I strongly recommend all four books below to people just starting to learn about Wicca. In particular, I stress reading Thea Sabin’s book first as it sets down basic fundamentals that a lot of other sources ignore. I place Deborah Lipp’s book last because she talks about why we do certain things in ritual. As such, having some basic knowledge to build upon is immensely helpful.
Reviews are below.
Thea Sabin, Wicca for Beginners
I’m not sure a book on Wicca has ever been given a more appropriate title. Wicca for Beginners delivers exactly what it promises: truly introductory material for those just beginning to investigate Wicca. It makes no presumptions about what the reader knows, and it doesn’t get ahead of itself.
It’s meant to be more informative than instructive, which is an approach sorely lacking in available materials today. While there are various basic exercises to assist in understanding, Sabin is far more interested in explaining basic premises and beliefs – the kind of information that will be foundational for Wiccan students as they move on to other books and more complex understandings of Wicca.
Sabin also generally avoids specific ritual. She sometimes gives some examples of phrasings, and she gives some basic outlines for practices, but she steers clear from concrete instructions telling you how many times to turn around or what incense you have to burn. Those details can all come later. Right now a reader needs to understand the bare basics, and this book is superb in delivering it.
By focusing on very rudimentary beliefs, I hope that Sabin’s book is also useful for people still trying to figure out if Wicca is for them. If these beliefs simply don’t make sense to a reader, that should be taken a very strong hint that Wicca is perhaps not the religion for them. That will certainly spare someone the wasted effort of memorizing a bunch of rituals only to find finally find out that the rituals are based on ideas he or she doesn’t agree with or are addressed to beings to whom they have no relationship.
Scott Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner and Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
Cunningham is considered by some to be extremely Fluffy Bunny:
- He was one of the authors instrumental in the proliferation of the idea that Wicca can encompass just about everything
- He popularized the concept of “the All,” which encourages some to think they can easily merge Christianity and Wicca without serious consideration of the two belief systems.
- He is the author most likely to be quoted by someone who’s only read book and thinks they’re an expert, although that’s not Cunningham’s fault.
- He’s fairly white-lighter – he suggests that his readers not even deal with deities associated with death or destruction, for instance
These books are very simplistic, but there’s a reason for that: they are for beginners. They are definitely not to be taken as the definitive book on Wicca (no book should), but they are a solid base from which to work. And while the details can annoy more established Wiccans, his general ideas are sound. The white-lighter tendencies are an issue, for example, but they still down a strong moral base. These are books from which to grow.
It’s also important not to confuse his general chapters on Wicca with his examples of personal practices. This layout is meant to show how individuals can take Wiccan principles and structure them into a personalized system. It’s not laying down those personal ideas as Wiccan dogma, suggesting that every Wicca should or does follow them.
He also doesn’t get bound up in “spells,” as many books from the 1980s and 90s do. This is a book truly about Wicca.
Many of his detractors also tend to conveniently forget that they started with Cunningham’s books too.
Deborah Lipp, Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water & Earth in the Wiccan Circle
In a market of spellbooks, Wicca 101 guides, and witchy-coolness, the appearance of Lipp’s book is a startling breath of fresh air. From start to finish, Elements of Ritual walks the reader through every step of a Wiccan ritual. It is not, however, telling us what words we have to recite or what gestures are required. Instead, it is an in-depth guide to the meaning of each step. Lipp reminds us that whether we are writing our own rituals or repeating something taught, the gestures mean very little on their own, becoming truly energized only once we understand them.
Lipp centers her construction of ritual around the four elements, considering them the foundation of a traditional Wiccan circle. Moreover, she explains why, something decidedly lacking in much Wiccan literature. She stresses balance in the overall construction of rituals, reflecting a core belief of Wicca.
Finally, while she encourages readers to develop their own rituals, she provides copious examples to illustrate her points – examples that I could actually see myself using, as opposed to the average published Wiccan ritual which reads like it comes from a B-rate fantasy movie.