Posted by: Nyxks | September 1, 2007

Not in Kansas Anymore

Not in Kansas Anymore
by Christine Wicker © 2005
Harper SanFrancisco
ISBN 0-06-072-678
275 pages
Hardcover
$24.95 (U.S.) $32.95 (Canada)
reviewed by: Mike Gleason

Christine Wicker is not a Witch. Nor is she a fanatic of any stripe. What she is, is a reporter. She is honest enough to be fair in her reporting. She lets the reader know early on that she wasn’t completely how to take the claims of some of those she spoke with. And, although she falls victim to some of the hyperbole (I still don’t believe that Witches comprise 10% of the population of Salem, Massachusetts, and I live just over the bridge in Beverly), her style of writing is compelling.

Ms. Wicker (how perfect is that name? It sounds so much like “Wicca” as pronounced by a lot of folks I have heard) comes across as the sort of person you would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee (or herbal tea, if that is your personal leaning) with and discussing whatever came up. She is, obviously, a good listener and a good story-teller. She empathizes with the subjects of her reporting and offers them a chance to put for their ideas, not her perception of their ideas. She explores the history of magical thought worldwide in general, and most particularly in the U.S. She shows, surprisingly to many of her readers, I am sure, that such thought has a long continuing existence and never really fell out of use – out of favor, certainly, but never out of use.

Her accounts of activities and thought processes of individuals in Salem are consistent with my own experiences there, so I can hazard a guess that her accounts of other people and places were similarly accurate. Her approach to the topic was exemplary from a reporting standard. Even when she disagreed with an explanation, even when she was sure she knew “the truth,” she let her subjects explain themselves and their actions without disagreeing with them. That is good reporting. It is also common courtesy, which is often in short supply in today’s society, both magickal and mundane.

She is clear about her attitudes towards Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner (she doesn’t much like either man’s attitudes), but at least she is up front about that being HER opinion. Her perceptions regarding Drawing Down the Moon as a ceremony indicate that she has been misled, in my opinion, but once again she makes it clear that her version is not the only version..

I hate to tell Ms. Wicker this, but a coming of age ceremony shouldn’t prominently feature godparents. I suspect that Shawn Poirer was indulging in a bit of leg-pulling. I would be willing to bet that any “private” rituals or ceremonies she attended were simply put together chances to show off and nothing more.

In many of my reviews I comment that books deserve to be in the bookcase of any Pagan or Witch. I’ll take that remark a step further in this review and say that this book not only deserves to be in those bookcases but, if you can afford an extra copy, it should go to every public library, every college and university library, and to anyone you know who could benefit from having their intellectual horizon broadened.

Her perceptions on magick’s causes, effects, and perceived causes and effects may very well open a few minds. Her comparison of the mind sets of lawyers, doctors, journalists, and magick users certainly opened my mind to things that, like many, I knew on some level, but was unaware that I knew. You’ll find that particular revelation in chapter 12. But don’t turn directly there. Read the book and prepare yourself slowly. It’s more rewarding that way.

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