Smoke Gets in Your Eyes meets Women Who Run With The Wolves in this "gorgeously written, fierce, political, personal, and deeply inspiring" (Michelle Tea) memoir about finding meaning, beauty, and power through a life in witchcraft.
An initiation signals a beginning: a door opens and you step through. Traditional Wiccan initiates are usually brought into the craft through a ceremony with a High Priestess. But even though Amanda Yates Garcia's mother, a practicing witch herself, initiated her into the earth-centered practice of witchcraft when she was 13 years old, Amanda's real life as a witch only began when she underwent a series of spontaneous initiations of her own.
Descending into the underworlds of poverty, sex work, and misogyny, Initiated describes Amanda's journey to return to her body, harness her power, and create the magical world she longed for through witchcraft. Hailed by crows, seduced by magicians, and haunted by ancestors broken beneath the wheels of patriarchy, Amanda's quest for self-discovery and empowerment is a deep exploration of a modern witch's trials - healing ancient wounds, chafing against cultural expectations, creating intimacy - all while on a mission to re-enchant the world. Peppered with mythology, tales of the goddesses and magical women throughout history, Initiated stands squarely at the intersection of witchcraft and feminism. With generosity and heart, this book speaks to the question: is it possible to live a life of beauty and integrity in a world that feels like it's dying?
Declaring oneself a witch and practicing magic has everything to do with claiming authority and power for oneself, of taking back our planet in the name of Love. Initiated is both memoir and manifesto calling the magical people of the world to take up their wands: stand up, be brave, describe the world they want, then create it like a witch.
Beyond the sheer amount of trauma in this book (suffering as initiation), it's written in lengthy paragraphs that meander. For example, the author will start each chapter with a quotation and then talk about part of her induction into witchcraft and the growth of her practice, but it's not linear. So she's walking us through her practice and what it means, how it developed, etc... but then she'll take a break to talk about her past. This is a little confusing, but what made it difficult for me to read was that she'd say something like "I'd do this for the next seven years," but then go right back to I think a few weeks after the events discussed? I had a difficult time figuring out where I was in the timeline of her life and how her practice was developing during each phase. Of course she's speaking from the present day with the benefit of hindsight, but it's tied together in a way that stands somewhat outside of time and reality. At times it feels like the book is trying to be a how-to and why-to be a witch, which is at odds with the very personal narrative she's trying to shape. Overall, a book that could be one or the other but doesn't quite succeed at being both. It's gotten rave reviews elsewhere, so *shrug*
Content Warnings: child molestation and rape, discussion of repeated rape and abuse of her mother by mother's father, sex work, drugs, pretty much every traumatic thing that could happen to a cis woman's body, mental illness
A surprisingly readable and seductive memoir of this California author's self-initiation as a witch. Her wild personal story--told via sensually described locales and encounters--bounces off mythology, collides with politics, runs right into the feminist history of women's power and struggle, There's a certain unevenness in tone as we move between the emotionally personal aspect and the intellectual and essayistic one (I preferred the former), but the latter is also clearly an expression of Yates Garcia's passion and rage as well as intellectual breadth. I listened to this in audio form, read by the author, and found it very difficult to press 'stop.' (less)
Considerably underwhelming. I was very excited to finally read a memoir that could be a rallying cry for Pagans - but this was not it. Amanda's thoughts were very disorganized and she uses so much imagery that you can't tell what she is making up in allegory or what her distorted mind actually thinks happened. Perhaps it gets better, but I couldn't get past the first 80 pages or so that pretty much just outlined her terrible childhood and how it manifested who she is today. It made me feel sorry for her and that this book is a cry out for help (and therapy).
I am glad she feels good in her own skin, but this is NOT Paganism. This is the messy memoir into the mind of a very traumatized woman.
