The Book Of English Magic

The Book of English Magic is perhaps worthy of the definitive article in its title. Written by Philip Carr-Gorman and Richard Heygate, this weighty 2009 tome takes it upon itself to cover pretty much everything that has anything to do with magic in England.

I don't quite know what I was expecting from this book.

I got it from The Works. You know The Works! They sell the sort of books that would, otherwise, be clogging up a warehouse.

What brought me to The Works? Providence. But what made me refuse to leave before having bought something?

Was it magic?

Maybe. Or maybe I was just really attracted to the cover.

What would have been nice would have been a detailed history of magical practice in England. Instead, here you have a vague and sweeping history of far too much with far too little focus or detail padded out with practical advice for those who want to learn more.

So, I suppose it's an excellent starting point for those who are interested in the world of magic but too frightened to speak to a witch.

The chapters on Dr. Dee and Aleister Crowley were engrossing enough but frustratingly lacking – at the very least I've identified two areas there in need of further investigation. I was also pleased to learn that the conclusion I've reached in regards to the Tarot is a generally accepted conclusion. And I arrived there myself, through personal experiment and exploration! For one glorious moment, I felt like a gnostic.

The problem for me, though, was twofold. First of all, the tone used was such that I found it hard to devote my attention to numerous chapters. Airy and wistful; I'd have preferred something more scholarly and impartial. Second of all was the amount of practical information and advice offered throughout. You can learn how to do everything: From dowsing to scrying.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've no problem at all with those who practice magic, and I like to think of myself as having an open mind on the existence of forces beyond our scientific comprehension. Hell, I even had a bit of fun exploring the numerogical implications of my name. For what it's worth, it was right on the money. I'm a Seven!

It's just that, were I to sit beneath the Hogwarts sorting hat, I believe that I would immediately find myself placed in Ravenclaw. I much prefer to read and learn about things over actually doing things. Those nasty Slytherin and self-righteous Gryffindor types can keep their Quidditch trophies and their invisibility cloaks. I'll be in the library, wrapped up in books, engrossed in the History of Magic.

So an instruction manual such as this was never going to be of much use to me. As a reading list, though, it seems like it might come in handy.

Was it worth paying so much for a reading list? Hey, we're talking The Works, here. It cost me £1.99.

And, besides. On the same trip to the same shop I picked up something so beautiful that I don't care a hang for having blown so little on something of such disappointing substance.

About which more later.



  1. I'm excited, yeah!

    I've got a Fortean Times from a couple of years ago, and almost the entire issue's given over to talking about Mr. Crowley.

    As an aside, here's one of the stupidest things I've ever overheard in a book shop - it was a group of those loud-mouthed 19-21 year olds with long hair and fashionable T-shirts (hipsters? students? I don't know what they're called anymore).

    Anyway, they were standing around in the Religeon section (RIGHT IN FRONT OF the shelf I was trying to look at), when one of them picked up a book titled "The Devil" and said "What's this doing in the religeon section?", and the others guffawed.

  2. That, alongside the issue about the dog headed men, is one I'd really quite like to read.

    And they're called students in the UK, hipsters in the US. I think.