Posted by: Nyxks | September 24, 2007

Wicca Unveiled

Wicca Unveiled (The Complete Rituals of Modern Witchcraft)
by J. Philip Rhodes © 2000
Green Magic
ISBN 0953674-519
191 pages Includes Appendices and Suggested Reading
Paperback
$14.99 (U.S.)
Reviewed by: Mike Gleason

The subtitle of this book is just a bit pretentious (in my opinion). Had it included the word “Basic” in there, I certainly couldn’t object. And then the copywriter got into the act with (on the back cover) “The First Comprehensive Guide to Working the Rituals of Wiccan Magic…” Puh-leeze. Replace “The First” with “A” and, once again, I would have no objection, but as it stands…

Mr. Rhodes makes a few statements in the first chapter that make me question his sincerity. He says “Wiccans are classed as ‘white’ or good witches…” and follows it a few lines later with “Evil or “black witches” as they are sometimes called, differ greatly from Wiccans.” Sidestepping the entire “witches aren’t Wiccan’ debate (which I don’t agree with, by the way), I was taught (30+ years ago) that the whole white/black thing was non-existent. Those who work evil magick AREN’T witches.

In the Foreword (page 7) he says “The rituals of Wicca are not set in stone and they allow for the individual to build their own character into the rites.” He follows that up, on page 13, with “When a witch greets another of a different sex, the greeting is always given with a kiss.” (emphasis added) There are, in my experience, no such things as “always” or “never” in the Craft. He continually makes reference to things that “must” happen. While these instances may hold true for the groups he associates with, they are by no means universal truths.

I have never heard the white-handled knife called “the purist knife,” but that may be because I am not in Britain. I am BTW- trained (Alexandrian, specifically), however, and never ran across the term in my training.

Looking at the illustration of the altar on page 18 I am amazed to see that, among other things the “sword of power” (#14) looks suspiciously like a wine bottle and that the “white-handled knife” (#11) is most definitely a book. I would find it quite difficult to cut anything with that particular implement. Come on, now, let’s pay attention to the details.

I was not taught that coveners must “beat in the power” by “striking the disc (pentacle) with the flat of their hand.” And that this occurs before charging any item. Granted, I am Alexandrian but, once again, I never encountered this in my training.

Defining a spell as a “wish” as Mr. Rhodes does (on page 21) seems to me to be ridiculous. A spell takes a lot more energy than a wish. Perhaps he was trained in “wish-craft” instead of witchcraft.

Okay, enough already. Having stated that the “rituals are not set in stone…” he says (on page 29) “In order to work safely in the circle, the following procedures must be observed; failure to so will result in a forfeit – if not an accident.” A FORFEIT!!?? What is this, an athletic contest? I have never, ever heard of a ritual being forfeit. (Okay, I retract part of that rant. Later in the book he refers to forfeits for taking too much time to do certain things, etc. He is obviously referring to what we Americans call “penalties” (i.e., a mild “punishment” to drive home a point).

Granted that, in BTW circles, certain procedures are expected to be observed while, in eclectic circles, chaos may appear to reign; many of Mr. Rhodes’ statements are extreme. The quarter candles do not, necessarily, have to be squat candles set in bowls. I have frequently seen votive candles (which I will grant are squat) placed in votive candle holders (which most definitely are not bowls), as well as glass-encased candles (which are neither squat nor in a bowl) used in BTW circles.

The author places the working after the cakes and wine ceremony, which has followed the raising of power. So let me get this right – first you raise power, and ground it. Then you eat and drink which draws you more firmly into the material world. THEN you work magick?

Mr. Rhodes’ traditional training shows through at various points, most notably the statement (on page 47) that “…because of the chemistry that exists between a man and a woman, the power that they can raise is greater than that of a single person, or a group of one sex.” The gender equals polarity equation is part of that training.

The illustrations opening “Drawing Down the Moon” and “Drawing Down the Sun” have been swapped, which is another reason I say “Pay attention to the details.”

I must admit that I always have a problem with books of this sort. On the one hand they serve a valid purpose. But on the other hand there is that line in the Second Degree Initiation: “I do solemnly swear of my own free will
In the presence of the God and Goddess
That I shall never reveal the secrets of the craft to any
Save it be to a worthy person. Properly prepared,
In the centre of a magic circle such as I am in now.” (page 90)
It can be argued that the “secrets” can only be conveyed by experience – I know, I’ve used that argument myself periodically. But giving the full text of all the rituals to someone with no experience and no one to guide them, is questionable, in my opinion.

Once again, on page 169, I find myself questioning Mr. Rhodes’s training. He says” “The Priestess makes a supplication to the God of the Underworld for the safe passage of the coven and the absolution of their sins.” (emphasis added) I’m sorry – sins? As in breaking the commandments of the gods? Since when? If I wanted absolution of sins I’d go back to the Roman Catholic Church. I was under the impression (give to me by my initiators) that I was expected to take personal responsibility for my actions. I have never encountered the “absolution” concept from any Wiccan I’ve ever known.

Finally, we get to the appendices. The correspondences in Appendix A are a good start for anyone interested in investigating this aspect of magick. The incense recipes in Appendix B offer some intriguing ideas, although I am not so sure about the Saturn incense (it seems to have way too much asafetida for my taste). The Tables of Planetary Hours are poorly designed, again in my opinion. And they suffer from the common defect of not explaining how to determine the length of the “hours” which, except on Equinoxes, are never 60 minutes in length. For Planetary Magick such details are important.

For those initiated into British Traditional Wicca the information contained in this book is unnecessary. For an Eclectic initiate, it provides a look at how “the other half” works. For the non-initiate it may be fascinating, but ultimately of little use. My feelings are ambivalent, at best, about this book. It was not as good as I had hoped; nor was it as bad as I had feared.

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