Posted by: Nyxks | December 19, 2007

The Temple of High Witchcraft

The Temple of High Witchcraft
by Christopher Penczak © 2007
Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN 0-7387-1165-2
480 pages
Paperback
$19.95 (U.S.) $22.95 (Canada)
Reviewed by: Mike Gleason

Over the past several years I have read (and reviewed) a number of books by Christopher Penczak. I haven’t always agreed with him (we were trained in very different traditions), but agreement isn’t necessary. His approach has always been one of challenging perceptions. This latest book, the fourth in a series of five, continues that challenging approach.

Despite the seemingly prevalent attitude that ‘anything goes” in magick; that “spontaneous” ritual (is that an oxymoron?) is the best way to go; and that understanding the origins of symbols is unimportant. Chris shows the similarities and common bonds between ceremonial magick and witchcraft (or Wicca, as some members of the newer generation are prone to say).

This book is not intended to teach “traditional” anything. It deconstructs rituals to show the how and why of their workings and to enable the reader to tinker (knowledgeably) with them for personal use.

Many of Christopher’s statements will offend traditionalists on both sides of the Ceremonial/folk magic debate. Did Gerald Gardner invest modern Wicca? Possibly. Did he integrate aspects of Ceremonial Magic in his rituals? Absolutely. Does it make a difference? Who cares? He doesn’t worry about offending people. He lays his opinions and beliefs out on the line and lets the reader decide for himself about what to believe.

Throughout this book the author stresses the importance of traditional knowledge. This does NOT translate to an adherence to outmoded ways of thought and expression, however. It means that you need to understand the foundations of existing forms before you are able to tinker with them and fine-tune them for yourself. As an example, if you don’t understand the complexities of a god-form (say, Mercury) you cannot simply plug in another god-form (say, Eleggua) without some potentially major changes to the ritual you are attempting to do. You need to know why things are said and done in a ritual to be able to make predictable changes.

As with the previous volumes in this series (The Inner Temple of Witchcraft, The Outer Temple of Witchcraft, and The Shamanic Temple of Witchcraft) this is intended to be a practical book, studied and WORKED over the course of a year and a day. With its CD Companion set (available from Llewellyn for $24.95 U.S.) it expands upon the previous foundation laid down. While it is not strictly necessary to have read the previous volume, it builds upon work done in them. This is, after all, an educational series designed to provide a five year progression from novice to experienced practitioner.

The work Christopher lays out is not easy, nor is it intended to be. The reader has to be willing to commit time and energy; to practice on a regular basis; and to be honest while doing self-evaluations.

It isn’t necessary to agree with everything as written, but it is necessary to look at things with an open mind. If you do that, you will experience things most witches (especially those not trained in a BTW lineage) never experience. You will learn to deconstruct rituals from a variety of sources and to put them back together in a way which works for you.

The use of the CD Companion set with this volume would be a real benefit. Although Christopher provides phonetic pronunciations, nothing makes the words come alive like hearing them being intoned.

I will be posting a review of the CD set within the next week, so look to that review for more information on it.

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