Book – Village Witch

Mandrake Newsletter

Hello and happy new year


Our January issue is dedicated to Wisewoman and Village Witch – Cassandra Latham-Jones.
Scroll down for a recent interview.

Village Witch
Life as a village Wisewoman in the wilds of West Cornwall
Cassandra Latham-Jones
Format: Softcover
ISBN: 978-1-906958-23-7
£12.99+p&p / US$22.00+p&p

UK edition £12.99+p&p

USA & Europe edition $22.00+p&p

Ebook: $9.99

Village Witch describes life as a Village Wisewoman in the wilds of West Cornwall. The first part of the book documents the tortuous and sometimes harrowing journey to achieve this unusual occupation. It is a tale that ultimately moves through surviving and into thriving. Cassandra’s past experiences directly inform her present practice and are intrinsic to being a Wisewoman – she acquires wisdom from actively experiencing and observing the vagaries of life. As part of her work she travels around the country giving talks about her profession, and without exception is asked each time what brought her to become a village Wisewoman. Many people want to hear about that journey and this is one of the reasons for deciding to write the book.

Following on from this, Cassandra tells of the practice of her craft, which includes many stories and observations regarding the day-to-day experiences of a traditional Wisewoman including her personal approach to magic.

At present, the market is flooded with ‘how-to-do’ books on witchcraft and associated themes. Almost without exception, they inform in an authoritative way often including a cookbook of spells. There is far more to the Craft of the Wise than simply following someone else’s recipes for performing magic. It entails old-fashioned qualities such as hard work, discipline, dedication and commitment. This book differs in that it describes the ‘why’, as well as the ‘how’ and in that sense, challenges the reader to question and explore their own experiences of the worlds magical.

Author of the month

We asked Cassandra Latham -Jones a few questions about herself and the book, here is what she wrote:

Can you introduce yourself and say a little about what you do, your aims and objectives with your writing?

I am Cassandra Latham-Jones and I have worked full-time as a village wisewoman from my home in St Buryan, Cornwall. My one claim to fame has been to become the first witch to register with the Inland Revenue in the UK.

My writing is meant to bring a little more clarity to a subject that is often misunderstood and thereby misrepresented. I also aim to engage the reader in a journey of experience that sometimes challenges previous conceptions of magical practices, with particular reference to folk magic.

If you haven’t already can you say a little more about your family background, ie past and current – ie are you married, children, work – people like a little bit of personal stuff if you ok to share?

I was adopted at birth and brought up in East Anglia. I returned to my homeland nearly 50 years ago and have been here since. I am divorced with no surviving children. I am now retired and have handed my business on to my partner who now runs it, with voluntary help from me.

Can you say a little about the origin of the book?

The book, Village Witch came about as a response to popular demand. At the time I was giving talks on my experiences as a village wisewoman, and without exception when it came to Question Time at the end of the talk (my favourite bit as I love having my brains picked!) I was asked the question of how did I become a village wisewoman. So in the end it seemed a good idea to write a book about my journey to achieve just that. Or as Graham King, the previous owner of the Museum of Witchcraft said, ‘You’re like a folk singer without an album – write the book!’ What I hadn’t bargained on was how long it took me – 10 years to be exact! It wasn’t because I was a slow writer, it was more because I was so busy working that it left me very little time to actually write about it. The only time I managed was to write at night when I was less likely to be disturbed.

Part of the function of being a wisewoman is to have an active clientele, which hasn’t diminished over the years. In fact, now that we have introduced distant readings and consultations to our services, our community has extended worldwide and we are busier than ever. I often wonder how some authors manage to churn out so many books on their magical practice – maybe they have a Time-Turner!

Do you call yourself a witch – if so what does this mean to you?

Not as a general rule any more, purely because the term is so easily misinterpreted and I get weary of the distraction it causes. However, when needs must I will own it as part of what I do utilises witchcraft. For many folks, it is a more recognisable term and so I go along with it, but I do prefer to be known as a village wisewoman.

What does this mean to me? To me, it’s a craft and not a religion. I don’t have a religion but I do have strong beliefs, none of which are hooked into any particular spiritual system.

You are mostly interested in what I think is called the Traditional Witchcraft – can you explain what that is and what it is that attracted you to that way?

