All of the books recommended are ones that I have fully read through. These are not perfect books by any means. I believe that everything should be read with a critical eye and attention to sources. I have included a brief summary of what I liked about these books and how I’ve used them. They are organized alphabetically by title.
Last updated: 7/8/2017
Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey
This is a very intense little book. It is a poetic book meant to give inspiration and meaning during a time when it seems like everything is going up in flames. Here is a snippet of the introduction to give you a bit of a sense of how this book reads. “It is a witchcraft for those who know that the wheel of the year has broken from the spokes of the seasons… This is a perilous book, and one which does not aim to please. We need neither the permission of god, nor man for what we do. Witchcraft casts its glamour through these pages, but it will not be prettified. The sickle moon cuts. The curse harms. The wound bleeds. Without these there is no life in witchcraft. Not all is baleful; we celebrate the healing growth, the joy of existence, and the matchless ecstasies of the Sabbat whose tarnished meaning is patiently revealed. It is a lunar mystery, a woman’s secret, kept by the very devil himself.”
Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches by Charles Godfrey Leland
Aradia was published way back in 1899. It is one of the books that helped kick off the witchcraft revival. Leland claims that while he was in Italy, an old woman gave him a copy of “The Gospel of the Witches” which was a tradition that survived from ancient Rome. Now, there are a lot of questions as to how much of Leland’s story is credible, rightfully so. However, I still find a lot of inspiration in this text, especially for witchcraft as being other and being tied to revolution and rebellion. You can find it pretty easily online considering its age.
The Black Toad by Gemma Gary
This is the second book in Gemma Gary’s trilogy on Cornish witchcraft. It is also my favorite of them. You can read it without having read her first book, which is further down on this list. This book is written in a more poetic style, so things are not in a step by step guide. However, it does have a lot of really interesting information on Cornish practices. I have mostly used it as a stepping stone on how to build a practice based on what is around you, since everything in this book is so tied to where Gemma Gary lives and practices. There are some more specific things I have been able to adapt more directly as well.
The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews by Scott Cunningham
I’m not a huge fan of Cunningham’s work on Wicca, but this is a very good collection of recipes that actually includes warnings. If you have been interested in making your own incense, herb bundles, oils, etc. I would check this book out.
Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby
This is one of my favorite scholarly books on witchcraft. It has a lot of really interesting primary source material. It also goes beyond just talking about familiars in terms of the witch trials by going back further into the folklore and discussing the pre-Christian beliefs of the area. It is a must if you are interested in familiars, spirit work, folklore, or British witchcraft.
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
Cunningham was very good at collecting folklore. This book is a really nice magical companion to more practical books on herbs and plants. He has quite the table of correspondences which are a great jumping off point for learning more about specific plants.
Dealing with Deities: Practical Polytheist Theology by Raven Kaldera
This is a really good introduction book for a polytheistic practice. Kaldera gives a good breakdown of different understandings of the gods and then moves onto how to work with a polytheistic approach to things. He covers a lot more than most books, including some more detailed protocols and relationship details between humans and deities, ancestors, more general spirits, divination, and some general difficulties that can arise when working with deities.
DIY Totemism: Your Personal Guide to Animal Totems by Lupa
I really like a lot of Lupa’s work and highly recommend checking out her blog if you are at all interested in a naturalist approach to Paganism. This book specifically focuses on working with animal spirits. The book starts off with discussing some of the problems of working with animals in the Pagan community, including cultural appropriation. She then discusses a very practical approach to working with animals, ways to expand the practice, and ways to give back to the spirits you are working with.
Elves, Wights, and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry: Vol 1 by Kveldulf Gundarsson
There is way more to nature spirits than the Fay. This is an incredibly detailed look into how the Norse understood nature spirits, local spirits, and more. If you work at all with the Norse gods, I highly recommend this book as it wonderfully combines the scholarly with the practical.
Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells by Judika Illes
I recommend this book as a gateway into seeing how a lot of different cultures use magic and folklore for all kinds of different things. This isn’t the type of book where you can just flip to the section you need and find a spell. It is much more of a record and a way to inspire you to create your own spells. I will say the formula section in the back is highly practical and valuable though.
Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes
This book is in the same vein as the Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells. The entries for some spirits are brief, but for other spirits they are very detailed. There is also a lot of entries for spirits that you don’t really see mentioned, so that is helpful as well. If you are interested in folklore, you will love this book. It is meant to be an occasional reference rather than anything instructional though.
Energy Essentials for Witches and Spellcasters by Mya Om
Energy work is one of the most basic but also most useful tools when it comes to witchcraft. It often gets overlooked as well. This tiny book has a lot of really good exercises to get you better at sensing and using energy. It also teaches you to go beyond written correspondences with things like color and actually analyze what has meaning for you. There is a lot of emphasis on chakras, which I am not a huge fan of personally, but I do use a system of energy points within the body so it was easy enough to adapt.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and William Grimm
I don’t have a specific version to recommend, but knowing your folklore is always handy in witchcraft. If you’ve never sat down with the Brothers Grimm, I highly recommend giving it a try.
Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure by Catherine Yronwode
Hoodoo and Root Work seems to be what’s trendy lately in the witchcraft community. I do think it is important to understand where these practices come from though and this book is a really good place to start. It is formatted like an encyclopedia so the entries are brief. However, Yronwode does not sugar coat anything, including talking about older practices that are pretty unpleasant. And again, if you are interested in folklore, this is another one to add to the collection.
Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown
It might seem odd that there’s a book on Vodou in a Pagan/witchcraft reading list. I have found that there’s a lot of misunderstandings about Vodou (or Voodoo) in the community as well as a lot of using things from this tradition without realizing it. This is THE book on Vodou and is very well respected and it isn’t dry either. If you are at all interested in learning about the tradition, I would check this one out.
The Sorcerer’s Secrets: Strategies in Practical Magick by Jason G. Miller
This is a book I recommend because certain parts of it are really really good even if some other parts of it made me cringe and skirted some lines for me, mainly his love and lust section. Miller’s background is ceremonial mixed with root work. I would argue this book ends up more on the ceremonial end of things. However, he does have some really good exercises in the first half of the book that have really helped me in my practice. These include breathing techniques that are more detailed than I’ve been able to find elsewhere and better explained and several meditations I’ve found helpful. He also has a really good section on protections of various styles that I really liked. Miller definitely provides a different perspective than what you normally find in books on witchcraft.
The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (20th Anniversary Edition) by Starhawk
The Spiral Dance is a classic and one I have actually found a lot of use in. Starhawk has a lot of good exercises in this book that can be great starting points and refreshers. I also really like the feminism and activism that she brings to her tradition. If you are going to read this book though, it has to be the 20th anniversary edition because it has all of Starhawk’s revisions and footnotes. A lot has changed since she first wrote the book and the footnotes are some of the most valuable material.
Talking About the Elephant: An Anthology of Neopagan Perspectives on Cultural Appropriation edited by Lupa
This is a wonderful collection of essays about many different situations where the question of cultural appropriation comes up. This book goes way beyond the standard discussions of Indigenous or Hindu practices and the essays give more than just a standard ‘don’t touch’ response. There are also a lot of good points about cultural appreciation and respectfully working with certain practices. A lot of different Pagan paths are represented as well, some of which I didn’t even know about until I read this book. This book is one of the few I consider a must read.
Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways by Gemma Gary
This is the first book in Gemma Gary’s trilogy. It is longer and more approachable than The Black Toad. It is also broken down more to teach rather than the more poetic/prose style used in her other books. I did find a lot of use in this book, specifically in working with spirits. The art in the book is also wonderful, something I love in all of Gary’s books. If you are interested in dipping your toe into a more trad-craft practice, I would start here. There is some repetition between this one and The Black Toad, so be aware of that.
Trance-Portation Learning to Navigate the Inner World by Diana L. Paxson
Trance, astral travel, and other related topics always attract people. This is a really nice, approachable book both for the beginner and for some new insights to the more experienced. Paxson starts off simple with things like self-evaluation and grounding and then goes off to cover a lot of topics related to trance that are hard to find in the same book in other sources. She also includes enough cautions in her book that I actually feel comfortable recommending it.
The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton
Triumph of the Moon was and is one of the most groundbreaking books for the academic study of Paganism. Hutton’s work focuses on the development of Wicca in the United Kingdom, but there is plenty in here that helps you understand how the larger Pagan community developed. It is a dense book, but it is also a classic and worth a read if you’ve got extra time on your hands. Just don’t get the paperback since the print is incredibly tiny in that version.
Walking with the Gods: Modern People talk about Deities, Faith, and Recreating Ancient Traditions by W.D. Wilkerson
The bulk of this book is a collection of polytheists discussing their traditions and the challenges they have faced both from the general community and within the Pagan community. There are many different traditions represented, which I always love seeing. Wilkerson also does an amazing job in the first section of this book discussing the challenges of legitimizing polytheism in both academia and wider society. That discussion alone was worth the price of this book for me.
Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America by Sabina Magliocco
This book is an ethnography analyzing Wiccan and Pagan culture in the United States. Magliocco is an insider in the Pagan community and that removes a lot of the hurdles that outsider anthropologists often face when studying Paganism. This book is also much more recent than the classic books describing the community. If you are at all interested in the social aspects of Paganism, I would definitely check this book out.
A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism by John Michael Greer
This book is a wonderful look at the philosophical and theological aspects of polytheism that often get dismissed or overlooked. Greer does not just work at defending the idea of modern polytheism against monotheism, but he actually makes a thought provoking argument as to why Pagans and Polytheists need to go beyond a religion just based on practice and should instead embrace theology and philosophy.