Book of Shadows

Book of Shadows

4.7 17
by Phyllis Curott
     
 

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Since Phyllis Currot first published Book of Shadows, the story of her spiritual journey and initiation as a High Priestess in the Wiccan community, Witchcraft has captured America's imagination as a theme for fiction, television shows, and films. Now America's highest-profile Witch returns to dispel more myths and misrepresentations of her faith, and to shareSee more details below

Overview

Since Phyllis Currot first published Book of Shadows, the story of her spiritual journey and initiation as a High Priestess in the Wiccan community, Witchcraft has captured America's imagination as a theme for fiction, television shows, and films. Now America's highest-profile Witch returns to dispel more myths and misrepresentations of her faith, and to share a practical guide to the beautiful spiritual rituals and philosophies behind Wiccan tradition.


Rich with enchanting stories from Currot's own experiences and detailed advice for creating potions, working with Nature, and finding the Divine within, Witch Crafting is much more than just another superficial recipe book. Curott's unique guidebook integrates the inspiration of religious wisdom with sound, practical information. Witch Crafting reveals how to: incorporate Wiccan practices into your daily life; master the secret arts of effective spell casting; create sacred space and personal rituals; perform divinations for insight and success; and tap the magical power of altered states, such as dreaming meditation, prayer, and trance.


Perfect for beginners or seasoned practitioners, Witch Crafting is the ideal handbook for anyone seeking to unlock the divine power that makes real magic happen, and to experience the power and gifts of the universe more fully.

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Editorial Reviews

Lisa Carver

In Book of Shadows, Phyllis Curott takes us along on her double journey -- she's rising in the music business, doing legal work in New York for huge stars she doesn't name, while simultaneously going down into the underworld of dreams and witchcraft and yellowed books about Egyptian goddesses. Neither world, she discovers, is what it appears. But when she starts talking about the scent of apple blossoms filling the air, or about bonding with good, strong female mentors with names like "Nonna," or about facing her inner shadow, your mind may wander off as you try to figure out who the unnamed stars are.

Curott and her fellow witches use the word "sacred" so often that it feels like Chinese water torture, and they frequently proclaim their outrage over the persecution witches faced 500 years ago (as if they were the only religious group whose members got killed and called names). Curott never comes out and says that men are evil, and two or three of the peripheral male characters seem kind enough, but it's implied that most men throughout history got their power by stealing it from women. Like on Lifetime, the TV channel for women, almost all the females in Book of Shadows have been sexually assaulted or stalked. They sob a lot and comfort each other. They join hands in a circle; they learn to accept their bodies. They each take one bite of an apple, which represents forbidden knowledge, and say things like, "I honor the nourishment and the strength the Goddess has given me -- she sustains me with the fruits of life." After they've all bitten into it, they linger in the circle for hours, and Curott asks Nonna, "May I take the remnants of the apple?" Nonna "wrapped them carefully in a napkin and hugged her." Way too much yin.

If only the author had a sense of humor, Book of Shadows wouldn't be so unbearable. (Curott claims several times that she does have a sense of humor -- a dead giveaway that one is terribly, terribly unfunny. You learn that from personal ads.) It's not that I'm uninterested in magic or the true nature of chaos. It's that I get uncomfortable when Curott marks a pink candle with her name, the astrological symbol for Venus and the word "love." Her life grows steadily more gentle and steadily more scented. Her research is scented, too, even though her publishers have made a big deal out of the fact that she's a Harvard grad. For instance, she claims that in the "patriarchal religions" -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- "the father God [is] transcendent and removed," while in witchcraft "the mother Goddess [is] immanent and present in the world." She's largely right. But there have always been mystical strains within those Big Three where God was so "immanent" some people actually died from being overfilled with glory. I could go on about this -- and so could Curott, who's now the president of the world's largest Wiccan organization.

