Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pagans in the Military

Pagans in the Military
Patricia Deneen

For many people, especially those outside of Paganism, there is a lingering belief that all Pagans are tree-hugging, pacifist and sometimes militantly anti-military. While this stereotype may fit some, the contrary is also true. There are Pagans who not only support the armed forces but are active members as well as veterans. And believe it or not, some of them are tree huggers too.

The Pentacle Quest

One Wiccan soldier from the US who gave his life in service to his country was Sgt. Patrick Stewart. His wife requested that the pentacle, a symbol commonly used by Wiccans, be placed on his government-provided headstone just as other soldiers are able to have a symbol of their faith on theirs. Her request was denied, but she persisted. With the help of lawyers and organizations such as Lady Liberty League and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the pentacle was approved as a symbol of choice by the Veterans Administration in 2007.

The Hammer Project

Another such effort is underway for heathen soldiers, many of whom follow the Asatru faith. Thor's hammer, also known as Mjollnir, is a symbol associated with this religion. Thor is a warrior god, and Asatru places great value on positive warrior qualities. The Hammer Project is collecting signatures for a petition to be presented to the VA to allow Thor's Hammer to be officially listed as one of the emblems of belief that soldiers can choose for their grave markers.While a petition isn't the official paperwork needed, it certainly is a good start to increase awareness amongst the Pagan community as well as the military that there are Pagan soldiers past and present who love their country every bit as much as those of other faiths.Pagans in the military deserve every right their mainstream counterparts have, not just rights afforded to them after they have died. Wicca is now recognized in the Military Chaplain's Handbook, but there is still a lot of headway to be made. Pagan soldiers who want to practice their religion may experience anything from ignorance to outright discrimination.

More Resources

One resource for these soldiers and their families is the advocacy group Military Pagan Network. Their website gives information on documents of interest for each branch of the military. There are also military Pagan resources at the Witches' Voice website, one of the largest Pagan networking sites in the world.It's hard to completely erase prejudice, but Pagans can work within the law to have their rights recognized. Every small victory for military Pagans becomes part of the larger victory to help assure freedoms these soldiers are fighting for.

For more information:
The Hammer Project
Military Pagan Network
Witches' Voice Military Pagans Page

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Craft of the Wise: Book available for pre-order now

'There are very few good primers on witchcraft out there. We are pleased to say this one of the best ones we have read. It contains everything someone new to the Craft needs to start them on their path. It is well written and easy to understand.' - Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, authors of 'A Witches Bible', and 'Progressive Witchcraft'.'

This book is both powerful and quite facinating; each coven and tradition has its own methods of working the sacred magic's, and 'Craft of the Wise' rather proves this. I am sure Craft of the Wise will prove valuable reading for those interested in the historical beginnings and this particular practice of witchcraft, which is both clear and direct.' - Maxine Sanders, author of 'Fire Child', and 'Maxine: Witch Queen'.

Bringing together both practical experience and innovative research, 'Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism & Witchcraft' communicates a balance of accepted Craft methods together with a wealth of information relating to the origins and beliefs of this ancient Craft.The book is published with O-Books, and is out on the 30th October 2009. For more information about the book, the author, and how to pre-order, please visit the website,

Magick for the Kitchen Witch (a new release by Andborough Publishing, LLC)

"Magick for the Kitchen Witch" is a wonderfully comprehensive book that discusses everything from basic spellcasting to rituals honoring the Gods and Goddesses. Learn how to write a spell and where to find inspiration for them, read about folkloric witches, and also learn about different cultural and religious influence in Kitchen Witchery.Relased this May (2009), this book also showcases many wonderful spells that fit perfectly with any earth-based spiritual path. The spells in this book can be used by beginners as well as long-time practitioners and adapted for a wide variety of beliefs. Whether you buy it for the magickal reference or for the folkloric fun, it is a must in anyone's library.

Already there have been sales in Australia and Canada!
PURCHASE DETAILS: Book can be purchased at the following internet bookstores: ~Amazon ~Books A Million ~Barnes and Nobles

Or an autographed book can be purchased at the author's website or through Ebay (search the title).

