The Tao of Craft by Benebell Wen has been immensely useful to my craft. When I ordered the book, I was expecting a tome that focused mainly on the crafting of Fu (符), a Chinese talisman that could bring luck or protection to its user. The book is that and more.
Approaching the book
As with other material produced by Benebell, the book is chunky and rich with information. This could cause some intimidation in tackling the material – I have been wrestling with Holistic Tarot (review in the works). However, the Tao of Craft is significantly more approachable once I found the appendices that were specifically written for beginners. I recommend any beginners to the craft, such as I am, to take a look through those appendices and Chapter 11 before tackling the specificities of the steps. They help to give an overall view of what a practitioner is aiming to achieve.
The book is incredibly detailed in the steps in creating the Fu. Benebell does not skimp on any information, including her own correspondences and mantras to help us along – the steps she undertakes to create the talisman are expertly broken down, even though at times, I am still lost as a beginner.
To be very honest, I have still not tried my hand at creating any Fu. At this point in time, I am still gathering my materials and honing my own artistic talent (barely any haha) before I make my first attempt at doing so. Hence, I have little to share on the success rate of the practice, only that Benebell equips you thoroughly in making an attempt at crafting a Fu. I am excited to try my hand at designing one.
Applicability of the other Practices
As a Chinese person by race, I have always been interested in finding out the Eastern practices of magic e.g. casting circles and consecration. When I ordered the book, I expected it wholly to consist of Eastern glyphs and explanations on the structure of a Fu. However, the Tao of Craft exceeds my expectations and gave me deep insight into my own craft and practice.
The book teaches on the tools that can be used in magical practice, along with the methods of consecration, charging and activation of sigils in the Eastern tradition. These techniques do not only apply to the Fu talismans but also in the general practice of magic.
Along with Eastern-specific mantras and her own personal invocations, I feel much better equipped to find practices that resonate with me. Magical practices online that are in English usually come with a more European slant; information in the Tao of Craft is rare and I appreciate Benebell sharing her knowledge. Other practitioners with Chinese heritage but can barely speak their own mother tongue will appreciate this book. Benebell breaks it down for us.
Surprise, surprise! I have almost zero criticisms for the book – if I were to be nit-picky, I would suggest that a short overview of the whole technique to be placed in the front, before the chapter on the history of the Fu. Benebell does include such a walk through of the technique with quite a bit of detail at the end but it would have been helpful to see the big picture (i.e. what we hope to achieve) right at the beginning.
This book (linked to BookDepository) is a must buy for anyone interested in the Taoist esoteric tradition. Even if you aren’t interested in the actual crafting of Fu, the book teaches other techniques that can be applicable to your own practice, such as consecration, divination using moon blocks and charging of sigils.
Benebell’s website also provides higher quality images on certain images in the Tao of Craft for our reference. These can be useful as the Fu is explored.
On top of that, Benebell has recently released a pre-order for a course on I Ching that I think will go in depth on the 64 hexagrams that could also be complementary with the Fu crafting technique.