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The Book of English Magic

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  831 ratings  ·  93 reviews
The Book of English Magic explores the curious and little-known fact that of all the countries in the world, England has the richest history of magical lore and practice. English authors such as J.R.R.Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, and J.K.Rowling, dominate the world of magic in fiction, but from the earliest times, England has also acted as home to generations of e ...more
Hardcover, 562 pages
Published June 2009 by John Murray (first published January 1st 2009)
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Nimue Brown
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
If you read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel, and wondered what the real history of English magic looked like, then this book is, quite simply, the answer. Not quite as glamorous as Clarke’s fictional world, or the magical England of Harry Potter, it is none the less a history resplendent with strangeness, eccentricity and curiosities. This book brings together the real stories those writing about fictional English magic have been drawing on all along. For anyone interested in the literary angle, ...more
The book is really pretty, but I am kind of disappointed in the content.

I feel like it's been poorly edited, too. For example, here's a pretty eyebrow-raising error with regards to astrology signs. 6 signs were mixed up, and it wasn't caught in editing. I feel like if you're trying to teach people what their sign is (this segment was doing that) then you ought to be sure you leave them knowing what their sign really looks like.

Yeah. Wonky. There's a lot of superfluous stuff in here, and while th
K.J. Charles
Overview of various traditions of English magic. Packed with useful stuff to take you off down byways, ie the kind of book that mostly makes you want to go get other books/find out more stuff. Which is exactly what I wanted. I wouldn't recommend it for casual reading but it's a handy addition to your English magic library.

The print copy has a bunch of personal accounts by various druids, psychics etc that are set apart by being printed in a grey so light it's almost completely unreadable, altho
Oct 31, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2011
A beautiful book, but disappointing. I wanted more STUFF, not a bunch of warmed-over mythology. Interviews with current Wiccans & self-proclaimed sorcerers aside, this is a collection of half-truths (so which trees were sacred? Which parts? What did "magicians" do with them?) and outright misinformation (the Druids did NOT build Stonehenge, which predates their arrival in Britain). ...more
Mar 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally, finally finished this chunker of a book. I kept telling myself it took me so long because I was moving house and didn't have a lot of time, but the truth is, I decided to pick up other books over it even when I did have time. It wasn't bad, and it wasn't boring, in fact, most of what it had to offer was actually really interesting and I loved that at the end of every chapter/topic they had a list of things to do and resources if you wanted to put more research into the respective field ...more
Tim Pendry
I cannot praise this book enough both for its content and its style. It is a hefty tome at over 500 pages but beautifully bound and (once you get over the odd use of a lighter typeface for 'practitioner' contributions) designed. It may not be cheap (£25) but it is excellent value.

The structure is worth commenting on because, quite simply, it works and it puts to shame a lot of the shoddy editing that you currently get in the publishing industry.

Carr-Gomm and Heygate tell the story of English mag
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
A book that definitely falls between two stools, The Book of English Magic is both an introduction to magic for the novice practitioner and a historical analysis of the various traditions that make up the wildly diverse body of esoteric thought and practice in England. As such, it's not very satisfying in either aspect: the suggestions for practitioners are somewhat undercut by the more rational analysis, and the rational analysis is undercut by the suggestions for practitioners. It's hard to ta ...more
Steve Cran
Philip Carr-Gomm an expert on Druidry has written a book that is a tour de force. Covering the magical history of Britain all the way from it's prehistoric Shamanistic beginning all the way up to the present. The book is comprehensive, informative and very interesting. if you are new to magic I advise you pick up a copy of this book and read it. The over view will help you get to where you want to go in the realm of magic.

Not only does the book offer a rich textured history of magic but it also
Allyson Shaw
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Not sure who the audience is for this book. Serious practitioners will find it all a bit superficial and scatter-shot, curious skeptics will find it equally frustrating. It is poorly edited as well. The activities sections struck me as humorous-- as if they were written for children or perhaps it was going for some kind of Martha-Stewart style occult advice? I wish I could recommend this book, but I really can't.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: body-mind-soul
Guess who's back ? Back again! IT ME !
I mean at this point most of my goodreads friend could have entirely forgotten who I am and I wouldn't blame them, or you if it relates to you as you read this right now.
I have let my brain rest for most of January and half of february and traded books for movies for a while (add me on letterboxd @blissfulzwan) but none of that relates to this book I've just read so, HELLO AGAIN! Alright now let's jump into the actual review.

This is a wonderful book for any
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
There is some good writing here, and the book is an entertaining read. Some of the chapters are excellent for beginners to the subjects, particularly the ones on the history of Enochian and other Renaissance magic, and the chapters that chart the influence of these early-modern ceremonial forms of magic into more recent magical history.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems with the other chapters and their research, particularly the ones on 'ancient' magic, and the examples of people's pers
Jade Knight
A good book to read about the different types of magic you want to know about, but a little bit boring for the parts you don't.
The Book of English Magic turned out to have two very special magic powers:

1) It made me realise that I’m nowhere near as open-minded as I think I am, and
2) It managed to make one minute of reading fell like ten years of slogging through swampland

