As you can see from my previous reviews of Mr. Penczak's books, I am a long-time fan, and Gates of Witchcraft is as great as his previous works. The book focuses on the alternate states of consciousness deliberately created in many witchcraft traditions. These altered states are created through trance, meditation, dance, drugs, and ecstasy. Penczak says "We hold the key. . . .we actively seek the key, and undergo training to find it." [Introduction, page 15.] This is not a beginner's book, but one written for those of us with experience in magick, meditation, and creating altered states of consciousness through a variety of techniques.

With his usual accessible and plain-speaking style of writing, Penczak briefly discusses different states of consciousness and their foundation within Wicca. He then goes on to deeper waters with a thorough discussion of mediation, visualization, and astral travel. A chapter on breathing traveled the world, providing a wide variety of techniques. Music and Dance are thoroughly explored, from percussion to vocalizations; mudras, yoga and and ritual gestures. Herbalism is also explored thoroughly.

The chapter "The Lonely Road" is a much-needed and excellently done exploration of often-ignored magickal practices. Isolation, silence, sleep deprivation, fasting, celibacy, and restrictions are techniques that other religions use to access the Divine with long-known success. They are a difficult path to take, and I appreciate the irony of the chapter's title. 

Also of note are the chapters on sex and ecstasy (Chapter Eight: The Great Rite) and pain (chapter Nine: The Way of Pain). These are difficult topics to explore with equanimity and detail. Penczak does an excellent job, bringing a clarity to the techniques that allow a newcomer to consider new paths to try to shift one's consciousness.

Our ancestors practiced many 'unsafe' or 'scary' techniques in their desire to achieve union with the Divine. We've moved away from those practices, and perhaps have lost a bit of our ability to open the gates and wander new planes of consciousness. I'm not saying, nor is Penczak, that to be an excellent witch you need to try the techniques he describes . . . I am saying, however, that you need to know they are out there and know what you are choosing to not do. Choose from a place of knowledge, not ignorance or fear.

The Gates of Witchcraft is an excellent book, one that guides the reader through the gates of greater power and spiritual mastery. It is suitable for practitioners of any variety of Witchcraft. Again, not for beginners, but if you've been practicing for awhile, this needs to be on your bookshelf.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Christopher Penczak
Copper Cauldron Publishing, 2012

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