I began thinking about the books of Paganism that affected almost everyone that I have met about four months ago. I had planned to write this article for at least that long. The more I looked at this subject, however, the more I realized that everyone’s list of which books are THE Pagan/Wiccan/Druidic/Dianic/what-have-you references is different.
(I must add here that the hyperlinks in this document either lead to Amazon’s site where you can read reviews of these books, or to an online version of the book in question. I included these links for your reference only. On your own head be it.)
So, all this article can tell you is my list of the most important books in modern Paganism today, why and hopefully this will coincide with some of what you believe.
In most cases, I have not chosen for anything other than a book that has stood the test of time. Does this book still have fans who will go out and purchase it for use today? If so, then it is probably here. But this is only the cream of that crop, and as we go through this list, I will explain my choices to you all.
First among this set is “Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft”. The Big Blue Book has certainly stood the test of time, and it is a benchmark for all those who came later writing Wicca 101 books. He takes an immensely complex subject like Wicca, in all it’s various formats, and breaks it down so that you get a good *general* overview of the subject before referring you to other books on the same topic to further your education. I counted the number of individual references in the BBB, and it’s impressive, over 180 other books cited as references and additional information, and only a small percentage of those are from any one publisher. To make it more impressive, this book was written in the early 1980’s which makes it decades out of date in some aspects, but it continues to be printed and sold, so something must have been done correctly.
To nestle snuggly on your shelf with the Big Blue Book, there must be “A Witches’ Bible” by Janet and Stewart Fararr. Everyone knows these bright spirits since they have been on multiple documentaries as experts. And expert they are. This is one of those books that will supplant multiple fluff books like some that are coming out these days. Written about one tradition, Alexandrian, it still gives you a good set of insights into not only Gardnerism, but also into all other traditions that are based on one of these two traditions. Full rituals as well as explanations for just about everything in the Alexandrian tradition make this a keen insight into how Wicca started out, and just how far we have come.
Along with Buckland and the Fararrs, we must include Cunningham. His books “Wicca : A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” and “Living Wicca : A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” are marvels in lucidity and good common sense. These books give you the solitary side of Wicca, as the Witches’ Bible gives you the Coven side, and it does it with good humor and decent information. The articles in Living Wicca are just the kinds of things that a new practitioner of Wicca needs to look at so they can begin developing their own philosophy. While these books are not the kind that the experienced Wiccan would come back to, like the previous books in this group, they are the kind of thing it is good to have on hand just to see how the other half lives.
Kisma K. Stepenich’s book, “Faery Wicca: Theory & Magick: A Book of Shadows & Light” and it’s companion “Faery Wicca: Book 2: The Shamanic Practices of the Cunning Arts” are decent reads despite massive errors in the books themselves. More importantly, they describe yet another tradition of Wicca in such detail that it would be possible to be a member of that tradition if one could find someone to initiate them into the tradition. It gives good workings for things like the Elements, and a detailed breakdown of the history of Ireland in mythology, which I have found particularly relevant, and it gives the beginner many useful how-to’s that the other books just don’t cover.
(I have re-read this book in recent times, and I have to admit that it’s hard for me to pass off problems in this book as simply “mistakes”. But the reason I recommended it in the first place is the same reason I’m still recommending it. Within these books is a detailed tradition, and it is an excellent reference to how to create a tradition from whole cloth. For those of you who want to be the next Buckland or next Gardner, pick this up at a used bookstore for a good crib-sheet. All other uses, however, are discouraged. The artwork is nice though.)
The last book in the Beginner’s set of seminal books, is “The Tree” by Raymond Buckland. While this book is years out of date and also a hard read, if the beginner has read the preceding books faithfully and researched the answers to some questions that they have, this will seem almost Spartan in it’s brevity.
I mention all of these books because they do one thing and do it well, they all take an established tradition and break it down so you can see what components of cultures and other religions have been incorporated, and by comparing the traditions listed, one can start to draw some common conclusions from all these traditions.
Also another thing these books do is they don’t try to claim that their way is the only right one, or a tradition passed down from the caves. They freely claim that some of the elements of the traditions are loosely based on older forms of worship, but they don’t say that what is written is what was practiced on the Isle of Mann in 4000 BCE either. This is good since there is such a deluge of false information in regards to the antiquity of Wicca, and hopefully the seeker who reads these books will come away with a true sense of the age of Wicca.
They also force the seeker to start defining their own spirituality. Some say that the “rules” of Wicca, such as the Rede and the Laws are absolutely necessary to the religion, and others say that those same rules are nothing more than guidelines. This forces the reader to start looking at what they wish to believe. They start an evolution of spirituality in the reader.
This is the section where there are books that are good to have on the shelves to give you an idea of where Wicca did come from, and some of the elements that are part of Wicca. It is my opinion that no Wiccan can afford to be ignorant of these elements and their origins.
