By Mike Gleason
A Witch’s Book of Answers, by Eileen Holland and Cerelia
Red Wheel/Weiser, 1578632803, 355 pp. (+ afterword, notes & bibliography, 2003
If you are an experienced member of the Witch/Wiccan community, the title of this book might punch a hot button or two. A Book of Answers? Most of us don’t even know the questions. At least it says “A Witch’s.” rather than “The Witch’s.”
If you are a newbie, you are likely thinking “Oh, good, here’s the one book I need to have.”
Both of you are in for a surprise. A more descriptive title for this book might have been “A Witch’s Book of Questions and Answers,” since that is what it is. It is composed of hundreds (over 700) of questions received on the “Open Sesame” e-list. As such there is no “plan” to the book, except of organization of generally related information. Some of the questions are a little “out there,” and I didn’t like the tone of some of the answers BUT these are all questions (or variations of questions) that I have heard over the years. Some of the answers seem a little condescending to me, but as I have been accused of being “too flippant” in some of my answers, I certainly can’t find a valid reason to complain.
This is a book of personal opinions, and this fact is reinforced frequently throughout the book. Even though the co-authors are in agreement on many things, there are areas where they differ, and they present both sides of their views. This helps to reinforce the diversity of opinion that forms our religious world.
Their answers are often just a variation of “If it feels good (or right), do it.” While I understand that a lot of people operate that way, I usually find that a bit more structure is beneficial for those who are just starting out. Most beginners are unsure about trusting their instincts, and these authors continually strive to encourage newbies to trust those instincts. Unfortunately, newbies will continue to look for guidance from outsiders rather than from within. And, it is all too easy to convince oneself that we know what is right, even if everyone else looking at the situation disagrees.
After just having said that magic is not supernatural, Ms. Holland says, two pages later, “Sorcery deals with the supernatural.” Since the vast majority of people (including, I would suspect, most newbies) would equate magic and sorcery, that doesn’t sound very logical to me.
The authors tend to warn readers to avoid any negative individuals, anyone who practices chaos magic (which they equate with black magic), Satanists, etc., since these people, in their opinion will draw three-fold retribution and you don’t want to be near them when that occurs. I’m not sure that I agree with that position, but they are entitled to their own beliefs.
They also recommend that their readers not spend time worrying about negative attacks, and I agree wholeheartedly with that position. Far too many Witches (and not just newbies) spend much of their life in a defencive mode. It is more important to live your life and deal with what happens without concerning yourself about the source.
Even though the blurb on the back cover says it has a “complete index”, I found the 3+ pages (with 152 entries) to be sketchy at best. Similarly, I was not too impressed with the Selected Bibliography. Although there are a number of “classics” on the list, it would have benefited from being expanded a bit more, in my opinion.