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Witches of America

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"Witches are gathering."

When most people hear the word "witches," they think of horror films and Halloween, but to the nearly one million Americans who practice Paganism today, witchcraft is a nature-worshipping, polytheistic, and very real religion. So Alex Mar discovers when she sets out to film a documentary and finds herself drawn deep into the world of present-day magic.

Witches of America follows Mar on her immersive five-year trip into the occult, charting modern Paganism from its roots in 1950s England to its current American mecca in the San Francisco Bay Area; from a gathering of more than a thousand witches in the Illinois woods to the New Orleans branch of one of the world's most influential magical societies. Along the way she takes part in dozens of rituals and becomes involved with a wild array of characters: a government employee who founds a California priesthood dedicated to a Celtic goddess of war; American disciples of Aleister Crowley, whose elaborate ceremonies turn the Catholic mass on its head; second-wave feminist Wiccans who practice a radical separatist witchcraft; a growing "mystery cult" whose initiates trace their rites back to a blind shaman in rural Oregon. This sprawling magical community compels Mar to confront what she believes is possible-or hopes might be.

With keen intelligence and wit, Mar illuminates the world of witchcraft while grappling in fresh and unexpected ways with the question underlying every faith: Why do we choose to believe in anything at all? Whether evangelical Christian, Pagan priestess, or atheist, each of us craves a system of meaning to give structure to our lives. Sometimes we just find it in unexpected places.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 24, 2015 – Writer and filmmaker Mar was accustomed to developing an emotional connection to her research subjects, but when she began filming her 2010 documentary on the occult, American Mystic, she became more deeply invested in her subjects' world than she expected. Taking readers on an expertly crafted spiritual journey through a pagan conference, a weekend with a Feri coven in a New England "faux castle," and an initiation ceremony for the Ordo Templi Orientis (which follows the teachings of Aleister Crowley) deep in the Louisiana swamps, Mar pushes past vulnerability in search of guidance and conviction. Along the way she gives an overview of modern American witchcraft, introduces readers to a multitude of variations on magical tradition, and helps dispel myths regarding paganism and the occult. Witches, priests and priestesses, and even a necromancer receive a sympathetic, humanizing treatment as Mar encourages empathy for the "outer edges" of society. Mar writes with clarity and candor, provides ample background information, and is neither preachy nor cheesy. She presents all her subjects as interesting individuals. The book's only flaw is an abrupt ending, leaving many unanswered questions: Does Mar stay involved with the New Orleans branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis? Does she find the revelation she is looking for? Whatever one's spiritual inclinations, Mar's search for "something transcendent" is bewitching.
Witches of America
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Religion & Spirituality
  • Published: Oct 20, 2015
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Seller: Macmillan
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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