The Witches’ Book of the Dead. Christian Day. Weiser Books, Oct. 2011. (Kindle format)
Christian Day’s The Witches Book of the Dead explores the relationship between witches and spirits through a folkloric and traditional witchcraft lenses. This book includes a series of meditations and rituals designed to re-create historical practices in various kinds of spirit magick from traditional necromancy to simple mediumship. Day recommends, and I agree with this sentiment, that the entire book should be read before attempting to follow any meditations or rituals included in the book. However, the meditations and rituals are ordered in a way to gradually increase the reader’s experience and prowess in dealing with spirits from beginners to more advanced necromancy. This book is suitable for both beginners and more advanced practitioners. However, Day doesn’t focus much on providing ethical or moral guidance which may not be suitable for extremely young beginners; that being said I appreciate the lack of any kind of moral warnings.
The book is organized into sections dealing with different aspects of spirit work. The first few sections deal with historical connections between witches and spirits in general, safety, and tools of spirit work. The next sections focus on more magickal rather than spiritual aspects like protection and cleansing, communicating with the dead, classic necromancy, and working magick with spirits of the dead. More spiritual sections focus on Spiritualism and religious festivals that honor the dead. All sections are well written with both historical references, practical information and plenty of personal experiences. Meditations and rituals are included in most sections. I found the section on spirit divination most interesting as it includes a good ritual similar to my own for using spirit boards (or Ouija boards) and an excellent history of Parker Brother’s Ouija boards. Additionally, at the end of the book is an appendix containing a number of recipes for oils and other ritual components. I have not personally tried any of the recipes or rituals outlined, but I did enjoy doing a few of the meditations. Also, Day includes a chapter on creating an Altar of the Dead similar to the ancestor altar I keep in my personal practice. Finally, there is a section of interest to ghost hunters and paranormal investigators as well as witches. This chapter explores theories on haunting as well as methods of protection from unwanted spirits. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this kind of work as well as magick and communicating with the dead in more general terms.
Although I have not read much occult literature specifically on necromancy and spirit work, I feel like there is a good amount of original and “new” information on historical practices and lore in this book. Also, the book does not feel necessarily tied to the overly positive side of the occult. Some of the rituals are darker in nature and this alone makes it a unique offering.
Overall, I enjoyed The Witches Book of the Dead and found myself agreeing with many of Day’s sentiments on ethics, practice, and the importance of spirit work in a historical study of witchcraft. The scholarship seems solid and despite the controversy over Christian Day’s recent comments I think he is a valuable teacher in the witchcraft community.
Full Disclosure: I purchased this book in Kindle format. All views and opinions expressed in this article are mine alone and I was not paid or asked by author or publisher to write this review.