Books: Going deeper

This is part two of my recommended reading list. You might want to go read the index or the introductory list.

My assumptions about people looking at this list:

  • That you have a general background in Wicca – at the very least, you know common terms (athame, Sabbat, Esbat), recognise common names for the Sabbats, and so on. If not, go look at the introductory list instead.
  • That you’re mostly looking for books that deepen or expand your practice or understanding – which means that books on this list are as much about “why” and “variations” as “how do I do this?”
  • That you’ve got a good idea of what kinds of things you’re drawn to, and can filter this list to suit your tastes: I’ve included a wide range of approaches on here, and not all of them suit everyone.

Ritual theory and design:

You’ll notice that most of these books don’t give you ritual scripts: I almost never use them, having been trained in a tradition and group which writes rituals for most ritual occasion. While I sometimes look at other sources for inspiration, I’ve got a pretty strong preference for coming up with my own approach. Thus, these books talk more about how to make things work smoothly than provide scripts.

Deborah Lipp‘s The Elements of Ritual

This is my classic “I don’t always agree with her conclusions, but I love her approach” example. While a number of details in what she describes don’t mesh with how I do things, I really love how she breaks things down, and looks at it from different perspectives. She also gives great examples for different kinds of ritual settings (solitary, small group, and larger group), so it’s a useful resource if you suddenly find yourself putting on an open ritual somewhere. You can see some of how our coven discussion about the first three chapters of this book went elsewhere on this blog. As you can see, we used it as a very effective springboard while reviewing how we did things (and how the group we hived from does things).

Amber K and Azrael K‘s RitualCraft

Amber K, in particular, is sometimes described as having a very Virgo, detail-focused approach to things. Me, I think that’s a bonus. There’s all sorts of practical ideas about ritual in here. While a fair bit of content is of most interest if you intend to design or lead rituals for groups, there are many useful nuggets in here for solitaries as well.

Dan and Pauline Campanelli’s Ancient Ways: Reclaiming Pagan Traditions

Another older book, this has a lot of meat in it for small folklore traditions that can be lovely to include as part of your practices. It’s roughly divided by seasons. Use it as a way to spark other, deeper research, too!

Deity and mythology:

Judy Harrow‘s Devoted to You

A collection of four essays by four different people (not all Wiccan) on four different deities, this is one of the best introductions to developing an ongoing relationship with specific deities out there. The specific deities mentioned are Anubis, Brigit, Aphrodite, and Gaea, but the book is well worth the read even if you’re not interested in these four, because of the other resources mentioned, and because of the ‘getting to know a deity’ exercises mentioned.

Mythology books:

Quite honestly, I strongly prefer general mythology books to most of the Pagan-focused books out there; they generally do a better job of laying out different myth cycles and structures and giving a broader view. Once you have a good historical context, I think it’s easier to make sense of personal experiences with a deity, or to start exploring more nuanced or personal sources.

A few titles to check out:

  • Don’t Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis.
    A good overview (of the field and different pantheons) that includes a fair amount of quotation from historical sources: a great starting point for getting your bearings.
  • The World of Myths (edited by Marina Warner)
    A compilation of shorter works written by respected academics from the Legendary Past series, this book gathers significant and meaty chapters on Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse mythology with lots of references and details that can help with further research.

Groups and covens:

Judy Harrow‘s Wicca Covens

The best place to start both for people wanting to join a group or coven, and for people who might be running or leading one in the not too distant future. She discusses differences in approach between Wicca and other religions, training topics, group dynamics, and all sorts of other details that give you a good idea of the complexity (good and bad!) of group work.

Nick Farrell’s Gathering the Magic

This, from Immanion Press (you may need to order it: they’re a small press), is a great introduction to all sorts of esoteric groups. Farrell’s background is in ceremonial groups, but a lot of his comments are really applicable to coven settings as well.

Amber K’s Covencraft

Again, very detailed and practice-focused, but there’s lots of useful content here. This is, however, probably a book to read in stages and use only what makes sense for you. (I do, however, find some of the exercises and scenarios really useful to think about.)

Developing a deeper practice:

There are a few books out there about “Where to go from here?” once you’ve covered the basics. My two favorites:

Deborah Lipp‘s The Study of Witchcraft

In this, Lipp discusses a number of more ‘advanced’ topics, gives some background, and then gives some excellent further reading suggestions. It’s a great place to start diving deeper. (It also grew out of this thread on the MysticWicks message board, so you can get an idea of what types of topics get time.)

Venecia Raul‘s The Second Circle

Again, a disclaimer: I’ve known her online for quite some time (though after this book came out). I’m not quite the target audience on this (because I was working with a group, and there was an obvious progression of what I was doing already in place), but I really like the ways she addresses the questions of more advanced work and practice here – what to look for, how to get started, etc.