By Mike Gleason
Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard, edited by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart
New Page Books, 1564147118, 360 pages (+ appendices & index), 2003
The contributors to this work read like a “Who’s Who” of modern magickians, and include such notables as Raymond Buckland, Raven Grimassi, Amber K, and Donald Michael Kraig, among others.
It is broken down into seven separate “Courses” – Wizardry, Nature, Practice, Rites, Spectrum Part 1, Spectrum Part 2, and Lore. It further contains a set of appendices – A History of Magick Time Line, The Wizard’s Library, Credits and References, and an Index. Each of the Courses is further broken down into six or seven “classes” (a total of 45). Be prepared to put in some serious study time and effort if you want to take advantage of the material herein.
Reading this book will NOT make you a Witch. Nor will it make you a wizard. However working this book will put you well on the path to being a competent wizard.
This book is aimed at the same folks who find Harry Potter so fascinating – those young (and young at heart) people who want to be more in control of their world. Because of that, some people feel that such information should not be put in the hands of young people, that it may lead them into trouble.
It is designed as an Apprentice-level course. Perhaps the future will see further developments in this line.
Like Hogwarts, this book is arranged and scheduled so take seven years to complete. To the younger reader, I must say that there are good reasons for this, not the least being that one needs to become proficient in the basics before moving on. Do not attempt shortcuts in your training, you will only shortchange yourself.
If you want to learn Witchcraft (or Wicca), put this book back on the shelf and keep on looking. This book embraces no one religious outlook. You will learn many of the same things Witches do in their training for the practical side of working, but not the theology.
Course One, Class One, Lesson Three (“1.I.3: Glossary” to use Oberon’s notation system) is a handy glossary of types of wizards which, while quite good, could have benefited from being alphabetized, in my opinion. It covers everything from Bards and Cybermancers to Wiccans and Wizards. If there is a description of a magick worker in the English language, it is in this glossary.
Many youngsters will be put off by the work which is expected of them in the early going. Where are the charms? Where are the incantations in mystic languages? Where are the rewards? Well, just like having to finish your veggies before getting dessert; just like needing to learn basic math before moving on to algebra; just like laying a foundation before building a home; you need to acquire the basic knowledge of the magickal world before getting into the “good stuff.”
As you work your way through this book (and make no mistake, you will work your way through it), you may find yourself longing for the carefree days of school. The concepts contained within the covers of this book are easy to read, simple to absorb, and consuming to understand. If you think “Apprentice” means easy-to-do, think again. You will find yourself being fed a diet of ideas which may well force you to alter your perception of the universe.
Oberon covers everything from creating your magickal tools to planting and caring for a garden (Anyone who doesn’t see gardening as a magickal act should consider the transformation of a seed into a plant and on to your table.); from learning to survive in the woods to learning to recognize elementals. And all of that before he even begins to address the actual practice of magick.
Scattered throughout this book are tables of correspondences. There are a number of them, arranged in a variety of formats, and covering a wide range of topics. There are also a large number of illustrations, many of them (almost half, in fact) from the fertile mind and hands of Oberon.
When he actually begins to discuss working magick, he takes the time to explain how and why it works. He relates it to things that all teens can relate to, and puts it firmly in the realm of things which are able to be done by anyone willing to put in the time and effort.
He explains how to set up altars (both indoors and outdoors), how to construct shrines and henges, and other items as well. This is where, in my opinion, he loses focus a bit. Much of the information contained in this section (4:II;2: Ritual Spaces) and in another (4:VI: The Wheel of the Year) are tied to Wiccan concepts which are not, strictly speaking, necessary to magickal workings.
There were a few typographical errors in this book, as well as a few omissions, the most notable being the omission of runes intended to be inscribed on ritual tools (although a sheet was included with the book providing the appropriate runes and calling the attention of the reader to their unintentional omission).
He includes basic instructions on a wide variety of healing techniques. He adds constant encouragement, in the form of reassurances that practice is required, and not to get discouraged if you don’t get immediate results.
This book is aimed at the total spectrum of Wizardry (like Hogwarts). It does not just cover the Ceremonial aspects of magick. It covers the spectrum from invoking angels and demons to doing simple divination; from creating planetary talismans to simple remedies for acne; and from alchemy to conjury (stage magic). Reading this book will provide a thorough understanding of wizardry. Completing the work within this book will provide a thorough mastery of the basics of wizardry.
He divides magick into the colors of the rainbow and more: Meditation (aqua); Healing (blue); Wortcunning (green); Divination (yellow); Conjury (orange); Alchemy (red); Beast Mastery (brown); Cosmology (violet); Mathemagicks (clear); Ceremonial Magick (white); Lore Mastery (grey); and the Black Arts (black). Thus, by adopting tabards or robes of the appropriate color wizards who follow this system will be able to immediately identify the specialty of those they encounter.
This book has the advantage of contributions from many people besides the main author. These varying viewpoints, and expertise, make for a balanced presentation and, like a good school, for an ability to maintain interest levels by having changes of pace and style.
Mythology is covered extensively, as are world religious views. While some may question their inclusion in a grimoire, it is vital for the apprentice to understand all that may be encountered in the performance of magick. Because of the vast amount of energy devoted to these topics over the millennia, they have a valid existence on other planes, and the magickian must be prepared to deal with them.
As with any competent teacher, Oberon not only expects you to complete the assigned exercises, but also assigns outside reading and independent research. He lets you know early on that there will be both theory and practice involved in progressing through this work, and both are equally important. He makes every effort to balance his opinions and beliefs, which is careful to identify as such, with the opinions and beliefs of others covering a wide spectrum.
For those with limited cash available, he lists many websites where information may be found. Even the most cash-strapped individuals can (and SHOULD) obtain a library card and avail themselves of the resources available there, in the form of internet access, books, magazines, etc.