Spirit of the Witch: Religion & Spirituality in Contemporary Witchcraft, by Raven Grimassi
Llewellyn Publications, 0738703389, 264 pp. (incl. bibliography), 2003
“Being a Witch is, at the very core, a way of seeing the world and a way of believing and living in accord with that view.”1
The majority of books on Wicca and witchcraft tends to focus more on the magickal aspect rather than the spiritual, so, to fill this gap in neo-pagan literature, Raven Grimassi wrote The Spirit of the Witch.
Grimassi notes early on that he is presenting things from his view and does not expect everyone to agree, “knowing there was no way not to find disfavour with one group or another, I decided to simply bring to bear on this project my thirty years of involvement in the Witchcraft community, and all that I’ve personally discerned from those years.”2, also reminding his readers that he is noted authority, gently letting is readers know that his opinions are informed and he intends no bullshit.
Accurately describing common beliefs of what witchcraft is saying it is popularly imaged “to be the practice of magic and spell casting”, but notes that “magic is only a small part of Witchcraft, and might be referred to as a side matter, for Witchcraft is a philosophy first, a religion second, and a magical system third.”, though he also says that “the three aspects are, however, inseparable.”3
Grimassi retells many of the myths and legends through the festivals in the Wheel of the Year, as well as many fascinating myths describing connections between the Moon and the witch. Various myths of the Goddess and God, the myths of the Child of Promise, the Oak and Holly king, the Greenman, the Elements, fairy and evlen races. He discusses karma, and reincarnation; code of ethics and the Wiccan Rede; the altar and ritual tools; and the three Mysteries of birth, life and death are touched upon. Also quite a few amusing anecdotes from the lectures and classes he has taught.
He covers many areas to study and focus on, ideas for how to start your path: spirit quest, selecting an pantheon and connecting with deity images, a Dedication ritual is layed out, though Grimassi sensibly advises the reader to finish this book, and as many others as one can lay hands on prior to Dedication. It’s a large commitment to make, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Also contains a brief note on how to seek out other practitioners, and makes a needless distinctions between white, black and grey witchcraft.
However, statements such as “it is an old occult tradition…” are often made without much follow-up, which are a personal annoyance of mine. Some background would be nice. With so many neo-pagan books making similar and contradictory claims, it would be nice to show an historical citation or two. Though the bibliography is well formed, it would be nice to see descriptive footnotes as well.
Relying mainly on personal experience, anecdotes and folklore, Grimassi details the spirituality of the witch, getting to the core of the religion itself, rather than simply focusing on magick. Grimassi has written a insightful and more importantly, useful text in response to the lack of books solely dedicated to Wiccan/Witch spirituality, and it fills this gap in pagan literature nicely.