The Wicca Handbook
This, folks, is THE stereotypical fluffy Wiccan book.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with Wicca as a religion (or any other religion, for that matter). However, the way that the author writes about her religion was enough to make me want to throw this one out the window a number of times–just in the first 50 pages!
Here’s a run-down of the various complaints I have:
–Shoddy historical research and other questionable content
She accepts, without question, the stories about Gardner learning from Dorothy Clutterbuck and how Gwen Thompson received the Wiccan Rede from her (conveniently deceased) grandmother, and that there are plenty of family traditions with centuries-old teachings passed down (p 6, 8,11) . Finally, she supports none of these with outside evidence; the only footnotes she uses are for direct quotes, mostly from the Farrars’ works.
Holland is also an advocate of the whole “natural witch” idea that supports the concept that some people are “naturally” better than others at magic (which I find rather elitist)(p. 13). Anyone can work magic; it’s a matter of achieving the proper mindset, not your past lives. And she assumes that all inverted pentacles are Satanic, forgetting that certain British traditions use it as a symbol for the second degree (p. 37).
–Blatant bias against anything outside the pale of her own personal preferences; this isn’t a book presenting Wicca objectively–it’s the Gospel of Wicca according to Holland. She also basically says that all Wiccans focus primarily on the Goddess and that the divine is female (numerous references to the Goddess as primary deity). She also talks about how dangerous it is for anyone to work with elementals (p. 50-51). While she may have issues with them, she should be presenting them as her own experience rather than the ultimate truth (a common theme for a lot of this book).
She has a serious issue with many religions and practices outside of Wicca, including Satanism (which she goes after numerous times), Chaos magicians, and anyone who practices animal sacrifice (which, by the way, includes Afro-Caribbean religions such as Voodoo adn Santeria)(p. 14). Her descriptions show quite blatantly that she doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about in regards to any of them and that she’s filtered them all through her white-light filter without really taking the time to walk in the others’ shoes. In fact, she advises the readers not to evfen *read* about anything outside of her personal biases (p. 26). It’s pretty obvious who Holland’s boogey-men are. She’s also pretty phobic about non-vanilla sexuality, which is revealed in her nervous approach to the cords and scourge (p. 41). And, no surprise at all, she speaks out vehemently about “black magic” (p. 15-16), which brings us to…
–Severe lack of consistency
This is a major inconsistency. After pontificating for pages about the evils of black magic, what does she include? Not one, but two love spells designed to attract a specific person, which any experienced pagan will tell you is a major ethical no-no! (You can find them on p. 107-109)
She also says that the title of witch shouldn’t be used “lightly” (p. 12), and then on the next page she says that if you feel like calling yourself a witch, that means you must be one!
–Other points of interest
She stereotypes gay couples by saying all of them have a “male” partner and a “female” partner (p. 18)–guess she’s never met any lesbian couples that were made of two butches or two femmes.
Don’t get me wrong–there is a lot to like about this book, too. It’s chock full of excellent correspondences of all sorts. She explains the uses of the various altar tools, as well as the correspondences of the four traditional elements, among others. She includes a lot of rudimentary information on the basics of spellwork, though each topic is covered briefly enough that anyone wishing to work with spells as a beginner would do well to supplement this book with others. However, once you have a basic understanding of spells, there are a lot of good basic suggestions in this book.
It does follow the usual format of 101 texts in that it skims over the surface of a bunch of different topics; for example, you wouldn’t want to base an entire practice of totemism solely on her brief chapter on animal correspondences and spells. But it is a useful collection of information for the beginner.
If she’d cut out the first 40 or so pages of the book, it would have been a wonderful collection of introductory information. The problem is she prefaces it with a bunch of blatant biases and inaccuracies and presents it as universally Wiccan. It’s a good book wrapped up in awful dogma. If you can ignore the latter, the former is a good addition to the paganism 101 book shelf. Unfortunately, a lot of newbies may not know the difference and may swallow her biases as holy writ.
One and a half pawprints out of five.
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