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Witchcraft: A Mystery Tradition [Kindle Edition]

Raven Grimassi
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Understanding the Mystery Teachings of Witchcraft is essential for anyone wishing to enrich their Craft. World-renowned author and scholar Raven Grimassi guides readers down the well-worn path to these Mystery traditions by exploring their roots in myths, legends, verses, and lore.

Witchcraft: A Mystery Tradition provides a cultural and mythical context that helps readers gain insight into these Mystery themes. Drawing upon the long-standing traditional European Witchcraft and occult concepts and tenets, Grimassi constructs a cohesive mythos that supports and unifies the Sabbats and their associated deities. Also provided are techniques for aligning with the "momentum of the past," a powerful current of knowledge and energy available to all Witches.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Raven Grimassi is a Neo-Pagan scholar and award-winning author of over twelve books on Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-Paganism. He is a member of the American Folk Lore Society and is co-founder and co-director of the College of the Crossroads.

Raven's background includes training in the Rosicrucian Order as well as the study of the Kabbalah through the First Temple of Tifareth under Lady Sara Cunningham. His early magical career began in the late 1960s and involved the study of works by Franz Bardon, Eliphas Levi, William Barrett, Dion Fortune, William Gray, William Butler, and Israel Regardie.

Today Raven is the directing Elder of the tradition of Aridian Witchcraft, and together with his wife Stephanie Taylor he is developing a complete teaching system known as Ash, Birch and Willow. This system is the culmination of over 35 years of study and practice in the magical and spiritual traditions of the indigenous people of pre-Christian Europe.


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Witchcraft and the
Old World

