Author: Migene Gonzalez-Wippler
Trade Paperback, 218 pages
Publication date: 2005
List: US$12.95, C$17.50
Price & More Info: Click Here
I have read some of Ms. Gonzalez-Wippler's other books (on the subject of
Santeria), so when I saw this one, I wanted to see what she had to say.
Plus, I am a traditionalist, in a lot of ways, when it comes to Witchcraft
and the idea of her being a "self-initiated" witch makes about as much sense
as a "self-ordained" Catholic priest. I really felt a need to see what was
in this book. In her introduction she acknowledges some of the "great names" in the Craft, even claiming acquaintance with them. Unfortunately
these individuals have crossed the veil and can't verify her claims.
She states (on page xv) "This book was written from the Gardnerian
viewpoint." This is an interesting statement since Gardnerian tradition
does not recognize self-initiation, and the contents of the Book of Shadows
are considered (to the best of my knowledge) to be oathbound material, and
therefore not to be revealed outside of the Coven.
Having been an Alexandrian initiate since 1974 (and thus being more than a
little familiar with Gardnerian/Alexandrian workings), I found Md.
Gonzalez-Wippler's statements in many cases to be misconceptions which would
have been dispelled through actual attendance (and regular participation) in
Coven activities. She makes very positive, and limiting, statements. Only
to follow it with something along the lines of "...of course other groups may
do it differently..." If this book is written "...from the Gardnerian
viewpoint" let's confine it to the viewpoint.
Ms. Gonzalez-Wippler speaks of invoking the law of three when one has been
ill-used. That would be (in my opinion) like "invoking" the third law of
motion. I mean, you can do it, but it is absolutely unnecessary as it is
going to function whether you invoke it or not.
I know of very few Gardnerians (or any of the British Traditional Wicca
[BTW]) covens who hold their Esbats "...once a week and generally on
Saturdays..." Esbats are usually held monthly, and on (or near) the night of
the Full Moon. Ms. Gonzalez-Wippler's sources of information seem to be out
of the BTW loop.
She refers to Sabbaths, but most Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans I know have
lost that "h" and refer to Sabbats. Sabbath sounds too Judeo-Christian for
most practitioners. She claims to have been involved for thirty years
(which dates her involvement to about the same time frame as my own), but
she makes mis-statements of fact that I had corrected by my teachers within
six months of my involvement with BTW.
Some of the statements ("The waning moon is never used for any type of
positive magic." Page 36) sound like commandments, even if they aren't
borne out by main-line teachings. It is difficult to determine whether she
is speaking from personal knowledge, inherited wisdom, or the conclusions of
a cultural anthropologist. It would be beneficial for readers to know the
source of some of these statements.
There are other problems with this work. On page 45 she says "As you can
see in the accompanying diagram." The problem is---there is no diagram
(until 13 pages later)! On page 46 she identifies two types of pentagrams
"...invocation and vanishing..." Funny, I was taught "invoking and banishing."
I don't have a clue how to "vanish" an element, and wouldn't want to try if
I did. She also speaks of "vanishing" the circle??!!
Ms. Gonzalez-Wippler may a competent cultural anthropologist. That isn't a
specialty I can judge. I know several of her works on the religion of
Santeria (some practitioners like them while others are less complimentary).
One thing I can say is that before I was a quarter of the way through this
book, I was doubting her qualifications for writing it. I know that
differing opinions are to be expected based on differences in training and
personal experience, but to state something categorically when it is a
matter of opinion is not good scholarship, or good writing, in my opinion.
Her identification of the pentagram within the arms of the crescent moon as
"Wicca's Symbol" (page 57) also confuses me a bit. I've always associated
the pentagram (with or without a circle around it) with Wicca. Adding the
crescent moon is nice, but I doubt that the average Wiccan (whatever that
is) would identify is as "Wicca's Symbol."
There are a lot of typos in this book, but that doesn't surprise me much
anymore. What does surprise me is that they were allowed to sneak into a
Book of Shadows. Since the Book of Shadows is intended to serve as the
basis for an individual's working in the religion of Wicca, it would seem to
me that more than normal editorial vigilance would be called for.
I could enumerate many more items which I question based on my own BTW
training, but I will pass on that. What I will do is to say that I am glad
to have this book in my library so that I can use it to correct the many
misconceptions which are sure to become entrenched in the popular mind.
Reviewed by Mike Gleason