If you are tired of "Wicca 101" books aimed at the complete beginner (or worse, at "fluff bunnies"), the Farrar's A Witches Bible might be the book for you. While some of the material seems dated and even slightly offensive in places (e.g. comments that imply there is really no place for homosexuals in Wicca), there is a wealth of information on the Alexandrian branch of British Traditional Wicca and the early history of Wicca in general.
A Witches' Bible is really two books under one cover: Eight Sabbats for Witches and The Witches' Way. This is the chief problem with the book. There are two separate tables of contents and indexes. The page numbers start over from one in middle of the volume. Some information is duplicated between the two volumes included. This doesn't ruin the book, but it does make it much less convenient to use. Having to look stuff up in two separate indexes is a pain, for example.
The first half of the book, originally published as Eight Sabbats for Witches, discusses each of the eight major Wiccan festivals in detail. The authors examine both the rituals in a fairly typical Gardner-derived Book of Shadows and how they fit into a wheel of the year cycle of myths. Like much of early Wiccan material, there is a somewhat embarrassing reliance on questionable source material such as Robert Graves' The White Goddess. This doesn't really ruin any of the rituals, it just calls into question some of the background material and theory. This first volume also covers in detail the opening and closing of circles, the Great Rite, and rituals for Wiccaning, handfasting, and death.
The second half of the book, originally published as The Witches' Way, mainly consists of sixteen chapters on Wiccan beliefs such as reincarnation, ethics, healing, divination, magick, etc. as seen through the eyes of the Farrars. At times, some of these essays seem very dogmatic. There is useful knowledge and information in almost every one of them, even if you do not agree with all the positions the authors take. Approximately one-third of this second volume is ritual material, however, presented and explained with the same detail as the sabbats were in the first volume. You'll find initiation rituals for all three British Traditional Wiccan degrees, information on consecration rituals and various usual rituals. There's also an appendix by Doreen Valiente detailing her attempts to track down Gardner's "Old Dorothy" and the "New Forest Coven."
If you are used to 1990's style Wicca 101 books, A Witches' Bible may come as something of a shock to you. It's not written in a "here's how to do this, run out and try it" style. It provides detailed information and opinion that you have to study and think about to get much out of. As one might expect from any form of British Tradition Wicca, its rituals are definitely aimed at group practice. You will not find solitary versions handed to you. With a bit of thought and effort, of course, many of the rituals presented could be adapted to solitary use.
While all this material may sound dry and dull, the Farrars manage to make most of it quite interesting to read. If you are interested in the origin and history of Wicca, British Traditional Wicca, or are just tired of Wicca books obviously written so as to not strain the brain of the average "fluff-bunny," I can't recommend this book highly enough. I've had a copy of another publisher's printing for more than fifteen years. I've read it completely several times, and refer to it at least once month.
If you are interested in Wicca and ready to move beyond all the "Wicca 101" books on the market, pick up a copy of A Witches' Bible as soon as you can. It's not perfect, but it is one of the few "Wicca 201" books on the market. Even if British Traditional Wicca doesn't really interest you, you'll learn a lot about Wicca by reading and studying this book.
Review by Randall Sapphire
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