The Word Counts

The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery was 10 years in the compiling.  It started out as a personal reference file purely for my own use in writing those 30+ mind, body and spirit titles that have appeared in publication during that time.  It survived two computer crashes and one complete melt-down and, like Topsy,’ it just grewed’.  The thought of publication never entered the equation until I was given The Dictionary of the Unexplained that weighed in at 1,300 entries and thought ‘Mine’s twice that now!

Trevor at Moon Books had started to publish my Traditional Witchcraft series and so I submitted to first draft on ‘spec’.   It was considered ‘at  65000 words or so it’s on the slim side, could easily be 2 or 3 times the length… Could do perhaps with some more supporting text, longer introduction… I note that the Watkins Dictionary of Magic has 3,000 entries, whereas this would have ‘twice as many entries’ as the Chambers, which stands at 1250 entries. Could the author go for 3000+ entries, even, to get beyond the magic 3,000? I like the style – and, as above, would the author extend the intro or/and add short features on practice – rituals/spells, even?’  You bet the author would, and as a result the finished typescript went to press with 3113 entries and 26 mini-features, making it the biggest dictionary of its kind.  With a ‘continued’ file ready for an extended edition.

Now there are a few very important lessons to be learned from this little saga.  The first is that like all the different uses for a pig, the writer uses everything including the grunt!   Get used to ‘recycling’ because everything we write can serve multiple purposes if rehashed in the right manner. Always take notice of any feedback from publishers and if they want something extended or re-developed, be prepared to do it.  Use reference books to stimulate ideas – I’ve always been rather partial to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable – and have pulled out hundreds of ideas over the years.  It was good to see from the following review that author Sally Spedding has similar ideas!

The finished Dictionary was compiled by a writer for the benefit of writers, whether fact or fiction, because even ‘fantasy’ that includes magical elements wit in the story must be subject to those annoying metaphysical laws, just as science fiction still operates within the laws of science and physics.  As Sally writes… she doesn’t normally ‘read’ dictionaries but…


I admit that I don’t normally ‘read’ dictionaries, but this one by Mélusine Draco really is as gripping as any thriller. The proverbial page-turner, with its tantalising introduction and often startling entries. Every fiction or non-fiction writer should give this wonderful reference book space on their desks, not only to show what lies beneath our present day, so-called ‘civilisations,’ but also as a conduit to what may well lie beyond. To step from their comfort zones and give their work ambition, fresh interest. A need to take the reader on more unusual journeys.

I am convinced of a growing fascination with alternative spiritualities. Of other ways of living life and of dying. Melusine Draco, delivers her expert and painstaking research into all this in such a way that will surely ignite further enthusiasm. She takes us from the Argentinium Astrum – the Order of the Great white Brotherhood (Adepts) founded by Aleister Crowley; the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance; Alphitomancy – which will make you look at barley bread in a new light – to the Field of Reeds and Dead Man’s Teeth, to Sea Witches and beyond.

I found myself making excited notes on Podomancy, Cramp Rings and the Angel of Death – and already wondering where these different springboards could lead. Within the dictionary format, the work is helpfully constructed into sections, ie; Black Magic, White Magic, while references for further research are relevant and not too copious. In a crowded marketplace where the ups and downs in publishing are ever more pronounced, I’m convinced this amazing volume will stir the writer’s imagination and help to get their work noticed. Unique and memorable.’


The late Michael Howard of The Cauldron fame said: ‘THE DICTIONARY OF MAGIC AND MYSTERY The Definitive Guide to the Mysterious, the Magical and the Supernatural. Compiled by Melusine Draco (Moon Books/John Hunt Publishing £12.99/US$22.95 370pp) Melusine Draco originally trained in the magical arts and traditional British witchcraft with Bob and Meriem Clay-Egerton and their Coven of the Scales. This book does what it says on the cover, although some may feel it is not the definite guide to the subject. It is an A-Z of witchcraft, magic and occultism with over 3000 entries ranging from the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance to Zoanthopy (divination by observing candle flames). There are also 26 short articles by the compiler on various aspects of the occult. This is an excellent book for the beginner, and even those with more experience as it is impossible to know about everything.’ Recommended. MH. The Cauldron

Sally Spedding is the cclaimed author of eight paranormal, historical and psychological thrillers and ‘How To Write a Chiller Thriller’ for JHP Compass Books.  She is also an experienced creative writing tutor who has helped many of her students achieve publishing success.

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