Ly De Angeles,
When I See the Wild God:
Encountering Urban Celtic Witchcraft

(Llewellyn, 2004)

Ly De Angeles's book is many things, all bound together through the use of her unique prose and practical attention to the need for a grounded examination of witchcraft for many modern practitioners.

Her book is not for beginners, but is aimed at a target audience of practicing members of the pagan community, especially those in nontraditional places outside of the United Kingdom and living in an urban setting; interestingly enough, the male audience is specifically addressed. Witchcraft has certainly gained a reputation of being for women rejecting the male-centered teachings of the Christian Church, ignoring the fact that there are many men interested in the arts but with few resources available to them. The book is broad enough in its coverage to include the many women who live in urban settings and all those who wonder how they are to practice the many earth-bound ceremonies and pay attention to the changing of seasons in the middle of a city.

De Angeles does not provide the typical "hints and tips for the urban witch" ("put a potted plant in your house"), which are helpful in their own way, but can't help but make you feel as if you are just paying lip service to the tradition. Instead, she provides a new way of looking at the myths and practices, reinterpreting them in a more relevant way. She talks at length, in a rather chatty fashion, about her own practices in Australia and adapting the Northern traditions to the Southern hemisphere. Her writing is often very much as if she were addressing the reader directly, not writing. This can occasionally be distracting, but overall, the feel is one of someone with a great deal of knowledge sharing something she is very passionate about.

Other parts of the book are less like a chat and more esoteric, dealing with ritual, background and the various gods (a smaller section deals with the goddess, but as part of the mandate of the book is to provide the male counterpoint to the female-dominated belief system, the focus is weighted to the male perspective).

One of the most interesting parts of this book are the four contemporary stories De Angeles provides for each of the equinoxes and solstices. Each story tells of the Fair Folk in the modern world, encountering mortals. The tales tell of the festivals in an accessible manner and are a very enjoyable read. If De Angeles ever ventures into writing novels, I would definitely read them. The stories are meant as part of the ritual for each festival, but stand alone as insightful, relevant tales for the modern world.

Another stand-out feature of her book is her insistence that practitioners of witchcraft train physically, possibly as warriors. This is not as violent as it sounds and she has absolutely no intention of raising an army of any sort. Her point, combined with another theme of the book, is people's reliance on others to provide basic necessities for them, including possible protection in times of dire need. She is also quite vocal about people's detachment from things they need everyday, such as food and clothing. These more practical responses to the challenges of living in the modern world might still be fairly out of reach for some of us, but a basic awareness of them is the beginning of becoming more involved in the production of our own sustenance.

De Angeles' book is a fascinating look at Celtic witchcraft in the modern world and provides many ways for practitioners to become more attuned to the world around them in a manner befitting their faith yet not denying the kind of world we live in. It is very practical, yet at the same time spiritual. The book is not for beginners, but for those already fairly familiar with the tenets of witchcraft. If you don't have at least some knowledge of the basics, you will find a lot of this book beyond you. For people looking for ways to implement the basics in their lives in balance with the world, this is the book you have been searching for. De Angeles is highly knowledgeable and very passionate. Her book is an excellent resource and an engaging read.

by Jean Emma Price
19 November 2005

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