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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > Positive Magic Search

Book Review:
Positive Magic:
Ancient Metaphysical Techniques for Modern Lives

Author: Marion Weinstein
Trade Paperback, 302 pages
Publisher: New Page Books
Publication date: October 2002
ISBN: 1564146375
Price & More Info: Click Here


When the first edition of Marion Weinstein's Positive Magic appeared in 1978 it soon became popular as a simple introduction to magic and divination. The 1981 revision has remained on my list of recommended basic books for over 20 years, despite a chapter on the history of witchcraft that was long out of date. Therefore, I was both hopeful and worried when I heard that New Page Books was publishing a newly revised edition for the book's 25th anniversary. I was hopeful that the author would update the troublesome and out of date portions and fearful that the author might accidentally change the mysterious something that has made this book a Pagan classic despite its more "New Age" orientation.

My first scan through the revised Positive Magic: Ancient Metaphysical Techniques for Modern Lives convinced me that my worries that Weinstein might change too much were unfounded. While some of the information and references have been updated, the book is still basically the same gentle and friendly introduction to the occult and to magick that made it one of my favorite introductory books -- especially for people who were a little hesitant about getting involved in something like divination or casting spells.

Positive Magic is still divided into two sections. The first section is a general introduction to the occult, complete with a chapter on how to detect and avoid negative groups, teachers, and magick. Unfortunately, the chapter on the history of witchcraft in this section was not revised much. It still talks about the works of Margaret Murray as if scholars consider them authoritative and continues to talk about 9 million people killed during the Burning Times. There is really no excuse for errors like these any more. Twenty years ago, more recent scholarship in these areas was unknown to most in the Pagan community. By the start of the 21st century, that was no longer true. Authors do a disservice to the Pagan community when they do not update such material in revisions. However, this is really the only major disappointment in the book.

While the first section is mainly discussion, the second gets very practical, covering astrology, Tarot, and the I Ching as well as "Words of Power" magick. While the author is Pagan, her magick instructions often come with both Pagan and "generic" examples. The generic wording would be acceptable to many open-minded individuals who are Christian or some other non-Pagan religion. While this may annoy some Wiccans, magick is religion-neutral. One need not become Wiccan just to practice magick. Weinstein simply recognizes this and exploits it to open the benefits of magick to a wider audience. The magick Weinstein teaches is simple and among the forms least likely to backfire or go astray. It does not require expensive tools, but is still very effective. It can be a first simple step on a lifetime study of magick, or all the magick one ever needs to know.

This newly revised edition of Positive Magic is every bit as good as the 1981 edition. I only wish that the "Witchcraft: A Living Heritage" chapter had had more revision and updating so I would not longer have to recommend it with the warning that the information on the history of Wicca is out of date and should be taken with a very large dose of salt. However, as the book is the best gentle introduction to magick for the hesitant newcomer I've seen, I have recommended the 1981 edition with that warning for many years. I will, unfortunately, have to continue to issue that warning when I recommend the new 2002 edition -- and I will continue to recommend it. Despite the historical information problem and occasional other imperfections, Weinstein's Positive Magic is still one of the best practical books available to the cautious beginner, especially one more interested in using magick and divination than changing religions. No one interested in magick is likely to regret having the 2002 edition of this book in their library.

Reviewed by Randall

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