Labeling Wicca: Why “advanced” and “101” bug me…

Labeling Wicca: Why “advanced” and “101” bug me… February 5, 2011

The other day I tried to articulate something about “advanced Wicca” that wasn’t terribly coherent. Some people challenged what I said and made me examine the issue more closely. Thank you Jay and Dave of PCP!

So while I’ll admit there are so-called “advanced” books out there that I really want to read (Kat MacMorgan, T. Thorn Coyle and Chris Penczak for instance), I don’t perceive these as being “advanced” as much as different perspectives. So many of the books that are being touted as “advanced” are really just proper books on Wicca or they draw on non-Wiccan practices and skills. Dianne Sylvan has pretty read my mind on the subject. I particularly like this bit:

How many books have you seen on how to live as a Wiccan when life sucks? How to face life’s worst moments and most difficult challenges? Where are the books on surviving grief, abuse, and loss and still maintaining your faith as a Wiccan? How to bring your entire life in alignment with your values, and how Wicca influences those values, or should? How, if everything is sacred, every choice we make from what to eat to what shoes to buy is an expression of our spiritual beliefs?

I hate the labels “advanced” and “101”. These grate on me like nails on a chalkboard. Imagine someone reading the Bible and then going to the priest and asking for “advanced Christianity” books. Or someone gaining a working comprehension of and beginning to practice meditation to insist that now they are ready for “advanced Zen” books. It’s absurd.

My first Wiccan books were The Witches Bible by the Farrars and All One Wicca by Kat MacMorgan. I’m not going to claim these are the awesomest books on the face of the earth but between them you get a comprehensive look at Wicca, and I’d venture to say as deep a look at Wicca as most “advanced” books. Beyond them there are books that can teach you more about astrology, about tarot, herbs, ceremonial magic, and some of them claim this is “advanced Wicca.” That’s like saying music is “advanced Christianity” just because it’s a tool Christians use. These are all tools Wiccans use, but in and of themselves are not Wiccan. So many people seem to be looking for Wicca outside of Wicca, like trying to find America by driving across Bulgaria.

That’s what really bugs me. People tend to assume Wicca is simply this framework that you can hang anything on, rather than a stand-alone religion of depth and meaning. This is because people tend to cater to the least common denominator, and keeping things simple for those unfamiliar. It becomes reduced to something too simple to be taken seriously. Being reduced to it’s most simplistic form makes Wicca easy to dismiss. If you’re being presented with a shallow, toothless and bland Wicca no wonder you’re looking for something else. No wonder you’re looking for “advanced Wicca” and no wonder you’re frustrated when you don’t find it.

Not to mention that Wicca 101 implies that “this is the least you can get away with” and that simply understanding the vocabulary and calendar means you understand Wicca. If I’ve learned anything from the Wicca Series last month, it’s that Wicca isn’t easy to understand, even for hardcore Wiccans.

If Wicca has survived and thrived it’s because it has intrinsic worth, not because it’s a vessel for other disciplines. Using labels like “101” or “advanced” implies a lack of depth, a philosophy easily boxed and labeled in easy-to-swallow chunks. It ignores the real beauty, depth and value of Wicca.

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  • Interesting point of view. I guess this whole label thing comes from the fact that many people confuse Wicca with Witchcraft/Paganism/Magic.
    Many tend to forget it’s a stand-alone religion and magic is just a part of it. Magic can be ‘beginner’ and ‘advanced’ when refering to types of rituals involved and the extent they go to but not Wicca as religion.
    At least that’s my two cents..

  • Interesting point of view. I guess this whole label thing comes from the fact that many people confuse Wicca with Witchcraft/Paganism/Magic.
    Many tend to forget it’s a stand-alone religion and magic is just a part of it. Magic can be ‘beginner’ and ‘advanced’ when refering to types of rituals involved and the extent they go to but not Wicca as religion.
    At least that’s my two cents..

  • Anonymous

    I do agree, an Advanced Wicca book is ridiculous – however, as a Mystery Religion, often with Outer and Inner courts, we do have Beginner and Advanced Wicca (or Witchcraft). Many traditions (I can’t say all) have various degrees, as you move thru the changes that the study of the mysteries bring. (And for good reason!) Wouldn’t this, in and of itself, lead to a beginner and advanced Wicca? Now, In my personal opinion, it is impossible to learn that, experience that, without the direct influence of a teacher and/or group – something that cannot be learned in a book.

    Finally, in regards to your mention of “Advanced Christianity”, I find that there really is Beginner Christianity (Baptist – where all you really need is to accept Jesus, and the unquestioning doctrine of the pastor) and Advanced Christianity (Some Episcopal, Catholic, Orthodox and Contemplative Traditions – where there really is the real life changing adhearance to Christian Values and Life.)

  • Anonymous

    I do agree, an Advanced Wicca book is ridiculous – however, as a Mystery Religion, often with Outer and Inner courts, we do have Beginner and Advanced Wicca (or Witchcraft). Many traditions (I can’t say all) have various degrees, as you move thru the changes that the study of the mysteries bring. (And for good reason!) Wouldn’t this, in and of itself, lead to a beginner and advanced Wicca? Now, In my personal opinion, it is impossible to learn that, experience that, without the direct influence of a teacher and/or group – something that cannot be learned in a book.

