Diana Rajchel divorced her husband in 2002, bringing an end to a marriage that from her perspective never should have happened in the first place. Pressured into it from family, friends, and society at large, when she finally reached the inevitable conclusion that she needed to sever that relationship she found herself facing the exact opposite situation: no support, no encouragement, nowhere to turn. Of particular note as a Pagan, she found no particularly helpful resource within our own community. Personal anecdotes were the best that were offered, and were inherently hit-or-miss for usefulness. Divorcing a Real Witch is her attempt to fill the breach in support for Pagans going through this often-tumultuous experience, and she succeeds admirably
The foundation of Divorcing a Real Witch is the truly impressive amount of research that Rajchel conducted, surveying hundreds of Pagans and, to my eye, examining the resulting data with keen thoroughness to reveal insights that would otherwise have remained buried. From there she examines divorce with an investigative touch that on the one hand you might take for granted in a book on the subject yet, on the other hand, is often times missing, replaced with zealotry or an ironclad point of view that will brook no argument. She starts at the very beginning, reframing the notion of divorce in ritual terms: according to her own research, 76% of divorced Pagans did not participate in any sort of handparting (the opposite of a handfasting). I don't mean to regurgitate the entirety of her research to you, but this illustrates what is so valuable about this book - how little Pagans have to go on, or perhaps think to reach for, in a particularly troubling time.
The book is filled with a mix of survey results, practical advice and wisdom, and ritual suggestions on a number of milestones and topics surrounding divorce. Depression, anxiety, coping with the stigma or opinions from family and friends, even the mundane yet necessary evils of finances and property are all examined in this way. If the sharing of stories resonates with you, you'll be fascinated with the interspersed selections from the survey responses that she uses to illustrate and illuminate each topic. Handparting is dealt with starting from before it is to take place and on through to the long aftermath. Traditions of many stripes are considered, although Rajchel is upfront about where her own strengths are and where she needs to encourage further outside help. I found her actual rituals to be concise and very well done - if you are of a mind to there is plenty of room to expand upon them, but many of them are ready to be used with only a bit of tailoring for your particular traditions.
My only niggle with the book at all, and it is a mild one, is that it has a very rudimentary table of contents and no index whatsoever. That might normally not be a problem, but given the sheer number of subtopics and rituals that she includes it would have been handy for those who want to refer back to this book again and again. I suspect the author may not realize just how valuable Divorcing a Real Witch is, but her readers are going to be telling her in droves, shortly.
~review by Patricia Mullen
Author: Diana Rajchel
Moon Books, 2014
pp. 190, $22.95