Not in my interpretation of the term. If there is a need to categorise my practice, then it would be under folk magic or cunning craft. Certainly, the use of the term Traditional Witchcraft has undergone some sort of renaissance in the last few decades and as a result, yet another fashion or faze has emerged in the magical world. When I first wrote Village Witch it was all the rage to be a Shaman, now it appears that it is cool to be a Trad Witch. It is certainly cleverly branded and marketed, with darkly, Gothic imagery and impressive-sounding Latin terms peppering their texts and grimoires. I can see how seductive and alluring these commodities and lifestyles can appear, especially to those newly seeking a magical path – but let the buyer beware. It can be a singularly expensive path to follow if the extortionate prices of the books and magical accoutrements are anything to go by. In this age of capitalism, it’s a familiar sight to see different trends, and I guess this old fashioned wisewoman who was born into a time of post-war rationing is always going to have difficulty getting used to such commercialism – especially when it borders on high-jacking the simple country folk magic that I grew up with and love dearly.

I know that genuine traditional witches do exist, but you rarely hear about them as they do not draw so much attention to themselves. They simply get on with the work at hand.

Is the journey in your book for everyone or is it only for the expert or indeed aimed at the beginner?

I deliberately wrote Village Witch so that it would be accessible to everyone, whatever their persuasion. It’s not an instructive book about how to do things. I simply explain my opinion and experience of different situations and leave the reader to make their own mind up about their own path.

Much of what I do and say is about demystifying glamours, allusions and illusions around magical crafts. This pragmatic approach doesn’t always sit well with some, but then I’m there to help my community, not to win popularity contests!

That’s a lot of questions – can you try and summarise, in a nutshell, the enduring message of this book

That’s an interesting question. Village Witch is mostly about a Wounded Healer’s journey. It describes how certain adversities may be overcome; it relates many stories and (mis)adventures in the process of learning to be a village wisewoman and offers to the reader various options on following their own magical paths.

Anything else you want to add?

Since it is now 20 years since I first started writing Village Witch I have noticed that what I have written in some ways is a bit dated. I also have been nagged incessantly for another book which I have been reluctant to do due to time constraints, as previously mentioned, and as I’m getting older now, I’m getting tired more easily. However, I do recognise that there are things that have happened which may need to be recorded for posterities’ sake if nothing else. Trouble is the older I’m getting the more irascible I seem to be about a lot of things. I have decided that if I do get round to organising myself enough to write another book, I will give it the same title as my blog which is – Grumpy Old Witchcraft. Then I will wait to see if anyone is going to allow it to be published!

Do you have a webpage or blog?

Yes, I do.

Website: www.villagewisewoman.co.uk

Blog: www.grumpyoldwitchcraft.com

You can read an extract from Cassandra Latham-Jones Village Witch HERE, enjoy.

Until next time,
Keep safe and healthy

 

book-cover-2

On the advice of many I decided to write a book about my experiences as a village wisewoman which was completed in 2011.

Village Witch can be purchased in most main bookshops or direct from the publishers Mandrake of Oxford

Thanks to an amazing synchronicity the 3rd edition of my book arrived hot off the press on exactly the same day as my 1st edition, albeit with five years difference in time!

Just for the record here is a quick run down of my various editions:

edition1

edition2

edition3a

For more information about the reasons behind all these revisions:

Preface to the Third Edition

Why the need for a third edition of my book after only five years of publication? Too complex and troublesome to go into here, but essentially due to circumstances beyond my control and as a result of my own misguided altruism.

However, that’s generally how I’ve led my life. I’ve learnt the hard way who I can or cannot trust and I intend to continue to ‘take as I find’. Things and life have moved on considerably since I first put pen to paper as it were all those years ago. Most of what I wrote still stands regarding the work I do, though how I spend my leisure time has altered somewhat, including the type of people I socialise with. No longer do I mix with predominantly Pagan folk but a much more diverse community that reaches worldwide now.

Since I have withdrawn from most of my Pagan commitments I have concentrated more on simply working with the Land and my community. I wanted the images in this edition to reflect this, so I decided to completely change all the photographs to ones that are more up to date and show more of my work in action.

So many books, (and I was guilty of this myself in the early days) show purposely posed photos. Indeed in this day and age, Photoshop has come into its own and has created some wonderfully crafted images. The only downfall to this is when folk believe those glamorous images to be reality and are fooled and seduced by them. This happens when the boundary between fact and fantasy becomes blurred – and some do this deliberately for personal gain. I wanted to remain what I have always purported to be – a down-to-earth, pragmatic village wisewoman. Hopefully the photographic images in this book will record that fact.