Such a privilege to have been gifted an early copy by Grand Central– this book BLEW ME AWAY. INITIATED features a deft interweaving of Garcia’s vast esoteric and cultural knowledge with her captivating personal story of trauma, self-discovery, empowerment, and metamorphosis. I was astounded by Garcia’s spellbinding, nimble, gorgeous prose (particularly its supernatural ability to carry me away from a crowded Friday night Amtrak car with broken air conditioning). This is THE memoir for all the witches and witch-curious folks whose spiritual engagement and magical practice cannot exist in an apolitical vacuum by virtue of their experiences – Garcia refreshingly unpacks the covert toxicity inherent in a certain sort of New Age detachment from the socioeconomic and political realities surrounding spiritual engagement, and instead shares her fearless journey of confronting the shadow aspects of our world head-on.
Just pre-ordered another copy as I desperately need a hardback of this, and strongly encourage you to get in on the action early – INITIATED is guaranteed to empower you, hypnotize you, transform your perspective on your own darkness and the underworlds that you encounter, and will no doubt serve as a catalyst to the genuine empowerment, liberation, and personal transformation of the many readers who need Garcia’s inspirational story of rebirth.
Przeczytałam. W sumie nie, ja ją zmęczyłam. To nie była książka dla mnie.
Chociaż nie uważam ją za książkę tragiczną, bo wiem, że osobom, które interesują się tematyką magii i wróżb to ta książka może się spodobać. Dla mnie niektóre momenty były z ramienia fantastyki, a nie życia. Za dużo historii, za dużo wszystkiego...
I could not put this beautiful memoir down. I fell in love with Amanda's story about the magical life she leads and how she uses that magic to find herself. The detail Yates goes into describing her life, rituals and initiations makes you feel as though you are experiencing the same things with her. This book will inspire you to be brave in any way you can. This book is exactly what the world needs!
I read this on audiobook, the author is the narrator and I can’t stand her writing or the way she reads it. She over-embellishes her writing, something that many new authors do. We get it, you can write, you don’t have to make the words so flowery for every statement. And the way she reads it is very overdramatized as well, it’s comes across as cocky. She has great ideas but it was rough to get through.
Amanda Yates Garcia is an intellectual giant. This book is riveting and beautifully written and also acts as a guide for readers seeking to engage in magic as a route to personal empowerment. I cannot recommend this book enough!
I loved this book! It was magic, Goddess worship, strange, what a trip and more! The author has a great voice. I enjoyed listening to her wild trip of a life and all the ways she manifested exactly what she wanted. I would listen or read more by her in a heartbeat!
It's rare in these overly distracting times that I start and finish a book within 48 hours. So it was with Initiated, a book I had trouble putting down, and missed whenever I did.
I first encountered Amanda Yates Garcia through her Strange Magic podcast with Sarah Gottesdiener, and she's come to be a real 'guiding voice' for me through this particularly peculiar period in human history. I preordered Initiated way back in July and I'm pleased to say the wait was more than worth it.
Garcia has written a marvellous memoir, full of magic and mayhem, but brimming with the political aspects of the craft that many writers (choose to) ignore. At no point does she sugar coat the truth, and she's happy to reveal all of the parts of her life - both yucky and delicious, as a true reminder that life is rarely one or the other, but a rocky road between the two.
Part journal, part grimoire, Initiated is ALL call-to-arms, and I can't recommend it enough.
An interesting read, and an important book of a female witchy voice. Something we need right now, with the toxic patriarchy running wild. Some quibbles: I think it's too long. I think the narrative thread meanders and repeats itself, and I wish there was more research in its place. I also don't love the narrator's voice. It feels weird to say this, but the narrator, to me, is not the easiest to like at time - occasionally veering into 'holier than thou' territoy. It feels, also, like sometimes there are things being made up - and in creative non-fiction, often things are fudged, but this feels a little too obvious.
I always feel weird reviewing memoirs that I didn't like; it's too easy to take that negative rating as some kind of judgment against that person's life--to be oddly contrarian or otherwise disagreeable. Writing--as with all creative pursuits--is a very personal activity at the outset, doubly so when the results are pointedly about the author's life. It's made a bit easier when the author isn't on Goodreads--I don't feel like I'm yelling negativity in their direction--but it's never fun.