    Finally, in regards to your mention of “Advanced Christianity”, I find that there really is Beginner Christianity (Baptist – where all you really need is to accept Jesus, and the unquestioning doctrine of the pastor) and Advanced Christianity (Some Episcopal, Catholic, Orthodox and Contemplative Traditions – where there really is the real life changing adhearance to Christian Values and Life.)

  • Right. Coming from the perspective of my tradition, those degrees are about service, teaching and leadership as much as personal study. My religion gives a pretty intense course of study at the “outer court” or student stage. The material in that course is used by everyone. People take some of the classes a few times to better absorb the material even after they are initiated, and then they begin to make sure they have learned the material well enough to teach it. So I suppose my religion views the degree system as spirals circling the same core rather than a ladder leading to something new.

    I don’t know about the teacher thing. For me, it’s harder to learn without a teacher. A teacher stretches me and pushes me in directions I wouldn’t go on my own. But I think a dedicated solitary can have many of the same experiences and absorb the same insights and knowledge, I just think it’s harder.

    As a former Baptist, I kind of have to agree with you there. Small Baptist churches can be the most lax spiritual discipline out there, and even the standards for clergy can be very low. It’s not true of all Baptist churches, but there does seem to be a trend there.

  • Right. Coming from the perspective of my tradition, those degrees are about service, teaching and leadership as much as personal study. My religion gives a pretty intense course of study at the “outer court” or student stage. The material in that course is used by everyone. People take some of the classes a few times to better absorb the material even after they are initiated, and then they begin to make sure they have learned the material well enough to teach it. So I suppose my religion views the degree system as spirals circling the same core rather than a ladder leading to something new.

    I don’t know about the teacher thing. For me, it’s harder to learn without a teacher. A teacher stretches me and pushes me in directions I wouldn’t go on my own. But I think a dedicated solitary can have many of the same experiences and absorb the same insights and knowledge, I just think it’s harder.

    As a former Baptist, I kind of have to agree with you there. Small Baptist churches can be the most lax spiritual discipline out there, and even the standards for clergy can be very low. It’s not true of all Baptist churches, but there does seem to be a trend there.

  • The complex relationship between magic and religion is fascinating in Wicca and Witchcraft. However, I think it’s safe to say that while magical ritual is Wicca, doing a parking chant at the mall is not really Wicca proper, but a complementary side-practice. And it works! Every Witch I know has their own parking spot magic!

  • The complex relationship between magic and religion is fascinating in Wicca and Witchcraft. However, I think it’s safe to say that while magical ritual is Wicca, doing a parking chant at the mall is not really Wicca proper, but a complementary side-practice. And it works! Every Witch I know has their own parking spot magic!

  • There are definitely “Advanced Zen” books, but then people who try to practice Zen with only books for guidance are wasting their time and annoying the pig.

    Mostly, people are asking for advanced Magick or advanced Witchcraft books. Most people are drawn to Wicca initially for the Uber Sexxay Magick Powerz.

    I definitely take your point that to “advance” in a religion is to learn how to apply it to life. Maybe that’s my call to do a book. I’ll resist calling it “Advanced Paganism,” though ;-)

  • There are definitely “Advanced Zen” books, but then people who try to practice Zen with only books for guidance are wasting their time and annoying the pig.

    Mostly, people are asking for advanced Magick or advanced Witchcraft books. Most people are drawn to Wicca initially for the Uber Sexxay Magick Powerz.

    I definitely take your point that to “advance” in a religion is to learn how to apply it to life. Maybe that’s my call to do a book. I’ll resist calling it “Advanced Paganism,” though ;-)

  • WarriorPrincessDanu

    I think the term Beginner Christianity applies to much more than just Baptists. I would say probably at least 75% of Christians haven’t passed “Christianity 101.” I haven’t met more that 10 Christians that I would consider “advanced,” and I’m currently at a University where 99% of the population is Christian.

  • I think the term Beginner Christianity applies to much more than just Baptists. I would say probably at least 75% of Christians haven’t passed “Christianity 101.” I haven’t met more that 10 Christians that I would consider “advanced,” and I’m currently at a University where 99% of the population is Christian.

  • Are you talking simply with regard to the books available in wicca or are you talking about about the whole enchilada?

    If the former, then I would have to say if you

  • Are you talking simply with regard to the books available in wicca or are you talking about about the whole enchilada?

    If the former, then I would have to say if you

  • hm…scratch that. more later

  • hm…scratch that. more later

  • Are you talking simply about the books available or the whole enchilada? I’ll keep it short… – speak little listen much.

    If the former, then I would have to say that it is all ‘beginner’ regardless of its publisher’s labeling. The latter all very person-to-person to ‘advance’, otherwise it is simply intellectualization – knowledge without wisdom.

    But it did allow me to wander through my old notes rather deeply for the first time in a few years. Now there is a book that is both beginner and advanced at the same time! Perhaps that is why I seldom buy books on Wicca anymore. And perhaps the publishers are hawking new ‘advanced’ books to bolster their dwindling numbers.

