^WM^^ hich witch is which? That was ¡BSw/l (at least comparatively) an easy question to answer back in the PP^T^yM 1960s when Rosemary and Ray Buckland brought Wicca to the United States. There were, then, a few self-styled "witches-with-a-small-w," and there were Gardnerians [followers of the religion started by Gerald Gardner and his friends in the 1940s, see Chapter 8] and Gardner-ian-trained entrepreneurs. But after forty years of sometimes explosive growth in the U.S. and around the world, it's hard to tell the players even with a scorecard. Witchcraft: A Concise Guide is better than a scorecard.
Now, any Neopagan author could do at least most of the same research Bonewits has done over the years, but not many Wic-can authors have bothered. There's been a trend in the last decade toward a development of new Traditions [denominations] rather than to look deeply into the origins of Neopaganism or delve into the magical and ethical principles underlying Wiccan practice.
That's been exciting, and certainly worthwhile — but now that Wicca is reasonably well known and still growing, it's more important than ever that we Witches get a handle on our history and a precise command of our vocabulary. If we don't, we risk not just stalling Wicca's growth, but setting it back.
Isaac Bonewits has been doing reality checks for Wicca for a number of years now. Initiated into "one of the most distinguished (and prolific) of all the Gardnerian 'family lines' in America," he knows Wicca from the inside out, and in this work he shares the definitions and distinctions he's developed from his intimate experience and original research. When you're talking about Neopa-gan Witchcraft, Bonewits is an author, advisor, and scholar you want — no, let me be stronger: he's someone you need on your side.
When we use the word "witch," what do we mean? How do we distinguish the Traditions of Wicca? How the heck old is this religion, anyway? These are questions that the Neopagan community has debated for nearly half a century, and they come up again for every generation of Wiccans. There are other books that discuss them, but none so "concise" as this one, and consequently, none so useful.
For thirty years or more, Witches have worked to earn mainstream religions' and other institutions' acknowledgment of Wicca as a "real" religion, worthy of respect. Thanks to this effort — always hard and sometimes perilous — Wicca is recognized now, and it's better understood and accepted every day. But every time someone speaks from ignorance, or speaks imprecisely about Wicca — even if the error's not noticed immediately — it sets that work back and disrespects our forebears and our colleagues. Concise Guide in hand (or on screen), all of us can uphold Wicca's reputation accurately.
With Witchcraft: A Concise Guide, Bone-wits has made it easy to understand Wicca's history and structure meaningfully. Beyond that, he offers one of the best bibliographies I've seen — his reading list alone makes this book indispensable on any serious priest's or priestess' bookshelf. But there's something else that makes this book special, and that's how reader-friendly it is. It's scholarly enough to be worthwhile reading, but it's far from dry or boring, and short enough to take along wherever you go. The chapters and appendices are clearly titled, and that makes this Concise Guide easy to use as a reference: you don't have to read the whole book every time you're looking for a particular fascinating detail or discussion.
From the etymology of "our words," to the development and distinction of Wiccan Traditions, to the order of our services, to recommended books and on-line resources, Bonewits takes us on a tour of Wicca, blending an initiate's point of view with a sociological perspective. Here is the context and commentary we all need to discuss Wicca intelligently amongst ourselves, with other Neopagans, and with non-Pagans.
As for the self-styled "witches-with-a-small-w" that came out of their broom closets when Wicca made its appearance in the U.S.? Who better than the man who coined the terms by which we know them now — "Fam-Trads," "Neogothics," and "Imm-Trads" — to talk about their place in the modern Craft community?
Call Witchcraft: A Concise Guide a Wiccan Cliff's Notes if you will. Bonewits' years of research are summarized here as he guides readers step by step through Wicca's histories and diverse origins. In his Appendices, he presents equally well-researched and useful material that transforms background information into common sense and practical applications. This book is an argument-settler, and one you'll want to carry and quote for years to come.
Ashleen O'Gaea is the author of The Family Wicca Book: The Craft for Parents & Children as well as Raising Witches: Teaching the Pagan Faith to Children.
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