New Age savant Coelho (The Witch of Portobello, 2007, etc.) whitewashes witchcraft.
This true-to-life tale of Brida, a young Irish sorcerer’s apprentice whom Coelho met during a pilgrimage, was originally published in the author’s native Brazil shortly after his breakout work, The Alchemist (1988). Twenty-one-year-old Brida seeks out the Magus, a wizard exiled to a forest, to learn magic. The Magus immediately recognizes Brida as his Soul Mate, but since Brida is unschooled in the Tradition of the Moon, the feeling isn’t mutual. After an initial trial (an overnight stay, alone, in the Magus’ woods) proves her worthy, Brida’s path toward witchy enlightenment leads her to another teacher, Wicca, who guides Brida through the tarot and a series of trances, immersing her in the eclectic ragout of bromides that is spirituality according to Coelho. This benign rubric incorporates ancient Celtic pantheism (this is the only apparent reason for the setting, Ireland, because for all the local color the story could happen anywhere) but also the teachings of Saint Paul, Saint Augustine and Saint John of the Cross. The closest Wicca’s queens of the night get to wickedness is hand wringing over their misunderstood sisters who were burnt at the stake. These witches call upon the Virgin Mary to stand by whenever they invoke the power of the Serpent, and they eschew the ultimate sin of attempting to control humans. In fact, that very sin consigned the Magus to his sentence of loneliness: He used Black Magic to drive away his rival for a woman—not even his Soul Mate, just a brief fling. An intriguing episode featuring one of Brida’s past lives, during the persecution of the Cathar heretics, is all too brief.
This patchy mélange of vaguely Gnostic sounding aphorisms and not much action—climaxing with a BYOB witch-initiation party—will mostly appeal to Coelho’s diehard devotees.