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The Book of English Magic

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  666 Ratings  ·  71 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
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).
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
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.
review to come :)
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
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
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
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!
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.
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.
Miranda Boyer
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, new-age
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 "pl ...more
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am actually in progress on this one, but it is the sort of book you pick up, read a bit and then return to later. It is a history and a how-to(!) for magic. Sections on dowsing, ley lines and others explain how the traditions came to be, how they live on and how you can take part yourself.

I bought this to enliven some role playing games I am playing in the UK. The detail for that is fantastic. For those seeking to alternate approaches to understanding our world, I can imagine it would be inte
Molly Milligan
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a dip-in and dip-out sort of book. It's not some encyclopaedic overview of the whole of English magic, and it's light in some areas.
It is, however, a nice introduction to a wide range of beliefs and practises, written in a way that seeks to make it all relevant to here and now.
I enjoyed some of the asides and sections within sections where modern practitioners were interviewed.
I found some of the omissions frustrating, as I wanted more depth in some areas.
It had a nice folkloric feel t
Cecil Lawson
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very good historical overview of the practice of magic in England from prehistory to the present, touching upon important historical figures and groups such as Dr. John Dee, Elias Ashmole, the Freemasons, the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardener, Dion Fortune, and the practitioners of Chaos Magic. Includes a wealth of reference material including websites, places to visit in England, books to read, and directions on how to get started in various magical practices. A big book, but very ...more
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy by: the witches of new york
This book fell apart a little as it progressed but the first chapters were delightful. A quick primer on ley lines, druids and the anglo saxons but the twentieth century was poorly written. I loved the little illustrations and various photos throughout as well as some of the activity suggestions such as doing your own numerology.
Jack Bates
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice overview of magic in England with all the usual suspects - stuff about druids, stuff about Gerald Gardner and Dion Fortune, stuff about Dr Dee and alchemy, stuff about Theosophy and the Golden Dawn, stuff about witchcraft old and new, stuff about Aleister Crowley, stuff about runes and tarot and Genesis P.
Angrboda Lyndasdottir
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was unsure of this book in the early chapters, which are a bit "woo-woo" and lack sufficient citations, but hang in there - once it gets to the Middle Ages, the book really hits its stride. The history of magic in England is meaty stuff, and this book is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting a high-level overview of the subject with plentiful suggestions for further reading.
Oliver Ho
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good historical overview of western magic. At first the tour-guide aspects of each chapter threw me off, but they stopped bothering me pretty quickly. I appreciated the suggestions for further reading throughout.
Teresa Bailey-Herren
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
one of my favorite books. wish there was a volume 2.
Jen Jones
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lots of interesting information here. Good one for history buffs.
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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 Ir
More about Philip Carr-Gomm

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“Ultimately, the purpose of magic is to free our potential, not bind us to ideas.” 12 likes
“The risks involved in the pursuit of magic are--put simply--either getting frightened by unpleasant perceptions or becoming deluded. Unfortunately it is possible to suffer from both symptoms at the same time.” 10 likes
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