of the current and earlier editions of

Bonewitss Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca

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The following are comments about and reviews of Witchcraft: A Concise History, First & Second Editions, as well as of Witchcraft: A Concise Guide,Third Edition and the current (fourth) edition, Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca, (Citadel Press, February 2006).

I highly, highly recommend this as a basic history of the neopagan subculture, to include debunking the fallacies about how Wicca is 10,000 years old, and bringing up some interesting information about the early years of the community in the Gardner and Valiente era. It’s also exceptionally valuable for his definitions of various terms, as well as the appendix on the etymology of the word “witch.” There’s also the basic structure of Wiccan ritual as well as a chapter on the variations thereof.

I was pleased to see the variety of resources he used, including the underappreciated Crafting the Art of Magic by Aidan Kelly, as well as a decent list of recommended reading on a variety of related topics. ... I absolutely love his sense of humour! Puns, poetry, and the occasional sideways jab all make the read even better.

Lupa, WA

Author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone
5 Stars on

Finally! A well researched, serious (but still fun), accurate and fascinating book on witchraft and Wicca. This should be required reading by all involved in The Craft. Nice writing style; I just flew through this book. I'm glad to have found a book on these subjects that actually contains thought provoking ideas and actual facts.

Piano Girl, WI
5 Stars on

It has all of the clarity, energy, wit and erudition to which I am accustomed in the rest of his work, and I am sure that it will now take its place in the canon of essential reading for American Pagans… The sections on the USA itself augmented my knowledge of the history of modern Witchcraft there in the most delightful of fashions.

Prof. Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol
Author, Triumph of the Moon,
Pagan Religions in the Ancient British Isles

This weekend, Pagan community scholar (yes, we do have a few) and “Super Druid” Isaac Bonewits released an amazing new eBook… This is clearly some of the best work we’ve seen in years and we are honored to call Isaac “one of our own.”

Fritz Jung, The Witches’ Voice

In the extensive literature on the history of Witchcraft, this excellent book fills a great need. It is written by a well-informed insider without the bias of establishment/conventional thinking. We both thoroughly enjoyed Isaac’s treatment of history that spans the many centuries of suppression and the killing of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of scapegoats. Whatever your spiritual path, if you want to know the truth about the Burning Times and are interested in this new spirituality, this book is for you. Witches and Wiccans: Whatever branch of the Craft you espouse, this book and its overview will put that branch into perspective with the history of the movement. The book should become your bible. Without it you will be less well equipped in your search for Truth.

Gavin and Yvonne Frost
Authors, A Good Witch's Bible,
multiple other titles
5 Stars on

Mr. Bonewits has been a Pagan, Druid and Witch for longer than most current Witches have been out of diapers! He received the first accredited degree in magic in 1970 (from Berkeley, of course). He has founded Pagan organizations, written the seminal work Real Magic, and spoken to thousands upon thousands of Pagans and Witches. Few can claim to be more qualified to speak on this subject.

This book is well-researched, accurate and unromanticized. Too much “history” of Witchcraft is more wishful thinking than scholarship. Bonewits knows that Wicca doesn’t need pseudo-scholarship to artificially promote it — the real thing is good enough.

Many of the opinions here will be controversial, but that only adds to their value.

Dehlia, NY
4 Stars on

Thank you Isaac — this book is long overdue.

Mr. Bonewits, in a clear, concise and interesting manner has succeeded in providing members of the Neopagan community a much needed resource. Myths, rumours and lies are exploded on each and every page. He has takes a morass of information, historical data and misinformation; boiled it up in his cauldron and separated the fact from the fiction.

To those of us who don’t believe a vast lineage or historical background validates us — this book is a god/dess send!! To those new to Neopaganism, Witchcraft and all the paths in between — this book should be the only place you start.

Kerin, Montreal, QC, Canada
4 Stars on

It has been many years since a concise understanding of the history and psychology of witchcraft was understood. In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever seen one that actually permeates the membrane, even within the Neo-Pagan community, of what this is all about, until now. Bonewits has portrayed very vividly the evolution and the idea of the “witch.”

Isaac Bonewits is a true Iconoclast, and a Heretic of Heretics. This is a Good Thing.

He challenges the New-Age Witch and the Satanist and the Shamanist, which is good when one gets down to what we really are. When one is in the “community” it is often hard to get a hard grasp on the concept, but Isaac Bonewits, from his knowledge and fortunately through a good sense of humour, clarifies a lot of things about witchcraft that many wouldn’t understand unless they read his book. His book is not only important to the casual explorer in spirituality but is also important for those who think they understand NeoPaganism, and still have many questions about the origins and the meanings of what a “witch” or a “neoPagan” is all about. I highly recommend this book not only to the Pagan Clergy but to any Clergy who wish to have a good source as to what Paganism is all about, as well as to anyone who wishes to have a source in their spiritual repertoire about the nature of (Neo)Paganism.

Joy Williams, Scotts Valley, CA
5 Stars on

As a practicing Witch for better than 30 years and a “Wiccan elder,” I highly recommend this book for a good and truly concise history of Wicca. In typical Bonewits fashion he is short on neither humour nor opinion as he takes us on a succinct tour of our roots. His research is impeccable and littered liberally with personal experience from one who was an integral part of the Neo-Pagan beginning. If Mr. Bonewits gives us nothing else he has verbalized one truth in one clear and simple statement as only he can:

“The deities Witches worship are ancient, no matter how new our religion or our insights about Them might be.”

