TALESPINNER'S NEOPAGAN READING LIST
by J. Brad ("Talespinner") Hicks
THE BEST FIVE:
(Read these five first, they are by themselves the best possible intro-
duction to Neopagan Witchcraft and practical magic that I've found any-
Starhawk, _The_Spiral_Dance_. (San Francisco: Harper & Rowe, 1979).
This is the essential first book for a new witch, Neopagan or other-
wise. In fact, many new covens have been formed with no other sources
than this book. Starhawk details the myths, legends, and magic of the
Craft in a beautifully elegant, easy-to-read way. Often found in book-
stores on the "Women's Studies" shelf, Starhawk's vision of the Craft
emphasizes the Goddess as the source of inspiration, with secondary
emphasis on the Horned God. Perhaps a bit too Feminist, but still the
best introduction yet.
Margot Adler, _Drawing_Down_the_Moon_. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979).
Although it is now 7 years out-of-date, this is still the best his-
tory of the modern, Neopagan Craft that has been published yet. In-
cludes many valuable interviews with some of the people who gave shape
to the Craft as we know it. While the book does include some instruc-
tion in magic, its primary thrust is philosophy and history. Keep an
eye out--there's an updated second edition due out some time in late
Marion Weinstein, _Positive_Magic_. (Surrey, B.C.: Phoenix Publishing,
revised 1981). Paperback, $8.95
I see-saw between this book and the next one for 3rd and 4th place.
Both are good, detailed texts on magic and spell-casting. At the
moment, I recommend _Positive Magic_ first for the following reasons:
1) it is more practical, teaching actual techniques before tackling
theoretical justifications, and 2) the language is a bit easier to fol-
low for non-scientists. The topics covered include the karmic effects
of magic, astrology, divination with tarot cards and the I'Ching, and
general spell-casting. Its strongest point is the section on tarot,
which is the best I've seen yet. Its weakest point (in my opinion) is
that it under-emphasizes poetry and ritual.
P.E.I. Bonewits, _Real_Magic_. (Berkeley: Creative Arts Publishing,
revised 1979). Paperback, $8.95
This is the other "best" book on magic. It covers a much wider
variety of topics, including ritual, psychic self-defense, and many
other psychic phenomena. Isaac's approach is scientific and rational,
not "religious," and his language is often more that of a scholar than
a witch, but this is nevertheless an essential book for any student of
magic. WARNING: Make sure that you get the second edition (1979) or
later, as the 1971 edition includes much material that is misleading,
extraneous, and sometimes just plain false--the 1979 edition was
Scott Cunningham, _Earth_Power_. (St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1983).
A good, reliable volume of spells and charms, compiled from the Fam-
ily Traditions and other witchcraft sources. The magic in this book
consists entirely of what scholars call "Low Magic"--the magic of vil-
lage herballists, midwives, and healers--and as such, it is very prac-
tical, simple, and unpretentious. Missing is much of the ceremony of
Neopagan Witchcraft; in its place, a huge vocabulary of magic that can
be used easily and quickly, regardless of where you are and what you
have for tools.
THE BEST OF THE REST:
(Once you have a good background, from the previous five books, you
will find the following all make good reference books, worth having on
Stewart Farrar, _What_Witches_Do_. (Custer, WA: Phoenix Publishing,
revised 1983). Paperback, $8.95
This book is so good that it ALMOST made it into the top five, dis-
placing _Earth Magic_. When its first edition came out in 1971, it was
the only book on modern Witchcraft that was written for outsiders. It
is surprisingly well-written, and very thorough. Its only serious
problem is that it is very specifically Alexandrian Witchcraft (named
after Alex Sanders, its first High Priest), and some of it doesn't
generalize well. Nevertheless, it has the best-written chapter on
initiation, among other things, that I've seen yet.
Herman Slater (ed.), _A_Book_of_Pagan_Rituals_. (York Beach, ME: Samuel
Weiser, 1978). Paperback, $8.95
This is the complete Book of Shadows of a Neopagan tradition called
The Pagan Way. It includes complete, very well-written rituals for all
eight of the High Holidays (both solo and group ritual), plus a mixed
bag of rituals for healing, trance work, and so forth. Requires some
basic knowledge of the Craft and its symbolism, so its not for begin-
ners, but it is definitely useful to any worthwhile fully-initiated
Ellen Cannon Reed, _The_Witches'_Qabala_. (St. Paul: Llewellyn
Publications, 1985). Paperback, $7.95
So far, only Book 1, "The Goddess and the Tree" has been published,
but it's already the best book on the Qabala that I've seen yet, and
the only one I would recommend to a new Neopagan Witch. The Qabala and
its commentary to date contain a lot of sexist material, reflecting
their Judeao-Christian origins. Ellen Reed strips all of that away,
but in a way that is truer to the Qabala's origins and meaning than was
the offensive material. Where she changes the traditional attribu-
tions, she documents it, and includes the traditional ones as well.
This book is almost a "must-read."
Jack Schwarz, _Voluntary_Controls_. (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1978).
Jack Schwarz is NOT a witch, but don't let that stop you from
profiting from the single clearest, most practical book on kundalini-
style meditation that has been published in the West. If you are
having trouble meditating, or wish to do serious trance work, turn to
this book first.
Camden Benares, _ZEN_Without_Zen_Masters_. (Phoenix: Falcon Press, 1977).
Out of print for almost 7 years, I am VERY happy to be able to
recommend it again. This book is, among other things, proof that there
is more to the Discordian branch of Neopaganism than just practical
jokes. It is also the best practical book on Zen for the western world
that I have seen yet. All of the best zen koans, including these, are
also humorous (and therefore memorable). The book also includes MANY
valuable exercises. As Robert Anton Wilson (see below) says in the
Commentary at the beginning, "If you don't laugh at all, you've missed
the point. If you only laugh, you've missed your chance for Illumina-
Robert Anton Wilson, _Cosmic_Trigger:_The_Final_Secret_of_the_Illuminati_.
(New York: Pocket Books, 1977). Paperback, $3.95
In this autobiographical work, Wilson details his initiation into
and experience with almost every form of shamanic magick that is still
practiced today, and draws some very surprising conclusions. Strongest
point: this is a fantastic synthesis of magick, psychology, and
physics. Weakest point: its central theme--that all of the great
mystical societies and movements in history have been in contact with
aliens from Sirius--is not taken seriously by Wilson (no matter how
serious he seem sin this book), and should not be taken seriously by