Updated: Sep 23, 2022
Witchy practices in the United States are as varied as the people who live here. That’s sort of the point. Our practices develop from the land and resources we have access to, the history of each region, and the people’s beliefs and fears. The books below discuss the various paths I’ve noticed gaining popularity among my witchy peers.
A note: Just because you read about a practice, doesn’t mean you have to practice it. I’m a Latina from Florida. I have no business practicing magic specific to Appalachia. But I can learn about it. Learn to identify it and use that knowledge to engage in conversation regarding the state of witchcraft in my country. I can appreciate similarities to my own craft when they come up and move on.
With that said, here are five books about practices that have become popular in the United States in the past couple of years.
1. New World Witchery: A Trove of North American Folk Magic by Cory Thomas Hutcheson
The New World Witchery podcast launched in 2010 and it was the first witchy podcast I had ever heard when I found it in 2016. Cory and Laine were a wealth of resources for varying practices and practical ideas. So when I heard that co-host Cory wrote a book in 2021, I was very excited.
This book is not about a specific practice, but a collection of stories, artifacts, rituals, and traditions in North America. This book is thorough and exceptionally well-researched.
2. La Santa Muerte: Unearthing the Magic & Mysticism of Death by Tomás Prower
Tomás Prower has written several books, most notably QUEER MAGIC and Mysticism in History and Today. He is both an academic and a Santa Muerte devotee himself, lending a unique perspective to this book. The publisher claims that this is the first book that is written by a practitioner in English (that’s important because there are Spanish texts about Santa Muerte).
This book is popular, but if your goal is to become a Santa Muerte devotee, I would not recommend this be your only source. It is very introductory and approaches Santa Muerte practice from a pagan/wiccan perspective. It’s an easy book to get through, but not is definitive material.
3. Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft by Cyndi Brannen
Modern followers of Hekate highly recommend Cyndi Brannen. This book started off as a blog where Brannen built out the framework for Modern Hekatean Witchcraft. This book is a Wheel of the Year guide, perfect for anyone who wants to have an immersive experience in this craft. It also goes deep into symbols and useful correspondences.
4. Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure Folk Magic from Appalachia by Jake Richards
Nestled here in some of the oldest mountains on earth, our people are a mixed breed of the Irish, Scottish, German, and other settlers who came to call these hills home. This mixture includes the folk practices brought up through the slave trade and the practices learned by the neighboring indigenous tribes of the Cherokee, Creek, Shawnee, and Delaware. This craft speaks from the unmarked graves of slaves, old church bells, and broken pottery fragments of the Cherokee strewn about the creek bed. It is a remnant of our deep roots and a testimony of Appalachian life. -Jake Richards
Backwoods Witchcraft does a great job of setting the scene. This magic is rooted in a region, and Jack Richards’ writing plants you there so he can come up and introduce you to his family, neighbors, and their magic. He covers the terrain, folklore, superstition, Christianity’s influence, ancestor veneration, healing methods, divination, and tools of the craft.
5. Consorting with Spirits: Your Guide to Working with Invisible Allies by Jason G. Miller
Jason Miller has a very down-to-earth approach to working with spirits. In Consorting with Spirits, he presents a detailed explanation of what spirits are, their different classifications, and how they exist in relation to the world we normally perceive. He also teaches the audience how to perceive spirits, how to interact with them, and the tools to create and sustain a relationship with them.
This book is not for beginners. The reader should have a basic understanding of the occult and an understanding of how one tradition can differ from another.
You’ll notice that I’m mentioning popular books, but not necessarily the best books for each of these topics. What do these books say about the state of witchcraft today? The glass half-full crowd might say that we’re seeking different perspectives and approaches to the craft. That North American witchery is rich and varied. On the other side of the glass, people might say that as a culture, we don’t know where we stand. We can’t pin point the craft in North America because it pulls from so many cultures. They might also point out how most popular books are introductory. Which calls into question: How many people actually study the craft past a basic introduction? Do most practitioners today only have a superficial understanding of what they’re practicing?
Let me know where you fall on that spectrum. And happy reading!
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