Witches and Pagans are, on the whole, voracious readers, both of religious and non-religious books. Have you often found that some of the most spiritually-affecting works are fiction? I certainly have. Sometimes when I've read enough of technique, ritual and theology I turn to the fiction of Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, and Francesca Lia Block to make me feel magic again, rather than just tell me about it. Each of these authors seamlessly weaves magic and the otherworldly into the everyday realities of modern life.
Here at Llewellyn we have several brilliant authors who have tried their hand (quite successfully, I might add) at this kind of fiction in addition to their works on magical instruction. Kala Trobe has done this with The Magick Bookshop and Magick in the West End, and Ly de Angeles has done the same with The Quickening and The Shining Isle.
The Quickening is the story of a seemingly ordinary girl, Kathryn, who feels extraordinarily uncomfortable in her day-to-day reality. She is the daughter and wife of important, busy people for whom she feels merely an accessory. This is true until she meets Merrin, that is, and decides to begin living for herself rather than others.
As Kathryn awakens to her true nature, she makes contact with the Travelers, a magical race of beings—some gods, some fey, and many of the Lost. The Lost are those, like Kathryn, who have forgotten where they come from, who have forgotten their magic.
Things are not peaceful for the Travelers, however, as their presence becomes known by some unsavory types, particularly Michael James Blacker and the Brotherhood of the Eclipse. Michael is a brilliant and dangerous man who turns his fascination and simultaneous aversion toward all things occult and magical into a radical fundamentalist hate group with the aim to eliminate all faiths (and peoples) considered outside his vision of "acceptable" and "normal."
Michael and the Brotherhood
Michael James Black had discovered and become fixated by one particularly elusive group known only as the Travelers. There were purportedly several hundred of them. They had a reputation for being otherworldly, and it was rumored that they were from an unknown and ancient race.
This information conjured images of werewolves and vampires and other creatures out of fable. So far the intelligence that the Brotherhood had collected had pointed to an inexplicable yearly congregation of these people in a town on the far northeast coast.
It was discovered that one family, the O’Neills, hosted these gatherings year after year outside of Worthington, the nearby resort township.
They had recruited one of the Twelve to infiltrate the family by courting the love of their only daughter and her two children, whose father (or fathers) was rumored to have been a member of the Travelers. This recruit was Philip Adler, but he took the name Owen Riordan to endear himself to the family’s Irish roots.
The deception was never discovered. The O’Neill daughter was "handfasted" to Philip, who became known as her husband. Through her he learned of the true abomination that the Travelers represented, and the part the O’Neills played in continuing the protection and mentorship of these demons, generation after generation.
Philip was ordered to extinguish the O’Neill line at the time of the summer gathering—not so much a warning as a statement. Philip/Owen set fire to the house in which his wife and her children slept. It was an old weatherboard, two-story ramble that literally exploded as the petrol-soaked veranda was set ablaze.
The Quickening tells a tale that is both terrifying and beautiful, yet also completely unbelievable and strangely familiar. What Ly de Angeles is talking about is not so far removed from the world we know—fundamentalist cults trying to stamp out all differing opinions and all magic. But magic prevails because it is stronger than hate.
In The Magic Bookshop, Kala Trobe offers a series of stories with Malynowsky’s antiquarian bookshop in Oxford, England as their fulcrum. Similar to The Quickening, Trobe paints a world where magic is constantly present, if only your eyes are open enough to notice. Kala, in her guise as bookseller, acts as our guide through this both familiar and unfamiliar bookshop:
One thing that’s really become obvious to me since working in Malynowsky’s is the way in which the Myths re-enact themselves daily, both for our enlightenment, and simply because they are well-established patterns. Many would argue for the latter alone, and many that the former was the whole point, but for me, both seem pertinent. I’ve seen the Old Ones walk into this very shop and buy a book. I’ve asked them if they’d like a carrier bag for that, and directed them to the nearest coffee shop or restroom. They are living archetypal energies, but functioning on the Earth plane, Malkuth, just like the rest of us—sometimes barely aware of their own divinity, sometimes with a foot so firmly planted in both worlds that they can be functional humans during the day, and psychopomps by night. As my boss likes to point out, it’s a fascinating level we inhabit. Magic is all around us; as Witches and Pagans we know this, but sometimes it’s difficult to remember as we live our daily lives disconnected from nature and the gods. We believe in spirits and the like, but it’s hard to think of them as part of our everyday life. These books help us to remember. They open us up. When you’ve finished one you might find yourself catching a glimpse of something magical or unexplainable out of the corner of your eye, and that’s a beautiful thing to experience. The winter is a great time to curl up with any of these enchanting books.
One of the first principles Mr. Malynowsky taught me was that Kether, the ultimate Divine, may be found in the heart of Malkuth, the material Kingdom in which we commonly abide. He knows how to draw the magick out of life as a snake-tamer can take the venom from the serpent and use it to heal. Magickal awareness can be a venom, he taught me, if ignored or wrongly used. I certainly suffered from the former in my teens. I was scared by my differences, and tried to stash them away in my subconscious, the Yesodic Plane of the Qabalah. There they augmented, and manifested as neuroses. Mr. Malynowsky is a great psychotherapist, and showed me how to retrieve my positive powers and put them to good use. Now, every day is a metaphor for Inner Reality, and not just in a heavy sense; we can laugh at it, at ourselves, and so can our favourite customers. Not all of them, however, view it that way, as you will witness.