I am out of my league when it comes to recommending inspirational books about Wicca, however, I believe that I have located several books that might aid the academic study of the Wicca Movement (in addition to the Encyclopedias). If you know of other academic studies, do not hesitate to tell me. As Wicca is often an oral based tradition (in part at least), perhaps books are not the best route of study. Participation and human-to-human study will be richly rewarding for both parties. Since Wicca is usually considered part of the Neo-Pagan movement, study of one will often shed light on the other.
IMPORTANT NOTE We haven't read all the following books, and are in the process of procuring them for the Gould Library of Carleton College (the seminary of the Reformed Druids). As is always the case, your local library can often BORROW books from bigger libraries, so you needn't always purchase the books. However, I would recommend that you check the book carefully for poor scholarship before using themB Send your opinions to email@example.com
First a short version of the titles followed by a detailed ordering information, book descriptions and reader reviews
by Margot Adler, Amazon List Price: $16.95 Paperback - 584 pages Rev&Exp edition (March 1997) Penguin USA (Paper); ISBN: 014019536X ;
For nearly two decades, Drawing Down the Moon, the only detailed history of a little-known and widely misunderstood movement, has provided the most authoritative look at the religious beliefs, experiences, and lifestyles of the NeoPagan culture. It's no coincidence that Ms. Adler works for National Public Radio. Accurate, scholarly, objective information about the craft in its many manifestations. It helps the lay person and pagan alike understand the various aspects of paganism. It is rich in detail, and represents Ms. Adler's tireless interviews and investigation of various parts of paganism. One of the 2 essentials on any Pagan bookshelf. This book is so well written that it serves both as an introduction to Paganism and as a reference to consult when questions arise. We value the new edition for updates of mple of an early work.
Drynemetum Advice on Drawing Down the Moon
If you ask Neo-Pagans for some good beginning books, this is usually in that list. First released in 1979, re-editted and released in 1986, and again in 1997, it is a wide-sweeping survey of Neo-paganism in America. Adler discusses general traits of Neopaganism, but gives sufficient in-depth first hand accounts of representative groups to indicate the great diversity in this group of religions. An excellent entry into the genre, although a little dull in some spots, it is well written. It also contains a well-known account of the role of the Reformed Druids in the revival of modern Druidism.
Customer Reviews on Drawing Down the Moon
Reviewer: Adam Jenkins from Australia
I really enjoyed reading this book - it was very helpful to me, and was a good overview of large parts of what I belive to have been the North American neopagan scene at the time that this book was written. I do recommend that people read it, but it will mean more to you after you already understand at least the basic aspectes of neopaganism.
But this is also a book that was clearly written by someone who was already part of the movement, and thus she brought with it her own opinions about various traditions (such as Norse paganism and Alexandrian Wicca), and she didn't tend to examine many of the issues raised with quite the degree of objectivity that I was looking for. It is also clearly very dated, and the primary sources for the answers to her questionaires tended to get people from particular traditions and styles.
In all it was a valuable book that I really enjoyed reading, and I don't know of anything that is it's equivalent. But it isn't perfect, and I feel needs to be read carefully if you are to get the full value out of her work.
by Tanya Lurhman, Blackwell 1989 Paperback (December 1994) McClelland & Stewart; ISBN: 0330329464
Other Editions: Paperback Reprint edition(March 1991) Harvard Univ Pr; ISBN: 0674663241 ;Dimensions (in inches): 1.02 x 8.96 x 6.01 $16 at Amazon
Book Description by Amazon
This is a published academic study of British Wicca, and a PhD thesis in antrhopology. She tries to engage with some theoretical issues rasied by her study, but I found her theory somewhat formalistic. I would have liked to see more reflection on the processual and negotiated aspects of the experiences she describes (not really a surprising criticism coming from someone who subscribes to a list on symbolic interactionism!).
Reviewer: A reader April 17, 1997
The ethnographic detail (and it is quite rich) of English covens is just the beginning -- the book is fundamentally about belief and the justification of belief. Is there any real difference between marginal practices like drawing pentagrams and casting spells and mainstream practices like taking communion and praying? Are there perhaps commonalities among "altered states" of meditation, prayer, and the like? No definitive answers, but a fascinating exploration.
by Chas S. Clifton (Editor), Charles S. Clifton (Editor) Amazon List Price: $9.95 Paperback - 208 pages (May 1992) Llewellyn Publications; ISBN: 0875423779 ;
Review: A reader from Lucerne, Switzerland February 1, 1999
This books quality goes up and down with the different authors providing us with their information. The introduction deserves five stars, but some of the other "storys" are on a low level. Its definitely good to have various points of view on the subject, but I wouldnt recommend it for beginners, because they might pick some very questionable aspects for their start. And the essay by the "Farrar"-Couple made me feel sick, with their closed-minded "truth". I would highly recommend RAVEN GRIMASSIS "THE WICCAN MYSTERIES' instead. There you learn everything you learn here, AND MUCH MORE !!!
