Whether it’s “Rhiannon,” The Craft, Broad City, or Lana Del Rey, the archetype of the witch is always with us. Invoked by the poetry of Audre Lorde and Anne Sexton and the prose of Bessie Head, those with the power to conjure and hex are often a source of inspiration as well as self-empowerment. As Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman suggest in their recent book Basic Witches, “Witches are everywhere.” Whether you’re a practitioner, a secret collector of crystals, or simply have found yourself smitten with occult aesthetics, the legacy of the witch is undeniable. As the clock ticks closer to Samhain and All Hallow’s Eve, honor the witch and treat yourself to these twelve spellbinding reads.
An excavation of memory and emotion, Oracle by Cate Marvin transforms the page into a scrying mirror where each stanza becomes a life affirming vision. A poetic manifestation of its namesake, Marvin’s collection documents what it means to become and be a woman. Through loss, love, and veneration of the body’s vulnerabilities and strengths, poems like “Why I am Afraid of Turning the Page,” “Dread Beach,” and “Chilling Voice in the Tropics,” find light through darkness. Conjured with intention, Marvin’s words are as spellbinding as they are haunting.
Kristen J. Sollee
Founder of Slutist and feminist scholar Kristen J. Sollee explores the multifaceted legacy of the witch in her debut book Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive. By tracing the mythical, historical, and sociopolitical origins of the archetype of the witch, Sollee’s immersive look at the intersection of gender, lore, and the patriarchy’s violent fear of women throughout the ages isn’t just informative, it’s illuminating. From Hecate and Tituba to modern practitioners, Witches, Sluts, Feminists, honors the personal and political power that can be found by embracing your inner witch.
Taisia Kitaiskaia’s gorgeously illustrated Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers creates a textual coven comprised of beloved truth tellers like Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf, Octavia E. Butler, and Jamaica Kincaid. With reverence, Kitaiskaia highlights the way inspiration, inner power, and ritual helped each literary witch wield her magic on page and off. The perfect companion to Ask Baba Yaga, Literary Witches is a must-read compendium for writers and readers alike.
A compelling novel about the resilience of a single mother, Ariel Gore’s We Were Witches maps the transformative journey of a woman’s awakening. Channeling the divine energy of literary goddesses like Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Adrienne Rich, and Audre Lorde, We Were Witches is a provocative reclamation of motherhood, desire, and identity. Like a talisman, Gore’s prose works its magic with authoritative subtlety. Reading it will leave you changed for the better.
Pam Grossman and Tin Can Forest
A vividly lush exploration of witchcraft and the many faces and forms of the witch, Pam Grossman and Tin Can Forest’s What is a Witch reveals the limitlessness of the divine feminine. Through riveting illustrations and mesmerizing prose, this slim but essential book exalts those who dwell “in the margins, in the heart of the forest.” It awakens the seer and the magic that lives inside all of us.
Maryse Condé’s homage to Tituba offers readers a deeper understanding of the woman whose arrest coincided with the onset of the Salem Witch trials. Condé’s award-winning reimagination of Tituba’s origin, childhood, and fate subverts the narrative most are familiar with, challenging readers to not only consider but to revere Tituba’s humanity. An entrancing antidote to the whitewashed history of one of American history’s most misunderstood heroines, I, Tituba is an evocative critique on race, gender, and privilege.
Penned by literary powerhouse Nnedi Okorafor, The Akata Witch series follows Sunny Nwazue, an albino 12-year-old girl growing up in Nigeria, as she embarks on a life-altering adventure. In a world of Lambs (humans without magical powers) and Leopard people (humans with magical powers), Okorafor’s heroine discovers her destiny as she learns about the ancestral magic that flows through her veins. A mesmerizing tale about identity and belonging, this series is a reminder of the powerful magic that can be found by unapologetically being true to yourself and those you love.
Following the misadventures of Meg (a witch), Moog (a black cat), Owl, and Werewolf Jones, One More Year by Simon Hanselmann is a colorful and gripping depiction of suburban malaise, friendship, and existential angst. The third follow up to his acclaimed debut Megahex, Hanselmann’s latest further immerses readers into the psyche of Meg and her friends. Underdogs in their own rite, One More Year‘s protagonists might party too hard, but beneath their boozy highs and depressive lows beat hearts of gold. Relatable, earnest, and occasionally crass, Hanselmann’s fictive world is delectably addictive.
Part memoir, part spellbook, Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals celebrates the ancestral heritage of the African diaspora and the metaphysical and communal power of sisterhood. Throughout Jambalaya, Luisah Teish recounts her childhood in New Orleans and her journey toward becoming a priestess of Oshun alongside enthralling folklore and spells. Filled with affirmations and wisdom, this book is as inspiring as it is enlightening.
Alex Mar’s Witches of America gives readers an up close and personal glimpse into the world of contemporary paganism within the United States. From beginning to end, Mar’s engrossing examination of the histories, rituals, and communities of pagan and occult practitioners deftly dismantles the misconceptions and tropes often associated with witchcraft and New Age spirituality. With empathy and fascination, Mar captures the humanity, heart, and soul at the center of America’s countless covens and sects.
An unflinching meditation on affection, addiction, and redemption through self acceptance, the stanzas of Juliet Escoria’s Witch Hunt are hypnotically electric. Like the mother, maiden, and crone of yore, Escoria’s poetry defies linearity, presenting itself without pretense and on its own terms. The energy of poems like “How to Talk to Ghosts” and “Inner Monologue” seem to levitate off the page, each line sinking its teeth into the reader through structure and transfixing sounds. Dually dark and full of light, Witch Hunt is a grimoire of rebirth and survival.
Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World
The Witch of Lime Street recounts Howard Houdini’s rivalry with Mina “Margery” Crandon whose notoriety as a medium quickly earned her the name “The Witch of Lime Street.” Even Houdini’s close friend Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in Margery’s clairvoyant abilities. David Jaher’s book delves deep into the fascinating history behind Houdini’s impassioned campaign to expose Margery as a fraud along with the events that led to Spiritualism’s resurgence in the 1920s. A delightfully well-researched and enamoring read, The Witch of Lime Street will transport you back to a time when speaking with the dead could make you famous and escape artists were purveyors of truth.