Cedric's Pagan Thoughts

The spiritual meanderings of a NeoPagan shaman, an eclectic Wiccan, a Celtic musician, a world traveler, a bard, and an uncompromising cat-loving Bast-worshipper

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cedric's Wiccan Reading List

People periodically ask me if I can recommend a few good books on Wicca, NeoPaganism, and Spirituality in general. Oddly enough, I get some of those requests even through my band's fan club--I seem to be the only actual Wiccan some people know.

My journey into Wicca (and away from Wicca, and around Wicca) started with books. There was one in particular that kept me out of Wicca for a number of years, though I understand it has had the opposite effect on many readers. It was Buckland's big blue book. I enjoyed the chapters on philosophy and ritual, got slightly weirded out by the chapters on reincarnation, and laughed my ass off at the chapter on numerology. You see, it contained a method (supposedly passed down from ancient times) for deriving some numerological meaning out of your given name. Well, I was a student of medieval linguistics, so I instantly wanted to know why J and I were given separate numerical values. That kind of superstition turned me away from the whole religion. (That was before I learned that I didn't have to swallow all that hooey in order to be a Wiccan. It's a buffet of beliefs, not a nine-course meal.)

In any case, realizing how important it is to get off on the right foot with a religion, I compiled a reading list that I periodically update. Here is its current form:

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham (Possibly the best Wicca 101 book out there, at least by reputation. I was kind of past the Wicca 101 stage when I finally got a copy.)

Philosophy of Wicca by Amber Lane Fisher (Written by one of my classmates! It's very well written and deals with philosophy rather than "point this way, say that.")

Wicca Covens by Judy Harrow (It's specifically about how to be in a coven, but it's got lots of great stuff, including the genesis of the morning blessing I often use.)

The Witches' Goddess and The Witches' God by Janet and Stewart Farrar (Good books about the deity archetypes we commonly work with.)

The Pagan Path by Janet and Stewar Farrar with Gavin Bone (This book is a survey of some of the different paths present within NeoPaganism.)

Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler (A history book about the development of the NeoPagan movement.)

The Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton (A history of British Wicca written by a non-Pagan. It ruffled alot of feathers amongst those who believe in the unbroken chain, but I thought it was excellent.)

Wicca Demystified by Bryan Lankford (Once again, this was written long after I was past the Intro to Wicca phase, but I've heard a lot of great things about it. It's said to be especially good for explaining Wicca to family and friends.)

Not specifically Wiccan, but very important books:

Urban Shaman by Serge Kahili King (Theoretically a book on Hawaiian shamanism, it introduces a number of interesting ideas. The section on the seven principles alone is worth the price of the whole book, and I find that I reread this text every few years.)

Real Magic by Isaac Bonewits (P.E.I. Bonewits is the only person in modern times to have a college degree in magic. *grin* Sometimes he says things that are a little out there, but it's a good book over all. His Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evalution Frame, or ABCDEF, is worth the price of the book alone, though I think it's available online for free, also. The tool helps you to judge whether a religious group is safe and healthy to join.)

Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson (This is probably the one book that has most affected my life. Having said that, I have to warn you that R.A.Wilson says some pretty out there things that I have to laugh at. But deep down, he makes a strong point. If you want to ease into Wilsonian philosophy, start with The New Inquisition and then read Prometheus Rising.)

If you are interested in shamanic practices, read TheWay of the Shaman by Michael Harner.

The Kybalion (This is a treatise on magic that was published anonymously about 100 years ago. It is fairly dense reading, but it can be worthwhile. Fortunately, you can download it online for free, as it is in the public domain.)

Raidho: the Runic Journey by Jennifer Smith. (If you are thinking about getting a book on runes, I recommend this one. Do a search on the net and you can find Jennifer Smith's website, where she sells the book. I think it is www.tarahill.com, but don't quote me on that.)

You'll also want some books on mythology. I would advise *against* books written with a NeoPagan slant--instead I'd go for books that look at mythology from a scholarly or cultural standpoint. Or find translations of the original texts. (The Golden Ass by Apuleius contains ancient Greek accounts of witchcraft, plus myths, descriptions of religious practices, and the most stirring description of the Goddess I've ever read. And it's an adventure story!)

Some books to avoid:

The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker. (This book is widely quoted by supporters of the feminist view of history. Unfortunately, anyone with even the slightest scholarly objectivity can see that it's a load of revisionist nonsense. Indeed, I'm told that you can take it to virtually any respected academic, ask the scholar to look up a subject in his or her area of expertise, and then watch the scholar collapse in paroxysms of laughter and gasping.)

The Idiot's Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft (I actually gave this book a scathing review on Amazon--it's got some good information and a bunch of *glaring* errors. In all fairness, many of the errors I mentioned in my review were corrected in the second edition; it makes me wonder if the editors read my opinions.)

Witta: an Irish Pagan Tradition (It's another Wicca 101 book, except that it claims to be presenting something historically Irish. Sprinkled amongst its lackluster writing are some real whoppers, such as "female druids were called Dryads." Since Dryad is a Greek term, I thought that was pretty damn funny.)

If you're thinking about a book on runes, avoid Ralph Blum and anything that talks about the "Uthark" rather than the "Futhark." There's a webpage out there that actually has a checklist on how to avoid bad runebooks--check it out if you are considering studying runes.

Books by D.J. Conway--they're not bad, but they are just kind of blah. I really don't believe that she is expert enough to write well about all of the subjects she's tackled. Instead, I think she's just writing for a paycheck . . .

Personally, I avoid anything that labels Wicca as"women's spirituality," for obvious reasons.

Good luck, and good reading! Remember that if you do not find what you seek within, you will never find it without.


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