Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Review: 'Basic Witches' by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman

I don't know how often I have said this but it bears repeating: I love magic and witchcraft and will read anything and everything about it, no matter how weird or dry. I'm even attempting the Malleus Maleficarum, despite the fact its blatant misogyny makes me want to die. Anyways, one of the latest books that crossed my path was Basic Witches: How to Summon Success,Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with your Coven. And few witchy books I have read have struck as true as Saxena and Zimmerman's handbook does. Thanks to Quirk Books and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date:
Publisher: Quirk Books

Tap your inner sorceress and channel the magical arts with this bewitching lifestyle guide. Need to exorcise a toxic friendship? Say the right symbolic curse and banish it from your life. Want to enhance your attractiveness? Pick the right power eye-shadow color and project otherworldly glamour. Interested in boosting your self-confidence? Whip up a tasty herbal “potion” to strengthen your resolve. All that plus historical and pop culture sidebars that situate today’s witchcraft trend within a broader context. With humor, heart, and a hip modern sensibility, this charming guide dispenses witchy wisdom for the curious, the cynical, and anyone who could use a magical boost to get through the day.
There are many 'How to Witch'-guidebooks out there, many of which unfortunately require a major leap of faith from the first page. There is a sense you have to immediately believe in greater powers, Gods and Goddesses and that if you don't you maybe shouldn't read further than the first page. Someone like me, who is still salty about not getting a Hogwarts letter, would love to wholeheartedly believe in magic but my rational self won't quite let me jump off that cliff. So I find myself reading those books with too much scepticism to embrace what they're telling me. So I was incredibly pleased to see Basic Witches not only acknowledge those hurdles, but also cast them aside. For Saxena and Zimmerman there is no need to believe in a greater power, only faith in the greatest power: yourself. Yes, this sounds cliche. But Basic Witches is as much a guidebook on how to love and accept yourself as it is on how to be magical. And what could be more magical than recognising your innate power and using it for good?

Basic Witches is a great mix of historical anecdotes, useful "spells", funny asides and an understanding of 21st century life. Basic Witches is very inclusive, doing its best to highlight racial and gender issues. The lack of judgement coming from Saxena and Zimmerman feels genuine, rather than coming across as a marketing ploy. The true power of Basic Witches lies in how it allows a beginner witch to truly base their magic of their own life. Saxena and Zimmerman recognise the magic and power in daily basic acts like applying make up, showering, cooking, cleaning, convincing yourself to actually go through with a doctor's appointment, etc. You want to invest yourself with some extra power to ace an interview? Use your magic to find a colour that screams power to you and wear it. Will it automatically make you more qualified for the job? No. But it will make you feel more confident. It is this kind of magic I adore because it works intrinsically with what you have, rather than rely on something otherworldly to come save you. I don't like being in need of help, especially if I'm supposed to be the powerful one.

Saxena and Zimmerman have created a great book with Basic Witches. Their writing is full of tongue-in-cheek jokes and references and clear instructions and tips. Basic Witches is meant to work for you, rather than the other way around. I tend to intensely dislike self help books because they feel generic and make everything a problem you need someone else's help for. Basic Witches manages to avoid most of that by suggesting rather than prescribing. Saxena and Zimmerman share some of their personal experiences and consistently emphasise the importance of finding what works for you, rather than what the magical community may prescribe. I'd love to read more of Saxena and Zimmerman's writing on magic... there is another book coming out right? Like tomorrow, maybe? That would be great. Also, Basic Witches has some great illustrations which are both hilarious and inspirational. I have to say my favourite was of the demon Frank who is simply an asshole and should not be listened to. I think we all suffer under his possession once in a while.

I give this book...

5 Universes!

I'd genuinely recommend this to anyone interested in magic, witchcraft or self-improvement. Do you want to read a funny take on how to accept yourself? Basic Witches is it. Do you want to read an interesting collection of spells that seem realistic? Basic Witches is it. Do you want your history of witches interspersed with 21st century awareness and inclusiveness? Basic Witches is it.

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