“Unique and vital… Witches of America is a seeker’s memoir told through a quilted veil: a collection of strong, journalistic profiles of several fascinating American practitioners of the occult. Through these witches, priests and necromancers, Alex Mar surveys the history and modern practice of various forms of witchcraft in America, while investigating her own longing ‘to be disturbed, shaken into believing.’ ”
–THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (Notable Book of 2015)
“What will resonate most with readers is [Mar’s] genuine and touching search for transcendence…”
–LOS ANGELES TIMES
“Weird and wonderful…”
“Witches, priests and priestesses, and even a necromancer receive a sympathetic, humanizing treatment as Mar encourages empathy for the ‘outer edges’ of society… Whatever one’s spiritual inclinations, Mar’s search for ‘something transcendent’ is bewitching.”
–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)
“Written with a beguiling blend of heart and wit, Witches of America sustains its thrall… With the depth and scope of her curiosity, Alex Mar compelled me to follow her… on a breathless, deepening, and constantly surprising quest.”
“Witches of America is brave and sharp and tenaciously researched. I would never have described myself as someone ‘interested in witchcraft’—Alex Mar’s book left me feeling the fault had been mine.”
–JOHN JEREMIAH SULLIVAN
“Witches of America could be seen as a Gulliverian journey through various oddball sects scattered from California to New England, all of whom believe in salvation through Magick—but the book is so much more than that. This is a quest to come to terms with the Unknowable.”
“Mar writes about her subject and its practitioners with empathy and genuine curiosity… Deeply compelling…”
– BUZZFEED BOOKS
“Witches are gathering…”
When most people hear the word “witches,” they think of horror films and Halloween, but to the nearly one million Americans who practice Paganism today, witchcraft is a nature-worshipping, polytheistic, and very real religion. So Alex Mar discovers when she sets out to film a documentary and finds herself drawn deep into the world of present-day magic.
Witches of America follows Mar on her immersive five-year trip into the occult, charting modern Paganism from its roots in 1950s England to its current American mecca in the San Francisco Bay Area; from a gathering of more than a thousand witches in the Illinois woods to the New Orleans branch of one of the world’s most influential magical societies. Along the way she takes part in dozens of rituals and becomes involved with a wild array of characters: a government employee who founds a California priesthood dedicated to a Celtic goddess of war; American disciples of Aleister Crowley, whose elaborate ceremonies turn the Catholic mass on its head; second-wave feminist Wiccans who practice a radical separatist witchcraft; a growing “mystery cult” whose initiates trace their rites back to a blind shaman in rural Oregon. This sprawling magical community compels Mar to confront what she believes is possible—or hopes might be.
With keen intelligence and wit, Mar illuminates the world of witchcraft while grappling in fresh and unexpected ways with the question underlying every faith: Why do we choose to believe in anything at all? Whether evangelical Christian, Pagan priestess, or atheist, each of us craves a system of meaning to give structure to our lives. Sometimes we just find it in unexpected places.