A new publisher, Concrescent Press, has just released Pathways in Modern Western Magic, a book of articles dealing with a variety of individuals and movements in Western esotericism and occultism edited by Nevill Drury. I’m basing this review on a copy from the publisher.
Overall, I’m of two minds regarding this book. One is that the articles within are excellent. You’ve got Nikki Bado speaking on the triple goddess in Wicca, Andrei Znamenski on neo-shamanism, Nevill Drury on Aleister Crowley, Thomas Karlsson on the Dragon Rouge, James R. Lewis on Satanism, Don Webb on the Temple of Set, Dave Evans on chaos magic, and Phil Hine on Tantra, among others. (The sample chapter has the complete table of contents.) Even with these as the highlights, I couldn’t find an article in the book that I didn’t like or that didn’t cover the bases. It’s really a great selection of essays, complete with references and bibliographies that can guide further reading.
At the same time, however, I do have a caveat about using the book as an overview. Even though the pieces individually are wonderful, they are quite different in terms of what they cover. Some only touch on a movement’s history, while others are mostly historical. Some are written by outside scholars, while others are the works of practitioners. We get a few articles on different aspects on Paganism, but not one on the movement as a whole, as opposed to the coverage of other areas. Any book with multiple contributors, in a field in which research is extensive in some areas and spotty in others, will have many of the same characteristics, and the editor is up front about these differences. Nonetheless, newcomers in the field should bear this in mind when reading.
This does not detract, however, from a landmark book that brings together a wide variety of topics relating to modern Western magic in a rigorous yet accessible manner. Even as someone who’s read extensively on many of these topics, I can say I learned something new from each chapter. I definitely hope to see more such works from Nevill Drury and Concrescent in the future.