Book Review: Spinstress Craft: Magick for the Independent Witch by Leslie J. Linder

Review by Martha Kirby Capo Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

About the Author

Leslie J. Linder is an author, priestess, and vegan who has written for SageWoman, Circle Magazine, and Witches & Pagans. She has published several short stories, poems, and a horror novel, and she is ordained by the Temple of the Feminine Divine. Leslie lives in Downeast Maine, where she speaks about veganism and volunteers at animal sanctuaries.

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About Spinstress Craft: Magick for the Independent Witch by Leslie J. Linder

“The spinstress path is about connecting to the oppressive past (and its footprint in the oppressive present), smashing it, and weaving (spinning) something new.” Spinstress Craft, p. 4

In the early pages of Spinstress Craft Leslie J. Linder states that this book is meant to include “cisgender as well as transgender and nonbinary folks.” Linder writes that she wants “to make it clear that I am trying to move away from old-fashioned ideas of who or what womxyn may be. Transgender and nonbinary folks are often left out of magickal materials that use rigid ideas about male and female bodies and energies.”

The book is arranged in three sections: maiden, mother, crone. In each section she explores the over-arching energies she has discerned for each of these aspects: playfulness, passion, and purpose. Each chapter is filled with blessings, spells, journal prompts, rituals, and meditations that address self-esteem and authenticity, glamour, love, money, nurturing, self-defense, activism and environmentalism, and sex magick.

It is, in essence, a sort of baseline grimoire that the reader is encouraged to flesh out according to their own individual practices should they choose to incorporate any of the spells offered. Linder writes, “I want you to grab the threads from my work that most call to you and then spin your own tapestry! […] I’m not going to spend a bunch of time explaining one theory of the craft or one pantheon of deities. This makes room for all the womxyn reading this book (and participating in our adventure) to fill in their own beliefs and preferences.” (p. 10)

This commitment to ensuring there is space for readers to be co-creators with Linder of their own practice of Spinstress Craft results in a breezy informality to the tone of this book that I found very reminiscent of the magickal books that were being published in the 1990s. In her rituals and spellwork, for example, casting and opening a circle are phrased as “Circle Up” and “Close Up Shop.” This unpretentiousness is not necessarily a bad thing, and many readers will likely experience this writing style as refreshingly accessible.

There’s a sort of “Choose Your Own Adventure” feel to the text (Linder encourages readers to “skip ahead” if and when they feel like it) that adds to an underlying theme of honoring the flexible ways each person might choose to approach the practice of witchcraft. New practitioners will likely find this empowering, as it leaves room for them to bring a little bit of themselves into the mix in order to create a personally meaningful practice.

Linder found her way to witchcraft through Shekhinah Mountainwater, Laurie Cabot, and Kay Gardner. She took a three-year pagan clergy ordination course through Gardner’s Temple of the Feminine Divine and Iseum Musicum and was ordained as a priestess. Linder has worked for a local domestic violence program for twenty years, and the book includes several practical tips for womxyn’s safety with regard to stalkers and/or those who mean to do them harm.

Of Particular Note…

I absolutely loved Linder’s section on spiritual prayer as activism, prayer languages, and the role of prayer in Paganism in general (pp. 158-9). This is an intensely vulnerable part of the book that just sang for me. She writes of “praying in the spirit”, also known as “speaking in tongues” (glossolalia), as a way of communicating with the Source (however that may be defined) in spirit language. This section partners very well with the section on music and sacred sound (pp. 192-3). I would suggest that readers pair these two parts of the book when reading Spinstress Craft, particularly if they’re interested in exploring ways to connect with the Source beyond the limitations of human language.

Any Concerns?

Yes, mostly around cultural appropriation. One of the unintended side effects of choosing not to delve too deeply into explanations is a lack of history or context around the use of certain terms. Linder is very clear that she expects her readers to take the initiative in further educating themselves on things they may want to explore further, and I would add my strong encouragement also regarding the use of words like yoni and chakras. As well, there are a few cases of unintentionally unfortunate phrasing in the book

I respect the time and effort that Linder has poured into Spinstress Craft, and I appreciate her mindful inclusiveness of transwomen and nonbinary people in her approach to and expression of Dianic witchcraft. While I am not Dianic myself, I am not unaware of some of the highly charged conversations that have taken place regarding the definition of “woman”. This book does a good job of offering a radically welcoming take on treating anyone who identifies as female, not matter what gender they may have been assigned at birth, as sisters in the Craft.

Spinstress Craft may be purchased at Amazon and Llewellyn.

About Martha Kirby Capo is a Hekatean Witch, currently working most closely with the epithets Medusa (Guardian), Enodia (Guide), and Rixipyle (She who breaks down the Gates).  She is an Intuitive and Holistic Tarot reader and is the editor of Patheos Pagan’s shared blog The Agora, where she writes as The Corner Crone. She also serves as a Witch Mentor through 3 Pagans and a Cat. Martha’s Moments for Meditation can be heard on KPPR Pure Pagan Radio and on her YouTube channel. She has been extensively anthologized through Skinner House books, and is currently under contract with Llewellyn Publishing.

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