually looked kindly upon in days of old. I'm glad some of these people get their names honoured in this book.
Fever Tree: Charms Against Fever in Appalachian Folk Magic by Rebecca Beyer of Blood and Spicebush is a book that very much speaks to a place and form of magic. Appalachian healing traditions are a spellbinding example of how folk magic from one area can be similar to folk magic in another place, yet maintain the distinct flavour of the bio-region it was practiced in. The fever spoken of in the title is not a simple rising of body temperature due to an internal battle of our immune system. In the early days of communal-living people, fever was looked at as sentient and able to manifest. It brought sickness and disease. It was therefore crucial that it be prevented from laying hold, and there were a number of folks trained in ways help and heal, if it did.
Rebecca introduces us to a host of people doing the good work of ridding contagion, from blood stoppers and granny women to charm doctors and burn whisperers. We are made acquainted with methods and ingredients that were employed by healers, as well as magical actions (or in some case, inaction) that were mean to chase fever away. If you've ever had an interest in folk healing, or specifically the Appalachian region, this book is a must-read!
"Folk medicine does not stand still in time," says Beyer in this riveting study, "and today, this living tradition continues to grow and change as the people who heal with their hands continue to make and use the medicines of the mountains."
This compact but captivating book is part of the Law of Contagion Series published by Three Hands Press and is a limited edition publication (there were only 400 copies printed). Do grab one while you can!
Folkloric American Witchcraft and the Multicultural Experience: A Crucible at the Crossroads, by Via Hedera is our next selection, and one that I think belongs on everyone's bookshelf. I wish it were ten times the length that it is, because the author's writing and research pulls you directly into the stream of folk magic in North America (specifically the USA) and takes you into the hidden eddies to show you where charms mingle with tricks, and where family/ancestors, festivals, and local flora and fauna all have made a place for themselves in these practices. Most importantly, Via pages through the history books and offers up carefully selected gems, all through the unique lens of her own multicultural experience.
There isn't a voice like Via's in the folk magic community, because there is no one else like Via. "I speak as a witch who seeks to promote the magical traditions of my ancestors and the witchery they brought here; from Africa, from Europe, from Asia, from Turtle Island - because for some Americans, like me, this is who we are and all we know."
This is necessary reading for anyone interested in folk magic. There is no 'one source' for magic - no one owns it - and Via shows us how these practices have melted together in the cauldron of North America, carried here by people from afar, as well as cultivated on this soil long before others arrived here. You'd do yourself a kindness by reading Via's blog as well, and I am hoping she will do us a kindness by publishing more books!
The charms we know today are most often hold-overs from those who came before us. We can trace their worries and daily fears through their common superstitions. We can view the world through their experiences when we tap into the charms they too utilized. Magic like this is an heirloom, one we ought to treasure for the simple lesson to be learned. - Via Hedera
Roots, Branches & Spirits: The Folkways and Witchery of Appalachia, by H. Byron Ballard is another collection of magical heirlooms and practical magic that I know you will love. I was utterly entranced by the author's storytelling. The rich tapestry of their particular area of the Appalachians, the history and the heartache, and the deep magic that runs through the mountains and the people there. Reading this book feels like sitting on a porch with an old friend who is imparting tales and wisdom they learned over their lifetime.
"This land is a holdover to another time: one of kindred bonds that are almost unbreakable, where blood feuds can transcend generations, and where old women carry secret knowledge." While there are important stories of place here, there is also a good sharing of recipes (receipts), herb lore, charms, and even a few ghostly tales. What better to curl up with during the long nights ahead?
If you haven't met and read our authors already, they each have truly excellent blogs and writings available that you will enjoy. Simply click through the links on their names above and you'll find them! A very special thanks this time around to Cory Hutcheson and Byron Ballard who are generously donating their autographed books to you!
This last game of trick-or-treat will run the month out - you will have until midnight on November 1st to get your name in the hat. Please make sure to leave me a way to contact you if you win (your email or social media tag). As always, you can let me know which book you'd prefer and I'll do my best to make that happen. And if you want to improve your chances, you can share this giveaway with your friends on social media and then let me know you did, and I'll put your name in the hat again. I'll draw the winning names when I awaken on All Souls morn (November 2nd).
Thank you so much for playing along this year! It has been quiet here of late, but I couldn't imagine not having these October games. I'm so glad you joined me around the bonfire and I hope you'll find some good reading at your side as autumn moves toward winter. Happy reading!
* This giveaway (or "sweepstakes") is open to all residents of Canada, (exluding Quebec residents) the USA, Great Britain, Europe, South America, who are 18 years of age or older. This giveaway is void where prohitibited by law. Please be aware of the contest/sweepstakes laws in your area.
* Canadian residents will be subject to a skill testing question before being able to claim their prize (this is standard law in Canada). The skill testing question will be in a form similar to: 1 + 2 - 1 =
* This giveaway is not for profit and no purchase is necessary to enter.
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I have chosen all the books/cards featured this month myself. I have not been paid to feature a book, nor have I been asked to advertise for anyone. This giveaway is not endorsed or sponsored by anyone other than Rue and Hys