Author: Deanna Anderson ( Genre: Reference Publisher: Andborough Press LLC ( ISBN: 978-0-9823971-2-1 Pages: 144

Petition to Downing Street to stop religious indoctrination in schools

Wiccan Spirituality author Kevin Saunders has started an official e-petition to 10 Downing Street calling for a representation of neopagan and humanitarian views to be included in religious education.Mr Saunders is also calling for religion to be taught in an objective fashion and to avoid religious propaganda being introduced to lessons outside of RE sessions and to respect the wishes of parents who often do not share the same religious bias there local school insists on following.He also calls on protection for teachers who are currently being put under pressure to fall in line with the preferred religious stance of some schools.Mr Saunders said today: “I am appalled at the way the Christian Church uses its schools to indoctrinate young minds into their religion, often against the wishes of the parents. Some schools waste weeks that could otherwise be spent on ‘proper education’ by thrusting stories about the so-called ‘Jesus’ in front of vulnerable minds.”The petition runs until October 2009 and can be accessed on the Internet : http://petition...hurch-abuse/

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

'Everyone's a pagan now'

'Everyone's a pagan now'

From morris dancers in mirror shades to green activists getting in touch with their spiritual side, paganism is going mainstream. Cole Moreton reports on a new national faith

Look out, here come the pagans. It's late May in central London and a man dressed as a tree, a witch in a velvet robe and a woman pretending to be a raven with a long black beak are dancing through the streets of Holborn, with several hundred others, moving to the rhythm of a dozen loud drums. They could wake the god of thunder with their noise but it's OK, the people at the back with the broadswords and shields are followers of Thor. This is a parade to celebrate pagan pride, and it would be wise not to get in the way.
"We are moving into a new time," says the leader, brandishing a huge set of antlers. "We are becoming more accepted. Paganism is reasserting itself."
Who is going to argue? Her name is Jeanette Ellis and she looks like the figurehead of a mighty galleon, cleavage pushing up out of a medieval dress (although her bottom half is mostly foliage). Ellis has been organising parades for more than a decade. "There has been such a dramatic change," she says, "in the way we are perceived."
Paganism is casting its spell over more people now than ever before in the modern age. There are said to be a quarter of a million practising pagans in this country, double the number of a decade ago.
That would make them more numerous than Buddhists (of which there are 144,500, according to the 2001 census) and almost as numerous as Jews (259,000) - and it doesn't even allow for the growing tribe of unofficial, instinctive pagans such as my friend Cath, who planned to celebrate the summer solstice in the early hours yesterday by "going out into the garden at dawn and just tuning in". At Stonehenge at least 30,000 people were expected to watch the sun rise in the company of the druids who see themselves as practising the ancient faith of pre-Christian Britain. For them, the sun is symbolic of one aspect of the "universal force which flows through the world and which can be encouraged to flow through us", according to Philip Carr-Gomm, founder of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and author of the new Book of English Magic. The druids are only a small part of modern paganism, which encompasses a bewildering number of traditions or "paths", but central to them all is this idea of a divine force inherent in nature. It is an individualistic faith that encourages each person to respond in their own way, so you don't have to be a druid, or belong to any kind of order at all.
Away from Stonehenge, much smaller groups of people celebrate the summer solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens or woods, on beaches or hilltops across the country, some for organised rituals and some, like Cath, just responding to their own understanding of a spirituality that seems to work best in the open air. Ask her faith and she says "pagan" straight away. She sees no need to join in with anybody else, but Cath is far from alone.
"What we believe is suddenly everywhere," says Bantu, a dreadlocked 29-year-old who planned to be on a hill in Wales when the moment came. He started to worship Gaia, the earth goddess, after going to a workshop at a climate camp. "Everyone's a pagan now."
Not quite, maybe, but the rise has been dramatic. The census in 2001 recorded 40,000 pagans, but the true figure may be higher. "Pagans don't like telling the government what they're up to," says Ellis. A decade ago Ronald Hutton, a professor of history at Bristol University, calculated that there were 120,000 people going to rituals or meetings (often in pubs) called moots. That was before Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lord of the Rings, Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch made pagan spirituality and mythology part of pop culture
