Friday 25 September 2009

Review: Forbidden Rites - Introduction to Witchcraft

I've just read the new book Forbidden Rites by Jeanette Ellis. It took me a couple of weeks to finish it because it is a lengthy tome. It needed to be, to do justice to its sub-title - Your Complete Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft.

This ambitious work attempts to cover pretty much everything a witch needs to know, including details about gods and goddesses; festivals associated with the seasons; rituals; the magic of gems and metals; herb and plant lore; how to make incense; the meanings of symbols found on charms, amulets and talismans; spellcasting; and how to work with animal spirits and familiars.

To my mind the best sections are those covering minerals, gems, metal, jewellery and amulets. Perhaps this isn't surprising, considering that author Jeanette Ellis trained as a jewellery designer and is behind the business Cadacieus Pagan Jewellery.

Jeanette also has 20 years' experience of running pagan events and open rituals. This includes the Halloween Bash, which has taken place in London at Samhain annually for the past 14 years and is organised through Pagan Festivals.

Jeanette describes the system of witchcraft in Forbidden Rites as not being Wiccan. She calls it "traditional witchcraft" and explains it as being a path she was taught in Ireland. The rituals, seasonal festivals, lore and spells that Jeanette describes in her book all come from this source and from her own experience and study.

The rituals and ways of working are slightly different from those Gardnarian or Alexandrian Wiccans will be familiar with, but not dramatically so. Circles are still cast, the elements called, the God and Goddess invoked, and cakes and wine consumed. It seems a good, simple system and could be ideal for anyone specifically looking for non-Wiccan rituals.

For those wanting to train to be witches, the book includes some lovely practical exercises such as meditations to learn about the elements and to meet one's personal deity as well as clear instructions on how a witchcraft circle works. The final chapter is on self-initiation. This means that having worked through the exercises within the book you can undergo your own ritual to dedicate yourself to the God and Goddess and earn the title of witch.

The big question I feel I have to ask myself is, would I recommend Forbidden Rites to anyone wanting to learn to be a witch alone, without the training and help of a coven or teacher?

The answer is, yes, I would, but with one proviso - read a few other books on witchcraft before deciding which tradition or system is right for you. These days there are many different traditions and many books about them. There are also many theories about the history of witchcraft and the way that magic works. Make sure that you are on a path that feels right for you before heading down it.

Overall, I feel Forbidden Rites is a good introduction to witchcraft. It is packed full of information and would also be a useful reference for experienced witches.

My only real complaint is that the book was poorly proof-read before going to print. It is full of spelling mistakes and minor errors that really should have been corrected to make the book seem truly professional. One mistake that made me giggle in particular was: "Since at least the eleventh century Diving has been one of the many practices of the local Witch." Now, I'm sure all witches enjoy a plunge into the local swimming pool, but I think Jeanette actually meant "divining".

Forbidden Rites: Your Complete Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft, published by O Books, is available through Amazon.


The Greenwich Phantom said...

Tee hee - maybe she mean "ducking" - though I can't imagine witches ever enjoying that activity...

No. I'm pretty sure she meant 'Dunking' - after all, who doesn't enjoy a nice HobNob with her cup of tea..?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, the reviews on Amazon UK are pretty negative. Just saw Jeanette on tv this morning and from your comments I might get this book. Blessed Be. Shreemm. ps liked your William Blake piece to.