Earth Magic, by Marion Weinstein
New Page Books, 1564146383, 209 pp. (+ notes, bibliography & index), 2003
People have been complaining for years that there is no new information being published on the Craft. This book is a good example of both the down-side of that statement (it is a revision of a much earlier work) and the up-side (it brings one of the classics of Craft literature to the notice of new generations). The original edition was a much slimmer volume, but all of that (and more) is contained in this current (5th) edition.
So much for the positive statements.
I am not a “white lighter,” and so I have a bunch of issues with many of Ms. Weinstein’s statements, such as “…all Witches are Positive – all real Witches.” That doesn’t mean that I disagree with everything she says. I simply feel that she tends to see the universe as a simple dichotomy, whereas I don’t.
The statement on the back cover of the book that she is “Known as “The Ethics Witch,” she is one of the founders of the modern Witchcraft movement,” is a bit strong for my taste. I will grant that she has been around for quite a while, and she has lectured extensively. She is certainly familiar to many from her attendance at gatherings, but “… one of the founders of the modern Witchcraft movement”? I think not.
Since this book is one person’s perception of religion, it is not open to debate on the details of her beliefs. However, the dogmatism contained herein is another matter. There are far too many instances where it is assumed and/or stated that “all (fill in the blank) believe that…” when that just isn’t true. Such broad statements hurt Ms. Weinstein’s credibility, in my opinion. As has been stated in many times and places, “If you get ten Witches in the same room, you’ll get at least twelve opinions.” Getting a group of Witches to agree on anything is like trying to herd cats.
Her approach is way too New Age, white-light, fluff-bunny for me. I was trained in the Alexandrian tradition and find her all-inclusive super-positive, and ultra-qualified approach to be too “strained baby foods” for me. Every working she describes includes a disclaimer of “for the good of all” or “or its equivalent,” both of which (again in my opinion) are attempts to disclaim responsibility for the outcome of the workings. I know lots of people who use this same formula, but it is not one I see a need for. Oh, credit would certainly be accepted, but failure is sloughed off unto “the Universal good.” Sorry! Sometimes Witches have selfish desires and act on them. We aren’t all altruistic all the time.
At least she acknowledges that the Athame should be sharp. So many current authors insist it should be dull (to prevent …accidents). On the other hand, a sharp blade is a more potent reminder to be careful of your actions. She still trumpets the belief, however, that it should never be used for anything outside of the ritual circle. I was trained (as were many of my generation) that all our ritual tools should be “…as those any may have.” Based on that, I have used my Athame to cut up veggies for the stew at Gatherings, occasionally cutting a cord when my bolline wasn’t handy, etc.
Her statement in reference to observing the holidays, that “Of course, this must not inconvenience you nor can it interfere with the rest of your life,” (page 69) is a perfect example, once again in my opinion, of what is wrong with the modern-day Craft. Goddess forbid our devotions should be inconvenient. After all, the individual is all that matters. I’m sorry … I was expected to attend coven functions unless I had a really valid reason for not making it. If you want to work solitary, that is one thing, but a Coven is an entity and needs to be cared for and fed with regular attendance.
This entire book is composed, in my opinion, of white-light, fluff-bunny platitudes. Everything is easily accomplished, no one ever lets a negative thought or action escape without immediately transforming into a positive. It was so much sweetness and light that I felt a need to check my blood sugar level frequently (and I’m not even diabetic).
I have reviewed a lot of books over the years (including Positive Magic by the same author and publisher – which I recommended). There have been very few that I flat out refused to recommend. Unfortunately, this one falls into that small group. Had it been a simple re-issue of the original book, this review would have been very different one. There are only a couple of points which make this book worth having, and they don’t overcome the problems.
While discussing this book with my daughter, she commented that it sounded like it would be good for the “Buffy Witches” out there. Nope. Even they would reject a lot of this stuff. If you are interested in “New Age,” “White-Light” items, you may enjoy this book. Otherwise, save your money.
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Mike Gleason (1951-2012) dedicated his time to sharing his knowledge and opinions with others, and spent years reviewing books for the Pagan, Wiccan, Witch and magickal communities.