There are many different reasons to avoid an author’s work, ranging from “their work is poorly researched and probably isn’t a good foundation for your practice” to “they’re literally using their book sales to fund terrorist groups.” Obviously, these are not equally bad, but for the sake of this post they’re both things to avoid when you’re starting out in your practice.
This list is intended for people who are new to witchcraft, paganism, or occultism and who want to avoid starting their practice with bad resources. If you’ve been practicing for several years and have a solid foundation, you may decide to read Diana Paxson or Tess Whitehurst (just as examples) for yourself and form your own opinions on their work, and that is not only okay but is a healthy way to engage with a body of knowledge. I include them in this list only so that others can be aware of potential issues with their books.
On the other hand, some of these folks are terrible fucking people who are actively and intentionally causing harm, and I hope you never read their books, visit their websites, or give them the time of day. Those folks are marked with an asterisk (*).
Note: This list is continually being edited and expanded on. If there is an author you think should be added to the list, please let me know! Likewise, if there is an author on this list that you think is being described unfairly, reach out to me and we can discuss it.
Content Warning: Unfortunately, to tell you why these authors are bad news, I have to talk about what they’v’e done. This post contains discussions of white supremacy, including the murder of people of color, antisemitism, transphobia, sexual assault, child abuse (including sexual abuse), and religious abuse.
Pagan Authors to Avoid:
*Raven Kaldera, author of Northern Tradition Shamanism, Wyrdwalk, Handfasting and Wedding Rituals, and more; founder of Northern Tradition Paganism. Kaldera is a serial abuser who uses his position as an authority figure to emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abuse members of his spiritual community under the guise of “initiation,” including (by his own admission) acting out rape fantasies in ritual. (Read more here.) While that alone is enough reason not to support him, his books are also filled with misinformation, cultural appropriation, and UPG being passed off as history.
*Galina Krasskova, *Sannion (H. Jeremiah Lewis), *Bella Kaldera, and anyone else associated with *Northern Tradition Paganism. See above note about the kind of abuse that takes place at NTP rituals. Galina Krasskova openly supports multiple fascist and Neo-Nazi groups and uses her platform to give them a spotlight. Sannion openly uses white supremacist imagery and symbols.
*Stephen Flowers (also writes under the names *Edred Thorsson and *Darban-i-Den), author of Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, Icelandic Magic, and more. Flowers is a white supremacist and is the founder of the Asatru Folk Assembly, a white supremacist group. The AFA owns the rights to his books, so purchasing them directly supports white supremacy.
Diana Paxson, author of Taking Up the Runes, Essential Asatru, and more. Thankfully not nearly as bad as Kaldera or Flowers, but many of Paxson’s books contain casual ableism and encourage cultural appropriation. She was also a close friend and co-writer of *Marion Zimmer Bradley, a pedophile who sexually abused her own daughter and helped her husband sexually abuse several children. Paxson claims not to have known about the abuse, but there’s been some speculation that she might have willingly turned a blind eye to it.
Gordon White, author of Ani.Mystic, The Chaos Protocols, and more; host of the Rune Soup podcast. White has openly shared his belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories on his blog and has publicly defended fascists, transphobes, and white supremacists on his podcast.
*Rhyd Wildermuth, author of Being Pagan, All That is Sacred Is Profaned, and more; co-founder of Gods & Radicals Press. Wildermuth is a transphobe who has openly supported fascists and white supremacists. He recently posted a transphobic rant using TERF talking points on his blog, and apparently his views on gender are a big part of his upcoming book.
Witchcraft Authors to Avoid:
Silver RavenWolf, author of TeenWitch!, To Ride a Silver Broomstick, and many more. RavenWolf’s books are absolutely full of misinformation. Her books are very anti-Christian, contain the idea that you must be Wiccan to be a witch, contain misinformation about the “Burning Times,” and present her UPG as historical fact. (For a more detailed breakdown, check out this post by Sigil Witch on Tumblr.)
