Ravenwolf, Silver. HexCraft: Dutch Country Pow-Wow Magick (Saint Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1995) Bibliography; index. 320 p.
ISBN: 1-56718-723-4

This volume has a great deal to recommend it as a basic text on a magickal system that many have heard of but few are familiar with. Ravenwolf obviously put in a lot of time researching this work; the extensive reference list testifies to that. An apprenticeship to a Pow-wow -- unfortunately cut short by the gentleman's passing--, much library research, and many interviews with "the oldest inhabitants," were part of the preparation for this work. Ravenwolf claims that all the workings described in this book have been tested by herself and/or her students in their published forms.

For the herbalist and healer, this book is a gold-mine of information. It includes a wide variety of healing chants and charms. Chapter 10 is a handlist of Pow-wow herbal uses (which actually differs from the Llewellyn standard recommendations); other sections deal with Pow-wow gardening and agricultural magicks, as well as hex signs. Warding and protective spells are also featured.

However, the book suffers in several ways. To begin with, the history of Pow-wow presented here suffers badly from Wicca-centrism; Ravenwolf appears to believe that anyone who referred to themselves as a witch was a nature religionist, leading her into some strange assumptions about early Pennsylvania. In fact, she decends blatantly into Christian-bashing for about 3 chapters.

Also, though a list of references is given, no material is footnoted or referenced. This is problematic since it is obvious that some chants have been rewritten for Goddess worshipers, but in most cases whether the chant is altered is not noted, and no reference to the original is given. (A particularly annoying tendency, for non-Dianics, is the substitution of Aradia for Jesus in most cases.)

Because the book also suffers from uneven editing-- varying, even within chapters, between Ravenwolf's usual calm, descriptive, warm tone to a stridency and carelessness that confuses me-- the explanation for these problems may lie in deadlines. But despite its rough spots, this is an excellent work, and an excellent introduction to one of the truly American magickal systems.


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© Jennifer A. Heise, September 30, 1996