Read The Real Witches' Handbook: A Complete Introduction to the Craft by Kate West Chris Down Online

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A down-to-earth introduction to Witchcraft that gives plenty of practical advice on becoming a wiccan. Whether you want to join a group or work as a solitary, this is an invaluable guide to the wiccan lifestyle....

Title : The Real Witches' Handbook: A Complete Introduction to the Craft
Author :
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ISBN : 9780007105151
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 197 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Real Witches' Handbook: A Complete Introduction to the Craft Reviews

  • Debra
    2019-02-28 03:13

    I knew almost nothing about Wicca, witches, and the practice of witchcraft, so when I came across The Real Witches’ Handbook it seemed like a good place to start research on this intriguing subject. Author Kate West (a High Priestess with over thirty years of Craft experience) does a great job of discussing the myths and reality of witchcraft, plus the Eight Sabbats. West also devotes a chapter on how to become a witch and includes a quick overview of each type of witch. Regardless of the style one follows, the purpose of witchcraft is to harm nothing but to do what is right for your life.The one drawback was West’s sparse history of Wicca. She focuses more on the present and goes into detail about preparing one’s initiation, performing certain spells, and the tools one may or may not need while performing spell. There’s also a brief overview of the herbs many witches use in their craft.What impressed me most about the book was the author’s clear, relaxed style, and her respect for all things, including people who don’t approve of witchcraft. This is a helpful beginning guide for those who are interested in studying the craft, or simply for the curious.