Tess Whitehurst, author of Magical Housekeeping, You Are Magical, The Magic of Flowers, and more. Nowhere near as bad as Silver RavenWolf, but still not an author I recommend to newcomers. Her books are full of cultural appropriation and casual racism, including stealing elements from closed practices and mixing them with Wicca-lite spellcraft. She also mixes a lot of New Age stuff into her books, which isn’t a bad thing on its own, but she presents it as authentic witchcraft tradition, which it very much is not.
Skye Alexander, author of The Modern Guide to Witchcraft, The Only Tarot Book You’ll Ever Need, and many more. The main issue here is cultural appropriation and disrespectful treatment of non-European cultures. She wrote about the “Burning Times” in a book published in 2014 (long after that myth had been debunked) and said that the discrimination witches face is worse than systemic racism. The books I’ve read by her contain a lot of misinformation.
*Lisa Lister, author of Witch: Unleashed, Untamed, Unapologetic. Lister’s book contains TERF ideology, including equating having a uterus and vagina with womanhood. (Lister claims not to be transphobic, but her book reads like a TERF manifesto.) Lister’s writing contains medical misinformation about PCOS and endometriosis and casual racism, including the use of the g-slur and appropriation of Native American practices.
Raymond Buckland, author of Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communication, Practical Candleburning Rituals, and many more; founder of Seax Wicca. Some readers feel that Buckland sexualizes Gardnerian initiation rituals. His books also contain misinformation about the “Burning Times,” the idea that witchcraft = Wicca, and the idea that you must have a coven to practice witchcraft. Buckland is also one of the authors responsible for the idea that the Threefold Law is the same as karma and for the stigma against baneful magic.
DJ Conway, author of Dragon Magick, Maiden, Mother, Crone, By Oak, Ash, & Thorn, and many more. Conway’s books are truly some of the worst I’ve read in terms of misinformation and just plain making stuff up.
Edain McCoy, author of Celtic Myth & Magick, Celtic Women’s Spirituality, Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition, and more. McCoy’s “Celtic” and “Irish” traditions have been described by reviewers as “Wicca with shamrocks.” McCoy is one of the authors who popularized the idea that Celtic cultures are interchangeable or had a unified spiritual system, and her books take concepts from Wicca and claim that they have an ancient Celtic origin.
*Kenny Klein, author of Faery Tale Rituals, Through the Faerie Glass, and more; former high priest of Blue Star Wicca. Klein was a pedophile and was convicted of 20 counts of possession of child pornography in 2017. Many readers feel his books reflect his pedophilia and sexualize children.
Occult Authors to Avoid:
S. Connolly, author of The Complete Book of Demonolatry, Daemonology Goetia, and more. Connolly’s work includes cultural appropriation, most notably of Lilith and other Jewish demons, Islamic concepts, and the Hindu chakra system. Conolly’s books contain dangerous misinformation about mental illness and compare the discrimination faced by witches and magicians to lynching.
*Tsirk Susej (Chad Ian Miller), author of The Demonic Bible. Susej has been charged with sexual assault, which he brags about in his books. He also claims that Satanists are superior and “the masses exist to serve.”
Doreen Virtue, author of Angel Therapy, Healing with the Angels, Healing with the Fairies, and many more; creator of many popular oracle decks. Virtue’s books contain appropriations of Jewish angel lore, as well as New Age concepts like chakras. Her books contain the idea that neurodivergent people are actually non-human in some way (starseeds, indigo children, incarnated angels, etc.), which can be very harmful. In 2017, Virtue denounced all of her previous work as “demonic” after a conversion to fundamentalist Christianity.
*Michael W. Ford, author of The Bible of the Adversary, Luciferian Witchcraft, and many more. Ford is a former member of the Order Nine Angles, which is a Neo-Nazi group. His books contain appropriations of Jewish elements, like Lilith and Kabbalah.
A Note on Llewellyn Publications
I see a lot of pagans and occultists tell newcomers to avoid anything published by Llewellyn when they’re first starting out. I have… mixed feelings on this. While Llewellyn has certainly put out some stinkers (especially in the 1990s and 2000s), so has virtually every other pagan publishing company. And Llewellyn has also published some really excellent resources that I would absolutely recommend to newcomers.
