The Book of English Magic. Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate.
ISBN 978 1 84854 041 5
550+ pages, now in paperback 14.99.
I felt rather intrigued when I saw favorable reviews of the 25 quid hardback appear in the quality Sunday papers a while back, but then one of the intervieweesin the book told me that I probably wouldn’t like it, so I didn’t bother, however I saw it in Waterstones yesterday and gave it a try.
Carr-Gomm now heads OBOD, so that sort of makes him The World’s Archdruid, although he refrains from actually calling himself that.
The book makes for light and easy reading and has plenty of pictures. It advances the thesis that England has led the world in magic for millennia, and still does. In support of this idea the book points to England as the centre for Iron Age Celtic Druidry, and latterly of Theosophy, The Golden Dawn, Neo-Wicca and Neo- Paganism, Neo-Druidry, and Chaos Magic. Most of the significant figures and movements between the original Druids and modern times get a mention or a potted history, Bacon, Dee, Newton, Barrat and so on, plus of course we get a bit on more modern figures such as Gerald Gardiner, Aliester Crowley, Dion Fortune et al.
Plus the reader will also get a whirlwind introduction to practical runes, ogham, astrology, tarot, and alchemy. Plus the book also gives lots of references about places to visit, things to do, and organizations to contact. Whew.
In trying to do so much in one book the authors have obviously not managed to deal with any of the topics in a scholarly manner, and I couldn’t help noticing a poorly researched bit about where and when Chaos magic developed, however I remain happy to see the disinformation multiply on this particular topic.
However it does make one wonder just how much of the book derives from Googlemancy.
Thus calling it ‘THE Book of English Magic’ does seem a trice pretentious, ‘An Rough Guide to English Magic for Beginners’ would more accurately describe its contents.