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The Magic of the Otherworld by Morpheus Ravenna (sí/hir)

There’s been a significant shift happening in Pagan writing lately. Authors are increasingly turning towards folk magic-based practices as areas of research. The Magic of the Otherworld: Modern Sorcery from the Wellspring of Celtic Traditions by Morpheus Ravenna (sí/hir), which came out on July 8th, is one such work and an excellent example of the folk magical turn which is developing within Pagan and Pagan-adjacent spiritual practice. For full disclosure, I have previously read this book and written an endorsement for it so, no surprise, I think this is a solid work. In this review, I will explain why I think this book is worth supporting, reading, and learning from regardless of which specific practice you engage in. As you will see, The Magic of the Otherworld offers an excellent blueprint for developing folk magical practice, integrating a broad range of sources, and developing practical applications from that work.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is how Morpheus weaves together a disparate array of sources into a coherent whole. Sí lays out hir methodology in the introduction as a polytheistic, animistic, relational, and folk magical approach to mystical practice which is firmly centered on cultivating relationships with the Otherworlds and the Powers who dwell there. Morpheus’ emphasis on treating hir work as relational is a critical element in what really makes this book stand out. For hir, magic isn’t a wish fulfillment mechanism or a power fantasy, it is a way developing your relationships with the world and interacting with the conditions around you.

Morpheus further incorporates hir interpretations, findings, and applications with the existing documented practices to develop something modern based on what we know of the past. This is a methodology that I think could be applied more often. Modern practitioners stepping into their own and owning the validity of modern practice is essential for any Paganisms to move forward. Central to this, as Morpheus regularly does, is making reasonable, well-supported leaps based on existing information and proven methods. Morpheus doing so on such a complex topic is a huge step in the right direction.

Supporting this analytical approach is a broad range of source materials including Gallic and Gallo-Roman material, British Celtic practices, Irish sources, and early modern folk magical practices from Ireland and Scotland. One of the great challenges facing all Pagan, Heathen, polytheistic, and Witch authors covering historical practices is the often fragmentary and incomplete evidence which was produced by actual practitioners of these traditions. This is especially true of the groups sí investigates who all, without exception, faced repeated rounds of conquest, genocide, and suppression of culture by elites within their societies and outside forces bent on conquest and subjugation.

The Magic of the Otherworld is laid out in an easy to follow, straightforward format. It begins with a short introduction which explains hir methodology, ethical parameters, and how the book will work. The rest of the material is organized into nine chapters which each cover a specific area of magical activity. What further strengthens this organizational choice is sí clearly builds from basic forms, like purification and protection magic, to more complex, sophisticated, and arguably riskier workings like war magic. Sí also included several specific exercises, referred to as the Sorcerer’s Toolkit, which help a practitioner develop their approach and techniques which also provide direct application of the theories presented in the relevant text. In this way, The Magic of the Otherworld does more than function as a cookbook, it builds a coherent series of mutually-supporting arguments and practices for using Celtic-derived sorcery in the modern day.

The greatest strength of this book is how effectively Morpheus teases out the core threads shared between documented pre-conversion magical practice with better-documented and admittedly Christian folk magic. I cannot stress enough that what Morpheus is doing here is a very tricky analytical approach where caution, restraint, and providing persuasive support for your position are essential and sí does so consistently and effectively. Drawing out the shared tendencies in magical practices from across multiple periods of history takes considerable experience with the material and surrounding practices which Morpheus amply demonstrates throughout hir book.

Overall, Magic of the Otherworld is a work that anyone interested in modern folk magic should read. Morpheus’ information, applied practice, and method are equally powerful examples for modern practitioners seeking to do the same. Hir approachable, down-to-earth writing style delivers hir findings in a highly accessible, engaging fashion that welcomes new and experienced practitioners in. I think Morpheus’ work will go on to be a classic of modern spiritual practice and should be a go-to text for anyone who is doing work in folk magical practices of any kind. You can purchase The Magic of the Otherworld: Modern Sorcery from the Wellspring of Celtic Traditions directly from Llewellyn, your local bookstore, and wherever books are sold.

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