There’s no main course but many appetizers in A Witch’s Guide to Ghosts and the Supernatural.
For the first half of the book, the title seems a bit deceiving. The fact that she is a practicing witch seems irrelevant to her overview of how to conduct a ghost hunt, the different types of ghosts and spirits that exist, and her investigations of various famous haunts, such as The House of Seven Gables, The Moses Day Homestead, or Dunwich Manor. Her religion really isn’t called into play until the second half of the book, where she gives the reader spells and rituals they can use to explore and communicate with the spirit world.
The book is a quick read, as its ten chapters are broken up into several sub-sections, some including Q&As—one with a medium and one with a necromancy practitioner—as well as sections penned by other authors who describe their own supernatural encounters. The sections move around quickly enough to keep the book lively, but not so quickly that details are omitted. The broken-up chapters also enable the reader to quickly skip over a section that may hold no interest for them, such as four pages of dream analyses, or Chapter 8, a seven-page collection of short ghostly superstitions from around the world.
When Dunwich is describing the haunted houses she has lived in and some of the supernatural experiences that have happened to her directly, she is sometimes overly dramatic and sensational, which does slightly affect her credibility. As an example: “But the moment I placed my hand upon the knob of the bedroom door to open it, the music was no more.” She uses this touch of Edgar Allan Poe-style in many places while describing her haunted house experiences—probably in an attempt to set a scarier tone for the reader, but it often just leaves a bad taste.
She is noticeably more objective and credible when discussing folklore and history of the occult and spiritualism, which is definitely the book’s high point. Her approach to spirit communication is refreshingly free of the “spooky” language used earlier in the book. She discusses Wiccan and Pagan practices and spells used to conjure spirits of the deceased, to perform exorcisms, and to provide protection from evil forces with enough detail to give amateurs some insight into the rituals, but not so much detail that a rookie practitioner should or could run out after reading a chapter and raise the dead.
The final chapter is an encyclopedia-style guide to “Deities of Death and the Underworld,” and Dunwich includes a very helpful section on Wicca, ghosts, and occult resources, as well as a supernatural glossary in the back matter.
A Witch’s Guide to Ghosts and the Supernatural is Gerina Dunwich’s 22nd book on the subject of Wicca and the occult. The book is ideal for a reader who is beyond a casual interest in ghosts and occult practices, since some of the terminology Dunwich uses may be slightly unfamiliar to someone new to the study of the supernatural. If you’re starving for a lot of meat on any one subject, you will go hungry, if you’re looking to sample many hors d’oeuvres around witchcraft and the occult, check it out.
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