Wicca Book Reviews
The following reviews are books specific to the topic of Wicca. (If you are trying to find a book containing information on Wicca and do not see it here, try the Witchcraft and Pagan book reviews page.) Books are listed alphabetically by author's last name.
Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft
A good book with lots of useful information.
Although Buckland does mention that the history of Wicca often presented based on the findings of Dr. Murray are highly debated (mostly debunked not long after this book was first published), the history in this book is generalized so as to be somewhat misleading to those who don't go on to study the topic more in-depth. In all fairness, the history begins with the known first traces of religious/spiritual thinking of mankind, barely covering the religious beliefs of ancient civilizations, and jumping into the rise of Christianity, inquisitions specifically involving witchcraft, the introduction of the Old Religion to the public in the 1950s, and ends with the introduction of Wicca to America and other parts of the world.
Needless to say, it takes years of research into these individual areas and much more than only half a chapter of an introductory book to cover this entire history in more detail than Buckland does here.
I particularly love how in-depth Buckland goes into things such as making tools and developing one's own rituals. The questions at the end of each chapter are wonderful for enhancing learning and inspiring creativity in one's faith. A great workbook to get aspiring Witches, particularly those interested in Wicca, started and provide some remedial learning to those who may have read more basic beginner books.
Original review: A great book. Spends a lot of time clearing up historic misconceptions that Wiccans seem to follow. Gives evidence to support that the facts he presents are accurate. I found it to be inspirational as well. Presents another Wiccan lifestyle that is misunderstood.
2021 Update: This book had a much bigger punch when it was first published nearly 20 years ago. Back then, much of the books on Wicca were full of misinformation, bogus "history," and a lot of other questionable-at-best stuff. Wiccan Warrior was one of the firsts back then to put the fact-checking in print for all to see.
Even today, I would still recommend this book. It's great for pointing out some misinformation and training your brain to spot other such misinformation moving forward. Cuhulain provides a wonderful blending of Wiccan lifestyle with martial arts (plus some Celtic and Irish lore mixed in).
One caveat: Kerr Cuhulain spent many years working as a police officer (in addition to his time in the Air Force). He did many things from the inside to help inform other officers of Pagan and Witchcraft practices during a time when you could have your children taken away from you or put in jail simply for having Pagan religious beliefs (especially during--but not limited to--the Satanic Panic).
Because of this background, Cuhulain sometimes uses language that might make us squirm during the current reckoning of police brutality and abuses. I know I flinched a couple times at his choice of words. Was he wrong? Not in the context he meant it, no. In those brief moments where this is an issue, however, I imagine he would have written the passages much differently today.
Full Contact Magick
Surprisingly, a bit disappointing in light of my expectations. Some parts of the book include sections that are merely inserts from the Wiccan Warrior so it kills that inspiring feeling one had when first reading Wiccan Warrior.
However, it's still useful as it helps to create a BoS layout different from others I've come across. It also gives wonderful reasoning to refer to magick tools as weapons (something that up until this book had been a pet peeve of mine). The glossary reminds me more of his usual writing, getting down to facts and telling it like it is.
It's still worth reading and I do like Cuhulain's approach to explaining certain things. As always, it's refreshing to have more information on an archetype that often gets overlooked in our community. I just found it to not be as "monumental" as his first book had been.
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
A great book to introduce one to Wicca. Only contains basic information that can be misleading without any background knowledge on the subject, but a good start if you plan to study further into Wicca.
Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
Original review: A great book to further introduce Wicca. Still contains only basic information, but gives strategies and ideas to help the beginner along the path of Wicca.
I recently revisited this one and have to say I definitely recommend it for more than just Wiccan-centered folks. I first read it when I was still relatively new to Wicca and Paganism and saw it more as a guide to my studies.
But now, as a more seasoned Witch with well over a decade of experiences driving me in multiple directions, slow-downs, and routine-breaker moments, this book was actually incredibly helpful with outlining my beliefs and really seeing how they've changed over the years, differ from others, and rooting me where I am now to move ahead establishing new routines and practices.
The way the book is outlined could certainly be helpful for any Pagan-minded path (and may even answer that burning question for those wondering if their path is considered Wiccan).
The Truth About Witchcraft Today
A very generalized, but accurate look at witchcraft. The book focuses on Folk Magic and Wicca. Once you get over the fact that Cunningham insists that witchcraft is a term solely for folk magic and/or Wicca, you realize that it's a great source of general information on Wicca in the context of the time it was written.
