Ever come across a book where you make satisfied “mmm” noises as you read? Ever read a book that feels like a conversation between like-minded friends? How about one that makes you feel a sense of comfort? That’s how I felt when I read The Witch’s Cauldron by Laura Tempest Zakroff. When I got to the acknowledgements and saw my editor, Elysia Gallo, mentioned I was over the moon. I immediately sent her an e-mail telling her how much I enjoyed the book and how it was just the sort of book that I wanted to write.
The Witch’s Cauldron is part of The Witch’s Tools Series from Llewellyn, which covers various tools used by witches throughout history, and deals with, as the title suggests, cauldrons. What immediately resonated with me was Zakroff’s pragmatic approach to the subject. Early on in the book she writes, “In dangerous times, it was safer to have a commonplace item that could double for a person’s spiritual needs while not outing them to those who might wish to cause them harm.” This is the magick I’m here for, the mundane made magickal because “special” tools could be used as evidence against the witch. This isn’t candle color or crystal magick that—while it might have a place in modern magick—didn’t have a place in historical witchcraft.
That pragmatism continues as Zakroff explores non-traditional cauldrons like crock pots, encourages supporting local businesses, and even cautions the reader to be aware of local laws with regard to collecting feathers and animals/animal parts. That last bit is a particular pet peeve of mine, as so many pagan books will offer up correspondences for feathers, shells, and other fauna with no such caution. Laws about this are meant to protect animals from harm and ignoring them is not being a good steward of the earth.
What really impressed me, however, was Zakroff’s recognition of non-binary practitioners and her address of cisgendered heteronormativity of the Great Rite. Having worked with non-binary clients and having a several trans friends, it was gratifying to see witchcraft being addressed in such an inclusive manner. I’ve been seeing more of this over the last year or so, but only online. To see the topic come up in a book from a pagan publisher is encouraging.
I will be checking out the other books in the series, with the hope that they are as intelligently and thoughtfully written as The Witch’s Cauldron.