I wish I had read The Real Witches' Handbook: A Complete Introduction to the Craftwhen I was first starting out as a witch.
This book, by Kate West, is an introduction to the craft. It covers the beliefs of modern witches as well as giving practical descriptions of rituals, spells, herb lore and celebrations to mark the Wheel of the Year. Everything is explained in simple terms, yet it still covers all the essentials of witchcraft.
The Real Witches' Handbookis intended for solitary witches, working on their own without the help of a coven. The rituals in most Wiccan's Books of Shadows - and many published books of rituals - are written for groups to perform and assume different people will say and do different things. They also often involve singing, dancing, saying stuff out loud while holding a variety of implements at the same time. Trying to play all those parts on your own is difficult - unless you have as many arms as Kali. And, unless you don't mind conducting two parts of a dialogue on your own, you can also end up feeling a bit silly. This book manages to present Wiccan-style rituals in a form that are easy to do alone without embarrassment. That is no mean feat.
Teenagers who are interested in the craft often have a tough time finding a suitable teacher. Most covens will not train people under the age of 18 because they don't want to be accused of leading minors astray. This is perfectly understandable, but leaves young people who want to become witches feeling left out at a time of their lives when their patience may be short. This book is written with them in mind and includes chapters on how to explain your beliefs to your family and information on discrete ways of celebrating the seasons in a crowded household.
However, novice witches of any age would find it useful, as would those who have left a coven and want to work solitary but are unsure how to go it alone.
The Real Witches' Handbook was first published by Thorson's in 2001. This new edition has just been released by Llewellyn, meaning it is more widely available to a new generation entering the craft. I missed out on it the first time round but am delighted to add it to my bookshelf now.
The Real Witches' Handbook: A Complete Introduction to the Craftis available from Amazon.
The Real Witches' Handbook: A Complete Introduction to the Craft