Book Review: Llewellyn’s 2016 Witches’ Companion

This year one of my goals was to read more, specifically on witchcraft and paganism. I picked up several 2016 full-year books to see which would resonate with me the most. Llewellyn’s 2016 Witches’ Companion: An Almanac for Contemporary Living is the first I’ve read through completely and I have to say that I love it. I have also decided to post reviews here to help other people sort through the huge amounts of pagan/witchcraft books available and assist you in making decisions about which witch books to add to your magickal library.

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from the 2016 Witches’ Companion, but whatever I was expecting it definitely wasn’t that. The word “almanac” in the title is a bit misleading, it’s actually a series of interesting articles that range between 8 to 13 pages long that take up debates and issues in the pagan community and explore them in a well-written and thoughtful way. Not all of the articles will resonate with you, but that’s okay, because the wide variety of articles means that something almost certainly will touch you, and you might learn about something you have never considered before. It’s also diverse enough that an eclectic pagan like myself, who does not follow one path will feel welcome. Instead of speaking in endless generalities I’ve decided to give more information and specific reviews of my favorite articles and how they impacted me and my practice (reviewed in order of occurrence in the book):

“The Path of a Priestess” by Stephanie Woodfield
This article discusses what it truly means to become a priestess and dedicate oneself to one particularly god/dess. Woodfield is a priestess of Morrigan, who does not resonate with me specifically, but my High School best friend and coven leader did follow Morrigan (if I’m remembering correctly). What I got out of this article was more diaphanous in that it made me consider dedicating my work to one goddess specifically. Woodfield also wrote a book called Drawing Down the Sun that I picked up at Barnes and Noble yesterday because I’m extremely drawn to sun goddesses.

“We Are Everywhere: Finding Pagans in the Wild” by Laurel Reufner
This article made me think seriously about ‘coming out of the broom closet.’ Like so many pagans I’ve had some uncomfortable experiences because of my beliefs, but as an adult I feel more of a pull to be an example for young witches, and part of that is being out in the open. Amazingly, coming out to my father was great, he was so much more supportive than I expected. Even more surprisingly, one of my good friends practices as well, and I had no idea! I have this article to thank for giving me the push I needed to inch out into the open.

“Why is Journaling Such an Angsty Process for So Many People?” by Susan Pesznecker
An excellent article about the merits and difficulties of journaling in the pagan community. Pesznecker explains the neuroscience behind journaling and why it is so important (the article is so well-written that I want to give it to my students) and explains that handwritten journals are ‘better’ than online because the act of writing with a physical object transfers what is written into long-term memory more effectively. There is also a magickal dedication provided along with best practices, and a list of recommended reading. This article absolutely made me feel that journaling was essential to my magickal practice and made me want to come up with journal prompts to help other pagans struggling with the journal keeping process.

“Easy Guide to Guided Meditation” by Blake Octavian Blair
Helpful tips on guided meditations as well as how to write them. This article reminded me of when I was a younger witch, back then I would conduct guided meditations all the time without any self-consciousness. Now that I’m older I feel more anxious about this and I have no idea why. This article rekindled my interest in guided meditation and made me want to write and conduct one again.

“Recognizing and Combating the Evil Eye: Putting It On and Poking It Out” by Esthamarelda McNevin
This article gave me some really excellent visualization techniques to deal with negativity and ill-wishes. As an energetically sensitive person who is also a classroom teacher I often walk through the day feeling bombarded and leave my workplace feeling so drained that I go home and sleep. The techniques McNevin discusses are immediately useful and, of course, I am very drawn to eye jewelry, so that didn’t hurt anything. There’s some great history in the article too, as well as ways to combat and recognize the evil eye. There is nothing about how to cast one, however, since that is black magick, so just put that out of your mind right now.

This is just a small sampling of articles that had a particularly strong impact on me personally. The entire collection is very well-written and, as we expect from Llewellyn, beautifully illustrated (I especially love the cover art). There were only a tiny handful of articles that I didn’t feel that I got that much out of, and a few out of twenty-eight is pretty impressive. I highly recommend this book for pagans of all paths, new practitioners and seasoned witches alike.

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