Title: The Clovenstone Workings: A Manual of Early Modern Witchcraft
Publisher: Black Malkin Press
Author: Robin Artisson
Price: $22.00 (pbk) / $16.00 (ebook — $0 in Kindle Unlimited)
This latest offering from notable (and some would say notorious) author and Craft practitioner Robin Artisson is sure to make a deep and lasting impact on the current culture of Witchcraft by fundamentally changing the dialogue regarding the nature of Craft and its related Artes — and then providing a handbook for the practice of an older, Spirit-centered, and in many cases much less “civilized” sorcery. This guide knows itself well enough to know that it won’t be a good fit for everyone who wishes to walk the crooked path of the Witch, and I can agree that many who identify as a Witch will be disturbed by both the treatises and the rites within this work. Others will be duly intrigued.
This book is offered as a guide to the Witchcraft practices of roughly the 17th Century (the “pre-Modern” era), as evidenced in trial records and other folkloric materials; and for his own research, Artisson spent time studying what is available of the records as well as disseminating secondary sources like the incomparable works of Emma Wilby. He also engaged in his own Spirit-centered work and entered trance-states to fine-tune ritual practices, uncover at least one Word of Power, and gain allyship with Spirits in formal compact.
It is this — the Spirit Pact — that lies at the heart of The Clovenstone Workings. Early in the book, Artisson introduces the Folkloric Devil of the Craft (distinct and separate from the Theological Devil of the Christians) as well as the Queen of Elphame — the two looming, mythopoetic (but oh so very real) spiritual figures who have been called by innumerable names and stand at the center of the Craft as Father and Mother of Witches. Rightly, he says, they strike a chord of fear in us — at least at our first encounters. Ultimately, it is the Spirits connected to them (this greater host or “ecology of Spirits”) from which Familiar Spirits come. Moreover, it is the relationship with one or more Familiar Spirits, Artisson reminds readers, that is the source and spring of all the traditionally ascribed abilities of the Witch — healing, prophecy, blessing, blasting, et cetera.
The book is practical and accessible with ritual workings that are brilliantly simple and require very little in the way of gear or supplies. The essays, by contrast, are exquisitely detailed and full of rich symbolism and poetry, giving the reader adequate background to enter the ritual state with a sense of mental preparation. The workings return achievable results, and that is of paramount importance.
Trigger warnings: Artisson acknowledges from the outset that this book (and this approach to the Craft) isn’t for everyone, and here are two reasons why I agree. If the idea of the Folkloric Devil (the Horned One in all his primal, chills down the spine, even frightening rawness) as a real entity in the Craft freaks you out, this book/approach is not for you. Furthermore, the book leaves the practitioner to make their own choices regarding healing or harming, manipulating, and deceiving via magical means; and it goes on to provide examples and formulas detailing how each of these works can be accomplished. Coming from a traditional, non-Wiccan, pre-Modern perspective, these ethical considerations are explored at some length, but they can seem alarming and even antithetical to the contemporary understanding of ethics in the Craft.
As a long-time practitioner of traditional, folkloric Craft, my only complaint or criticism is the inclusion, without clarification, explanation, or even credit where it is due, of ritually-retrieved magical words and ancient Greek (/Coptic, /Demotic) phrases in the rituals. I have no issue with the presence of these words, but I found myself distracted by the author’s uncharacteristic lack of exposition regarding their meaning and source. Sharing even a brief background on a Word of Power that he uncovered ritually (an account of which is provided on his website) or referencing a formula as coming from The Greek Magical Papyri (instead of calling them “this string of strange words” — or spelling another out phonetically while intentionally not providing the original words), I think would have given them more power and import because they would have connected them to something still strange and beautiful and Otherworldly, but also now full of meaning.
Recommended to fans of Nigel Jackson, Gemma Gary, Michael Howard, Shani Oates — and among those, to practitioners who have yet to create a meaningful connection with the WitchFather or the WitchMother and/or connect with a Familiar Spirit.
[Laurelei Black is an American folkloric Witch, an Aphrodite woman, and an author.]