The “witch niche” is a niche no more. Books by, for, and about the women of witchcraft (and a handful of men) have escaped that confining label to become a booming book category for a number of publishers who are expanding their lists. And ditch the pointy hat, broom, and cauldron stereotypes, too. Publishers highlight contemporary witch writers’ authentic cultural knowledge, adventurous thinking and artistic expressions from traditional practices such as spell casting to intensely specific themes from manicures-with-meaning to home décor to handling poison plants.
Magick titles (the “k” signifies this is esoterica, not bunny-from-a-hat magic) are mainstays for two publishers, Llewellyn and Weiser. At Llewellyn, witchcraft, magic and pagan-related titles are eight in 10 of their all-time bestsellers with some titles racking up millions of dollars in sales. This year, the house is releasing 57 new titles in this category, says marketing director Tom Lund. He also observes “growth in the number of Metaphysical stores that make our titles much more available. The same is true of online retailers. They sell so we publish more.”
As publisher Bill Krause put it, “Spells are like recipes. Everyone wants a new one.” Their annually updated Llewellyn’s Witches Spell-a-Day Almanac: Holidays & Lore Spells, Rituals & Meditations compiled by “popular magickal thought-leaders” regularly sells 75,000 copies, according to the publisher. There are introductory guides for newbies, arcane explorations of the elements for the more advanced and more specialty subjects than ever.
Unmarried? Reconsider your status to see yourself as a confident force “evolved beyond the expectations of a male-dominated culture” with Spinstress Craft: Magick for the Independent Witch” by Leslie Linder (July). Into yoga? There’s a crossover title, Magick from the Mat: Using Yoga to Enhance Your Witchcraft, by Casey Giovinco who wants to rev up your psychic powers with poses and breathwork. Seek protection from harmful forces? Hex Twisting: Counter-Magick Spells for the Irritated Witch by Diana Rajchel teaches how to shield oneself from negative magick, trap malevolent spirits and ward off psychic attacks (Nov.).
At Weiser, associate publisher Peter Turner says “sales are up dramatically, both in terms of the rate of sales for particular books and Weiser books overall – doubling in year-over-year revenue in a three year period. If a book sells 10,000+ copies in the first year and moves into the backlist with a reasonable chance of selling 30,000+ over time we would consider that a bestseller for us.”
Weiser's 2021 lists are chock-a-block with witchcraft books including more for beginners and for practitioners taking magick to “new depths and in new directions,” he says, citing more interest in ancestor work, LGBTQ+ rights, African-American religious traditions, and regional folk traditions. Turner also sees growth of interest through social media and “across all demographics: male, female, young, old, Hispanic, African American, Asian, white.”
Knowledge is power
The increased interest in magick may be driven by a hunger for personal power in uncertain times when people have lost trust in institutions and religion. “[Readers] are looking to take “control of their own destiny,” Turner says, “It’s not just about obtaining power, but finding and feeling free to use your powers without asking permission from any authority.” Upcoming titles include Hekate: Goddess of Witches (Aug.) by Courtney Weber, whose text combines scholarship and spiritual practices; Yemaya: Orisha, Goddess, and Queen of the Sea (Sept.) by Raven Morgaine, explores the African goddess in her forms as “mother, lover, witch, warrior, and mermaid” with “special appeal to the LGBTQ community;” and Witch Queens, Voodoo Spirits, and Hoodoo Saints: A Guide to Magical New Orleans (2022) by Denise Alvarado.
Judika Illes, a witch herself and editor for witchcraft and esoterica titles at Weiser since 2015, says, “The word ‘witch’ derives from words for 'knowing' and 'knowledge.' We know about political power and economic power. Witchcraft is knowledge of the earth and of non-visible powers.” She sees a hunger for connection to the past in a time when genealogy and DNA searches are so popular. Illes is also an author with nine books published since 2001, primarily for Weiser and for HarperOne, where her still-popular 2004 book The Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells sold 12,000 copies last year and her newest book, Daily Magic: Spells and Rituals for Making the Whole Year Magical, releases in August.
HarperOne senior editor Kathryn Hamilton says, “In the last few years, we’ve seen a resurgence in interest in books on new age, magical arts, the divine feminine, and other areas that equip and empower women to tap into their spirituality and unique female power.” In addition to “established leaders” such as Illes, they have brought in new young witch authors such as Erica Feldmann whose 2019 HausMagick melded witchcraft and interior design, and they’re planning a future book with Bri Luna, known as the HoodWitch, who identifies as Black and Mexican and combines tarot card knowledge, mystical visuals, self-care wisdom, nail art, and "some legit #bigwitchenergy" according to her website thehoodwitch.com.”
Editors say it is critical to respect authentic cultural representation, traditions, and practices. “BIPOC authors are the future of the metaphysical shelf,” says Allison Janice, acquisitions editor for Hay House. “The only meaningful way to address concerns about appropriation in this space is to work with more authors who can bring their lived experience and culture to their work. To that end Hay House will publish two Abiola Abrams titles, African Goddess Initiation (July) and African Goddess Rising Oracle, (Oct.). Also signed: two books by Asha Frost (an Indigenous medicine woman) with You are the Medicine (March) and The Sacred Medicine Oracle in 2023.
Ideas From All Directions
Jill Alexander, executive acquisitions editor at Quarto Publishing, says the Fair Winds Press imprint has seen more interest in witchcraft-related titles. “We’re also seeing witches becoming a symbol of social and political activism and calling out injustice —whether it has to do with how we treat the earth and environment or the BLM movement,” says Alexander. Fair Wind’s October release, Dark Goddess Magick: Rituals and Spells for Reclaiming Your Feminine Fire by C. Ara Campbell has practices to guide folks to embody strength, set boundaries, and transform their lives. Titles can be entrepreneurial, too. Readers can get their earth-friendly herbal guidance from Susan Tuttle in Green Witch Magick: Essential Plants and Crafty Spellwork for a Witch’s Cupboard (Sept.) and buy herbs she forages in Maine through her online business In the Wood Botanicals
Witches raise some risky subjects, too. The Poison Path Herbal by Coby Michael (Oct.) from Park Street Press, an imprint of Inner Traditions, “looks at the use of baneful plants in magical practice, a topic that’s becoming increasingly popular,” says acquisitions editor Jon Graham. Inner Traditions has long published on specialized witchcraft and metaphysical topics, but Graham says they are now bringing out “ten times more titles than ten years ago” when they had only three witch titles such as Cait Johnson’s hit with Witch in the Kitchen.
Now Inner Traditions has a deep backlist of authors in the metaphysical realm. There are 10 titles by Nigel Pennick, whose look at folk magic in witchcraft and religion, The Ancestral Power of Amulets, Talismans, and Mascots Folk Magic in Witchcraft and Religion, was published last month and whose next title, The Spiritual Power of Masks releases in spring 2022. And in October they’ll add to the 15 titles in translation they offer from French writer Claude Lecouteux with Tales of Witchcraft and Wonder: The Venomous Maiden and Other Stories of the Supernatural.