W I T C H C R A F T
the Magic of Ancient Celtic Beliefs
in a Contemporary Society
The purpose of this listingis to helpthe novice sortout the
reliable from the sensational in the wealth of material that is
now available on Witchcraft. I have left out old historical
treatises (records of the Inquisition and such) which are of little
value to the modern student, and have concentrated instead on
contemporary sources. This also yeilds a much more objective
- Michael Nichols
'Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and
Other Pagans in America Today' - 2nd ed. - by Margot Adler. Beacon
Press trade paperback.
You may have already heard Margot's voice, as shewas once
hostess of National Public Radio's news program, 'All Things
Considered'. This book is the end result of five years of research
and interviews. (The 2nd edition is an update published eight years
after the original.) This landmark study focuses on the rise
of the Neo-Pagan movement (which includes Witchcraft, of course)
especially as it relates to the values and beliefs of the
counterculture of the mid-60's, hippies, flower children, et. al.
It is the single most comprehensive study of modern American
Witchcraft in existence.
'What Witches Do: The ModernCoven Revealed' - 2nd ed. - by Stewart
Farrar. Phoenix trade paperback.
If Adler's book gives a comprehensive overview of modern
American Witchcraft, Farrar's is a complimentary look at
traditional British Witchcraft. Concentrating on the
Alexandrian tradition (which is only marginally different from
Gardnerian, easily the largest Craft tradition extant), Farrar
lays stress on the actual working of Covens and the integration
of novice Witches into them. Also included is much of the
Gardnerian (via Alexandrian) Book of Shadows. So there is plenty
here for someone who wants to begin practice.
'The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great
Goddess' by Starhawk (pseud. for Miriam Simos). Harper & Row trade
paperback. This book shifts back to America again, this time with a
slight emphasis on feminist Witchcraft, arguably the fastest growing
branch of the Craft. Starhawk is herself High Priestess of two
California Covens and her book is insightful, genuine, and beautifully
poetic. This overview also contains specific instructions for
Circles, chants, spells, invocations, creating rituals and, in
short, everything you need to get started. And it is a
delight to read.
'Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft' by Raymond Buckland.
Llewellyn trade paperback.
British-born Ray Buckland can, with some validity, be
considered Gerald Gardner's American successor. Not only did he
introduce Gardnerian Witchcraft to the United States, but he also
founded his own tradition of the Craft, called Seax (Saxon)
Wicca, which has grown to worldwide practice. His early books, like
'Witchcraft from the Inside', did much to dispel negative
stereotypes of Wicca in the 60's. And 'The Tree: Complete Book
of Saxon Witchcraft' remains one of the best published Books of
Shadows to date. The present volume has a practical orientation,
with chapters set up as 'lessons', covering every imaginable aspect of
modern Wicca. The book is Traditionalist in approach, making a nice
counterpoint to works by Adler and Starhawk.
'A Witches' Bible, Compleat' by Janet & Stewart Farrar. Magickal
Childe trade paperback tandum edition of 'Eight Sabbats for Witches'
and 'The Witches' Way', respectively, also called 'A Witches' Bible,
Vol 1 & 2'.
The first book is an examination of thefestival Holidays
of the Old Religion - the Solstices and Equinoxes and the
cross-quarter days - together with the rich folk customs associated
with them. The second book contains the long-awaited remainder of
the previously unpublished portions of the Gardnerian Book of
Shadows. In both of these books, the Farrars had the invaluable
help of Doreen Valiente, who actually wrote parts of the Gardnerian
liturgy. The three Farrar books taken together form the most
complete system of Witchcraft currently available. Their more
recent book 'The Witches' Goddess' focuses on the feminine
archetype, and contains a gazetteer of Goddesses that is
mind-boggling in its thoroughness.
'Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, & Politics' and 'Truth or Dare:
Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery' both by Starhawk.
Beacon Press trade paperback and Harper & Row hardback, respectively.
If we have gained new religious insights from Pagan and
feminist philosophy, how are we to incorporate those insights into
our daily lives? Starhawk, the author of one of our principal texts,
pulls together a wide range of materials to answer this question
in two books as beautifully poetic as her first. Some of these things
have waited a long time to be said - and they couldn't have been
'The White Goddess' by Robert Graves. Farrar, Straus, &
Giroux trade paperback.
A rather weighty and yet poetic book, tracing the female
deity of Witchcraft - Goddess of Birth, Love, and Death; of the
New, Full, and Old Moon, worshipped under countless titles.
Fascinating for the advanced student. Know your Celtic
mythology (particularly Welsh) before you start, though! (If you need
a quick intro to this book, check out the feature in the Reviews SIG.)
'Witchcraft Today' and 'The Meaning of Witchcraft' byGerald B.
Gardner. Magickal Childe trade paperbacks.
