Review: Weird Ways of Witchcraft, Dr. Leo Louis Martello

Weird Ways of Witchcraft cover
Leo Martello1 was one of the early pioneers of public Witchcraft. He claimed Sicilian family tradition, and had obviously studied extensively in the Western Esoteric Tradition, including a sabbatical (pun intended) in Morocco, which was one of the counterculture destinations of choice in the 60’s. This book is a snapshot of the state of things in 1969 – 1972. It is not a how-to book, except for a brief chapter with some chapbook spells that one might have to search for today (don’t bewitch my cattle, I now have a spell that will kill you for it). It is much more a book about the early state of Witchcraft as religious movement in the USA.

Martello had a traumatic childhood, suffering abuse in a Catholic orphanage in Massachusetts from an early age. This contributed to the extensive vituperation against the Catholic Church: in The Witch Manifesto, and in chapter 6, “The Curse on the Catholic Church.” Just a warning: I do not condemn him for feeling this way, even as I might quibble with a few particulars of the history he was working from.

Weird Ways has the feel of a scrapbook more than a plotted history. He includes a great deal of material from the popular and sensational press about Witchcraft and what we now call the paranormal, to show the increasing acceptance of these topics.

There is an interesting chapter in which Dr. Martello interviews three other Witches in New York City. He had to find them by running ads; today one would find them in droves on the Internet, but they might not be such interesting characters as Elijah Hadynn, The Baron, and Maria the “militant Witch.”

Anyone interested in the history of contemporary Pagan Witchcraft, or in Dr. Martello and the Sicilian tradition in general, will find this book useful and interesting.

I think Dr. Martello deserves to be remembered perhaps more than we currently do. He labored to bring Witchcraft and Paganism into the mainstream without diluting any of it. He was also an early gay rights activist.

As I have already mentioned, the book is typical of its time in accepting various ideas of history, from Murray and other sources, some of which have not held up. This does not invalidate the book, as there is much more to it than that.

Martello wrote a later book, Witchcraft: The Old Religion (Kensington, 1998), which I have not read in its entirety, but the snippets I have seen were similar in tone to the present book. He died in 2000, just as the movement he helped create began to mature.

This book is definitely worth having for the reasons stated, as long as readers are aware of what it actually is.

1. Apologies for the flashback to the black-background-spinning-pentagram school of witchy web design you thought had died with Geocities …

Weird Ways of Witchcraft
Dr. Leo Louis Martello, Foreward by Rev. Lori Bruno
ISBN: 9781578635160
Weiser Books
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
192 pages
October 1, 2011

[Complimentary review copy from Red Wheel/Weiser gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, etc.]

About freemanpresson

Healer, Celto-Cherokee Pagan, Priest, Frater of the Church of the Hermetic Sciences, sometime writer, astrologer.
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