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Home Reviews The Meaning of Witchcraft


The Meaning of Witchcraft

By Gerald Gardner
Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004 $19.95 US
ISBN 1-57863-309-5

Review by Erin

Well, when life gets to you, it really tends to get to you.

I got this book about a year ago. Yes, a year ago and it’s taken me this long to review it.

Many would ask “Why did it take you so long to review it?” Because this is the same book that was published back in 1959 and since the author is dead, I didn’t think this was a high priority. This is a republication in a United States, from a US publisher, and since it’s not a book just hitting the market, I judged that there was no real rush to review it.

I’m glad I took my time.

This tome was weighty when it came out the first time. It is no less heavy for being republished now, for all that 50 years have passed.

It was interesting to read and see the genesis of many ideas that are part of current Wiccan thought, like the interchangeability of the words Wiccan and Witch. It’s also interesting to see, in his own words, what Gardner wanted and hoped for in his tradition of witchcraft.

It’s also interesting to read one of the seminal books of modern NeoPagan thought. Whether or not we like it, almost everyone who is considered to be an expert in NeoPaganism seems to have read this book or read authors who were influenced by this book. It’s blatantly obvious that Wica was designed to be oath-bound and initiatory tradition, with benchmarks one had to achieve before moving on to the next. This is the original Wica, as it SHOULD be practiced. It’s good to see it on the shelves again.

This republication is very well done. The cover is bright and easy to see from across the room, and the type in the interior is large enough to read easily.

I should note that if the publisher made changes to the contents (like spelling or clarifications) I am not aware of it. I have never read this book until I was asked to review it.

Now comes the difficult part, rating it. I hate rating republications since it’s so hard to rate something that was written so long ago. I can say a lot about the typeface and the cover, and those deserve 5 stars, but the contents I object to, and much of it is outdated and unnecessary now.

However, this IS one of the books that influenced modern Wiccan thought and it’s good to have on hand if only for historical value. So I’m not giving this a star rating as I normally do. I’m going to say that I really appreciate Red Wheel/Weiser’s republication of this work. Perhaps if it becomes required reading again, the Wicca Lite people will understand why many of the things they object to are there in the first place.

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