Part heathen grimoire, part magickal memoir, Cat Heath lays out her practice of heathen magick developed over years of research and experimentation. It touches on familiar topics—well known gods associated with magick in the heathen tradition like Freyja and Odin. But she also talks about lesser known deities, and her experience with the Spinning Goddess and the Spear god, as well as elves and ancestors.
Elves, Witches, and Gods is an excellent second book on magick or heathenry. I say that, because while she does go through some exercises to practice basic skills, she really doesn’t go into depth on basic ideas of magick. A reader would need a basic knowledge of Norse religion to gain the most from this book. She does however go in depth on ideas within heathen magick—explaining terms like luck that had quite different meanings than today. The discussion of magick within Norse cosmology alone is worth reading this book.
Her discussion of ways to look at the medieval magick sources and pull out the parts that probably aren’t heathan reminded me a lot of the Night Battles. Both books talk about looking at what is in common with other sources, and tease those aspects out to find the hints of authentic tradition. Like most pagan magick, the truth is yes, we can only find tantalizing hints more often than not. However, with careful study, personal experimenting, and some intuition using knowledge of other sources, a full living tradition with deep roots can be found. In truth, if Heathen magick had continued in an unbroken line it would have changed from the eighth century to today, so we shouldn’t bemoan the fact there is change too much.
Considering both Odin and Loki’s gender bending (Odin practiced Seider, which is considered a feminine practice, and Loki is, well, Loki) and Freyja receives half of those slain in battle, its odd that too many parts of modern heathenry seem to be focused on what we today regard as the men’s role. There is bias that lead to what was recorded, and we quite simply know much more about Odin than we do about Freyja. Heath’s focus on spinning and other crafts traditionally considered women’s work as a way to practice magick is heartening.
I feel this heals a part of me, in that I have had a long struggle with the fact I am genuinely interested in fiber arts and I rejected many things considered traditionally feminine before realizing there were parts that should be reclaimed. I weave, although I have given up on learning how to sew. Before I have seen references to magick associated with mundane crafts, but not really a detailed guide except for knot magick. Heath shows the magick tradition of tasks like spinning and weaving. To which I gleefully leaped up and said “I can do magick while spinning and weaving? Time to get me that spindle! (OK, the weaver’s guild had their annual sale right when I finished this book, and they just so happened to have a handmade spindle and red fleece for sale when I went to check out what they had…)
Elves, Withes, and Gods offers a well researched method honed through personal experience. While rooted in heathenry, it has material valuable to all types of magick users. This is a book I will be paging through again and again, as I happily learn to spin a red thread.