The concepts, beliefs, and practices of modern Witchcraft are rooted in ancient European Paganism. Witchcraft, as it exists today, is a religion and magical system that has evolved over countless centuries. Although its basic foundational concepts appear in those of the Neolithic era, a variety of ideas and notions particular to following periods have also influenced it. These influences include the classical period, Middle Ages, Renaissance, nineteenth-century Romantic era, and the modern Wicca movement that arose in the mid-twentieth century.
To understand the core essence of Witchcraft we must look to a time before the rise of Christianity, when the beliefs and practices of ancient Europe were unaltered by imported alien concepts. Despite the fact that European Pagans were diverse in their beliefs and practices, there is a root core commonality that speaks of something older upon which all were based. Was there once a central primitive religion to explain the similarities, or are we simply looking at the ways humankind itself commonly conceives of religious and ritual elements?
When considering prehistorical beliefs we are left with a great deal of speculation because we have no writings upon which to formulate our understanding of how prehistoric people perceived the items and images they left behind. Some commentators argue that in modern times we reason with minds that are totally different from those of our prehistorical ancestors. This suggests that we cannot understand or view things in the same ways as our ancestors. However, such a view dismisses the core of our humanness and how we approach, analyze, and react to the unknown as a species. It also dismisses a key element of belief within Witchcraft, which is reincarnation. In this light we still possess the collective soul experience, which means we were once our ancient ancestors. Therefore, as Witches, we can access the older understanding of the ancient beliefs and practices that are recorded as soul memories. See chapter 8 for further information regarding such methods.
While we as modern humans like to think of ourselves as being highly evolved, beyond our prehistoric ancestors, we are in fact still just as subject to the primal or primitive part of our brains. History reveals that humans are still motivated by the same drives, goals, and ambitions today as they were thousands of years ago. Ancient Greek plays are as relevant today to human society and behavior as they were in the time period in which they were written. Is it then reasonable to assume that, thousands of years before these ancient writings, humans were completely different? It is more likely that the ways in which our prehistoric ancestors thought and perceived were not as alien to us, as a species, as some commentators like to think.
We know that humans build upon existing ideas and concepts. One of the earliest writings in Western literature, the Theogony, demonstrates this fact. In this writing, the author Hesiod refers to an elder race of gods (the Titans) who existed before the rise of the gods of Olympus. Hesiod patterns the Olympic gods after the categories of the Titans, demonstrating an ongoing human tradition of passing along knowledge and information in an established format. To Hesiod, who wrote sometime around the seventh or eighth century bce, the Titans were an almost forgotten race of gods from an earlier and half-remembered era. From where then did the earlier beliefs regarding the Titans originate in this misty past? Were they not based upon earlier prehistoric beliefs that came before them? It would seem reasonable to assume such to be the case, and the commonality of the human experience to be the uniting factor.
In the remainder of this chapter we will explore the primal concepts that evolved into religion in a manner that views everything as connected along a line of evolution. We will not view the things we examine as having no relationship or connection as generations passed through the ages. Instead we will approach this as though humans passed on their religious concepts in the same manner as they passed on everything else related to their society and technology. It would seem odd to consider it in any other fashion, for even on a mundane level, the arrow that was once the spear is not unrelated to the tool, the concept, or the need. In a metaphorical sense, this applies as well to religious thought and conception.
The world of our ancestors was one filled with mystery and wonder. Imagine not knowing or even having any idea of what the moon and the sun were in the sky. What kept them there and how did they move about? Where did they go when they disappeared beneath the horizon? Who or what created them? Humans, being naturally curious beings, no doubt spent much time wondering about these and many other things.
In time it became apparent that the mysterious world operated in patterns. The most noticeable ones presented themselves in the seasons and the migration of birds and animals. Later, when humans turned to farming (becoming less dependent upon the animals they hunted) the growing cycle of the crops was well noted. What appears to be apparent from ancient writings is a belief that a spirit or a deity was somehow involved in the cycles and processes of this mysterious world.
Images and statues were created to depict these unseen beings. A system of appropriate offerings was constructed, and a type of veneration or worship arose. These were all attempts at communication, supplication, and alliance building. Some individuals within the early tribes seemed more attuned to the unseen world and its beings, and these people performed what might be called religious or spiritual tasks for the tribe. Various examples of this commonality in diverse human cultures are the European shaman, American Indian medicine man or woman, and the African witch doctor. For the purposes of this chapter we are interested in the European witch.
The earliest written references in Western culture to Witches can be found in ancient Greek literature. Here such figures as Medea are priestesses of Hecate (a Titan) and are involved in themes related to magic, herbalism, and divination. They frequently live in rural settings away from the developed towns and cities. From where did the concepts associated with Witchcraft in ancient times originate? What were the origins of the ascribed beliefs and practices associated with these Witches? How did the Witches come to embrace them? The simplest answer is that such things were passed along from earlier periods of European Paganism, and were eventually formed into a sect that came to be called Witches. But what were these earlier concepts and beliefs?
Prehistoric Religion
It is difficult to know precisely what prehistoric humans intended when they buried their dead with various objects, or when they colored the body with red ocher. Some commentators suggest that such acts were designed to protect the living from the dead, while others believe that this indicated a belief in an afterlife where the departed would require his or her personal belongings. In either case there appears to be a rooted belief that death does not exterminate the vitality of the departed individual.
The phenomena of dreaming may have caused early humans to believe in another world beyond this one, but similar in many ways. In the dream world we encounter various situations in a realm similar to the waking world, but one in which magical things happen. It is not uncommon in a dream for an object to turn into something different by itself. In dreams we can fly, breathe under water, and perform many tasks not possible in the waking world. What would primitive humans have made of this strange realm?
A person who is asleep looks very much like someone who is dead. This fact may also have established a connection between the absence of animation in this world and the reanimation in another. If one can appear dead (the dreamer) and yet experience another existence (the dream world) then perhaps actual death is much the same. In this light it is not unreasonable to conclude that primitive humans believed in the survival of the individual who physically died in the waking world.
The creation of figurative art, evidenced as early as 30,000 bce, demonstrates that humans of this period were conscious of symbolism and personification as a form of communication. Here also are signs of ritual process and the connection between desire and the manifestation of desire through the ritual expression of themes. This strongly suggests a belief that ritual/magical actions can influence those forces that operate the natural world and its phenomena. Burial customs also suggest a belief that each world had some degree of influence upon the other. Here we begin to see what modern humans might call religion, a word derived from the Latin religare, meaning to tie together.
Primitive burial mounds featured a relatively small hole. The general view is that this hole allowed the spirit to come and go as it pleased. A more mystical view is that it allowed the light of the waking world to enter as well as the light of the dream world (the moon). In any case, burial mounds would continue to carry “Otherworld” connotations throughout the passing centuries, eventually being viewed as faery mounds. A woodcut appearing in a pamphlet on Scottish Witchcraft, circa 1591, depicts a group of Witches standing over a mound. Inside the mound are three tiny adult characters feasting at a table, in front of which appears a full-size man lying on the floor (Normand, Lawrence, and Gareth Roberts. Witchcraft in Early Modern Scotland. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2000). Some commentators view this as the depiction of a faery mound.
The placement of personal effects in the burial place of the dead can be viewed as an act of appeasement as well as preparation. In other words, it is an act designed to maintain the good favor o...