    Wicca is, at it’s root, pretty simple. It is a religion that matches our spirituality. But because of that it is also complicated because everything is left up to the individual – no on can do it for you – we are free. It all comes down to individual personality and responsibility and a few simple rules – I know, I know, that is a pretty libertarian thing to say for a borderline socialist like me but its true. I’ll mitigate that by repeating “where there is one witch there are bound to be more” ;)

    Other than that I decided my original over-long response essay was pontificating and likely off the point somewhat so I thought better of it. Maybe I’ll hone it for another day.

    Tabhorian

  • Are you talking simply about the books available or the whole enchilada? I’ll keep it short… – speak little listen much.

    If the former, then I would have to say that it is all ‘beginner’ regardless of its publisher’s labeling. The latter all very person-to-person to ‘advance’, otherwise it is simply intellectualization – knowledge without wisdom.

    But it did allow me to wander through my old notes rather deeply for the first time in a few years. Now there is a book that is both beginner and advanced at the same time! Perhaps that is why I seldom buy books on Wicca anymore. And perhaps the publishers are hawking new ‘advanced’ books to bolster their dwindling numbers.

    Wicca is, at it’s root, pretty simple. It is a religion that matches our spirituality. But because of that it is also complicated because everything is left up to the individual – no on can do it for you – we are free. It all comes down to individual personality and responsibility and a few simple rules – I know, I know, that is a pretty libertarian thing to say for a borderline socialist like me but its true. I’ll mitigate that by repeating “where there is one witch there are bound to be more” ;)

    Other than that I decided my original over-long response essay was pontificating and likely off the point somewhat so I thought better of it. Maybe I’ll hone it for another day.

    Tabhorian

  • It’s not? I love getting a good parking spot. It is a beautiful thing… and after all, “…all acts of love and beauty…”

  • It’s not? I love getting a good parking spot. It is a beautiful thing… and after all, “…all acts of love and beauty…”

  • Edsoto9

    I absolutly agree. When I first decided to explore wicca as a faith I often came across the “101” label. And I progressed I kept looking for the books labeled “102” or next step. Talk about confusing. It was my visit to mystic dream in walnut creek, calif. Before I felt like I could go forward in my studies.

  • Edsoto9

    I absolutly agree. When I first decided to explore wicca as a faith I often came across the “101” label. And I progressed I kept looking for the books labeled “102” or next step. Talk about confusing. It was my visit to mystic dream in walnut creek, calif. Before I felt like I could go forward in my studies.

  • Ra

    What pulls my chain, is Wicca is confused and often called pagan. To my mind paganism came after witchcraft. Paganism either shinto buddhist etc all worship emporers. Wicca is a tribal religion. national census papers show them as different religions and yet we have nutters askingwiccans to call themselves pagan all over the Internet. Paganrome has little in common, as I see Wicca a more heathen and older type of religion
    Wicca doesn’t have white or black magic in the Christopagan sense of judging what magick is good and bad.

  • Ra

    What pulls my chain, is Wicca is confused and often called pagan. To my mind paganism came after witchcraft. Paganism either shinto buddhist etc all worship emporers. Wicca is a tribal religion. national census papers show them as different religions and yet we have nutters askingwiccans to call themselves pagan all over the Internet. Paganrome has little in common, as I see Wicca a more heathen and older type of religion
    Wicca doesn’t have white or black magic in the Christopagan sense of judging what magick is good and bad.

  • Gorm_sionnach

    I am a fan of irony, and presently at the top right hand of the page, is one of those insipid “Wicca 101” advertisments.

    I have always seen the “101” v. “advanced” as something which had more to do with the published works on Wicca, than having a correlation to actual groups of Wiccans.

  • I am a fan of irony, and presently at the top right hand of the page, is one of those insipid “Wicca 101” advertisments.

    I have always seen the “101” v. “advanced” as something which had more to do with the published works on Wicca, than having a correlation to actual groups of Wiccans.

  • Callisto

    For years now, Seekers have been told they can learn from books “to be” Wiccan or “to do” Wicca. Realistically, all one can do is learn ABOUT Wicca from books. That is why coven training is still essential to traditional Wicca. Wicca is learned via experiential education – a combination of written and oral materials with coven (shared) practice that explores not only the basics and mechanics (e.g. “Wiccans celebrate sabbats and esbats and cast circles,” etc.) but conveys a body of knowledge and, of course, exploration of the Mysteries. Things that, technically yes, one could write *about* but would not be able to truly convey the scope of because a) whatever the author’s knowledge is expressed through his personal filter, and b) Wicca is something that needs to be experienced in order to be truly understood. Anyone who has had this training knows there are elements that defy description by written word and it’s only when someone else has gone through the experience that they can grasp the depth and meaning of what the person is trying to articulate.

    However, telling people that’s the way Wicca is learned is not conducive to selling books. Add to that the fact that not every seeker is accepted to every coven (both need to be right for each other), or can find a coven, nor every person wants a coven setting, and the beginnings of “how-to/101” Wicca books was set. It’s common to see this topic often on forums, requests by seekers frustrated and wanting more “advanced” Wicca books and subsequently being referred to books that are mostly about practices used by Wiccans, but are not specific TO Wicca nor ARE Wicca. This is why, as you stated, “People tend to assume Wicca is simply this framework that you can hang anything on, rather than a stand-alone religion of depth and meaning.” Substitutions are made because, ultimately, the path is not accessible via books. Thus the advent of Eclectic or Solitary Wicca and it, by form and necessity, differing from person to person. Each person not only develops a personal style of practice but has to “fill in the blanks” of what is not available despite all the Wiccan books out there.

