Rather than another “Wicca 101” title, Wicca Demystified is geared towards those who want to know about Wicca who have no interest in practicing the Wiccan religion. As Bryan Lankford says, “The purpose to this book is to help give [one] an understanding of Wicca.” He further writes that “[k]nowing someone has many levels: one can know another person as in “I have heard of them,” “I work with them,” “we went to school together, ” or even in an intimate sense. However, none of these levels of knowing will provide you with an understanding of that person.” He explains that a person is more than the labels one attaches to them, “a person is more than their name, job, schooling, or whom they have …well, you get the idea.”1
It’s become standard practice to preface any Pagan book with a disclaimer, but I still like to see this acknowledgement from the author: “There is no subject on which all Wiccans will universally agree; therefore, everything I am writing will not be absolutely correct for all Wiccans.” He further illustrates his point with a very appropriate analogy, relating Wiccan spiritual practice to beginning painting lessons, “Everyone learns the basics of shape, shadow, color and perspective, but each person’s finished work, like their Wiccan practice, should have its own style, reflecting their own background and talent.” This extends well to include both spiritual and magical practice.
The book is divided into two sections. The first, Basic Understanding, suitably accomplishes that task, beginning with Wiccan concepts of Deity (Goddess, God, view of nature) , ethics (the Rede, Rule of Three, values), what it means to live a Wiccan life (festivals, rites of passage, religious symbols), and then explains away some of the misconceptions about Wicca (sex, flying brooms, image of the witch). Each chapter is followed by helpful follow up questions the reader may have relating to the subject matter, with page numbers of where to find the answers within the present text.
The second section, Deeper Understanding, explains more details about Wicca in a question and answer format, topics ranging from what the word ‘Wicca’ means, to the subjects covered earlier (deity, ethics, Wiccan life, further misconceptions and additional material). These questions get decidedly more involved, such as ‘What about sin?’, ‘Why would a person use myths in religion when myths aren’t true?’, and ‘Doesn’t the belief in reincarnation promote suicide?’ Each of these he treats admirably, responding with honesty and integrity to some of the difficult questions many of us have likely faced at some time or another (and a good place to start, if we haven’t).
I was also pleased to read distinction Lankford makes between the terms ‘Wiccan’, ‘Witch’ and ‘Pagan’ so often used interchangeably (erroneously) in neo-pagan literature.
Two appendices complete the book, the “Seeker’s Bill of Rights,” by Charles Mars, aimed at new practicing Pagans, and a section on further reading sub-categorized into different sections, from introductory Wiccan titles for adults, teens, magick and a miscellaneous section of related material. While I understand the desire to include material that is light and easily accessible by anyone (each of the seven books listed under the heading “Beginning Wicca Books” was published by Llewellyn, a publisher well known for their introductory Wiccan and Pagan titles), there are very few books listed for someone interested in exploring deeper than this. Perhaps getting to the roots of Wicca, with Gardner, or a survey from a practical perspective such as Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler (despite misgivings).
Overall, Wicca Demystified is an excellent text to introduce to anyone looking for more information about Wicca. The text is written in a clear, honest fashion, and as Lankford is decidedly aiming the text at non-Wiccans, it never comes off as overly preachy, though he is clearly passionate about his subject. He skilfully maintains a delicate balance between his personal practice and the distance required to write such a text. Highly recommended.
First published on Suite101.com on 17 July 2006. (Unfortunately.)
- pg xiii [↩]