By Mike Nichols
Acorn Guild Press, 1985 and 2005, $14.00 US
Review by Daven
My first encounter with this work was when I was asked to write a cover blurb for it. I got details from the publisher, wrote a couple paragraphs saying how much I valued Mike’s work and the Sabbat series in specific, and I thought that was it. I did ask for a copy when it came out.
A few days ago I got an email from the publisher saying that Mike had an autographed copy for me. I sent the publisher my address and received the book yesterday.
Had I known it would be this good, I would have praised it even higher.
Anyone who has done any research on the Sabbats or taken some sort of Wicca 101 course has heard of Mike Nichols and more than likely read his works, whether they know it or not. These essays are the benchmark that many other essays on the Sabbats are compared to. I have referenced them myself in my classes on Wicca and Paganism and have the reprinted on Daven’s Journal, with permission of course.
I have read many works on the Sabbats, some good, most average and several bad. But this book and these essays, which have been around for the last twenty years at least, are the top of the heap. Yes, the first nine essays are almost directly off Mike’s website, but that doesn’t matter. Every essay in this book, with the exception of one, can be found on his website. So what makes this book so good?
Frankly, the format makes this book wonderful. It’s not filled with "fluff" or useless stuff to flesh out the book and increase the price. These essays are exactly the same length as they are on his website, short and to the point. I have not checked the text of the articles against the text in the book, but he says in the preface that he has not changed these essays in any major way. I am sure that he did things like tighten the language somewhat and correct typos or misspellings. That’s a normal part of the editing process.
The layout of the chapters is logical, Introduction to the Sabbats first, then the holidays in order for a full cycle, then commentary and additional material relating to the Sabbats. I gotta tell ya that I’m VERY relived that there is no filler. When I was reviewing the material from Llewellyn’s Sabbat series, I got tired of seeing recipes, rituals and spells for the holiday. This book has none of these. It seems that every book out there on the Sabbats has that information in it. I was able to find five books on Lammas that had instructions for making corn dollies in it. It’s a relief to not see them again in here.
This book is absolutely unique in that it is a scholarly discussion of these holidays, not a "how one celebrates these holidays (and oh bythewayhere’saselectedhistoryoftheholiday)". It is a discussion, a lecture if you will. The only thing missing is the footnotes.
The additional information that is included is interesting. For a book focused on the Sabbats, I’m not sure if I would have included an essay on where the Air is in the standard cosmology of the Craft. Don’t get me wrong, it works in the context of the book, I’m not certain if I would have made the same choice. I guess that’s one of the benefits of being an armchair critic.
There are two newer essays, one that is on his site, and one written specifically for this book. Both are revelations and EXTREMELY interesting reads. Once again, the professor is teaching, and this humble student is pleased as punch to be learning from him again.
Given how much I have read, given the quality of this work, I think this is one of those books that every Wiccan practitioner should have in their library. It may be that you print it out from his website, but I still think that the investment in this book would be WELL worth the price. It’s one of those books that can and should be passed down to your children and to their children.
Because of this, and because I don’t have any objections to this, I’m giving this book 5 stars out of 5. Any further commentary would simply be gilding the lily. So I will simply say, congratulations Mike, you and your work earned this rating.