It’s almost All Hallows’ Eve: Light some candles, play some mood music, and summon your inner Willow for a deep communion with the history and practices of witchcraft. From green witchcraft to colonial history to friendship charms for underage spell-casters, these books demonstrate that witchcraft is smart, feminist, green, fun, and not wearing a pointy black hat.
Both a memoir and a survey of witchcraft, Grossman guides the reader through the ways witches have been received throughout history and portrayed in modern popular culture. A great introduction for folks seeking to expand their own spiritual practice or learn more about the relationship between witchcraft and shifting conceptions of feminine power, the autobiographical and critical sections of Waking the Witch highlight the relevancy of this fascinating subject, and make it approachable for teen readers and witchcraft newbies.
If you spent a large portion of your childhood mashing berries and plants in the backyard to make “potions” — or spend a significant part of your adult life in the garden — green witchcraft might be up your alley. Arin Murphy Hiscock teaches readers what living as a green witch entails, guiding novices through the process of planning and planting a garden, attuning oneself to the seasons, harnessing the energy of plants, and preserving herbs and flowers for recipes and charms.
Witchery is oriented toward beginners, especially those seeking a firmer link between daily practice and overall sense of self; Diaz helps new practitioners develop tools for meditation, self-love, and discovering what they enjoy (developing spells, learning the lunar phases, etc.). Perhaps most helpfully, Witchery abstains from promoting any specific traditions like Wicca, making this an approachable guide for people with a diversity of practical and spiritual goals.
Witches of America chronicles Alex Mar’s attempts to understand and find a home within the diverse community of American covens. Traveling from one odd and interesting experience to another (an initiation ceremony in a McMansion, an acquaintance with a Wiccan who keeps a dead crow on hand), Mar offers both a documentarian’s glimpse into the varied ways witchcraft is interpreted and enacted and a faith-seeker’s keen and conflicted journey to spiritual self-understanding.
In her fascinating retelling of the 1692 Salem witch trials, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Stacy Schiff directs the reader’s attention to the children whose antics precipitated and accelerated the shocking slew of trials and executions. Often overlooked, the young girls at the heart of the witch mania — and the Puritan parenting anxieties that fueled their behavior — have some surprising corollaries today; add in that many books are still challenged for introducing children to the occult, and Schiff brings what seems like ancient, dark history straight into the present.
Copenhaver’s magnum opus on Renaissance magic is admittedly more academic than the memoir-inflected histories and guides on this list, but it does a splendid job of demonstrating how early modern philosophy, medicine, science, and art developed out of contemporary understandings of magic. Given how often witchcraft or magic have been used as tools to silence women and unpopular ideas, it’s refreshing to read a meticulous account of the centrality of magic in the emergence of modern thought. If you find magic in untangling big ideas, Copenhaver will enchant you.
Young witches will find a lot to love in Kusby’s warmhearted guide to beginning spell work. This beautifully illustrated activity book provides lessons in kindness and self-acceptance, and shares simple, stuck-at-home-friendly recipes to help children resolve conflicts, concoct edible potions, and even blow butterfly bubbles.
Nikki Van De Car and Uta Krogmann introduces middle readers to the ways white magic can be harnessed to perpetuate kindness, support the environment, and strengthen families, friendships, and personal happiness. With lessons on using crystals, herbs, and other essential ingredients to create a long list of spells, The Junior Witch’s Handbook is both an excellent introduction to general witchcraft and a fantastic resource on a rainy (but still magical) day.