A word about my contributors – and this time I chose professionals!

Angie Latham

Angie is an accomplished and successful artist and I am delighted to be able to have her illustrations in my book that enhance the text and chapters so well. I admire her hard work and diligence to her professional commitments and I find her interpretations of the natural landscape truly inspiring and visionary.

For more information on Angie and her work contact her Website

John Isaac

John first approached me a couple of years ago at the very first All Hallows Gathering at the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, Boscastle, Cornwall. He wanted to work with me to build up a photographic portfolio concentrating on what he referred to as ‘old style witchcraft’. His emphasis was on recording what was actually there, rather than finish up with a pristine, air-brushed version of the subject. This realistic, documentary style appealed to me and after viewing examples of his work, we agreed to collaborate together to produce the unique photographs you see in this book. None of them are posed and are taken whilst actively performing magical work. I think the authenticity of them shines through and I am well pleased with them all.

For more information on John and his work contact his Website

I remain grateful to both Angie and John for their stunning contributions to this the Third Edition of Village Witch.

book-contributors

Laetitia took the opportunity of getting the above photograph of my talented contributors, Angie Latham and John Isaac at the recent All Hallows Gathering in Boscastle.

I have over the years received gratifying feedback and reviews for Village Witch.  Here’s a few examples:

“I wrote this piece as mentioned earlier in the week for a group ‘The Spiritual Circle’ whom I’m a Moderator with… I hope it gives insight on how both meeting Cassandra and Laetitia and reading their book changed the direction of my journey.
Thank you both x
The Village Witch.
How many of us start out on a journey of discovery only to find yourself totally sidetracked and completely on a different path?
That was me in July this year whilst on a family holiday in the wilds of Cornwall.
I never imagined the Spiritual path I would quite literally stumble upon whilst I was there!
Setting the scene:
Quite literally I’d had the worst few months of my life. Exhausted, broken, grieving, scrabbling to find the tattered remnants of a life that all of a sudden seemed impossible to fix. Myself and my beautiful but now heartbroken family travelled to Cornwall to attempt to heal.
I had lost my beautiful son, my daughters their big brother, quite suddenly and tragically… A hero and gentle Soul that we were so very fortunate to have even if it was only for those 23 years that we did.
We arrived in Cornwall and if you haven’t been there, go, take the plunge, you truly will not be disappointed.
We all fell in love again with the savage beauty of it.
Cornwall is full of the weird and wonderful, it’s ok to be different there, in fact it’s even kind of revered.
So not surprisingly we found ourselves in one of the many Aladdin’s Caves full of crystals and other Spiritual items.
This is where not only did I purchase the most alluring and wonderful Obsidian Scrying Mirror but I was introduced to, at this point, a concept. A fantastic discovery whom the shop owner referred to as ‘The Village Witch’ a woman (as the shopkeeper described her) that actually had registered with the Tax office as an actual Witch!!!
Well that was it… Off I went and googled this phenomenon.
This Witch Actually existed and amazingly a 2 hour drive away from where we were staying.
I found her website and quickly went about emailing her.
Laetitia & Cassandra quickly emailed me back, directing me first to Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic ( which I must re visit with you and review our magical time there) to purchase their book and then they gave me an address ‘The Dolls house’ yes, you read that right! An actual Dolls house where they live.
These fantastic people whom I’d never met invited me, a grieving woman, into the sanctity of their home!
We made the journey to St Buryan in just over 2 hours.
A beautiful, old and picturesque village, quite literally one you’d expect to read about in a storybook…
Myself and my youngest daughter Milly, 11 walked through a beautiful, small yet perfectly formed garden full of wildflowers, herbs, pentagrams, gargoyles and other witchy fun items and there before us was the quaintest cottage I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.
The Dolls House
It was tiny but the energy surrounding it… Wow!
Laetitia greeted me and waited until me, Milly and… Well she waited for a third person to walk through the door. Before me stood Cassandra with an outstretched hand, I shook it and I truly aren’t sure how to describe to you what I felt at that moment, but I will attempt it. The moment lasted seconds but the best way I can think of is… Imagine watching a film, a sci-fi of where a ship is jumping through space at warp speed. It was a little like that but I felt like all of a sudden, everything I was, everything I am now and everything I will be righted itself.
I know she felt it too, it was there in her demeanour, in her eyes, in the tears not yet fallen. Laetitia felt it too.
Laetitia spoke of being a Sea Witch and Medium and had of course let my son in with us that day!
This was the day I became certain of exactly who I was!
An Hereditary Eclectic witch and Empath, and my son was still with us as strongly as he was in life!
Cassandra signed the book, quite aptly as you can see above and the short time we were there in their beautiful home was so very poignant.
I walked away that day with tears in my eyes and a strong sense of purpose in my very soul.
Whilst continuing to travel around Cornwall I read the book.
It was full to the brim of answers to my previously unanswered questions. It described a woman that faced heartache, abuse as she herself describes the vagaries of life and the wisdom she gained having to live through it.
It describes her professions that led her onto the journey of becoming who she is today, ‘The Village Wisewoman’ a title she’s quite rightly earned.
You follow Cassandra practicing her craft and whilst doing this she tells tales and observations gained quite simply in her day to day life.
Cassandra has quite honestly found the perfect recipe with this book. It’s not a how to, or how not to. It’s a guide containing, what happens when and admitting there is no defined way, just your way.
I’m now re reading this book. It’s from a completely new perspective and with such respect and understanding of the beautiful people that wrote it.
A Village Witch named Cassandra and a Sea Witch called Laetitia, real people and who I’m so fortunate to have had as my guides on this journey.
”  L.M.

