I am so excited to see a book that is entirely about some of the darker and less mainstream-accepted sides of witchcraft and magic. This book travels into the darkness and brings back the tools and knowledge you need to safely wade in yourself.
“Shadow magick occupies a critical role in the rich history of witchcraft, and it continues to draw strong interest from contemporary practitioners despite the limited information that is available. This book explores misunderstood topics such as ethically collecting and using animal parts and bones, blood magick, dark moon energy, hexing, scrying, dark deities, graveyard dirt, spells to assist the crossing of a dying loved one, and much more. With a strong focus on ethics, author Kate Freuler provides much-needed information and hands-on techniques to help you strengthen your life, connect to nature, protect yourself (and your kith and kin), and know yourself in a deep way.”
I’m just going to say it – this book is SO COOL. For a long time, the use of “personal concerns” in spells was avoided and ignored by witches and pagans, mainly white ones who were completely unfamiliar with Hoodoo and Voodoo, in an effort to kind of ease themselves out of the satanic panic backlash. We all know now that there are satanic witches, dark witches, witches who work with blood and bones, witches who work with demons and that there is nothing wrong or truly scary about that. When I was younger, however it was a matter of safety to make that distinction – as Sally Owens asserted “there’s no devil in the craft” – and so finding mainstream books that touched on any of that was impossible. This book really fills a gap that’s been empty for quite some time.
Something I noticed right away about this book is that it doesn’t feel like a re-packaging of Hoodoo and Voodoo for a white audience, which many books on dark magic tend to be. Though these practices are mentioned and given credit throughout the book, the author includes her ways of doing things, focuses on gods from European and Egyptian pantheons that she clearly has personal experience with, and shows the various historical practices that have inspired her from those same pantheons. I think she did a good job of “staying in her lane” as the kids say.
The historical and spiritual research in this book is really thrilling to me, a super-nerd. Though the bibliography at the back of the book is short, almost every single book on it has been added to my to-read list and I’ve already devoured the articles referenced. This really ties in with this overall vibe I got from the book – which is that it was written by someone who was really taking the subject matter seriously and with reverence. I love that!
Throughout the book the author covers working with the dark moon phase (what we often refer to as the new moon, when no moon is visible), deities, death and rebirth, loss, and cursing. They have a whole chapter on crafting things like oil and incense, and another on poppets, and yet a whole other on the concept of sacrifice. The sacrifice chapter was absolutely fantastic. Traditional personal concerns like hair, nails, blood, urine, semen, and sweat are all explained in a shockingly mature way (I could never lol) and I found a longer section on tears to be really interesting.
Of course, the book is called OF BLOOD AND BONES, and so there is of course a large section devoted to working with animals and their parts and viscera. I was really impressed with this section because at no point did the animals just feel like parts to the author, this chapter was just as full with life as it was death. She talked about the living spirits of these animals, their magical meanings and powers, and how to work with them while they’re still here with us. This author obviously loves and reveres animals. Her personal story about turkey vultures was beautiful and sent a small shiver up my spine. I knew in that moment she lived here in Ontario because, oh boy, I have seen those birds and they truly are something to behold. If you have ever been interested in using bones and fur I highly recommend check this book out – especially if you’re interested in actually wildcrafting that material. The author gives instructions on cleaning bones from different types of environments. This isn’t something I’ll be doing any time soon – blood and hair and vomit don’t freak me out, but a freshly dead animal? I’m OUT. – but it was well-written and offered lots of advice which is really important for keeping people safe if they take this on. I was really moved by a section on roadkill when the author describes removing roadkill as a way of honoring an animal and saving it from further disrespect by humans because this is exactly how I feel.
Personal story time! I have a pair of porcupine quills from an animal that died near a busy road through a forest. I bought them from a vendor who had come across the animal after it had died and been left exposed for a little while. She told me she moved them into the forest, said a prayer, and after removing some quills gave them a proper burial. I use them to carve candles and they’re one of my most prized possessions! I think of that porcupine everytime I pick one up and pray that they’re at peace. The quill makes me feel strong and protected, but also connected to nature and the intuitive magic of animals in general. This is the exact vibe I got from Of Blood and Bones on this topic.
If you’re not into animal parts, or can’t access any, the author gives alternatives and ideas for ways to power your spells without them.
I have two complaints about this book, but only one is serious enough to make this book lose a crystal ball. Let’s start with the one that’s really just my own personal problem:
Everything in this book is gross. There is no recipe in this book I actually want to use. Death Oil includes dead insects and rotting plants, dark moon incense will smell like nothing if you’re lucky, and like errant dog shit if you’re not (and I’m not a lucky person), and the only essential oil I remember reading more than once was tea tree oil. I expected to see lots of gross ingredients and methods, but yikes I need a little more balance. Considering every funeral in the western world smells like flowers, it’s odd that death flowers don’t come up. There aren’t a lot of plants used at all, more animal parts and human viscera appeared in the spells. What about lilies? Marigolds? Carnations or chrysanthemums? What about the dozens of varieties of black flowers out there like tulip and Iris? No poison plants or baneful herbs? No graveyard trees? Like I said, I love that this book finally focuses on some of the grosser traditional tools of the craft because that stuff is powerful and interesting even if it’s not for you, but girl my sensitive nose borders on psychic and sniffing rot and death isn’t that empowering.
My main complaint is that it almost feels like there is an entire chapter missing. Shadow magic is mentioned more than once and it’s used interchangeably at times with shadow work – one of which is working with the shadowey and darker elements she lays out in the book like the dark moon, death, and cursing. The other is the kind of Carl Jung-inspired psycho-witchcraft that confronts trauma, grief, pain, and anger. This second type is mentioned over and over, and plugged as being VITALLY important, but I don’t actually see a lot of shadow work spells or prompts in this book. It says confront your trauma but never says how. There’s a short tarot spread to deal with a single issue in the present, not even the past where trauma lives, but beyond that the spells don’t seem to actually have much confronting as the main purpose. You’ll certainly learn about yourself, and even bump up against your shadow, if you practice the magic in the book, but mostly as a bonus and only if you’re paying attention. I was really hoping for actual shadow work to confront and deal with trauma and fear, dark and shadowy emotions, boundaries, abuse, etc. Not everyone’s practice includes this kind of psychology-influenced witchcraft, which is absolutely fine, but even though this is a really popular internet buzzword thanks to the new age crowd, actual books detailing methods of shadow work in this psychological context including witchcraft are not super common! In fact, one of the reasons I bought this book was because I was looking for books on shadow work.
Even with that complaint, I highly recommend this book to basically anyone. The information is important and interesting, the research is good, and the writing is friendly and easy to read. Even if you’re not interested in working with viscera or bones in your practice, even if you’re never going to perform a single one of these spells, I still think it’s a wonderful look at one element of our collective shadow as witches that deserves to finally step into the light.
About the author
Kate Freuler is an author and artist living in Ontario Canada. Her first book, Of Blood and Bones: Working With Shadow Magick and the Dark Moon was published by Llewellyn Worldwide in July of 2020. Her writing has appeared in Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac, The Witches’ Spell-a-Day Almanac and the Sabbats Almanac. Kate has been operating the online shop White Moon Witchcraft for over 10 years.