Thursday, 8 October 2015

Liber Nox: A Traditional Witch’s Gramarye by Michael Howard. Published by Skylight Press 2014

Liber Nox is in some respects a return for Howard to his earlier works published by Capall Bann, such as ‘The Sacred Ring’ and ‘Light from the Shadows.’ I have something of a fondness for his earlier writing, as I first discovered Howard via his runic works.

In Liber Nox Howard presents us while using a down to earth, friendly and open style of presentation, a review of nine common festivals observed by some practitioners of Traditional Witchcraft in Britain today. The work is divided into two sections; the first is an explanation and review of the customs, belief and folklore of each named festival. The chapters are well written, informative and reminiscent of the classic already mentioned, ‘The Sacred Ring.’ Liber Nox is illustrated with charming line drawings provided by the Cornish writer, Gemma Gary.

The second section is a presentation of a surprisingly complete ritual, for each of the festivals previous described in part one. They are practical, clear, well composed and incorporate some excellent prose. I was at first surprised that in a work on Traditional Craft practice, Howard chose to incorporate the casting of a circle as opposed to compass work. I was eventually able to guess the reason and indeed it should have been obvious. Liber Nox is a gentle introduction to the Traditional Craft, not a heavy theological thesis.

The work is well referenced, although who is and who is not referenced is something of a surprise. Since Gary is responsible for the artwork, it is no surprise to see her referenced. It is a surprise however, to see Robin Artisson referenced by such an experienced writer as Howard. It is no surprise to see Cochrane and Evans referenced but I was at first surprised not to see Oates mentioned. The reason however, is obvious once one considers the intended audience. In the same way as Howard makes no use or mention of the compass, he avoids Oates; as Liber Nox is not aimed at a more advanced readership.

It is likely that the relevance of this work is being misunderstood in many quarters and its importance simply overlooked. This book will serve for many years as a starting step, an introduction to Traditional Witchcraft of a devotional nature, serving to guide the seeker away from the new-age Paganism and pop-wiccan material that is prevalent today. If on walking into a bookshop someone buys this book and not a book by Cunningham or Ravenwolf, then Howard has done his job and done it well.

"Liber Nox serves as an ideal introduction on the subject of Traditional Witchcraft, preparing the way for the seeker to move eventually onto more in depth writings; such as those by Gemma Gary and such luminaries as Shani Oates. Howard should be congratulated for taking this brave step, for daring to engage with those lost on the path but seeking something with bite.

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