Laurinda2

“Cornwall has long held a central place in the esoteric history of the British Isles as a landscape of myth and evocation. Many individuals find in its secluded coves, windswept moors and wooded valleys a connexion with the numinous–with the spirit of place, born of the peculiar quirks of its geography. There are many guides to this hidden Cornwall, and a ready market for them, but there are few books that so readily describes working within this charged environment and of the profound influences it can have upon a life as Cassandra Latham Jones’s Village Witch, first published in 2011.

Now in its second edition, Cassandra’s account of her career and practice as the `Village witch of St. Buryan’ is by turns fascinating, insightful, evocative and even harrowing in places. Over the course of six chapters Cassandra leads the reader on a journey through her earlier life and emotional development, describing how events have shaped her and led her on her path to its current place at the heart of a village community in west Cornwall. Many will have heard Cassandra speak at conferences and so know something of her background but may not appreciate the many difficult circumstances under which Cassandra has had to labour over the years, and some of the material–particularly concerning her childhood–is heart-breaking.

The book charts Cassandra’s emergence as a practitioner dedicated to and absolutely within her local community and the many trials and pitfalls associated with practicing as a cunning-woman and healer in a remote location. As Cassandra notes, it is not an easy life but there are rewards, such as her work with patients as a hospital chaplain (one pitfall being the media circus that erupted following her appointment!). This is not a `how to’ kind of book, but rather an honest appraisal of the methods she uses in her healing work, almost as a facilitator, working with clients in search of a cure. As Cassandra notes, there are not very many descriptions of what consultations were like historically and mostly we do not know what went on exactly between conjuror and client. Cassandra acknowledges that her craft is born of pragmatism and an exploration of what works. Every case is different, and in the chapter of `Wisewomen Tales’ Cassandra relates some of the more memorable cases in her recollection. Village Witch is written in a conversational style and the reader is at once drawn in by the various narratives of the trends and milestones throughout Cassandra’s life, so too the accounts of the visits to Canada and Africa, where she was able to study and compare at first hand the methods used by native folk-healers. Several comments are laugh-out-loud, particularly the budgie mirror on p. 126!

Over the past 40 years the milieu of the `village witch’ or `wise woman’ in the early modern period is one that has attracted significant attention by academics. Investigation of the cunning-man or woman’s role in diffusing anxieties and local tensions surrounding incidents of bewitchment or stolen goods, which in turn reflect social rivalries, suspicions and jealousies, contribute to the understanding of witch beliefs at this time and the way cases could be resolved. In many respects much of this research culminated with Owen Davies’s ground-breaking study of cunning-folk published in 2003. While Village Witch will no doubt inspire others at this present time, it is certain to be of value to future historians of late twentieth and early twenty-first century esoterica and of popular belief in Cornwall at this time.

