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Home > Books & Reviews > Pagan > Self-Initiation for the Solitary Witch Search

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Book Review:
Self-Initiation for the Solitary Witch: Attaining Higher Spirituality Through a Five-Degree System

Author: Shanddaramon
Trade Paperback, 256 pages
Publisher: New Page Books
Publication date: 2000
List: US$14.99, C$20.95
ISBN: 1564147266
Price & More Info: Click Here

Wicca as a system of five degrees? Why not? It seems to be the growing trend nowadays. The degree system, even less then any other aspect of Wicca is not set in stone. I have worked in systems using one, three and five degrees each, myself.

If one correlates the degrees to the elements within a five degree system, my only disagreement with the concept of this particular layout is with the starting point. I feel, personally, that the first degree should be Earth - for the grounding and stability it brings, not Air. Still, if the system works, and only time will tell about that, what I feel isn't important.

One thing I have a real problem with, regardless who the author or publisher of a book might be, is sloppy reporting of facts. The section of this work entitled "Wiccan History" (pages 71-76) gave me such a problem. On page 71 the author refers to some claims as " back before pre-Christian times." So, what, exactly, was before "pre-Christian times"? -- except for everything prior to the incarnation of Jesus? It doesn't get any better. Page 73 identifies 1692 as "The Burning Times". Funny, I remember the Burning Times as being during the Medieval period of history (well before the 17th century); 1184 as "Founding of the Hermetic Society" - did he mean the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn? On page 74 he says in regard to 1947 - "It is commonly believed that Gardner and Dafo start the New Forest Coven, England." The coven was well-established before Gardner joined. Page 75 has, for 1971, "What Witches Do by Stewart Farrar - Comprehensive discussion and rituals of Gardnerian tradition." Sorry, the topic of the book was the Alexandrian tradition. None of these, it is true, and major problems, but with so many slips in only 6 pages, it makes me wonder how accurate other information in this book actually is. When attempting to lay a foundation, particular attention must be paid to the details.

I understand the concepts of self-empowerment, and of self-initiation. However, telling the student to write a First Degree Initiation without, at least, a brief listing of items of importance in such a ritual is just a bit wide of the mark, in my opinion. Of course, I come to this topic as a lineaged initiate, so I do have a bias to overcome. I would have suggested that it should revolve around the concepts of death and rebirth, if nothing else. The format is not as important as the theme, in my experience.

I really appreciate the fact that he stresses, throughout the book, the need for experience as well as, if not more than, intellectual knowledge. That, plus the fact that he reminds the student that self-written rituals are far more powerful than any you might find in a book, goes a long way towards making this a worthwhile resource.

I'm not sure why he chose red light as a symbol for using your aura as a shield, but it makes sense. If someone is directing energy at you, and they sense a red color, it may trigger a normal "red equals danger" though, and cause them the back away. It isn't the way I was trained, but it makes sense, and I will be experimenting with it.

In the chapter on Third Degree, the author makes a suggestion which many practitioners would do well to adopt. He refers to the creation of magickal books, such as one devoted to ritual use, one listing the books you have read (with a commentary on what you found useful, etc.), a divination notebook, one devoted to symbols, etc. Quite often people find themselves searching for one particular bit of information that seems to stay just out of reach of their memory. By sorting this information into separate books, it can narrow down the search area and time. Plus, as one's experiences and researches grow, trying to keep it all in a single book becomes quite cumbersome. Further, if you decide (at some point) to teach you can use the appropriate books as an aid without overwhelming a student.

As a plan of study and growth, this book offers a good deal to think about and incorporate into a personal development plan. I have a few reservations about some of the sequencing, but there is no reason it wouldn't work as planned. So long as one is capable of being honest with themselves when it comes to evaluating their needs and progress, it will aid development. Whether you plan to continue as a solitary, or found your own group, the training outlined in this book is worthwhile.

Reviewed by Mike Gleason

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