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First printed eight years ago, the new version of The Wicca Handbook is not revised or expanded, and there are good points and bad about that.

 

As a beginner’s book, I can recommend it. It is, at its core, a reference book for newcomers. There are no long-winded discussions; information is presented in concise blocks. Where other authors have turned specific subjects into full books, like sabbats and rites, Holland provides quick summaries. There are no discussions about philosophy, morality, and scant history (more on that in a bit). This is oriented towards a newcomer who just wants to get started in his/her solitary practice without a lot of theory.

Throughout the book Holland provides reading suggestions and there is an excellent bibliography for those of us who wanted more more more. Her spells are lovely, quite enchanting, and completely ‘white’. I especially liked her chapter on animal correspondences, which includes specific breeds and subspecies (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before).

 

Now for the caveats: this is a BEGINNER’s book, and it is not for anyone wishing to work within a coven or especially a tradition. Anyone taking Ms. Holland’s teaching as being the same as that found within a structured group will be surprised at how much is different, or in outright disagreement. For example, my group pays a lot of attention to the lunar phases and wouldn’t be ok with someone who ignores them utterly. We also take initiation very seriously and Ms. Holland’s attitude of it being not necessary is distinctly unusual among Wiccans.

 

Soap box time: this is not, strictly speaking, THE Wicca Handbook, but A Witches Handbook. Wicca may be eclectic, but we all can see similarities with the traditional way its practiced, and an emphasis on lunar phases and initiation are merely two examples of how Ms. Holland is not writing about Wicca. Wicca is also not solely Goddess worship – it’s a religion of balanced duality: God AND Goddess. Wicca and witchcraft are not interchangeable; Wicca is a subgroup within witchcraft, much like Judaism is a subgroup of the Book Religions.

 

As for other things I would have liked to see updated for this new version (making it revised and updated rather than just republished) is the history. She retells the erroneous story of how Gardner learned everything from Dorothy Clutterbuck and how Gwen Thompson received the Wiccan Rede from her grandmother. She’s also quite comfortable with telling us that there are plenty of family traditions with centuries-old teachings passed down. Her incredibly antiquated views of homosexuality are also annoying – all gay couples do not have a male and a female. The good news is that most of this junk is in the first 50 or so pages, so it’s easy to jump right over them.

 

Overall, I think this is a great book for a newcomer and one that te4achers should be aware of so we can counter Ms. Holland’s blatant biases and misrepresentations.

 

 

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Eileen Holland

Weiser Books, 2008

pp. 310, $16.95

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