The first in this set is Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches both by Margaret A. Murray. In many ways, these are THE seminal work on Wicca and Paganism. These works started the entire ball rolling into the development of an earth-based religion that is sweeping the world in these times. Even though some of the thoughts in it have been debunked, they are still important for us to know so that we have the proper perspective on what is happening now.
Doreen Valiente’s work “An ABC of Witchcraft” is also a good work for background. In there, you will find information on almost any subject pertaining to Wicca and Witchcraft, from medieval records of the Witch trails, to the Order of the Garter and how it relates to us now. Every entry carries a wealth of information, and it is a must have for those who like to do research and who like to read the dictionary.
“The White Goddess” by Robert Graves is one of those works that you read even though it’s dry and really outdated. It was written as a study of Celtic Poetry but the digression into the mythology of the Goddess is a long and fascinating one. The study of mythology in here is astounding, and in some ways is almost Joseph Campbell for about 100 years previous to Joseph’s writing. Some of the theories have been disproved, and there are some glaring errors, but all in all, it is a good mythological study for anyone interested in the Gods.
These are good books to have on your shelf to look at when you need to. Each of these works offers something that is important to the overall scholarship of Wicca and paganism, and as such should not be overlooked by those studying Wicca. Each has also contributed to the body of knowledge in Wicca as a whole.
The Green Witchcraft Series by Ann Moura is one series that holds a treasured place on my bookshelf. In this series, Ann writes about what she knows, Natural Witchcraft and spells. Herbalism, rituals and ceremonies, psychic powers, some history and how to explanations are jammed into all of these three books. She does not go into the religion, and she states that she is not Wiccan, but rather a witch. She does this deliberately, and in her books she describes what she practices and some would call “Low Magick” in that it uses few ceremonies or incantations. It’s written clearly and concisely and should be read at least once by anyone in Wicca. All too often this section of the new initiate’s training is glossed over in favor of the religion of Wicca. This reference makes up for that lack.
Another good work for the reference shelf is “A Year of Moons, a Season of Trees” by Pattalee Glass-Koentop is another must have. Instead of looking at the Sabbats like so many authors, Pattalee went to the trouble of writing Esbat ceremonies for every Full Moon, and then went to the trouble to cycle them all together with the actual movement of the Moon. A different rite for every Full Moon in the year, all based on the Ogham and the Tree associations of the Celts. Full descriptions of how and why the different Esbat rites were written and how the ritual should fall together makes this a really good book of ritual for the new and experienced Wiccan.
Last of the must have references is the Joseph Campbell series on mythology. While I have never read these books, I did see his PBS special based on these books, and I must say I was impressed. For the first time I started seeing themes in the Mythology of different cultures, and I understood why there are stories that are similar from culture to culture. It is a science of looking at myths and seeing what they are trying to teach us spiritually rather than just hearing the story.
There are some books that have had an impact on Wicca through popularity or just through being out there. Here are a few that I think are the most important.
Mercedes Lackey’s books, notably “Burning Water”. All I can say is that Ms. Lackey must have one heck of a reference library. A witch is presented as a good guy, one with morals and values, who does not have all the answers to every problem, and can’t wave her magick wand and make things better. The rest of the books by her are just as good. Psychic and Magick explained in such a way that the reader understands some of the base concepts without going into how these spells are accomplished. Personally, I started with many of these books.
Mythological works for your tradition’s base culture. It most times helps to know the stories and mythology of the culture who’s gods you are worshiping. I mean, what would happen if a Witch offered mistletoe to Balder upon the Winter Solstice? I think he might get offended. A good mythology on the Gods you are calling upon would help so much, to keep faux pas like this from happening.
Along with the mythology of the religion you are, what about the mythology of another religion? Books like the Koran, the Torah, The Bible, The Mahabharata & the Ramayana for the Hindu myth, all are important to understand the underlying ethos and thoughts of other religions, so that one can relate to them better and more fully. Besides, it is kind of comical when a Wiccan relates the Goddess as the sacred mother to the Virgin Mary and starts explaining our faith in Biblical terms to a Christian minister. These books themselves are not the problem, they are only stories. It’s what man has turned these stories into that has led to problems in today’s society. So knowing where they are coming from is one of the great steps to disarming them.
Anthropological and archeological works could be helpful, especially if you are interested in the history of religion and finding the roots of our beliefs. Several works exist on the cultures that are the base kernel that is Wicca, and it’s only a matter of choosing the ones that are right for you.
General outlook altering books such as “Dune”, “Stranger in a Strange Land”, “Pegasus in Flight”, the works of Richard Bach, and others that I could name can help start a reaction in the soul that can lead to some interesting results. In fact, no book is bad or useless if it changes your thinking.
However, this is my list of those books that I believe have had a profound impact on Wicca, Spirituality, Magick and everything that is associated with modern Wicca. It is my sincere hope that these books can help you in your quest for knowledge and information.
Stars light your path.
Originally posted 2009-11-11 19:13:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter