Synopses & Reviews
When most people hear the word “witches,” they think of horror films and Halloween, but to the nearly one million Americans who practice Paganism today, witchcraft is a nature-worshipping, polytheistic, and very real religion. So Alex Mar discovers when she sets out to film a documentary and finds herself drawn deep into the world of present-day magic.
Witches of America follows Mar on her immersive five-year trip into the occult, charting modern Paganism from its roots in 1950s England to its current American mecca in the San Francisco Bay Area; from a gathering of more than a thousand witches in the Illinois woods to the New Orleans branch of one of the world’s most influential magical societies. Along the way she takes part in dozens of rituals and becomes involved with a wild array of characters. This sprawling community compels Mar to confront what she believes is possible — or hopes might be.
With keen intelligence and wit, Mar illuminates the world of witchcraft while grappling in fresh and unexpected ways with the question underlying every faith: Why do we choose to believe in anything at all? Whether evangelical Christian, Pagan priestess, or atheist, each of us craves a system of meaning to give structure to our lives. Sometimes we just find it in unexpected places.
"Whatever you thought about witches, be prepared to think again. In Witches of America, Alex Mar exposes what we fear most — our own power. To be a witch is to reimagine the world." Terry Tempest Williams, author of When Women Were Birds
"Witches of America could be seen as a Gulliverian journey through various oddball sects scattered from California to New England, all of which believe in salvation through Magic-but the book is so much more than that. This is a quest to come to terms with the Unknowable." Richard Price, author of Lush Life
"Written with a beguiling blend of heart and wit, Witches of America sustains its thrall with something that runs much deeper than intrigue or pageantry. With the depth and scope of her curiosity, Alex Mar compelled me to follow her driving questions — about meaning, faith, and longing for community and wonder--on a breathless, deepening, and constantly surprising quest." Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
"Witches of America is brave and sharp and tenaciously researched. I would never have described myself as someone 'interested in witchcraft' — Alex Mar's book left me feeling the fault had been mine." John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
"A weird and wonderful bildungsroman of sorts...As you read Witches of America...it's impossible not to contemplate the boundaries of your own spirituality, credulousness, and appetite for the gothic and spectral." Elle
About the Author
Alex Mar lives in New York City, her hometown. She has contributed to The Believer, the Oxford American, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, Slate, New York magazine, and other publications. Mar is also the director of the documentary feature film American Mystic. Witches of America is her first book.