Friday, January 28, 2005

In defense of "spell books"

Jason Pitzl-Waters blogs BeliefNet's article on the proliferation of Wiccan spell books.

My response to this proliferation? A big "So what?" In fact, I would say that writer Carl McColman's statement here lacks historical perspective:

Indeed, if one quality of recent Wiccan literature is worth noticing, it's the instructions on casting spells. This seems reasonable enough: after all, aren't Witches known for their magic-making abilities? Gardner and many other writers on Witchcraft tended to discuss spellcraft only as a single aspect of a greater spiritual whole, but the trend in publishing in the last 10 years has been to emphasize spells while marginalizing the spiritual and religious elements of Witchcraft.

Publishing has its fads, and this one simply reminds me of the late 1960s-early 1970s, when do-it-yourself magic books starting popping in supermarket checkout aisles as well as bookstores. Paul Huson, anyone? Sarah Lyddon Morrison? Sybil Leek? Elizabeth Pepper?

Some people came to the Craft through those books; some of them even say, "It all started with a book I found in the supermarket check-out aisle." You might learn more here.

Perhaps McColman simply has not been around long enough. His mistake might lie partly in taking Gerald Gardner's writings as normative and in assuming that everyone who came to the Craft came wanting a "religion." He himself admits that his own interest is in Christo-Pagan-Celtic mysticism, a Victorian creation itself, but that is another story.

So who could be upset? Only those who crave respectability, those who want to be invited to the interfaith council luncheon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad you are attentive to such things. I think, even and perhaps especially in the scholarly world, there is a tendency to try to forget that complexity of the tradition taht includes Paul Huson and Sybil Leek as well as those more in the "mainstream" of today. And I know plenty who still hold Paul Huson as an especially important voice in their tradition of craft.

--Grant Potts

4:28 PM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

Actually, I see two things happening here:

1. The Pagan movement has a wonderful history of ridiculing its elders and founders. "Gerald Gardner was a horny pervert." "Doreen Valiente was some loony Englishwoman." "Stewart and Janet who?" "Aidan who?" "Oberon Zell is just in it for the money." (There's a laugh.)

2. Talking about spells and spell books means taking magic seriously. If you're not careful, people might actually think that calling yourself a witch means that you can DO THINGS. It's much safer to call yourself a "religion" and go play with your ferrets.

From that perspective, you can self-righteously ridicule those deluded teenagers who buy spell books, conveniently forgetting that once you were one too.


9:25 AM  

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