Cunningham's Book of Shadows: The Path of an American Traditionalist
When I first saw this book sitting on a Barnes & Noble bookshelf, I was highly suspicious of it. I didn't buy it until a couple weeks later when the memory of it continued to nag at me.
The book itself is wonderful in many ways. If you ignore the constant inserts of information from Cunningham's previous works to "fill in the gaps" as the publisher claims, this book is loaded with information. While much of it can be found elsewhere, it's refreshing to see it come from Cunningham.
Much of Cunningham's books on Wicca were geared toward non-initiated solitaries, and as such seemed overly positive and lacking in many details, albeit wonderful starting points in research. This book shows more of Cunningham's own experiences as a Wiccan with less solitary focus and more inclusion of coven-related concepts and rituals.
Much of the information shows balance in magick, Wicca, and nature, which was not as present in the solitary books. Some of the works in this book do appear to be altered rehashes of the other books. However, as you'll find in the stories at the end of the book from those who knew him, the manuscript used for this book was meant to be used for his students that he'd lost the time to teach.
A part of me still feels suspicious of this work. Considering it was meant for his private students, would he appreciate it being "completed" and published for all the world to see? Also, did Cunningham feel the manuscript was complete as it was without all the inserts of his prior books? Would he be offended that this BOS that he compiled together was turned into yet another newbie-style book?
Then again, perhaps Cunningham would see all of us who started this path using his works as guides as his students, and would be happy to be able to share this finally. The waiting period of over a decade to publish this manuscript worries me that it's merely a profit-seeking scheme.
Regardless of the publisher's intent, I would recommend this book to fans of Cunningham, seekers, and anyone interested in BoS as a brief compilation of his works and an example in constructing your own BoS.
Book of Shadows
A great biographical story of a woman's journey to finding Wicca and the Goddess. While the coven she joins focuses primarily on the Goddess, there is an explanation to their reason for doing so that brings a new thought to those who disagree. Curott discusses her fears and experiences and misunderstandings of the world around her. This is a must read!
An informative read with several exercises that are always incredibly useful to the witch. Curott also dives into different aspects of Wicca and, while not altogether disregarding it, manages to debunk while building it back up in a new fashion that is realistic and more fundamental for the Wiccan path. As with Book of Shadows, Curott once again writes with a sense of passion and appreciation for the path of and life as a witch.
Wicca for Men
Usually I overlooked this book because I'm a woman. However, I decided it would be interesting to see a different perspective than I'm used to and bought it. Amazingly enough, Drew actually wrote it, not just for men, but for women to acknowledge the male side of Wicca. It is wonderful and presents the Goddess and God in a different perspective and in more detail than I've seen in "beginner-type" books. There are some differences from more popular thoughts on some things (like tools and circle casting), but Drew is wonderful in explaining the reasoning and symbolism for it.
Gerald B. Gardner
I absolutely love Gardner's way of clearly stating when he is only suggesting possibilities when touching on history. There are far too many authors who have worded speculation to lead the reader to believe it to be pure fact. Gardner didn't do this.
When there is no evidence to support a theory, he explains this. The only argument for inaccuracy as far as his history would be his linking it to theories as far as an organized witch cult (which was commonly agreed upon before the massive disproving of Margaret Murray's theories).
This is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in the path of Wicca to see where it all began.
The Meaning of Witchcraft
Gerald B. Gardner
It's strange to see that Gardner doesn't seem to be so exacting as far as how things are done. (Makes me wonder where the strictest of Gardnerians got their need for everything to be done right down to the nitty-gritty.) As for the history of Wica, though he mixes fact with disproved theories (at the time, there were plenty of sources with theories yet to be fully disproved), he clearly states in the opening of the chapter that he can't possibly know (as he doesn't believe anyone will ever know the true origins) but the information provided is what he thinks after his lengthy research.
I particularly liked the "Some Allegations Examined" chapters at the end of the book. Reading about the techniques the sensational press used reminds me a lot of how some paparazzi magazines twist and make up things based on nothing at all for the sake of slamming movie stars, political figures, and others in the public eye.
The Untraining of a Sea Priestess: A Practical Journey to Connect with Cosmic Water Wisdom
Stephanie Leon Neal
Right away, I was amazed and encouraged by Stephanie Leon Neal’s writing style. She knows exactly how to word things in a way that encourages you to take an honest self-inventory and question your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, but does so in a way that is perfectly validating and non-judgmental.
It’s like having all the things a good therapist tries to teach you to do in general (talk confidently, be gentle, build your esteem, make changes without judging who you are or have been) and putting it into a spiritual/religious context that your therapist may not be able to provide. It’s beautiful, endearing, and much needed in our lives today.
