Author: Raven Grimassi
Trade Paperback, 470 pages
Publication date: September 2000
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I was excited when I heard about this book. Most encyclopedias of witchcraft devote the majority of their entries to demons, medieval witch trials and other things that really have very little to do with modern Wicca and Witchcraft. Grimassi's Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft was billed as being strictly about Wicca and modern Witchcraft. The proof is in the reading, of course.
The Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft is a thick, large book -- larger than the average trade paperback. It's almost the size of a magazine. The type is a readable size, not the "where did I leave my magnifying glass" type you'll find in many encyclopedias. It lives up to its billing: it is just under 500 pages of information on modern Wicca and Witchcraft -- and not medieval beliefs about pacts with the Christian devil.
There is a lot of information in this book. Unfortunately, however, the quality of that information is somewhat variable. The information on individuals was generally written by the people themselves and is therefore accurate -- if whitewashed in some cases. A number of important people are not listed at all. (Perhaps because they did not write entries on themselves?) The encyclopedia's information on the various Wiccan Traditions was usually written by members of those traditions. This book probably has more information on the various Wicca traditions than any other generally available source.
The other entries in this encyclopedia were all written by Raven Grimassi. Many of them -- apparently those Grimassi is personally knowledgeable on -- seem complete and generally reliable. Entries Grimassi had less personal knowledge of seem less complete and at times wildly hilarious. This isn't meant as a jab at Raven. It's obvious he made a tremendous research effort for this book -- far more than what seems to be done for most of the Wicca 101 books loading down store shelves. Unfortunately, he is only one person. He simply cannot know everything about everything, even when that second "everything" is limited to Wicca and Witchcraft. This is why most encyclopedias are compiled from articles by experts on individual subjects instead of written by a single individual.
In his introduction, Raven acknowledges that he often found a disconnection in his research between what modern Pagans and Wiccans believe and teach and what modern scholarship says. He states that he "decided to simply present both views side by side." Perhaps he ran up against space limitations, because in many cases it seems more an encyclopedia of beliefs than and encyclopedia of scholarly facts. There's nothing wrong with this, but I think it is something every reader needs to be aware of.
I think that Grimassi's Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft is a good first attempt at a one volume reference work on modern Wicca and Witchcraft. It's better than any other Witchcraft encyclopedia I've seen to date. That said, however, its entries are so variable in completeness and quality, that I can't really give a general recommendation on this book. If you are an experienced and knowledgeable Wiccan or Pagan looking for a handy quick reference (especially on Wiccan traditions) to consult when you don't have time to dig through your library, this book is probably a worthwhile purchase -- although it's certainly not a must have. If, however, you are one of those people who believe everything you see written without further research, please avoid this book.
I hope that Llewellyn will publish a second, revised edition of this encyclopedia in the future. With a bit of work and a few experts to help Grimissi write articles in areas where he isn't as knowledgable, an improved version of this reference could become a must-have for every Wiccan and Pagan.
Reviewed by Randall
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