The Pagan Federation, which aims to represent all "followers of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion", claims the number of adherents has trebled at least. That would mean there were 360,000 committed, practising pagans, putting them ahead of the Sikhs (329,000) and fourth behind Hindus (552,000), Muslims (1.5 million) and Christians (42 million, according to the census).
Hutton adds that there has been a much greater acceptance of pagan ideas among the wider public. "It is best to think in terms of concentric circles," he says, "from those who are initiated members of a group such as a coven, out to those who go to Stonehenge for a drink and a party."
The Pagan Federation's membership list includes druids as well as wiccans, practising modern witchcraft; shamans, engaging with the spirits of the land; and heathens, worshipping the gods of the north European tribes (including Thor). But then there are the neopagans such as Bantu, always visible at environmental protests, who wouldn't think of belonging to any kind of federation and who pursue a rainbow of revived, recreated or invented beliefs with nature at their heart.
All you have to believe to be a pagan, according to the federation, is that each of us has the right to follow our own path (as long as it harms no-one else); that the higher power (or powers) exists; and that nature is to be venerated. If you asked everyone in Britain if they agreed with those three statements, millions would put their hands up. At its loosest, paganism is beginning to look like our new national faith.
The circles can be seen widening in the most unlikely places. Nine years ago, Ray and Lynda Lindfield and their friends tried to start a pagan festival on the seafront in ultra-conservative Eastbourne in East Sussex, and were threatened with arrest. "It had to be pointed out that we had a right to practise our religion in public," says Lynda. Lammas is now one of the big local draws of the summer.
These public events usually include a re-enactment of whatever stage of the pagan cycle is being marked. In Eastbourne they needed some dancers to perform the cutting down of the male sun god, represented as the mythical character John Barleycorn, and so a morris-dancing group, Hunters Moon, was born. It is now the most fashionable side (as morris-dancing groups are sometimes known) in the country, having recently been hired to perform at a party in London for Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, among others. It is also part of what amounts, in morris dancing, to a pagan coup.
The Morris Ring, which represents the hanky-waving sides everyone thinks of as morris dancers, announced in January that young people were not interested. That was news to Hunters Moon, and other recently formed, pagan-inspired sides across the country such as Wolf's Head and Vixen, the first gothic morris outfit, whose members wear mirror shades and look like the Sisters of Mercy.
Half of the two-dozen dancers at a recent Hunters Moon rehearsal were under 30, including teenage students. They hopped, they skipped, they smashed big sticks together until the splinters flew and then used them for gestures that were, quite frankly, rude. Hunter's Moon dance with blacked-up faces (not racist but medieval, they insist, having been a way for mummers to hide their identities from their daytime employers as they went door to door for trick or treat) and outfits that make them look like ragged crows that have mated with Hell's Angels. Not every member is a pagan, but they wear pentagrams and the dances include arcane elements such as the spiral. "Those that know what it is," says Armstrong, "know what it is."
Witchcraft is another driving force in the rise of paganism. Leading members of the Federation are part of this closed tradition that became public in 1954 when a retired civil servant called Gerald Gardner claimed to have been introduced to pre-Christian occultism by one of the last surviving covens. Their version of the divine force is embodied in a horned male god and a mother goddess, and their response to its energy all around us involves the casting of spells and incantations to influence real events. Gardner's critics called it fiction, but wicca now has 7,000 adherents, according to the census, which again is probably an understatement. What do you have to do to join? "If I told you, I would have to kill you," says Chris Crowley, a wiccan high priest who speaks for the Federation.That's a joke, I think.
