Book Review: Raven Grimassi’s Old World Witchcraft

Book Review: Raven Grimassi’s Old World Witchcraft October 7, 2011

This book is bold, and not at all what I expected. Although he’s been one of the author’s on my “to-read” list for years, I actually met Raven Grimassi before I read one of his books. At the urging of one of my teachers, I sought out a copy of The Book of Ways I & II, and then wished I’d spoken with him more when I met him at Pagan Spirit Gathering. Having picked up Old World Witchcraft, I wish I’d spent the entire week engaging Raven and Stephanie in conversation. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Grimassi takes a very different approach to viewing Witchcraft history, and while you won’t find any definitive iron-clad history of Witchcraft here, you will find more puzzles, questions and insights than you expect. Grimassi attempts to peel away the misinformation, the propaganda and the politics to see what Witches really were. He speaks of subcultures drowned out by the predominant “mainstream” historians throughout history, of recurring themes, of the illogical morals applied to old myths and of an image of an old and reasonable religious Witchcraft.

I find this book troubling in the best possible sense. After only one read-through I already know this is a book I will revisit several times. There’s simply too much information for me to absorb in one reading and too many ideas that require careful meditation to evaluate for a place within my own practice.

While I had forgotten that Witches in ancient Greece were reputed to draw down the stars and the moon in their rites, the idea of the moon as a repository of souls until rebirth is a new concept for me. While it’s hard for me to really give a decent impression of the book with just one read through, I can say that a great deal of the ideas and wisdom contained in this book feel old and feel true. This book is disturbing in the best possible way, by stirring up my mind and forcing me to question, reorganize and focus my thoughts about Witchcraft.

In the end, Grimassi’s view of the Witch of history is nothing new to most readers: a person deeply in tune with nature who works with the energies of nature and the spirit world. Even so, how he arrives at this image and the colors he uses to paint it are intriguing, enchanting and surprising. I think anyone who identifies as a Witch or Wiccan will find this book engrossing, raising questions and deepening their understanding of the Craft. I anticipate this book will make Pagans must-read lists in short order.

My only actual complaint about this book is that it would have been nice if it contained images of some of the artwork described. There were a few times where Grimassi is describing Italian murals of Witches and early images of Hermes where I felt that I was missing something important by not having the visual image before me.

I know this is a book I will be gifting people with this Yule, and I think it’s an ideal book for a book club to discuss. There’s a lot of information in this book to process, and dialogue with other Witches can only enhance the reading of it. On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I give this book a 7. It’s refreshing and delightful to find, amidst a sea of sameness, a book on Witchcraft that can surprise me and engross me as much as this one has. The Grimassi’s should be warned: next time I see them at an event I’m quite liable to talk their ears off.

*A copy of this book was provided for review but that in no way influenced my opinion of it. If it sucked, I would say so.

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