Review: Horne, Witch, A magickal journey

Horne, Fiona. Witch: A magickal journey a hip guide to modern witchcraft. (Harper Collins, 2000.) Hardback, 358 pages. Originally published as Witch: A personal journey and Witch: A magical year in 1998 and 1999 by Random House, Australia.

Fiona Horne is a former lead singer for a band. This is the single most important fact that you need to know about her in order to understand what her writing is like. Thankfully, she lets you know this early on and never lets you forget it. Horne’s approach to Witchcraft is that it’s very cool, too, and that you too, can be very cool and Witchy and stuff. Especially if you buy more of Horne’s products.

She uses the terms Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably, probably because she’s not terribly interested in Wicca as a religion. In fact, she doesn’t believe the gods and goddesses have any independent existence; they’re “projections of our consciousness.” (4) Now, the Jungian archetypes view of deity is a reasonable approach, but Horne isn’t going to bother with the messy business of understanding her own theaology; she’s just not going to let it slow her down.

The next chapter is “Witches’ Britches: Witchy Style and When to Take Your Clothes Off!” It is exactly as superficial as the subtitle suggests. She attempts to deal with the idea of skyclad, but mostly she talks about how she feels, gives suggestions for how to change one’s own attitude through how one presents oneself to others, and basically says, do whatever makes you feel good. She also gives the reader an up-close and personal view into her tattoos and her lip labret, and how cool and spiritually meaningful each and every one of them is. But she does this without actually grappling with any of the issues that people who aren’t comfortable with themselves deal with. As she once posed nude for Playboy with her snake familiar, I feel safe saying that she probably doesn’t understand the body issues of someone overweight, scarred, transgendered, or otherwise not a rock star. That’s my first problem with her.

My second problem is with her total disregard of history, or “herstory,” as she calls it. Okay, reclaiming history in a feminist fashion is important, but that’s not what Horne is about here. She gives a little bit of the Gardner-era history of Wicca, but really what she cares about is that “Lots of present day individuals will make up an ancient history that fits their current view of the Craft. I like this: the stories people fabricate of the past are fascinating insights into the structure of the present.” (17) Did you get that? It doesn’t matter to her whether our stories are true or not, because they’re fascinating insights into ourselves.

She doesn’t care about the distinction between myth and history, and she doesn’t care about our grasp on reality. Insight into ourselves is what’s most important. This fits with Horne’s own entirely inward-focused gaze. The rest of her work is driven by her narcissism and is an account of how she expands herself outwards to make herself more important and all-encompassing. Her disregard for reality may also be a lingering effect of the New Age ideas she says she was briefly fascinated by in her teens. These ideas sound a lot like the Law of Attraction and positive thought and other such nonsense. Horne says she became skeptical when she realized that sometimes bad things happen and that we don’t have perfect control over our universe, but the rest of her writing conveys a strong undertone of New Thought assumptions that she hasn’t discarded. (3)

Her personal stories about ancient history that support her view of the Craft come through in statements made perfectly factually, such as: “It was a tradition among the ancient Druids to wear crowns with open-set jewels in the centre of the forehead for similar reasons,” that is, to stimulate the third eye, and “The infamous isle of Lesbos was colonized by Amazons in the 6th century BC.” (29, 240) That’s my second problem with her work.

My third problem is that this is very simply a badly-written spell book. It’s a grimoire that’s all out of order – correspondences before you have any idea what they are or how to use them, familiars right after correspondences and before any other elements of spell work, and a strange and inconsistent approach to the difficult ethical issues of magic.

She has an entire chapter, “Flying High,” on magical drugs, which alternates between the idea that controlled use of well-understood substances in carefully-constructed settings with appropriate training can be beneficial, and a vague awareness that drugs are dangerous and possibly bad, and definitely hard to use well. She tells about a bad trip that two friends had, says that drugs aren’t to be used as a shortcut, and discusses in some detail the use of alcohol, without exactly saying why or what for. It’s so strange that I have difficulty conveying it.

Another chapter recounts a friend’s use of poppet magic to attack an enemy, but she leaves out specific aspects of the ritual, saying that she doesn’t believe in specific demonic forces. She also includes warnings about the backlash of manipulative, negative magic, and seems to be trying to tell a cautionary tale, but most of the details are about how to stick the pins in the poppet and what to say when doing so. It’s extremely bizarre, and doesn’t seem to be backed up by a consistent philosophy of either “don’t manipulate,” or “take what you want but pay the price.”

She has suggestions for an entire week of magical ritual where one doesn’t go in to work or do any real-world concerns (no washing the dishes?) which is extremely self indulgent, to a degree that seems to ignore the very real constraints on the vast majority of people who will read her book. Looking at her other published works, it looks like this chapter has been extracted and expanded to be published as a book on its own. Similarly, her chapter on magical sex has apparently been published independently as its own work as well. This book is itself a combination of her first two publications, so it has a chapter on the Wheel of the Year in the back, but it is really a tacked-on vestigial approach to what should be a central Wiccan topic.

Horne also has a very odd chapter on “Cyber-Sorcery.” She opens it with the statement “the Internet is the closest humans have come so far to creating psychic thought-transference via technology. Much of the Internet is connected via fibre optic cables along which information is transmitted as light, and mystics have predicted throughout time that humans are evolving to a point where we can exist as pure light: pure consciousness.” (253) Then she goes on to describe how to construct a spell-file, which is a written statement of intention with some symbology worked in, and tells the reader that opening and resaving the file every day resends the energy of the spell. Maybe I’m too much younger, maybe I’ve been around computers so much of my life that they’re just mundane to me, but it just sounds silly.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Horne also has a website with more self-aggrandizement, and a spell book, with such gems as “Triple fast acting jinx removing bath and floor wash.” No word on whether it’s a dessert topping as well. Given all this and further information such as this review of her works and products, I am left with no other conclusion than that Fiona Horne is trying to get attention and is harming Wicca’s reputation in the process. I strongly discourage buying her books or products.

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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