His partner, Vivienne, has written acclaimed books on wicca, or at least on its public side. Wiccans believe in the ability to communicate directly with the divine by calling down the god or goddess to enter the body, which can involve going into a trance and allowing them to speak through you. The most common wiccan symbol is the pentagram, whose points represent the elements essential to life: air, fire, water, earth and the spirit that ties them all together. They see themselves as inheritors of the "wise craft" that led men and women to be ducked and burned in previous ages, so if you want to know their deepest secrets you have to prove you are sincere and committed. Joining a coven traditionally takes a year and a day. "It is a mystery religion," says Crowley. "You do have to be initiated."
Crowley is a head-hunter for public sector recruitment, and dresses in jeans and blue blazer. "We look normal," he says, "because we are."
Jeanette Ellis is not a wiccan but a "traditional" witch, who follows a path she found among her family roots in the west of Ireland. "I work with the Morrigan, a Celtic goddess." One associated with death and war (and ravens), I subsequently discover. "We do not target people in our spells," insists Ellis, who calls her home in east London her "covenstead". The 13 members meet when the moon is full. "People bring ideas for spells. If someone has split up with her boyfriend, for example, we may cast a love spell that will make her more confident and attractive
She is not so shy about ritual and is able to explain why so many people on the parade are wearing knives, including those broadswords (with the police turning a blind eye). "That is the athame, a director of energy. It must not touch blood. There are no sacrifices going on." The knife is placed in a chalice to bless wine. She also describes the male high priest pushing the athame into a scabbard held by the high priestess. Hang on, this is all about sex, isn't it?
"There is a sexual energy, I wouldn't deny it," says Ellis, chuckling. "The sexual union happens within every ritual, usually symbolically." Usually? "It's not about orgies. Of course, after any full moon, if you want to go out into the garden and have ... that's fine, as long as you're a couple. You don't just go off with whoever you fancy." Do they ever do it as part of the ritual? Expecting a denial, I am surprised by her answer. "Some do. Less and less, I think. I don't know what other covens get up to."
Nobody does. That's the point. It's hard to join. (Once in, you presumably become as vulnerable to exploitation as any other member of a closed religious group whose initiated members are taught secret information by a caste of self-elected priests.)
Some wannabe wizards did go on to take an adult interest in the esoteric after reading Harry Potter, but the boy wizard's bigger impact has been in the adoption of pagan ideas into the mainstream: the BBC uses pagan spirituality as a source of inspiration even for children's shows such as Raven and Merlin, or Saturday tea-time blockbusters Robin Hood and Doctor Who.
It is in pop culture that witchcraft meets the other main force behind the rise in paganism: environmentalism. James Lovelock made the link explicit in his influential 1979 description of the earth as a single, living organism, which he named after the Greek goddess Gaia. Some take this more theologically than others, but it remains the most famous example of how the desire for alternative lifestyles that began to flourish in the 60s has led to both a questioning of our attitude to the natural environment and a turning away from the established, patriarchal faiths towards new forms of spirituality. Of course, you don't have to be a pagan to be a green. Far from it. But the two movements have given each other energy, as each has grown
For many pagans, becoming a green campaigner is a way of demonstrating faith with practical action. For many activists who come at it from the opposite direction, the pagan idea of an ancient and universal spirit that animates the earth gives their actions a personal, spiritual framework. Not that you have to read eco-theory to get it these days, just watch Teletubbies. "The indoctrination into things like recycling starts at an early age," says Catherine Hosen, a druid from Kent who watches a lot of CBeebies with her children. "If you start off trying to be environmentally aware, it is not much of a step to seeing all of nature as sacred, and from there to becoming a pagan."
Perhaps. This, don't forget, is mostly a loose faith. That is why it is so popular in these individualistic, iconoclastic times. Wander towards the centre of Hutton's concentric circles where the covens wait and you will be asked to pass tests, obey priests, follow rituals and keep secrets; but on the outer edges, at festival times such as the summer solstice, there is none of that - just a dance, a beer and a "Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again". Just watch yourself with those knives.
• Cole Moreton is writing a book on the soul of England, to be published by Little Brown next Easter.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stonehenge's pagans aren't a patch on pagans of the past

