Tarnished Silver: Why I don't Recommend Silver Ravenwolf

I believe that Silver has done more to harm the Craft than any other single person. It is not an issue with the "light side" or "fluffy-ism". (That's a different rant.) I object to someone teaching lies, hate and misinformation as fact.

The truth is that Wicca is not a religion of "anything that feels right". The truth is that Silver cultivates the appearance of authority to the extent that beginners will argue with well-trained Traditional Elders, because what Silver wrote has to be correct. The truth is that those who find covens or teachers after 'learning' from Silver must unlearn almost everything before they can begin to learn Wicca.

The truth is that Silver has had access to enough well trained Priests and Priestesses that there is no excuse for the misinformation she is spreading. The truth is that Silver has betrayed the Craft for the benefit of her public image and her pocketbook.

Keep in mind that just because something is "easy to read" does not mean that it's worth reading. I don't care how appealing the writing style is (although the way folks seem to equate a rather condescending tone as "easy to read" baffles me), it doesn't make it a worthwhile source unless the information within is worth conveying.

The majority of her "facts" are simply wrong. She cites incorrect dates for holidays. She makes up definitions for words. For example, Silver's definition of Drawing Down the Moon has nothing to do with any form of Deity - it deals simply with the moon itself. She says a spell is just a "kind of prayer" and Spirit is "your personal concept of God/dess". According to Silver, a pentacle is only used point-up, was "worshiped by the ancients", and "has never indicated anything evil, and if a person uses a pentacle and does nasty things it is a sure sign that they haven't a clue what they're doing." And if that wasn't bad enough her definition of Wicca made me snort tea:

"Wicca -- It is thought that this term was originally coined by Selena Fox of the Circle Sanctuary in an effort to describe the modern religion of WitchCraft (as begun by Gerald Gardner in England in the 1950s). There is no difference between Wicca and WitchCraft. Anyone who tells you there is a difference is experimenting in the theory of Occum's Razor." (From her Teen Witch handbook, and in the "Magickal Glossary" on her website.)

She also says lots of words mean things they don't -- after all "Another name for a solitary witch is 'natural witch'". (In what way does she think 'natural' equates with 'solitary'? Is she saying that witches who work in groups or covens are 'unnatural'?)

Silver also has attitudes about sexuality that (IMNSHO) have little place in a religion with roots in fertility and ecstasy. She presents Wicca as rather de-sexed, and espouses an almost Puritan view - in To Ride a Silver Broomstick (supposedly the least offensive of her works), she says "... the traditional colors for Mayday are red and white representing the blood that flows from the woman when her purity is taken...." So an intact hymen equals purity?? Whatever happened to sex being a sacred act? Why do we celebrate the Great Rite? And whatever happened to giving one's virginity?? (According to Silver it is always "taken" - but then if you read Silver's books, "good" girls don't have sex. Of course, boys have a different biological drive. Ack. Just the sort of empowering attitudes about sex I want my kids to learn.)

As a parent, I am appalled at her attitude. She teaches hate and intolerance. As an example, check out her essay in Silver Broomstick titled "the God" - a hateful, malicious bit of tripe that she encourages reading to children. (Note - that includes reading to/teaching other people's children without their knowledge see p. 49.) She encourages kids to lie and hide their activities from their parents. ("...you might just want to tell them that you're working with angels if it really bothers your parents, because angels transcend religion and help bring religions together." There are many other passages and more subtle bits that encourage teens to be dishonest with their parents and other authority figures if they stand in the way of what they -- the teen -- wants.) The whole flavor of her teen work says "don't listen to your parents, do whatever you want to - behind their backs if necessary. If your parents don't understand you, that's okay. Mama Silver does." (Paraphrase from website.)

The teen years are difficult enough without this! And of course she's the only Wiccan author to support teens. (Just ask her, she'll tell you.) If you don't agree with her, you just don't care about the kids. ("Call 1-800-the-moon to place your order. Or bug, bother and pester your neighborhood bookstore until they can't stand it any more. Oh, and for the adults that don't like that statement? Maybe you don't care about their future, but I do.")

But then again... Even though she cites freedom of religion as her right to indoctrinate our children, in print she pushes magic far over religion. There is little-to-none of the basic self-work that is the initial training in any reputable Wiccan group. Why should you ever have to really work at this... address any personal failings... or overcome a fear? So much for personal growth. Instead there are lots of insta-witch spells that encourage the belief that power and magic is just something to get what you want, without any consideration for ethics, or alternative methods to achieve goals. Or even any consideration of whether what you want this instant is proper or not. (Does a 14-year-old who is having problems with her bus driver really need to be playing with magic, or do they need to learn self-confidence and conflict resolution skills - or maybe how to behave on a bus? Never mind, Silver's already provided just the spell they need in Teen Witch.)

As a general rule, kids don't like being lied to. So what happens when they realize that what Mama Silver's been teaching them isn't the way the world works? To quote a former Black Forest Clan member: "SRW's books make you feel like you have the world at your fingertips, and all you have to do is ask for everything to happen smoothly and efficiently. They give you this mentality of the world being strictly black and white, and of her side being the white side. And 'good' Wiccans are just like her. The 'bad' Wiccans are the ones that don't do things similar to the way she does them. The way she uses stories and funny little tangents sometimes makes you feel like she's one of the popular kids (the kind of girl in seventh grade who was at the head of her little group and had power over everyone elses' social life) and she's inviting you into her little group. You want to be just like her until you realize that the world isn't the way she makes it out to be; no matter how hard you believe that it should be totally logical and perfect. And you feel bad because your life isn't logical and perfect - obviously you must be doing something wrong. So you end up in a struggle to make life something it's not - a struggle you absolutely cannot win. And then you find out Mama Silver's been lying to you all along about some rather important things. You go through anger and frustration... and you give up totally on Wicca..."

And all this from a woman whose public background is rather... um... creative. She criticizes (in several books) "potential networking partners" who give you "a healthy list of credentials... none of which you could possibly check even if you wanted" and who have "a list of titles as long as your wand". Yet in her own 'about the author' sections she gives a long list of completely un-checkable (and very misleading) titles, credentials and positions which conflict with what she says about herself, her training, and her introduction to Witchcraft in the text of her books. (As an exercise, compare the bio in the first printing of Silver Broomstick (hint -- it's different than the one in the reprints -- it actually gives dates) with the bio in her recent books and on her website. Then compare those with the bios given in her early interviews, and with the information she presents about herself in the texts.)

The first item on her 'about' webpage is about her "lineage" - "Gerald Gardner to Raymond Buckland, Buckland to Michael Ragan (Seax-Wicca), Ragan to Lord Serphant, Serphant to Silver RavenWolf."

While I have not found proof that she has claimed a Gardnerian lineage outright, there is significant evidence that she takes full advantage of the common misunderstanding of her lineage as stated*, and actively encourages the implied status. I have come across too many people who believe that this lineage means that she is Gardnerian, and therefore must know what she's talking about. (Trying to explain to these folks what a true Traditional lineage means is like beating your head against a brick wall.)

If it were a matter of simple personal taste, it would not be a problem. The difficulties with Silver are errors of fact and of ethics. Poor research in an author is difficult to accept under the best of circumstances. Falsehood and fabrication from one claiming to be a Craft teacher (particularly of our children), and who is deliberately misleading people for her own gain is inexcusable.

* this lineage, as stated, is impossible by traditional standards

Copyright © 2004 Sana Karine. All rights reserved.

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