The focus of Initiated: Memoir of a Witch is on the author, Amanda Yates Garcia. There's a bit of a split focus thought: Major parts of her life and the way she grew in magical practice to become a witch. The fact that I used the word "split" shows one of the book's biggest problems--everything feels disjointed as she teeters between these two focuses, never quite able to bring them together into a coherent narrative.
I only speak one language, but I've heard from bilingual people that they think differently depending on which language they're using. Maybe that's not true, much like the idea that someone who goes blind can suddenly hear and smell better, but I could see how different languages with their different grammars and lexicons could change thought patterns. The idea illustrates how I feel like Yates Garcia is writting: Her life is one brain thought pattern, her magic is another. They're two languages within this book that never gel together.
Maybe it's less a problem of thought, and more a problem of focus. She focuses on her life--particularly teens through twenties--without making magic the guiding narrative. She has to bring it in around the edges. She values conveying the big moments that defined her life (abusive childhood, sex work, major romantic relationships) without intentionally defining how those moments affected her magical path.
Yates Garcia makes regular reference to her magical beliefs and practices--the Goddess, some rituals, various covens--yet she doesn't tell us how she reached the point of believing these things, doing these things. For me, that should be the crucial focus of any memoir whose subtitle includes, "...of a Witch." Instead the advancement of her beliefs happen behind the scenes, sometimes even requiring a quick "here's where I am now" type sentence at the beginning of a chapter to catch us up on these developments, rather than naturally leading us through them.
In the introduction she says that she wants this book to be for everyone. Women, men, non-binary, trans, etc, etc. It's a great acknowledgment. However, she's doing unintentional gatekeeping because she regularly says things that anyone outside her particular branch of magical practice would find eyebrow-raising, or at least befuddling. Regular references to the Goddess. Her familiars. My favorite example, though, is this:
"Runes are the Norse divination tools from pre-Christian Scandinavia, often carved in stone or bone. I'd created mine out of clay at summer camp and had them painted with my menstrual blood. Clearly one of the most existential runes..."
1. What is the purpose of runes? We are assumed to already know. 2. What is the purpose of using menstrual blood? Granted, the idea of extra power in menstrual blood isn't a foreign concept to me, but it was still pretty shocking to read her casually mention that without any kind of explanatory "here's why I use blood" and "here's why I use menstrual blood" context. 3. The use of "clearly" highlights the assumption that the reader is already fully informed about runes and their place in magic.
While that's sort of a perfect storm of problems, those same assumptions permeate the rest of the book.
Because she's so casual about talking about things like the Goddess as though I have the same beliefs about the Goddess, and random mentions of her familiars, and things like spirits that inhabit buildings or towns (which have a fancy name I'm too lazy to look up), that when she calls a particular woman a "fairy" and a particular man a "demon," I take her at face value. She dated a fairy, she dated a demon. It wasn't until I finished the book that I decided that in those cases, she was using the terms figuratively, not literally. But that's the kind of faith it requires to read Initiated. You engage in so much suspension of disbelief that in the cases she turns figurative, you don't even realize it until later.
All of the above is, in my mind, pretty bad. But I could probably forgive it if the parts about her life felt like more than, well, major scenes in the life of Amanda Yates Garcia. Towards the end we could argue that an interesting theme of her relationship with her mother. If that theme could be traced back to the beginning, this could have been pretty good. But again, as with everything else here, it's not intentionally integrated into the overall narrative.
There isn't any overall narrative. It's a slideshow. Every chapter is a slide, where Yates Garcia stands in front of her captive audience, talking about it.
I couldn't hate Initiated: Memoir of a Witch. It's very flawed, yes, but I still did a lot of highlighting. And while the overarching narrative doesn't really exist, Yates Garcia's crisp prose makes reading fairly consumable. Recommended only for people who are Yates Garcia fans, or already "initiated" themselves.
