I’ve got a small stock pile of books on my desk. Presently, Lee Morgan’s A Deed Without A Name: Unearthing the Legacy of Traditional Witchcraft constitutes half the pile. I’ve just purchased a few more copies that will make their way north as gifts to friends who I think, simply, needs must read it.
And who should not? I’ve hesitated to put up a review because it’s going to be biased. Really, really biased. Because Lee Morgan is fabulous, and I feel qualified to say so, I’ve known Lee a really long time. Lee is my teacher, my friend, and I tend to suffer from a large level of emotional investment in my loved one’s projects and activities. Which I think is completely justifiable. But now that’s clear, and out of the way, I’ll put on my reasonable, measured voice and start referring to the author by her last name…
The first thing to note, even before reading the book, is that Morgan is a poet. Once the reader understands this and even familiarises themselves with some of Morgan’s poetry, available here, there is something more to be had in A Deed Without A Name. There are many books available regarding the Occult, Witchcraft etc, scholarly, in depth and intelligent, but few are going to be a manifestation of the beauty, terror and visceral experience of the Otherworlds. And Morgan’s expereince is evident in the language. Where others seek to write tomes of lore, tables, catergorisations, here there is a sort of simplicity with blurred edges. There’s no lengthy courtship for the reader with the detailed sensory experiences, but a matter-of-factness, as simply as there is an amorality, and the lesson of ‘how to know’ is as obvious as is the certainty with which we know, Morgan knows- from experience.
That being said, it is not a gloss-over, or lacks a broad ranging and significant understanding of Occult scholarship. ‘The Beastery’ includes a list of beings from across Europe. Peppered throughout are historical and contemporary accounts from witches, accounts eerily alike despite the gulf of time, surprisingly diverse. That Morgan has been able to collect such contemporary accounts further indicates her experience. And in amongst this seeming grab-bag of spirit beings, alive, dead, human and non-human, there’s woven the thread of Otherness, the core theme of the book.
Included are several practical guides to different magical workings, all helpful, refreshingly straight forward. But the true lesson here is far more pervasive. Until we are prepared to acknowledge our true natures, the nature of the Otherworlds, without judgement, with openness, without the need to tag box label and limit, the true nature of the Nameless Deed and it’s power will allude us. There is an acceptance and fellowship with the vast diversity of this and otherworldly beings, evident in the book. No finger wagging, or hand flapping at the darker, chthonic and underworldly elements, no lofty transcendentalism, but an immediate expereince with the kaleidoscope of characters. In this way, A Deed Without A Name is reminiscent of a collection of fairy tales, with many a familiar character, but with the added invitation to choose your own adventure and enter into the myth of Witchcraft. That word which, as Morgan points out at the opening, “is little more than a site where numerous tales cluster.”
If you’d like another opinion on the matter, head over to Magic of the Ordinary for Peregrin Wildoak’s excellent review. If you’d like to know more about the Lee Morgan, then I can not recommend enough Lee’s blog ‘My Craft and Sullen Art‘, which is permanently linked here on Australis Incognito over < there.