Tag: marion weinstein

Review: A Witch Like Me, edited by Sirona Knight

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A Witch Like Me: The Spiritual Journeys of Today’s Pagan Practitioners, by Sirona Knight
New Page Books, 2002

Right off the top let me say that I hope this book inspires another one or two in the same line, although perhaps not limited to book authors. I love the idea of learning more about some of the background of some of the “big names” in Paganism. Of course, some of the people I would most like to read about are deceased, but perhaps there are close associates who could provide the data for “posthumous interviews.” In another vein, perhaps a book of fictional biographies could be assembled for the likes of Harry Potter, Sabrina, Samantha (“Bewitched”) Stevens, the “Charmed” sisters, etc.

It is difficult to critique a book like this, other than on technical grounds, since it is composed of individual life stories and opinions. I truly believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, no matter if they match up with mine or not. So, I find myself in the position of not being able to disagree with any of the statements contained within this book.

Perhaps the only legitimate criticism I can level at this book, if it is that, is that of the fourteen authors presented here (Dorothy Morrison, Phyllis Currot, Raymond Buckland, Z. Budapest, Marion Weinstein, Patricia Telesco, Raven Grimassi, Lady Sabrina, Skye Alexander, A.J. Drew, Silver Ravenwolf, Timothy Roderick, and Sirona Knight), there are only a few who are “Old Timers” (i.e., their first published work came out 20 or more years ago). Even that, however, merely reflects the author’s choice to deal with those individuals who have stood up for their beliefs, and who are still on the cutting edge of the evolving religion of Wicca.

This is a fun book. No, you won’t learn any deep, dark secrets. There are no skeletons in the closet being revealed. And of course, each author presents themselves in the best possible light,. That is human nature and no one can be faulted for that.

It is a book worth reading, because it shows that Wiccans are very human, and that some of us are willing to stand up and take our lumps for our beliefs. Wiccan authors are becoming more visible, and their books more viable. If you want to know more about the works of these authors, they are listed in the appendix. That appendix could form the basis for a decent “wish list” to improve your library.

Review: Earth Magic, by Marion Weinstein

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Earth Magic, by Marion Weinstein
New Page Books, 1564146383, 209 pp. (+ notes, bibliography & index), 2003

People have been complaining for years that there is no new information being published on the Craft. This book is a good example of both the down-side of that statement (it is a revision of a much earlier work) and the up-side (it brings one of the classics of Craft literature to the notice of new generations). The original edition was a much slimmer volume, but all of that (and more) is contained in this current (5th) edition.

So much for the positive statements.

I am not a “white lighter,” and so I have a bunch of issues with many of Ms. Weinstein’s statements, such as “…all Witches are Positive – all real Witches.” That doesn’t mean that I disagree with everything she says. I simply feel that she tends to see the universe as a simple dichotomy, whereas I don’t.

The statement on the back cover of the book that she is “Known as “The Ethics Witch,” she is one of the founders of the modern Witchcraft movement,” is a bit strong for my taste. I will grant that she has been around for quite a while, and she has lectured extensively. She is certainly familiar to many from her attendance at gatherings, but “… one of the founders of the modern Witchcraft movement”? I think not.

Since this book is one person’s perception of religion, it is not open to debate on the details of her beliefs. However, the dogmatism contained herein is another matter. There are far too many instances where it is assumed and/or stated that “all (fill in the blank) believe that…” when that just isn’t true. Such broad statements hurt Ms. Weinstein’s credibility, in my opinion. As has been stated in many times and places, “If you get ten Witches in the same room, you’ll get at least twelve opinions.” Getting a group of Witches to agree on anything is like trying to herd cats.

Her approach is way too New Age, white-light, fluff-bunny for me. I was trained in the Alexandrian tradition and find her all-inclusive super-positive, and ultra-qualified approach to be too “strained baby foods” for me. Every working she describes includes a disclaimer of “for the good of all” or “or its equivalent,” both of which (again in my opinion) are attempts to disclaim responsibility for the outcome of the workings. I know lots of people who use this same formula, but it is not one I see a need for. Oh, credit would certainly be accepted, but failure is sloughed off unto “the Universal good.” Sorry! Sometimes Witches have selfish desires and act on them. We aren’t all altruistic all the time.

