I picked up Witchcraft Today 60 Years On with a certain amount of anticipation given that 2014 has so far been a momentous year. The Doreen Valiente Foundation celebrated the unveiling of the blue plaque for Gerald B Gardner in June and jointly with the CPS hosted a celebration of the life and times of Patricia Crowther, daughter of Gardener’s lineage. It is gitting that now is the time that MoonBooks have published this book, echoing the title of one of Gardener’s own publications, celebrating not only the recognisable start of modern paganism but the vast diversity that has sprung out of these early beginnings. The book is a celebration of diversity within the now 7th largest religion recognised in the UK by exploring its origins and future.
Broken into two sections the book explores some of the most notable branches of paganism both in terms of personal gnosis and experience and origin as well as exploring personal stories of coming into paganism. It opens with a review of Gardener by Philip Heselton, a recognised authority on the Father of Witchcraft, before moving on to look at major beaches of the Pagan tree. Initially those closest to the Gardarian tradition are explored, with Frances Billinghurst explaining the evolution of the Alexandrean tradition and Alaric Albertsson providing an excellent explination of Seax Wica. The book moves on to explore broader terms such as Eclectic “Wicca” and Solitary Witchcraft as well as giving Traditional Craft traditions an opportunity to speak out.
On a personal level I was extremely pleased to see a well balanced presentation of Hekatean Witchcraft (obviously) which looks at the two extremes of paths walked by devotees of Hekate. I was also heartened to see Dancing Rabbit give a frank account of his own pagan path as a male worshiper of the Goddess. This book closes with David Salisbury exploring the future of Paganism in a commonsense manner, giving a ground plan of how things *might* progress for Witchcraft in the next 60 years. Second part a collection of personal accounts of coming to Witchcraft in the last 60 years and are a lovely insight in some of the ways people have come to the Craft. I found it useful to read them in light of my own story and feel that any one coming into paganism would find it comforting and illuminating to do the same. Often people describe an early sense of loneliness which I think can be dispelled in these stories.
The majority of writers in this first sections have approached the anthology in the spirit of information sharing. I have yet to bring to mind a book which so effectively gives an overview of so many traditions and paths drawing on authorities in their craft and powerful lived experience.
However there are two caveats. Firstly, being an anthology, the writers have taken slightly different approaches to presentation. Some have made use of bibliographies which make it easier for the interested parties to research further whereas others haven’t, however they provide enough detail to make Google your friend and provide a spring board onwards. That being said, and leading on to the second of my two caveats; there is a fine line between obfuscation and (in the words of a Facebook friend) salad dressing.
Oaths within initiatory traditions make it hard to share detailed information. Most of the authors have made what can be shared accessible whilst others have buried it deep within other information seemingly at a tangent to the focus of the book. Obfuscation, the hiding of meaning in communication thusbmaking it harder to interpret, is the watchword of a number of Traditional Craft paths. Intuition and interpretation take you a long way within these traditions, and within paganism generally, however I feel it might be a little overwhelming for someone not familiar with the concept. Obfuscation is something I have a love hate relationship with. Its great for passing information on in a covert way, or ensuring that a greater depth of thought is achieved but obfuscation for obfuscations sake, acting as dressing to the presentation or text, is unnecessary and a couple of the essays teeter towards this.
Neither point takes away from the book too greatly but it is worth bearing them mind when picking it up. The book is well edited and presented which is always a good thing, I hate picking up books and finding typos and spelling mistakes. I rate Witchcraft Today 60 Years On 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to all you newbies out there. The book is available throught Amazon UK and direct from Moon Books and is a well worth addition to your bookshelf whether you are seeking knowledge or interested in where Pagsnism has been and where it might go to in our lifetime.