Tonight, we’ll take a look at “The Wiccan Mysteries” by Raven Grimassi, published by Llewellyn.


There are some things that you can love and hate at the same time. I love having a car – I don’t like what it does to the environment, or to my pocketbook. I love pizza, but not what it can do to my waist-line.


Likewise, the Wiccan Mysteries has elements that I truly like, but some aspects that sort of drive me nuts. So, let’s first take a look at what “The Wiccan Mysteries” is.


I think that most of us remember that Wicca was invented or founded by Gerald Gardner in the 1950’s. Gardner was a student of the occult, a member of a Rosicrucian order,  The OTO – Ordo Templi Orientis, and an associate of Aleister Crowley and Doreen Valiente, among others.


Despite the claims of having been initiated into an ancient hidden tradition of witches by Dorothy Clutterbuck, and the seeming novelty of Wicca, It’s pretty much accepted that Wicca is a creation of Gardner, based on legend, but formed of the stuff of the European Occult or Mystery traditions.


What Grimassi has done in “The Wiccan Mysteries” is to take the student much more deeply into the occult traditions and symbolism that comprise Wicca than many other writers and texts have done.


Where many Wiccan authors tread lightly when it comes to ceremonial magick, Grimassi steps forward with the confident assurance of one who has been there before.


Where many Wiccans seem a bit uncomfortable with the word “evoke” as a command, and prefer the request implied by the word “invoke”, Grimassi seems very comfortable in the robes of the consummate magician.


From the watchers and their towers to the power in the circle and the symbolism of Chalice and Blade, Grimassi leaves us with a firm grasp of mystery and symbolism.


If all this sounds like I’m impressed with what I read, and learned from a single volume, I am.


So then, what is it that could possibly detract from this experience?


First, let me say that I’m not a historian. I’m not an archaeologist. I don’t know how the pre-Christian Celts lived or worshipped or what they believed. Truth be told though, they left no written records. What we do know of them comes from Roman Christians – monks and priests, whose job it was to Christianize the Celts.


Grimassi does spend a fair amount of time trying to show that What the early Celts practiced was Wicca. He often speaks of ancient Wicca.


I think that to a person new to Paganism, the excellent work on the Mysteries and Occult tradition, coupled with the dubious or spurious claims about “ancient Wicca” could leave a student at best confused, or worse. An old Appalachian Proverb  states “It’s not what you don’t know that makes you look the fool; It’s what you do know that ain’t so.”


Wicca simply isn’t a re-construction of the Old religion. That would be the work of modern Druids.


Wicca IS a beautiful new religion that embraces what it learns of the old religion, but which also mingles it with more modern occultism, and ancient mystery teachings from other cultures.


So, how would I rate this book? The writing is great – the vocabulary quite appropriate to the subject and the audience. It’s easy for a reasonably educated person to read without being at all patronizing. It has an extensive bibliography of which many of the volumes should grace any well-read Neo-Pagan’s bookshelves.


Personally, I’m glad to own a copy of “The Wiccan Mysteries”. However, I wouldn’t recommend it as a beginner’s text. Rather, I would recommend it to a student who has already a firm grasp of the history of Wicca and use the text to understand the occult underpinnings of the New Religion.


© 2008, Deirdre Hebert