Review of A Spell in the Wild by Alice Tarbuck

A beautiful, captivating, deeply personal exploration of witchcraft and what it means to inhabit the world. Tarbuck takes us on a journey through the wheel of year, blending autobiographical experience with rigorous research in such a way that one cannot help but be captivated.

A real strength of this book is the narrative voice which, each chapter, entices the reader in with poetic, evocative images, inviting us to share Tarbuck‘s journey. From the very first line of the introduction, I was entranced; a gentle, quiet tale of an urban fox following the narrator home. It was a lovely tale, giving me that moment of insight into Tarbuck’s life and experience. It felt like the start a conversation: “This is who I am, and I how I came to follow this path. We all have our own stories and I would also love to hear yours.”

Each chapter, each month, is similar in that regard; we step into her life, joining her in her experiencing of that season and the thoughts and reflections it brings and, then, almost without realising, we are taken on a journey spanning centuries, leading us down all manner of fascinating, often unexpected, paths. She discusses the history of witchcraft and magic and of ecology and tradition, and all the while maintaining that deeply personal feel. Each chapter covers a different topic, rigorously researched and full of intrigue: even on topics I considered I knew well I found myself learning things I had never known before, and I ended each chapter eager to read the next. And always, she brings us back, ties up the ends and we find ourselves back with the narrator in the world she inhabits.

This book is deeply reflective. Always we find Tarbuck taking the topic and scrutinising it in detail, questioning the assumptions of those who’ve come before her and drawing her own conclusions. There is a strong morality contained in the narrative; not one that necessarily condemns, but one that always asks the reader to consider the implications of a practice or a tradition, and one which promotes a philosophy of inclusivity and acceptance. In witchcraft, where there have historically been all manner of authoritative voices proclaiming how things should be done, this is refreshing and highly welcome.

This acceptance is no accident or token gesture, but seems in fact to be core to the beliefs and philosophies Tarbuck takes pains to describe. She invites the reader to join her, to be included as part of her journey, and her journey is one of discovering how much a part of the world she is. Importantly, the “World” of a Spell in the Wild is not some remote region, inaccessible to all but the privileged few, and neither is it contained in some long past region of nostalgic time, but is here and now, wherever and whenever that is. Tarbuck invites the reader to discover that the wild exists everywhere and in everyone, be it in a remote island far from civilisation or in the depths of an urban jungle. This is the heart of the book: the idea that we can all reconnect with the wild and weave our magics regardless of who we are or where, and the path of the witch is precisely that art of discovering anew the world that is in everything. As Tarbuck herself acknowledges, this is something that can be achieved perhaps without even a belief in what might be termed the supernatural – instead, we are simply asked to open our eyes to very real, natural world before us and work in all the ways we can towards making it thrive.

This is a book for anyone with in an interest not just in witchcraft and occult, but in reconnecting with nature in our increasingly urban lives. It makes the reader look again at the world immediately around then and rediscover it anew.

Definitely recommended, A Spell in the Wild can be bought from all good book stores, Amazon, and is also available as as an e-book and as delightful audiobook read by the author.