Every Monday and Friday in January we will be asking people questions about Wicca. Want to weigh in? Find the next question at the bottom of this post!
In such an experiential religion, is there such a thing as a book on “Advanced Wicca”?
*Once again a reminder that everyone responding to this series is speaking for themselves and not for their tradition as a whole.*
Callisto (Alexandrian tradition) responds:
I suppose it depends on whom you ask. There are 2 main forms of Wicca that are practiced today: the form pioneered by Gardner, which is also referred to as British Traditional Wicca (BTW); and the more generally seen later development of Eclectic/Solitary Wicca (SW). BTW is an initiatory priesthood, for this type of Wicca, no, there is no advance text to buy at the local bookstore. Advance Wiccan knowledge comes from continued training and service to the gods as a priest/ess in one’s Tradition (marked by elevations/degrees as he develops). Advanced training is acquired not only via the written body of lore and knowledge handed down as one progresses, but through oral tradition and continued exploration of the Mysteries. The bulk of material is oath-bound, so even if all of it could be conveyed in writing, it would not be publicly accessible without either theft or violating one’s oath (the latter in the event of an initiate). Either way, the veracity of the material would be questionable given the author would have proven himself untrustworthy.
SW is harder to define since it differs from person to person as to what all is involved. Ask 8 different Eclectics or Solitaries and get 8 different views of what Wicca entails, and what (and whether) all of those components can be covered adequately in publications, be it “101” level or beyond. As such, it would not be fair to state “yes” or “no” and presume either will sufficienty encompass that form of Craft.
Sure! Just a few of the topics that books on advanced Wicca might tackle include: what the experiences of Wicca feel like, what those experiences mean, why those experiences matter, how to refine your practice in order to foster your own experiences, and how those experiences relate to other parts of our religion and our everyday lives. Although some experiences may be beyond words, that doesn’t mean they have to be totally divorced from words.
Some of the most meaningful writing in many religious traditions comes from the mystics who insist that their words a poor shadow, at best, of the experiences that comprise the heart of their religions. For others, though, those words help bring them closer to the experience, or spark their own experiences.
Rationality and mysticism can and should be used together, in complementary ways.
Lady Moonshadow Xian (House of RavenStone) responds:
Wicca is not a “book” religion. It would lose a lot if it ever became one.
That said, I love books and read ravenously when I have time. There are loads of books and many of them have information that could be called “advanced”. The main problem is that there is very little or no foundation for people to know how to properly use the information.
Sure, anyone can follow a recipe for a spell. What they don’t tell you is why you use those items and what the repercussions may be. There are thousands of spell books and Wicca 101 books. Everyone wants to be “Insta-Witch” or what I call “Ireada”. “I read a book and now I’m a witch.” Many people do great harm to themselves and others just from sheer ignorance.
Many of the ingredients listed are not what you would think just from simply reading the recipe. Graveyard Dust is patchouli in most recipes. Coffin Nails are a small blue flower that grows mostly in graveyards or close cut lawns. I believe that the people who write the books for the most part don’t even know what they are writing about.
I especially dislike the books that target young people. They have covers that show them dressed like prostitutes and spells on how to get revenge on the bus driver for not holding up traffic waiting for them to drag themselves out of their house to the end of the driveway. They encourage petty uses of powers that are not explained and do not mention the fact that most of the working in the book will have an ugly blow back on them.
I was once discussing a book with an Elder of another Tradition and she said, “There are things in there that I would not teach my 3rd Degrees. Fortunately most people are too stupid to recognize them for what they are.”
This brings me to my well know HOOEY speech: Read anything you want. Use your intelligence. If something looks like Hooey, smells like Hooey and sticks to the bottom of your shoe like Hooey, IT’S PROBABLY HOOEY. Even the worst book may have a pearl of wisdom hidden amidst the Hooey.
There is no substitute for a good teacher.
As for me? I’m a book nerd and there’s nothing that makes me sadder than not having time to read. I’ve delved into some of the nerdier and “advanced” texts on Paganism and the occult as well as absorbing some of the more “basic” stuff.
I think there is room for philosophical, historical, religious and practical texts that go beyond “Wicca 101”. Yet I would hesitate to classify that as “advanced Wicca”. I think maybe there’s a hunger to go beyond Wicca in an attempt to go deeper into Wicca, and I think that’s a problematic approach. In the internet age we’ve all become information junkies, always looking for something “new and shiny”.
Although I am having trouble articulating it, I am becoming more and more aware that “advanced Wicca” lies quite firmly within “Wicca 101”. It’s not new tools, new exercises or new “shiny” but in fully inhabiting those basics that form the foundation of Wicca. I think that may be why Wicca has endured and spread, because not only is it a simple religious technology that works, but the Mystery is hidden in plain sight. No written text can unlock the depths of Wicca. Only practice can.
Personally, rather than see more books that try to teach me something “advanced” I’d rather see books that simply meditate, visit and share those basic values in a way that resonates for those who are settled, embraced and contentedly gardening the path that is Wicca. I think Patricia Telesco had something when she compiled Cakes and Ale for the Pagan Soul. I think we need to not look for more but sit and visit with what we have, and that book does just that. I’d love to see more publications like that.
With the increased access to information and growing numbers of solitaries, does initiatory Wicca still have something to offer?
If you’d like to weigh in just e-mail me your short response (250-500 words) before Jan 31st. It’s sfoster at patheos.com.