cover image Witches of America

Witches of America

Alex Mar. FSG/Crichton, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-29137-2

Writer and filmmaker Mar was accustomed to developing an emotional connection to her research subjects, but when she began filming her 2010 documentary on the occult, American Mystic, she became more deeply invested in her subjects’ world than she expected. Taking readers on an expertly crafted spiritual journey through a pagan conference, a weekend with a Feri coven in a New England “faux castle,” and an initiation ceremony for the Ordo Templi Orientis (which follows the teachings of Aleister Crowley) deep in the Louisiana swamps, Mar pushes past vulnerability in search of guidance and conviction. Along the way she gives an overview of modern American witchcraft, introduces readers to a multitude of variations on magical tradition, and helps dispel myths regarding paganism and the occult. Witches, priests and priestesses, and even a necromancer receive a sympathetic, humanizing treatment as Mar encourages empathy for the “outer edges” of society. Mar writes with clarity and candor, provides ample background information, and is neither preachy nor cheesy. She presents all her subjects as interesting individuals. The book’s only flaw is an abrupt ending, leaving many unanswered questions: Does Mar stay involved with the New Orleans branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis? Does she find the revelation she is looking for? Whatever one’s spiritual inclinations, Mar’s search for “something transcendent” is bewitching. [em](Oct.) [/em]