I was Wiccan for several years. It was my first exposure to Paganism, as it is for many people. I enjoyed feeling connected with nature, I was happy to find a faith that didn’t shame me for having a vagina, and of course, like most geeky 11-year-old girls would, I relished the feeling of empowerment that knowledge of magick brought.
It wasn’t long before something in me I couldn’t quite identify began to butt heads with what I was reading and practicing. There are many aspects of the Horned God I felt (and still feel) a connection to, such as his associations with wild nature, magick, and the death and rebirth cycle, but I felt discouraged from exploring these ideas because they were deemed “masculine.” Instead, I tried to explore the mysteries of the Goddess as I felt I was “supposed” to. Despite being young, I felt unable to relate to the Maiden, and I felt stifled by the seeming inevitability of becoming a Mother, then a Crone — neither of which particularly appealed to me. It was also around this time that I began to realize I was gay, which only served to intensify my feelings of alienation. How could a spiritually necessary “union of opposites” occur when I didn’t even find my so-called “opposite” attractive? Continue reading
The Wicca Deck, by Sally Morningstar, illustrated by Danuta Mayer
Connections Book Publishing, 978-1-85906-380-4, 42 cards plus instruction booklet, 2014
When The Wicca Deck came up for review I was excited to put in my bid for it. I’ve worked with tarot and oracle decks for about a decade, but never one based on my own spiritual path. The Wicca Deck is a 42-card oracle deck originally published by Godsfield Press in Great Britain in 2001 and republished this year by Connections, also from Great Britain. Some key elements account for its staying power.
First, the illustrations are simple, cleanly drawn and easily relate to their titles and keywords, reminiscent of the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot. There is some abstract art in the cards, but card themes are always easy to detect; this is perhaps because the artist, Danuta Mayer, illustrates children’s books, which usually depict real, basic objects. The clarity works well in this deck. The nature of the Wiccan path is diverse; every practitioner has a slightly different vision, and by keeping visuals straightforward one is invited to see the cards in her own way.
As you’d expect, the artistic interpretations are clearly Wiccan: The Green Man is depicted as the classic face on a tree, Spiral is depicted as the spiral goddess, Black Cat (my favourite) depicts a cat in an Egyptian temple, taking her rightful place as the goddess Bast. Continue reading
Wiccecraeft: Shamanic Magic from the Dark Ages, by Sinead Spearing
Green Magic, 978-0-956188625, 184 pp. (incl. appendix), 2011
Over years of discussion with family members and other initiates, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps the biggest problems faced by members of non-Abrahamic faiths is not opposition (both from within their own movements and from without), but the language we use to express ourselves. That is apparent twice within the title of this book. “Wiccecraeft” is bound to both confuse people (did the author mean Wicca craft or witchcraft?) and turn people away (if it is about Wicca, then witches won’t look at it, and if it is about witchcraft, then Wiccans might spurn it). Looked at another way, however, it is obviously intended to make people stop and think about the subject.
The second sticking point is the “shamanic magic” referenced in the subtitle. Purists will insist that shamans only exist with the extreme northern reaches of the inhabited work. There are other words to describe indigenous religious practitioners from other regions. “Shaman,” however, has been used within the academic community in such a non-specific way for decades, so its use is probably guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
The introduction serves to clear up any misunderstandings concerning the use of the word shaman, although the perceived differences between Wicca and witchcraft are not really addressed. Spearing makes it clear that she is aware of the fact that our perception of the world is very different from that experienced by our ancestors. While we may acknowledge this on some levels, it does not make it easy to shift to a more primitive perception. Continue reading
The Columbine Effect: How Five Teen Passtimes Got Caught in the Crossfire and Why Teens are Taking Them Back, by Beth Winegarner
Lulu, 9781304431219, 249 pp. (incl. appendix, notes, and bibliography), 2013
Every generation of teenagers has grown a little wilder and a little more transgressive as society becomes increasingly complex. Teenagers are attempting to find themselves and a supportive peer group while navigating a society that is more socially active and integrated on levels we have never experienced before. Beth Winegarner writes a thought-provoking and well-researched piece highlighting teenage angst and shedding light on some of the occult practices that have been tarnished by bad media coverage on the heels of incidents like the Columbine shooting.
When the Columbine shootings occurred there was a competitive media frenzy that led to significant misinformation about the culprits, citing heavy metal music and musicians like Marilyn Manson as influences. There has been an element of this blame-shifting present in each school shooting and social tragedy since Colombine. If a pentagram was found in a culprit’s bedroom or adorning their school binder, then ideas of Satan worship and dark powers have been brought to the forefront as causation, often overshadowing the more realistic factors of personal loss, loneliness and depression. Because of media coverage like this occult practices have become synonymous with dark practices, and are surrounded by fear. Continue reading
Old World Witchcraft: Ancient Ways for Modern Days, by Raven Grimassi
Weiser Books, 9781578635054, 272 pp. 2011
Raven Grimassi is a name familiar to those of us who have been reading books on Wicca and witchcraft for a number of years as to date he has authored 14 of them. His background is varied and extensive, running the gamut from Rosicrucian studies and kabbalah and various forms of “traditional” witchcraft. This background allows him to approach the subject from a variety of perspectives.
In Old World Witchcraft Grimassi is presenting his take on the argument that witchcraft is a survival of an ancient pre-Christian religion. One thing I am sure of is that this book has the potential to polarize the community because of Grimassi’s emphasis on the Goddess as the primary deity of early witches, with the God perceived as an invisible presence. This is not the only sacred cow he goes after, although I must emphasize that this is not a malicious attack, but merely an attempt to show how the Christian concept of witches and witchcraft coloured the perceptions of everyone — including both medieval and modern-day witches. Continue reading