Beginner Books that Don’t Suck

Beginner Books that Don’t Suck January 21, 2019

It’s been a long time since I’ve been a beginner, but being active on the Pagan and witch Internet means that I’m constantly in contact with newcomers. I see their questions (and sometimes have them directed at me), I check out the books they’re reading, and I watch what’s changing since I first got started in the nineties (a lot, for sure).

Recently, I was telling Mat Auryn that I wish those of us who have been around for a while would recommend different books. After all, the community has changed, people’s values and interests have shifted, and there are generational differences that we should respect. We know more about the history of Wicca and witchcraft, we have different ideas about what it means to be Pagan, and we have myriad more paths and traditions available for newcomers.

So why are Scott Cunningham, Ray Buckland, and other oldies still at the top of most of the reading lists floating around?

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Scott Cunningham and Ray Buckland. I grew up with the Big Name Pagans publishing in the nineties, and as a Gardnerian I still think all Wiccans need to take a crack at the books of Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente.

But have you seen Instagram and Facebook and Tumblr lately? The books that newcomers are reading are not those books. They’re not even Cunningham half the time. That may not matter to you personally—who cares what’s trending on social media, you say—but if you’re running a coven or other public group, organizing events, or trying to write for upcoming generations of witches and Pagans, you should care. Because this is the next generation, and they’re coming to be the face of this movement.

And let me tell you, some of the new books non-magical publishing houses are selling them suck. Flat out. I say that as a writer as much as a witch. Sure, they’re pretty, with their hardcovers and trending hashtags, but a lot of them are also trite, misrepresentative, or full of bad history.

So I sat down and tried to come up with beginner books that I think are better. If I want to stop recommending oldies, respect today’s popular issues, and not put superficial crap into the hands of eager newbie’s, what should I add to a new reading list?

Here’s what I came up with (you can skip the intro and the snafu with my cat and the microphone by scrolling to about 4:56 in the video):

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