(Note: Neopagan Rites is an updated and expanded edition of Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach, now out of print.)


Isaac Bonewits has a gift for making complex subjects comprehensible to the average person without rendering them so simple they lose their meaning. He is meticulous with his explanations and honest about his opinions and beliefs which are based largely on his long history in the Craft (as an extremely broad term) and experience with magick. If you are leading a group or ritual, or intend to do so one day this is an absolutely necessary addition to your library.

This is not a ‘do this and all will be perfect’ type of book – that would be far too simplistic (and misleading) on Bonewits’ part. Readers need to work the concepts, put them into practice and watch the results. His approach to magic is very no-nonsense, which can be difficult for some readers to accept, and he clearly sees it as a tool of last resort (basically: exhaust every other avenue before working magick or bothering the deities).

His perspective may be very controversial, and may lead to spirited debates within your group. Most likely, they will revolve around faith, spontaneity, and structure – all of which are healthy conversations to have, several times. Right at the starts, Bonewits lays out the terms of those debates with his fiercely perceptive overview of religious practices. His perspective is analytical and based as much on his decades of experience as his study and frankly I think a lot of Pagans in positions of leadership would do very well to have their personal concepts of ‘worship’ and ‘religious ceremony’ challenged so thoroughly.
This is not a collection of pre-designed rituals. It is a very specific set of instructions for creating your own public rituals, from remembering wheel chair accessibility to the use of breath and chi in large scale groups. In a definite departure from the normal, the Afterword, was a blessing. In it, Bonewits challenges us to do better   at creating ritual, to not just ‘sit back’ and let someone else do it, but instead fully participate in as many aspects of it as we can. He likens a good ritual to a musical composition – you can only create beautiful compositions when you have mastered the instrument and learned the scales.

“With enough determination, practice, imagination, love, and joy in our hearts, we can create ritual experiences that will have long term positive effects on both ourselves and the entire world. And remember: The gods are watching us, so let’s give them a good show! (italics his, p. 193)”

I cannot recommend Neopagan Rites strongly enough.

Six spirals out of five.


~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Isaac Bonewits

Llewellyn Worldwide, 2008

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