Review: A reader December 27, 1996
Most books for neopagans on the market currently are for beginners; Charles Clifton, on the other hand, brings together a series of articles written for the experienced neopagan. Thought-provoking and informative, sometimes lyrical, the authors address topics generally not seen in the beginners books. I was delighted to find this solid addition to my bookshelf
Orion, Loretta. (Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, 1995).Paperback ISBN: 0881338354 Amazon Price $14
Review by Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 35, No. 3, 1996
"Never Again the Burning Times presents a lively mix of first-person accounts, field research, interviews, and background literature. It offers fruitful ways of looking at Neopaganism for readers ranging from those encountering the movement for the first time in this book to those long-time observers."
Book Description by Amazon
A fascinating scholarly look at witchcraft in American society! Why do some individuals in American society resort to the magical beliefs and practices of the occult while the majority do not? Contemporary witches say that witchcraft is a revival of a European Pre-Christian religion called Wicca. Practitioners of Wicca believe the world is alive, interconnected, and responsive to attempts to manipulate invisible, occult forces. These efforts constitute their magic, the "craft" of witchcraft. In the United States, Wicca has become the core of a collection of other pagan traditions, religions, and magical systems. This fascinating ethnography by an anthropologist explores contemporary witchcraft from the unusual perspective of self-identified witches and magicians. Readers have the opportunity to learn what kinds of individuals engage in radical thought movements such as this and view the ideas of witchcraft and magic from the vantage point of those who profess to be witches and practice magic. A description of the demographic characteristics of the group combined with an analysis of their complex belief system provides insight into the unusual behaviors shared by participants in this subculture within American society.
Review by Mark Lefkowitz, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review,
In the course of her conversion, Curott spent many hours reading about goddess religion in early cultures. In this way, Wiccans reject modernity, which is resolutely patriarchal, for something that is not so much postmodern as pre-postmodern or late modern. Like many postmodern theorists, they are comfortable with multiple realities. Intuition is as valid as rational argument; science works, but so does magic.
A Community of Witches explores the beliefs and practices of Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft - generally known to scholars and practitioners as Wicca. While the words "magic," "witchcraft," and "paganism" evoke images of the distant past and remote cultures, this book shows that Wicca has emerged as part of a new religious movement that reflects the era in which it developed. Imported to the United States in the late 1960s from the United Kingdom, the religion absorbed into its basic fabric the social concerns of the time: feminism, environmentalism, self-development, alternative spirituality, and mistrust of authority. Helen A. Berger's ten-year participant observation study of Neo-Pagans and Witches on the eastern seaboard of the United States and her collaboration on a national survey of Neo-Pagans form the basis for exploring the practices, structures, and transformation of this nascent religion. Responding to scholars who suggest that Neo-Paganism is merely a pseudoreligion or a cultural movement because it lacks central authority and clear boundaries, Berger contends that Neo-Paganism has many of the characteristics that one would expect of a religion born in late modernity: the appropriation of rituals from other cultures, a view of the universe as a cosmic whole, an emphasis on creating and re-creating the self, an intertwining of the personal and the political, and a certain playfulness.
by Stewart Farrar. Phoenix trade paperback. $9.95; ISBN: 0919345174
Synopsis: If Adler's book (Drawing Down the Moon) gives a comprehensive overview of modern American Witchcraft, Farrar's is a complimentary look at traditional British Witchcraft. Concentrating on the Alexandrian tradition (which is only marginally different from Gardnerian, easily the largest Craft tradition extant), Farrar lays stress on the actual working of Covens and the integration of novice Witches into them. Also included is much of the Gardnerian (via Alexandrian) Book of Shadows. There is plenty here for someone who is beginning the practice of Witchcraft.
Buckland, Raymond. Paperback - 240 pages 3rd Rev&en edition (March 1995) Llewellyn Publications; ISBN: 1567181015 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.60 x 9.01 x 6.00 Amazon Price $14
Synopsis by Amazon
This is a complete history of witchcraft, including its origins in prehistory, its decline in the dark ages and its rebirth in the 20th century, as collected by an insider rather than a detached observer. I found the book to be well researched and documented, which more than did justice to the subject matter. While I enjoyed the information accumulated in a cover-to-cover reading, Witchcraft from the Inside is also a valuable reference tool.
Reviewer: GostWrter@aol.com aka July 2,1999
This book was given to me by Raymond Buckland many years ago in one of the prior editions. The book's title seems quite clear that it has been written from the writer's view of his own experience over the years. I found it an interesting life experience to read about and also useful as a reference guide in a Sociology Thesis I wrote a few years back (in college). Incidentally I did get 100% on that thesis! It was the only 100% I ever got. My Sociology Professor then read the book and she commented that she also thoroughly enjoyed it. I have shared and loaned it tocountless people who have all had only positive words. In other words, I thought the book was a great read.
