Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Witches of America Paperback – October 11, 2016
|New from||Used from|
All Books, All the Time
Read author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more at the Amazon Book Review. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"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 . . . She is the perfect guide . . . Mar writes eloquently about the search for meaning, our pursuit of the sublime within the mundane and the invention of self." ―Merritt Tierce, The New York Times Book Review
“Mar is an often amusing guide to the household altars and henges of 21st century paganism, in which Wiccans conduct classes via Skype and online distance learning. But what will resonate most with readers is her genuine and touching search for transcendence, which leads to a conviction that all of these strands of belief are ‘strategies for staying alive. Some are simply more elaborate and inexplicable than others.’” ―Elizabeth Hand, Los Angeles Times
“Alex Mar's debut Witches of America, a fascinating exploration of Wiccan, Pagan, and occult culture in contemporary America, begins as something of an ethnography, but becomes even more captivating as Mar herself is drawn into these worlds. Avoiding the easy caricatures to which witchcraft often lends itself, Mar writes about her subject and its practitioners with empathy and genuine curiosity. Like her writing, Mar aches and stretches and yearns: she wants witchcraft to work for her―the way we all, at various points in our lives, want something seemingly fantastic to be true―and in reading her book, I wanted it for her, too. Ultimately, though, Witches of America is about the search for meaning, not its findings. Fortunately, Mar's is a deeply compelling one." ―Katie Heaney, Buzzfeed
“Enlightening . . . Provide[s] illuminating answers about what witchcraft in America means" ―Huffington Post
“This is a wonderful, no-nonsense account of, well, witches in America. But not the silly pointy hat witches―the actual, practicing Pagans. Mar spent five years researching the practice of this very real religion, which has over one million practitioners today. This is an account of the history of Paganism, its rituals, and practitioners, told without condescension or historical bias and rumor." ―BookRiot
"Through chapters both captivating and amusing, Mar. . .assembles a fascinating exegesis on the modern state of faith." ―The Believer
“[Witches of America] is propelled by Mar’s layered details and her rare and instinctive curiosity as well as her quiet graciousness toward her subjects.” ―Oxford American
“Mar's book takes something seemingly sinister―in this case, the occult―and renders it accessible . . . Mar provides a sensitive, probing, and nuanced look at those who identify as pagan.” ―Broadly
“With good humor about the silliness of some of the rituals Mar encounters, and prose that can take on the quality of an incantation, Witches of America is an empathetic but clear-eyed group portrait of people many might find easy to dismiss.” ―Bookforum
“A weird and wonderful bildungsroman of sorts . . . As you read Witches of America . . . it's impossible not to contemplate the boundaries of your own spirituality, credulousness, and appetite for the gothic and spectral.” ―ELLE
"A fascinating look at witchcraft in the U.S." ―Bustle
“A top-notch read for pagans and open-minded seekers curious about the fascinating beginnings of American witchcraft and some of the various directions its form is taking.” ―Library Journal (starred review)
“An open-minded, fascinating journey into the world of modern American paganism.” ―Booklist
“An expertly crafted spiritual journey . . . Witches, priests and priestesses, and even a necromancer receive a sympathetic, humanizing treatment as Mar encourages empathy for the "outer edges" of society. Mar writes with clarity and candor, provides ample background information, and is neither preachy nor cheesy. She presents all her subjects as interesting individuals . . . Whatever one's spiritual inclinations, Mar's search for "something transcendent" is bewitching.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A wide-eyed observer governed by an unshakable curiosity, Mar's immersion in the multifaceted world of witchcraft (including a particularly chilling encounter with a necromancer) collectively broadened and enhanced her perspective about the craft itself―and will surely do the same for her readership. An enchanting and addictive report shedding much-needed light on a spiritualistic community obfuscated by historical misinterpretation and pop-culture derision.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“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, author of Pulphead
“Written with a beguiling blend of heart and wit, Witches of America sustains its thrall with something that runs much deeper than intrigue or pageantry. With the depth and scope of her curiosity, Alex Mar compelled me to follow her driving questions―about meaning, faith, and longing for community and wonder―on a breathless, deepening, and constantly surprising quest.” ―Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
“Like the best immersive subcultural reporting, Witches of America has its proper share of erotic charge (daggers, velvet, ritual nudity) and comic flair (a neurotic New Yorker meets an inedible Black Mass wafer). But what Alex Mar has actually achieved is something altogether more haunting. This is an intellectually serious and sweetly vulnerable work about connection both on and off the grid, and our common aspiration to lead lives spellbound and spellbinding.” ―Gideon Lewis-Kraus, author of A Sense of Direction
“Witches of America could be seen as a Gulliverian journey through various oddball sects scattered from California to New England, all of which believe in salvation through Magic-but the book is so much more than that. This is a quest to come to terms with the Unknowable.” ―Richard Price, author of Lush Life
“Whatever you thought about witches, be prepared to think again. In Witches of America, Alex Mar exposes what we fear most―our own power. To be a witch is to reimagine the world.” ―Terry Tempest Williams, author of When Women Were Birds
About the Author
Alex Mar is a writer based in New York City, her hometown. Her work has recently appeared in The Believer, the Oxford American, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015. Mar is also the director of the documentary feature film American Mystic. Witches of America is her first book.
