Miscellaneous Reviews

Raymond Buckland, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft

Also known as Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book, thanks to its traditional blue cover.

I generally avoid anything claiming to be the “complete” book of a religion. However, Buckland has the excuse that this book was first printed in 1986, when there were few books on Wicca available. Buckland is also notable for the fact that he studied under Gerald Gardner, and that he’s generally credited with bringing Wicca to the United States.

That said, I find the book outdated and don’t recommend it as a working book.

Starhawk, Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess

It must be noted first off that Starhawk does not consider herself Wiccan. She is a Witch and a follower of Goddess spirituality. Nevertheless, many Wiccans still swear by this book. So did I when I I first read it ten years ago. Since starting to reread it recently, my opinions have changed dramatically. For one, her history is atrocious, and she’s big into blaming the evils of the world on patriarchy. It still may be a fascinating read, however, and she covers quite a bit of material.

Gus diZerega, Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience

This book seriously suffers from the fact that it really doesn’t say anything. Supposedly a contribution to interfaith dialogue, his section on Christian criticisms of Wicca turns into a correction of Christian criticisms. His section on Wicca and Paganism (and I’m occasionally left confused as to which he’s speaking of) tells us of the great love and peace diZerega gains from his religion as if needing to justify and defend Wicca. Love and peace is all good, but we’re about a little more than that, and just telling the Christians what we think they want to hear does not, in the end, solve anything.

W. Lyon Martin, An Ordinary Girl, A Magical Child

Targeting both Pagan and non-Pagan children, this book attempts to clearly explain Paganism through the eyes of a child. The resulting mess accomplishes none of these objectives, and I personally would never give this book to any child.

The most prominent issue is the attempt to portray Paganism as a religion. What is really being depicted is Wicca, although that word is never used. It describes the Wheel of the Year as the Pagan holidays, described in such general terms as to teach almost nothing useful. Circle casting, invoking of Watchtowers, and worship of Goddess and God are depicted as basic practices of Pagans. A large segment of the Pagan community is therefore hideously misrepresented.

The tendency to teach that we are all just one big, happy, homogenous family extends farther, when the child character, Rabbit, is teased at school by Christian children because she does not believe in God. Mommy reminds her that she does believe in God, as well as Goddess, and therefore the Christian child is mistaken. This will leave any child reader with the impression that Pagans and Christians believe in the same being. Such an approach might avoid a little teasing on the playground, but it sacrifices the truth in the process. How is anyone, child or adult, supposed to learn about their faith if they are told to constantly equate it with more convenient religions? And how are non-Pagans to truly respect our religion if we inform them that we are really just like them, that there is essentially nothing that needs respect?

In addition, the book is simply poorly written. The author has confused the simple sentences and vocabulary needed for a child reader with, for lack of a better phrase, “talking stupid.” Grammar is incorrect, verse tenses do not match and capitalization is arbitrary. In addition, it uses phrases familiar to Pagans but incoherent to someone learning about them, particularly a child. For example, while I understand what is going on when “High Priestess calls Diana,” without explanation the sentence is confusing at best.

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