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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > The Elements of Ritual Search

Book Review:
The Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water, & Earth in the Wiccan Circle

Author: Deborah Lipp
Trade Paperback, 273 pages
Publisher: Llewellyn
Publication date: July 2003
ISBN: 073870301X
Price & More Info: Click Here


There are a large number of Wicca 101 books, most average in quality at best, that attempt to introduce the reader to the basics of various versions of the Wiccan religion. Many Wiccans buy five, ten or even more of them. Not because they are so dense that they need multiple introductory texts to learn the basics of their religion, but because advanced texts are few and far between. Therefore they buy intro book after intro book hoping to find something new in each one. Publishers seem reluctant to publish many non-introductory books on Wicca. I'm not sure why this is as the same publishers sell advanced texts on astrology, tarot, and other similar topics.

Deborah Lipp's The Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water, & Earth in the Wiccan Circle is one of those rare advanced books on Wicca. While those without a good basic knowledge of the religion will probably not get much from reading this book, I am happy to see this book published and hope that it will be the start of a publishing trend. Wicca doesn't need a dozen or so additional introductory books each year.

The title of this book, The Elements of Ritual, has a double meaning. In her book, Lipp goes through the standard Wiccan ritual structure and discusses the meaning and ritual design options possible for each element of the ritual from preparation to closing the circle. She also discusses how the steps of ritual relate to the four elements.

This book is arranged in a straightforward and logical order. A brief introduction explains what this book is about. This is followed by a short chapter on the elements and how the elements are worked into the structure of the book. The next four long chapters discuss the stages and elements of Wiccan ritual in detail from various points of view: the practical (what is done and how can it be done), the theological (why is it done), the metaphorical (what is the mythology or story behind things), and the mystical/magical. As Wicca ritual can vary, the author often mentions various choices that can be made along the way and often gives sample pieces of ritual. The final short chapter is a complete ritual script with all the choices made by the author as an example of Wiccan ritual design.

Wiccan Ritual Design: that's really what this book is all about. Good Wiccan ritual doesn't just happen, it has to be created by someone who thoroughly understands the purpose and meaning behind all of the various parts that make up the standard Wiccan ritual structure. Lipp teaches this important background in this book. According to her biography, she has the experience to do so. She was initiated into a traditional Gardnerian coven in 1981, became a High Priestess in 1986, and has been teaching and leading ritual ever since.

With the wide range of beliefs and practices in Wicca today, I'm sure that there will be some Wiccans who will find Lipp's ideas alien to their version of Wicca. However, I feel that most Wiccans can greatly increase their understanding of their religion's rituals by studying The Elements of Ritual: Air, Fire, Water, & Earth in the Wiccan Circle. I urge all Wiccans, especially those who lead ritual or hope to lead ritual, to read this book. Unless you come from a coven with an excellent training program, I think most of this material will be new to you. I suspect the average Wiccan will find more new and useful information here than in all the Wicca 101 books published in the last few years.

Reviewed by Randall

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