If you are a student of the craft, there is no such thing as too many books. Whether you are an Amazon addict like myself and have a ridiculous compulsion to window shop online, or if you are a stalwart library card holder- something that seems to be in common amongst those on a spiritual path is a thirst for knowledge.
But if you are new to paganism, witchcraft or Wicca, where do you start? When I first started, I read everything I could get my hands on! If you are inclined, feel free to follow suit- but if time or budget is of the essence, I decided to compile a shortlist of good beginner’s books for seekers and I asked for a bit of help from the rest of our coven.
Before I begin with the list, though, there is something to keep in mind- just because something has been published into a real life book, doesn’t mean the information is well-researched and all authors hold some bias. I don’t believe in any ‘don’t-read’ texts though. Read as much as you can, then read some more.
Paganism: an Introduction to Earth-Centred Religions – Joyce & River Higginbotham: This book provides a very clear and succinct introduction to paganism and the varying branches of the spirituality. Including activities and meditations, this book is very balanced and unassuming of the reader. If you are looking for something that explains the absolute fundamentals, this book is an excellent must-read. It could even be a good text to give to loved ones to help them understand your spirituality.
Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft – Raymond Buckland: this is fondly called ‘Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book’ and is one of the texts we study in Outer Court. Ethony says; “While I believe that many of the practices in this book are outdated and are very classical Gardenarian Wicca (and I also think that Buckland thinks rather highly of himself by quoting himself in the text numerous times etc), this is a book that many people will reference and talk about. It gives you some great history and background in to the ever changing spiritualism that is Wicca, and there are some great lessons in the book with the workbook section worth completing as well.”
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner – Scott Cunningham: Cunningham is a highly regarded pagan author and no list is complete without him. Many a young Wiclet has self-dedicated themselves to the Craft guided by Cunningham’s books. This is a little book packed with a lot of invaluable information on Wicca 101 for the beginner. By the time I got hold of it, I found it a little bit ‘been there, done that’, but as Ethony says, “Where would the Craft be without Cunningham?”
Book of Shadows by Phyllis Curott and Witch: A Personal Journey by Fiona Horne: As Gaiamara says, these “worked for me because there was a large element of biographical connection; the authors were walking their talk. I find that very important”. I definitely agree. What’s great about these books which are both the story of how each woman found themselves with a connection to the craft. Phyllis Curott went from an Ivy League lawyer to someone who undergoes a spiritual awakening in New York, whereas Fiona Horne is Australia’s most famous witch whose origins were as the lead singer of a 90’s rock band. The stories are rich with imagery and quite engrossing; due to their autobiographical content the texts are easy to read and you are swept into each woman’s journey. There is a slight bubblegum element to both books though, but I think they make for fun reading. I don’t know anyone who didn’t enjoy these. As Ethony says on Curott; “as long as you take some of the dramatic stuff in it with a grain of salt, we do not know how many people died in the burning times and I feel at time it is over dramatized. But it is beautifully written and stirs the magick and mystery we all feel when we start to hear the Goddess’ Call”.
The Inner Temple of Witchcraft – Christopher Penczak: Penczak’s Temple series is fantastic and give an excellent structure for study on the Craft. Even if you’ve been studying the Craft for some time, his texts are clear, in-depth and balanced. Ethony says “he goes into great detail about the links of science and magick (which a lot of books miss out on), and the text has timelines and very good meditations which is a huge part of Wicca and the Craft. I recommend getting the CDs as well, because the guided meditations make life so much easier and they are very well done. His series is one of my favourites, fresh new view with very good foundation of information.”
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft – Denise Zimmerman: Ethony says; “Don’t be fooled by the title. It is a well set out, easy to understand book with a layout which is not going to send you to sleep. I think this book has been well written and is a good beginners look at the Craft. ”
The Triumph of the Moon – Ronald Hutton: A thoroughly researched and well written historical account of witchcraft. This is the book you need to read to get the real facts on the ‘Old Religion’ and the shadowy figures in British history who began the witch cult movement, right up to the popularity of pagan witchcraft in the late 20th Century. It’s a scholarly text, but a facinating and essential read.
Drawing Down the Moon – Margot Adler: This is an oldie but a goodie, a very comprehensive and detailed account of the modern witchcraft movement; Adler tries to be quite objective and honest in her interviews and historical accounts. It’s worthwhile getting a hold of a recent edition to get a bit of the ‘where are they now’ as some of the information is now quite dated, but I’d still consider it a must-read if you want some perspective on how the resurgence of modern pagan spirituality developed.
The Spiral Dance – Starhawk: This is another influential, popular but slightly dated text, again very worthwhile getting a hold of the updated editions (which makes for a little wading through detailed appendices). Starhawk’s style is poetic and dense, with a lot of emphasis on the Goddess movement associated with 1970s feminism.
More recommended books:
Power of the Witch – Laurie Cabot
Wicca – Vivianne Crowley
Natural Witchcraft – Marian Green
A Witch Alone – Marian Green
Green Witchcraft – Ann Moura
Origins of Modern Witchcraft – Ann Moura
Spirited – Gede Parma
Apprentice to Power – Timothy Roderick
A Witches Bible – Janet & Stewart Farrar
Living Wicca – Scott Cunningham