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Not For Me.
on 10 October 2013
I think the thing which the reader has to remember about this book is the original publishing date. This text was first made popular back in the 1970s, when for a large number of people Wiccan and Pagan were often interchangeable terms. While this book is obviously not written by a Wiccan (as he does not practise the "harm none" approach and includes cursing, love spells etc) large parts of it are based on Wiccan concepts, which really bothered me. As a Traditional Witch I was expecting something a little more separate, and I would argue with the description of the book which says the author is trying to offer "traditional European Witchcraft as a craft rather than a New Age religion."
This is not to say that the book is simply a Wiccan text in disguise; to his credit the author draws on several different sources including the Cabalistic teachings and practices, Freemasonry etc. But these were not properly explained or referenced, so the reader is left pondering what sources he used, or at worst completely bypasses the references altogether without realizing.
The writing style struck me as pompous and a little bit patronizing - which surprised me as it takes a lot to get my back up about a person's writing style! The author does take himself extremely seriously, and you have to be prepared for overuse of the phrases "the Black Arts" and "so mote it be".
He begins the main text with a way to dedicate yourself to starting your path which personally I think is completely unnecessary, although I appreciate the historical relevance and can see why he included it: his method is to recite the Lord's Prayer backwards for three successive nights. The idea is to free yourself of the "shackles" of organized religion and the idea of blasphemy.
I think my real issue is that this book is very much an instruction manual, without the inclusion of the "why". There is frequently no explanation of the reason for doing things - you simply do them. He does, however, go into good detail on theory such as the witches' pyramid (again no sourcing listed in the book, but from a quick google search I believe it is originally Hermetic, probably at least predating 1861, and among other names is also known as the Four Rules of the Magus).
He also mentions that you should never bargain for magical objects but just accept the initial price, which if you ask me is a ludicrous rule to include in a book on general magical theory, and certainly not a rule every down to earth, everyday witch needs to follow.
All in all if you want a book to show you how to perform what I would agree is largely ceremonial magic then you have come to the right place. If you are someone who prefers a wilder, more primal magic without large numbers of rules and with more of a focus on nature, you're probably better off spending your money elsewhere.