This post is not a review. This is more akin to your mom gleefully sharing embarrassing baby pictures with your new girlfriend or boyfriend.
As the Gard community is well aware, we have Raymond Buckland and his first wife, Rosemary, to thank for bringing Gardnerian witchcraft to the United States. They left the Long Island Coven in 1973 following their separation. Later that year Raymond went on develop his own version of the Craft, Seax-Wica, and has spent the remainder of his life publishing books pertaining to witchcraft, the occult, and gypsy practice. (For what it is worth, I have yet to meet any Romani, Banjaras, or Doms who have a favorable opinion of Buckland’s gypsy books.) Today, Buckland is best known amongst the general Pagan community for two publications, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (1986) and Practical Candleburning Rituals (1970).
I recently came across this original 1978 copy of one of Buckland’s most forgettable books, The Magic of Chant-O-Matics, at a little hole-in-the-wall occult bookstore in Portland, propped up on a piano. And I bought it because it is straight-up hilarious. This is 1970s pulp publication at its finest, people. From the insane title on the cover to the hyperbolic ‘real life examples’ to the generous amount of exclamation points within, the book is the best of grocery-line gimmicks and attention grabbing. Now, I suppose Buckland had a good reason for the title. As he puts it, when you use these chants “attainment is automatic! For that reason I label it CHANT-O-MATICS.” But it certainly is not a reason that stands the test of time.
Neither, sadly, is the content. It is true that Buckland–to his credit–gives some decent magical background for how one might prepare and carry out a petition chant, and he does coach to hold strong, concrete visuals in mind while performing the chants. But, as the book goes on, the chants become increasingly odd. The chants in the first couple chapters are basically English rhymes with a steady, galloping meter. But by the time you get to the end of the book…lord only knows what the linguistic origins of the chants are. That alone is not bad–but with chants, you need to know what every word is so that you can use it to focus your intent. If you can’t even create a translation for something strange, how will you know it will be effective? For all you know, your chant to help you get a paying job might actually mean something along the lines of “keep your dog of my lawn, stupid neighbor!” Of course, Buckland gives no translations or even nods at to what language the various chants come from. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if some were pure gobbledegook.
Still, I love the book. I’ll never use it seriously, but it puts a dopey grin on my face whenever I catch sight of the spine…and it stands as an amazing testimony to just how far the Craft has come in such a comparatively short amount of time.