FOLKWAYS Reclaiming the Magic and Wisdom
Patricia Telesco
Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 1995

Folkways is a large book, and not one to be read straight through. It is an informal encyclopedia of folklore, written not with the scholar in mind, but instead with casual reader and the working ritualist.

The book opens with a nicely written introduction from the author, giving her reasons for writing the book, as well as acknowledging that "[t]his collection represents only a small portion of available folk knowledge, and the examples I share are illustrations only."

Her aims in writing include entertainment and edification. She sees people reading the book to find ingredients they can use in formulating a personalized spiritual path. She also hopes to spark an interest in historical folk beliefs to help in preventing the loss of those beliefs—again, not from a scholarly point of view, but as modern folk magicians.

The table of contents lists every major entry in the volume, and its usefulness to readers is enhanced by a chapter called "Using This Book." This is the most important section of Folkways, excepting only the entries themselves. Here you can find hints on integrating the book with your planning for rituals, spells, and celebrations, interpreting dreams, omens, and signs, and utilizing personal items in magical ways.

A sampling of the thirty chapters or sections of the book gives us Amulets, Talismans, Animals, Divination, Celestial Objects, Gems, Metals, Dance, Dreams, Faeries, Gardening and Household Lore, Knots, Numbers, Plants, Family, Sacred Sites, and so on. Each of these sections has roughly fifteen to twenty-five entries, a typical entry reading like this one from Knots:
In Rumania, a long cord laid along the spine is tied into nine knots. As the cord is tied, the healer recites, "I do not bind the knot, but the pain." He or she then places the knotted cord in a pitcher of water until it can be thrown into a rushing stream...

Patricia Telesco has achieved what she set out to do with Folkways. She has an entertaining and useful compendium of odd bits of magical folklore, of interest to a broad range of persons involved with magic, folklore, ritual, and alternative spiritual quests.

I do wish that editorial control had been a bit firmer. The many typos can be distracting, and while the bibliography and index seem quite useful, the glossary and list of historical and mythological personages are either superfluous or woefully inadequate. The cover, overall graphical design and quality of production are all pleasing. If you are building a reference library of occult and folkloric books, you should have Folkways on your shelf.

Reviewed by M.J. Lavin

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