“Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” and Book Magic

I just finished watching the 7 part mini-series, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you haven’t seen it, you must! It’s based on Susanna Clarke’s novel of the same name. I haven’t read the book yet, but I intend to.

The story is set in an early 19th century England where magic is no longer practiced, or so everyone thinks. The two title characters, Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange, are practicing magicians who make it their mission to restore magic to England. Strange is briefly Norrell’s apprentice until the two part ways due to ideological differences.

Mr. Norrell has an impressive library of magical texts to which he is extremely attached.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 11.33.20 PM.png

He relies on these books for his magical practices and, although Jonathan Strange is prone to doing his own thing when it comes to magic,


even he can’t escape books entirely. He has to bring a whole trunk of them to the battlefront after joining the army as the King’s magician. Everything any magician could ever want or need to know is assumed to be in a book somewhere. Towards the end, when out-of-the-box thinking is called for, Mr. Norrell quite firmly asserts that he “can’t just make up magic.”

I have mentioned here and there in my musings that I am drawn to book magic. Yes, I get that doing your own thing sometimes can be empowering and lend to overall spiritual growth, but I am discouraged with all the negative press that book magic gets. As always, I find that I was born into the wrong era for fitting in. This is the age of the individualistic, self-empowered witch. The advice to “write your own spells,” “don’t rely on props,” and “just follow your intuition,” is everywhere. It’s in the memes that pop up on my Facebook news feed, it’s in the very books that I am not supposed to rely on, it’s in the blog posts of the more experienced witches whose advice I ought to be taking. It’s even in my most recent lesson from my Kitchen Witch course. My homework is to intuitively come up with my own correspondences (herbs, colors, etc) for all of the High Days.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going rogue from time to time. I am, in fact, looking forward to my correspondence project. But I have Mr. Norrell’s love for books. Books *are* magic, especially those written on the topic of magic and that contain pre-written spells or lists of correspondences. The words on the pages are magic via the power they accumulate each time a magician uses them. The way I feel when I imagine opening a very very old and dusty book of magic is one I can’t describe adequately. Of course, I have my own Grimoire and it will collect these same magical energies over time. But the energy of a communal spell book is even greater.

I spoke about this very topic in one of my recent YouTube videos:

Skip ahead to 7:55 for the relevant discussion.

This argument holds for prayer as well. Even moreso for prayers than for spells is an insistence on from-the-heart-only prayers. The best I can ever do when it comes to heart-felt correspondence is more along the lines of babbling than anything that resembles a prayer. And that’s fine. I talk to my Gods all the time. But when it comes to anything artistically written, I don’t have the talent. I’ve written a few things here or there, but it’s not something that comes to me naturally. My preference for pre-written prayers is based more on need than anything else. I was really happy to come across the following in support of pre-written prayers:

In many cases, this attitude [against set prayer] is, itself, not authentic. Neo-Paganism is cursed with a number of problems that have their roots in the childhood practices and beliefs of its members. Since they belong to a religion formed mainly of converts (a situation that is, fortunately, now changing), neo-Pagans have a bad tendency to react against their early religious background, which, in most cases, is Christianity. They seem to believe that Christianity is a religion of rote repetition, whereas Paganism is, by nature, spontaneous. This does both Christianity and Paganism a disservice. The repetition of a memorized prayer is not necessarily a mechanical thing. It involves a relationship between the pray-er, the prayer, and the one prayed to. This relationship is expressed through the words of a prayer, perhaps, but each prayer event is no more identical to those before than each performance of a particular piece of music is the same as another. Ancient Paganism, for its own part, had set prayers. The Rig Veda is a collection of prayers that acquired canonical status. In Pagan Rome, following set prayers was so important that an assistant with a prayer book stood next to priests, whispering the proper words to them. There is, thus, definitely a strong Pagan tradition of set prayers. And why shouldn’t there be? Our circumstances aren’t that much different from those of others— we mourn, feel gratitude, desire to praise, want to make requests. Why should each of us have to compose a prayer each time we need one? I happen to be good at writing prayers. I’m a lousy plumber. If there is a plumber out there who isn’t good at writing prayers, why shouldn’t we avail ourselves of each others’ talents? Most important of all, there are times when we want to pray, but words fail us. I think here of mourners at a Catholic funeral praying the rosary. Locked in their grief, they fix their minds on words they know by heart. They no longer need to think; they give themselves over to mourning and are comforted. It would be a shame for Pagans not to have the same gift.

