by Raven Grimassi
Llewellyn Publications, 2002
Review by Daven
Well, this is certainly the heaviest book I got in recent months. It is 470 pages long, not counting the advertisements in the back, and almost as big as a standard sheet of paper. I believe that this size is what is called “Trade Paperback” in publishing circles.
I assume that they made this book this big because any other size format would have made for an unwieldy book. This book is literally packed with information, more information than appeared in Doreen Valente’s excellent work (An ABC of Witchcraft).
I believe that this book is an excellent companion to her work.
In many ways, Doreen’s work set the standard for all others. I have seen several books that claim to be complete encyclopedias of Pagan Material, or ESP or so on, but this book is the only one to live up to that claim. In addition to that, where Doreen’s work ends with the historical material, Raven’s work picks up and continues on to present day. It mentions many prominent pagans in the current communities, many issues that are contemporary to our practice now, rather than restating the same things that are already covered in other tomes.
For instance, he gives a detailed biography of Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and his wife Morning Glory. He mentions the Church of All Worlds in that entry (although there is no cross entry dealing with CAW) and their problems. He talks about their marriage and other aspects of their life, without dwelling on the failure of Green Egg or other negative aspects of their life.
He talks about some other aspects of current Craft that were incompletely covered in many publications, like Ley Lines, Sybil Leek, Goetic Magick, and Saturnallia. All things that could be uncovered with time and patience and a good research library, but not usually something that a modern practitioner would have the resources to find should they run across the reference in another book.
I find that this book, while being an above average reference of it’s kind, is not, however the best version of it’s kind. I do think that it is an excellent resource, but there are a number of qualms I have.
The information that is there seems to jump and skip. Some of the entries are very very good, while others are short and appear to be unresearched. The Traditions that are in here are complete and were obviously written by the practitioners of that tradition themselves, but there are relatively few in comparison to all the traditions out there.
I find that the lack of demonology and satanic references is a good thing, as it returns focus to the current craft and the people of current times, but I don’t think this reference can stand alone. It has really good points and it also has a lot of potential, but in many cases it does fall down under what it is trying to be.
I give this book 4 stars out of 5 for everything that is good. I don’t score it higher because I think that it could have been better, if some time were taken and some more research were done. It is one of the books that many should have, but I hesitate to recommend this as a must have reference. It is a good supplement to any encyclopedic references that one already has, and should be bought for that reason. If you have to get one “encyclopedia” on Wicca, I do think this is the one to get.