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Beginning Wicca books are to bookstores as reality shows are to television: they dot the surfing landscape, offering little of value or insight. Witchcraft: an Alternative Path creeps onto the nearest wave of Wicca-as-trendy, opening to a glutted market. Nothing in this book justifies its place among the tomes. Further weakening the case for purchase of this book, Moura’s historical ideology often ignores the revelations of Pagan and mainstream scholarship: in her own efforts to demonstrate her sympathies for minority cultures, she asserts a number of historical inaccuracies, particularly the “nine million killed” Burning Times myth. Combine the offending inaccuracies with the dry writing style better applied to academic scholarship, and the beginner in witchcraft will breeze past this book to one with a prettier picture on the cover and smaller words in the text.

Buried between the lines lives the book Moura should have written about witchcraft: witchcraft hidden in mainstream religions. Moura acknowledges that witchcraft is a cultural practice and is not exclusive to Wicca or to modern Paganism. She then, however, gears the material of the book on the assumption that a reader will prefer to commit to the Pagan religion, going so far as to provide a self-initiation ritual and to inform the reader in the succeeding chapter that the initiatory act means a total commitment to Pagan witchcraft as a religion.

Moura consistently falls just an inch short of making this book a worthwhile purchase. She has the potential, woven throughout her books, to present a book about witchcraft and religion that educates beginners and raises points for discussion amidst experienced Pagans, but Moura must first correct her own scholarship and learn to avoid starting any book on Craft practice with the phrase “in olden times…”

~ review by Diana Rajchel

by Ann Moura
Llewellyn Publications 2003
252 pp., $14.95

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