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Recommended Books on Wicca

Diane Carter writes:

So, what are the the good wiccan books to read? Seems that the most sense I've found so far on a public bookshelf is one by Laurie Cabot, but I don't know how she's regarded either. Seems that most books published by Llewellyn are just to make a buck. Do you have any good sources that deal with the inner work of Wicca?

The trouble with trying to find good books on what is still, in essence, a mystery religion, is that generally, the inner work tends to be either oathbound and/or difficult to get across in words. But there are a number of fairly decent books out there nonetheless...

Laurie Cabot's work I'd class as sort of middling -- you could do better, but you could certainly do worse. Her chapter in "Power of the Witch" on witchcraft and science is actually quite good, and it's a topic that doesn't get written about as often as it should. Plus, she manages to get across a lot of the feeling that draws people toward Wicca quite well. But I think most of us really wish she wouldn't run around in black capes and ten tons of eyeliner... As I've said before, she bears an uncanny resemblance to Divine dressed up as Morticia Addams.

Probably about my favourite is Vivianne Crowley (no relation to Aleister to the best of my knowledge), who wrote Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age (reissued as Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Millennium, now that the term "new age" leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths) and, more recently, Phoenix from the Flame. She's from the more traditional, old-school British end of the Craft spectrum, which I like, and she doesn't talk down to her readers. She's extremely articulate and intelligent.

Also on the traditional end, Doreen Valiente is very good -- she writes a bit like someone's old English grandmother passing choice bits of folklore while sitting in front of the fire. I especially recommend her The Rebirth of Witchcraft for people who've already gotten a handle on the basics and want some historical perspective.

And Janet and Stewart Farrar have a number of books, including The Witches' Goddess, The Witches' God, A Witch's Bible Compleat (previously published in two volumes as The Witches' Way and Eight Sabbats for Witches), and Spells and How They Work. Many traditionalists dislike the Farrars because they broke their initiatory oaths by publishing most of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows in The Witches' Way, but they argue that it had already been published in various garbled forms already, and they were just trying to set the record straight. Not being a Gardnerian myself, I'm not really qualified to judge...

On the eclectic end of the spectrum, a lot of the stuff out there is really fluffy, but one notable exception to that generalization would be Starhawk, whose work does have a lot of depth to it, and is very much worth reading. Of her books, The Spiral Dance is the one that focusses the most on Wicca as such; Dreaming the Dark gets more into the interaction of spirituality and politics, so I wouldn't recommend it as a Wicca 101 book, but it's very much worth reading later on; and then Truth or Dare is more psychological and pretty much only uses magic as a form of therapy.

But the things to remember are these: that regardless of the Farrars, there is a lot of traditional material that has never been published and, gods willing, never will be; and that much of the real "inner work" is experiential, and can't be adequately conveyed in words. Reading is good, but ultimately doing is better.

I hope that helps...

Déithe duit,

Liath Cadhóit
(a.k.a Lynna Landstreet)


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