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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > The Tree Search

Book Review:
The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft

Author: Raymond Buckland
Trade Paperback, 168 pages
Publisher: Samuel Weiser
Publication date: December 1974
ISBN: 0877282587
Price & More Info: Click Here

Additional books by this author


To really understand the influence this book had on Wicca and Paganism, you have to understand what was happening in the late 60s and early 70s. The "occult" was in the public eye. Hans Holzer books, The Truth about Witchcraft, The New Pagans, and The Witchcraft Report, had attracted the attention of many seekers. Suddenly there were many more people wanting to become witches than there were spaces in covens for them. This was in the days of the "it takes a witch to make a witch" nonsense and when there was little or no good, let alone complete, material available for seekers.

This was also a time of turmoil and problems within Wicca. Witch wars were common and a few High Priestesses were fighting over "witch queen" titles. Meanwhile, incomplete versions of Gardnerian ritual were being published by Lady Sheba and the Frost's controversial The Witch's Bible appeared on newsstands and bookstores. These books were being snapped up by people hungry for craft knowledge. Buckland decided to leave Gardnerian Wicca and start a new tradition. Hoping to avoid the problems Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca were then having, he wanted to a tradition which would be open and more democratic. Seax-Wica, embodied in its published book of shadows, The Tree, is the result of that decision.

Seax-Wica broke with a number of what were then Wiccan traditions. First, its beliefs and rituals were not secret as its book of shadows was publicly available. Second, Seax-Wica had only one degree and that degree could be reached either by initiation by a coven or by self-initiation. Third, Buckland admitted up front that Seax-Wica was a modern creation based very loosely on the Saxons in early Britain. Fourth, Seax-Wica covens elected their High Priest and High Priestess annually.

The Tree was one of the first Wicca 101 books, although it bears little resemblance to what we think of as a Wicca 101 book today. The Tree wasn't designed to lead the reader by the hand, explaining everything in detail. Instead, it was written like most of the Gardnerian and Alexandrian books of shadows, sparsely. The Tree assumed that anyone wishing to use it would either be well-read on esoteric matters or willing to become well-read. It was "The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft" in that it gave you everything necessary to practice Seax-Wica as an individual or group. Unfortunately, modern neophytes expect "complete" to mean "everything you could ever need to know is in this book" and are often disappointed with this book.

While many traditional Wiccans of the time treated Buckland's new tradition and its book of shadows like some type of a joke, many Seax-Wica covens sprang up around the world in the decade after it was published. The book fulfilled a great need. While there don't seem to be as nearly as many Seax-Wica groups as there once were, Seax-Wica is still a solid path. If you are looking for an example of more traditional Wicca than what you will find in most 1990's Wicca 101 books, The Tree can be very helpful. If you are looking to start a Wiccan group from scratch and wish to still be a part of a larger tradition, Seax-Wica is still an excellent choice.

My only real complaints about this book are that Buckland does pontificate a bit, although not as annoyingly as in some of his later works, and that the rituals given really aren't that inspired. Neither is a fatal flaw. Pontification can be ignored and rituals can be expanded and/or improved. The Tree is an ignored classic that deserves more attention from modern Pagans than it seems to get.

Reviewed by Randall

Additional Books by Raymond Buckland

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