Product Details

  • File Size: 2740 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Publications (September 8, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003B005DI
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Reconstructionist Views November 13, 2004
Few books on the subject of Witchcraft come along that I'm willing to doff my hat too mainly because so many are pedantic in their offering. This book is not one of those pedantic offerings but rather a well written and useful theory books that is so lacking in the Wiccan community.

This is not a cookbook or "how-to" manual. What it is makes it all the more desirable for the budding and mid-level Wiccan practitioner to want to own and study.

One of the things I have to give Grimassi is his due on covering the balance of the Wiccan cosmology. Most Wiccan books tend to focus solely on the divine feminine aspects and the chief reason for this is that many of the authors of Wiccan books are feminists. Thus the divine aspect of the male is either ignored (usually) OR relegated to little more than a masculine "escort" companion.

The chapter on the "Witches God" I found useful and entertaining. For instance, I chuckled at the thought of the looks of horror on the faces of so many fluffy bunnies when they see the inverted pentagram in the pages of a Llewellyn book on the Craft! Actually Grimassi uses the symbol merely to point out the idea of the look of Hercules' ritual death position which according to Grimassi was inverted.

When we get into Chapter Five, "Exploring the Inner Mysteries", Grimassi offers up front a skull and crossbones and how it symbolizes the "guardianship and power over the realm of death". At last, a Wiccan book that doesn't eschew the mysteries of Death! Sadly this is an aspect that is so lacking in modern Wiccan literature but is NOT neglected in Wicca's cousin the religion of Vodu where a Lord of Death is given His respect and dignity at every ceremony.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an imformative wonderful book October 21, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is really wonderful, but we have found all of Grimassi's book to be this way, it is very imformative, and it was in really great shape, it looked brand new.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not just another beginner book June 15, 2014
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He is very insightful writer, who with his clear writing style has made the esoteric more accessible, while at the same time not oversimplifing it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars awesome February 4, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
well written a valuable tool there is nothing by this author that is not well written and researched. Certainly worth far more than the price I paid even the shipping.
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More About the Author

I was born in Pittsburgh, PA, to an Italian immigrant who married an American soldier at the close of World War II. My earliest training was in what I call a "peasant witchcraft" tradition, which consisted of Witchcraft and Folk Magic practices of Old Italy. Over the past four decades I have been a practitioner of several Witchcraft and Wiccan traditions. At present I am the directing Elder of the Ash, Birch & Willow tradition, which is a system of "Old Ways Witchcraft" not originating from any single region of Europe, but instead embracing what is held in common among many lands.

I currently have over 14 books in print and write on the topics of Witchcraft, Wicca and Magic. Many people seem to peg me as an author on Italian Witchcraft exclusively, but in fact only two of my books are about that specific subject. The primary focus of my work is about pre-Christian European beliefs and practices that appear in contemporary systems. In doing so I look to the commonalities of European traditions that appear in various regions instead of just one.

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