Thursday, May 31, 2012

Top 10 Books for Starting a Witchcraft Practice

I love lists. I love readings other people's lists and I love making my own. A Huffington Post article just came out highlighting a couple dozen recommended books on Paganism that was pretty interesting. Part of the fun of lists is chatting about what was "missed" and what probably shouldn't be included. I think its all about the list maker as each person's practice will be different depending on the books that shaped them.

Today I present you with my own personal top 10 list of books for folks who are wishing to start a practice in Witchcraft (both the Wiccan variety and the non-Wiccan, 'Traditional Craft' variety.) This list assumes that the reader has some general knowledge of Pagan spirituality fist, although I think one could probably come in with no prior knowledge and do ok. They are somewhat in 1-10 order although its not a strict order.

1. The Spiral Dance - Starhawk
A modern classic for sure. Its a classic because it provides a sound and reasonable foundation and exploration of a magick-based religious path. I have a newish copy on my shelf covered in highlighter mark, as well as an old copy from the 70's that I'm trying to keep in pristine condition for as long as possible.

2. Evolutionary Witchcraft - T. Thorn Coyle
Thorn Coyle comes from a Feri Tradition background and so this book is heavily based on that, with a combiantion of Thorn's own experiences as a mystic and magick-worker. The book is very hands-on and instructs the reader on a great number of practical exercises to get ones energy moving. The goal being to expand awareness of the energy bodies enough to open the way for greater power and connection.

3. The Witches' Goddess - Janet Farrar
I have been in circle with Janet Farrar where she has invoked the Goddess with such fervor that I felt like I was about to be knocked right off my feet. This isn't your fluffy book on new-agey Goddess spirituality. It takes a firm and deep approach to who the Goddess of Witchcraft might be and encourages the reader to embark on a meaningful journey to truly discover who She is on their own.

4. Origins of Modern Witchcraft - Ann Moura
The historical accuracy of sections within this book are greatly debated, but I still find it extremely useful at getting an idea of how Witchcraft was shaped by indigenous cultures and how it got to be where it is today. I love history but most history books make me fall asleep. This book was written with Pagans in mind as the audience and the style of writing and information presented really reflects that. It's a good starting point before exploring more in-depth and scholarly works that might be a little "heaver" to read.

5. Hereditary Witchcraft - Raven Grimassi
One of the very few books to go "mainstream" within Pagan culture that explores the roots and practices of Witchcraft that go beyond Gardner. This book has a heavy Italian base, which makes sense because much of what we consider Traditional Craft has its roots not only in England (as many believe), but in the Mediterranean areas such as Italy. Even if one isn't interested in practicing Stregha as a path, it is still very useful in getting a grasp on other practices.
This is the first book I ever read relating to traditional witchcraft and because of that, I have a tattoo on my left arm of the crossed broomsticks to mark that time in my life.

6. Treading the Mill - Nigel Pearson
This book has a very authentic and honest feel about it. The author makes no attempt to glamorize or bedazzle the arts of Traditional Craft. Instead, it takes the approach that building a relationship with the spirits of the land and ones ancestors is hard word and takes time and dedication. It places heavy emphasis on the plant world as well as the spirits of place and time. It might be hard for a reader in the city to adopt some of the practices, but it still gives one a glimpse into the often-shrouded world of Traditional Craft that I find extremely useful. 

7. Power of the Witch - Laurie Cabot
There's a reason why Laurie Cabot is one of the most famous Witches in America. I may be biased as the first coven I ever worked with came from a Cabot Traditional background, but that won't stop me in putting Power of the Witch on this list. If you have 20 years of experience or 0 years of experience, everyone exploring the path of Witchcraft will benefit from Cabot's perspective on Witchcraft as both a science and an art. Again, this is one I have two copies of. My signed edition from my first visit to Salem is one of my most prized possessions that I will cherish forever.

8. Aradia, The Gospel of Witches - Charles Leland
More of a fantastical story by a very imaginative folklorist, Aradia is a fascinating look into the ways of Italian Witchcraft that were supposedly reported to Leland himself by a Witch from an unbroken hereditary line. Whether you believe that or not, the book is still an essential to Witchcraft's modern historical culture and is something everyone should read at least once in their life. If you read it several times through, certain valuable spiritual lessons start to make themselves known, almost like decoding a puzzle simply by reading it.

9. Witchcraft Today - Gerald Gardner
As the founder of Wicca as a religious system, its important for everyone to read Witchcraft Today at least once, if only for its historical importance in modern Wiccan culture. It is helpful to read a copy of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows along with this book (that I know some will scorn me for suggesting) as you will gain a multi-layered understanding of where Gardner's ideas come together in terms of the joining of folk magick, ceremonialism, and the ecstatic arts.

10. The Gates of Witchcraft - Christopher Penczak
This is the most recently-released book on this list and once I found to be extremely helpful, especially after pouring through the  work of Gardner and his students. Gates of Witchcraft explores the ways that the Gardnerian Book of Shadows uses to forge a connection to power, as well as some other inhibitory and exhibitory techniques for trance and energy-raising. This is a great book to read after reading anything relating to Traditional Craft or even British Traditional Wicca as it lays all of them out and forms them into a cohesive system that anyone can use. There are few book that I'm inspired enough by to immediately adopt into my daily practice. This is certainly one of them.


  1. D'oh. I forgot Power of the Witch. That would have been a good one.

    Christopher Penczak was recommended to me by a variety of people but for inclusion in the list at HuffPo, but no one anted to recommend a specific one ... everyone just said "ALL OF THEM!" which isn't helpful. The one you mentioned, though, is currently on my to-read list.

  2. Lol I believe that about the Penczak recommendations! If my list were broader, I would have said "all of them" too, so I'm glad I was able to narrow down intro the scope of Trad/Wiccan Witchcraft which helped.