  • Callisto

    For years now, Seekers have been told they can learn from books “to be” Wiccan or “to do” Wicca. Realistically, all one can do is learn ABOUT Wicca from books. That is why coven training is still essential to traditional Wicca. Wicca is learned via experiential education – a combination of written and oral materials with coven (shared) practice that explores not only the basics and mechanics (e.g. “Wiccans celebrate sabbats and esbats and cast circles,” etc.) but conveys a body of knowledge and, of course, exploration of the Mysteries. Things that, technically yes, one could write *about* but would not be able to truly convey the scope of because a) whatever the author’s knowledge is expressed through his personal filter, and b) Wicca is something that needs to be experienced in order to be truly understood. Anyone who has had this training knows there are elements that defy description by written word and it’s only when someone else has gone through the experience that they can grasp the depth and meaning of what the person is trying to articulate.

    However, telling people that’s the way Wicca is learned is not conducive to selling books. Add to that the fact that not every seeker is accepted to every coven (both need to be right for each other), or can find a coven, nor every person wants a coven setting, and the beginnings of “how-to/101” Wicca books was set. It’s common to see this topic often on forums, requests by seekers frustrated and wanting more “advanced” Wicca books and subsequently being referred to books that are mostly about practices used by Wiccans, but are not specific TO Wicca nor ARE Wicca. This is why, as you stated, “People tend to assume Wicca is simply this framework that you can hang anything on, rather than a stand-alone religion of depth and meaning.” Substitutions are made because, ultimately, the path is not accessible via books. Thus the advent of Eclectic or Solitary Wicca and it, by form and necessity, differing from person to person. Each person not only develops a personal style of practice but has to “fill in the blanks” of what is not available despite all the Wiccan books out there.

  • From my perspective, the dividing line between “101” and “advanced”, if we truly need to make the distinction, is in the dedication to the spirituality. It has relatively little to do with the magic, and more with the faith, you apply in your religious life. To me, the difference between a “101” and “advanced” Wiccan is the depth of their understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. A “101 Wiccan” might quote a text they are reading, or give a brief overview. An “advanced” Wiccan would tell me why they’re practicing and what relevance it has to their life.

    Also, to me, a “101” book lays out the various archetypal things found in Wicca, from Deities to tools, circle-casting and so on, from their particular tradition or working arrangement. An “advanced” Wiccan book outlines the whys, wherefores, and how things came into the Craft. They also go into the theo/thealogy in deeper depth, probing the student or asking the student to think beyond rote spells and rituals. I find that advanced books make students question their philosophy, stretch their brain, and actually push them to do involving rituals.

    Also, having become a 3rd degree in an eclectic system, Non-Wiccan, then joining a coven later and becoming a 1st degree, there is a wealth of difference between how the degree systems work in covens and groups. The degree may signal “You have attained this through fire and blood”, or “you have put the time and lessons in”, or “now you are ready to do group work”. There’s a lot of variance between Traditions, groups, and covens. The word “advanced”, then becomes relative to the practitioner and group and/or Tradition. For instance, I may be “advanced” in Runes while Johnny Q. Wiccan may be “advanced” in palmistry; both are relatively unrelated to Wicca itself, because both are not central to the faith. That said, if I have lead several rituals, designed classes, designed rituals, or have pledged myself to serving the Goddess and the God, one could call me “advanced” because of how my spirituality invests itself in my life, and vice versa. If Johnny Q. Wiccan, in contrast, only shows up to Sabbats, does very little with the coven, and does very little with his spirituality, one could look at him as “101”.

    But is this fair? Just because I might do more, does this suddenly make me more “advanced”? It seems judgmental; maybe it does, especially if Johnny does have the time, energy, and ability to give more time to his spirituality. Maybe it is too judgmental; maybe Johnny works two jobs, has a wife and kids, and goes to school, and fits his religion into his life where he can; a scant prayer before work, a circle casting every Full Moon when he can get it off from work. There’s a lot of variable to say someone is “101” or “advanced”. I tend to look at how effective a person’s spirituality is in their life to making it better, and how they relate to it. If they treat their faith as window dressing or a ‘sometimes food’, then I call them 101. If not, if they’re honestly putting themselves to work trying to cultivate their faith, I say they are doing advanced work. The reason I make this distinction is I have seen a lot of people just sit in their faith like a comfy chair, and do nothing with it. Even if you don’t have a lot of time or ability to do so, just trying to apply your faith and better your life, to me, makes you a more advanced practitioner than many of the 101s out there.

  • From my perspective, the dividing line between “101” and “advanced”, if we truly need to make the distinction, is in the dedication to the spirituality. It has relatively little to do with the magic, and more with the faith, you apply in your religious life. To me, the difference between a “101” and “advanced” Wiccan is the depth of their understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. A “101 Wiccan” might quote a text they are reading, or give a brief overview. An “advanced” Wiccan would tell me why they’re practicing and what relevance it has to their life.

