Author: Elen Hawke
Trade Paperback, 175 pages
Publication date: January 2001
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In The Circle: Crafting The Witches' Path is an example of what many long-time Neo-Pagans call a "Wicca 101" book. That is, it is a book written to introduce newcomers to the religion of Wicca. There are a large number of these books on the market. A few are good, some are mediocre, and far too many are bad.
This book is organized much differently than most Wicca 101 books -- a refreshing change for someone like me who has had to read far too many of these books. The first chapter isn't about what Wicca is, it's a personal record of a Winter Solstice the author celebrated, along with a brief exploration of what the celebration is about. For the rest of the book, the author alternates chapters with explanatory material with chapters like this first one on the festivals and moon rituals. While this may sound awkward, it is very effective in giving one a feel for the religion instead of a barrage of facts.
In The Circle is much more forthright about the history of Wicca and Wiccan practices than many Wicca 101 books. No stories of how Wicca was handed down since the stone age. There's also an honest description of the artificial, modern nature of the "wheel of the year." The information in this book isn't perfect, of course. For example, some of the information on the Gods and Goddesses given is, while commonly accepted by many Wiccans, simply incorrect. For example, the ancients Greeks apparently did not think of Hecate as a "crone." However, there is far less incorrect information here than in many Wicca 101 books I've read and reviewed.
The author is British. While this gives the book a slightly different view of Wicca in places and a few British spellings are used, this doesn't affect the book much. The only chapter where the British focus is really noticeable is the chapter on scared sites. All those mentioned are British. The description of the damage being done to some of these sites by careless or thoughtless Pagans is somewhat chilling. Too many Pagans seem to be talking the talk without walking the walk. Hopefully, her words will serve as a warning to Neo-Pagans everywhere to better care for the sacred sites they use.
Some will not like this book because it does not provide pre-written rituals for every festival and moon. Nor does its chapter on magick provide detailed spells for every need. It's not a book for beginners who want to be led by the hand without ever having to really think. Others will not like this book because it doesn't have a chapter on the Wiccan Rede. In fact, I don't remember Wiccan Rede being really discussed at all. This is a bit regrettable, perhaps, but far better it be not discussed than be discussed as law (instead of as just good advice) as so many Wicca 101 books unfortunately do.
When my copy of In The Circle: Crafting The Witches' Path arrived, my first reaction was to sigh and say "Yet another Wicca 101 book from Llewellyn." After reading the book, I have to say that while it is yet another Wicca 101 book, it is a very good Wicca 101 book. In fact, it's probably the best Wicca 101 book Llewellyn has published in many years, perhaps since Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. If you are new and need an introduction to Wicca and do not need to be be led by the nose, this is one of a handful of truly good Wicca 101 books. I'd select it before one of the more popular books by Ravenwolf, Conway, McCoy, Moura, etc. (I still would not select it over Marian Green's A Witch Alone.) If you have already read a Wicca 101 book or two, however, you really have no need for a copy of this one. If only there were more Wicca 201 and Wicca 301 books.
Reviewed by Randall