Serith, Ceisiwr (2002-06-01). A Book of Pagan Prayer (pp. 65-67). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.

So, I just want to say, yay books! #teambookmagicforever \(^^)/



Posted on May 7, 2016, in Paganism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I loved Jonathan Strange! I still haven’t got round to reading the book yet either, but the TV series was brilliant. With regard to the “book/no book” debate, I tend to think it is nice to have written “scripts” if you like for rituals etc, that help you tap into a larger tradition but sometimes I find that other people’s words just don’t quite fit. I’m a huge fan of books (ex-librarian here) just as long as they are not held as unquestionable holy writ.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As far as magical texts go, its not a source of empirical data or history, just a source of combined human energy that I find especially meaningful for magic work. I change words around from scripts all the time when they don’t fit. It depends on the context and exact ritual or spell I am doing, though, whether or not I think sticking to a script word-for-word is beneficial. I don’t think using a text is necessarily the best way or more powerful than freestyle, but scripted magic and prayer gets too much of a bad rap these days. There is a power there to be tapped into that pagans ignore in their efforts to clean themselves of Christianity.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I am with you in total agreement with you, with a small (personal) correction: I feel that books are magick independent of their spells being used. Simply being read, that is where the magick lies! My favorite book is “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly, wherein it is ascertained that books /want/ to be read. They gain power from their stories simply being shared with new minds, their wisdom touching new hearts. And there is nothing quite like the smell of new paper or very old books. Books are indeed wonderful little blessings.

    Additionally, like you, I struggle with knowing where to start with creating my own original magickal works. I am very intuitive as a person and therefore skilled with intuitive magick, but I still need some structure. I think an assignment like yours I would do well with, but simply writing my own spells? I’m a very flowery author, inclined to wax poetic. I’d like to believe I have some talent. But I don’t know how to write a spell, how to invoke magick without guidelines. And so I, too, rely on books and mentors. I love to have others to help me find my way.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Wind in the Worldtree

A site for Fyrnsidu and Anglo-Saxon Heathenry

Weiß Alb Hearth

“From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.” - J.R.R. Tolkien

Seolfor Cwylla Heorþ

The Silver Well Hearth

Nature is Sacred

Exploring Pagan Spirituality from an Anglo Saxon Druid Perspective

Sage and Starshine

Druidry, Brighid, and priesthood in NYC

Vampire Mistress Violet Bloodmoon of The House of Roses

Remember Blood Red streaks on Velvet throats at night.

Grey Matters

Campus e-zine for Grey School of Wizardry

benebell wen

author + reader

Adventures and Musings of an Arch Druidess

Turning people into toads is usually redundant.

Blut und Hexenkunst

All things Hexerei

The Novel Faery

The adventures of a novelist, crazy cat lady, avid tea drinker, and chronic pain sufferer.

All in the Folk

A blog about Germanic Mythology & Folklore & Culture


A blog to pour down my thoughts and experiences as a solitary Spanish Traditional Witch. And a place to meet and share in a Digital Sabbath... until we meet in Spirit

The Lone Heathen

The Lone Heathen - Solitary Practice In An Overcrowded World

Tegoslougos Nemotarvos

Tegoslougos Nemotarvos


5th century religion- 21st century living

The Ealdríce Théodish Fellowship

Anglo-Saxon Theodish Belief

"The Lokean"

...Because that's how it appears in search engines. -Ren (Tyrienne)

Everyday Asperger's

Life through the eyes of a female with Aspergers

Everyday Aspie

Relationships through the eyes of an autistic

amor et mortem

A foray into the phantasmagoria of everyday living by a polytheistic priestess and champion of the Humanities

Foxglove & Firmitas

Life, Death, & the Polytheist Revival

Misty Eyes

following where ancients have gone

Beth Wodandis Designs

Walk Your Path with Audacity

Silver and Gold

Musings of a Vanic Priestess (Freya: The Gold Thread)

The Book Addict's Guide to MBTI:

Literary, Historical & Fictional MBTI

%d bloggers like this: