by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone
New Page Books, 2004, $15.99 US
Review by Erin
Generally when writing a review of a book, I work really hard not to look at other’s reviews of the same book. I do this so that I don’t “contaminate” my opinion of a book with someone else’s opinion. But while I was looking up publication information on Amazon to place in this review, I glanced at the “average customer review” and was shocked to see that it was fairly low.
I say “shocked” because this is one of the best books on Witchcraft I have seen in recent years. It is by far the best I have seen yet this year. I guess this is one of those books that you either love, hate, or love to hate. I know that many of the books that push the edge of religious practice get this label, and this one is no exception.
The ONLY thing I found to object to was a mistake with where the Sun rises in the Southern Hemisphere. The book says it rises in the West Down Under. It was news to me. So, just to be on the safe side, I contacted a friend of mine who actually lives in Australia, and asked her. She laughed as she told me that she had had a similar conversation with A.J. Drew on the SAME topic. She went on to say that she had talked to Janet and Gavin and pointed out the error. Other reviews say that it was a publisher’s printing mistake that is responsible. Damned gremlins.
Other than that, this is one of those books that really takes the next several dozen steps in modern Wiccan and Witchcraft practice. It is a book that I feel many should have as the Wicca 201 book they keep asking for.
Highlights of this work include a chapter on the evolution of NeoPaganism and how core ideas of Wicca evolved. There is also a chapter about the coven and different structures of the coven, which offers up one of the truest concepts that I have read in a book.
[Speaking about a High Priestess oriented coven and how she acts as the voice of the Goddess and allowing the Goddess to directly control the coven] “This does, of course, require a trance component to ritual within the magical practices of the coven. The High Priestess must therefore be able to successfully channel the divine wishes of the Goddess rather than her own ego. She must also possess excellent leadership skills.”
Progressive Witchcraft p 96
It seems to me that more of those “the Goddess is ALL” Wiccan groups would do well to pay attention to this statement.
Ultimately this book is a collection of long essays that explores concepts found in Wicca to their logical extent, without falling prey to the trap of expounding one flavor of Wicca over another. Janet and Gavin have struck an extremely hard target of a happy medium in this, offering facts without ever crossing over into being judgmental of the systems they are presenting.
Some of the material can be hard to swallow the first time it’s read, and many “old guard” Wiccans may draw back in offense the first time it’s read. But I would advise they stop for a moment and dispassionately consider what is being offered. I had to do that once or twice, and I could see the worth of what was being offered even though I felt that the suggestions being offered were not for me.
One minor thing that I had trouble with was the constant referral to the authors in the third person, and the use of full names when referring to each other. At this point it’s not a question of them writing this book together, but it kept striking me as if they were near strangers who had decided to collaborate on this work, and were being very formal to each other. I’m not quite sure what this was about, but it was a continual irritant throughout the book.
This book took me a long time to read, as I wanted to absorb the material and really consider it. It’s one of the few books that I have reviewed where I DIDN’T skim the book, and I will probably go back and re-read it just to make sure I got all the information being offered.
I’m giving this book 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5. I fell this book is one of those that deserves a prominent place on every Pagan’s shelf, even those traditions that aren’t Wiccan, but which are based on Wiccanesque practice (like some offshoots of the ADF). I don’t feel that this would be appropriate for the complete tyro, since many of the concepts would go over their heads, but for anyone who has more than two years of study and practice behind them, the concepts laid out in this book would go a long way to expanding what they are doing. It’s truly a Progressive step.