Brida wants to learn magic. She’s read all the books, taken all the classes, and talked to all the right people, except the Magus of Folk. The Magus is an old Teacher of the Tradition, respected and well known at one point in his life, but now lives an exile of loneliness in the forests of Ireland, atoning for a crucial mistake made in his youth.
It’s in the forest that Brida finds him, eager to learn more of the Tradition of the Sun with its powers of creation and of the Tradition of the Moon, the transformative power. The Magus leaves her alone in the forest to experience the Dark Night (a time where her faith is tested). Brida is confronted by her fears and relies on her faith to help her make it through the evening. After she reawakens, she makes herself a promise: to go back to the Magus only when she understands more about magic.
The Magus does not know this. He does not know that Brida has walked into an occult bookstore and has received information that will lead her to another teacher, Wicca, a woman he once thought he might love. Even if he did, the Magus would not worry. Through the Tradition of the Sun, he has learned to be confident in the knowledge that Brida is his Soul Mate.
With the help of both Wicca and the Magus, Brida learns to unleash her Gift of discerning the spirits. She visits other worlds on the ethereal plain, travels back in time to another life, and discovers the true nature of sex.
Brida is an odd combination of spirituality where witches are Christians and true spirituality lies in the balance between the two. Mistakes lead to change, not regret, and powerful traditions shape the world Brida discovers. This is a book about the faith that opens the door to Brida’s femininity and the spirituality that helps navigate her through a stale patch in her life. At twenty one, Brida is frustrated and lost, but learns to use magic to be more confident in the decisions she makes and to learn that doubt is important to moving forward.
Paulo Coelho’s writing is relaxed and inviting, but Brida, with its repetitions and reliance on the spiritual essence of practices and rites of passage that through anything other than suspended belief would appear confusing, made this book too ethereal for me. I think Coelho made it all a bit too metaphorical for a story about self-discovery, love, the empowerment of free will, and the mysteries of life.
Books about spirituality and religion always come across as preachy. Magic and Christianity are the tools Brida uses to validate her life choices and help visualize her dreams. I can’t help but thinking, if I wasn’t already familiar with Christianity, I might be offended at the methods Coelho promotes, but I keep reminding myself that I think the most important part of this book is walking away knowing that you don’t need Christianity to feel right with the world and with the self. All that’s required is the faith in our convictions, the trust in our “instincts,” and the courage to move forward, despite our doubts, that Coelho collectively calls magic.
Release Date: February 1, 2009
Reviewed Format: trade paperback