I’m often asked what books would I recommend for someone who is new to Witchcraft. Sometimes I feel like they would get just as good an answer asking a moss-covered rock, because that’s often exactly what I feel like. My recommendations haven’t changed much over the years, despite my library steadily growing. That’s not to say that I haven’t read some awesome books, but I tend to focus my attention (and available reading time) on specialties versus generic or basic topics.
Another reason my list is fairly short and unchanging is that I appreciate materials that give foundation without advocating a specific path. Many of us are often born into a specific religion, because that’s what our parents chose for us. But now you’re choosing your own path and spirituality, so you should have as much information and options as possible. I feel giving folks a light framework and the opportunity to explore possibilities much better than “this is how things are done.” Lastly, I don’t want to overwhelm folks, or give the impression that you can only learn about this stuff from books. Because that’s certainly NOT true.
Drawing Down The Moon by Margot Adler
I truly wish Margot had been able to write another update to this book before she passed away. Regardless, the research and breadth of information Margot covered is crucial to understanding the roots and landscape of modern Paganism – particularly if you reside within the US. I do hope that someone (not me) can do an expansive exploration of the who/what/where of today’s landscape – of the same caliber and tone of Margot’s book. No, it’s not going to tell you how to do spells or draw down the moon, but it will give you a solid idea of what different people believe and practice under the large umbrella of Paganism. Then from there, you can easily explore the varieties that interest you most.
The Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente
Want to know what was going on over in England in the previous century that got us where we are now? From the horse’s mouth? Then read this book. Doreen’s no-nonsense approach with an easy hand gives a fascinating insight into the people and places that have influenced the larger movement today. Then if you want to keep going down that path history-wise, then check out Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton and the biographies on Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner by Philip Heselton.
So while the previous book primarily dealt with history (which I’m a huge fan of), this book focuses on practice. Witchcraft for Tomorrow was Doreen’s answer for solitary practitioners/people who couldn’t find a coven to work with. Again, her no-nonsense, practical approach gives the reader a good background without fluff or doctrine.
I do have some fiction that I love to recommend, and I’ll just name two of those for starters: Juniper by Monica Furlong (a young adult novel based in Cornwall) and Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (a beautiful exploration of humanity, divinity, and magic).
After these three books, I recommend people start focusing on areas that interest them – whether there’s a specific culture (like Italian, Baltic, Irish, etc) or practice (herbalism, divination, etc) or tradition (Feri, Alexandrian, Cochrane, OBOD, etc).
I know some folks will ask, “But what about Scott Cunningham, or Silver Ravenwolf, or Raymond Buckland?” I know there are many folks who started with those books – but I didn’t. And there are other folks who have written excellent books that are geared more towards a slightly more seasoned practitioner and/or focus on a specific path, so they’re not going to be the ones I recommend for a newbie. I did read The Spiral Dance by Starhawk starting out, and I know it made an impression on me, but it’s been so long I feel like I need to reread it before I recommend it to folks today. Same goes for the Green Witchcraft series by Ann Moura.
But I didn’t find my path via any one book. It came from reading a lot of them, following my gut, and figuring out what worked for me.
To be honest, the book I just finished writing: Weave the Liminal: Living Modern Traditional Witchcraft is the book I feel that has been missing from the modern market for those seeking to walk their path as Witches. That is my hope for it at least. But we’ll have to wait until early 2019 for it to be out.