Top customer reviews
We cannot comment on the situations of other subjects, people and organizations depicted in the book as we were not privy to their participation, however, we can correct numerous assumptions about our own participation and portrayal.
The Coru Cathubodua Priesthood was contacted on October 4, 2013 by Ms. Mar requesting our participation in a book that would be a continuation of her documentary, “American Mystic,” and would depict the contemporary American Pagan movement. The book was never described to us as a "personal memoir."
The Priesthood decided to participate in Ms. Mar’s book based on three factors:
1) The personal experience of one of our members; having been a subject of said documentary wherein they were given review rights by Ms. Mar, thereby establishing the precedent.
2) Two members who knew Ms. Mar personally vouched for her trustworthiness and ability to honor agreements.
3) The conferring of review rights by Ms. Mar to the portions of the manuscript where our Order was depicted. This occurred in a December 13, 2013 phone call between Ms. Mar and our then communications chieftain.
We requested review rights in order to ensure the accurate portrayal of our beliefs and protect the individual privacy rights of our members and their families. It was our understanding that our members would be the sole focus of what was detailed in the book, not our friends, family or congregants. We believed this agreement was amicable, reasonable, equitable and conscionable, and with these expectations, we proceeded in good faith.
We gave Ms. Mar access to individual members for interviews. She attended public events and hospitality functions. She was never invited to nor was she present for any private Priesthood rituals.
On November 18, 2014, we contacted Ms. Mar requesting an update on the project and inquired about our opportunity to review her manuscript. Our review rights were rescinded by Ms. Mar in a reply email from her dated November 23, 2014 stating that the manuscript will not be made available to us for review, citing industry “standard practice.” This was one year after our participation in interviews with Ms. Mar.
To restate for the sake of clarity; the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood would have declined to participate in Ms. Mar’s book from the start without the agreement that we would be able to provide corrections and redaction where necessary to protect our members’ personal and religious lives, and ensure our beliefs and public rites were correctly depicted.
Much of Ms. Mar's book inaccurately characterizes the structure and practices of our Order, then and now. Many of the events depicted that involve the Priesthood are paraphrased anecdotes translated through her own personal journey and story-driven narrative. We view the book as being “inspired by actual events.” Ms. Mar takes great liberties in what she does depict and sensationalizes many activities to the point of falsehood with no thought to how her lies would impact her subjects' lives and livelihoods.
None of the events described therein should be considered accurate or representative of our religious beliefs, structures, values or attitudes. In addition, individuals who attended our public events were quoted and named by Ms. Mar without their knowledge or consent.
As this book has caused and continues to cause direct harm to our members, our friends and community, we cannot, will not and do not stand by it. It is obvious in hindsight how we were preyed upon by Ms. Mar with her providing review rights and then rescinding them once she the necessary materials and entree into our community.
An additional point of clarification: Ms. Mar has recently gone on the record with mainstream publications to say that participants received copies of the book prior to publication with the intimation that it was for review. This is patently false. Our Order did not receive any copies of the book. Two of our members received personal advanced copies of the book as a courtesy two weeks prior to its general release date of October 20, 2015.
But Mar's book is what I want to write about, not her detractors. I found her prose lively and engaging, and her spiritual questioning provided a strong narrative momentum. The historical background she provided about various pagan groups in America at times felt somewhat abbreviated, but I understand that her point was not to give a comprehensive history of the movement but to give enough information so we readers could follow her journey. In doing so, she was successful; if I need or want to find out more about any of the strands of modern neopaganism, I can easily do more reading on my own.
Mar's book fits into a significant and growing body of American spiritual quests. Chistel Manning takes a similar, if more academic, approach in her recent book Losing Our Religion, in which she details her own turn away from organized religion and has used that as a basis for an in-depth study of others who have faced or are facing the same religious and spiritual questioning. Manning, Mar, and others like them show us a segment of Americans who have felt that traditional religious organizations have left them and are seeking an alternative that is personally fulfilling and meaningful. More than anything else, I felt that Mar was desperately looking for some meaning or guidance in a universe that can feel profoundly indifferent to human suffering, and her anxiety--anguish even--was palpable. In many ways, her book fits in well in the long tradition of American religious writing, from the Puritan conversion narratives on. Her spiritual confusion echoes that of Jonathan Edwards in his Personal Narrative, but Mar does not end with Edwards's spiritual certainty, which is appropriate for our age.
The book is not perfect. In the middle, as Mar begins to wonder if she is following the right path, the narrative path becomes equally foggy. This did not deter my reading, as I had already invested enough emotionally in my relationship with Mar's persona that I was interested in seeing where she ended up. Overall, I enjoyed the experience reading Mar's book, and I look forward to seeing where she goes next in her writing life.
Most recent customer reviews
Before reading this book, my understanding of witchcraft barely went beyond what we see through Hollywood films.Read more