Tuesday, 5 June 2018
QUI OPTIMUS OCTO
From time to time I am asked which books have influenced my path, my life and my perspective. This isn’t an easy question to answer with absolute accuracy, things can change and time can change how one perceives works. Newer publications or discovered works, may replace those already listed.
With this in mind I offer the best eight, a list that I compiled some years ago now. Offered with the proviso that an updated list of fewer works is in preparation and I provide links to reviews that I hope, may supplement this list for you the reader.
Pagan paths: a guide to Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, Shamanism and other Pagan practices by Pete Jennings. Published in 2002 by Rider.
This work is written by the former president of the Pagan Federation and the current “High Gothi” of Odinshof, it is non academic and easy to read sociological survey of the primary Pagan paths and the Pagan community found within the UK. Each broad path, Witchcraft, Druidry Heathenry and their respective sub-groups are described, enabling the reader to gain an insight regarding beliefs and practice.
Hedge Witch: a guide to solitary Witchcraft by Rae Beth, published in 1990 by Robert Hale but available in the USA as “The Hedge Witches’ Way.
With her first book Rae Beth re-invented the solitary Craft in the UK and apparently founded a new Tradition. This is a warm and well written exploration of the lone path from the perspective of the kitchen witch. Written in the form of letters to students, the basics of the Craft and the festivals are well covered. This is not “hedge-riding” and in recent years’ the alternative term “Hedge-Wytchery” has been used to distinguish the two paths, one modern and one perhaps more traditional. This is a good solitary Craft book that makes a refreshing change from Cunnigham, particularly here in the UK.
The Wheel of the Wiccan Year by Gail Duff. Published by Rider (2002) and available in a second edition but retitled.
This is a good all round exploration of the modern or contemporary eight festivals based upon the familiar Gardnerian template. Each festival has background information, development, prayers, chants and rituals This is a well written work useful for planning celebratory group ritual.
Earth Dance: a year of Pagan rituals by Jan Brodie and published in 1995 by Capall Bann.
A brief but well written ritual book aimed at group and solitary practitioner alike. Each festival is given a concise introduction, two rituals (one group and one solitary) and supported with other useful information such as traditional recipes and suggestions for incense.
Rites of Shadow by E.A St George. Originally published in 1972 as “The Devil’s Prayer Book” and republished in 2000 by ignotus’corvus.
This book is an enigma, with disputes over authorship and hidden away when the original publisher went bankrupt. The first version of this book was written by Peter West but it was so anti-craft that Karen West rewrote it. Sadly West/St George passed on soon after her classic was republished.
This is a somewhat none Gardnerian and independent interpretation of the Craft, quite traditional in parts and not afraid of discussing the curse in a sane adult manner.
The Call of the Horned Piper by Nigel Aldcroft Jackson and published in 1994 by Capall Bann.
This is very much an earthy and Traditional approach to the Craft. This work has a refreshing emphasis on the place of both Gods and Goddesses within the Traditional British Craft. As opposed to the popularist Wicca or Gardnerian perspective that often over emphasises the feminine aspect of diety.
The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill by Robin Artisson.
Published by Owlblink Bookcrafting Company (USA).
ISBN 978-1-4116-8193-4 also available in paperback
This book is a personal examination of the theory and practice of the British Traditional (non-Gardnerian) Craft. As such it combines elements of a book of shadows or more correctly, grimoire, with explorations of the underling spirituality and magical practice.
Subtitled “the gramaryre of the folk who dwell below the mound and a sourcebook of hidden wisdom, folklore, Traditional Paganism and Witchcraft” this work makes some quite ambitious claims that are I think, generally fulfilled.
This is however a controversial choice. Artisson’s name is not well regarded in some quarters due to the deliberately confrontational stance he takes on the web. I have never met him but I have witnessed this disappointing aspect of his behaviour. Ultimately I am rather more interested in what he writes and what he writes here is earthy, traditional and like nature, red in tooth and claw. Artisson is also like me, a polytheist. I like this one but I add the caveat, that I have been less impressed with at least one other of his later works.
Witchcraft a Tradition Renewed by Evan John Jones with Doreen Valiente, published in 1990 by Robert Hale.
I have a lot of respect for the late Valiente and although jointly credited this is really Jones work. When published in 1990 this was a very fresh and alternative perspective compared with the then current trends within the Pagan Craft movement. The background beliefs and spirituality of the Craft are covered in some considerable depth, with discussions of Craft tools and symbolism. The ritual elements of the work focus on the Cross Quarter days with the lesser or Solar festivals put aside. This is quite possibly the most important theological and liturgical work on the none-Gardnerian Traditional Craft to be published prior to Oates and Gary.