  • Sec
    2019-03-14 08:09

    I'll start this review by saying that, I really hadn't heard of this author until I purchased this book at a used bookstore. I really had no idea what to expect, so I just went with it as read it as it was. As I was live blogging my reviews on things that I found within the book, I actually found that a lot of people knew this author. Not only knew this author, but liked this author. It got me extremely upset, to be frank. Why? That is because if we're giving this poorly researched, poorly addressed, and very bad material to readers and telling them that this is what "real" witches do - then we're just continuing the cycle of misinformation and misunderstanding about what a witch is or what a witch does. It hurts the community more than it helps, and quite frankly, we need to stand up to authors and tell them that we don't appreciate this misguided viewpoints. We need to look at books with a very critical eye and point out issues and problematic behaviors.In general, my overall opinion of this book is that it is another Silver Ravenwolf book wrapped up in a new author, new title, and a new cover. Someone else made that connect as well, again while I was live blogging my review, asking me why I was still reading a Silver Ravenwolf book. Though I will give some level of credit in that this book was punished in 2001, about a year or so after I'd started practicing and looking for information. Much of the information at the time, being spread around on the internet and in various other book sources were really horribly bad. This book, unfortunately, is not an exception. Though out the entire book, there is hypocrisies, misinformation, inaccuracies masquerading as facts, erasure of various groups, and a hell of a lot of problematic behavior.Let's start with just the title in of itself, and what it means and how it's erasing people. By stating that this book is the "REAL" Witches' Handbook, it purports not only that there are REAL (tm) witches, but that there are also FAKE ones. All the fake ones are the ones which do not follow what is listed in the REAL (tm) Witches' Handbook. Except that's not how it works - there is an extremely vague line between what is "real" and what is "fake" in witchcraft, paganism, or the occult. This line is constantly vibrating and moving depending on people's personal perspectives or tastes. In of the title itself, it ERASES all witches who do not follow what is listed in the book as being witches, defining them ultimately as "not real witches" or at least "not witches." Furthermore, it pushes the title of witch on people who may practice these items listed here in the book, but don't consider themselves witches. This is a very important statement, in both the nature of the title of the book and how it interacts the potential audience.According to the title of this book and based on the content of this book, I am not a "real" witch or at least not a witch - which angers me greatly. I say we throw off the title of "real" and "fake" because it's nothing more than an arbitrary social status measuring stick which serves only those out to make themselves "real."Wicca - It's What the Book is Trying to Talk aboutSome of the major problems in this book is that it constantly equates Witchcraft and the religion Wicca as being the same thing. Firstly, I am aware that this language comes down from Gerald Gardner (who she does have listed in her reading sources) who associated one branch of witchcraft (British Traditional Witchcraft) with all forms of witchcraft. So when he developed the Wicca religion, he used them interchangeably. This just isn't correct or accurate. While I am taking some of the factors in that this was written in the early 2000s, the fact still remains that research had already been out at that time about Cunning Folk and different forms of witchcraft in academic and other sources. It wouldn't have been hard for someone who explicitly discusses using internet resources for connecting to actually you know... check her information out. Let alone any criticisms about Wicca as being the only form of Witchcraft and the only claim to religious or non-religious witchcraft. Before I Go On: allow me to be clear about this topic before I move on, Kate West claims that she was initiated into both a Gardnerian and an Alexanderian coven, saying: "Unable to find other Witches, I self-dedicated and worked Solitary for many years before taking my initiation in both Gardnerian and Alexanderian Craft. ... In all I now have nearly 30 years' Craft experience in nearly all the forms mentioned above..." p. 104. And while it is clear that there is a lot of accurate information about Wicca in this book, there is literally so many things wrong with this book I doubt she has ever been initiated into either. First, allow me to stress this, she claims that an initiation process from the Seeker (which is usually about a year and a day) to the 3rd Degree (which is a full fledge wiccan [ie clergy member/priest/ess of Wicca] who can separate themselves and found their own covens and have the complete Book of Shadows and all the training) takes about three to four years, minimum to a maximum of 20-30 years. For one. Religion's. Initiation. Now I am clear on the topic that one can be initiated into both covens, and I am guessing that she probably spent anywhere from 5-15 years being solitary (it's what I associated the word "many" with) and including her own coven as High Priestess of the Hearth of Hecate [Actually I'm a little unclear if this is the coven she founded, of if she just joined it] that gives her very little time to complete both of these initiation processes. Furthermore, the fact she doesn't even DISCUSS the seeker stage (ie Seeker, 1st Degree, 2nd Degree, 3rd Degree) as part of this whole degree system (though she does vaguely mention some things...?) makes me completely question whether or not she actually has legitimate vettability. Which by the way, she makes absolutely no mention of who it was or whether she can be vetted in either of these two covens, which is pretty easy and quick to actually do for most people who claim to be initiated into either of these two covens. A quick summary for those who have no idea why lineages are so important in Wicca and what the hell vetting is, Gardner originally claimed to have been initiated into this form of British Traditional Witchcraft that he "stumbled" upon (err, the story he gave last I checked was he literally just found them in the woods somewhere