Stonehenge's pagans aren't a patch on pagans of the past

Modern pagans have got the wrong day and should be celebrating tomorrow on Midsummer Eve, says Melanie McDonagh.

By Melanie McDonagh Published: 6:51AM BST 22 Jun 2009

Stonehenge was probably the place not to be yesterday at 4.58am. The site had been turned into a cross between the Glastonbury Festival and the Notting Hill Carnival, with an estimated 36,500 revellers waiting for sunrise on the Summer Solstice, including assorted druids, Wicca devotees, King Arthur Pendragon (formerly known as John Rothwell), a few recreational drug-users and thousands of people out for as good a time as you can have at that hour of day.

According to King Arthur Pendragon, the police and security guards were going round wishing everyone a Happy Solstice. A druid, Frank Somers, reverently interviewed by the BBC, declared that ceremonies were a means of reconnecting with Nature. English Heritage, custodian of the site, was happy; everyone was happy.

I hate to sound a discordant note, but if you want to connect with the past, the day (or night) to celebrate Midsummer Eve is tomorrow, June 23. That's St John's Eve, preceding the feast of St John the Baptist. That night is still marked with bonfires all over Europe. And it was celebrated with the most extraordinary festivities in England until Henry VIII and the Reformation spoiled the fun.

Read the Tudor antiquarian John Stow on what were called the marching watches of St John's Eve: enormous processions of guilds and militia bearing blazing candelabra stretched for miles through London. It was a saint's day combined with what were probably ancient midsummer customs, a bit of cross-dressing of which medieval commentators approved. They thought it was the solstice, too.

The modern pagan solstice is fiction. The distinguished historian Ronald Hutton, author of the most sympathetic accounts of modern paganism, The Triumph of the Moon and Blood and Mistletoe, demolishes the notion that there's the remotest continuity between pre-Christian paganism and the druids and priestesses performing made-up rituals yesterday. Rosemary Hill, author of a wonderful book on Stonehenge, also describes its recent provenance.
In short, if you want to celebrate midsummer in the genuine, time-honoured way, put the bonfires on hold until tomorrow.

*We're in church fete season. I went to one this weekend, and it was the usual glorious display of heroic amateurism, dangerously dependent on good weather. My small boy failed miserably to knock a coconut off a shy, but he did hit a cloth rat with a mallet, and got a rubbish prize, which made his day. Looking at the home-made bunting, the second-hand clothes stall (hand-knit baby cardigans for 75p), the used book stand (the complete Winnie the Pooh for £3), the passed-on bottles for the tombola, it struck me that it's very much of the moment. It's anti-consumerist: practically everything is donated. Like the Freecycle network (which matches people who have things they don't want with people who want them), it keeps bric-a-brac out of landfill. Like the pre-cycle movement (bet you hadn't heard of that one: it's about avoiding waste by making your own things), it's big on homemade items. But the church fete does its bit without making a fuss, except a bit of bragging in the parish newsletter.

*Cameron Diaz stars in a film about saviour siblings, My Sister's Keeper, released this week. It's about the efforts by a girl, genetically selected to save her sister from leukaemia, to fight off her parents' attempts to use her body. It has been criticised as gross exaggeration. But given that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act made it possible to create children to provide organs or bone marrow for sick siblings, I'd say it's right on target.

Record Crowds at Stonehenge for Summer Solstice Celebration

Record Crowds at Stonehenge for Summer Solstice Celebration

From Times Online
June 21, 2009

(Barry Batchelor/PA) Revellers for the Summer Solstice gather inside the stone circle at Stonehenge

Druids began their incantations, Wiccan priestesses drew their cowls tight against the damp morning air and four half-naked Papuan dancers waved their hands in the air and went: “Woo, woo, woo”.

Only the guest of honour failed to put in an appearance at Stonehenge.

A record 36,500 people had gathered at the prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain to watch the sun rise. So many turned out to celebrate the solstice that roads had to be shut and the vast field converted into a car park for 6,500 vehicles was full by 3am.

Disappointingly, despite a promising forecast, the sun was unable to break through the thin layer of grey cloud that shrouded the ceremony. But most people did not let that spoil their enjoyment.

The crowds had dispersed by the time it was fully light, revealing the bodies of those who had had too much fun, or had simply had enough, slumbering gently on the grass.
Solstice celebrations have become a summer staple, alongside Wimbledon, Glastonbury and the annual gathering of public school pupils in Rock in Cornwall, at the end of the exams.

Despite the complete lack of entertainment, the less than one in ten chance of seeing the sun and the incessant bongo playing, the solstice has attracted larger numbers every year since the stones were reopened to the public in 2000.

Dave Batchelor, English Heritage’s Stonehenge-based archaeologist, said: “We were expecting a large turnout because of the forecast and the fact it falls on a weekend this year so more people can get here.

“We got the maximum number we had planned for so the infrastructure was able to cope.”
In normal circumstances it is not permitted to approach within spitting distance of the stones, but at solstice, the barriers come down. By 3am, the inner circle was so tightly packed that people could be seen struggling to lift their beer cans to their lips.