GeraldGardner hasthe distinction ofbeing thefirst practicing
Witch to write a book about Witchcraft. He was initiated into
one of the surviving traditional British Covens, and onto the tattered
remnants of magic and ritual inherited from them, he grafted
elements of ceremonial magic. The synthesis that emerged came to be
called 'Gardnerian' Witchcraft, and it became the major cause
of the Witchcraft revival of the twentieth century. Because
Gardner was the first to deal with this material in written form, it
sometimes seems very disorganized, but its historical importance is
immense 'An ABC of Witchcraft', 'Natural Magick', and 'Witchcraft for
Tomorrow' all by Doreen Valiente. Phoenix trade paperbacks.
British Witch Doreen Valiente isperhaps best known for her
work with Gerald Gardner in creating the Gardnerian canon of
liturgy. However, in her own books, she really shines as an amateur
folklorist, managing to convey a sense of Witchcraft as a folk
religion, tied very much to the locality, the land, and the oldest
strains of folk wisdom and nature. Her sense of history and
tradition is rich and deep, and she often presents fascinating
historical tidbits about the Craft. From no other author can one gain
such a rich sense of heritage.
'A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, & Pagans' by
Jeffrey B. Russell. Thames and Hudson trade paperback.
This bookrepresents theapproach of agifted Cornellhistorian.
Although Russell doesn't always adequately cover modern sources, he
has become famous for his ability to integrate a sensible approach to
the evidence of medieval Witchcraft with an acceptance of modern
'Magical Rites from the Crystal Well' by Ed Fitch.
Llewellyn trade paperback.
A book ofrites, simple celebrations of land and water, wind
and fire. Rites of passage, seasonal celebrations, magical
workings, healings, and many more. Ed Fitch (one of the founders of
Pagan Way) is truly in his element here. And it is one of the
most beautiful books on the Craft ever published. The art work alone
is worth the price of the book!
'A Book of Pagan Rituals' by Herman Slater. Weiser trade paperback.
Originally published in two volumes as the 'Pagan Way
Rituals', this extremely beautiful book is just what it says it is:
a book of rituals. Not authentic Wiccan rituals, but very nearly so,
these rituals are often used by Covens in the training of
neophytes. Like a good Catholic missal, the words are printed in
'sense lines' using BOLD PRINT (easier to read by candlelight).
Anyone who is at least part animist or nature-lover is going to
cherish this beautiful book.
'Celtic Heritage' by Alwyn and Brinley Rees. Thames and
Hudson trade paperback.
A good deal ofmodern Witchcraftcan be tracedto ancientCeltic
sources. This book, based in comparative religion, mythology, and
anthropology, gives one a clear picture of the Celtic world-view.
Drawn mainly from Ireland and Wales, the study focuses on the
interplay of Light and Darkness, Day and Night, Summer and
Winter, and all the seasonal myths and rituals that make up the great
Celtic yearly cycle.
OTHER USEFUL BOOKS:
'The Politics of Women's Spirituality: Essays on the Rise of
Spiritualist Power Within the Feminist Movement' by Charlene
Spretnak. Doubleday trade paperback.
Ahuge (and, oneis tempted tosay, thedefinitive) anthology of
feminist and Pagan theology. Many familiar authors here: Starhawk,
Weinstein, Daly, et. al. Subjects range from Amazons to the ethics of
magic. A real bargain!
'Sex in History' by Reay Tannahill. Stein & Day trade paperback.
It has oftenbeen said that Witchcraft grew outof an earlier
'fertility religion' and, although 'fertility' is probably the
wrong word here, it is undeniable that the history of Witichcraft is
irrevocably bound up with the history of sexuality. Like
Tantrists and many others in the East, Witches tend to view sex as
sacramental. Since this is quite contrary to the prevailing
attitudes of our own culture, it may be helpful to understand how
our culture acquired such negative ideas about sex in the first
place. Ms. Tannahill's unique landmark study will not only answer
this question but also indicate the many options other cultures
throughout history have chosen.
'When God Was A Woman' by Merlin Stone. Harcourt, Brace, &
Jovanovich trade paperback.
At the foundations of the religion of Witchcraft is the
religion of the Goddess. Ms. Stone's book is an archeological
tour-de-force of that religion, which is found at the beginnings of
virtually every known culture (yes, even the Judeo-Christian culture).
In this book, one learns about the worship of Astarte, Isis,
Ishtar, and many others. Also recommended is her 'Ancient
Mirrors of Womanhood'. Both are splendid books!
'A Different Heaven and Earth' by Sheila D. Collins. Judson
Press trade paperback.
Byone ofthe leading feministtheologians of ourday, this book
asks what are the psychological and social implications of
worshipping a male deity exclusively, while ignoring the feminine
principle in religion. This is one of the most influencial books I've
read in the last ten years. It changed my way of thinking (for the
better) and I dare say it will change yours.
