Author: Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D
Publisher: New World Library
Publication date: 1992
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This small hardback was among the first books that I bought when I discovered Paganism. It is still my favorite inspiration for ritual. A Woman's Book of Rituals & Celebrations is not for the base beginner, but for those who have already made their decision to follow this path. It does not include instruction on the concepts of the religion of Witchcraft. It is a book of inspiration on learning to communicate with the Goddess, and ideas for celebrating Her.
Ardinger's view of ritual works well for me. Her Goddess usually remains nameless, as does mine. Her celebrations are playful, spontaneous, and humorous. She encourages you, the reader to think for yourself, and create methods that have meaning for you. She gives examples of different ways and reasons for ritual structure, and the reasons behind them. Instead of stating 'The altar always faces North!' she states which way she places hers, why she does it, and gives instances and reasons why others do it a different way.
Her "unencumbered ritual" (p. 64) meshes well with my improvisational style. There are no ingredient lists of expensive oils, elaborate tools; no long, artificially arcane soliloquies to memorize. When dialog is provided, she suggests taping it you feel you could not memorize it. She is unstructured, and encourages changing the rituals to match your needs and life. This is not a sourcebook for those who need highly ceremonial, structured celebration. She does not even insist on casting a circle before starting, leaving that to the needs of the practitioner. The tools she suggests are things from everyday life that we keep close to us. These allow you to bring a sense of ritual and worship into everyday life: "practicing Her presence" daily.
Unfortunately, she does tend to equate Witch with Wiccan and vice versa; forgetting that the two are not necessarily synonymous. She states she prefers the label Witch, that it gets attention and allows her to illustrated that Witch doesn't mean wicked. She also states that she feels it honors "the nine million alleged witches who were burned by the Christian inquisition." I do wish she hadn't trotted that tired and highly improbable figure out again.
Ardinger is also very Goddess centered, to the near exclusion of the God. While I find this unbalanced, the spontaneous nature of her ritual lets me feel comfortable in adapting her material, bringing Him in and adding balance.
She documents her sources well, and they are pretty extensive. She does lean heavily on modern, New Age-y works, but in this instance I do not mind, as her methods of celebration are thoroughly modern. She does talk about Witchcraft as a modern adaptation of ancient Goddess worship, but admits that we do not know much about ancient practices and we "make it up as we go along." (p. 24) Not only does she list her literary sources, but there is a short discography in the back of inspiring music as well as organizations of interest.
For the eclectic pagan, this fun book is an excellent resource for learning spontaneity and incorporating religion into everyday life. I hope that it is as useful and inspiring to you as it has been for me.
Reviewed by Leigh