This review was originally published on The Magical Buffet website on 9/1/11.
I first became aware of Patricia Gardner when her apartment exterior was vandalized in 2007. I wrote a little piece about it. What readers don't know is that shortly after I wrote that article I spent an evening with Patricia (High Priestess) and got to meet Dayna Winters (Priestess) and other members of the Dragon Warriors of Isis Coven. As I was coming to expect from meetings like this, the group was filled with friendly and sincere spiritual seekers that welcomed me into their gathering with open arms. And this is why I was thrilled to learn that Schiffer Publishing has recently released "Wicca: What's the Real Deal? Breaking Through the Misconceptions" by none other than Patricia Gardner, Dayna Winters, and Angela Kaufman.
These three ladies endeavor to navigate the murky waters of attempting to define and describe Wicca and its practices, which as most of you are aware is a journey fraught with peril as Wiccan practitioner's perspectives and philosophies vary greatly. Overall I think the average Wiccan would feel the book adequately represents them, and at the end of the day, the three authors are Priestesses of their own coven, so it definitely reflects their own beliefs.
The bulk of the book concentrates on the misconceptions about Wicca with the first chapter being "Misunderstood Terminology and Erroneous Perceptions" and the second chapter being "Misunderstood Practices and Historical Misconceptions". These chapters use the simple format of stating the myth, stating the truth, and then offering a detailed explanation. They discuss a variety of myths, such as: "All Witches follow the Wiccan religion", "Wiccan revere nothing", "Tarot cards are evil and their use attracts evil spirits", "Witches use an athame to cut people or animals during their rites", and "The Horned God that Wiccans worship is Satan".
Next they discuss "What Wiccans Do". Here is the basic description of rituals, a listing of holidays and other events like Handfastings and Esbats with a concise overview of each, some discussion of Wiccan tenets and principles, and even a look at the advantages and disadvantages of being a Wiccan. They share the vandalism incident that brought them to my attention within the disadvantages section.
Lastly is a fascinating chapter entitled "When Magick is Sane". Very few books I've come across have so openly and frankly discussed that often times people who believe in magick are considered to be crazy. Since author Angela Kaufman is a licensed clinical social worker with experience working with individuals with mental health and substance abuse issues there is an extra weight of authority behind this chapter. They discuss spirits, divine guidance and hallucinations, a comparison of religion and culture versus diagnosable illness, and the difference between magick and self-delusion. From there it flows neatly into examining teens wishing to study Wicca, handling discrimination and intolerance, and some of the negative behaviors that can be found within Wiccan communities.
"Wicca: What's the Real Deal?" could easily be mistaken as another "Wicca 101' book at first glance, and with most Buffet readers being well versed in Wicca or practicing Wiccans themselves, you may find yourself dismissing this book a bit too soon. With its straight forward myth/truth format and easy to follow explanations of the basics of Wicca and being Wiccan this book is, in my opinion, a must own for many people. High Priests and Priestesses should consider having a copy around for loaning out to concerned family members of those in their coven, or for a teenager interested in pursuing Wicca for them and their family to read together. With its discussion of what Wiccans do and the pros and cons of being Wiccan, anyone considering taking up the study of Wicca would benefit from reading this book. Also, anyone looking for an easy to digest introduction to Wicca would find use in owning this book.