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Comments on Some Basic Books on Wicca

Mike Wilson writes:

I was just not hoping to hear anything bad about some favorites: Scott Cunningham, Starhawk, Ray Buckland (most of his stuff is good, but with a book out called "Chant-O-Matics" I take what he says with a grain of salt; I really like his new book "Advanced Candle Magic" ).

Starhawk is probably about the most thoughtful and insightful writer in the eclectic Craft community. I always recommend her books to people seeking to know about that end of the Wiccan spectrum.

Scott Cunningham is (was, I should say) not too bad; I like a lot of his magical "cookbooks" and reference books, but I find his writing on general Craft stuff to be a bit superficial. One book makes a good introduction, but once you start reading more of his stuff, it begins to feel like taking the same Wicca 101 course over and over...

I think that may be partly due to a particular habit that I've heard Llewellyn has -- that of pushing their authors into cranking out more and more books at a pace they may not be comfortable with. Even the authors of theirs who start out good tend to go downhill as a result of having to mass-produce books. I also find Cunningham to be a bit dogmatic at times -- he makes a lot of generalizations about Wicca that are in fact only true of his particular wing of it, but he's hardly alone in doing that...

Raymond Buckland is a bit of a conundrum. He comes from a traditional background, and was actually one of the first people to bring Gardnerian Craft to North America. He is extremely knowledgeable, and some of his books reflect that, but others show the dread "Llewellyn syndrome", reading as if the author was thinking "Oh Gods, they want another book? By when??!!” Generally, I think his earlier work was better. A lot of his later stuff seems like a series of contrived excuses to crank out something, anything, with his name on it. He's also no stranger to the practice of inventing spurious "ancient" traditions, although at least he sometimes admits (after the first print run or two is sold) that they're spurious.

None of the above are authors I would place on a "Don't Read" list, just a "Read Critically" list. Other Wiccan writers I particularly do like are Margot Adler (Drawing Down the Moon, which also deals with other pagan traditions), Doreen Valiente (many titles), Janet and Stewart Farrar (many titles), Vivianne Crowley (Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Millennium and Phoenix from the Flame), and Ly Warren-Clarke (The Way of the Goddess).

Generally, the three books I tend to recommend most to beginning students are Starhawk's The Spiral Dance, the Farrars' A Witches' Bible Compleat, and Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, which supply good introductions to eclectic Wicca, traditional Wicca, and the Pagan community at large, respectively.

Déithe duit,

Liath Cadhóit
(a.k.a Lynna Landstreet)


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