Admittedly, I can see someone who is not familiar with ocean/sea/underwater environments struggling with some of the metaphors (although, I love them!). And there are some moments you’ll need at least some basic knowledge of spiritual/metaphysical concepts as well as some understanding of psychology and related terms.
As such, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to someone who is completely ignorant or uneducated in these areas, mainly because it may leave them confused. But, with that said, if that same someone were eagerly willing to learn those things and doesn’t mind referencing other sources along the way, there’s no reason the basic understanding can’t be attained (which would make this book extra awesome for that reason).
In other words, I wouldn’t call this a beginner book, but that doesn’t mean a beginner couldn’t enjoy (and benefit!) from it.
Exercises within the book are very practical and easy enough to follow. Some of the meditations provided are merely thinking points, allowing you to follow whatever meditative style you prefer and giving you merely the focus. This makes the path very individualized, even as Stephanie lays out exactly what sets a Sea Priestess path apart from others.
This book is most definitely for Sea Priestesses and Priests who need awakening and guidance, and you may not know that you are a Sea Priestess or Priest yet to be tapped. You may want to pick this one up and find out!
Transformative Witchcraft: The Greater Mysteries
I'm probably one of the only Witches who claims to be a huge fan of Mankey's but without having actually read of any of his books. I'm happy that I corrected the discrepancy with this fantastic modern "tome" for Wiccans and Witches. I've heard some complaints about the "transformative" in the title as misleading, though I beg to differ.
One of the things I had to learn quick about public rituals, was that they didn't really cast circles. At least, none that I could feel during the open rituals I'd attended. I had thought this just covens' ways of keeping the public vs. private separate. After all, having never initiated into a coven, I wasn't privy to what the "secrets" were so I just assumed proper circle casting was one of them. Until I did a ritual with an energy-sensitive friend who had been part of far more groups and circles than me and saw the reaction on his face after I cast the circle. Proper circle casting wasn't a coven secret; it just wasn't being done.
Enter Mankey's book and "transformative" is very spot on. After providing a well-laid out breakdown of the origins of Wicca and other modern Witchcraft paths, he provides the history, theory, and breakdown of Wicca's top mystery rituals: the Cone of Power, Initiation rites, Drawing Down the Moon, and the Great Rite. If I wasn't already impressed and starry-eyed with his wonderful way of addressing known and speculative history (complete with his humor), Mankey blew me away with his fantastic breakdown of proper circle casting in Chapter 4. From my experiences with all those open rituals, I can tell you that many self-proclaimed Witches could truly transform their Witchcraft just by following the guidance in Part 2 of this book alone.
This same level of excellence continues throughout the remainder of the book. Perhaps the only drawback--despite Mankey's intentional inclusions to make the material as well-rounded as possible--is that this book is very much Wicca-centered. Those on non-Wiccan Witchcraft paths might be a bit off-put to at least some degree. But, again, I can't empathize enough the need for all Witches to read Chapter 4 on circle casting to up their magickal game.
The Outer Temple of Witchcraft: Circles, Spells, and Rituals
I must confess I am a fan girl. You see, these beginner books were not published until after I had been studying and practicing Wicca for a few years. By then, I was already done with beginner stuff. However, now that I'm going back to read his work for beginners, I just have to say, I wish I had these books when I started out!
This book is amazing. Although it can be annoying to have constant references to his other books--no matter how appropriate--this book's chock full of information you don't see everywhere. Even after studying and practicing Wicca and Witchcraft for well over a decade, I come across different perspectives--and new points arguing for or against those perspectives--than I have in other books, on the net, and among other like-minded individuals.
Penczak has found a way to provide beginner information all in one place (his books) as opposed to over-simplifying everything as typically found in "beginner" books on the subject. He even takes the time (in Chapter 15) to go over debated issues within Wicca and Witchcraft so that those completely new to the path know what kinds of arguments and differences to expect within the community.
Having read only the Outer Temple and Temple of Shamanic books of the series, I already feel confident that the entire Temple of Witchcraft series is a perfect place for beginners to start.
The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft: Shadows, Spirits, and the Healing Journey
Packed full of information on both shamanism and witchcraft providing a wonderful blend of the two worlds that often aren't so very different to begin with. Great book to take a year-and-a-day approach to if you are looking for a safe, practical way to enter into shadow-work. Easy to read and follow with shared experiences to highlight the information. Definitely a must-have for those wanting to go beyond basic 101.
Original Review: Good historically (if we are not absolutely sure or have no proof to support a theory presented in the book, she explains this). Great ideas on how to practice Wicca from a Celtic point of view.
