The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft – Judika Illes
“Whether you perceive the witch as powerful or evil may depend upon whether you perceive knowledge as desirable or dangerous; whether you perceive that human knowledge is something that should be limited. The witch doesn’t think so. She, or he as the case may be, wants to know.” –from the book

From shamanic shape shifting to food and drink, botanicals to sacred days, The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft – The Complete A to Z of the Entire Magical World is a fascinating and comprehensive celebration of all facets of witchcraft. From modern Wicca to Egyptian sorcery, Toltec shamanism to African Voudon, author Judith Illes explores the history, folklore, spirituality, and practices of witchcraft and the occult. According to Judika Illes, there are many definitions and beliefs about what a witch, and witchcraft, embodies. In the introduction, she examines the many theories, definitions and attitudes that have accompanied this oft-misunderstood subject.

This book celebrates the fun, freedom, mystery and defiance of witchcraft, rather than any specific spiritual or political definition. Thus, this hardcover authoritative reference, which spans 887 pages, covers the people, places, professions, deities, traditions, books, film, fairy tales, animals, herbs, holy days, mythology, tools and symbols spanning hundreds of occult traditions. Topics are arranged alphabetically, and the main chapters are:

Elements of Witchcraft
Books of Magic and Witchcraft
Calendar of Revelry and Sacred Days
Creative Arts
Dictionary of Witchcraft: A Magical Vocabulary
The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods
Ergot, The Corn Mother, and The Rye Wolf
Fairy-Tale Witches and Mother Goose
Food and Drink
The Hag
The Horned One and The Devil
Magical Arts
Magical Professions
Places: A Witch’s Travel Guide
Tools of Witchcraft
Witchcraft Hall of Fame
Witchcraze! Persecution of Witches
Women’s Mysteries
Wormwood and Garlic: Dangers and Protections

The Element Encyclopedia contains intriguing information like:

The difference between almanacs, books of shadows, and grimoires
The colorful origins and uses of absinthe
In the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy’s slippers were silver, not ruby. She is identified as a sorceress because she wears white and, according to the book, “Only witches and sorceresses wear white.”
Prospero, the magician in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is believed to at least partially to be based on Dr. John Dee. Dr. Dee was famed astrologer to Queen Elizabeth, as well as a renowned alchemist, magician and scholar. This brilliant occultist was one of the founders of Enochian Magic.
If a plant contains the word “bane”, beware! The word bane is a derivative of the Old German word bano meaning death. Thus, any plant containing “bane”—such as wolfsbane or henbane—is poisonous.
The character of Sabrina the Teenage Witch didn’t begin with Melissa Joan Hart. She first appeared in the back pages of an Archie Comics magazine in October 1962. She was featured in her own comic book in April of 1971.
Psychopomp is a Greek word for a spirit who serves as an escort between the realms of the living and the dead. Hermes and Hecate are two well-known psychopomps.
Corn Mother myths span many cultures, and include Demeter, Baba Yaga, Ezili Dantor, and Saramama.
Cailleach (pronounced “coy-luk”) is a Gaelic word often translated as hag. In Scottish and Irish folklore, Cailleach is a term for spirits corresponding to the archetype of the sacred hag.

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft is an utterly fascinating read.  Not only is it a source of browsing entertainment (I open it every chance I get!), but also is a rich source for research and study. For those who love the elements of witchcraft or identify with the Witch archetype—as well as those who are fascinated by mythology, history, trivia, and the magical arts—this book provides a comprehensive, yet lively, wealth of information that is sure to provide hours of enjoyment.

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