Title: The Weiser Field Guide to Witches: From Hexes to Hermione Granger, From Salem to the Land of Oz
Author(s): Judika Iles
Published 2010 by Weiser
ISBN: 1578634792
ISBN-13: 978-1578634798
Paperback, 272 pages
List: $14.95
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Reviewer: Mike Gleason

I must state, here-and-now, that I disagree with Ms Iles concept that a witch can be of any religion or even no religion. But I must also admit that I am "old school" and that colors my perceptions. She also states that "Rede" (as in The Wiccan Rede) means "rule." I was taught that it derives from a word meaning "advice" or "counsel." Having stated those objections, I proceeded to read the book with a pretty much open mind.

Obviously, because of her own perceptions, there were going to be things I didn't agree with, such as inclusion of many individuals who may or may not have been considered witches by their contemporaries.

Unfortunately she repeats some allegations as fact, thus perpetuating some misconceptions (about Gardner and Crowley among others). I have noticed a tendency among authors to "pass along" information without necessarily taking the time to verify it first. In many cases, the information may be unverifiable, so that is understandable. However, in other cases, the facts have been presented by those involved in one or more instances.

As well as providing descriptions of traditions and listing individual witches, she also discusses tools associated with witches, various arts and craft associated with witches and divinities which are often considered to be connected with witchcraft.

The chapter devoted to "Entertaining Witches" provides some examples from classic movies and plays, as well as literature (Narnia and Harry Potter are prime examples), comics and manga, and television (think Bewitched, Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Willow). It shows that witches have been feared, tolerated, and in some cases even admired - there is a bronze statue of Samantha Stevens in downtown Salem, Massachusetts.

In the chapter on "Animal Witches and Witches' Animals" it is made clear that worldwide there is a belief that witches can transform themselves into animals, and that in some cases (particularly in Japan) certain animals are themselves witches. The "Witches' Animals" segment deals with the ever-popular idea of familiars.

The remaining segments of the book are devoted to "Hunting Witches" - a short collection of those who have been accused of, or executed as, witches; "Travel Tips for Witches" - which consists of a few physical places to learn more about witches; and a final segment called "Are you a Witch?" which primarily consists of medieval beliefs about witches as well as including some personality traits which you can look for in yourself (and others) to see if there is a predilection towards being a witch.

She also provides an extremely short list of further reading suggestions (less than 20 books, periodicals, and internet sources).

Overall, this was an interesting offering, although I'm not sure how useful one would find it to identify the local witch. I have no hesitation, however, in recommending it as a useful source of general information about witches past and present. It is easy to read, and the information contained within it is easily absorbed.


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