Books to Avoid

While I generally recommend that everyone to read as many views as possible in order to form their own opinions, I personally consider the following books and authors to be a waste of time, not to mention dangerously misleading for newcomers as they are full of inaccuracies.

Silver Ravenwolf, To Ride a Silver Broomstick or anything else by her

There is nothing in this book that can’t be read in a hundred other books on Wicca, and it is all presented sophomorically. Her grasp of history is atrocious, and while she preaches tolerance on one hand she also repeatedly and blatantly insults Christianity. Her books are heavily padded with spells yet offers very little in the way of magical theory.

Read complete review:  Continuing Anger of Silver Ravenwolf

Fiona Horne, anything by her

She targets teens, she commercializes Wicca, and she’s an admitted atheist- a pretty strange representative for a religion. Her latest publicity stunt is Sci-Fi’s Mad Mad World reality series. Why is she our newest targeted author? Click here to find out “Who is Fiona Horne?” by Juliaki.

Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

At first glance this book appears to be a work of academia, which is where part of the danger lies. In fact, this is 1000 pages of attempting to define every goddess as an aspect of the Great Goddess or Triple Goddess, every saint as a stolen pagan deity, every god as a Sacrificial King and/or patriarchy’s attempt to masculine a goddess, and every biblical woman as a deliberately misrepresented matriarchal leader. Its entire motive is to promote Goddess spirituality and give men a few kicks while its at it. Walker depends heavily on painfully outdated and even discredited source materials such as works by Frazer and Graves. There may be some actual information in this book, but its so peppered with nonsense that it becomes impossible to distinguish what might actually be legitimate information.

Laurie Cabot, Power of the Witch

The self-professed “Official Witch of Salem” (despite the fact that there are hundreds of witches in Salem), this woman is just begging for attention. She wanders Salem, Massachusetts on a day-to-day basis in a long black robe, which she claims is traditional Wiccan garb, back from before the Burning Times. She’s another big believer in quick fix magic (all you need for a good parking space is to visualize it before you enter the lot). Oh, and did I mention she named her Tradition after herself? Where Ravenwolf has exploited Wicca for money, Cabot has exploited it for attention.

For more of Cabot’s antics, check out the following news article from June 18, 2004:

Police claim Salem’s official witch put a hex on them as the result of a custody dispute.

Video David Boeri Reports On Hex NewsCenter 5’s David Boeri reported that it started with a child custody dispute, a judge’s warrant for a child’s return and the arrest of the daughter of Laurie Cabot, the official witch of Salem. When Cabot didn’t open the door for police, they entered on their own.

“I’m talking to them and they are, like, doing their business, and, you know, ‘I got a warrant,’ you know? I said, ‘Stop, you are not paying attention. Look me in the eye,'” said Cabot. “I didn’t say for life. I said, ‘Look me in the eye. You are cursed.’ I meant it. They were nervous.”

Cabot, who’s said she has spent her career as a “Dale Carnegie of Witches,” was coming off as the Wicked Witch of the East Friday, appearing in a Salem newspaper with the headlines: “Hex and the City: Witch Curses Salem Cops.”

“I don’t do curses. I say it is a curse when you do bad things,” said Cabot.

The police, whose station was still upright Friday, may know the laws of the commonwealth, Cabot said, but they don’t know the universal law of witches.

“We call it the ‘Threefold Law.’ Whatever you do comes back threefold. You curse yourself by doing things against human kind,” she said.

Police said they were only doing their jobs, but did not comment Friday.

No criminal charges were filed in the case.

Sorry Ms. Cabot, but when police enter a home with a valid warrant, it is not a crime “against human kind”. It’s their bloody job.

Amber Wolfe, Druid Power

With a name such as Druid Power, I almost did not pick up this book at all. However, written by an educator and psychotherapist, I had hopes that this book would escape its cliché title and present a superior piece that stepped beyond the glut of Paganism101 books.

I was mistaken.

What this book portrays is a fantasy wrapped up in a fictional shroud of history, opening with a history of the Celts stretching from several thousand years B.C.E. into the present day. Not only are we to accept all of modern Britain as Celtic (despite the fact that the English have not identified themselves as such for more than a millennium), but we are to credit the independent spirit of former British colonies such as the United States to the Celts as well. Throw in a little Christianity-as-Evil-Oppressor for good measure, and what we have is nothing more than the usual fare that frightens me away from the New Age/Paganism section of the bookstore.

What Wolfe is describing is nothing more than Wicca with Celtic trappings, all the way from a Sun God/Mother Earth polarity to a system of five elements to that ever-annoying trait of ascribing the Maid/Mother/Crone concept to ancient Celtic triple-goddesses. To practice Wicca within a particular cultural context (such as Celtic) is widely accepted, but to project our modern beliefs backward upon the cultural is neither helpful to the modern reader nor respectful toward the culture we want to emulate.

Wolfe may have some helpful psychoanalytical approaches to the Craft, but it is unfortunately completely bound up in Celtic pseudo-history, and it repeatedly depends upon that history as validation. She could have written on an introspective, deeply personal spiritual journey sprinkled with helpful meditations so that the reader might follow, but instead she presents a muddle of sources coarsely and haphazardly pressed into paperback form.