    Also, to me, a “101” book lays out the various archetypal things found in Wicca, from Deities to tools, circle-casting and so on, from their particular tradition or working arrangement. An “advanced” Wiccan book outlines the whys, wherefores, and how things came into the Craft. They also go into the theo/thealogy in deeper depth, probing the student or asking the student to think beyond rote spells and rituals. I find that advanced books make students question their philosophy, stretch their brain, and actually push them to do involving rituals.

    Also, having become a 3rd degree in an eclectic system, Non-Wiccan, then joining a coven later and becoming a 1st degree, there is a wealth of difference between how the degree systems work in covens and groups. The degree may signal “You have attained this through fire and blood”, or “you have put the time and lessons in”, or “now you are ready to do group work”. There’s a lot of variance between Traditions, groups, and covens. The word “advanced”, then becomes relative to the practitioner and group and/or Tradition. For instance, I may be “advanced” in Runes while Johnny Q. Wiccan may be “advanced” in palmistry; both are relatively unrelated to Wicca itself, because both are not central to the faith. That said, if I have lead several rituals, designed classes, designed rituals, or have pledged myself to serving the Goddess and the God, one could call me “advanced” because of how my spirituality invests itself in my life, and vice versa. If Johnny Q. Wiccan, in contrast, only shows up to Sabbats, does very little with the coven, and does very little with his spirituality, one could look at him as “101”.

    But is this fair? Just because I might do more, does this suddenly make me more “advanced”? It seems judgmental; maybe it does, especially if Johnny does have the time, energy, and ability to give more time to his spirituality. Maybe it is too judgmental; maybe Johnny works two jobs, has a wife and kids, and goes to school, and fits his religion into his life where he can; a scant prayer before work, a circle casting every Full Moon when he can get it off from work. There’s a lot of variable to say someone is “101” or “advanced”. I tend to look at how effective a person’s spirituality is in their life to making it better, and how they relate to it. If they treat their faith as window dressing or a ‘sometimes food’, then I call them 101. If not, if they’re honestly putting themselves to work trying to cultivate their faith, I say they are doing advanced work. The reason I make this distinction is I have seen a lot of people just sit in their faith like a comfy chair, and do nothing with it. Even if you don’t have a lot of time or ability to do so, just trying to apply your faith and better your life, to me, makes you a more advanced practitioner than many of the 101s out there.

  • To me, “101” conveys that what is offered is a survey course. That is, a 101 book or course *introduces* a field, providing a sense of what that field includes, but never covering anything in depth. Such a course can be the first step for someone in the major, or a “general education requirement” for someone in another major.

    When I have offered a “Craft 101” course, that’s what I was providing. I’ll let you know what there is to know about, but I won’t cover any of it in depth. Yes, there are some practices included for experience, and we’ll do one complete ritual toward the end of the course, so you have some idea what I’ve been talking about. You don’t have to want to be pagan or practice Craft to take that course. Maybe you just want to better understand your friend, lover, or relative.

    Your Craft life begins *after* that 101 course or book. It begins when you develop a practice and a discipline.

  • To me, “101” conveys that what is offered is a survey course. That is, a 101 book or course *introduces* a field, providing a sense of what that field includes, but never covering anything in depth. Such a course can be the first step for someone in the major, or a “general education requirement” for someone in another major.

    When I have offered a “Craft 101” course, that’s what I was providing. I’ll let you know what there is to know about, but I won’t cover any of it in depth. Yes, there are some practices included for experience, and we’ll do one complete ritual toward the end of the course, so you have some idea what I’ve been talking about. You don’t have to want to be pagan or practice Craft to take that course. Maybe you just want to better understand your friend, lover, or relative.

    Your Craft life begins *after* that 101 course or book. It begins when you develop a practice and a discipline.

  • I would argue that any Craft book that has a large amount of content that doesn’t belong in a survey course can be an advanced Craft book. In a real sense, what makes a book an advanced book is having an advanced person read it. If there are depths that can be picked up by someone experienced that will be missed by the novice, it can be an advanced book.

    Personally, I think that the Farrars “Witches Bible” is one of the most advanced books on the Craft we have. While the Farrars “Witches Bible” includes some information that I cover in 101, most of the content of that book won’t be in 101.

    For example, unless one of the students asked about it in class, I wouldn’t address how to deal with banishing someone from a coven. But I was really glad the Farrars covered it the one time I supported a priestess who had to banish someone. And I was glad again that I’d read that when one of my lineage-mates was kicked out of the “coven” she belonged to–via email, without a single meeting or even phone call to address issues.

    And their chapters on the sabbats include historical information they’d dug up, followed by an explanation of how they incorporated some of the historical stuff into the ritual, and only then do they get to the ritual.

    I don’t practice British Traditional Wicca and have never performed a complete ritual out of that book, but I wore a copy out and bought two newer copies–so I can loan one and still have one for reference. I have 23 years of committed practice behind me, and I still pull that book down.

