The question I am asked most often is, "What books do you recommend for a beginner Witch, or to give my practice a boost?". My gut response is all of them, but of course we are all limited by time and money to varying degrees. Those who asked me this question twenty years ago received a shortlist of high-quality books but, as the community has grown there are many new titles that are more relevant to the current age, and more developed than some of those old favorites.
Still, there are a few books that stand the test of time, and that anyone serious in their studies (at any level of experience) should consider reading. This is especially true if you aspire to share your path with others at some point, taking on the role of teacher or clergy. I've been composing a blog post/rant about teaching that relates to this, but more on that in a different post.
So I've created four lists for you here. Gotta love a list! If you are a visual learner or prefer to just see a snapshot of all of this, check out the lovely flow chart I created for you here. The full-size, high-quality printable version with active links to websites is here.
The first is a good list of books to get you started or to put the fire under your cauldron again. If you got into Wicca a while back but it wasn't right for you and are now looking for something else, or maybe you already know about Wicca and/or Witchcraft and are looking for something more advanced, more in-depth, more powerful. Check this list again. The Craft is constantly changing, and so are you. Sometimes the basics can be transformative when you re-visit them with "new eyes".
The second list is for those getting more serious or considering teaching. These are essential reading to understand where Witchcraft and modern Wicca originated, where the modern Craft really started, where all the rituals, the rede, the invocations and blessings, the cakes and ale, the elements, watchtowers, the tools and trappings, the vernacular, everything. Why we use these components, who added them to our traditions, why they were incorporated, and why they remain in many traditions. Some of the titles are more academic, others are more spiritual, all are worth a gander. Wicca is a modern, syncretic, and evolutionary path that has roots in ancient times, but is created constantly. Our modern rituals have aspects in their DNA that were put there by well-intentioned and highly influential individuals (several of which are mentioned in the second list) in order to reconstruct missing pieces in our traditions and to create a cohesive spiritual practice.
The third book list is what I am currently reading. This list is obviously not as curated as the first two and is not necessarily a list of recommendations, nor can it be considered a review of any particular title - That comes long after I've read, practiced, and processed the book. When I say "currently reading" I mean that I am living the book. Full immersion. I read and practice at the same time as I believe this is the only way to honestly asses how something works for me. I'm not saying that this is the right way, or even a good or safe way to go about things but it is my personal mode of operation to find that which holds personal validity. This list is here only as an indicator of carefully selected titles that look good enough so far to motivate me to part with some dollars and some considerable time. I'd love to hear your input on any of the titles if you pick one up.
The fourth list contains a few fiction books that have been influential to the modern Witchcraft movement. Often this influence takes the form of drawing interest to real (rather than fictional) magic and witchcraft. This fiction list also contains some titles that reveal many aspects of magic that aren't covered by more academic or linear non-fiction books. Specifically, some of the titles have magical concepts that are based in traditional magical lore but are explored in-depth through fictional stories (especially those by Jim Butcher).
Some of the authors I mention have numerous books. It is a difficult choice to select just one or two titles to recommend so I've tried to select the titles by each author that are most influential - but please do look around at their other works.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of book titles, please always keep in mind that no one person has all the answers, but that every person knows something you do not. Keep your critical thinking cap on along with your playful, spiritual, pointy hat.
List 1: Beginning Wicca or Witchcraft, or Re-Booting Your Craft
- Wicca for Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy & Practice by Thea Sabin
- Traditional Wicca: A Seeker's Guide by Thorn Mooney
- Witch Crafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic by Phyllis Curott is another title not to be missed. Curott shares a treasure of personal insight into the Craft. I loved this book the moment I picked it up, but when I got to page 331 in the resources, I was floored to see the academy I founded (PaganPath.com) recommended! Thank you!
- The Practical Witch's Almanac by Friday Gladheart - sure I'm going to be biased with this recommendation, but it is designed specifically to help you on your path, no matter what path you've chosen. It is an almanac that is published every year with articles, projects, recipes, history, study guides, and trivia - alongside the necessary Sabbat, Esbat, astronomical and astrological data required by practitioners.
- Witchcraft on a Shoestring: Practicing the Craft Without Breaking Your Budget by Deborah Blake - and yes, PaganPath.com is mentioned on page 18, but that didn't influence my recommendation here, it's just a great book as are others by Blake.
Beginners to Elders might also enjoy some of the offerings at the PaganPath Academy, which is like having dozens of books at your fingertips, plus an instructor you can go to with questions.
