TREADING THE MILL by Nigel Pearson is a good book on Modern British Traditional Witchcraft. I liked it much better than Peter Paddon’s GRIMOIRE FOR MODERN CUNNINGFOLK, which was the previous book on my reading list. TtM presents real traditional witchcraft, at least as I understand it, and there is little to no Wiccan influence in this work.
There are only seven chapters, but each is rather intense. Within the chapters were sections I had to read two or three times to fully grasp the concepts. Even now I definitely want to revisit some of the material (for ex. Hallowing the Compass) and can see myself in the future referring back to it for clarity and ideas in my own practice.
Being a work on Traditional Witchcraft the god is emphasized and what a god he is! Raw, virile, and dangerous. In a reversal of standard neopagan views on the powers the god is presented in a triad aspect of The King of the Wildwood, Lord of the Mound and The Master of Light. Whereas the goddess appears in dual aspects of The Bright and Dark Queens. I once had a visionary experience with the Witch Queen and she appeared very much like how Pearson describes the Dark Queen. This was certainly enough validation is convince me the author knew what he was writing about.
Pearson also provides a good chapter on encountering Land, Sea, Sky, Hearth, Familiar, Fetch and Fey spirits, not to mention visiting the dead. It is here where I can’t advise strongly enough students study and master the material in the order it is presented. The later chapters on spirit working and encountering deity ASSUME you’ve mastered the technique of entering twilight. Riding the hedge and entering the Otherworld to interact with the entities therein is the basis of traditional witchcraft but is also advanced (and dangerous) work so don’t be tempted to skip ahead.
For those who like their libations there is an enjoyable chapter on making wine, beer, mead and other brews. My only complaint is I wish the chapter had been longer. Oh and for those who think wands are cute, good-witch-Glenda nonsense then you really should read the chapter on wand making and communing with tree spirits (although a section on crafting a decent blasting stick is sorely lacking).
Which gets me to the two reasons I gave this book four instead of five stars. First, as good as the book is it would have been better with more content. Simply put some chapters are too short and the author makes assumptions. As a consequence, I hesitate recommending the work for complete novices. Secondly, the book lacks the edginess found with other books on the subject such as Paul Huson’s MASTERING WITCHCRAFT or the hard to find without dropping a fortune Sabbatic titles. For example, where is the poison path material?
TREADING THE MILL should have been expanded upon and offered as a hardback. Had that happened it would be a classic on the subject of Modern British Traditional Witchcraft. As it is it just might qualify in the future. Nigel Pearson’s clear, down to earth, no-nonsense writing style is a definite step up from the labyrinthine poeticism I keep encountering.
Patrick Kyteler is a Firefly initiate and Traditional Witch.
He lives with his husband and two cats in the Maryland suburbs of the DC area. Look for his upcoming class on working with the spirits of the dead this coming October, 2016.