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Rebirth of Witchcraft Paperback – June, 1989

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Doreen Valiente (1922-1999) was one of the most well respected and influential leaders of Wicca. Her previous books include An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present, Natural Magic, and Witchcraft for Tomorrow.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix Pub; First Thus edition (June 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0919345395
  • ISBN-13: 978-0919345393
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,688,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An account of the birth (at least in the public mind) of the modern craft. Lady Doreen was there for key moments--without her finesse, the Charge of the Goddess would likely be an obscure and arcane document, used only by Gardnerian & related Wiccan traditions. She took much of Gardner's material and transformed it from awkward, ponderous prose, to liturgical poetry.
She reminds us that the last witchcraft trial in England took place in 1944, at the Old Bailey. One Helen Duncan, a spiritualist medium, was found guilty under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 and sentenced to 9 months in jail. It was not until June of 1951 that this law was abolished. That July, a newspaper carried a frontpage story, CALLING ALL COVENS, describing a forthcoming witches' gathering, opened by Gerald B. Gardner.
She traces the forerunners of the Craft: Charles Godfrey Leland, Margaret Murray, Robert Graves, Dion Fortune, and Aleister Crowley. From this she moves on to Gerald Gardner, and how he came to publicize the Craft. This is followed by a chapter about what it was like working with Old Gerald and one regarding what the intense publicity Gerald generated was like. She writes chapters about John Brakespeare, Robert Cochrane, and Alex Sanders and their traditions.
She points out that during this time period, witchcraft was male dominated, certainly not feminist. Women were allowed to hold fancy titles, like Witch Queen, but stil expected to obey the high priest. Her chapter on Feminist Witchcraft tells of Starhawk meeting up with Zuzanna Budapest, considers women's moon mysteries, and the place of homosexuality in the Craft.
She concludes the book by observing that the emergence of the Craft in modern times must be fulfilling a deep need.
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Format: Hardcover
The main reason I picked up this book was due to an interview I once read, in which Valiente expressed her disapproval over the "airy-fairy" attitude that was prevalent in the current neo-Pagan movement. I wanted to know what was different about "Old School Wicca".
This book gives a nice little history lesson on what life was like for a British Witch in the 1950's and 1960's. Valiente gives personal accounts of such now legendary figures as Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders, Robert Cochrane, Janet and Stewart Farrar, and even Aleister Crowley. She illustrates just how dangerous it was to be a public Witch in Britain at the time; and the trouble they went through with both the press and the police when it came to dealing with accusations of Satanism and committing human sacrifice.
Valiente also describes the hazards of intra-coven politics. Witch wars waged in the media and psychic vampires turning up on your doorstep, hat in hand, with a big grin and a favor to ask. She pulls no punches when she talks about just how awful it can be when you are just trying to be both a helpful pagan and a decent person. While her chapter on "Feminist Witchcraft" seemed a little dated to me, it still expresses some important ideals: the need for women to take charge of their own identity, the necessity for good stewardship of the environment, and finding a way to cope with the ever increasing human population.
Definitely not a "how to" manual for spell casting, this book will give readers a glimpse into the lives of some famous Witches. Some were powerful, some were fragile, a couple were downright deceitful, but they were all human.
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Format: Hardcover
Old Doreen was around for the formative years of the modern Witchcraft movement, otherwise known as Wicca, and was a participant in many of it's early events. (She wrote the famous Charge of the Goddess, for example). Reading this book is like sitting in an Elder's kitchen, with a hot cup of coffee (too much dish here for mere tea, but with cream and sugar, not black) and having her tell you what it was *really* like back then, and what *really* happened. Now that she's passed on, I'm particularly grateful that she's given us this bit of eyewitness history and insight into how our religion took the form(s) it has. Also an indictment of hubris in those she loved, by a true Lady who had her head on straight, her heart in the right place, and her feet firmly on the ground. More interesting to folks somewhat familiar with Wicca than for beginners. Required reading for my own advanced Craft students -- it's that good.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The only reason for secrecy today is when witches themselves prefer not to have their identities and their private addresses revealed."
- Doreen Valiente (The Rebirth of Witchcraft, p.54)

How worthwhile is reading THE REBIRTH OF WITCHCRAFT by Doreen Valiente? I learned more about the true history of Wicca in the first five chapters than all the other books on modern witchcraft that I've read to date.

As for the content Doreen Valiente gives a compelling first person account of Wiccan history from its earliest nights to the feminist revolution of the 70s. In particular you get a really good scoop on the shady personalities behind the faces of Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders and Robert Cochrane. Tricksters and liars all.

Of course this doesn't mean that Doreen didn't hold any affection for these men. She did, but she doesn't make excuses for their behavior either. Perhaps because of this honesty there is a real feeling of authenticity to her words.

The other chapters while less relevant are at the very least interesting reads. I particularly liked the chapter on Leslie Roberts, a homosexual witch and occult investigator who died tragically. His story (as well as that of Alex Sanders) establishes the early presence of gay men in the Craft. It also serves as a vivid lesson on the importance of knowing your limits as a witch and the very real danger of psychic vampires.

This book should be required reading for all students interested in the history of the modern Craft.
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