By Mike Gleason
Keepers of the Flame, by Morganna Davies and Aradia Lynch
Olympian Press, 0970901305, 213 pp., 2001
Before I was even out of the Forward, I was finding typographical errors – not an auspicious start to a book I had been looking forward to reading.
I was amazed at how many of the Elders interviewed I was familiar with, either through personal communications or by reputation or both.
The early experiences of many of these Elders closely parallel my own, which is not too unusual since we all came into the Craft at about the same time. Many of them express the same feelings I have been saying to many of my Initiates – that the search for, and practice of, the Craft has become too easy and accessible in recent years. There is less long-term commitment today. Students tend to “shop around” more, and if they aren’t (in their opinion) progressing fast enough, they move on. It was sad to read these Elders saying that the quality of Craft teaching has deteriorated since the 1960s and ‘70s, even if I know it to be true from personal experience.
I am sure that many of the current generation of Crafters will be offended by what these Elders have to say. They will accuse them of being too conservative; of being “out of touch with the current need of Wicca;” and, most ludicrously in my opinion, of not knowing “the true history” of Wicca, even though these individuals have lived through a significant part of the history of the public existence of the Craft.
Many of the topics discussed in this book are those which have been discussed on many of the newsgroups, and which are sure to split the readers of this between those who yearn for “the way it used to be,” and those who “know” that the way it is, is far superior to the old ways; between those who see “Wicca” as just another word to describe the Craft and those who see a major split between “Wicca” and “Witchcraft.”
The attitudes of many of the contributors will be seen as conservative, possibly elitist, and irrelevant by many. That should be expected because, as the subtitle of this book says, it consists of “Interviews with Elders of Traditional Witchcraft in America.” There has been a shift away from the formal tradition over the past decade or so, and a movement towards “eclecticism.” Many who share the viewpoints of these contributors will find that this book simply confirms what they already believe. Many of those who disagree with those views will simply pass over this book, and, in my opinion, they shouldn’t. This book provides a lot of the “why” things have been done in a particular fashion, as opposed to many books which simply explain “how” to do something.
If you are just starting to study the Craft; if you have read several books and done a self-initiation; if you think that the way it is today is the way it has always been in the Craft, do yourself a favour READ this book. Don’t simply pick it up and read it. Take the time to consider the varying opinions of these Elders (and they do vary). Challenge yourself to compare your feelings opinions to those of people who have “walked the walk” for a number of years. You don’t have to agree with them, but you owe it to yourself to consider what they have to say, both about the past and their vision of the future of the Craft. This book will give you a sense of the history of the Craft told from the view of people who have lived it. It will offer you insight into the way various traditions view things. It may even change your point of view.