List 2: Getting Serious or Considering Teaching Wicca or Witchcraft
- The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess by Starhawk - because it helped so many people embrace the feminine divine and express that in their spiritual practice. If you like this book there are other titles you may really enjoy such as: Positive Magic: Occult Self-Help by Marion Weinstein (more recent versions under a slightly different titles such as Positive Magic: A Toolkit for the Modern Witch by Marion Weinstein and Judika Illes), and Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows also by Marion Weinstein, The Grandmother of Time: A Woman's Book of Celebrations, Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year by Zsuzsanna E. Budapest and The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting and Other Womanly Arts also by Z. Budapest
- The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton - because history and origins matter, get the real story instead of false romantic history. Sure, we all love the stories of how we descended from an unbroken line of old wise women who were persecuted by religiopolitical forces and had to go underground. Of course, we continued our rituals in secret, under the full moon, and passed our traditions down through the generations in an oral tradition, as writings could be discovered and used to persecute us. (Let's not think about how literacy was rare in the first place, or how warped things get when playing the telephone game1). It is a romantic and magical story, but it is time to face the truth of the modern Witchcraft movement. If you like Triumph of the Moon, you'll love Transformative Witchcraft: The Greater Mysteries by Jason Mankey. Mankey has such agility and skill in his writing that he maintains scholarly discipline while keeping the magic and mystery in the Craft.
- Turn of the Century Classics: Solitary Wicca by Scott Cunningham - because it helped thousands of new Wiccans in the 90s go from theory to actual practice, and of course you are going to have to read Silver Ravenwolf's To Ride a Silver Broomstick for similar reasons, and because she remains a potent influence in modern practice. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland continues to be a popular book and has influenced generations of modern Witches.
- A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook by Stewart Farrar and Janet Farrar This is actually two books in one and is a good compilation of Alexandrian Wicca from other titles such as Eight Sabbats for Witches, What Witches Do, and The Witches' Way. If this interests you, then no discussion of Traditional Witchcraft is complete without a dedicated look at Doreen Valiente's books, especially The Rebirth of Witchcraft, Witchcraft for Tomorrow and Natural Magic. And of course, Gerald Gardner's works such as The Meaning of Witchcraft and Witchcraft Today. If you are drawn to traditional practice, you're going to love Thorn Mooney! Her book Traditional Wicca: A Seeker's Guide is quickly becoming one of my most recommended titles. Yes, I just mentioned an upcoming author among the ranks of the OGs and greats. Mooney is one to keep an eye on.2
- And a couple of authors that influenced me greatly, helping me create rituals for a more cohesive practice: Magical Rites from the Crystal Well by Ed Fitch and A Book of Pagan Rituals by Herman Slater.
- Now while all the "occultists" and white-male privilege publishers were flooding the market in the 60s and 70s with titles mostly written by men, there was one woman who too often is overlooked. The book clubs and housewives weren't reading Gardner or Buckland, they had the latest book of the month club selection by Sibyl Leek. Her Diary of a Witch was a massive influence on many of the groundbreakers in Wicca of the 90s - and yet an influence rarely acknowledged. If you ever come across Diary of a Witch, grab it for an interesting read. Because it really was a book of the month club selection, you'll find it quite affordable used.
List 3: What I'm Reading
As mentioned above, "currently reading" means a lot more to me, it involves serious practice and application. Not all of these titles are new to the shelves, but they are currently undergoing in-depth experience and assessment.
- Transformative Witchcraft: The Greater Mysteries by Jason Mankey
- Besom, Stang & Sword: A Guide to Traditional Witchcraft, the Six-Fold Path & the Hidden Landscape by Christopher Orapello and Tara-Love Maguire
- Psychic Witch by Mat Auryn
- Traditional Wicca: A Seeker's Guide by Thorn Mooney
- Jailbreaking the Goddess: A Radical Revisioning of Feminist Spirituality by Lasara Firefox Allen
- The Door to Witchcraft: A New Witch's Guide to History, Traditions, and Modern-Day Spells by Tonya A. Brown
- Wortcunning by Nigel G. Pearson
List 4: Fiction Books for Witches
- Wise Child by Monica Furlong - and if you like it, try others by Furlong such as Juniper and Coleman.
- The Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher - well over a dozen books in the series, the first half dozen follow much of traditional magic lore in concept, all are wonderful reads. The unabridged audiobooks are read by James Marsters! (Spike from the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) Who can turn that down???
- Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling - of course
- Cat Magic by Whitley Strieber and Jonathan Barry
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1. The Telephone Game is also called Chinese Whispers. People form a circle or a line and one person whispers a message to the person next to them. This person then passes the message on to the person next to them by whispering in their ear, and this continues until the last person says the message aloud. The audible message is often far different than the original whisper.
2. Thorn Mooney now writes an interesting blog on Pantheos, and if you are a beginner take a look at her post How to Be a Better Beginner.