Sensibly, the druids held their ceremony beside the heel stone, a leaning monolithic a few dozen yards from the main stone circle. Rollo Maughling, the white-haired, white-robed Archdruid of Stonehenge, started the ceremonies in an elegant straw hat.

No sooner had he formed his followers into a neat circle than King Arthur Pendragon, the white-haired, white-robed leader of the Druid Order of Loyal Arthurian Warbands, arrived and leant his battle honours against a fence ten yards away and began forming his own rival circle.

Mr Maughling’s circle distorted and broke as spectators wondered which druid leader would put on the best show.

A truce was swiftly reached when Mr Maughling took on the role of master of ceremonies from within King Arthur’s circle, reuniting the tribes of at least two ancient Britons.

The Papuans, in the country to draw attention to what they claim is persecution by the Indonesian authorities in their own homeland, had been temporarily misplaced.

Meanwhile King Arthur, who has been staging a sit-in at Stonehenge for the past year, explained that he had temporarily suspended his protest when English Heritage found £25 million and promised to re-landscape the historic site.

Within days he was back, this time protesting at the removal of human remains during an archaeological dig last summer. He claims they are the “guardians” of the stones and wants them reinterred in the pit from which they came.

Overhead, Wiltshire Police’s new aerial drone made its debut, sweeping back and forth, lights flashing, as it filmed the crowds from a few hundred feet in the air. Every few minutes some worse-for-wear reveller would mistake it for an alien spacecraft about to abduct an unsuspecting earthling and try to flee.

What would the the builders of Stonehenge have made of the police drone? The science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke observed that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

A female druid in a huge hooded cape explained that the stones had been moved by the power of thought alone. As they towered above the waiting crowd in the dawn light, that was almost easier to believe than the archaeologists’ theories involving ropes and tree trunks.

'Physick Book' Casts Spell About Salem Witch Trials

'Physick Book' Casts Spell About Salem Witch Trials

By Jessica Harrison
Deseret News

"THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE" by Katherine Howe, Voice, 384 pages, $25.99

Whether it be the Wiccan religion or pop culture, today the world of witches and warlocks is more accepted as part of society.

But that has not always been the case.

In 1692, witch hysteria gripped the Puritan community of Salem, Mass. During a yearlong period, more than 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, ending with the conviction of 29 people for the capital felony of witchcraft.

In the end, 19 people were executed by hanging, a man was crushed to death under heavy stones and at least five more died in prison.

Author Katherine Howe, a descendant of two accused witches (one was found guilty, the other was not), offers an up-close look at 17th-century witchcraft through the lens of a 20th-century grad student in "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane."

Connie Goodwin loves American history. She loves it so much that she's decided to make it her career. All she has left to do is her Ph.D. dissertation at Cambridge. But, as the old adage goes, even the best-made plans have a way of falling apart.

When Connie receives a surprise phone call from her mom, she feels compelled to help with the sale of her grandmother's old home in Marblehead. Upon arrival, though, Connie finds the cottage in a state of disrepair.

Abandoned when Connie's grandmother died, nothing in the home has been touched for more than 20 years.

Overwhelmed with the task at hand, Connie starts with what she knows best — books.
While exploring the bookshelves she discovers an ancient key with a slip of paper rolled up inside. On the paper are written two words that will change Connie's life forever: Deliverance Dane.

Connie's curiosity is sufficiently peaked, and with the backing of her adviser, researching Deliverance Dane becomes a top priority. Along the way, Connie meets a handsome steeplejack named Sam who becomes a welcome distraction as she puzzles out the clues.

Everything seems to be falling into place, but something isn't right. Connie begins having visions, and when a dear friend suddenly falls ill, Connie can't help but wonder if there's more to Deliverance Dane's tale than even she ever imagined.

In "Physick Book," the mystery surrounding Deliverance Dane spans three centuries, shifting between the 1690s and the 1990s with seamless ease.

Howe brings excitement to the research process, which can be dull to those outside of academia. The events surrounding the Salem trial are fascinating, and Howe's individualized look at that world is in-depth and imaginative.

Howe's prose is sound and her writing is accessibly fast, making "Physick Book" a good bet for a light, entertaining read.