Obviously, since I ignored this blog for more than year, I haven’t written about books in FOREVER. Books are kind of a big deal for me. My obsession with books has actually strained my relationships with people in the past, but it’s not something I’m looking to curtail. I’m basically a professional student, after all, and (an assortment of gods willing) on my way to PhD-dom. Books are pretty much what I do.
When it comes to Craft books, I’m both a collector and a snob. I like to keep copies of what I read and I’m willing to read most anything as long as it says something new (even if it’s wrong). I conduct all of my Amazon searches by publication date and often pre-order Craft-related titles if they look interesting (yeah, yeah, I know…shop locally, support Pagan-run shops. But the fact is, for the volume that I read, it just doesn’t make sense to constantly be placing special orders and then waiting forever to receive them. And paying more. Nevermind the low quality of the one Pagan store in my city). There are several used bookshops in my area and they know me at almost all them because I regularly clean out the occult section of anything worthwhile (which, admittedly, isn’t usually very much). I’ve been at this for something like ten years. All this to say that I have a lot of books. When I get home, I’ll post a picture of some of my shelves. It’s absurd.
The snobbery comes when I’m asked for recommendations. I’ve already posted about my favorites, and that all still holds true for me, so I thought maybe I could post my thoughts on some of the usuals suggested by others. This isn’t a list of “books I hate” by any means, just commentary on the stuff that’s typically recommended. Like last time, the pictures are links to Amazon’s description page.
Okay, so everyone reads Scott Cunningham (terrible new cover art aside). This was one of the first books I read and I remember thinking it was pretty good (though not nearly as much fun as Silver RavenWolf). Reading it again, I still think it’s pretty decent in some respects, though I would now say that it must be considered within its context and supplemented with additional reading. I don’t see much of a place for Cunningham outside of considering him for the sake of history. For better or worse, he was (and continues to be) extremely influential. But there are much better books for the solitary available now (see my first books post). I also wish that I knew something more about Cunningham’s lineage. Does he even have a lineage?
Looking back on this book, I can see why it appealed to (Willow)Thorn circa 1998. It was shiny, fun to read, and promised STUFF. One of the early chapters is on “stocking your magickal cabinet.” In fact, there’s not a lot of genuine religion (whether Wicca or not) in this book at all. It’s mostly about the paraphernalia that can go along with it (correspondences, tools, herbs, stones, tips on making purchases and making things, etc.). People tend to like stuff, and this book condones a certain degree of materialism. I’m not exactly condemning it for that (I’m the one who chooses books over people, after all), but it does put it several miles away from my list of recommended reading. I also crack up every time I read the infamous athame line (in my copy it’s on page 92, but I don’t know where it is in the new one): (paraphrasing from memory) “The athame stands for reasoning and the intellect. I don’t use mine very often.” We all know what she meant, but it’s still hilarious. I don’t feel that it’s necessary for me to comment much further on RavenWolf (using Wicca and witchcraft interchangeably, being deliberately vague on her training, maligning other traditions, etc. etc.), because a million people already have, and in much better ways than I ever could.
I don’t have tons to say about Teen Witch that hasn’t already been said. Honestly, I don’t think it’s the worst thing she’s ever written, and I figure that if I could read a book like this when I was 13 and still turn out Trad, it can’t be All That Horrible. I think we should collectively give teenagers more credit in their ability to be discerning. I will say, though, that Llewellyn should definitely bring back the original (hysterical) cover art. Ditto for To Ride a Silver Bromstick, which had the world’s best artwork, inside and out. EVER.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling anyone not to read anything. I’m not condemning authors or publishers. These are just my current thoughts (minimal and not-so-profound as they are) on these particular books. Pretty much every YouTube Wiccan has a video singing the praises of these books and I just happen to disagree. No big.
Sidenote: In setting up the links to Amazon, I saw that Silver RavenWolf’s Teen Witch Kit is going for between $60 (used) and $300 (new). INSANE. But suddenly I’m really excited to own one. I mean, more excited.
Further sidenote: Just in case people are curious (and you’ve seriously not yet encountered the big to do that surrounds Silver RavenWolf), here are links to an assortment of articles. This isn’t me saying that I necessarily agree with 100% of what’s here, it’s just for your consideration:
Wicca For the Rest of Us: Why We Despise Silver RavenWolf
Wicca Explained: The Status of Silver RavenWolf