In total contrast to my previous post on putting down your books, here is my recommended reading list for both the complete newbie and experienced witch. There are many many more I would list, but they are for supplemental reading. If one reads the classics recommended first, you will be reading all the influences of the founders of modern Witchcraft and therefore will understand them and their craft better. Read these words knowing Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Alex Sanders, Robert Cochrane, Victor Anderson, and others read them before you. Some may consider them out of date, but don’t listen to those people. You have to understand where we came from as Witches to understand where we are going.
All you need to know is that yes, Frazer was wrong in his thesis that pre-Christian Pagans were more savage and primitive than Christians and their worship revolved solely around the agricultural cycle – but that the lore he collected by chance in pursuing his theory is invaluable and may not have been documented otherwise; yes Graves was a misogynist and The White Goddess is filled with fakelore but he still made some great points about poetic myth, the gods, and syncretism (and loved shrooms); yes, you’ll need a dictionary to read The Secret Commonwealth, but it’s short and an important work to understand that the early modern fairy-faith was an ancestor cult; the rest you should enjoy and will turn all the lightbulbs on in your brain.
Let’s Begin with the Classics:
- Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches of Italy by Charles G. Leland, 1899
- The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, 1911
- The Golden Bough by James George Frazer, 1922
- The History of the Devil: The Horned God of the West by R. Lowe Thompson, 1929
- The Greater Key of Solomon edited by Samuel L. Macgregor Mathers, 1914
- The Secret Commonwealth: An Essay on the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and for the Most Part) Invisible People, Heretofore Going Under the Name of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies by Robert Kirk, 1691
- The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth by Robert Graves, 1966
The Modern Classics:
Now that you know their influences – read their works.
- The Complete Art of Witchcraft: Penetrating the Secrets of White Magic by Sybil Leek, 1971
- Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition by Cora Anderson
- High Magic’s Aid by Gerald Gardner, 1949
- Mastering Witchcraft: A Practical Guide for Witches, Warlocks & Covens by Paul Huson, 1971
- Natural Magic by Doreen Valiente
- Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente
- Witchcraft for Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente
- The Writings of Roy Bowers (Robert Cochrane)
Read Your Mythology:
Kerenyi and Eliade will blow your mind, Puhvel will make you pull out the dictionary again, and Dr. Davidson will be a refreshing breath of easily understandable air.
- Comparative Mythology by Jaan Puhvel
- Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes
- Gods of the Greeks by Karl Kerényi, 1974
- The Myth of Eternal Return by Mircea Eliade, 1954
- Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
Shamanism & Syncretism:
To understand just how far back our practices as magical practitioners and spirit workers go one must explore the connections between modern Witchcraft, early modern Witchcraft, pre-Christian Paganism, Shamanism, and pre-Shamanism.
- Cunning-Folk & Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic by Emma Wilby, 2006
- Singing With Blackbirds: The Survival of Primal Celtic Shamanism in Later Folk-Traditions by Stuart A. Harris Logan, 2006
- Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy by Mircea Eliade, 1951
- Shamans Sorcerers and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion by Brian Hayden, 2003
- The Way of Wyrd: Tales of an Anglo-Saxon Sorcerer by Brian Bates, 1984
- Witchcraft and the Shamanic Journey (aka North Star Road) by Kenneth Johnson, 1999
A list of books to get your hands dirty, your kitchen messy, and give you lots of hands-on experience. Mickaharic is my homeboy – anything by him is excellent, but the two listed are his best. He draws from the many cultures living in North America. Valerie Worth’s books are similar to his, but more witchy and less hoodoo. Reading her books is like reading the grimoire of your grandmother… if she was a poet-witch.
- A Century of Spells by Draja Mickaharic
- Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews by Scott Cunningham
- Crones Book of Words by Valerie Worth, 1971
- Crones Book of Charms & Spells by Valerie Worth, 2002
- Hoodoo, Herb and Root Magic by cat yronwode
- Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham
- Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Protection by Draja Mickaharic
The only non-magical books on herbalism you’ll ever need are The Herb Book and The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook. The magical herbalism books are a mixture of reference and learning how to work with the spirits of plants.
- Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
- The Herb Book by John Lust
- Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual by James Green
- Magical and Ritual Use of Aphrodisiacs by Richard Alan Miller, 1985
- Magical and Ritual Use of Herbs by Richard Alan Miller, 1983
- Pharmako Trilogy by Dale Pendell
- Plant Spirit Shamanism: Traditional Techniques for Healing the Soul by Ross Heaven & Howard G. Charing
- Witchcraft Medicine: Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants by Claudia Müller-Ebeling, Christian Rätsch, and Wolf-Dieter Storl, 2003
Many of the classics are available for free on Sacred Texts and Google Books — always check them first as well as your local public library before purchasing books. Read for free! The out-of-print books I’ve listed aren’t very rare and shouldn’t be difficult to find on the second-hand market. If you’re lazy just search Amazon. If you’re more determined try AbeBooks or FetchBook.