2020 Update: Huge pleasure going back and re-reading this book nearly 20 years after it's publication. This was one of the first hand-on copy of a book on the subject of Wicca I read (internet learning was mostly skimpy and just rehashes of bits and pieces of Cunningham and Ravenwolf books back then).
I still adore Raeburn's dedication to historical accuracy and--while I can't claim her beautifully tactful and positive approach in calling out the BS--she is clearly a huge influence in my understanding of and dedication to questioning what I'm told (especially where history is concerned).
Even if you aren't personally drawn to Celtic approaches to Wicca, this book is highly recommended. Celtic Wicca is apparently also the reason I had an insanely great, fundamental understanding of ritual creation and practice early on in my Wicca days. Chapter 3 on crafting Wiccan rituals alone is worth more than the cost of this book.
Raeburn doesn't just tell you what rituals are and how they work. She doesn't just give you examples. She actually teaches you the components of Wiccan ritual then guides you step-by-step through a clearly worded example of how to construct rituals from scratch for highly effective, beautiful, and (bonus!) historically accurate rituals.
Today, you can get this same level of learning through one of dozens of witch schools easily accessible online. You'll pay hundreds of dollars, though.
Bottom-line: If you want to learn Wicca in any capacity, this book is fundamental.
The Book of Shadows
As the title implies, a real book of shadows. Includes the Laws, Sabbat rituals, chants, and more. It is useful in the study of Wicca.
In the Shadow of 13 Moons
I read this book slowly over the course of a year to get the most out of what it had to offer.
After completing the first section, I was not very impressed. For someone new to the Wiccan path, I can see how the information and activities in the first section would be useful, but the experienced practitioner who has not been afraid to experiment with different ways of doing ritual or working in the dark, this section doesn't seem very useful.
However, the rest of the book had much more to offer. The lessons and activities corresponded well with what was going on in my life as I struggled with my own Shadow and life lessons. Part 3 is full of extra information that I recommend reading and using as you go through your year of working with the Dark Moon.
The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess
(20th Anniversary Edition) I've heard a lot of criticism for this book for its history and almost overly-done feminism. While this book does seem to be written in a way that women can better relate to (at times it seems Starhawk viewed her audience as being only women), it doesn't seem to hold women over men. In fact, Starhawk seems to think of gender as over-rated in a way and tries to make Wiccan concepts and mythology to reflect ideas and concepts to everyone of all genders and sexual preferences.
The history is based on disproved theories, but Starhawk explains its significance as a religious mythological history. It's very important to read the introductions and refer to the 10th and 20th anniversary commentary as you read this book to see the differences, as some of these ideas didn't become realizations to Starhawk until after the first publication of her book. Includes exercises and rituals that are useful and nicely written.
The Circle Within
Original Review: An absolutely wonderful book explaining that Wicca is a spiritual path, a way of life. It's not just something done on Sabbats and Esbats or when there's need of magick. It gives insight on how to truly live your religion day by day. From giving an in-depth view of the God and Goddess to certain values which should be prized on any spiritual path to a rethinking of correspondences that have been repeated the same way for so many years that we don't even bother to question it, this book will, if not outright inspire you, get you thinking and those creative juices flowing. An absolute must-read for more than just a seeker.
2020 Updated Review: I still stand by my original opinion that this book is an absolute must-read for anyone on a Wiccan path and indispensable to the Witch's library. Even as I have come to identify more with simply Witch than Wicca specifically and the author herself has moved on away from this religious path (still love her, though!), her book is still relevantly filled with open, honest, and thought-provoking truths that anyone who claims to be, identifies with, or fancies "trying out" Wicca needs to hear.
This is likewise a great read (or re-read) for anyone who is in a spiritual or magickal slump or who is in the midst of transition into a new phase of their path. I have a sneaking suspicion this book will continue to stand the test of time, even as Wicca and related paths continue to grow and evolve.
The Body Sacred
Original Review: A great read. Aimed specifically towards women (Sylvan feels she cannot speak so much for men seeing as how she is not a man), the book touches on the reasons why so many people of all shapes and sizes will feel so negatively towards their physical appearances. The book is aimed towards presenting this topic from a Wiccan standpoint and helping women to learn to love their bodies despite all the negative propaganda to feel otherwise that we are surrounded by everyday as well as past experiences we may have gone through to make us think negatively of our bodies' purpose. It includes several exercises, spells and rituals dealing with these issues to help bring an appreciation for the body that the Goddess has provided us with.
