The idea for Spellcaster: Seven Ways to Effective Magic was born from a thread about magic, generated by British and American friends on the email discussion group Witchcraft UK. Those of us taking part in the discussion—myself, Morgana SidheRaven, Martin White, and Leah Whitehorse—were expressing deep concern at the way magic seems to be trivialized by the media in a manner that makes it seem easy, accessible, and glamorous. Anyone who has made a serious study of magical practice, or who has tried it for themselves, will know it takes hard work, willpower, and dedication to achieve results. And that, furthermore, wrongly used magic can create consequences that are disruptive at best and can be both dangerous and misleading. We were particularly worried about the glut of spell books aimed at the teen market, most of which appeared to promise unrealistic outcomes and some of which seemed downright unethical. Any form of magical working carries the responsibility of taking into account the wider picture, the context within which we seek to change things and a karmic obligation to right anything that goes wrong; yet many spellbooks, along with films and television series based on witchcraft and paganism, give the impression that it's all just a fun way to attract the person you fancy, get a new computer, do your housework without lifting a finger, and so on (anyone who's seen what happened to the Sorcerer's apprentice in Walt Disney's Fantasia will realize the peril of the last assumption).
As the discussion progressed over many messages and several days, I realized that we had the material for a book. Greatly excited, I contacted the other four and suggested we pool our theories and ideas to collaborate on a book that would set the record straight, explain what magical work really entailed, and provide ways in which people could safely try it out for themselves. Everyone responded with enthusiasm. Morgana set up a discussion list so that we didn't have to keep forwarding or carbon copying email messages to each other—and the Spellweaver Collective became reality.
At this point it was decided that we needed more people to make the project viable. I already knew Morgana SidheRaven and Martin White personally, and Leah Whitehorse was an online contact whose writing I respected and whom had already contributed to my book Praise to the Moon: Magic and Myth of the Lunar Cycle, so I knew that we could work well together. However, we wanted to make the book as diverse as possible, bringing in contributions from people from a variety of traditions. To this end I contacted two other friends, Anna Franklin and Poppy Palin, both widely published pagan authors with their roots in the soul of the land, and to my delight they both agreed to take part. We now had contributions from people familiar with Wicca, British paganism, Hedgewitchcraft, Druidry, and the Northern Tradition. We realized we needed another perspective, which I felt could be achieved by incorporating the Hermetic tradition that underpins so much of modern paganism. With the backing of the group, I asked another friend, Martin Duffy, a pagan who runs a coven as well as studying and practicing Hermeticism, if he would join us.
It was decided amongst us that we'd each write a contribution from our own perspective, then we'd provide an introduction, a conclusion, an author biography, a resources section, and a bibliography. Martin White and I would edit the whole book, tying it together. We made a unanimous decision that as each of us had a different way of working—even a different way of spelling the word magical in some cases—we didn't want to standardize the book or lay down guidelines or rules about the way each author expressed their personal contribution. We felt that there was value in showing readers that there are many ways to gain the same goals, and that nobody's formula is exclusively right.
We of Spellcaster liaised at every step of the process of crafting the book, bouncing ideas off each other, posting our writing for the assessment of the collective, making suggestions, and offering each other encouragement, criticism, and praise. This is a joint book in every possible way. Eventually we had our seven completed pieces. At this point, Martin White came to stay with me in Oxford, and we sorted the order of the book and wrote the introduction and conclusion, the latter being expanded later by Leah Whitehorse—who also checked and correlated the resources and bibliography sections.
We offer our book with the sincere desire that it will provide ideas, answers, and guidelines, along with a sound foundation that will help students and practitioners of magic to work safely, creatively, and ethically.