A WAR OF WITCHES by Timothy J. Knab

A WAR OF WITCHES

A Journey into the Underworld of the Contemporary Aztecs
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Knab successfully bridges ancient and modern realities in this latest addition to the fast-growing genre of anthropologist-turned- shaman's-apprentice tales. While doing fieldwork in San Mart°n, Mexico, Knab (editor of A Scattering of Jades, not reviewed) overhears a conversation in which his informant, Don Inocente, offers to kill a woman's son-in- law with black magic. Knab is startled to realize that this man is a brujo (witch) as well as a curandero (healer). When his other informant, Do§a Rubia, falls ill, she determines that her soul has been stolen by witches and implores Knab to help her regain it. He is eventually drawn into the reality of the shamans where he learns to enter the underworld, Talocan, through dreams and to navigate its cities with the help of a nagual, an animal spirit. He learns that every nagual is both a guide and a potential lethal weapon of sorcery. The opossum, for example, can lead one quickly through the treetops of the underworld, while its dried tail can be driven through a victim's eye and into the brain. Under Do§a Rubia's tutelage, Knab learns the prayers and rituals necessary to walk the ``good path'' of the underworld and incorporates the metaphors of the ancient Aztecs into his own daily existence. When a family in Mexico City asks him to cure their daughter or ``soul loss,'' Knab finds the father a job, reunites the daughter with her grandmothers, and performs the shamanistic ceremonies necessary to free the girl's soul from below. The book's title derives from a bizarre episode in the history of San Mart°n in which over 20 people were killed by witches during a land dispute resolved only when a witch was publicly crucified and the army stepped in and arrested the mayor. A spellbinding story for the general reader, particularly those with an interest in New Age philosophy or the occult. ($35,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-251264-1
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995