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YOUR GUIDE TO THE SANDBOX
on June 13, 2009
If you think about it, Wicca is a sandbox religion--open-ended, do what you want, with very few common denominators, much like the "sandbox video games" (like Grand Theft Auto, Oblivion and Red Faction) with the same characteristics.
To me, an entry-level Wicca book should aim to cover the common denominators and maybe offer some suggestions as to the other options. Below I'll cover the three main sections of this book:
Overall, I felt the basics were covered, but there were some topics where I felt a more in-depth discussion would have been beneficial.
Most are aware of the Wiccan Rede, basically, "Do what you want, but harm none". The question a beginner might ask though, is, What is Harm? Can a Wiccan use natural drugs? Smoke a pack a day? If I think that fat tire around my stomach is harming my self-esteem is it worse to try different, perhaps extreme diets to lose it?
Unfortunately, this book answers none of those questions.
The author doesn't come across as very confident in magic. He mentions a candle ritual to help pay a bill. What strikes me is this: Why a hypothetical scenario and not an example from his own experience of ~10 years (at the time of the writing)?
His chapter on "The Spiral of Rebirth" has a few problems for the beginner:
"Wiccan teachings have always been vague on this. Basically, the Wiccans say that after rising upon the spiral of life and death and rebirth, those souls who have attained perfection break away from the cycle forever and dwell with the Goddess and God." (page 76)
Wiccan teachings? What Wiccan teachings? Is there some All Things Wicca book that every beginner is supposed to read or is it just Oral Traditon? And why are these teachings vague on their take on reincarnation? What is perfection? Helping 100 old ladies cross the street?
Again, he answers none of these basic questions.
The Practice section of the book is the shortest but walks you through a basic solitary ritual.
I read some reviews where people say, "Why read this book when the basic information can be found on the internet?" That is true, now, but not when this book was written, 1988--the internet didn't become widespread until a few years later.
THE BOOK OF SHADOWS:
To me, this is the strong point of the whole book. For anyone who's ever wondered what the contents of a Book of Shadows are, this section answers those questions very well. It gives one basic information on Festivals, Recipes, Rituals, Magic, Symbols and a few other things.
In summary, the book is not as simple as Step 1, do this, Step 2, do that, but it comes close and does a decent job of explaining Wiccan practices and beliefs to beginners.