Circle Network Book Review: The Deep Heart of Witchcraft - Expanding the Core of Magickal Practice by David Salisbury Published by Moon Books 251 pages £12.99
David Salisbury comes from a place of being – from having lived the forces that he writes about, from interacting with them on a daily basis in his life. I was very impressed when I glanced at the table of contents, and the very “simple” manner in which this book is organized – the five elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth, and Spirit), the Gods, Deep Ritual In Witchcraft, Spinning the Wheel, and Putting it all together.
In her foreword, Iris Firemoon talks about this being a book that references transformation by “pushing the Self through the elements, communing with the divine, and the cycles of the seasons”. She notes that readers are encouraged to make Witchcraft a daily part of their lives, rather than just learning about it. The interesting thing here is that Firemoon was Salisbury’s teacher, and the notes reveal that she has had a first-hand view of his journey. She also notes that Salisbury has studied and practiced a wide range of traditional and eclectic teachings in Witchcraft, and that his motive in writing is to share with others his own experiences.
In his introduction, Salisbury noted that Witchcraft is work … hard work. I might add that anything done well, done with integrity, will take some effort, some hard work. And the work is on all four levels – mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. He notes the process of an action: first there is desire, then there is will. The choices are set in motion, and work is begun on the action. Following action comes the experience of the results. It’s all good! I loved it when he said “Every moment we take a breath we have an opportunity to experience presence.” Presence to Salisbury means that he takes joy in whatever he is doing in the world.
In talking about how this book works, Salisbury notes that this is really a journey through the classical elements of Witchcraft (Air, Water, Fire, Earth, and Spirit), each element being a point on the pentacle, as well as on the circle surrounding it. The elements are keys to unlocking our magickal potential. Emphasis is placed on the exercises that go along with each element, and in taking your time to understand them and feel them deeply. He also suggest keeping a magickal journal to note your progress in. His feeling is that when we write something down, this is an act of affirming it.
In each section Salisbury talks about the energy that the element carries, and what it brings to us. He talks about the gifts that each element brings us, such as the gifts of movement and change that Air brings us. One of the exercises in the chapter on Air is dedicating your wand. Commentary in this chapter includes what Salisbury terms “showing up for practice” – in other words, committing ourselves to doing our magickal work. He also talks about prayer work – what he terms our highest form of communication, and includes an exercise on opening to intuition for prayer work. With prayer you identify your purpose, and make an affirmation or claim of power. Clearly state you desire, then give thanks. Beautifully written, and very easy to do! We are asked to call on inspiration, and step into the creative flow that can fuel all of the work that we do in all areas of our life. We are taught how to build a spirit relationship with our allies, and to honor them. Oh, and we also have an exercise on meeting ecstatic air spirits!
Each element is addressed in the same manner, so that we become familiar with what they are capable of bringing to us, and how we can use them in our life. Through the words and the exercises, we form relationships, dedicate our tools, and place their energy in our lives.
The chapter on the Gods starts out by talking about Goddess energy … the feminine divine. Salisbury also notes that, along with God, she is “half of the great coin that makes up godhood”. She is also recognized as a warrior Queen, and a dark crone that dances at the gates of the underworld. He also discusses the concept of the Triple Goddess – Maiden/Mother/Crone. There is an interesting exercise in this chapter that presents a ritual to be used to waken the power of the goddess connection. Goddess is both warrior and healer. I loved that God is also seen through the Triple archetype of Poet/Father/Sage.
In the chapter on Deep Ritual in Witchcraft, Salisbury addresses as having a large role to play in a Witch’s spiritual and craft practice. He defines ritual as actions performed in a specific manner with intention. Nothing scary here! Rituals can be stored in the practitioner’s memory, or written down in a personal journal. He also makes an important statement in that ritual changes, depending on the person performing it.
“Spinning the Wheel” addresses the four seasons, and how these natural cycles are observed. Samhain is one specific holiday that is discussed, working with the dead, creating an ancestor alter, with an exercise dealing with declaring the alter and giving offering. A second exercise deals with attuning with the death mysteries, along with assisting the dead and those who remain. Another interesting exercise is a rite of exorcism. On the other hand, Salisbury also presents an exercise on attuning to joy during the Christmas (December) holidays, and a spring meditgation on birth.
In “Putting It All Together”, Salisbury talks about putting the pieces together – making them work in our lives. He talks about co-creating an existence for ourselves that is both fully human and fully divine. He also suggests that we take the wisdom from this book to a deeper level as we work with it within ourselves and in our lives. He feels that the Craft has limitless potential because humanity itself has limitless potential. The core exercises and rituals in this book are meant to act as a roadmap.
Salisbury walks his talk – he speaks from an inner knowing, and in a manner that is easily followed. He is respectful of all paths, and presents his material with care. This is an excellent primer for those wishing to understand more about Witchcraft, as well as for those that wish to follow the Path. Reviewer: Bonnie Cehovet http://www.bonniecehovet.com/