Sometimes it feels that if you’ve read one witchcraft book, you’ve read them all.
This is not the case with Witch by Lisa Lister.
And thank the Goddess for that.
I want to tell you now, while this review might be biased, it will be fair. This is one of my favorite books. I can’t usually put non-fiction/New Age/Spiritual books on my list of favorites, even though they are a huge part of who I am. I usually save those spots for fiction stories full of horrible, fucked up things. The reason for that is simple. Most Witchcraft and Spirituality books feel like rehashes of the same information over and over again. Everything is a repeat of the same basic information. There really is only just so many ways you can explain the Sabbaths or candle colors and their uses. It’s all important knowledge for sure, but after a while, it feels like you’re stuck in Baby Witch 101. And even though I’ve forgotten more stuff than I’d care to admit, that’s just not for me.
Lister’s Witch differs from that. Yes, there’s explaining of the usual, but there’s also a whole lot that typical witch books don’t touch. Or don’t touch deep enough.
Let’s get this out of the way now before we go further.
Lister makes no apologies in or for this book. So when she writes about her experiences and her feelings about being, remembering and healing as a witch, it’s all unabashed and honest. There is a lot of talk of menstruation, wombs, and female genitalia in the book. She doesn’t shy away from using words and ideas that some people may not be comfortable with. And she places heavy importance on being able to have, use, and claim ownership over those parts of being female that may make some people feel unincluded. I know that some people who have issues with their bodies may find this off-putting. When your body rallies against you and doesn’t perform its basic tasks, it’s easy to feel ostracized for that. As someone who has never had to deal with questionable cycles, PCOS, or infertility, there’s not much I can say. The closest I’ve ever come to weirding my cycles was when I was on birth control. I can’t pretend I understand the emotional effect of having that connection to the feminine power taken away because of bullshit beyond your control. But I do understand how the wording of some of the things in the book could catch you in the wrong way and rub that wound.
I also feel that there is another touchy subject too, and I want to handle it with care. She also does not shy away from solely focusing her narrative on what she feels comfortable talking about, which is the biological woman. I know that inclusiveness is a hot topic right now. And it should be. I’m all for including everyone. But I didn’t write this book. Lisa Lister did. This is her baby. I’m just enjoying it. And she talks about the fear of pissing people off with the direction of the book during the About This Book prologue. She feels the need to get the work out how she needs to get it out. The book, to her, needs to be a certain thing, and that’s how she wrote it. Maybe it is problematic. I am not a scholar in this area, so I will not make a judgement. But this book is how the author wanted it to be. It’s messy and often raw, and maybe not the perfect political correct thing that you’d want your daughter reading. And that’s okay. We’re all a mess. We’re waking up, what more can we expect?
Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about the book.
There are parts of Witch that make Lister sound like a revolutionary. Most of the book does feel like a call to arms with the weapon being your truest witch self. The thought that we are witches who need to wake up from the sleeping spell that has been placed over us by the Patriarchy and Church is woven throughout the book. The key element to the tight story weave is that now is the time to remember who we are and to wake ourselves up. Enter the hashtag #wakethewitches which I fucking adore (even though I am not big on the hashtag game).
There are intensely personal parts of the book that make Lister feel not like an author but like a dear friend. It’s easy to feel connected to her while reading. She bares her self, her past, and all the bits in between. So there is no hesitant in believing any of the knowledge she offers. You believe that she’s sharing something honest and good with you. There is also no fear in following the path she clears since the relationship feels so safe. Her motives are clear, she wants to awaken the witches.
Coupled with the personal is the informative. Chapters 9, 10, and 11 are the meaty parts of the book full of the knowledgeable bits of witchcraft that we come to expect from witchcraft books. This is more than just phases of the moon, the best uses for oils, and basic herbs though. Its how the reader, as a Creatix, can use the knowledge to add to their inner magic. Even though it’s some of the same old same old, it’s not boring.There are actually some things in there that I learned about for the first time, which was pretty refreshing. I didn’t know much about pendulums and tea leaves, but after reading, I wanted to learn more.
There is a lot of the book that talks about the Patriarchy. Maybe its because I’m older and tired, but I’ve become lax in how much I want to rally against the Big Bads of the world. Or many I’ve just been browbeaten down until I don’t see how unfair things are. Some where between the two, I’ve lost the riot girl fire that I was full of in my late teens and early 20s. And looking at American right now, stuck in the middle of The Time of The Tower, I probably shouldn’t be sleeping. The call in Witch to awaken what is in us is outstanding. The need for the call to be so loud highlights just how fucked up things are and how much they’ve affected us.
As an example, Chapter Four “Her Story“, is poignant. It goes in great detail about the history of the deletion of the HER from our HERstory. Now normally, this kind of wordplay would make me roll my eyes. I’m cynical enough that this would just make me lose all interest and put the book down. But apparently the salt I have built up inside about the Christian church working so hard to eradicate all mentions of the Mother and the Goddess from the records quell that cynicism. The idea that they stripped women of not only of our magick but our worth so much that it’s just become the norm, infuriates me. Our sexuality was taken, our self-ownership was taken, and even our ability to be close to our holy was taken. We were seen as “dangerous” women if we were too much. And we were burned. Now we are seen as “nasty” women if we are too much. Who knows when they will start putting the stake up to burn us again. It can’t be too far off. If history repeats itself, maybe it’s time for us make HERstory repeat itself too.
On a lighter and purely personal note, the style of writing Lister uses strikes a chord with me. She’s not a textbook writer, the book is not a technical masterpiece. I remember reading it when I first received it in 2017 and be struck with how common and human her prose was. Up until that point, I felt that the way I prefer to write (like here!) made me stick out like a big throbbing redneck sore thumb. But after seeing that she also spoke colloquially and did it well I knew that my writings were okay. It gave me room to breathe and allowed this very blog to blossom.
For all it’s faults (and all any book, there are some), this book works for me. I’ve had it in paperback form since sometime in 2017 and I’ve revisited it roughly four times. (Funny story about it, I actually have two copies of this book. My first copy was used as a chew toy by a very young Jake the Bulldog and I was devastated. Most of the second half was ruin by puppy teeth and slobber.)
This book will not be for everyone. And that’s okay. That’s the thing about witchcraft and personal awakenings. They are not a one size fits all. Some of them aren’t even one size fits most. The key is to try it on and see what fits you. Then, wisely, keep what you like, and discard what you don’t.
There is no right way, there is no wrong way, there is only your way. But you have to be awake to find it.