If I can find any fault with a Concise History, it is perhaps that it is too concise and left me wanting more. Fortunately the extensive bibliography affords me the opportunity to research as far as I choose. Witchcraft: A Concise History will be required reading for any class I teach on the subject. Although the e-book text was surprisingly easy to read, I personally can’t wait until it comes out as a paperback so I can add it to my real world library… but don’t wait.

Zyalia the Crone
5 Stars on

Isaac Bonewits is one of my favorite authors. Till now, most of the material I have seen by him has all been good. He has written things like “The Real Origins of Halloween” and “Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame” that so many of us know.

What many aren’t familiar with is that Isaac is also a published author. In this ebook, he goes back to that which he does best.

His writing style is an interesting one. He presents all the material that he is writing about in a logical order, pared down to its basics that the layman needs to be able to follow the train of thought within the concepts he presents. He writes with good humor, and a straight forward, no holds barred style that leaves the reader wishing there was more to read.

Comparatively speaking, this ebook is a small one. The actual information presented is covered in about 100 pages, and each page is about the size of a Reader’s Digest or TV Guide page. Because of that, this book is a fast read. I read it over the course of a busy day at my office.

Officially, the book is approximately 200 pages long, but half of that is the Appendixes to the material he presents. All of those appendixes are necessary to the book, however, to present definitions and thoughts that are integral parts of the concepts laid out here.

Isaac is an extremely good scholar and researcher, and the Pagan Community is lucky to have him as a member. His thoughts on what happened back in pre-history and in the Burning Times are good and accurate accounts of what we now know. He must read all the anthropological and archeological texts that come out with “new” discoveries.

It could be that all the information in here could overwhelm the average reader, but in this case it does not. He gives enough information so that the reader can follow along with the chain of events that brought us to this place we are at now. He lays it all out, and lets the reader, for the most part, draw their own conclusions.

He also goes a long way to vindicate many other authors (including himself) in their assertations that Wicca is not some kind of holdover from the Stone Age. He makes it plain in the book that Wicca is entirely created, and he goes a long way toward debunking many of the commonly held beliefs in “Ancient Wicca” that many in the NeoPagan movement have.

That’s not to say that there are not flaws. The opinions he does state emphatically on are pronounced with the finality of Physical Laws. In most cases this is not a problem, and they tend to coincide with what we do know about the Meso- and Paleopagans. However, the statements that make it appear that Isaac has a time machine at his disposal in how the Paleo- and Mesopagans worshiped do leave the reader going “how does he know?"

He also takes a moment to vindicate himself for many years of being a pariah in the NeoPagan community for some talk he gave at a Witchmeet held in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1973. From the eBook:

“Third, I gave a speech titled “The Witch Cult — Fact or Fancy?” based upon an earlier article by myself in Tournaments Illuminated, the journal of the medievalist Society for Creative Anachronism, under the title “Where Hast Thou Been Sister?” It dealt with much of the materials mentioned in this study and came to very similar conclusions about what I rudely referred to as Murray’s “Unitarian Universalist White Witch Cult of Western Theosophical Brittany” and Gardner’s supposed revival of it.”

Basically he goes on to say that the conclusions he gave in this talk, and that he has believed for a long time, are again presented in this eBook. Now, however, they are “sexy and popular” so they are more acceptable to the general populace now than they were in 1973. I believe that this is not bad, since by his own admission he became somewhat of an outcast in the community for years for his statements.

However, all of that aside, I found I could not put this book away. I continued to read it until I had read every word, then I took a copy of it home so that I could study it in depth. This is one of the required texts for anyone seeking an understanding in Wicca, NeoPaganism, the History of Religion, History in general, or any other facet of these studies. I believe this book will do what Ms. Moura’s text failed to do, lay out the history of religion, specifically the Wiccan Religion, in plain terms that even someone with no familiarity with Wicca or NeoPaganism will understand.

Excellent job, Isaac.

Daven, Nashville, TN
5 Stars on

Witchcraft: A Concise Guide

I’ve never read anything of Isaac’s that wasn’t entertaining, intelligent, and informative, and this book is no exception. Once again, Bonewits has written a cIassic that should be required reading for anyone seeking a one-book introduction to Wicca.

In a scant 125 pages (plus several appendices) Bonewits covers the history, beliefs, and practice of Wicca in an easy-to-read format that nonetheless is not dumbed down. The appendices cover Wiccan resources and terminology, as well as several important pieces of Wiccan history. Even better, the author tells you where to go for more information.

I only had one question about this book. While I appreciate and share Bonewits’ love and admiration for the groundbreaking work of British witchcraft historian Ronald Hutton, I’m not sure why he chose to include Ashleen O’Gaia’s essay about Hutton’s work. The essay is a great piece of work; I just don’t know why it’s included here; perhaps Isaac just thought it was cool. (Which it is.) This is one of the top-10 introductions to Wicca. Don’t miss it.

Dagonet Dewr, newWitch Magazine
Rating: 5 Broomsticks

[And yes, Isaac thought the essay by Ashleen was cool.]

No, they haven’t all been good reviews! There have been some nasty ones, falling into three categories: (1) Those that leapt upon the typos in the First Edition. (2) Those that objected to Isaac’s lack of euphemistic vocabulary when discussing Christian crimes against members of competing belief systems; they considered him terribly biased for not whitewashing history to suit them. (3) Those who were outraged that he won’t believe their unverified and unverifiable claims about supposed Family Traditions of Witchcraft or unspecified  “sacred oral traditions of the Craft;” there is no solution for them, other than knowing they will eventually go away…

Copyright © 2001-2006 c.e., by the writers. If you would like to be on one or more of Isaac Bonewits’ emailing lists, click here to get subscription information.

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