Reviewer with a different view June 28,1999
Readers might want to check out anyone who claims to be or know of being from "the inside". This reader for one would like to know what inside the writer might really be from. All I can say is I have certainly never heard of alot of this so called factual information. And I've been involved in American Paganism for several generations. Do you write this kind of stuff back in England or wouldn't it sell well there? One can write and say nearly anything they wish. Readers also have a right to read any of this junk and "Believe It Or NOT"..
by Raymond Buckland. List: $14.95, Amazon Price: $11.96, 272 pages, Llewellyn Publications, 1986, ISBN: 0875420508
British-born Ray Buckland can, with some validity, be considered Gerald Gardner's American successor. Not only did he introduce Gardnerian Witchcraft to the United States, but he also founded his own tradition of the Craft, called Seax (Saxon) Wicca, which has grown to worldwide practice. His early books, like Witchcraft from the Inside, did much to dispel negative stereotypes of Wicca in the 60's. The book is Traditionalist in approach, making a nice counterpoint to works by Adler and Starhawk.
Scott Cunningham Llewellyn Publications, 1988 ISBN: 0-87542-127-XSynopsis:
A longer review:
Despite a cover that looks like an Avon pamphlet, The Truth About Witchcraft Today is a pretty good basic introduction to the basic concepts of Witchcraft, and Wicca in particular. But it is very basic, and not what I would now consider an ideal introduction to Earth-based religions for someone just starting out. It is, rather, meant to be an explanation for a non-practitioner. But even for this purpose, I have some quibbles about its structure.
Before anyone starts thinking that I am dismissing Cunningham's works entirely, know that this book was my introduction to the practice of Wicca, and it did serve me well as a guide into the Path. I have read most of his books, and they formed the foundation of my practice. I have since built on that with the ideas of other authors that fit my personality more. That does not make them any less valuable for anyone else's system of belief, and their content is useful. It is the presentation of the content that I believe could have been bettered.
The book begins with a discussion of the existence of magick, the use of spells, and the tools used to create them. Only after this is an introduction to the concept of harm none, and the structure of the religion. Then before this is elaborated on, two Folk spells are presented with instructions. Only after that (in Part II of the book - Chapter 7) is Witchcraft presented as a religion, namely Wicca. So many are attracted to Witchcraft as a means toward power, I think switching the book's sections would have been better - presenting Wicca first as a religion, and then talking about the practice of magick. A firm concept of ethics is needed before anyone is shown how to work magick. And as an explanation of beliefs to a non-practitioner, I would much rather be presented as a devout practitioner of a religion than as a spellcaster first, and priestess second.
Now for the good news - the section on Wicca is pretty good. I enjoy Cunningham's dedication to balance. He is one of the few authors that I have read that makes an effort to include the God in his ritual, instead of making a token mention or ignoring Him altogether. He readily acknowledges that there are many ways to practice, not just his. Explanations are provided for the different tools of the Craft, and the fact that they are not a requirement, but an enhancement, is pointed out. A basic ritual is given, and an overview of the Sabbats is provided.
The book is worthwhile, and someday I may mark the sections I want her to read and hand it to my mother as an outline of my faith. Until then though, I will continue to search for one that presents our religion in an order I like better. Maybe I will even find it.
Scott Cunningham's books are more specific to Wicca and witchcraft. I am particularly fond of his books for their down-to-earth approach. For the beginner, I would recommend starting with Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, then continuing with Cunningham's Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, and Living Wicca:
: A great historical account for both the layman and scholar. While there are many books to choose from on this subject, Jeffrey Russell manages to both educate andentertain. Taken from a strictly historical viewpoint, this book is both concise and poignant at times. The text reads more like a personal account from a not-so-casual observer while still managing to sprinkle in all the dry and sometimes lurid details. This book is the best I have read on the subject. While not a long book, there is more great information page for page than in any other single book I've read on witchcraft. This is not the "be all, end all" book that Drawing Down the Moon tries to be for the believer. Instead it gives an excellent, engaging, account following a time-line which allows the reader to take into account the atmosphere of the time rather than remove the subject and give a disconnected sanitary synopsis of a fear that grew over time.
by Margot Adler Paperback - 309 pages (August 1998) Beacon Pr; ISBN: 0807070998 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.90 x 9.01 x 6.02 $11 Other Editions: Hardcover 384 pages (August 1997) Beacon Pr; ISBN: 080707098X ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.10 x 9.24 x 6.25 $24
Reviewed by Chas Clifton
Adler saves her core 'conversion story' for chapter 12, but without the previous eleven chapters, it would lack its context. She stuggles: 'The old Marxist inside me warns that all this religion stuff is an opiate, an oppressor. ... these occult philosophies do let the anxious middle class feel secure with their privilege.' Ultimately, as the readers of Drawing Down the Moon know, Adler rejects the old Marxist Left as 'too afraid of the irrational and its pull,' too condescending towards the eternal need for ecstasy and mystery."
Note: The following article should not be taken as implying that Wicca is a form of Satanism. Although this article focuses on similarities and historical connections between Wicca and 19th century literary Satanism, there are plenty of differences too, and even more differences between Wicca and modern (post-LaVey) Satanism. Wicca is an eclectic modern religion which has drawn inspiration from many sources, both ancient and modern. Literary Satanism is just one of those many sources.
I'm not an expert on Wicca, not being Wiccan myself, but if you have questions or can give me some advice on the materials discussed here, or if you have more resources to add; email me firstname.lastname@example.org
This page was created in March, 2000 c.e. No copyright by presenter, excerpts taken from Amazon and various other cited sources.