© 1972 Jessie Wicker Bell
Llewellyn publications 2001 (republication)
ISBN 0-87542-076-1 Hardcover
A review by Daven
Let me state something now, while I have been practicing for more than 10 years at this point, this is the first time I have seen a copy of the Grimoire of Lady Sheba. It was first published in 1972, and once again in 1974, but while I have been in the metaphysical community during the time when this book was out there, this is my first viewing of this text.
I am somewhat familiar with Lady Sheba’s writings, as most pagans should be, since these documents are on the Internet now, and many of them have been copied lock, stock and copyright into other people’s published Books of Shadows.
When first looking at the book when it arrived from Llewellyn, I had a sense of anticipation. This is the only hardcover book published by Llewellyn that I am familiar with. I did a search on their website, and failed to turn up one instance of a hardcover book in their list. Perhaps I just wasn’t inputting the right words.
However, this book looks wonderful. Matte black, silver writing on it and highlights, a ribbon bookmark, this looks like something that you would be proud to pass on to your children for generations to come. The interior also lives up to this expectation. The typesetting and interior pictures are easy on the eyes and are good. But you know the old saying that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover?
I have some problems with the content of the book. I realize that all of it comes from a first publication from 30 years ago, and I dismiss most of that. Some parts of the book are truly out of date. At this point, I believe that no one who has been in Wicca or Paganism for more than a year or two can claim that Wicca is centuries old. However, Lady Sheba leaves you with just that impression and boldly states that several times.
Now, while I am all for keeping the publications accurate to what it originally was, and I agree that if in Lady Sheba’s Book of Shadows it states this, and if she actually believes this, then by all means state your beliefs. I wanted to make potential readers aware that this historical inaccuracy exists.
Other than that minor qualm, the book’s contents are excellent. They are dated, make no mistake, and it assumes the reader is either actively working in a Wiccan tradition, under the tutelage of a Priestess or Priest, and it assumes that the reader is well-read in metaphysics or willing to become so. There are many references that will go over the head of someone looking for a “Wicca 101” text. If that is what is sought, there are many other more suitable books out there.
I was able to FINALLY understand some references that I had come across on the Internet and never understood. For instance, from Lady Sheba’s Grimoire:
“161. Punishment should be the $ followed by something amusing such as several S S S S, or something of this nature”
–The Grimoire of Lady Sheba, pg 117
I have NEVER understood the above text because it was taken out of context of the book. However, reading this re-release let me understand that the symbols used are Lady Sheba’s personal notations, probably to hide her meaning from the uninitiated. She explains these signs earlier in her book, and it turns out that the $ is the scourge, and that S stands for a kiss.
I have looked at the rest of the Book of Shadows section, and I have read the entire book, and compared them to documents that can be found on the Internet, and found that either a LOT of information has been copied either by Lady Sheba or from her. All of the rituals are almost exact copies of the Gardnerian works out there, as well as being really close to those of the Alexandrians as well.
This book IS a good reference to the way another person views the Craft, and she does point out several aspects of Traditional Wicca that I feel have been glossed over in recent years. Things like Scourging and some of the initiation rites are necessary to the tradition, and there is a real reason these rites are in there, but more and more new practitioners are discarding these critical pieces of Wicca right and left.
So it is good to see a modern book that includes these parts.
This is an excellent book to see where the Craft came from, and I highly recommend it for that reason. In fact, if one wanted to understand how and why the Gardnerian and Alexandrians do what they do, and what their rites are, this is the book to get. Having seen some of the rites of Alexandrians, and having accessed copies of Gardner’s Book of Shadows that is on the Internet as well as the Public Domain Version of the Alexandrian Book of Shadows, the rituals and rites are almost identical. There are some small changes in the rituals that I noted, but not enough to cause concern to the person going through the rituals. The major changes are in the commentaries and additional material.
So, to see how Lady Sheba, Gardnerian and Alexandrians practice and what they do in their Oathbound ceremonies, this is THE book to get. For a Wicca 101 book, look someplace else. This volume will have a treasured place on my shelf, and I shall be accessing it quite often.
I give this book, overall, 4 stars out of 5, while keeping in mind my objections. It is a reference work that every Wiccan practitioner should have.