in Britain?) which makes him legitimately connected through this lineage to a particular set of British Deities (Lord and Lady of the British Isles, as they are less known and are more accurately described as). This ultimately "made" him viable to create a religion surrounding it. This is how the legitimacy of Wicca is created, through this lineage. Gardner picked up this idea from several different sources including is many claims within various organizations like the Golden Dawn and various other ones he tried to associate with in some manner or form. The point, then, of any other person who joins his religion is to keep the religion done as it is done, ie done correctly in the correct manner or the correct form. This is called an orthopraxic religion where the faith is brought about by action or the doing of things. So to check that you actually were trained in the proper manner and keeping up the right manners of how the religion is being practiced (because CORRECTNESS OF ACTION is important, extremely so) you need to be checked to see that you aren't just some person off the street claiming to be a clergy member of this religion, because you don't have the proper training nor the proper religious mystery instruction to work with the deities through the initiation rite that Gardner picked up from this group way back. So how do you check this thing? Well, you have a vouching system or a vetting system, where the people who initiated you stand up and say "Yup. I did that." And so on and so forth up until the lineage reaches Gardner. Since she completely omits this whole thing out with the entire discussion about initiation and the clergy degrees, I definitely think that this woman is not actually initiated or at least is not a third degree practicer at the minimum. This is just ONE thing, as I mentioned. The timeline that she gives as well as many other things she stated about Wicca and it's preferences and beliefs makes me question whether she didn't just copy the material from the Farrars' Book, The Witches' Bible as well as some of the other books listed here including Gardner's book, The Meaning of Witchcraft (which is one of many of his books on his religion). It's almost how many of the books which were written by various members of the Gardnerian or Alexanderian or other Covens omit things from their books from the past. After all, how can you know to put something like that in if they didn't expose you to it. And this information is not secretive or special information that I had to do anything but ask questions with several Alexanderian and Gardnerians who I have vetted through Amber and Jet, and researched and cross referenced on my own. Feel free to do your own research if you choose to do so. One of the other problems with this book, is that she goes through what a Witch believes (in regards to what a Wiccan believes), which I will get into the erasure of this aspect in another section in a minute. However, allow me to address this specifically. Paraphrasing the words of one of the Alexanderian Elders I know: "Wiccans don't give a flying fuck what you believe. Wicca is about what you do. We don't care about nature as a religious prescription - We don't care about that kind of shit. IF you choose to believe that, then that's for you. Good for you. We only care about HOW it is practiced and making sure that it is still kept to it's true origins. That's what we care about." This is an IMMEDIATE warning flag for me, when I see someone who claims to be initiated into both of these two covens when they start talking about things like "Witches believe in respecting nature" and "karma" and all this other belief related things which have nothing to do with Wicca as a religion. Faith by RIGHT (CORRECT) BELIEF ie Orthodoxy is NOT Wicca. Someone who is initiated into either of these two covens would never have made that assertion that Orthodoxy is important. Furthermore, there is many parts of this book where she obscures or even completely omits the fact that many of the rituals and practices in Wicca actually have a sexual nature to them. Mostly because it is a fertility religion (ie sex is important). I will go over the problematic shit that she tried to cover up and just, everything that's wrong with her whole conversation on fertility in another section because I'm explicitly talking about Wicca here. But don't worry, I have some rants for this stupid shit - it caused me to throw the book violently all over my apartment I was in such a rage over this book's handling of fertility. Anyway, while she does talk about the symbolic reference of the deities having heterosexual sex (chalice and athame), which does happen in various workings. She does not cover the actual sex which happens in some rituals and some covens. She does not cover the Five Fold Kiss, which includes kissing genital. She doesn't include the BDSM-esque rituals which Buckland does in part in his oathbreaking [many wiccans view Buckland as an oathbreaker, and that is why I label him as such] book The Complete Book of Witchcraft (which is not complete and also problematic). She totally ignores the inherent (hetero)sexual nature of this religion minus mentioning it over and over and over again for Beltane as "historically" what happened. It comes as no surprise that someone who is not initiated would gloss over, ignore, or otherwise omit details about the sexual rituals because they don't want to discuss it or because they are totally ignorant of it. There is a reason why, my dear, initiation rites go man -woman or woman-man. Get the picture. I won't rant about my feelings about why and how Gardner set up his religion as an explicitly heterosexual fertility religion. But I definitely have feelings.Furthermore, she basically states in her descriptions of various practices that you can just call yourself whatever you want "Gardnerian Hereditary" which is definitely NOT, NOT a good thing. For many, many reasons. Needless to say, I would very much love to vet Kate West for both of these covens. However, I have a feeling that Kate West is a handle or that she may make the claim that she was initiated bya person who has already passed on. I would not be able to properly vet her as an outsider (though any 3rd Degree Alexanderian/Gardnerian will be able to vet her without any problem), even possibly through Amber and Jet (their resources may not be able to cover them). I have asked for more information about how to do so if Amber and Jet fails to prove me with a vetting, but so far I