This book wasn’t what I was expecting. Many reviewers out there are focusing on a handful of All Acts of Love & Pleasure: Inclusive Wicca’s qualities, either because they are personally invested in the LGBTQ aspect (as am I) or because gender and sexuality in the Craft are hot topics in the blogosphere right now. In a way these reviews, though positive and important, shortchange Yvonne Aburrow’s book because they seem to define it by only one of its many complex facets.
Yvonne Aburrow’s book is an outstanding Wicca 201, intended for already-active, primarily initiatory covens, that examines Wiccan praxis and theology. This is the next step once you have established a solid Wiccan practice. Many aspects of Wicca are examined with an eye towards inclusivity; Aburrow covers LGBTQ, BDSM, polyamory, and asexuality; physical and mental disabilities; cultural appropriation; and trauma recovery in the context of ritual practice, relationship to divinity, and mythology. She also tackles, with dignity and respect, most of the issues that currently divide the Pagan community; science vs. magick, polytheism vs. humanism; sexuality and gender; and ecology and activism as spiritual practices. The author looks at some of the common Wiccan myths and makes suggestions for ways to incorporate deep ecology, from adapting the Wheel of the Year to appropriately reflect your climate and geography to reducing your carbon footprint.
The aspects of the book I most enjoy appear to be the ones that are getting the least attention. Aburrow has an outstanding section on invocation. She asks us to consider the specifics of our spirituality at length; What is the nature of truth? Is it possible to hold contradictory truths at the same time? Is there such a thing as absolute truth? Yvonne examines the nature of magick and Wiccan theology in a way that encourages the reader to come to her own conclusions. She considers the nature of the left- and right-hand paths in a way I never had (left-hand path work is about building the ego towards Ascension; right-hand path work is about breaking it down to achieve union with the Godhead) and emphasizes that both are valid. Yvonne covers the ordeal path and the mechanics of magick. She even offers a basic outline for a Wicca 101 course curriculum in case you want to teach one.
The author also deals with coven dynamics and how individual personality types affect this balance. In my opinion, if you were to read this book and Judy Harrow’s Wicca Covens, you would be reasonably well prepared for whatever coven leadership can throw at you.
Naturally I don’t agree with everything she says. For instance, Yvonne recommends against full possession trance and says that she doesn’t think it is a “beneficial practice.” I disagree. I also questioned the need for a “magic vs. science” chapter, but that was until I began reading Polytheist and Atheo-Pagan blogs, and now I know better! As a Witch, Yvonne also has a strong polytheistic leaning and that bias does show through; though I give her kudos for trying to present a balanced viewpoint.
An interesting aside is that in reading the statement on the “Progressive Wicca Movement” published in the appendices (circa 1988,) I was struck by some remarkable similarities to my own tradition. Since the Star Sapphire was formed right around then I find myself wondering if it was a case of parallel evolution, or if the movement in the UK influenced a smaller one here in Canada?
But needless to say I thought the book overall was outstanding and I loved it! I will be putting it on my recommended reading list for my students, and it will be the first thing I hand them when they start making noises about their second degrees; which, in my tradition, is when you start teaching groups. I find it harmonizes with the perspectives of my tradition and practice, and I’m glad to have this much-needed resource at my fingertips. On top of all of this, it’s clear and well-written. As someone recently pointed out to me, good Wicca 201 books are as rare as hen’s teeth. This is a great Wicca 201 book. Highly recommended!
Aside: I also did an interview with Yvonne. It will be appearing in Spiral Nature near the beginning of April as my inaugural post there.