It’s hard to explain exactly what this book is so I will just throw around some adjectives while I digest, having just finished it an hour ago. It is: unique, brave, erudite, inspiring, raw, and real.
It is a feminist anthem from a daughter and a leader but that is almost a byproduct. It seems she set out to write memoir to share her experiences of learning her power through personal pain. But along the way, she learned to spiral herself up into the empowered witch she would eventually become through lessons in survival, as well as her studies of historical figures, both real and myth. That knowledge becomes a rally cry to us all to climb our mountains alongside the heroines of the past. She is a wonderful example of how you can study the stories and use them practically in your life for energy or inspiration towards real change in your life.
She does not try to convince you that witchcraft has virtue or value. She explains how it comes into her life but she does not get very practical about it. She does quite a bit of demystifying of the art and practice but also that is a byproduct and not the point of the book. I appreciated that.
I learned of this book because I listen to the author’s podcast, Strange Magic. I can see why she elected to launch the book during Scorpio season but I also somehow feel like the timing was a gift just for me. I needed something to help me find some control inside of my energy this week and this met that need and then some! Life is always going to be better if you believe in your own ability to practice magic!
A year ago today, I could have never imagined that one of my favorite books of 2019 would be Amanda Yates Garcia's first (and hopefully not last) book Initiated: Memoir of a Witch. One reason is that when the term "witch" entered my everyday life, it used to trigger me. I remember sitting in my office as a PhD student and having a colleague say "burn the witch" when other male colleagues would bully me. I didn't want to be the witch, though I felt like they were picking on me. I remember recoiling when my friend called me "witchy" for drinking nettle tea to tame my allergies. Why was I so against this word? Amanda's book helped me to come to terms with these and many other experiences that mainstream psychology or neurobiology weren't always offering me the language to deeply explore. Through beautiful prose, Amanda guides readers along through her own experiences of initiation, revealing how she herself came to embrace her own identity as witch, or wise woman. I recommend this book to anyone enticed or triggered by the term witch, as you will surely come out the other side with deeper insights into the wisdom and experience necessary for living into such a title. Thank you so much Amanda for birthing this beautiful book into the world. I can't wait to read your next!
This book was truly awful. First book in probably four years that I just could not waste anymore of my life on, and just stopped reading. The father states in her disclaimer that she clearly takes liberties with timeline etc., but I find it impossible to Believe that even an incredibly precocious five-year-old has very strong opinions about the patriarchy, or at least that they did win this author was five. This is just one example of this clearly unbelievable liberties taken by this incredibly self important author.
Before I begin this review, this is hands down, one of the BEST memoirs I have ever read. Usually I just read someone's life story and appreciate the journey but there was something more to this memoir.
Amanda Yates Garcia's story has so many facets, putting it into one book is an extraordinary feat! Raised in California and taking trips around the country and world, the author details her life story in this book and helps readers to discover parts of their own lives through her story. Along the way, she injects ideas of taking down the patriarchy and ways to subvert the negative system we live in as well as ways to help bring magic into your life and recognize when larger players in the universe are at work.
I prefaced this review by saying that this was a different sort of memoir for me because it was not just about reading the author's life story, but also learning more about myself and things that I have/had been experiencing. While reading the story I was also able to learn about myself. Not often does this come out of a memoir for me so when I got to the ending specifying, I was blown away and shocked. I added sticky tabs and highlighted notes and made my own journal entires related to the book and what was coming to my mind as I read. I loved reading this memoir.
I feel like my review here cannot do this book justice. There are so many strange things that happen and just really interesting parts of the author's life that she recounts. What struck me most about her story and the overall book is the idea of coming back home at the end. The author goes out and does all this exploring and living in different places, but by the end she comes back home to live with her mother and reconnects that relationship. It spoke volumes to me about "going home," or at least going back to what you came from and working to rebuild what may have been damaged or not connected at all in the beginning. The place I am at now in my life feels like I am also getting there and re-rememebering the most important ideas and parts of my life in terms of people and places.