haven't received any other ways about going about trying to vet her. Short of putting her in a room with two vettable Wiccans to vet her for both, I am very limited in my options of fact checking her claim. Keeping all that in mind, that this book is attempting to describe Wicca as the end all for Witchcraft, and using them interchangeably, I still want to take some of the sentences AS THEY ARE in the writing and explain in my review why they are problematic. So things like this: "Witchcraft is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world," will be addressed as if Witchcraft is not being interchanged with Wicca. Mostly because I know the context of the nature of this book, but the intended target for this book don't. Because this is not EXPLICITLY stated anywhere at all throughout this book, I will be reading it as if I knew "nothing" about the context of this book. --------Section: Christianity and PersecutionIt is honestly so damn common that people would sit here and feel the need to discuss this topic. Almost every New Age book I've ever picked up has at some point at least mentioned this whole business with Christianity and how they tortured and killed people. I have some very serious problems with the perpetuation of this conversation within the witchcraft community in the sense that it goes to make the Burning Times and the VICTIMS of the burning times out to be martyrs of the "Witchcraft Faith."So allow me to discuss this at length within the context of this book. This book attempt to homogenize (please look at the "Facts" Section for further discussion on this topic, Quote 1.) all of Europe into the same belief system in order to support the theory that Witchcraft has always existed. But what's even worse is that this book has absolutely no sense of the History that the Early Christian Church. The sentence change is literally three sentences which completely WIPES OUT the history of the Early Christian Church. If you're going to discuss how Europe converted to Christianity (in general) then you need to actually, you know... discuss it. You can't go from Roman Gods were worshipped in temples and then Christianity came in and they were called Devils! Especially since you're totally ignore the FACT that syncretic practices and religions came out of that conversion, especially since syncretic practices are still being practiced TODAY in modern European cultures. It's not a discussion, it's a blatant cover up about what the fuck happened in order to perpetuate a self motivated sense of persecution IN THIS REGARD. Look at what the big bad Christians did in Europe when they became a major power. Bad Christians. Bad. It doesn't discuss anything about how Christianity used those customs of a culture or even the mythos of a culture (For example, I believe there was a story about Paul who went into a temple and asked about an unknown deity altar which was within that temple, and someone said that it was for the "Unknown God" and Paul used that to say that it was his deity (YHVH).) to convert people within that culture. This is just an example of how possibly things went down with how Europe Converted in those EARLY Years.Then she just jumps from the Early Church into the Church of Medieval Europe, going almost immediately talking about the Reformation. Is it possible that the author has absolutely no concept of chronological devices and how things go from one stage to the next. I would really be interested in hearing the explanation of why she didn't bother to cover any of this within her discussion. What, it would be too hard to actually discuss at length what was going on between the interaction of Christianity and these Pagan/natural religions? Then why the fuck is the author trying to discuss it in a couple of paragraphs? What, a glossed over summary is gonna be the best way to discuss this topic? No. It only furthers to perpetuate the bullshit that comes out of people's ideas about what happened and furthers limit the education of what the hell was going on in history at the time. Things, important things, happened. Glossing over them with a bare minimum sentence discussion is not the way to provide any kind of accurate conversation about it. Jesus Christ. ... Well, you know what I mean.Anyway, so this author moves into the INFAMOUS Margret Murray theory that people handed down Witchcraft via word of mouth and it stayed the same for years and year in europe and all the Witches went underground and yadda yadda... yadda. Murray's work is not only highly criticized, but in my opinion - it's also really easy to find exactly where she's jumping to conclusions and making correlations to things that have no basis in fact or proof. She just kind of makes up things and people just accepted it as fact because it was M. Murray who was super famous at the time for being a gift Egyptologist. Except this isn't even in her field (European Customs and Folk Practices) and her research was very shoddy. There were a few who actually came out with several different papers on her work, criticizing her for her poor material and her conclusions which made no sense. Ronald Hutton was one of the main persons who argued against Murray's work, whose field is actually within the scope of Europe and Folk customs. There was an extremely large debate within academia, and I greatly insist that you read her works as well as the criticisms of her works. It's part of the reason why we should push for better authors and better books - researching is important. Having people be checked for things is important.Now before I go any further, I would however, like to discuss some things. I am not saying, and nor implying, that there isn't some level of persecution for those who are practicing witchcraft, paganism, or occultism in the modern world. In fact there is actually quite a bit that we can actually discuss about it without going into the "past" and "trying to find victims to further abuse," like the fact that many in the United States of America are so uncomfortable with coming out to their parents or family about their religious or personal practice preferences because of the fear that they would be ejected from homes, lives, etc. Or others who are going through court systems about things that are not relevant to religious preferences, and having theirs brought up as a sign of their character but yet other religions or other practices are NOT brought us as a mechanism to destroy a person's credibility. This is a very SERIOUS conversation that we need to discuss.

