Seeker’s Guide to Learning Wicca: Training to First Degree in the Southern Hemisphere, by Amethyst Treleven
Oak and Mistletoe Australia, 9780980581812, 208 pp., 2008
This is the second of two reviews of this book, since it has been published in two separate editions – One for the Northern Hemisphere and one for the Southern Hemisphere. The only differences in the books are in the introduction and in Chapter Four – The Wheel of the Year. So pick the applicable book review and jump in.
This book, like most “101” (or introductory) books is full of information which is extremely basic, and which has been published dozens, if not hundreds of times already. It does not conform to any of the oath-bound traditions, being the training manual of the Community Church of Inclusive Wicca Incorporated. It is designed as eight monthly lessons and may be used in conjunction with on-line resources at www.oakandmistletoe.com.au (and the reader is strongly encouraged to avail themselves of these additional resources.
Ms. Trelevan and I, although starting from similar origins (Alexandrian) must agree to disagree on some things (why does that NOT surprise me?). We have undergone differing experiences in our lives and have brought out own perceptions to the practice of Wicca. But that agreement to disagree is at the very heart of this tradition. It accepts that if something is true for an individual, no one else has the right to assert that it is false.
Most “101” books are set up to be read over the course of a year’s time. This one is divided into eight sections which provide a subtle connection with a frequently overlooked sacredness of that number. It is a number which occurs frequently in the “British Traditional Wicca” teachings (the 8 Sabbats, the 8 tools, the Eightfold Paths of Enlightenment) but which is not associated with the religion in the average person’s mind.
“The Wheel of the Year” comprises the fourth Lessons and covers 35 pages. In that short span it provides a very well thought-out presentation which gives the student all the basics, including a sample ritual for each Sabbat, without being overwhelming. Each Sabbat is explained in terms of seasonal and mythological relevancy in general terms. Popular traditions are then discussed. And this is followed by a short sample ritual. Without a doubt, this is the most enjoyable discussions of the topic I have read in a very long time. It is lively, interesting and informative.
Although it is quite common to hear complaints about the sheer number of “101” books being published nowadays, and especially about the vast amount of repetition they contain, every once in a while a really useful book in this line makes it into print. This book (and its Southern Hemisphere counterpart) is one such book. Of course it is very basic, that is its purpose. Certainly it contains information available elsewhere. Where it excels is in the personalization and motivational aspects. It comes across, in my opinion, as more like a friend sharing their knowledge than as a teacher lecturing students; more of a one-on-one kind of experience. Will it appeal to everyone? Probably not, but with its blend of “traditional” methods, eclectic sources and friendly tone it is easily one of the few beginner books I enthusiastically recommend.
And for those of you, like my daughter and I, who have trouble wrapping your mind around the differences inherent in living in the opposite hemisphere, this pair of books makes it much easier. As a Northern Hemisphere practitioner I had as much trouble connecting with the concepts of working “down under” as those practitioners may have experienced with concepts from up here. Amethyst made it easy for me to finally wrap my mind around those ideas. She also brought forth an idea which is seldom discussed in either hemisphere – the fact that not all locations have four distinct seasons. Some areas have more, some have fewer. Some comedians say that California has three seasons – fire, rain, and mudslide; Michigan has two – winter and bad ski conditions, and parts of the Southern U.S. add hurricane to other four seasons. On a serious note, however, some areas do not share the same timing as the British Isles, nor the same clear-cut distinctions between them.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything Amethyst says, but such disagreements are a matter of personal experience and interpretations, and in no way affect the utility of this book, or the presentation of the system in use by the Inclusive Wicca tradition. The basic knowledge and guidance are there. If you want a good starter book, or if you want to know more about this tradition, get this book.
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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.