  • I would argue that any Craft book that has a large amount of content that doesn’t belong in a survey course can be an advanced Craft book. In a real sense, what makes a book an advanced book is having an advanced person read it. If there are depths that can be picked up by someone experienced that will be missed by the novice, it can be an advanced book.

    Personally, I think that the Farrars “Witches Bible” is one of the most advanced books on the Craft we have. While the Farrars “Witches Bible” includes some information that I cover in 101, most of the content of that book won’t be in 101.

    For example, unless one of the students asked about it in class, I wouldn’t address how to deal with banishing someone from a coven. But I was really glad the Farrars covered it the one time I supported a priestess who had to banish someone. And I was glad again that I’d read that when one of my lineage-mates was kicked out of the “coven” she belonged to–via email, without a single meeting or even phone call to address issues.

    And their chapters on the sabbats include historical information they’d dug up, followed by an explanation of how they incorporated some of the historical stuff into the ritual, and only then do they get to the ritual.

    I don’t practice British Traditional Wicca and have never performed a complete ritual out of that book, but I wore a copy out and bought two newer copies–so I can loan one and still have one for reference. I have 23 years of committed practice behind me, and I still pull that book down.

  • I have to admit the whole concept of banishment boggles my mind. Witches who would get their knickers in a twist over hexing a rapist will have no problem performing such a negative ritual as a banishment. I seriously don’t get the need to metaphysically pick someone up and throw them out in the street. It implies an insecurity on the part of the coven. If your coven is functioning properly then people should be able to leave at will without all the high drama.

  • I have to admit the whole concept of banishment boggles my mind. Witches who would get their knickers in a twist over hexing a rapist will have no problem performing such a negative ritual as a banishment. I seriously don’t get the need to metaphysically pick someone up and throw them out in the street. It implies an insecurity on the part of the coven. If your coven is functioning properly then people should be able to leave at will without all the high drama.

  • I would agree with Danu, and say that “Beginner Christian” applies to Christians in a much as people in general.

    What it sounds like you’re referring to, it the capability of people in general. In that sense, I think you can take any type of practice that takes skill. Anything from Wicca to painting. It’s not so much the idea of teaching advanced skills or “mysteries”, but seeing whether the individual is capable of handling such responsibility or skills. With Christianity, you have your “beginners” that just take what their pastor tells them, no matter what branch. You’ll find this in ANY path though. The idea that there are people that feel comfortable in the dogma and don’t want to think beyond what their priests, ministers, priestesses, preachers, or chiefs tell them. They’re not leader type personalities, and if they had all of the “higher” information, it would confuse them more than let them “in on the secrets” It’s no different than some people make great bosses, and others should just stay as workers because their communication and organization skills are craptastic.

    And side note, Catholics are anything BUT contemplative :P

  • I would agree with Danu, and say that “Beginner Christian” applies to Christians in a much as people in general.

    What it sounds like you’re referring to, it the capability of people in general. In that sense, I think you can take any type of practice that takes skill. Anything from Wicca to painting. It’s not so much the idea of teaching advanced skills or “mysteries”, but seeing whether the individual is capable of handling such responsibility or skills. With Christianity, you have your “beginners” that just take what their pastor tells them, no matter what branch. You’ll find this in ANY path though. The idea that there are people that feel comfortable in the dogma and don’t want to think beyond what their priests, ministers, priestesses, preachers, or chiefs tell them. They’re not leader type personalities, and if they had all of the “higher” information, it would confuse them more than let them “in on the secrets” It’s no different than some people make great bosses, and others should just stay as workers because their communication and organization skills are craptastic.

    And side note, Catholics are anything BUT contemplative :P

  • T Thorn Coyle

    I am coming late to the discussion but wanted to speak to this:
    “How many books have you seen on how to live as a Wiccan when life sucks? How to face life’s worst moments and most difficult challenges? Where are the books on surviving grief, abuse, and loss and still maintaining your faith as a Wiccan?”

    First off, there is the Pagan Book of Living and Dying. But that is just one.

    Most publishers don’t want those books Sylvan is speaking of. Even with Evolutionary Witchcraft, Penguin asked that I include more “basic” info so that anyone could pick the book up, not just experienced people.

    With the rise of e-publishing, however, I think we can break out of this model set by traditional or Big House Publishing and we will see a greater variety of books on the market, because if only 300-3000 people buy an e-book, it can be considered a success rather than a failure in publishing terms.

    My books do not sell many copies, but I’m happy they are out there in print, *and* I’m also looking toward e-publishing to fill in gaps. (Look for an announcement in a week or two!)

  • T Thorn Coyle

    I am coming late to the discussion but wanted to speak to this:
    “How many books have you seen on how to live as a Wiccan when life sucks? How to face life’s worst moments and most difficult challenges? Where are the books on surviving grief, abuse, and loss and still maintaining your faith as a Wiccan?”

    First off, there is the Pagan Book of Living and Dying. But that is just one.

    Most publishers don’t want those books Sylvan is speaking of. Even with Evolutionary Witchcraft, Penguin asked that I include more “basic” info so that anyone could pick the book up, not just experienced people.

    With the rise of e-publishing, however, I think we can break out of this model set by traditional or Big House Publishing and we will see a greater variety of books on the market, because if only 300-3000 people buy an e-book, it can be considered a success rather than a failure in publishing terms.