  • Ann M. Noser
    2019-03-17 05:05

    Full disclosure:November 2015--rereading AGAIN--fun and helpful--admittedly, this was more of a scan for "special sections" :) Helpful again. Thank you.I'm (re)reading this book as what I deem appropriate research for an urban fantasy, New Adult series I'm writing.I appreciate the help, the inspiration, and the approachability of this text.Kate West writes as if she were having coffee with you (although I don't drink coffee), and with all the little side comments (which are often amusing) I feel like I almost know her personality.For example, I'm sure she would be offended that I asked for plastic bags at the grocery store today--but she might relent when she realized I do actually need them to scoop up after my kitty's litter box! (and this is an example of the type of aside she includes).I know she likes chocolate, cares for the environment, and quite possibly is a feminist (simply based on the number of times she used the word "patriarchal"). But there I go again, making assumptions...hahaI hope this gives you a feel for how easy-access this text is to read.Don't expect that you will learn "everything you need to know" to becoming a witch...but I don't think the author intends this.This book is meant to inform at the beginning of the journey, an invitation to learn more, if you wish.I found myself writing down page after page of notes to use later as inspiration and direction for my own (fictional) writing.

  • Julie Decker
    2019-03-09 01:06

    This basic witchcraft book answers beginners' questions, outlines the general beliefs of the Craft, attacks misconceptions, and offers various definitions and philosophies. I'm afraid I felt it was simplistic--too hollow, not fleshed out enough--which is not to be confused with basic. For instance, Scott Cunningham has very simple, basic introductions, without too much confusion. But for some reason, with this book, the setup, tone, and presentation of this book made it feel more like . . . CliffsNotes, perhaps? I admit that when I read it I already had all my basics down, so maybe it would be more welcome for a beginning student, but at the same time, there was no hint at the main course and the entire thing was appetizers. There may be a place for a book like this, but with all the introductory texts out there, I wouldn't recommend this one as a starter, and it's not good for any perspectives past beginning.

  • Wiccanmoon JulieJenks
    2019-03-26 06:23

    This is my 1st Kate West book. I see that she has a large collection of books she has written. I'm already a fan. I like the down to earth form of writing. Not a lot of elaborate language someone new to the craft may not identify with. It also does not take her an entire paragraph to get her point across. And she begins by dispelling the common myths associated with our craft. I think I will probably continue collecting her books and learning from her.I just bought this book yesterday (5/12/2012). It will probably remain very special. It's the very 1st book I've been able to buy from a book store by physically walking in! Barnes & Noble in Billings,Montana

  • Lisa Thompson
    2019-03-16 06:08

    Really enjoyed this read! My first Kate West book, will definitely have to expand my collection!