My favorite aspects of this book is the discussions and explorations the author does on the ideas of the shadow self and the imagery often linked to those. Specifically, she talks about the underworld and Medusa. I learned so much about the two in this book, but really hit a high when, near the end, she begins talking more explicitly about Medusa and Athena. I honestly feel that when I read that part, something opened in me that I did not expect whatsoever. Things became much clearer to me and I felt a connection with this book and the ideas presented in it. I will let you read it for yourself, but geez that was some good stuff!
Overall, this is one of those memoirs that I will always look back upon and remember as being a changing point for me. While reading this and after finishing it, something magical clicked in me and I had some major shifts in thinking and believing. This is not something that happens often for me, and so when it did and I realized it I also knew that this book and the author were pretty special. I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in a life story that is so weird and fun and will definitely keep you entertained, to say the least.
I don't often read memoirs, as I tend to prefer books to give me a respite from reality rather than a telling of reality. Additionally I feel they are often dry and boring.
This is far from the case when it comes to 'Initiated'. I've been eagerly awaiting this book since hearing Amanda speak about writing it on her podcast 'Strange Magic'. I pre-ordered the book and finally read it during a business trip. What a work of magic.
Amanda is a born storyteller, and the book draws you in and makes you want to keep on reading. There is a poetry and soul to the writing that I most often associate with works of fiction. If I were to compare it to anything I would say it reminds me of 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed. The book is brutally honest, at times heart wrenching but with an underlying tone of positivity and hope. It left me feeling changed; encouraged and powerful, rather than hopeless and angry.
Full disclosure: I have already drank the witchy potion, so the subject matter is not new to me and I already knew I'd enjoy it. Because witch books that name and curse capitalism (I don't think "curse" is the word she used tho) are great, and sadly, pretty rare. But it's triggering as hell. Talk of CSA, suicide and other violence, so be aware of that.
If you are looking for a witchcraft 101 book, this isn't it, but it does include a lot of tidbits of knowledge/theory. The writing style reminded me of Francesca Lia Block a lot of the time. It's non-linear, sometimes all over the place, but I didn't mind. I did not identify with a lot of the book, but the times that I did find myself in the pages were profound and validating.
I had seen Amanda’s appearance on Tucker Carlson and then on Vanderpump Rules. She seems incredibly approachable, kind and normal. So I had very high hopes for this book, but I was sadly disappointed. The formatting of the book was a mess, and it’s filled with so many rarely referenced terms and mythology that it was very hard to get through. Her television appearances have always been so great because they present witchcraft palatable and understandable. This just felt like it was solely aimed at people who are already in the know, which is a shame.
What struck me most about this memoir is the framing of one's life as a series of initiations. Trauma as a portal. Moments of deeply intuited connection a gate. Much like her approach to tarot on the Strange Magic podcast, Yates wove in her knowledge of deities, ancient story, and mythology in a way that gave them weight and rooted them to our own recognizable lives. I put down this book with renewed sense of inquiry and have since been re-imagining my own stories as initiations toward a more integrated self.
I quit this book when she referred to a controlling, abusive drug dealer girlfriend as a "fairy." I feel terrible not finishing because Amanda had clearly lived a life of terrible pain, some of it afflicted on her and some of it by her own hand, and it appears she has come out the other side okay. But I think it's dangerous to glamorize abusive people and call them fairies instead of what they are - hurt people hurting people.
Edit to add that apparently the rune book she references was written by a guy who admits to making up each rune's meaning? Meh.
I found this book to be “ok” as I didn’t feel myself connected to her path, her witchcraft (I don’t consider myself an Oracle tho so maybe that’s why). I didn’t feel represented and that is why I feel I could not really bond to this book. I enjoyed the parts that touched on mythology as I love those stories and reading interpretations of them.
