Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Book of English Magic

Philip Carr-Gomm & Richard Heygate
(Hodder Paperbacks)

The Book of English Magic explores the curious and little-known fact that of all the countries in the world, England has the richest history of magical lore and practice. English authors such as J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, and J.K.Rowling, dominate the world of magic in fiction, but from the earliest times, England has also acted as home to generations of eccentrics and scholars who have researched and explored every conceivable kind of occult art. Most people are torn between a fascination with magic and an almost instinctive fear of the occult, of a world redolent with superstition and illusion. And yet more people now practice magic in England than at any time in her history. The Book of English Magic explores this hidden story, from its first stirrings to our present-day fascination with all things magical. Along the way readers are offered a rich menu of magical things to do and places to visit.

I’m not sure why but I had a craving to read this from the moment I spotted a damaged hardback version in a local corporate bookshop. It was too damaged and pricey but it caught my attention. As luck would have it later that day I walked around the corner and found an immaculate paperback copy for a fraction of the price in another store.

The book itself is split into two sections, part history and part instruction manual. I ended up skipping over large chunks of the book as the latter sections hold no interest to me whatsoever. The history parts on the other hand were very interesting indeed.

Telling the development of English magic from Druidry to Chaos it was understandably a fairly vague undertaking (that’s a lot of ground to cover in a single volume) and will undoubtedly prove to be too much so for anyone with anything other than the most rudimentary understanding of the topic but, with just enough detail to keep a curiosity reader like me satisfied, I found it to be a fascinating overview of an unusual topic.

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