One thing you have to hand to her: This good-looking, high-powered Manhattan lawyer re-created her life. When she didn't find a path that suited her, she paved her own. That it looks corny to people like me means, in the long run, absolutely nothing. -- Salon

Library Journal
Over time, "book of shadows" has come to refer to a witch's journal, a diary of spells, chants, and rituals. Here Curott, a high priestess of the New York City-based Circle of Ara & the Minoan fellowship and a practicing lawyer, uses 13 chapters to tell the story of her personal encounter with the ways of the Goddess, with insight into the contemporary practice of witchcraft, or Wicca. The helpful appendix includes a table outlining the goddesses, gods, animals, and zodiacal signs connected with Wicca; spells, charms, and magical potions; special events of the Wicca year, with a resources section; and a list of books that provide further insight into Goddess and Wiccan practice, witchcraft, and white magic. Libraries seeking current material dealing with modern witchcraft will find this a helpful addition. Though no footnotes support any of the characterizations or opinions offered, the personal story will appeal to some readers.--Leroy Hommerding, Citrus Cty. Lib. System, Inverness, FL
Deepak Chopra
A modern-day Persephone myth full of magic and mystery, Book of Shadows transcends the bounds of its genre.
Kirkus Reviews
An engaging memoir of magic and self-discovery, by Wicca high priestess and entertainment attorney Curott. Curott has lectured nationally on the renaissance of witchcraft in America, and here she offers a treatment of magic's role in her own spiritual journey and professional life. Curott wisely uses the genre of autobiography to introduce readers to witchcraft gradually, as she herself was introduced to it. She first describes her visions of an Isis-like figure in her final year of law school, and her sudden development of extrasensory talents. A bit later, she met a self-described witch and through this friendship began attending her first "circle" meetings, which sound a lot more like a feminist consciousness-raising group than a coven. Which is precisely Curott's point: the book's chief function is to dispel Christian-based stereotypes about witches, who don't worship Satan (he's not a figure in pre-Christian traditions) or cast spells on people (Curott insists that witches seek to establish harmony in the world, not to be masters of others or of nature). But in her well-intentioned efforts to rehabilitate witchcraft, she occasionally succumbs to perpetuating rather ridiculous inaccuracies about its detractors (as when she repeats the claim that the Catholic Church was responsible for the Black Plague because it had killed off all the cats, thinking they might be witches' familiars). And at times her rhetorical devices are not too subtle—she gives her lecherous boss the pseudonym Hades, symbolically casting herself as the ensnared Persephone, who must utilize female magic to escape from his underworld. However, Curott also presents some fine insights into the rolewitchcraft plays in the complex milieu of American religion, including her observation that Wicca is appealing because it does not demand exclusive devotion (one enchantress calls herself "an Episcopagan"). Though jagged, Curott's book stands as a unique first-person account of more than 20 years as a practitioner of Wicca.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307832276
Publisher:
Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony
Publication date:
07/03/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
261,739
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Thousands  of years ago, the Sumerians created a legendary collection of  invocations to the Goddess, ordaining their magical corpus of poetry and  songs a "Book of Shadows." Over time, Book of Shadows has come to  refer to a Witch's journal, a record of spiritual wisdom, a diary of  spells, songs, chants, rituals, and invocations. This is my Book of  Shadows, the story of my first encounter with the ancient ways of the  Goddess. It is the true story of a modern woman's spiritual journey into a  realm long forgotten by Western culture. It is a chronicle of discovery,  challenge, and transformation.

Over the past two decades, as a High Priestess and a teacher of the Old  Religion, I have found when I mention the word Witch, it often  brings to people's minds images of hurly-burly hags casting spells,  licentious young women consorting with the devil, and wizards commanding  supernatural demons to appear. On the lighter side, they might think of  glamorous Veronica Lake in I Married a Witch, sexy Kim Novak in  Bell, Book and Candle, or the adorable TV Witches in Bewitched  and  Sabrina lending some desperately needed excitement, as  well as some unexpected morality, to the American suburbs. Or perhaps they  will remember, with a child's delight, The Wizard of Oz and Glinda,  the Good Witch of the North, who tells young Dorothy the power to find her  happiness, and her way home, has been with her all along. This last image  comes closest to capturing the real and unknown truth about  Witchcraft.

Like most people, there was a time when I thought Witches existed only in  the realm of make-believe. Whether they were real, and whether they  actually had magical powers, were not questions I even considered as a  philosophy student at Brown University, and certainly not later as a young  practicing Manhattan attorney. After all, why would a well-educated,  professional  woman be interested Witches, let alone willingly become  one?

Then, twenty years ago, a series of mysterious coincidences led me to a  world where I discovered the answers not only to these questions, but to  questions buried at the center of my soul--questions, it turns out,  millions of people also want answered, for the answers are the hope for  humanity's future as we enter a new millennium. How are we to find our  lost souls? How can we rediscover the sacred from which we have been  separated for thousands of years? How can we live free of fear and filled  with divine love and compassion? How can we find and fulfill our magical  destinies? How can we restore and protect this Eden, which is our fragile  planet?

