A Spirit Work Primer: a Beginner’s Guide to Streamlined Spirit Work, Naag Loki Shivanath, Crossed Crow Books, 2022
In a recent visit to Chicago in August, I managed to check out Malliway Bros Witchcraft and Magic at 1407 W Morse Ave in the Rogers Park neighborhood of the city. In addition to offering an outstanding metaphysical store and community space, Blake and Wycke Malliway are also founders of Crossed Crow Books, which releases publications on various magical practices. I came upon A Spirit Work Primer: a Beginner’s Guide to Streamlined Spirit Work by Naag Loki Shivanath displayed in the store. As I’d already loaded up my suitcase to stay just under the weight limit for my flight back to Belgium, I was hesitant to buy anything that wasn’t on my list.
I have long been interested in spirit work, and have been looking into how to further develop this skill. I find it one of the more complex forms of magical working, and have had a hard time finding approachable material on the subject. Seeing as it had the words “primer” and “beginner” in it, I felt that this was the time to make an impulse buy.
Author Naag Loki Shivanath has been working in the study and practice of the occult for over two decades. After exploring various paths such as Wicca, Druidry and Asatru, Shivanath found his calling in spirit work and necromancy. A Spirit Work Primer is for everyone from absolute beginners all the way to experienced spirit workers who seek to further develop psychic senses, spirit work practices and spirit invocation.
Shivanath’s goal of A Spirit Work Primer is to share what he has compiled from his research and practice of spirit work over the years. He makes it clear that it’s not meant to be the one and only text on the subject, and that what he presents is a bare bones approach to this magical practice as well as some ways he has found it to work.
He encourages the reader to take what works, incorporate it in their practice, and do things that work for them, explicitly saying: “(will) discourage any dogma.” (Introduction to the New Edition). For the second addition he addresses some common queries he has had over the years concerning spirit keeping and protection, as well as adding practical application exercises.
Shivanath’s approach is engaging, and down-to-earth. He lays everything out in terms of how to get started, tools needed, and some practices for developing a spirit work communication. For a beginner, this is a welcomingly approachable introduction, removing excessive mystique and confusion.
He breaks down different types of spirits, in order for the reader to get a sense of general beings that are involved in the practice. The Practical Work prompts at the end of many chapters are a great added touch. This is a very hands-on approach that addresses each topic accordingly. It allows for the reader to go at their own speed, and try out some ways of wading into the subject that are appropriate to the knowledge being transmitted.
The line of topics Shivanath follows is logical: after beginning with the basics, he offers up how to engage in offerings; types of psychic abilities and the importance of meditation in developing them. Again, he advises building up these skillsets in bite-size, manageable pieces initially, which further illustrates just how ingratiating his delivery of the subject is.
He works his way up in complexity throughout the book, offering his own methods of invocation and evocation as well as many others. At times, the language becomes quite florid, with elements of Early Modern English thrown in that may very well work for setting the mood for some, but in my particular case – tends to be a slight distraction. It’s helpful to know that the author is a necromancer, and that this language and approach is frequently used within that particular practice. As he very humbly mentions at the beginning, ‘This particular book is not meant to be the ‘end all be all’ guide to every movement you should make in the circle or every word that should be spoken’.
The content itself is not for the easily scared, or those who find the whole idea of spirit work way too much for them. Shivanath very responsibly explains the weightiness of spiritual work endeavors. As a necromancer, he deals and has dealt with all forms of spirit entities – right along with demons. It’s abundantly clear that he knows his subject. He shares the knowledge he has gleaned over the years along with very important advice, driving home the fact that this is not a trivial pursuit to be taken lightly.
I am particularly impressed at how he addresses the subject of cultural appropriation concerning smoke cleansing and the use of white sage. He does a commendable job at clearly stating the difference between engaging in a closed practice and engaging in smoke cleansing. He responsibly addresses the harm that the over-harvesting of white sage has had on the environment as well as indigenous communities. This is something that I feel should always be addressed in any publication concerning witchcraft and pagan practices, and was happy to see it here.
In A Spirit Work Primer Naag Loki Shivanath generously shares the knowledge he has acquired over the years as a magical practitioner. His approach and presentation of subject matter is approachable and logical from beginning to end. He deals with the subject with clarity and responsibility, and supplies the reader with a generous amount of knowledge on the practice of spirit working. While he demystifies many elements, he also includes the proper amount of esteem and gravity for the subject at hand. He shows reverence for important topics beyond the initial subject in terms of cultural appropriation and personal responsibility in how we approach tools for the Craft. While I personally feel a bit overwhelmed by the larger scale complexities that is included in spirit working, thanks to Shivanath, I have come away with a deeper, more enriched understanding of the subject. I plan on going back over the book to examine Shivanath’s instructions. A Spirit Work Primer delivers the goods, living up to more than expected. I recommend this book to anyone curious to begin or deepen their knowledge in this complex magical art.