Why “Witches of America” Didn’t Deliver For Me

When I came across Alex Mar’s Witches of America, the synopsis led me to believe it was exactly the book I’ve been looking for. It’s pitched as an investigative journey into the various ways witchcraft is practiced here in the States, blending history and research with personal narrative. 

I grabbed a copy and eagerly dove in, not aware that there’s actually quite a bit of controversy in the pagan world about this book. The main issue from what I can tell is that Mar didn’t necessarily get consent to include many of the stories she shares in the book. Given the book’s empahsis on particularly secretive and mysterious practices (we’ll get to that), I can see why this is a pretty big issue. 

Even without this knowledge, however, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t going to the book I’d hoped for. Generally speaking, I don’t like to write reviews about books that I struggled to finish as much as I struggled with this book, but I feel compelled to try and parse this one out. 

There are some interesting bits of information throughout this book, and the parts I enjoyed most are those where Mar’s research takes the forefront. She shares a bit here and there about the history of witchcraft and how it came to the States, and in these sections I can faintly see the book that the synopsis promised me. 

Other sections, however, are a bit difficult to follow. Mar often jumps back and forth in time, something common in memoir, but which isn’t clearly signposted here. I found myself confused about when and where we were at certain points, which made it difficult to sink in to the storytelling elements of the book. 

She also doesn’t really give the broad overview of witchcraft we are promised. Rather, we join Mar as she becomes increasingly obsessed with two particular, secretive and esoteric occult sects. The majority of the book focuses on the Feri tradition, one priestess in particular, and a good bit looks at the OTO in New Orleans. 

Given the way the book is described, I was a bit surprised to see so much emphasis on two specific groups. Not only that, but the bits randomly peppered in about other practices feel a bit out of place as a result (in particular, a section towards the end about necromancy is quite oddly placed). 

Had I gone in expecting a deep dive into two specific occult traditions and the author’s increasing fascination with them, I might have enjoyed the book a bit more. As it stands, I dragged myself through the story, compelled to see where it went, but I came away disappointed. 

I did actually like the last chapter of the book, in which Mar finally gets some version of the epiphany she’s been searching for. At its core, this book explores a sort of struggle in the grey area between belief and skepticism, which is something that certainly resonates with me. However, it could have been better focused and organized, with a clearer sense of what the book is actually trying to do. 

In all, I would say if I were to recommend Witches of America, it would be to people who are interested in cult-ish behaviors and esoteric religions, rather than anyone looking for an interesting investigative look at witchcraft more broadly. 


3 thoughts on “Why “Witches of America” Didn’t Deliver For Me

  1. […] It was hard to get through in part because it wasn’t the book I expected and partly because a lot of what happens is just kind of… weird. No judgement to the people who hold these particular beliefs but it definitely took me out of my personal comfort zone to read about some of the practices. In all, I didn’t really care much for the book, which I explore in my full review here. […]

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