Let me explain…

Despite not being at all spiritual or religious myself, I do enjoy reading about the beliefs that some people hold as a way of trying to better understand them. Whilst I’ve often then arrived at some kind of understanding, in the same way
Dan Sumption
This book reminded me a little of the "KnowHow Book of Spycraft" and similar books I used to read as a kid: it's a bit of a jumble of factual and historical background interspersed with things you can try at home, great fun to read but not something to be taken too seriously. Its chapters provide a rough timeline of different types of magic in England, from the pre-roman right up to the Chaos Magic of the present day. Each chapter starts with some historical background, with small features on ke ...more
The Usual
If I were being fair, I'd say that a book that tries to cover everything from crop-circles to freemasonry, and from Merlin to Aleister Crowley is necessarily going to be broad and shallow. If I were being fair, I'd say that the sheer breadth of material sampled means that no-one is going to believe in all of it, not even the authors, and that there will always be interesting side-routes left unexplored. If I were being fair, I'd say it takes a deft hand to make reality as interesting as fiction ...more
Kate Garrett
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you're already familiar with various English magical traditions a lot of this won't be new, and I feel like it's best seen as a guide for what to study/research further, places to visit and explore, and books and websites to check out. But all of that being said, it's a long and interesting book. I especially enjoyed the first-hand accounts of magical experiences from practitioners.
I think I would have gotten more out of this book if I was interested in becoming a follower of Wicca. I was looking more for a history, and this is very general about history.
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Well written and well-paced enough that even someone like myself who can never finish anything actually read to the last page. Facts were presented unbiased with no adherence to chaos-magic, druidry or wicca.
I caught a whiff of nationalism though which kind of threw me off. The nationalism is granted since it is a book of ENGLISH magic but at least some subtext of inspiration from other countries would have been nice.
Overall a good book and a nice general review of the history of magic in E
Bri Saussy
The Book of English Magic is one of the best works I have read on magic in a long time. It focuses exclusively on English magic through the ages, touching on hedgewitchery, Druids, Wiccans (as started by Gerald Gardner), cunning folks, Ceremonial Mages, Alchemists, and Chaos Magicians to name a few. One of the aspects of the book I like best is that each chapter comes with a recommended reading list that covers both primary source material pertinent to the chapter’s subject as well as fiction wo ...more
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forget the usually accepted definition of magic - a conjuror on stage doing magic tricks. This book isn't about that type of magic. It is about the history of magic in England - from earliest history to the present day. It covers such practices as dowsing, scrying, herbal remedies, charms. witchcraft, Wiccan, Druidism - ancient and modern, Theosophy etc. It is all too easy to dismiss all these subjects as mumbo jumbo but reading this book with an open mind might make you revise your opinion.

Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book giving an overview of magical practices throughout the history of England. Including practical tasks to try out, places to visit and a wealth of suggested reading material for anyone wanting to find out more information.

It did feel that some areas were glossed over, where I would have liked more detail, but at over 500 pages how much more can you put in without becoming too weighty?!

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in finding out more about the rich tapest
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book which gives a broad overview of the history of English Magic. There is a lot of information in this book, which is clearly and beautifully presented but in covering such a large subject very often only the surface is touched. However, it's filled with lots of recommendations for further reading, both fiction and non-fiction, to peak your interest to go delving deeper. Be warned though it will make your 'To be Read' pile even taller!
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book - part fantasy, part magical history. It is a portal to the otherworld - the world of magic that runs below the surface of English history and culture. It is also a practial guide, in the manner of 'Boy's Own', including experiments to try and places to visit. A magical book in all senses of the word, and full of treasures.
A.R. Beckert
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book as an overview. Anyone looking for something more specific as far as practical application would do better borrowing this book just for the references at the end of the chapter that holds their interest. I enjoyed the way it was written, varying the direct information with other voices with experiences, recommended readings, and historical events/people.
Aug 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Basic overview of magic in England over the ages. Not enough detail, but interesting nonetheless.
Miranda Levi
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-age, nonfiction
A wonderful comprehensive beginners guide to the history of occult magic in England.
G. Lawrence
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
If you want a sort of beginners guide to how to get into magic, as in shamanism, witchcraft and sorcery, rather than card tricks, go for this book. I was a tad disappointed in it, as I was hoping for a more specific exploration on the history of magic in England, on the practises and events of magic, and this work tends to be rather vague in lots of places. I would have liked more detail. It concentrates a lot on modern magical orders, and the Anglo Saxons, but in detail, it is lacking.

The bits
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is just a very fun book. What does the best of English culture have in common? Magic. Whether you are a fan of Lewis & Tolkein, Led Zeppelin, or J.K. Rowling, this book is a lovely digestible cultural survey of English magical history and traditions. Divided by the particular skill, craft, or order (alchemy, dowsing, druids, etc.), the book covers history, texts to read and texts that are lost, includes mini-interviews with living "practitioners," and perhaps best of all, recommends "places ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-social
In writing a review for this book I must be careful. For starters, I thought I'd picked up a social history of magic and the occult in England. It tuned out to be considerably more than that, containing a lot of "how-tos", interviews with modern occult practitioners, lists of places to visit and things to do, reading lists and so on. There is also a bit of woo, and some rather dubious assertions that don't stand up to a modicum of basic internet research. But I'm a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic, so t ...more
Adam Dobson
Sep 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was not what I expected but an enjoyable read all the same. In my latest quest to discover more about English folklore, I ordered this. While it is informative for the most part, it also takes the topic of actual magic a little bit too seriously. I am not really interested in modern day witches and 'wicca' and related topics, so I found much of what was written uninteresting, even mildly embarrassing. The 'what to do sections' are ideal for finding interesting places to visit and the parts ...more
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Philip Carr-Gomm was born in London, raised in Notting Hill Gate, and educated at Westminster School and University College London.

He met his first spiritual teacher, Ross Nichols, the founder of The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, when he was 11. He began studying with him when a teenager, and joined the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids at 18. He studied meditation with Olivia Robertson in Irelan

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