A Bewitching Read! Garcia lives her life as a modern witch. She takes the reader through her journey of being Initiated onto this path. Garcia unpacks so much in these pages, Memories, Mythology, Trauma, Self-Discovery, Empowerment and more! Her writing is strong and decisive. This is one of thoes memoirs that really shows what the human spirit can endure and what it looks like to come out the otherside.
A reccomended memoir, and especially if you have ever been curious about the practice of modern witchcraft. • Thank You to the publisher for #gifting me this book opinions are my own. • For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong
This is a gorgeously written memoir about initiations of all kinds. It follows Garcia's moving and personal journey through "the underworld:" her sexual trauma, poverty, mental illness, and struggle to find magic and power within patriarchy and other systems of oppression. As a hereditary witch, Garcia's magic was passed down to her, but she teaches us how the real initiations can happen for all of us when we are able to confront and travel through the shadow sides of our lives. Moving and incredibly inspiring, this book is a gift, not only because of the wisdom it imparts, but because of the immense skill with which it is written. I will return to this one again and again, highlighting new sections every time.
This book is in turns, ugly and resplendent. It will move you in some way, even if it's a way in which you didn't plan to be moved. The author has done a lot of living, and she seems to embody this kind of brokenness that introverts have when they are pretending to be fearless. To use a much overused word, it's fierce. I wish I had a daughter that I could make read it.
I have read many memoirs in my life but none of them have made an impact quite as Initiated did. Amanda Yates Garcia’s writing is lyrical and raw. She opens her heart to readers and doesn’t sugar coat anything.
There were certain moments throughout the book where my heart broke for Amanda and I wanted to reach in and give her a hug. Her persistence and will to fight for what she wanted and needed in her life was admirable. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions during Amanda’s journey. I cried with her, laughed with her, cheered her on, and in the end felt extremely proud of her. I’m still processing my emotions. I opted to purchase the audiobook primarily because Amanda was reading it and her voice is so soft and cozy. Listening to the audiobook felt like a conversation more than someone talking AT me and overall added to the experience of this book.
In my opinion, the best part of the memoir was how Amanda’s goal wasn’t to “convert” you but rather show you how much begin a witch changed her life. Amanda has a breadth of knowledge, wisdom, and magic that anyone can learn from. This memoir is perfect for all the witches and the curious people out there. As a “baby witch”, Amanda lit a fire in me that I knew I had but needed guidance with. The one thing I learned from this memoir is that no matter what you endure in life, you know you can always come back to yourself and your power. This memoir was remarkable, inspiring, and full of magic.
I was first introduced to Amanda through her podcast Strange Magic with Sarah Gottesdiener. Her voice and foresight on magic made me a fan but after reading her memoir, I am head over heels in love with Amanda Yates Garcia and I dream that one day our paths cross.
This book is a gift for everyone who picks it up. Truly. Other folx reviewing might talk about the book's structure, or the exquisitely written imagery of landscapes and environments, or how much aspects of Amanda's story may resonate with their own. As I was listening to this in public, I found myself crying multiple times! Not only is Amanda a wonderful storyteller but I also think she has a rich voice. I was emotional listening to her story because it really touched the heart of who I am as a human being. This book felt like an invitation, an open doorway, reminding me of the person I am destined to become. This book is a great reminder that no matter how difficult or confusing or messy life gets, we can always choose to come back home to ourselves and our power. Amanda's work really (re)lit a fire inside of me, of claiming and embracing my life fully. With the guidance of Spirit and witchcraft, we can deepen that connection with ourselves in order to create greater intimacy with the world. When she says that she wrote this for "all the witches"-- you can really feel that.
I also want to appreciate how Amanda names white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, and kyriarchy-- not many white witches do this. The naming of these systems of oppression was important for me as a reader to know that others will have to reckon with these systems and how it affects us all. This is an important reminder that nothing is an isolated matter, and that patriarchy and abuse of power is so insidiously intwined in our lives.