I celebrated Imbolc yesterday after a day spent cleaning and hanging out with friends. R and I went to the flea market and he found me a pair of horns for my Oya altar. I’m really pleased with them. I need to hunt around and see if I can’t dig up something to use as an altar cloth.
I wanted to make a post regarding my favorite books, simply because everyone seems to have a list, and I think the best books are sadly under-represented. Most of them can’t be had if you only frequent large mainstream booksellers (but some of them can), and so they tend to go unread. These aren’t in any particular order, and I’ve made the cover images into links so that if you want to purchase them, you can do so. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go out and read Ray Buckland or whoever else. I think if you’re serious you should be reading and analyzing anything you can, but there are definitely some books that are better than others (not-so-great books are frequently distinguished by sparkley covers and/or authors who are named after animals). These are the ones that I wish someone had recommended to me when I was introduced to Wicca.
The Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton
This is easily the best secular, objective books on Wicca ever published. Period. Hutton is not Wiccan. He’s not even Pagan. He’s a British historian and an authority on European paganism (small “p” intentional). In this book, Hutton closely examines Wiccan history, belief, and practice from the very beginning. He addresses Wicca’s origins, surrounding influences, evolution, and spread over seas. My copy is marked up and tabbed. I’ve read it several times, and every time I learn something new. Almost every Wiccan history book available today (that isn’t totally false) is just an abridged version of Hutton. Save yourself time and money and just read this one.
The Circle Within by Dianne Sylvan
I adore this book and I think it would appeal to anyone regardless of Tradition. The subtiltle is Crafting a Wiccan Spiritual Tradition and that pretty much says it all. Sylvan writes plainly about incorporating Wicca into daily life. If you’re one of those people who laments not having time to practice, then you need this book. Sylvan discusses the need for daily prayer and ritual without imposing her own personal beliefs. I reread this book periodically because I find it to be very inspiring.
Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner
If you’re Wiccan, you need to have read Gardner. Whatever your Tradition, odds are most of it comes from him and his cohorts. Besides, he’s quirky and very British and some of the conclusions he draws are hilarious (my personal favorite being that because “Robin” is an old French-English word for “spirit” and “Hood” is just another word for “wood”, Robin Hood MUST be a mythical form into which witches could transform at will. WHAT.) What modern Wiccans practice today makes so much more sense (or not) after you’ve read the first book ever published on Wicca.
Fifty Years of Wicca by Frederic Lamond
Read this book simultaneouly to Witchcraft Today. Gardner will make a lot more sense. Frederic Lamond was one of the the witches in Gardner’s original coven. We’re lucky to still have him and even luckier that he decided to write books. This is Lamond’s memoir. He discusses how and why he came to Wicca and writes about his experiences as Gardner’s friend and covenmate. I think there’s a lot to be learned by reading primary sources, and this is one of the few that we have.
The Heart of Wicca by Ellen Cannon Reed
Ellen Cannon Reed is non-Gardnerian, but she’s still Trad Craft, and that’s the perspective from which she writes. To Reed, and to myself, Wicca is an initiatory mystery tradition. In The Heart of Wicca, she discusses her experiences as a High Priestess, the value of initiation and training, the importance of history, and she does it all without devaluing the solitary experience. I think most people will either love or hate this book, but I adore it. If you’re a solitary, eclectic practitioner, this book will offer you a perspective on the Craft that you might not have been exposed to before.
I’ll write plenty more on books, I’m sure. There are plenty of really excellent ones out there, so don’t limit yourself to Cunningham (also an important author, but I’m assuming you know that).