    My books do not sell many copies, but I’m happy they are out there in print, *and* I’m also looking toward e-publishing to fill in gaps. (Look for an announcement in a week or two!)

  • I think the trouble that comes with anything, looking at the idea of something being advanced, comes down more on an individual level. I can take painting and break it down into several levels. In 101, I can teach you how to hold a brush, how to clean them properly, how to mix colors, some tips on brushstrokes. In advanced, I can teach the difference between different mediums and bristles, shading techniques, tips on lighting, mixing mediums, and painting on different surfaces. In reality, all that is beginning painting. They’re all the technical aspects of painting, they’re not going to teach you how to produce the professional pieces. What makes one section 101 and the other advanced…is if the person can’t learn to hold a brush properly, can’t keep the brushes clean and useful, can’t manage to not leave globs of paint…what use is it to them to teach them the different types of brushes? What use is it to them to teach them different shading techniques if they can’t even paint a general shape to shade?

    But I think people relate advanced, to the idea of what they wish they could do…or be. They’ll look at an advanced painting book, and learn the techniques, but no book can teach you how to put soul and life into your work. They can’t teach you how to get an idea from your head to canvas. The same thing with Wicca, you can read all the amazing books out there, but they can’t teach you how to be someone worth looking up to in your own heart. They can teach faith, or wisdom, or truth, or contemplation. It seems that people look at books, to teach them experience, instead of looking at them as a learning tool for technique.

    So the only reason on can separate books into 101 Wicca and Advanced Wicca, is in the mindset of the individual that is able to comprehend them and utilize them. Perhaps the difference is one you would use to write a book report on what Wicca is, and the other is used to better relate to your own experiences and fine tune your own knowledge in how to better live the path.

  • I think the trouble that comes with anything, looking at the idea of something being advanced, comes down more on an individual level. I can take painting and break it down into several levels. In 101, I can teach you how to hold a brush, how to clean them properly, how to mix colors, some tips on brushstrokes. In advanced, I can teach the difference between different mediums and bristles, shading techniques, tips on lighting, mixing mediums, and painting on different surfaces. In reality, all that is beginning painting. They’re all the technical aspects of painting, they’re not going to teach you how to produce the professional pieces. What makes one section 101 and the other advanced…is if the person can’t learn to hold a brush properly, can’t keep the brushes clean and useful, can’t manage to not leave globs of paint…what use is it to them to teach them the different types of brushes? What use is it to them to teach them different shading techniques if they can’t even paint a general shape to shade?

    But I think people relate advanced, to the idea of what they wish they could do…or be. They’ll look at an advanced painting book, and learn the techniques, but no book can teach you how to put soul and life into your work. They can’t teach you how to get an idea from your head to canvas. The same thing with Wicca, you can read all the amazing books out there, but they can’t teach you how to be someone worth looking up to in your own heart. They can teach faith, or wisdom, or truth, or contemplation. It seems that people look at books, to teach them experience, instead of looking at them as a learning tool for technique.

    So the only reason on can separate books into 101 Wicca and Advanced Wicca, is in the mindset of the individual that is able to comprehend them and utilize them. Perhaps the difference is one you would use to write a book report on what Wicca is, and the other is used to better relate to your own experiences and fine tune your own knowledge in how to better live the path.

  • Online publishing has really enabled a lot of Pagans to produce some amazing books, both through e-books and publish on demand. It’s really exciting to see the new generation of Pagan publishing flourishing. Look forward to hearing your announcement!

    I forgot the PBoL&D, and I’m sure there are a handful of those out there. I think the problem is having access to them and finding them among the sea of books with really basic and mass duplicated info. I’ve completely stopped visiting the Pagan section of bookstores, and find the books section of many metaphysical stores lacking.

  • Online publishing has really enabled a lot of Pagans to produce some amazing books, both through e-books and publish on demand. It’s really exciting to see the new generation of Pagan publishing flourishing. Look forward to hearing your announcement!

    I forgot the PBoL&D, and I’m sure there are a handful of those out there. I think the problem is having access to them and finding them among the sea of books with really basic and mass duplicated info. I’ve completely stopped visiting the Pagan section of bookstores, and find the books section of many metaphysical stores lacking.

  • Banishment is generally not something that someone wanting to leave a coven would need, in order to do so. Those groups that I know which use the practice, generally do so only as a last resort in attempting to resolve a long-standing problem. To be honest, I have no problems with the concept or the practice; the issue is in getting those who were not privy/party to the problem to support it, in those cases where it need be known outside of the group or tradition – much like another, similar custom, shunning.

  • Banishment is generally not something that someone wanting to leave a coven would need, in order to do so. Those groups that I know which use the practice, generally do so only as a last resort in attempting to resolve a long-standing problem. To be honest, I have no problems with the concept or the practice; the issue is in getting those who were not privy/party to the problem to support it, in those cases where it need be known outside of the group or tradition – much like another, similar custom, shunning.

  • My greatest complaint about 101 type books is that the Craft is not a college course. Yes, there are only so many ways that you can present “introductory level” concepts, but to be blunt, that’s what covens are there for – to be the vehicle for presenting those “advanced” concepts and techniques.

