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Toil and Trouble by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson

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Toil and Trouble

by Lisa Kröger
October 25, 2022 · Quirk Books


We are in the middle of a witchy pop culture wave (see: many, many recent witch-themed romance novels, for example). Toil and Trouble: A Women’s History of the Occult looks at the roles that women have played in America’s occult history. It’s a very complicated topic, and I admired the authors for being able to present an organized and inclusive, although not comprehensive, look at some of the many ways that women have been active in witchcraft, Wicca, Spiritualism, and other branches of the occult in the arts, pop culture, and politics.

The book presents brief biographies of women, along with some contextualizing commentary, organized by theme instead of by chronology. This works well in terms of making coherent sense out of a broad and convoluted topic. The topics are ‘Shaping the Occult,’ ‘Politicizing the Occult,’ ‘Monetizing the Occult,’ ‘Challenging the Occult,’ and ‘Embracing the Occult.’ The biographies are the perfect length for a quick read and they are entertaining and informative,sprinkled throughout with art and wry humor. The book takes a neutral stance on the reality of any supernatural claims, instead focusing on how women have been able to shape occult culture and maneuver within it to experience and influence life beyond gender norms.

I enjoyed this book and I appreciated that it brought home that all this witchy stuff is actually important to our history and to practitioners today. The book does a good job of defining a lot of complex terms and ideas and illustrating how these concepts have been used both as a tool of oppression against women and as a tool of liberation used by women to break beyond societal expectations. Toil and Trouble is a fun and informative read for anyone with an interest in women’s history, supernatural topics, or anyone who likes witchy romance and wants to go a little deeper into the world of witchy women.

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