A Deed Without A Name: Unearthing the Legacy of Traditional Witchcraft by Lee Morgan was a book I was initially excited to review. But as I continued to read, I felt a sense of disquiet creep upon me.

In the first chapter, the author made it clear that she intended to take all historical accounts of witchcraft as though they were fact, including records from the Inquisition, and then look for patterns and similarities between the disparate accounts. This has lead to an interesting presentation of myth and legend as reality. From this unique perspective, the book evolved into a mishmash of traditional witchcraft, neopaganism, old wives tales, and the Malleus Maleficarum. Having identified many similarities, the author developed the theory that many powers once taken for granted and now considered far-fetched were, in fact, abilities our ancestors once had - and that we can regain again.

Werewolves were stated to be witches with transformation powers, who had close connections to their animal selves. Vampires were also witches, with the ability to gain boosts of power as they consumed their sacrifice's blood. Crossroads pacts were treated as normal if sacred occurrences. Red hair and moles were stated as definitive marks of a witch, as is being born with a caul.

The author went on to describe and glorify the history of sexual congress with fairies, demons, and imps, discussed in detail as shown in this quote:

“Congress with the Devil became a popular part of sabbat mythology, but testimonies like the vivid one of Isobel Gowdie suggest that we cannot write this off as merely the exaggeration of the interrogators. There are simply too many details here that an interrogator would never think to enquire about, Isobel has provided more than a simple answer to a question: 'yes I copulated with the Devil', she provides us with a rich narrative of the experience.”

In the chapters that followed, the author spoke glowingly of the greater supernatural powers granted to witches who had such otherworldly lovers. My struggles with completing this book hit a sudden end when I reached the Chapter titled “Wailing for the demon-lover” which described a ritual designed to draw a demon to yourself for the purposes of copulation. I could not bring myself to read further.

As I am a new pagan, I wondered if perhaps I was being thin-skinned or squeamish in regards to the topic matter. But a discussion with a couple of experienced pagan friends confirmed that this discomfort was not unique to myself. I believe that this book would frighten potential new pagans away from the lifestyle.

If you are looking for a good book to turn to while writing historical fiction, this book might act as good reference material, since it treats myth and fantastical accounts as though they are reliable historical documents. But if you are looking for a guidebook on the history of witchcraft from its first written reference to the modern era, then this is not the book for you.

~review by Patricia Lynn

Author: Lee Morgan
Moon Books, 2013
pp. 168, $19.95

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