I got my hardback copy of Gemma Gary's new "The Black Toad" last week. I have to say, I am very, very impressed and now consider it one of my "top 5" along with Doreen Valiente's "Witchcraft for Tomorrow,""Mastering Witchcraft" by Paul Huson, and Gary's own earlier work "Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways."
"The Black Toad" expands on some of the themes we saw earlier in "Traditional Witchcraft," but "Toad" reads much more like a how-to/practical grimoire and with less theory and history than "Traditional." It also contains many highly traditional charms, most of which are of the "dual faith" persuasion that was a hallmark of Cunning folk practice. In such cases the charms themselves (some of which are very old) seem to have Pagan origins but with Christian deities grafted onto them at a later date. Others are various Psalms which have been traditionally used for magical purposes. In my own practice I confess to having struggled with such workings; obviously, I do not consider myself a Christian. However, such spells ARE very traditional and have a lot of power behind them, and I usually go with what works and the Psalms tend to be very effective indeed.
"The Black Toad" is divided up into chapters according to need. The first part deals with power and protective magic, the second with wort-cunning, and the third with darker Craft aspects such as cursing and binding. There is a lot of new material that I have never come across anywhere else (I had no idea that Parsley had an evil reputation amongst certain regional folk!) and the book, in my mind, is probably THE most accurate glimpse into how the Witches of the past operated. I would not consider it a book for beginners; it's very much a guidebook for the working Witch well past the 101 stage. I consider it a must-have for anyone with a love of English witchery and traditional practices. The book itself is beautifully bound and includes many brand-new line drawings and photographs of Witchcraft artifacts and activities. Highly, highly recommended.