Basic Witches Review
Authors: Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
Artist: Camille Chew
Genre: Reference & Non-Fiction
Publisher: Quirk Books
A review by Samantha Pearson
Basic Witches offers tips for the modern witch to “summon success, banish drama, and raise hell with your coven” — according to the tagline. It isn’t a self-help book, and it isn’t exactly a spell book. However, it does contain some self-help concepts and quite a few spells.
Co-authors Jaya Saxena (Elle.com) and Jess Zimmerman (Establishment) approach witchcraft the way many modern witches do: as a reclamation of a history and term that brings to mind unruly women with serious attitude. Basic Witches acknowledges that it isn’t just women who identify as witches, and offers ideas for adapting spells for people who are elsewhere on the gender spectrum. But it focuses mostly on women and women-centric language, which may be off-putting to men or non-binary people.
Basic Witches is separated into chapters that focus on all areas of life. Illustrations by Camille Chew pepper the book with splashes of color that highlight whatever the text is talking about. The introduction to basic witchery leads into a chapter on glamours, followed immediately by one on the importance of self-care. Other chapters deal with caring for others, romantic relationships, eliminating toxicity from your life, and carving your own path. The text draws inspiration from historical and pop culture witches, as well as personal experiences of the authors.
The rituals in this book are designed to affect your brain instead of the world, because we can’t give you a way to effortlessly manifest your ideal partner, job, wardrobe, or life. Nobody can.
— Basic Witches, Chapter 7: Divination
Each chapter introduces itself, then offers some insights, anecdotes, and a handful of spells. There are activities to complete (with serious encouragement to riff on the ideas presented and do your own thing) and histories to read. Basic Witches even dives (briefly) into the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (W.I.T.C.H.). It does a pretty thorough job of exploring the subjects it presents, and it’s clear that authors Saxena and Zimmerman both take their witchy ways very seriously.
They also pay due respect, in the introduction, to the different types of people who may identify as witches, pagans, wiccans, or other related terms. But they are clear about their use of the word “witch” from the get-go, which makes the rest of the book easy to digest in context. Basic Witches doesn’t try to be a full exploration of pagan religion or wicca; instead, it dives into the idea that “witch” doesn’t have to describe just one kind of person. It also argues that, despite popular opinion, witches in covens do better (generally) than witches who practice magic alone.
At its heart, Basic Witches seeks to assure readers that anyone is capable of doing magic. Intention-setting and belief play a huge factor in every spell. There is no point where Saxena or Zimmerman argue that someone isn’t or can’t be a witch. They explore magic practically as well as possibly. Plus, they give you all kinds of tools to hex the patriarchy by elevating yourself, and that’s awesome.
Buy it! Basic Witches is a great read that offers spell solutions to help you reset your mind and focus on your goals. It does, occasionally, stray into the absurd, but what good magic book doesn’t? Camille Chew’s drawings are fantastic. Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman’s senses of humor are great. This book works as a reference point for people who are already familiar with witchcraft or as an introduction for people who aren’t. Buy a copy and then get another one to share with a friend! You’ll see why you should once you read.