The answers were not found in the domain of make-believe, but in the  place one might least expect to find them--in the hidden world of real  Witches.  But contrary to the clichÚs in fairy tales and Hollywood  films, Witchcraft is not a subculture of satanic rites enacted by wacky  spinsters or mad demonologists. It is an ancient, elegant spirituality  that revives the magic of being alive--the kind of magic we have always  longed for, but sadly assumed only came true in storybooks.

Wicca, as Witchcraft is most often referred to by contemporary  practitioners, is the renaissance of a pre-Hebraic, pre-Christian, and  pre-Islamic Goddess spirituality. The word Witch actually comes  from the old Anglo-Saxon word wicce, meaning "wise one," a seer, a  priestess, or shaman who is able to work with unseen, divine forces.  Witches were the singers of sacred songs, the midwives and healers, guides  and teachers of the Goddess's spiritual wisdom. Like Native Americans,  Taoists, Australian Aborigines, the Yoruban tribes in Africa, Eskimos,  Hawaiians, Lapps, and other indigenous peoples, the people of old Europe  and the Fertile Crescent lived close to the earth and respected their  relationship with nature as sacred, for they experienced their world as  the embodiment of the divine.

The shamanic practices of the Old Religion enabled women and men to  attune their psyches and their daily lives to the cycles of nature and the  mystical wisdom found in the earth's profound rhythms. A spirituality of  divine empowerment, the holy magic practiced by Witches, shamans,  priestesses, and mystics celebrated an enlightened connection to the  earth.

Their sacred truths have been passed down by magical orders and within  families, who carefully preserved the religion of the great Goddess. Those  who practiced the old ways--in southern Italy, in the small towns of the  British Isles, and, several centuries later, in rural parts of West  Virginia and New England--were forced to do so secretly, having been  driven underground nearly five hundred years ago, when accusations of  Satanism first arose. From these accusations came the "Witchcraze," the  Church's crusade to suppress the  Old Religion of the Goddess and  establish religious hegemony in Europe.  Hundreds of thousands were killed  in an unholy campaign, most of whom were women, who suffered great losses  in economic and social power. But this was not the only wound to Western  culture. The ancient knowledge of the village wise woman, and man, was  nearly lost, as the sacred rites that maintained the connection between  people, the earth, and the divine were rent asunder.

Hundreds of years after the Witchcraze, the archetype of the horrific hag  continues to hold tremendous power as a repository for modern culture's  fear of women, sexuality, and individual freedom. The repulsive crone has  become our guardian at the gate, challenging our readiness to enter a  world of ecstasy and enchantment. Those with courage, curiosity,  compassion, and a taste for adventure may confront her, and when they do,  behind the mask of the wicked Witch, they will find the beatific face of  the Great Goddess.

As a young woman at the start of my career, I began studying with  priestesses of the Goddess. They introduced me to the timeless arts of  spiritual transformation, imparting tools and techniques that anyone can  use to experience the divine within themselves and in the world around  them. I entered a realm of magic that was as ancient as the history of  humanity, and as modern as the theories of quantum physics. And their ways  enabled me to see the world as vibrantly, divinely alive, rich with wisdom  and beauty.

Since I first began practicing the secret arts of the sacred earth,  Goddess spirituality has emerged from the shadows of misunderstanding as  the fastest growing spiritual practice in the United States. I have  addressed the public, the media, the legal system, Church congregations,  the Parliament of the World's Religions, and United Nations conferences. I  have taught the wisdom of the Great Goddess. I have found a beacon of  truth, a torch that I offer for your journey into the future, into realms  of wonder, magic, and divinity.

We are entering a new era, an age of the Divine Feminine, when the  illumined power of women and men will bring new life to a dying world. It  is a time of critical change that depends upon our spiritual awakening, a  collective epiphany, a summoning of the sacred into our lives. Now is the  time for the Goddess's return, for the return of our lost souls. For the  return of life to a world laid waste by spiritual and environmental  crises. Through the re-empowerment of the feminine principle, our world  can become a holy vessel of connectedness, grace, and joy for all. With  Her return, we will rediscover the Paradise which dwells within and which  encircles us on this sacred, beloved planet.

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