Vivianne Crowley

London, 1997.

Those predicting silly remarks about science from a book like this will not be let down, as when Crowley says,

"Usually, any new leap in scientific thinking is ridiculed by the majority of scientists." (p.49)

Let's accentuate the positive, though.

"Wicca is a way of being, of life, of love, of joy, of laughter, of accepting that life can be painful and tough, while doing what we can to make it a better place for others and for ourselves." (p.152)

I find these sentiments very agreeable, but I'm suggesting here that Wiccan devotees' sense of humour is not being put to good use if they can't spot the bathos that brightens up the earnest whimsy of this little book.

For instance, the Wiccan urges that you "harmonize your life with the rhythms of Nature" (p.123), but then goes shopping instead:

"At some times of the year, mosquito repellent is an essential part of the Witches' wardrobe." (p.115)

It's also worth paying close attention to some hilarious euphemisms:

"In traditional astrology, our Earth's Moon was considered a planet and the outer planets were unknown. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto play little part therefore in traditional magic." (p.73)

But Crowley leaps to the defence of astrology with this tale:

"Once at a scientific conference, astrology was being mocked when a famous British businesswoman asked a panel of scientists, 'But how do you know when not to write a business letter if you don't know when Mercury is in retrograde?' There were howls of laughter from the scientists but they failed to notice an important fact: the businesswoman earned four times more than they did." (p.54)

Crowley fails to notice two important facts:

  1. people don't go into science to get rich, they go into business;
  2. the businesswoman talked four thousand times more nonsense than they did (approximately).

After that unfortunate cash-worshipping lapse on Crowley's part, we hurry on to loftier matters:

"Wicca believes in reincarnation; that after death we rest in the Otherworld and then incarnate again, until we have learned all that we need to know and experience on the Earthly plane." (p.86)

Only forty pages later, she reveals that this is quite unnecessary:

"The knowledge hidden within the collective unconscious is available to us all." (p.126)

This is probably just as well, as,

"Wicca does not teach reincarnation in exactly the same way as, say, Buddhism. It does not say that we evolve through different species. It tends to focus on reincarnation within the human family. This does not, of course, mean that other transformations and progressions are not possible."

Surely Crowley should stop this dithering and fence-sitting, since one consequence of being reincarnated through other species would seem to be that it could lead to sharing the collective unconscious of the dung beetle. Then again, perhaps that's what she and I are doing right now. Let's carry on:

"However, often our ancestors believed in reincarnation down the ancestral line. This made having children particularly important - they would be the vehicles for our own return." (p.86)

So that's why people have children!

Crowley also tells us what Sheldrake's concept of "morphic resonance" is, and what Jung's idea of the "collective unconscious" is, and then suddenly concludes, "It confirms telepathy." As if by magic.

Back to nature, to the profound Wiccan grasp of the workings of living things:

"Oak is a very 'earthy' tree. Wisdom is attributed to it because of its longevity [all very old people are wise, after all]. Oaks are amazingly prolific and represent the fecund aspect of the earth. The only reason the landscape is not totally covered with oak trees is that acorns are not very sensible about where they root themselves. Many are destroyed before they become established trees." (p.119)

Yes, acorns are notoriously dim like that. Give me elms any day.

Finally, the top prize of a cardboard wand goes to this beauty:

"Some American books will tell you to use green for money magic. This derives from the idea that American dollars are green and that by working with the colour green you will increase them. This may work in the US, but the magical logic is lacking elsewhere." (p.74)

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Paul Taylor 2002