Realistically, Llewellyn is one of the biggest and oldest mainstream occult publishing houses. They still have one of the biggest catalogs of any “alternative spirituality” publisher. So, yeah. They do probably have more bad books than your favorite little indie press. But that’s because they’ve published more books period.
Llewellyn tends to be more pop spirituality and less in-depth, academic-style research, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being easy to read doesn’t make a book a bad resource, and in fact I think this kind of accessibility should be a goal of anyone writing beginner’s resources. I do think part of the Llewellyn hate in certain circles is rooted in elitism and gatekeeping, but that’s something we can unpack in another post.
In the last five years especially, Llewellyn seems to really be stepping up their game. They’ve put out some truly excellent books recently, and I’ve noticed a trend of much better bibliographies and fact-checking in their recent publications. I don’t have any evidence for this, but I think it’s probably a response to criticisms about some of their older output being poorly researched and spreading misinformation.
All of this is to say, being published by Llewellyn doesn’t necessarily mean a book is bad, and in fact, Llewellyn has put out some truly invaluable books in their time. My advice for evaluating a Llewellyn book is the same as for every other resource — look for a good, long bibliography, look at the author’s credentials and affiliations, and look at how it compares to other books on the subject.
A Note on Self-Published Books
Obviously, as someone who has self-published two of my own books, I’m a big advocate for self-publishing. This is when an author publishes their own work without involvement from a publishing house. I’ve read some excellent self-published books (and I’d like to think my own books fall into this category), but unfortunately I’ve also read some very, very bad ones.
There are lots of reasons an author might self-publish, including wanting a greater degree of creative control (this is why I chose to self-publish my first book) or because their book deals with controversial topics (this is why I chose to self-publish my second book). They may also self-publish because they’re unable to break into mainstream publishing, which is extremely competitive, or because they’re writing for a very small, very specific target audience.
Most self-published authors are one-person production teams, which means we have to be a writer, an editor, an agent, and a marketing team all at the same time, or be willing/able to pay someone else to do some of those things for us. That means most self-published books are not edited or fact-checked by a third party the way traditionally published books are. If the author is wrong about something, there’s no one to point that out to them before the book goes to print.
While self-published books can absolutely be a great resource in your practice, remember that just because something is written in a book doesn’t make it true, and just because someone has written a book on a subject doesn’t mean they’re an expert. My advice here is the same as above: look for a good, long bibliography, look at the author’s credentials and affiliations, and look at how it compares to other books on the subject. Do your own fact-checking, and always get a second opinion.
A Note on The Satanic Temple
The Satanic Temple (often abbreviated TST; not to be confused with the Church of Satan) is in many ways the face of modern Satanism. TST is well known for its very pubic activism, especially for abortion rights, and sells itself as a champion of freedom of (and from) religion. Several members of the organization have published books on Satanism, including authors Shiva Honey and Lilith Starr.
Unfortunately, several recent controversies have brought to light some unsavory truths about TST. TST is currently suing four former members for several hundred thousand dollars in a defamation suit after those former members shared articles critical of the organization on Facebook. This is what’s known as a SLAPP suit, and is a semi-legal way to punish dissenters by bankrupting them with legal fees for a case the prosecutor knows they can’t win.
Other former members of the Satanic Temple have come forward about being pressured to participate in ritual sex, including orgies and BDSM. There have been reports of sexual abuse being covered up by the group’s leaders. TST also has some ties to white supremacist groups, most notably in hiring lawyer Mark Randazza to represent them. Randazza has previously represented neo-Nazis and right wing personalities like Alex Jones, and had his license suspended in 2018 for ethics violations.
Is all this enough to justify a total boycott of TST and authors affiliated with it? I’ll leave that up to you. But I do think this is a good reminder to be critical of any author who enthusiastically sings the praises of The Satanic Temple (or any other religious organization) without acknowledging its flaws. You may also want to look into whether proceeds from an author’s books benefit TST or any other organization, and think about whether you’re okay with your money going to it.
- The Occult Discord Author Blacklist
- “Our Problematic Occult Ancestors” by Mat Auyrn