Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Good Reason To Read A Bad Book

All right, prepare to point and laugh :D

I am currently reading a bad book on Wicca.

Admittedly, there have been some real steaming piles written on Wicca, Witchcraft, and really magic (or magick, or majyck, lol) in all forms. Among certain circles of high-falutin' practitioners, it is a SIN to not only read these books, but to own them *gasp* is reason enough to commit hara-kiri. Not wanting to be considered "fluffy", ill-educated, or simply be criticized by the peers that they hold in high regard, many avoid these books like the Black Plague, and simply carry on the flag of scorn to a new generation, without reading the offending text (thus polluting their pure minds).

My education in the Craft of the Wise has been an odd one; I didn't start out with the "right" books, the "right teacher", or the "right tools". In other words, at the time I was coming into it, I did not have a ton of money to spend on those shiny books with the Llewellyn crescent on them, a giant athame from THAT catalogue, or "properly Witch-y clothes". Yup, someone has actually said that to me before, lol.
My athame is an absolutely ancient extra-long boning knife that I swiped from the kitchen, and painted the handle. I've used it so much that the oils in my hands have made the paint sink into the wood permanently, and I can no longer recall the original color. But the balance is true, and the steel is beautiful. It doesn't look like much, and certainly doesn't have a fancy pseudo-archaeological symbol on it.
I never watched "The Craft". Still haven't, though I'd like to see what the fuss is all about, especially considering that it was the #1 complaint of every Elder in the Pagan community back then... Some girl watches "The Craft", throws on gobs of eyeliner, gets a pentacle that you could beat a mule to death with, and calls herself Wiccan. Those were the days, lol.

So, without access to most of the stock in the local metaphysical bookstore, I got my hands on better books, all by accident. Culpeper's Herbal (found it for sale at my school library) because I couldn't get Cunningham, for example.

The real point of this? I borrowed a copy of "The Grimoire of Lady Sheba" from a friend. This is a much maligned text in popular circles today, but it had a few good points. It's just a matter of stripping away the extraneous bits.


1. It's a bit pompous. Ugh, okay, very pompous. Ignore that bit where the author is Witch Queen of the Universe times infinity, and that the necklace that she owns (never before revealed to the public) is undeniable proof of this fact. Ignore that too.

2. It claims that every spell, rule, law, and recipe in the book is ancient. Ignore that bit, most people during the 70's, and before that, really, tacked that on there to validate (in someone else's eyes) what worked for them. It's set a BAD precedent, with people still claiming that they were taught by mysterious "Gypsy" women, but now is the time that we can get this right. No worries.

3. The recipes. Oh boy...where do I start? The "Witches Flying Ointment" is insanely poisonous in the proportions given, however, the author openly admits that she has never used it.
The majority of the remaining recipes are swiped from the widely inaccurate work by Lewis De Claremont, "The Ancient Book of Formulas" (originally published in 1940). Most of the recipes in that particular text are simple variations on one another. They all contain a rotating pattern of about four of the same ingredients, in different proportions, plus the addition of De Claremont's company's secret Compound/ Bouquet formulas.Which a practitioner had to buy in order to make the recipe for their ritual. Lady Sheba has left out the stock compounds, but printed the others word for word. I don't see a darn word of credit in Sheba's book either.

3.5 Did I mention the recipes? The "Abtina Incense" really sets me off. The Abtina family made the most prized incense in Jerusalem, and would not give the recipe to anyone, even with exhortations from their Rabbi. The incense that they made was offered twice daily in the temple, and the penalty for composing it incorrectly (at the time) was death. Not only must it be composed in the proper proportions, but in the correct total amount, all at once. Certain aspects of the formula have been revealed through oral tradition, but it most certainly did not contain "winters bark", for crying out loud.

Okay, so the good bits.

1.She describes a fair, albeit garbled and over simplified, method for making a topa, or spell thought-form.

2.She says that a Wiccan must keep a clean house *goes to dust the bookshelf*

3.Insists that practitioners keep their word and tell the truth.

4.Gives a good description of the Witches Pyramid, one better than I've heard in a thousand glib literary re-tellings.

5.A decent description of the Eight-fold Path, though, again, it is oversimplified and doesn't touch on the where, why, and how (to what end) a practitioner would use certain methods to achieve a specific altered state.Two pages certainly does not do them justice.

6. Insists that a practitioner should be prepared to perform magic when necessary; Knowing the day, Moon phase, time, planetary hour, and the current ruler ship for each. I approve. Who carries around a stack of correspondences anyway? Know your craft, inside and out.


Okay, okay. I would NEVER, EVER recommend this book for a beginner. It's too easy to take seriously if you have no prior study of magic, and are not able to separate the gems from the poo.

If you consider this book more as one practitioner's use of magic than THE BOOK OF ALL WICCA, then it is an okay read. She put the stuff in that worked for her, and a few other bits to flesh it out, which I don't really agree with, but know that this was kind of expected at the time. What I am really overjoyed to discover is what so many modern authors are using as source material. The "Oh, Duh!" moment. That sentence sounds just like... etc.

Reading a bad book can be a good thing. :P The recognition of concepts buried within a text can be immanently valuable; not to mention that this was the first book that many practitioners got their hands on. It's nice to recognize where people are coming from.
Proceed to point and laugh.

4 comments:

Carolina Dean said...

HA HA!

Lodestone and Ladys Mantle said...

Oi!
Yeah, I know. It was good for a laugh, though :D

AriannaBlackstone said...

hey, I have the craft if you want to borrow it sometime. It was something my friends and I got a kick out of becasue our parents hated us for watching it (and for some of us being pagans)

~Marissa

AriannaBlackstone said...
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