At least she acknowledges that the Athame should be sharp. So many current authors insist it should be dull (to prevent …accidents). On the other hand, a sharp blade is a more potent reminder to be careful of your actions. She still trumpets the belief, however, that it should never be used for anything outside of the ritual circle. I was trained (as were many of my generation) that all our ritual tools should be “…as those any may have.” Based on that, I have used my Athame to cut up veggies for the stew at Gatherings, occasionally cutting a cord when my bolline wasn’t handy, etc.

Her statement in reference to observing the holidays, that “Of course, this must not inconvenience you nor can it interfere with the rest of your life,” (page 69) is a perfect example, once again in my opinion, of what is wrong with the modern-day Craft. Goddess forbid our devotions should be inconvenient. After all, the individual is all that matters. I’m sorry … I was expected to attend coven functions unless I had a really valid reason for not making it. If you want to work solitary, that is one thing, but a Coven is an entity and needs to be cared for and fed with regular attendance.

This entire book is composed, in my opinion, of white-light, fluff-bunny platitudes. Everything is easily accomplished, no one ever lets a negative thought or action escape without immediately transforming into a positive. It was so much sweetness and light that I felt a need to check my blood sugar level frequently (and I’m not even diabetic).

I have reviewed a lot of books over the years (including Positive Magic by the same author and publisher – which I recommended). There have been very few that I flat out refused to recommend. Unfortunately, this one falls into that small group. Had it been a simple re-issue of the original book, this review would have been very different one. There are only a couple of points which make this book worth having, and they don’t overcome the problems.

While discussing this book with my daughter, she commented that it sounded like it would be good for the “Buffy Witches” out there. Nope. Even they would reject a lot of this stuff. If you are interested in “New Age,” “White-Light” items, you may enjoy this book. Otherwise, save your money.

Review: Positive Magic, by Marion Weinstein

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Positive Magic, by Marion Weinstein
New Page Books, 1564146325, 2002

This is a revision of as true classic in the field. However, it is going to cause a great deal of controversy this time around (even more so than the first time). While I can identify with many of her statements, a large portion of those who have come into the field in the past decade are going to find themselves in heated disagreement with them.

For example, the statement “Witchcraft is, quite specifically, an ancient Celtic magic-religion.” is going to upset those who feel that Witchcraft is NOT a religion (that’s Wicca)”, as well as those who maintain that it is not Celtic, but only Celtic-influenced.

The statement that “Various sects of Witchcraft exist, but they all have certain basic traditions in common:

  1. Reverence for all nature.
  2. Belief in the existence of Goddess as well as (or in exclusion of) God.
  3. The belief in a Power that unifies Visible and Invisible forces.
  4. The Use of the Threefold Law.” is also going to spark irritation from those who feel that there are no universal traditions, as well as those who deny the validity of the Threefold Law concept.”

There are many other statements that were accepted as truisms a quarter of a century ago, but which will need to be defended by those who still hold to them.

Beyond the controversial statements is the fact that Ms. Weinstein presents some interesting views of the relationship between the “Invisible” world and the world of “Form.” Unfortunately, these views (and the exercises she proposes) don’t truly begin to be expressed until several chapters into the work, and I am afraid that those who could most benefit from them will not read far enough, with an open mind, to find and deal with them.

While I can appreciate, if not always agree with, most of the things she says, I do have to issue a basic warning about this book. DO NOT read this book while you are distracted by events in your life. Take the time to read it, and absorb its contents, when you are able to devote your full attention to it, and you will rap rewards beyond comprehension.

I am not saying that you have to agree with each principle and premise. You don’t even have to like them (some of them smack a little too much of white light and fluff for me). But – if you read them with an open mind, they will stimulate your thought processes and that is one of the major transformations that can change our lives.

This book took a lot longer to read than I normally devote to a book for review, but I found it well worth the extra time and effort involved. For those who remember the original, parts of this book will be a walk down memory lane, with some new territory opening up. For those who have never read it before, just remember that you don’t have to agree with everything to make use of the principles laid out in this work.