Wyrdworking: The Path of a Saxon Sorcerer
by Alaric Albertsson
published 2011 by Llewellyn Publishing ISBN 9780738721330
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Rating: 4 out of 5
About the Book: Alaric Albertsson returns to the Anglo-Saxon spirituality in his second book, Wyrdworking, a follow-up companion to his first book Travels Through Middle Earth. Rooted in the history and folklore of England and Europe, Albertsson reveals more about the practices of the ancient and modern Anglo-Saxon sorcerers. In this guide, Albertsson discusses a number of Anglo-Saxon magical practices and beliefs, including: the nature of magic and the nine parts of the Self, techniques for studying the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc runes, how to make rune charms, how to cast a spell, and what is involved in learning and using herbs.
My Thoughts: First of all, I feel that I should explain my interest in this book. I am not on a Saxon path, by any means. But my curiosity and interest were piqued when I saw this book and decided to read it. The Anglo-Saxons are of interest to me; in fact, anything about England is of interest to me, since that is where my ancestors are from. So although much of the information contained in the book does not apply to my own spiritual practices, I still found it to be an engaging and interesting read.
Albertsson begins with a section about magic and the tools of magic. He writes about what magic is and is not in this instance, which is always important for any serious book about magic and spirituality in my opinion. Albertsson also makes a distinction that I feel is very important, yet this distinction does not get explained enough in other pagan texts–that of the distinction between magic and spirituality, and where these two concepts intersect and differ. For those new come to the Saxon path or those who are unfamiliar with it, he provides a brief explanation of Saxon spirituality and beliefs, both in terms of ancient and modern meanings.
For those seriously using this book as a guidebook, Albertsson includes a short set of review questions at the end of the chapters to make the reader think about what was just read. I think this is a very helpful and useful decision on his part, and I even found it useful as a mere reader in thinking about the core concepts of a chapter.
A good portion of the book is taken up by a discussion of runes. I learned a great deal in these sections. For instance, I didn’t realize there is such a difference between the Elder Futhark, Younger Futhark, and Angle-Saxon runes–or that there even were Anglo-Saxon runes. Since I don’t work with runes (I work with tarot), this section is less of a guide to me than it is general information I found highly interesting.
I would be interested to learn where Albertsson learned the spellings and meanings of Old English words, for he uses many of these words in his book. Not that I doubt his accuracy–I would hope that someone involved for 40 years in the same path would be accurate–but because as a linguist I have an interest in such things.
The discussion of the runes and their meanings reminded me of a discussion of language. A person can memorize as many words of a foreign language as they like, and even gain a certain amount of understanding and usage, but full comprehension of a language is impossible without understanding the culture it comes from. In this same way should runes be approached, according to Albertsson. The rune set a person works with has different meanings according to the culture it is from, and for a full understanding of runes, the culture needs to be studied as well.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I learned many new things and gained a bit of insight and knowledge of a path very different from my own. Albertsson writes in a very frank and simple way about this path, yet intelligently. I also found some of the examples of his personal experiences to be sometimes amusing, sometimes helpful in understanding the concepts he presents. However, I do have one qualm with this book–that Albertsson so heavily references his previous book. I understand why he did so, but I found it annoying nonetheless. A minor point in the scheme of things. I still thought the book an interesting read, and I suspect it would be helpful to someone actually on an Anglo-Saxon path.