Friday, 15 March 2013

Seeking the Witch

Review of Apocalyptic Witchcraft courtesy of Doctor Hob

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“Witch” was never a title I laid claim to, nor one I sought after.
It was a word I respected, and perhaps even feared, when I first began studying the occult. However, there seemed to be an insurmountable distance between the essence of “witch” and the people I met, who called themselves such. For me, the word seemed to make the shadows in the corners grow deeper, less fearful of the light. It took me to a place where cool wind blew among the trees, and where rain fell like gentle fingers on my face. It took me to a place where I could taste wood smoke on the air, and a deep red taste, like copper and rubies.
It brought to me the sounds of the wolf, howling in the lonely, echoing hours between midnight and dawn.
There seemed no place for shadows in the witchcraft of the people I knew; amidst their drumming, and polished stones, and cloying incense, and loving deities. I felt ever like the wolf in the crowd, thinly coated in stolen wool.
I have no intention of speaking poorly of Wicca, or of the general crest of the New Age movement. It has become contemptuously fashionable to look down on Wiccans, and others. I do not disagree with some of the criticisms. There has been a good deal of clumsy history embraced, in furthering some traditions, but part of this perpetration seems to be in response to attacks from outside. What better defense than an unbroken lineage?
But in this search for the roots, we have ignored that which has flowered above us. History happens everyday, every minute, every breath.
Peter Grey has flayed open our expectations, and laid bare the throbbing red heart of the present, and of the future. His knife, in this instance, is the newest publication from Scarlet Imprint: Apocalyptic Witchcraft.
This keen-edged tool carves a photo-perfect image–clean and stark as a bone–of a witchcraft which is largely unwelcome in both the strange and the mundane worlds. This witchcraft not only survives, but thrives, in the information-poisoned, brutally industrial modern world. These witches grin behind their masks, watching the world trundle along, as ridiculous as a primitive flying machine, flapping in noble absurdity towards the cliff. But it is a mirthless smile, for the lumbering brute is blackening the skies, stealing the trees, painting the waters with grease and garbage.
They–we–are watching the world burn, while most people have yet to even smell the smoke.
“You will find the witch at the end of a pointed finger,” Grey tells us.
To the mundane, to the blank faces in the crowd, this witch is like any other deviant; a figure to be reviled, pitied, feared. To the modern neo-pagan, these witches are an embarrassment, a threat to their efforts to be accepted, a throwback to a brutal, unenlightened past.
But the truth lay beyond traditional or contemporary, beyond us versus them. All of us face the fire, be it glowing on the horizon, or warming our feet, atop the pyre.
Grey’s Apocalyptic Witchcraft is a call for all of us to wash our hands and faces in the ashes, like pilgrims in the crematory fields. Thus anointed, we become the wild heart in the sterile, static cities, that lay like scabs on the Earth’s wounds.
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Apocalyptic Witchcraft follows the delicate, crimson footsteps of Grey’s The Red Goddess, reminding us that magic is not a safe, sedate path. Witchcraft is the beating heart, the bleeding hands, the feet on the road, in the grass, amidst trees, and grave markers, and mountain stones. The dove, the crow, the wolf all wait in the pages. The locked gate of dreams beckons, singing from behind the stones of John’s Revelation.
I was able to read The Red Goddess, just before Apocalyptic Witchcraft arrived. One after the other was like a bolt of lightning, flash-bulb bright, tense silent, just before the thunder comes. It was less a key, than a stick of dynamite. For me, they opened my eyes to what was standing right here with me, its hand on my shoulder. It calmly slipped the wool from my back. It whispered the word “witch” softly in my ear, breath scarlet warm.
The world is changing, and Apocalyptic Witchcraft is a shout into the night sky; voices raised from atop the hollow hill, where shapes writhe naked around the fire. We would do well to listen.
No; not just listen.
We would do well to raise our own voice.
Apocalyptic Witchcraft is available in the standard Of the Doves edition; a beautiful octavo, bound in rough black linen, stamped, for and aft, with white doves. As a tool’s ultimate elegance comes from the marks of its use, the Of the Doves edition is designed to show the wear that comes from handling. However, a rarely included dust jacket, bearing the same spray of white doves on black, will accompany this edition.

Bibliotheque Rouge paperback and digital editions are to follow, shortly.
You will surely note that I have largely avoided exploring the details of Peter Grey’s newest offering. I beg you, humble reader, to let my reaction be a glimpse of what lay between the boards.

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+ Doctor Hob can be reached at penniesfortheboneyard@gmail.com +

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