  • Demi Nemorensis
    2019-03-16 04:26

    The author, Kate West, is a prolific and well-known writer from the U.K. with over thirty years experience in practicing Witchcraft, both coven and solitary. Her credentials are solid, and her writing style is clear and approachable - her books are fun & easy to read; often described as “having a conversation over a cuppa.”Originally published in 2001 by Thorson’s, this introductory guide to modern pagan Witchcraft comes equipped with all the issues of its generational peers. It uses the terms Witch/Witchcraft and Wiccan/Wicca interchangeably. It makes huge generalisations and factual claims without providing sources. It focuses a lot on the what and how, rather than the why, of Craft practice. These sorts of problems are pretty common to books of the period.With that in mind, let’s dig into some of the issues in more depth.West’s first chapter aims to discuss and dispel some of the ‘common’ misconceptions about what Witches are and do. Unfortunately, she subscribes to the rather revisionist idea that pre-Christian Europe was one big happy pagan family: “Different groups held different beliefs and worshipped different Gods and Goddesses without conflict as far as we know.” She also encourages the Margaret Murray theory of witchcraft as a hidden cult passed down to modern times: “Those who did wish to… follow the old religion did so secretly. They handed down their knowledge and beliefs by word of mouth and held their celebrations away from prying eyes.” She does go on to acknowledge the little recorded history of (Wicca) Craft practices prior to the 1950’s and acknowledge that religion doesn’t require a long history in order to be effective to it’s practitioners, but it’s set off-balance by her much larger passage discussing the effect of Christianity on nature religions and witchcraft practices.There’s even one cringe-worthy paragraph where she compares Church-led witch-hunts to “Arabs and Jews… still fighting over Israel to this day.”Her myth-busting includes such claims that offer a very one-sided view of Witchcraft (even Wiccan type Craft; not that she uses the word Wicca specifically). She states that Witches don’t believe or worship a devil (cue the laughter of many Traditional and/or Satanic Witches worldwide), uses the ‘white magic = good / black magic = bad’ framing, claims that most Witches adhere to “the main rule of the Craft, the Wiccan Rede”, and that Witches “do not make blood sacrifices.” I mean, I understand what she’s trying to say here, the specific ideas she wants to refute, but I feel like some specificity is required to do so. Broad generalisations don’t help: they don’t reassure folks who actually believe these ideas, and they don’t clarify anything for people who want to learn.West states that “Witchcraft is one of the ancient fertility religions” and while she provides an accurate and succinct explanation of what ‘fertility’ can mean, she leaves out the fact that there are Witchcraft religions that aren’t fertility-based, and some that are indeed sex-based (as part of the sensual and/or ecstatic traditions) instead.There are a few more dated ideas regarding myths here; particularly that the “hooked nose and warts imagery” and “pointed hats” is propaganda designed to discredit Witches because ugliness equates to evil, but there’s no discussion about the assumption made therein or the ties to historically oppressed minorities such as Jews.The Craft that West writes about is a form of eclectic neopagan Witchcraft heavily influenced by Wicca. This is something that the experienced reader or practitioner will pick up, but will not be clear to the target audience of newcomers. Given that this religion is one that values diversity, it’s unfortunate that West fails to explain the wide variety of Witchcraft paths.This sort of generalisation is something that continues to plague the book. In chapter two, West moves beyond myth-busting to discuss the realities of modern Witches, but here she uses the phrase “Witches believe…” liberally and inaccurately.Regarding deity, West espouses a duo-theistic paradigm that uses gods interchangeably according to correspondence, related to the ‘all Gods are one God and all Goddesses are one Goddess’ theory that was popular in the ’90’s. She continues this polarity with gender links, such as “light = Sun = good = male” and the converse, “dark = Moon = bad = female”. Modern pagan Witchcraft has, for the most part, moved past such a limiting view of polarity, thanks in part to a wider understanding of ideas about gender and the damage caused by stereotypes. As such, sentences such as “Seeking the balance of male and female within us does not mean that we are seeking to become bi-sexual” are uncomfortable and alarming to read.West also has a popular interpretation of the Wiccan Rede, ‘An it harm none, do what ye will,’ as meaning “do what’s right for you, but in doing so, try not to hurt others.” However, a more accurate translation would be “if it causes no harm, follow your true will” - and this would be in conflict with West’s use of the Rede as a sort of moral rule.In a section discussion the elements, West refers to the reversed (upside down) pentacle’s links to Satanism as having “roots in Hollywood and popular fiction.” I mean, she’s not wrong about it being used a lot in pop fictional Satanism, but the phrasing and it’s inclusion here simply showcases her lack of understanding about Satanism.This chapter also made me notice a very particular quirk of West’s writing: she capitalises the word ‘magic’. Seeing “Magic” or “Magical” used prolifically throughout the text makes me wonder just what she defines as magic, and this is an issue that arises later.In chapter three, West discusses the idea of moon worship in the Craft. Problems arrive when she states that the effects of the moon are noticed easily by women due to their monthly cycle - but what about women who don’t have regular cycles? Or periods at all? Or uteri? Defining a link between the moon, women, and bleeding is short-sighted in a way that feels familiar this far into the Handbook.West links the moon & its phases to the idea of the Triple Goddess and states that “almost all civilisations and parts of the globe” have legends of the Triple Goddess. Actually, even the term itself is a neopagan construction: while there is certainly evidence of goddess triads and of goddesses who had three forms or aspects, the link to the moon via the Maiden/Mother/Crone description is very modern, heavily influenced by mid-20th Century poet and writer Robert Graves. This is evidenced by her description of Hecate as a Crone, when in fact the Hellenic Hekate was a maiden goddess sometimes depicted in triple formed appearance.Chapter four is a discussion of the eight Wiccan sabbats, specific to the Northern