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Witches Potions

Witches’ Potions And Spells
Paulsen,  Ed.
With decorations by Maggie Jarvis
1971

Submitter: I want to state I am in absolutely no way making fun of this book or endorsing it. I’d think a true practitioner of witch craft would find this book either funny or possibly offensive as much of what’s in here is very stereotyped and seems lifted straight out of ignorant myths. I also don’t really want to scan a lot of it as some of the spells/potions call for killing innocent cats. Grrr. I somehow couldn’t resist it when I first saw it. I’m actually glad it fell into my hands as I would never do any of these. Especially the ones that involve killing animals. But I would love to hear the opinions on the book from someone who actually does practice.

Holly: I’m not a fan of books that take something serious, with serious information in it, and cutesie it up. If that were the point of the book, to be light and cute, fine. If it’s supposed to be a book about practicing wicca, then it is kind of ridiculous (and yes, probably insulting). Unless it is the public’s favorite and it gets constant use, I’d weed it on age and presentation. The cat thing is pretty unsettling, too.

 

32 Responses to Witches Potions

  • Very interesting- the Peter Pauper Press specialized in this sort of book, poetry, essays etc. done in a fine arts style with interesting illustrations and often fine paper covers. They published a number of quirky titles such as this one. I wouldn’t be too disturbed by the content myself- there are plenty of folklore books that give the same information, though sometimes in a more scholarly way. Even a classic like E.B. White’s “The Once and Future King” has a character boiling a cat alive for an invisibility spell (a failure).

    I’m slightly surprised to find that the publisher is still in business, mostly gift books and journals: http://www.peterpauper.com/company.php

    • Yep, I’ve bought my yearly dayplanner from them every year for about 6 years now.

    • Um, that wasn’t E.B. White, it was T.H. White. I read it quite a few times as a child — I don’t recall any such scene, do you remember what character/situation it was? Of course, I had the original hardcover, and I know there were updated versions later…

  • I think this was banned from the Hogwarts curriculum.

  • I’m speaceless. This looks like someone thought it would be funny to throw a bunch of stuff together from old books. I’m sure they don’t beleive any of this is real.

  • This needs weeding based on the animal cruelty alone. There is nothing more to say.

  • Yikes, that is pretty disturbing. I know many pagans and they wouldn’t do anything to hurt animals. I can’t believe that something like this was ever printed.

  • Animal cruelty seems to be a major part of these spells. Ugh.

    A hex on whoever dreamed this stuff up.

  • Well, I like the artwork (except for the last one).

    • yeah, the art is kind of groovy. but the quirky pic of the courting couple doesn’t seem to go with the cat skull recipes.

  • There are so many things wrong with this “spell book” (yes, those quotes are derisive). Animal cruelty goes against the beliefs and practices of most wiccans and pagans. Also, why are practically all of the spells shown love spells? Actual pagan and Wiccan books focus on other things and are cruelty free. This one definitely needs to be weeded.

    • There were lots of other spells – spells to break up couples, spells to harm people, spells for money – but most of those required killing a cat and using things like their skull. The love spells were the least violent.

      • Well darn, didn’t realize my photo would show up.

        This was a donation to the Friends, BTW. Thankfully not on our shelves! I bought it for 50 cents and like I said I’m glad I’m the one who got it. I’ve known people who would follow these spells. Mostly back when I was in high school, admittedly.

        But it wouldn’t surprise me if this was on a library shelf or two.

  • I wonder, who is this book for?
    For people interested in folklore it seems to be useless because it doesn’t clarify it’s folklore but presents itself “factual”. Not to mention the missing citations and footnotes (where and when is the potion in question from and such).
    For people interested in witchcraft or wicca it’s useless because the “factual information” in it is (poorly defined) folklore, which could be disastrously misleading.

    But I have to agree that the art is kind of nice.

    • That’s what I was wondering, too. And it’s not really written in an entertaining enough style for purely fictional fluff reading.

  • I’m pretty sure the federal government might have something to say about killing eagles, and good luck basilisk hunting.

  • As a practicing Witch, Wiccan and librarian, I appreciate your sensitivity. The spells are actually pretty appalling as you describe them. As a spiritual path that respects the sanctity of nature and animals, any spell that starts with “starve a dog for a day,” is not something a Witch or herbalist is going to do.

    I’m not sure these are even folklore. Cunning folk, practitioners of hoodoo and other folk magical religions may have a different attitude but don’t really kill cats for no particular reason other than to cast a spell to kill them.

    With that being said, I revel in the images of witches just as art. The illustrations excised from the text are pretty nifty. But coupling them with negative and killing spells is pretty appaling. If this library only owns this book as an example of witchcraft spellwork, they need to ditch this one and get something more representative.

    Love your blog by the way. The humor and intelligence rock.

  • I canvassed the guys and gals at Pagan Federation (UK) on this and here are their comments – pretty much in accord with what folk here are thinking

    Wow killing and starving animals, a little away from my practice!

    So relieved this is from a USA publisher and not British!

    Brought back memories! *shivers in horror* Never seen this book by the way but seen a number of the ‘spells’ in a much earlier book.

    I think it’s adorable. I want a copy!

    I DO NOT WANT A COPY THANKS

    Mmmmm, Powdered dove and blood wine. Sounds delish. lol
    If someone gave me that I wouldn’t marry them, that’s for sure! Vomit on them maybe…

    It’s worth pointing out that all those old things like Eye of Newt and Toads foot were actually local names given to plants and herbs that witches used and rarely body parts of small animals. Unfortunately as early witches didn’t write things down (they were usually illiterate) a more literal meaning has come down through history

    Oh I didn’t know that – makes sense though, like bird’s foot trefoil…..

    Yes Wild plants referred to in different names. But cannot get my head around starving a dog for a day, tie him to a rope and lead him to a mandrake , so you are far away not to hear the deadly shrieks of the mandrake as the starving dog pulls it out .. Umm real or unreal.

    I do like the old remedies for ailments and the old wives tales so to speak ..

    If my cat ate mandrake he would puke it up all over the place. I think many spells were done in a time when animal and human rights were not as it is today and witches had a different less holistic view of their world.

  • Wow. I’m curious at the intention of this book–are readers really supposed to suck blood out of boars and mistreat animals, or is this supposed to be some kind of weird, deadpan humor? The only thing I could see this stuff being is a historical look at some of the more extreme magical practices from days long (hopefully really long) past. But the presentation suggests it’s an actual how-to manual. (And a practical one. Just pluck out some lion hairs from your local lion.) I actually quite like the illustrations, but a book like this is asking for all kinds of trouble, from dopes who would take the “instructions” literally and mistreat animals to those who would think this was an accurate representation of Wiccans/Witches/Pagans and further some nasty stereotypes.

  • Wow. Just wow. (Although, if you go to a live lion and pluck his hairs, you must be very brave indeed – and then you won’t need to wear the thingy.)

    but still, any book that suggest you need to kill a cat to get anything done – or any other animal – should be restricted. Not necessarily banned (I don’t like banning books), but there’s no need to give people the wrong idea. There is a widespread misconception that every book in a public library will be Good For You, and wholesome, and with a “concerned parents” accepted-stamp on. Well, it’s not, and it shouldn’t be, but still, to have practical How to kill an animal to serve yourself-books is maybe not the best thing ever.

  • And several more reasons to NEVER, EVER leave your drink unattended!

  • OK after a second read: Some of these potions seem familiar so I would wager someone wrote a book from a bunch of other books (guesses: medieval grimoires, collections of folktales/beliefs on witches and witch trial documents) and as much I can see forgot to footnote or credit or anything. Lovely.

  • The mention of dragons and basilisk strongly suggests that this book should not be taken seriously.

    • I read the book and it seems to take itself seriously. And like I said, I’ve known people who would take it seriously. Yes, most of them I knew in high school and they’d be the same ones who smoked pot in the bathroom. But this book would’ve been something they’d try to “look more hard core.”

      I can remember one running up to the board one day in English class, drawing a right side up pentagram (instead of an inverted one) and writing “HAIL SATIN!” next to it. Even the teacher who normally couldn’t stand him cause he was always causing trouble made fun of him. He was the kind who’d do these “spells.”

      • Then this definitely needs to be banned. We don’t need this thing to convince some dumbass to hurt an animal.

      • Hey now, let’s not put potheads into the same category as animal abusers/killers! As one of those (former) kids who was smoking pot in the bathroom, I would have been appalled at the suggestion of killing a cat. Still am appalled, in fact. :-/

  • It violates the Wiccan Rede, if that helps: “And Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will” That’s the central moral concept of Wicca (and most paganism). You can do what you want, as long as you don’t harm anyone, including yourself.

    Plus, anything bad you do will be returned to you, times three.

    Nature and animals are also central to the entire concept of paganism. Any abuse or killing them to use in spells is completely against the craft.

    I’m just worried some non-tolerant people might pick this up and say “Wow, pagans and witches really ARE evil!” and go on from there. People can be really ignorant/dumb and just need an excuse to pick on a minority group.

  • Huh. It’s just a ragbag of charms and spells from all kinds of ancient and medieval sources, without anything useful in the way of references or discussion.

    It must have been somebody’s pet project, because I can’t figure out an intended audience. Serious occultists, pagans, and historians would have no use for it. But at the same time it’s not amusing for a mass audience.

  • Clearly a compendium of translations from manuscript sources, but without any citations to make it useful. Offhand I’d imagine most of it’s cribbed from other books, most likely 19th century works on folklore and magic.
    I reckon it doesn’t belong in a general collection, for fear of inspiring idiots and teenagers, although I remember seeing books with similar rituals as a young person and not being tempted to do them. That said, it’s a period piece and I hope it’s not been pulped, because works like this are important for the study of popular occult literature (and associated fields, such as fantasy fiction) in the early seventies. Tracking down author’s bio and the sources used could be a worthwhile project, depending on what else they might have written and the persons whom they might have associated with.

    • Hey, if anyone wants it, it’s in my desk drawer. So long as it’s someone from this thread and not someone I knew in high school!