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Book Review- The Witch Book by Raymond Buckland (Two Stars)

 
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Old 08-Mar-2010, 11:14 AM (11:14)     1        37957
Makbawehuh
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Book1 Book Review- The Witch Book by Raymond Buckland (Two Stars)

I grabbed this book mostly because of the subtitle (the encyclopedia of witchcraft, wicca, and neopaganism) as I was on my way out of the bookstore with the much more fulfilling "Assorted Writings of Thomas Paine."

So I sat down to leaf through my new purchase and found a few good things about it: It had entries on many figures associated with the modern neopagan/occult/magic(k)al movement, it has lots of little interesting tidbits on various topics such as necromancy, and the format is generally great. It's also inclusive of Ceremonial Magic and Satanism, which is kinda nice, even though by their nature that will usually deal in some way with a Christian paradigm. Druidry *did I use the right form?* is also mentioned, which is good. It's easy to find what you need in a hurry, provided it's actually in the book...

Which is where the catch is, because for anyone who's been studying paganism generally, and any non-Wiccan path specifically, at ALL, you aren't likely to be helped by this book.

Though this book claims to be an encyclopedia of Neopaganism, no mention is made whatsoever of any of the following religious and magical paths, from what I've seen so far:

Norse paganism in any form
Discordianism
Thelema
Hinduism
Chaos magic
African-Oriented and Carribean Religions aside from "African Witchcraft" and Voodoo
Reconstructionist Movements of any stripe that's NOT Druid-related

...The list could go on and on of the things I think should really be included in a work like this. True, traditional religions aren't "neopagan", but neither should they be excluded IMHO. They represent valid magical paths that should be included, especially since he's making mention of Ceremonial Magics and Satanism, which are neither Wiccan nor Neopagan. Usually.

A couple other bitches- I have an issue with the color correspondence chart in it. It uses a standard "white = good, black = evil" format that I find really irritating, since I'm one of those who views black as a nullifier of energy, and thus, as protective. Other people might have less of an issue with this, but it drives me bat shit.

Also, space that could be used to talk about subjects that -mean- something, like Nordic or Reconstructionist paths, gets devoted to talking about witches in the media. Not talking about how they do or do not apply to modern magic, just generally giving an overview of the plot. I don't give a shit about Sabrina the Teenage Witch, okay? It's not in any way, shape, or form related to what I, as a -real- magician, do. It's not useful information for myself or a student, which is what I'd had in mind when I picked it up. So much for a teaching aide! Offhand, while I appreciate that he -did- say Charmed used actual terms and whatnot while distorting how magic actually works, I still feel like that's a slightly useless entry. /media rant

What else?

OH!

The Myth of the Burning Times. We all know how I feel about that, I think, and I would think someone of Buckland's otherwise mostly decent scholastic quality would have considered doing something other than repeating the same old myths here. Instead of righting the wrong of that myth and setting young Wiccans on the path of truth by explaining that Wiccans were NOT ACTUALLY INVOLVED in the Inquisition because the religion HAD NOT BEEN MADE UP YET, and that no ACTUAL WITCHES were killed, he blithely goes with the path of least resistance and says "Oh, yep, people say nine million witches were killed, but of course, it might not have been that many."

Right.

All in all, I give this book two stars.

If you're an experienced practitioner you're probably not looking at books anyways, so don't worry about it. Or shake your head and sigh, like I do.

If you're not experienced, but are interested in paganism as a whole and are willing to sift through the bullshit that doesn't apply to you (burning times, etc etc etc.), and take everything you read with a grain of salt, and do your own homework to verify, I recommend this book very, very cautiously, and with the warning that you won't find much of use.

If you're an inexperienced Wiccan, I would strongly suggest against buying this book unless you're willing to not read any of the historical sections relating to your religion, because much of it is inaccurate. It has a lot of great information, but again... take it all with a grain of salt, and always, always do your own research to verify what you're reading.

My 99 cent value meal of a review. I'd say two cents, but you got way more than that.
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Last edited by Gurdur; 14-Mar-2010 at 07:52 AM (07:52).
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Old 08-Mar-2010, 07:11 PM (19:11)     2        37960
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Good review, many thanks, quite informative, will be referring to this thread in a blog post of mine late tonight. More suchlike, please!

I will also have to see what I can do about making a BB Code to give stars in ratings.
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Old 08-Mar-2010, 08:47 PM (20:47)     3        37961
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I'll see what I can do... I have a lot on my plate, ATM, and am working as fast as I can.
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Old 08-Mar-2010, 09:37 PM (21:37)     4        37962
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Makbawehuh View Post
take it all with a grain of salt, and always
This should apply to anything, extreme belief or extreme anything is often stupid. Great review Makbawehuh!

Is satanism portrayed as Layenian or does the author recognized.... "spiritual satanist" as in viewing the archetype of the adversary/Satan/Ahriman/etc. theisticly?
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Old 08-Mar-2010, 10:43 PM (22:43)     5        37964
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I would need to reread the article, which I should be free to do in a few hours. I'll look it up for you when I get home, 333.
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Old 09-Mar-2010, 03:37 AM (03:37)     6        37979
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As far as the Satanic figure goes, Buckland's smart enough to give historically correct information on his Zoroastrian origins, but them promptly veers off into how "children of the Old Religion" felt about Satan and early Christianity and the Catholic Church's decrees on sexuality, which he somehow tries to make an explanation for how Christian ideas of Satanism came to be. Rather than pointing out that there's little to no evidence that any *actual* Satanist activity of a serious variety existed before LaVey, he goes to great lengths to try and establish it as a powerful counter to Christianity at the time. Did you know Christianity had people leaving it for Satanism in droves? Cause that's what it sounds like here...

Mind you, he keeps bringing up how members of the "Old Religion" felt and acted during this time.

He brings up LaVey and Sir Francis Dashwood, and then how Witches and the members of the "Old Religion" felt about Dashwood... And about how all this was confused very much during the inquisition, because whenever a witch defended his or her God, the chronicler would just write in the word "Satan"! Oh my, it's a good thing we had Mr. Buckland's Time Machine so he could tell us this.

So, that's what there is on Mr. Buckland's version of Satanism. But it gets a mention!

*facepalms*

Oh, and while I'm at it, I would like to point out that the entry under "Old Religion" states this: "Name given to the religion of Witchcraft, or Wicca, since it predates Christianity (often referred to as the New Religion)."

I'm sorry... I was totally NOT aware that Christianity was less than sixty years old. Cause Wicca was founded in... What? The forties? Fifties? By that guy... what was his name?

Gardner! Gerald Gardner!

*seethes at misinformation*
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Old 09-Mar-2010, 04:07 AM (04:07)     7        37982
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thought as much. Thank you for going threw the trouble. also sorry I angered you by causing to explore the wicca propaganda machine. ;P
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Old 09-Mar-2010, 04:32 AM (04:32)     8        37986
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You didn't anger me, Buckland did. His is supposed to be a respected and respectable voice in the Wiccan community, and yet he spreads lies as blithely as all the rest of them. It makes me so angry that they refuse to police each other, or even their own minds, when it takes so little effort to verify or shoot down some of what's said.
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Old 14-Mar-2010, 07:52 AM (07:52)     9        38272
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Added the relevant Thread Prefix to the OP / thread.
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Old 14-Mar-2010, 04:44 PM (16:44)     10        38284
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Thank you, Gurdur!
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