Top critical review
24 people found this helpful
Silvers take on Halloween
on 8 November 2004
The first page in the book suggests you make a Porch Protection Turnip by hollowing out the turnip. Have you every tried to scoop out a turnip? It's not as easy as it seems. Fresh turnips are very solid and can be hard to scoop out. There is some truth to having a light on your front porch to protect against the lengthening fall nights darkness, but not necessarily in a turnip. It is the same with the rest of the book. There are truths and spins scattered throughout the book, and it is up to the reader to scoop it all out, difficult though it may be.
The introduction to the book tells of the purpose of this book. In 1997 Llewellyn wanted to write a book about the myths and truths of Halloween. They enlisted the aid of their most popular author, Silver Ravenwolf. This book Halloween is the result of this work by both Llewellyn and Silver Ravenwolf and it also births the first book in the very successful series of Sabat books by Llewellyn.
Much of the reference material quoted is of works done by mostly pagan authors. There are a few actual historical references throughout the book. These references are footnoted in each chapter, a very good move on the part of the publisher, which documents the quotes and sources of some of the information. The books and materials referenced are also noted in the Bibliography, which is not skimpy either. And it is all cross referenced in the index.
The first three chapters deal with the History of Halloween, the origins, customs, myths, traditions, symbols and superstitions. While there is a lot of actual history quoted here, there are also some minor errors.
The discussion of "Constantine the Great declaring the Roman Empire a Christian one" is not accurate (page 11). Constantine made Christianity a legal religion in Rome thus allowing his mother, Helena, to practice her new chosen religion in peace. This allowed the foothold for the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire and the mess that followed. Also, further along (page 16) the comment is made that "it was the Roman Empire that produced the popular slave trade - conquering vast communities, killing the men, and taking the women and children" . Umm... no. The slave trade was already in full swing by the time of the Roman Empire. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Phoenicians (and many more) all practiced slavery, conquered vast communities (see Alexander the Great, a Macedonian) and the practice of killing men and taking the women and children was done way before the Romans (and way after them as well). But, to be honest, yes, the Romans also practiced this, so there is some ring of truth, just not as stated.
But this is exemplary of much of the material presented in the history in this book. The material is either taken from the writings of current pagan sources, or is given a very definite pagan spin when adapted from established historical sources. Yes, the history, for the most part is accurate, but be careful of the spins.
Her recap of the American Halloween is good. She presents a lot of the early roots to our holiday. She covers a lot of the myths and urban legends that have come of late from those trying to demonize the tradition.
Having said my peace on the historical part of the book, I also want to note that there are statistics that either Silver or Llewellyn have added that have no source. It would have been nice, as it would have given some substantiation to the statistics used in the original printing of this book in 1999. But, alas, no reference is given.
She does well with her origins of some of the symbols and superstitions of the holiday. To her credit she takes on the myth of the poison and razor blades in the candy, quoting the myth's origins and pointing out that there have been no random injuries due to food given out to trick-or-treaters, but rather the injuries and deaths were deliberate and "Halloween Candy" was an excuse to blame others and remove suspicion from the perpetrators of the actual crimes themselves, which turned out to be relatives of the victims. Excellent references here and well pointed out. There are more like this, and deserves attention as well.
The rest of the book is typical Silver Ravenwolf material. The chapters cover Divination, recipes for the kitchen and recipes for Halloween Magick, as well as honoring and speaking with the dead. Emphasis is placed on both the Holiday as being our New Year, a time to honor our ancestors and those we know who have passed through the veils. There are some rituals presented and the holiday is summarized.
The divination material is standard. Casting of lots, apple divination, water divination, nut divinations (the food, not the fools), use of Runes for divination, mirror magic; all of it usual material well explained.
The recipes, both for the kitchen and for magic, are standard, nothing exceptional here, and the focus of much of the magic is Silvers usual love spells or spells for prosperity, with a few assorted protection spells or blessings scattered between.
The material is written in a very clear and easy to understand manner. Ms. Ravenwolf includes little poems, quoted from various sources, as well as her own material. They are a pleasant addition to the book. Some of the material is almost cute, but that is typical Silver Ravenwolf, and her style dominates the book.
This is Silver Ravenwolf's Black Forest Clan brand of Wicca and her take on the holiday of Halloween. If you are a big fan of Silver Ravenwolf, this is the Halloween book for you. If you can sort through the spins of the history, there are facts presented that can be worth while. The book does what it set out to do, present The Truth about Halloween in true Llewellyn/Silver Ravenwolf style. Not a bad book, but it could have been much better if presented in a more non-bias format and the historical facts checked just a little better. boudica