'The Way of Wyrd' by Brian Bates. Harper & Row hardback.
What Carlos Castaneda didfor Native American tradition, this
author does for ancient Pagan Anglo-Saxon tradition. Subtitled 'The
Book of a Sorcerer's Apprentice' and based on authentic manuscripts
found in the British Museum, it is the chronicle of a young Christian
monk sent into the wilds beyond Mercia in 674 to record the heresies
(beliefs) of the Pagans. He is lucky to have as his guide the
Anglo-Saxon shaman Wulf. Throughout this documentary novel, the
Christian and Pagan beliefs are juxtaposed for abetter understanding
of both. Not since 'The Mists of Avalon' has a book accomplished this
task so neatly.
'Positive Magic' - revised edition - by Marion Weinstein.
Phoenix Publications trade paperback.
Although a book about how to use magic to changeyour life
could be extremely tedious, this one is far from it. While it is true
that Marion uses a simple and direct style of writing, it is used on
such difficult and subtle questions as the ethics of magic. She
draws upon her own experiences to create a book that is
truely positive. If I had to recommend one book on magic, this would
'Earth Power' by Scott Cunningham. Llewellyn trade paperback.
Scott is arguablythe strongest of the young writers in the
immensely popular 'Llewellyn's Practical Magick Series'. This is,
in fact, a book of spells. Practical, down-to-earth, useful,
everyday, garden-variety spells. It is the only such book in this
bibliography. Although I do not recommend a 'cookbook' approach to
magic, this book will be extremely helpful when used as a guide for
creating your own spells. Also, Scott concentrates on 'natural' or
'folk' magic, as opposed to 'ritual' or 'ceremonial' magic. This is
the type of magic (involving Sun, Moon, stars, trees, rocks,
springs, etc.) that is the natural heritage of Witchcraft. An
excellent starting-place for the novice spell-wright. His
many other books, especially 'The Magical Household', are all
'The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist' and 'Alternate
Realities' by Lawrence LeShan. Ballantine paperbacks.
Dr. LeShandoes not deal with magic orWitchcraft per se, but
what he has to say about the nature of the cosmos is magical
indeed. He is an experimental psychologist, an Esalen veteran,
director of ESP research, psychic healing, and other projects.
His is a synthesis of philosophy, parapsychology, and
Einsteinian physics. His other books, especially 'How To Meditate'
(Bantam paperback), are also of great value.
'Seth Speaks' and 'The Seth Material' by Jane Roberts. Bantam
Yet another startlingly clear (albeit less scientific)
look at metaphysics. This is probably the cream of the crop of all
modern mediumistic data: Seth is the communicant, and the late Jane
Roberts is the medium. The other 'Seth' books are also of value.
'Psychic Exploration: A Challenge for Science' by Edgar Mitchell,
edited by John White. Putnam trade paperback.
This anthology serves as an excellent introduction to the
scientific field of parapsychology. Each chapter is an extensive
review article on laboratory work carried out in one particular
sub-genre of the field: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition,
psychokinesis, OOBE's, apparitions & hauntings, etc. These
excellent articles will bring you up-to-date on virtually
everything that is currently known about the topic in
question. Other chapters deal with the history of the discipline,
social & psychological implications, military applications, etc.
This book could open the mind of the severest skeptic. But at the
same time, it could serve as a necessary check on those
too-credulous souls who have a tendency to 'believe everything'.
BOOKS ON RELATED SUBJECTS:
ASTROLOGY: For the absolute beginner, 'Chart Your Own Horoscope'
by Ursula Lewis. Pinnacle paperback. The find-at-a-glance tables
and charts are worth their weight in gold. For the more advanced
students, Michael Meyer's 'A Handbook for the Humanistic
Astrologer' is highly recommended for its 'humanistic' (a la Dane
Rudyar) approach. If you want to really learn to do astrology, try
'The Only Way To Learn Astrology, Vol I-IV' by March & McEvers. Books
by Linda Goodman, Grant Lewi, Ronald Davison, and Liz Greene are
TAROT: 'Secrets of the Tarot' by Barbara Walker is the best of
the newest books on Tarot. You may know Barbara as the author of the
amazing 'Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets'. Bill Butler's
'Dictionary of the Tarot' is a wonderful reference book which
encompasses works by such authors as Case, Crowley, Douglas, Gray,
Huson, Kaplan, Mathers, Papus, Waite, et. al.
ESP: Any and all books by J. B. and Louisa Rhine, Gertrude
Schmeidler, Thelma Moss, Charles Tart, D. Scott Rogo, J. G. Pratt,
Raynor Johnson and Lawrence LeShan would be highly recommended.
