TALESPINNER'S NEOPAGAN READING LIST
by J. Brad ("Talespinner") Hicks
THE BEST FIVE:
(Read these five first,they are by themselves thebest possible
introduction to Neopagan Witchcraft and practical magic that I've
Starhawk, _The_Spiral_Dance_. (San Francisco: Harper & Rowe, 1979).
This isthe essential firstbook fora newwitch, Neopaganor
otherwise. In fact, many new covens have been formed with no other
sources than this book. Starhawk details the myths, legends, and
magic of the Craft in a beautifully elegant, easy-to-read way. Often
found in bookstores on the "Women's Studies" shelf, Starhawk's vision
of the Craft emphasizes the Goddess as the source of inspiration, with
secondary emphasis on the Horned God. Perhaps a bit too Feminist, but
still the best introduction yet.
Margot Adler, _Drawing_Down_the_Moon_. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979).
Althoughit isnow 7yearsout-of-date, thisis stillthe best
history of the modern, Neopagan Craft that has been published yet.
Includes many valuable interviews with some of the people who gave
shape to the Craft as we know it. While the book does include some
instruction in magic, its primary thrust is philosophy and history.
Keep an eye out--there's an updated second edition due out some time
in late 1986.
Marion Weinstein, _Positive_Magic_. (Surrey, B.C.: Phoenix
Publishing, revised 1981). Paperback, $8.95
I see-saw betweenthis book andthe next onefor 3rd and4th
place. Both are good, detailed texts on magic and spell-casting. At
the moment, I recommend _Positive Magic_ first for the following
1) it is more practical, teaching actual techniques before
tackling theoretical justifications, and 2) the language is a bit
easier to follow for non-scientists. The topics covered include the
karmic effects of magic, astrology, divination with tarot cards and
the I'Ching, and general spell-casting. Its strongest point is the
section on tarot, which is the best I've seen yet. Its weakest point
(in my opinion) is that it under-emphasizes poetry and ritual.
P.E.I. Bonewits, _Real_Magic_. (Berkeley: Creative Arts Publishing,
revised 1979). Paperback, $8.95
Thisis theother"best" bookon magic. Itcovers amuch wider
variety of topics, including ritual, psychic self-defense, and many
other psychic phenomena. Isaac's approach is scientific and rational,
not "religious," and his language is often more that of a scholar than
a witch, but this is nevertheless an essential book for any student of
magic. WARNING: Make sure that you get the second edition (1979) or
later, as the 1971 edition includes much material that is misleading,
extraneous, and sometimes just plain false--the 1979 edition was
Scott Cunningham, _Earth_Power_. (St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications,
Agood, reliablevolumeof spellsandcharms, compiledfromthe
Family Traditions and other witchcraft sources. The magic in this
book consists entirely of what scholars call "Low Magic"--the magic of
village herballists, midwives, and healers--and as such, it is very
practical, simple, and unpretentious. Missing is much of the ceremony
of Neopagan Witchcraft; in its place, a huge vocabulary of magic that
can be used easily and quickly, regardless of where you are and what
you have for tools.
THE BEST OF THE REST:
(Onceyou have a good background, from the previous five books,
you will find the following all make good reference books, worth
having on your shelf.)
Stewart Farrar, _What_Witches_Do_. (Custer, WA: Phoenix Publishing,
revised 1983). Paperback, $8.95
Thisbook isso goodthat it ALMOSTmade itinto thetop five,
displacing _Earth Magic_. When its first edition came out in 1971, it
was the only book on modern Witchcraft that was written for outsiders.
It is surprisingly well-written, and very thorough. Its only serious
problem is that it is very specifically Alexandrian Witchcraft (named
after Alex Sanders, its first High Priest), and some of it doesn't
generalize well. Nevertheless, it has the best-written chapter on
initiation, among other things, that I've seen yet.
Herman Slater (ed.), _A_Book_of_Pagan_Rituals_. (York Beach, ME:
Samuel Weiser, 1978). Paperback, $8.95
This is thecomplete Bookof Shadows ofa Neopagantradition
called The Pagan Way. It includes complete, very well-written rituals
for all eight of the High Holidays (both solo and group ritual), plus
a mixed bag of rituals for healing, trance work, and so forth.
Requires some basic knowledge of the Craft and its symbolism, so its
not for beginners, but it is definitely useful to any worthwhile
Ellen Cannon Reed, _The_Witches'_Qabala_. (St. Paul: Llewellyn
Publications, 1985). Paperback, $7.95
So far, only Book 1, "The Goddess and the Tree" has been
published, but it's already the best book on the Qabala that I've een
yet, and the only one I would recommend to a new Neopagan Witch. The
Qabala and its commentary to date contain a lot of sexist material,
reflecting their Judeao-Christian origins. Ellen Reed strips all of
that away, but in a way that is truer to the Qabala's origins and
meaning than was the offensive material. Where she changes the
traditional attributions, she documents it, and includes the
traditional ones as well.
This book is almost a "must-read."
Jack Schwarz, _Voluntary_Controls_. (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1978).
Jack Schwarzis NOTa witch,but don't letthat stopyou from
profiting from the single clearest, most practical book on kundalini-
style meditation that has been published in the West. If you are
having trouble meditating, or wish to do serious trance work, turn to
this book first.
Camden Benares, _ZEN_Without_Zen_Masters_. (Phoenix: Falcon Press,
1977). Paperback, $6.95
Outof printfor almost 7years, Iam VERYhappy to beable to
recommend it again. This book is, among other things, proof that
there is more to the Discordian branch of Neopaganism than just
practical jokes. It is also the best practical book on Zen for the
western world that I have seen yet. All of the best zen koans,
including these, are also humorous (and therefore memorable). The
book also includes MANY valuable exercises. As Robert Anton Wilson
(see below) says in the Commentary at the beginning, "If you don't
laugh at all, you've missed the point. If you only laugh, you've
missed your chance for Illumination."
Robert Anton Wilson,
(New York: Pocket Books, 1977). Paperback, $3.95
Inthisautobiographical work,Wilson detailshis initiation
into and experience with almost every form of shamanic magick that is
still practiced today, and draws some very surprising conclusions.
Strongest point: this is a fantastic synthesis of magick, psychology,
and physics. Weakest point: its central theme--that all of the great
mystical societies and movements in history have been in contact with
aliens from Sirius--is not taken seriously by Wilson (no matter how
serious he seems in this book), and should not be taken seriously by
Next: Witchcraft (Annotated bibliography)