2019 Updated Review: Since unexplained weight gain during the past couple years, I've basically been feeling at war with my body as nothing at all stopped the scale from going up (and the bank breaking from having to replace clothes every couple months). After much trial and error, I discovered sugar to be the weight gain culprit paired with as-yet-to-be-diagnosed adrenal fatigue, I finally got the weight gain to stop.
Knowing it'll take some time to get the weight back down and the horrific relationship with my body I created in listening to unhelpful advice from my doctor ("Maybe you just have to try harder..."), I picked this book up again in hopes it would help me get back to that body-love I experienced when I first read it.
Sylvan's words didn't disappoint. Despite the shifts in media representation, open dialogue, medical and technological advances, and--not least of all--the #metoo movement since first publication 15 years ago, The Body Sacred is as true and relevant today as the words were when Sylvan wrote them.
The validation you'll find is plenty enough to help combat that inner critic that gets in your way of self-love progress. But this book is so much more. Shared stories will inspire and the exercises, spells, and rituals will help ground you and remember just how perfect you are just the way you naturally are.
If you ever have or currently are experiencing body image issues and are Wiccan/-inclined (or a woman, period), add this book to your arsenal. You won't regret it.
Witchcraft for Tomorrow
A great read as expected by one of the most well-known Wiccan High Priestesses. With a similar layout to Gardner's books on Witchcraft, Valiente's writing is informative as well as friendly and warm. Valiente touches on various topics relating to modern Witchcraft. I was surprised to see a chapter on Sex as it's a topic not well written about in books of this nature today. Overall a great read!
The Charge of the Goddess [2014 Expanded Edition]
Both the original and this expanded edition were published after Valiente's passing in 1999. Although this is technically a poetry book as opposed to a book on Wicca, given Valiente's poetic works and other writings were defining elements of Wicca (I would go so far as to say there wouldn't be a Wicca today if not for Valiente's role) and her undeniable influence in Traditional Witchcraft and general Paganism, we might consider this volume instead as a liturgy of sorts.
This expanded edition contains her full poetry collection as gifted to The Doreen Valiente Foundation.
In addition to her beautiful style and religious and spiritual elements those familiar with Wicca and related paths know well, I absolutely adore how her poetry captured her wittiness and sense of humor. Some poems take stabs at humanity and even the dynamic within Pagan communities.
She does so in a way that is playful (rather than cynical as is more common by other writers--myself included--today) and is somewhat characteristic of the Cheshire cat's way of getting us to look at ourselves honestly. For poetry lovers, Valiente fans, and those on or curious about Wicca, I recommend picking this one up to add to your collection.
The Real Witch's Handbook
Original Review: Some of the history is a little shaky, but otherwise the book contains good, useful information. Seems to focus more on British witches, but applies to all. One bad trait, is West's use of the terms "Wicca" and "Witchcraft" (she uses them interchangeably, even though not all witches are Wiccans).
2020 Updated Review: Going back over this book nearly two decades later, I'm still very fond of this one. Right in the introduction, it becomes very clear that this is how you write for young audiences. (Contextual note: This book was published in 2001, at a time when the only other author(s) publishing books catered to the under-18 crowd were preaching very shady "ethics"--and lack thereof--and very inaccurate and anger-inducing versions of history.)
The first big note is still that the Witchcraft presented is very much Wicca-specific in nature so some points West makes throughout are very dated today. Otherwise, all the information is nice, clear, and easy to understand. This book is a great introduction to Wicca-styled Witchcraft, with practical and applicable advice and guidance relevant to any newcomer to Wicca and Witchcraft, and, especially, a great place for younger seekers to start and build a framework for understanding this faith.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft (Third Edition)
Denise Zimmermann, Katherine A. Gleason, Miria Liguana
The history seems to be implying that Wicca is ancient without ever flat out saying such. That aside, it gives the eerie feeling that the book is out to teach you how to be a brand new witch! Yay! Seriously though, that may just be a result of the style that, well, is designed for "idiots" as the Idiot's Guide is meant to be understood by some of the lowest reading levels. It gives it a more friendly, smoother approach.
Personally, I feel the book is very informative for a starter's guide. It goes into several different aspects of Wicca and witchcraft. While there's a lot of focus on magick, it never seems to take away from the fact that Wicca is a religion and just spells isn't what it's all about. Instead, the focus seems more of a way of getting your creative mind into it. Offering information on various kinds of spell craft as well as tips on how to put together several aspects to write your own. I'd say it's worth a read for anyone starting on the path.
© 2004-2021 by Evylyn Rose