  • My greatest complaint about 101 type books is that the Craft is not a college course. Yes, there are only so many ways that you can present “introductory level” concepts, but to be blunt, that’s what covens are there for – to be the vehicle for presenting those “advanced” concepts and techniques.

  • What are you thinking of when you write “such a negative ritual as a banishment”?

    What the Farrars describe is roughly:
    If repeated attempts to resolve conflicts with an individual have failed, the HPs and HPt can declare that the individual no longer may participate in the coven. The Farrars say that tradition allows the banished party to request to return after a year and a day.

    The only ritual in the case I was familiar with was the declaration by the HPs in a business meeting of the coven that the individual was no longer part of the coven. (They would have preferred to have the individual himself present, but he had already walked out of the meeting, refusing to continue the discussion.) This declaration was made by the HPs after all the other members of the coven had stated that such was their will.

    Are we talking about the same thing here?

  • What are you thinking of when you write “such a negative ritual as a banishment”?

    What the Farrars describe is roughly:
    If repeated attempts to resolve conflicts with an individual have failed, the HPs and HPt can declare that the individual no longer may participate in the coven. The Farrars say that tradition allows the banished party to request to return after a year and a day.

    The only ritual in the case I was familiar with was the declaration by the HPs in a business meeting of the coven that the individual was no longer part of the coven. (They would have preferred to have the individual himself present, but he had already walked out of the meeting, refusing to continue the discussion.) This declaration was made by the HPs after all the other members of the coven had stated that such was their will.

    Are we talking about the same thing here?

  • If the only path into the Craft had been through a coven, I would not now be a Witch. Yes, I have been initiated into a lineage that ultimately goes back to NECTW. But my initiator was only willing to open up to me because I made it clear both that I was already in the know and that I could keep silent. And if it wasn’t for me, there would be no coven, as they was just a married couple practicing in secret. It fell to me to introduce them to trustworthy practitioners in the area. Some of them became the founding members of our coven, which continues to thrive after one of our founders died and the other moved to the West Coast.

    I became a Witch the hard way. Lots of reading, and even more trial and error. While working with experienced practitioners is much easier, it is possible to become experienced without lineage or coven.

  • If the only path into the Craft had been through a coven, I would not now be a Witch. Yes, I have been initiated into a lineage that ultimately goes back to NECTW. But my initiator was only willing to open up to me because I made it clear both that I was already in the know and that I could keep silent. And if it wasn’t for me, there would be no coven, as they was just a married couple practicing in secret. It fell to me to introduce them to trustworthy practitioners in the area. Some of them became the founding members of our coven, which continues to thrive after one of our founders died and the other moved to the West Coast.

    I became a Witch the hard way. Lots of reading, and even more trial and error. While working with experienced practitioners is much easier, it is possible to become experienced without lineage or coven.

  • Matthewt1994

    Finally! Someone thinking along the same lines as me! As I see it Wicca is Wicca, and as a solitary I know there is only so much you can learn from books and the rest you have to figure out for yourself. Essentially you are putting flesh on the bones of the ‘Wicca 101’ books, that is the basic core spirituality of Wicca, of opposite and equal deity (I know there are differing opinions on this, this is not a discussion on the nature of deity, it’s simply to illustrate my point), personal responsibility, interconnectedness etc, and then as a solitary you research herbs, stones, tarot, whatever you want to in order to expand your craft and add depth yourself.
    There isn’t a difference between ‘101’ and ‘advanced’, the difference is between having a basic understanding and a deeper understanding. I suppose what I’m saying is that you can read a selection of ‘101’ books and know all the core beliefs of Wicca, there are only a certain amount of facts and beliefs, so theoretically you would never need to read another book again-although continuing reading will expose you to the beliefs and interpretations of others and thus help you to broaden your horizons.
    I hope this got my point across, I’m not very good at expressing myself in writing.
    What reading a few more books would be good for would be to dispel the myths of the roots of Wicca, this is what grates me more than anything else. :P
    Blessings

  • Matthewt1994

    Finally! Someone thinking along the same lines as me! As I see it Wicca is Wicca, and as a solitary I know there is only so much you can learn from books and the rest you have to figure out for yourself. Essentially you are putting flesh on the bones of the ‘Wicca 101’ books, that is the basic core spirituality of Wicca, of opposite and equal deity (I know there are differing opinions on this, this is not a discussion on the nature of deity, it’s simply to illustrate my point), personal responsibility, interconnectedness etc, and then as a solitary you research herbs, stones, tarot, whatever you want to in order to expand your craft and add depth yourself.
    There isn’t a difference between ‘101’ and ‘advanced’, the difference is between having a basic understanding and a deeper understanding. I suppose what I’m saying is that you can read a selection of ‘101’ books and know all the core beliefs of Wicca, there are only a certain amount of facts and beliefs, so theoretically you would never need to read another book again-although continuing reading will expose you to the beliefs and interpretations of others and thus help you to broaden your horizons.
    I hope this got my point across, I’m not very good at expressing myself in writing.
    What reading a few more books would be good for would be to dispel the myths of the roots of Wicca, this is what grates me more than anything else. :P
    Blessings