” A nonfiction book of deeply personal essays by marginalised people using the intersection of feminism, witchcraft, and resistance to summon power and become fearsome in a world that would prefer them afraid. With contributions from twenty witchy femmes, queer conjurers, and magical rebels, Becoming Dangerous is a book of intelligent and challenging essays that will resonate with anyone who’s ever looked for answers outside the typical places.
From ritualistic skincare routines to gardening; from becoming your own higher power to searching for a legendary Scottish warrior woman; from the fashion magick of brujas to cripple-witch city-magic; from shoreline rituals to psychotherapy—this book is for people who know that now is the time, now is the hour, ours is the magic, ours is the power. “
This book is powerful, funny, and at times very sad. Though it’s not a practical guide on witchcraft, or even on danger, it shows you how those who are often the most marginalized in our society use ritual to harness their own personal power. It’s about 21 people from all over embracing who they are, and stepping into their identities in magical ways. Every essay in the book might not appeal to you, but I can guarantee that some of the stories will be relatable and inspirational. I liked this book a lot, and it truly earned it’s 5 crystal ball rating!
Right away, the book features a foreward by Kristen J. Sollee – the Author of Witches, Sluts, Feminists which is my absolute fave – that lays out Becoming Dangerous’s modus operandi – RESISTANCE. Honestly the foreward to this book got me so pumped and so ready to dive into the stories. Then I saw what came next and I was so impressed – a full list of content warnings for every story in the book and explanation about content warnings. This is unusual in the best way and I really appreciated getting some heads-up, mostly because I didn’t end up skipping a single story. At first I decided to start with ones who’s content I knew I could handle, then I just started reading them all. The content warnings let me know what to expect and to be ready. I loved this.
I’m not going to review every essay in the book, but I did have some favourites I’d love to highlight.
My favourite was Undressing My Heart by Gariela Herstik. (CW Discussions of war, sex) In it she writes about her paternal grandparents meeting when Grandpa Harry told grandma Rose her fly was open. They both worked with fabric – Rose as a seamstress and Harry as a weaver. After they were shipped to the camps, Rose got lucky in that the head seamstress making nazi uniforms in Auschwitz had a daughter named Rose. She she got to live in their quarters and work as a seamstress making uniforms. Clothes saved Rose’s life, and in turn made it possible for Gabriela to be born. Her mother’s family is from Mexico city, a culture full of bright colours, bold looks, and arched brows. Working with fashion, and with the way she expresses herself, allows the author to connect to her ancestral lineage, and weave magic into her own life. Something that made me gasp out loud is when she talked about lingerie and beginning a lingerie collection at 18 and taking tons of photos of herself in it. I did this exact thing in high school. I found a beautiful black boustier with garters and silky red bows at a thrift store and actually wore it to school all the time, under a very sharp bright red, blouse that hooked all the way up the front. Like the author, it made me feel powerful and comfortable, and like I owned my body my identity. She talked about harnessing this aspect of her sexuality for herself, doing it because it makes her feel good and feel magical. I had actually forgotten how much I loved lingerie in my teens until I read this, and have been paying for attention to the things I wear now that make me feel the same way.
Another one I loved was I am, Myself, a Body of Water by Leigh Alexander which I read while at the beach. I know the author is around my age because there are multiple references to The Little Mermaid and making up spells to run away from home and y’all that is 90s witch aesthetic. It chronicles her relationship with the ocean, with water, with herself and her body, and her mind and the ways she didn’t fit in. The author is half black and jewish, describes her body as being larger than the other kids’, and often mentions the ocean as making those things obsolete. I particularly loved this sentence – “If I felt too large, the sea made me weightless” – which is super relatable as a chubby water-loving kid myself. Much like Undressing My Heart, this connection to the sea also connected her to her ancestral lineage, and her own personal kind of magic. Even as people drift in and out of her life, the sea is her constant friend – no matter what sea or ocean she happens to be looking at. It was sweet and funny, while being deep and emotional. I definitely cried right there on the beach reading it.
The first essay I read, after checking out the foreward and content warnings was Reddit, Retin A, and Resistance: An Alchemist’s Guide to Skincare by Sam Maggs (CW Discussions of depression). This one combined the storytelling I loved about the previous two essays, with practical advice and information about skin care. The author describes the products she uses for her skincare routine as her potions, and the magical intention she puts into each one. In a world where women, especially, are expected to put everyone’s needs before their own and spend all of their time caring for others, going out of your way to focus solely on yourself for at least an hour can be totally unheard of. I’m not into the K-Beauty system or like using so many products with so many rules, but I love taking time to care for or decorate my skin. TRULY. At night I love washing my face, cleaning my teeth, putting lotion everywhere and finally spreading my awesome CBD facial oil on. It’s my quiet time. And it definitely feels like working with potions sometimes! It was a nice reminder of the power of caring for yourself.
I didn’t find a single essay I outright disliked, and even liked some where the actual subject matter isn’t my thing but their writing or their feelings about it were so captivating. Red Glitter by Sophie Saint Thomas ( CW Discussions of sex, non-blood bodily fluids) gets special mention for beginning with the line “I chose the Frankencock.” which is still making me giggle. Even though the book isn’t a practical how-to, I found it creeping into my practice in how I decorated an altar, or a subject I decided to study more in depth, or ingredients I used. It was dark, beautiful and funny – not to mention inspirational!
After all, in these challenging times, don’t we all need to become a little more dangerous?