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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > Earth Magic Search

Book Review:
Earth Magic:
A Book of Shadows for Positive Witches

Author: Marion Weinstein
Trade Paperback, 223 pages
Publisher: New Page Books
Publication date: April 2003
ISBN: 1564146383
Price & More Info: Click Here

I never saw the first, 1980, edition of Earth Magic. According to the author, it was intended for a limited audience and she had to be persuaded to release it for wider distribution. When that expanded edition was released in 1986, I bought a copy and found it valuable although even then I was no longer truly on a Wiccan path. The book has apparently been revised and expanded a few times since then, although this latest revision is the first I've looked at since I bought my 1986 edition.

One of the most noticeable changes is the title of the book. Previous editions of this book were titled Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows. Weinstein meant to convey the fact that her primary alignment was with the Goddess Diana. Unfortunately, the term "Dianic" has come to narrowly refer to Goddess-worshipping feminist female witches, so Weinstein has elected to change the title to Earth Magic: A Book of Shadows for Positive Witches with this edition. I think this is a good move that will prevent a lot of confusion.

I was very happy to see that although a lot of new material has been added to this book over the years, all of the original material from my 1986 edition is still there in this 2003 edition. It may have moved around a bit and is often better presented, but nothing seems to have been left out.

The first part of Earth Magick is what one would expect of a Book of Shadows, information on the deities, the tools, covens, and holidays. Next come chapters on various types of magick: cord and string magick, animal and spirit familiars, visualization, contacting the dead, and protection magick. Some will complain that this book glosses over the details. Perhaps it does, but it was first written back when people were expected to be able to take the basics and develop their own rituals instead of having scripts handed to them. It's also a Book of Shadows, not an introduction to Wicca text.

The second part of this book, "Advanced Work," is the most interesting part -- and the part that kept my 1986 edition on my shelves all these years. The first chapter in this section, "Aspects of Self," deals with the idea that while we have many different lives they are effectively simultaneous from the point of view of the self and how to deal with those various aspects of oneself. To be honest, I never could quite buy this hypothesis, but it is an interesting way to view reality. This is followed by a short chapter that wasn't in my previous edition on working in an astral castle. The last chapter in this section, "Advanced Manifestation," is as extension of the affirmation magick Weinstein teaches in her Positive Magic book.

This edition of Earth Magic concludes with several short chapters that touch briefly on subjects like the true self, ethics and choices, and remembering to serve the community as well as oneself. Chapter notes, a bibliography and an index complete this book.

I'd really like to recommend this book strongly, but there are two reasons why I cannot. First, I'm simply not sure that this book will be as useful to the average Wiccan as it was when it first came out in the 1980s. Second, in a three page section of the Protection chapter entitled "History and Mystery," the author knowingly chooses to perpetuate discredited historical claims. Apparently upset that the old commonly accepted number of people killed during the "Burning Times" (9 million) has been reduced by scholarship to less than 150,000, she says that the exact numbers do not matter because: "An entire religion was virtually stamped out. The sacred Books of Shadows were all burned.... The Goddess and all She stands for was gone -- or at least absent from society for almost a millennium." I'm sorry, but Margaret Murray's hypothesis of the persecution of an actual "witchcult" surviving from pre-Christian times was shown to be incorrect over 60 years ago. We do not need more new books today telling Wiccans this type of outdated and discredited material. There simply is no excuse for it. (And when did Books of Shadows become sacred texts like the Bible or the Koran?)

Overall, the latest edition of Earth Magic: A Book of Shadows for Positive Witches is a fair book with one truly major flaw. It will be of interest to many Wiccans, especially for the second, "Advanced Work," part. But this book is no longer the must-have book it once was. This edition would have been a much better book if the three "History and Mystery" pages mentioned above had been left out.

Reviewed by Randall

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