For this new edition the illustrations have been updated, both photographic and illustrative, providing a pleasing complement to the text. Cassandra has also added a note on her thoughts about the modern pagan scene in Cornwall, and how it has changed over the years. With advancing years, Cassandra notes that she is finding that she has less interest in the new fads within modern paganism and that, with her partner Laetitia, the local community now provides her focus.

Village Witch is an honest account of treading a path through life and breathing new life into old ways, and is heartily recommended.  W.D”

charm

“Cassandra’s writing, like her magic, is well-crafted and effective. In a book market deluged by prescriptive texts advising ‘how’ to perform the Craft, her book stands out as a beacon for those seeking insight into what it is like to actually walk the Ancient Path.

The nearest comparison I can draw to Village Witch, is the late Sybil Leek’s Diary of a Witch; since that was published more than forty years ago, this book is long overdue. Good books, like good spells are best cooked slowly, it seems.

Cassandra states that it was not her intention to write an autobiography. Yet, as she narrates her own journey much of Village Witch is inevitably autobiographical in style, charting her life from childhood to professional Wisewoman. This book is firmly grounded within the powerful landscape of West Cornwall and Cassandra home village of St Buryan. She shares with us some of the anarchic history of the area and introduces some of the local folk, human and otherwise.

It is perfectly feasible to consume the pages of Village Witch in an evening, simply enjoying it as a good read. Yet, this book deserves deeper inspection, as there are some real gems contained within its pages, such as Cassandra’s respectful reversal/revision of The Charge of the Goddess. The author offers the reader opportunities for introspection and reflection on issues of ethics and the necessity to avoid the pitfalls of ego, dogma and assumption.

Cassandra doesn’t shy from the Shadows, there is no ‘fluff’ to be found within the covers of this book. It leaves the reader in no doubt that she is a woman who can not only eloquently ‘talk the talk’ but can also purposely ‘walk the walk’.

I suspect that many weathered, wellie-wearing, witches reading Village Witch will find themselves nodding in agreement with Cassandra, as she imparts earthy common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not always as common as it needs to be and readers with a predilection for crushed-velvet and ‘get witch-quick schemes’ may find this book more challenging.  Jean.”

full-moon-at-lamorna

“Very much enjoyed the book. I found it candid, especially in relation to childhood experiences. However it did not dwell on these experiences, & used them solely for demonstrating an example of the background to the path one person found that led them towards the book topic.
I also found the book very informative in terms of the history of both Cornwall & Witchcraft.
The humour of the book carried well. I laughed at the anecdotes that were well described in order to paint the picture.
I would recommend this book to those who are interested in a holistic explanation of someone becoming a village wise-woman/witch, rather than simply a step by step account of how to enter into Witchcraft.  L.M.”

two-osses

I can’t wait to see the third edition of Village Witch – it was a wonderful book before.  With Angie’s work between its pages it will be a masterpiece!  We have plenty of ‘recipe books’.  This is a marvellous account of someone following their heart into the craft against tremendous odds armed with the courage of her convictions and the strength in her heart.  It’s beautifully written with ruthless honesty and an open heart.  Thank you Cassandra for your bravery and for taking us on a journey through your fascinating and heart-warming history.  Some say a witch is made while others claim they are born.  This books tells how a witch comes to find her path and what lies at the end.  You’ll want to buy two copies so you can share it with someone.  C.W.

A link to a review from The Obscurum Society

3 thoughts on “Book – Village Witch

  1. I had your latest book bought for me as a gift. i couldn’t put it down. It was fascinating, stengthening & informative. It raised my own self-confidence, I recognised much but learned even more. Thank you for writing this book and hope for more. BB

    Like

  2. The book is not at all what I expected. Like her first publisher Robert Hale, I thought it would be all ‘witchy bits’. I found it a book full of wisdom and humour. I empathize with her outlook on life and the world. In this age of materialism, when the World is crying out to be heard and healed, we need more wisewomen and men. Respect for all living things, indeed even inanimate objects, is something many of us have forgotten. All things are created from stardust, and to stardust we will return. I am so very grateful that I have found Cassandra before that happens to me. Hopefully we will meet up one day and I will be able to give her a hug.
    I hope other readers enjoy this book as much as I did. They will take out of it whatever pertains to them. I took my dear friend.

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