(0 stars) Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, Book of Shadows

Just how bad does a book have to be fore me to award zero stars? Bad enough that the introduction alone caused me to throw it down in disgust and write Llewellyn Publishing a terse email concerning quality control and why a significant number of people ignore their books altogether. Bad enough for me to offer to work as a historical consultant for said publisher to help verify facts, so that they will never produce another book that blames the Inquisition for England’s anti-witch legislation (the Inquisition never operated in England), as is evident in the existence of the Witchcraft Law that was not repealed until 1951. (The law in question actually makes it illegal to claim to have supernatural powers or to accuse someone of having supernatural powers, with the understanding that such powers do not exist and those that claim otherwise are therefore frauds. It was enacted to stop witch persecutions, not support them.)

And that was just the introduction.

The rest of the book is a mish-mash of useless generalities, politically correct but erroneous facts, and the occasional point that I can only conclude that the author simply invented. According to Gonzalez-Wippler, the symbol of Wicca is a pentagram inside a crescent moon. Excuse me? In almost twenty years of study I have never even seen this symbol. My first impression of the image provided is that it is an Islamic symbol, not a Wiccan one. Of course, the author is free to use symbols as she pleases, but to then state that her personal symbol is the symbol of all of Wicca is absurd.

This book is less about how to be Wiccan than it is about how to look Wiccan. One chapter is entitled “The Major Ceremony of Wicca and the Great Rite.” It is comprised almost entirely of a dry, step-by-step description of a generic Wiccan gathering. Explanation of meaning and purpose is practically non-existent. All that is provided is words and gestures. The author is apparently completely oblivious to the fact that she is actually describing several distinct rituals, not one large one, and that each of those rituals has their own purposes and names: casting the circle, calling the quarters, etc. She then dedicates a whopping half page to the Great Rite, which she states is rarely performed in actuality today and even then only by married people. Maybe her group does not perform the Great Rite, but that does not mean that no one else does, and it certainly isn’t limited to married people. Saying that it is may make Wicca look more safe and less threatening, until people find out that we have lied, in which case we just look more threatening. If you’re going to bother representing Wicca, go to the effort of representing it correctly.

This book is absolute garbage. There is no information in here that cannot easily be found elsewhere, and there’s precious little actual information to begin with. Generalities are so sweeping as to be useless. The book is marketed as a guide to Wiccan practice, but it is written (badly) like an explanation of Wicca to those with only a casual interest in what it is, not how to actually practice.

Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition by Edain McCoy
Faery Wicca series by Kisma Stepanich
The 21 Lessons of Merlyn: A Study in Druid Magic and Lore by Douglas Monroe

These three books possess some of the most egregious historical claims in the neopagan community.  Specifically, they brazenly abuse the history of the Celtic people.  A terrific review of these three books is available offsite in “When is a Celt not a Celt?” by Joanna Hautin-Mayer

6 Comments to "Books to Avoid"

  1. Leah's Gravatar Leah
    August 25, 2014 - 1:24 am | Permalink

    I was not aware that Gonzalez Wippler had written a book about Wicca. Looks like she is trying the same old stuff she pulled with Santeria. ..claim expert knowledge of a subject and then write meaningless garbage to make $$$.I guess leopards truly don’t change their spots.

  2. Carmen Cabrera's Gravatar Carmen Cabrera
    January 11, 2015 - 9:55 am | Permalink

    I once spoke with a woman who claimed she was soon to “undergo initiation” into Santeria.. She highly recommended Gonzalez-Wippler’s book as being wonderful. I said I had heard it wasn’t accurate. She said it was completely accurate and she raved about it.

    I had a hard time not rolling my eyes as I was walking away.

    • Werebuffalo's Gravatar Werebuffalo
      March 15, 2015 - 4:04 am | Permalink

      Carmen, there’s an easy ‘out’ for dealing with people like that. Simply look them in the eye, smile, and say, “Your hair is pretty, I hope you win.” Then walk away quickly. You’ve said something nice, confused them, and escaped with minimal loss of brain cells. Ignorance can be fixed- stupidity is (or should be) terminal.

  3. Dave's Gravatar Dave
    July 23, 2015 - 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Uhhh all of Britain is not celtic, let alone America. Ireland, Arron and Scotland are, for the most part. And when people say Celtic. What which of the many tribes that have nothing to do with each other are they referring to? My father is almost pure Gaelic with a touch of Norman. Normans make up a large part of English blood (not Celtic but Vikings). Do you know Gaelic past before Christ? How about pict? Scot? Know what Gauls,scots and Gaels have in common except being titled Celtic? Not one thing.

  4. September 29, 2015 - 1:44 am | Permalink

    Walker is really bad and a lot of her information is still touted as fact. I know because in more Lilith circles people have tried to use it and her citations either do not exist or say something entirely different than what she says.

    Cabot is another one. Sully Erna of Godsmack is a part of her coven. I think she is whack.

    • Lydia's Gravatar Lydia
      January 17, 2017 - 9:04 am | Permalink

      *winces* So my mom works at a catholic church and she thought it was neat that Sully Erna ‘practiced witchcraft’.

      I did tell her that not every person following wicca is a practicing witch, and that not, and vice versa. Don’t think she absorbed that information.

      …… Its a proclamation made out of ignorance, but I will let the initial thing slide. The thought that Sully is part of her coven is not settling. Especially considering her first opinion of Wicca in general is from what she has looked up about Godsmack.

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