Hemisphere. This is fine, except there’s an odd phrase in the section on Samhain: “Wait until the first very cold or even frosty day which marks this season (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere then you will need some other seasonal marker).” I was left unsure as to whether she was suggesting that Southern Hemisphere Witches celebrate Samhain on the 31st October even though technically and seasonally it should be Beltane eve.When discussing Yule, West says: “Light and dark are not used as euphemisms for good and bad here,” meaning in the Craft, even though she has done so herself previously in the book.In the next chapter, West advises newcomers on how to become a Witch. She begins by finally discussing different types of Witchcraft, albeit with few examples and very Wiccan ones at that. She claims to have been initiated into both Gardnerian and Alexandrian covens, so I was interested to see what she had to say here, but I was underwhelmed and a little confused. She says “Alexandrian Craft is less formalised than Gardnerian”, which is at odds with my personal experience and understanding, and continues to say that “access to the Alexandrian Craft and ritual can be obtained from the works of Janet and Stewart Farrar”, which is… wrong. The Farrar’s wrote some interesting and effective books, but to say that an oath-bound initiatory tradition can be accessed via published works is incorrect and offensive.Likewise, her understanding of other Witch traditions seems rather simple and uninformed. West writes that “there are hereditary families that predate Gardner” without expanding on who these Witches are or the history and controversy of such claims. She goes on to state that “another term for Traditional Witch is Instinctual” - thereby ignoring actual non-Wiccan Craft traditions who use that term. Actual instinctual (sometimes also called ‘natural’) Witches can be practitioners of any number of traditions. Perhaps this is a British phrasing that hasn’t made it’s way to the Antipodes, or is now outdated. I’ve been communicating with Witches online since 1999 and to my recollection have never heard this usage. West describes the term Hedgewitch as meaning those who follow a green- or nature-based path, and this is a common idea in British neopaganism and Witchcraft; but such usage is actually fairly modern as the older term referred to Hedge Riders, or witches who practice astral travel, shape shifting, divining, and other soul-flights through the veil to the Otherworld.Chapter six introduces the reader to real magic, which West defines as “the ability to make change by force of will.” This is a pretty standard definition; and by it, the Craft practices that West describes, such as circle casting or cleansing and blessing, are magical in and of themselves. However, she goes on to differentiate ritual and “Magical workings” which seems to clash with her definitions. She sees ritual as an act of worship and magic as something separate, as an act that may be part of a ritual or stand alone. This idea seems like a carry-over from the sort of religious past that draws lines between devotional worship (“in God’s hands”) and mundane life (where making changes to improve life is a personal responsibility). I rather think that the point of Witchcraft is that there’s no difference, no separation. Life is sacred because it is divine and so using the Craft to make the most of life is a holy act.Strangely, given that she seems to equate magic with spell-casting, West follows up the “Magic” chapter with one titled “Spellcraft and Herb Lore.” In it, she describes common Witches’ tools and their alternatives. There are is a brief paragraph on the athame, where she describes the traditional black-handled knife before saying that they aren’t necessary because “anything you cannot accomplish with your finger, you will not be able to achieve with an Athame” as well as mentioning some traditions’ reluctance to take metal into a Circle, and that some places have strict laws against carrying knives. She offers as an alternative items made of wood, bone or stone, before going into descriptions about wands. At no point does she actually discuss the point of an athame; the rich meaning, symbolism and use of one of the most famous of Witch tools.After tools, West details the creating of sacred space. The first step she recommends is centering; to do so, she advises the reader to “relax your mind to clear it of every day distractions whilst also focusing it on what you are about to do.” This is a slightly unorthodox description of centering, the usual goal of which is to be present through the mindful practice of controlling one’s personal energy, typically using a physical component and a visualisation of energetic boundaries. West’s description more accurately fits the goal of meditation.The final comment I have to make regards a possible typo in the ritual script provided for circle casting and closing. In the paragraph regarding the gods, West writes: “…I bid them Hale and Farewell.” Given that the usual acknowledgement is ‘hail and farewell’, I’m going to give West the benefit of the doubt here.In summary, the points of concern in this book outweigh the benefits, which is a real shame because West’s writing style is perfect for people who have never read anything about Witchcraft before. Her rituals are simple but meaningful and effective, and her actual magical practices are solid. She successfully conveys the atmosphere that draws a lot of people to neopaganism and witchcraft in general. I also get the feeling that she walks her talk, thanks to the scattered personal tidbits and the integrity that shines through her words. However, all the personality in the world can’t make up for the volume of problems with this book.Notes:Mike Gleason, while reviewing another of Kate West’s books on “The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum”, said, “Lest you be put off by the title, let me assure you that ‘Real Witches’ refers not to ‘the one, correct’ way to be a Witch. Rather, it refers to being a Witch in the real world - the one with mundane jobs, children, family, etc., all demanding part of your time and attention.” I’m not sure whether this conclusion is supported by Kate’s actual writing, but in the case of the “Handbook”, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt, as it’s target audience is people brand-new to the idea of Witchcraft.I capitalise Witchcraft when I’m referring to the religion(s) and don’t when I’m referring to the more general magical practice. I know it’s rough to criticise West for not providing sources, and then rebut her claims without providing them myself, but this review went on for way longer than I expected and I didn’t have the energy to link everything. I figure I’ll save all that for MY book. ;)