PALMISTRY: 'The Palmistry Workbook' by N. Altman is clearly the
leader here. The book actually has hand-prints, not just line
GHOSTS: Firstly, I'd recommend 'An Experience of Phantoms'
and 'The Poltergeist Experience' both by D. Scott Rogo (Penguin
paperbacks), who is a kind of historian of psychical research. Also,
'The Poltergeist' by William Roll, director of the Psychical
Research Foundation, and this country's leading authority on ghosts.
And most importantly, 'Conjuring Up Phillip' by Iris M. Owen, the
account of a group of Canadian researchers who 'created' a ghost!
This last title is now out of print, but if you can find one in a used
book store, it's well worth it.
SURVIVAL: 'At the Hour of Death' by Karlis Osis is exceptional.
Books by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross are adequate, but not as good. And, if
you can find it, the out-of-print 'Life Is Forever' by Susy
Smith is perhaps the best introduction.
OUT-OF-THE-BODY EXPERIENCES: 'Journeys Out of the Body' and 'Far
Journeys' both by Robert A. Monroe. The narative of a much-researched
psychic, he only
one of its kind. Also, 'Astral Projection' by Oliver Fox, and any
by Sylvan Muldoon and Hereward Carrington, if you can find them.
MEDIUMSHIP: Firstly, the 'Seth' books by Jane Roberts, listed above.
Any and all books by Eileen Garrett. Plus, 'Here, Mr. Splitfoot' by
Robert Sommerlot, 'Singer in the Shadows' by Irving Litvag, and 'She
Spoke to the Dead' by Susy Smith.
CABALISM: Introductory works include 'The Magician: His Training
and Work' and 'Magick: Its Ritual, Power, and Purpose' both by W.
E. Butler. Later, works by Dion Fortune and Aleister Crowley
(definately not for the novice).
BOOKS OF LORE & MYTHOLOGY:
'The Mists of Avalon' by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Ballantine trade
This Arthurian fantasy novel,which reached the N.Y. Times
best-seller list, is truly superlative. It is narrated by Morgan le
Fay and so we finally understand that strange antipathy that exists
between her and Arthur. The religious and philosophical
conflict between the Old Religion and the newer one of Christianity is
beautifully portrayed. An excellent choice.
The Prydain Chronicles of Lloyd Alexander, a pentology on Dell
paperbacks: 'The Book of Three', 'The Black Cauldron', 'The
Castle of Llyr', 'Taran Wanderer', and 'The High King'.
These award-winning children's fantasies are based on
ancient Welsh mythology. Alexander admits that the two authors who
most influenced him were J. R. R. Tolkien and T. H. White. The books
are also the basis of the recent animation feature from Disney
studios. I'm often asked about pagan books to recommend for children.
These are them.
The Deryni Chronicles of Katherine Kurtz: 'Deryni Rising', 'Deryni
Checkmate', 'High Deryni', 'Camber of Culdi', 'Saint Camber',
Camber the Heretic', 'The Bishop's Heir', 'The King's Justice' and
'The Quest for Saint Camber', all Ballantine paperbacks.
Set in the landscape of ancient Wales, the Deryni are a race
with magical powers which must fight for its life against a
medieval Church Militant. Kahterine is someone who knows what magic
is all about.
'The Once and Future King' and 'The Book of Merlyn' both by T.
H. White. Berkely paperbacks.
Sparkling books, and my own personal favorites. The final
crystalization of centuries of Arhturian romance. The books on which
'Camelot' was based.
'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen', 'TheMoon of Gomrath', 'Elidor', and
'The Owl Service' by Alan Garner. All Ballantine paperbacks.
Garner isone of thebest Britishfantasy authors, witha superb
sense of local 'color' and folklore. The first two (related) titles
are in the heroic quest mold, the third is a story about the four
'hallows' of Arthurian legends, and the fourth is an eerie modern
re-creation of the fourth branch of the 'Mabinogi'.
'A Wizard of Earhtsea', 'The Tombs of Atuan', and 'The Farthest
Shore' by Ursula K. LeGuin. A trilogy on Bantam paperbacks.
This isthe chronicle of ayoung boy who isan apprentice mage.
LeGuin, a leading science fiction and fantasy author, has some
fascinating things to say about the light side and dark side of magic,
and how they're related. And she says it very well, indeed.
'Lammas Night' by Katherine Kurtz. Ballantine paperback.
In this case, theauthor of the important Deryni fantasies
turns her attention to a historical setting: England in World
War II. There is a long-standing tradition that Hitler's thwarted
plans for invading England owed a certain something to the many
Covens throughout Britain who combined their efforts to stop him.
There is even a hint that the Royal Family itself was involved.
Ms. Kurtz's historical research is, of course, impeccable.
Next: Charge of The Horned God, The