A Deed Without a Name: Unearthing the Legacy of Traditional Witchcraft by Lee Morgan
I was very excited to read this book when I first saw it on Tumblr. Reading some of the preview snippets, I saw some topics that I had never read about, and was interested to see the author’s viewpoint on some topics that I -did- know about. So, naturally, when the book arrived I devoured it!
I will begin by saying that this book has an impressive bibliography, citing such authors as Emma Wilby, Carlos Ginzburg, and Claude Lecouteux to support Morgan’s arguments. She also uses folklore, and various incidents of historic witchery to back up her claims. That alone makes me smile and love this book. So many books on witchcraft do not do this well, and Morgan does it VERY well.
The first chapters defined what witchcraft is, and was, and how it applies to modern individuals. The author is part of the philosophy that only a select few are called to the path of witchery, and find this through various means. One of these paths that was touched up on frequently was the concept of the fetch-mate, which I shall go into a little later. She also touches base on the concept of witch as “shaman”, and defines what this means, exactly.
The term shaman, unfortunately has been butchered by anthropologists. The term is now applied to any, and all practices that consist of ecstatic trance techniques, otherworld travel, and various other techniques. While these practices are (for the most part) universal, they should not all be labeled as “shamanism”. The author talks about this, and I commend her for taking the time to explain that “shaman” is not precisely the correct word to use.
By this time I was having a hard time following what the author was trying to say. It was very poorly edited. I would have to read a sentence about twelve times in order to understand what she was saying, and sometimes I couldn’t understand what she was writing at all! This experience was rather disconcerting.
The middle section of the book covered something not usually seen in many books on witchcraft: the concept of the familiar and the fetch-mate. She compared witches from the past and modern witches giving testimonials of how they found their fetch-mate. Isobel Gowdie was brought up often, and her experience with meeting the Devil between two towns, and her initiation into witchcraft. It was uncanny how similar the stories of the modern witches were to those of the past, even when the modern witches had no inkling as to what witchcraft was at the time (they were usually very young).
As I was reading this part of the book, I was struck with a memory from my childhood. There was a girl that I used to play with at a nearby park, and it was ONLY at that park. I would play on the see-saw with her. She was my best friend, when I was young. I remember my father deciding to go home, and I looked back and she was there waving. Then when we got into the car she was gone. I’ve gone back to the precise spot. The see saw is not there, and neither is the girl. She was not a spirit of the dead. And just recently, I remember having a dream of her, but she was older, my age (11). But it was a very vivid dream.
On the subject of dreams, it plays a powerful role in this book. The author talks about how witches, or those that would pursue the path, should view their world. She speaks about how our ancestors may have viewed the world. They did not see a difference between dream and reality, and in some cases claimed that dreams were more important than reality! It was an interesting philosophy to look. The way that our ancestors slept also comes into play.
They slept in four hour bursts (from the sun setting and waking up in the night, to sleeping and waking up at dawn). This is how we -used- to sleep. It is also much healthier to sleep this way. Now, because of this they experienced REM sleep more than we did. Sleep works in a four hour cycle. In this cycle we go from Beta/Alpha to Theta down to Delta (very deep sleep) and then back up to Beta, or REM. We are in Delta for about 90 minutes. The rest of the time we are in REM, just before we wake up. This is the best time to dream. It also easier to remember one’s dreams after a four hour burst. There are many techniques of Lucid Dreaming that incorporate this. Setting your alarm in a four hour, then a six hour, and then an eight hour time will, supposedly, help you realise when you are dreaming, and help you remember them easier. The author encourages the reader to take on a similar philosophy towards sleep, and dreaming.
The rest of the book consists of more information on coming into one’s witchcraft after they have received and been greeted by their familiar spirit. She writes that not all witches are called to practice witchcraft for the same reason. Some may be called to do what is perceived as good, and others for evil. She also goes into information on faery doctors: witches that had a faery familiar, and participated in powerful healing rites, and protection spells.
However, no matter if you are called to bring curses against people, or to heal, all witches are some how part of the Other. The author in the end of the book goes into detail about participating in witch flight and sabbat rites, and crossing over the hedge. I agree with her that witchcraft is about this Otherness. Witches utilise the Other in some form or another. They make the Mysterious and Subtle forces to bend to their will (or is it the Subtle forces bending the witch to THEIR will?) in some form or another, and in some way communicate with this Otherness.
She finishes the book talking briefly about the Master of witchcraft, and also the Lady of Witchdom, and concludes with a few rites and exercises to find one’s familiar, fetch-mate, to feel their second self, a rite on exorcism, and a rite on necromancy.
In the end I would give this book a 6/10. While it has good information, I feel that the author does not go into much detail about the various subjects. She gives the reader tastes of the topics in the various chapters, rather than actually speaking about the topic. I felt, at times, a little underinformed on some of the chapters (Here Be Dragons, Drenching the Ghost, and Riding the Beast being the most notable). The book was also hard to follow, as I have said. Some words were misspelled, some were not even the correct words to use in the right place, sometimes the sentences were poorly punctuated so one had to read it a few times to understand what the writer was trying to portray. At times it felt as though she wanted to start a topic, and then later in the paragraph decide not to finish talking about it.
It was an interesting take on a few topics, but I wish she had gone into more detail on others. Not necessarily -how- but more information on where the topics came from, and how they apply within witchcraft would have been nice.
All in all, it was an interesting read, but I have read better. It would be good for a beginnger, if not for the tedious task of deciphering terribly edited grammar.