  • Jade
    2019-03-10 07:56

    This was my go to guide as a young teenager into wicca, which I recently re-read. When I was younger, this book was my guide and teacher, along with others, but the format of this book connected with me at the tender age of 12.Looking at it later on, I think it is still a great resource in the witchcraft library. It does not cover everything, and it does need the reader to do more research. The irony of the title, does not escape me. Inside the book, the general message, is that to be a part of Wicca, or a 'witch' is a totally unique experience, and it is a path that you can alter and change to suit your needs. By calling it 'The REAL WITCHES handbook', Kate West has kind of shot that entire concept in the foot.Putting that aside, this was a good introduction to wiccan law and practice, and I am now looking into purchasing other Kate West books, like her kitchen witch and garden witch.

  • Julie Jenks
    2019-03-23 05:05

    This is my 1st Kate West book. I see that she has a large collection of books she has written. I'm already a fan. I like the down to earth form of writing. Not a lot of elaborate language someone new to the craft may not identify with. It also does not take her an entire paragraph to get her point across. And she begins by dispelling the common myths associated with our craft. I think I will probably continue collecting her books and learning from her.I just bought this book yesterday (5/12/2012). It will probably remain very special. It's the very 1st book I've been able to buy from a book store by physically walking in! Barnes & Noble in Billings,Montana.

  • Westly
    2019-03-16 23:58

    Alright,Absolutely nothing new. A few "huh...?" moments here or there. I really wasn't impressed at all with the book and felt that it was written for 14 year old's, not someone who's laid claim to the name Witch for nearly 16 years. I didn't particularly like any of the invocations, or any of the spells that were presented. They felt very uninspired. The whole book, I was just kind of waiting to finish it, and I'm hoping the next book, 'The Real Witches' Craft' is a little more interactive, rather than just an infodump that new witches could have gotten on the internet.

  • Swankivy
    2019-03-14 01:16

    I checked this out from work because I glanced at it and saw it had a funny page of misconceptions people have about witches in it, but it didn't have anything on it that I hadn't already put on my own list, and then the rest of the book just wasn't very worthwhile, though maybe I only say that because it was an introductory book and I was frustrated that I didn't learn anything from it that I didn't already know.

  • Tasneem
    2019-03-16 00:25

    Kate West is super. I find her explanations of the craft so well done. I get her vision for the way we should practice love of our planet. Really nicely presented. I think so much more suitable for those interested in the craft in the UK. It is much more suitable to this place. It doesn't jar as much as some of the other books that are meant more for a US audience.

  • Mia Morrison
    2019-03-23 03:02

    One of the best books on starting in the craft that I have seen - not only does it speak more on the morals than on the spell work it provides a good thumbprint of history, personal stories and practical applications. I would strongly recommend it for anyone who wishes to approach the Craft.

  • Deadhellhound Icey
    2019-03-10 07:15

    Kate West is a fabulous no nonsense writer, If you want to learn more about the craft and its traditions etc, this is the book for you, and any of her books I would recommend, in the past ive recommended her book especially to teens, doesnt leave any mystery

  • Dru
    2019-03-14 06:25

    Recently finished the German translation, as language practise. Content-wise, it is a pretty standard intro to Wicca, which should be useful for a beginner. It does have a good amount of detailed instructions and contact info for various organizations.

  • Cara
    2019-03-04 02:26

    I checked this out from the library on a whim. It's definitely what I'd call a "101" book. Lots of basic info. I ended up only flipping through the book and skimming it because none of the info seemed new to me... but for someone just starting out, it might be a good book to read.

  • Lisa
    2019-02-27 08:15

    This is a book that I return to throughout the year to help me remember why I'm Wiccan. I love the way Kate goes through each sabbat, giving you ideas for your own celebration, as well as ways for you to make it uniquely your own.

  • Nikki
    2019-03-07 02:06

    Not overmuch that I hadn't heard before, but enough to satisfy my curiosity.

  • Shana Gray
    2019-03-19 00:03

    I really enjoyed this book. It was thorough and gave a great understanding. I read for research purposes and found myself quite engrossed and intrigued.

  • Amy
    2019-03-22 04:56

    Okay text if you don't know much.

  • Bernice
    2019-03-12 08:18

    This book is very helpful for those who think they may be interested in Witchcraft. It has a lot of information without being overwhelming.

  • Srna
    2019-03-09 01:22

    it's an okay book for beginners, but there are better ones out there...

  • Whitewolf
    2019-03-20 06:24

    This has been one of the many of the truly best books to learn of the witch way,i am learning alot from this book as I can,while I am in my year and a day study before my initation.

  • Sheena Cundy
    2019-03-04 07:11

    A great introduction to the Craft and a must have for the Witch'es bookshelf! Informative and easy to read magical writing...

  • Katt
    2019-03-19 00:13

    Fantastic starter book into the craft. Would advise to anybody interested to read this easy book with beautiful truths.