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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: SABBATS: A Witch's Approach to Living the Old Ways by Edain McCoy

Sabbats: A Witch's Approach to
Living the Old Ways
by: Edain McCoy
I had been wanting for a while to read this book. I was excited when I found it for only $10 online. And I have to say that a great deal of the information in it was informative and different from what I had found in other, similar titles.  But I was disappointed to find the author had included some ideas or beliefs which do NOT tend to mesh with any Pagan or Wiccan belief system that I know of.  As always I tend to read these books with the idea of "What if this is the first book someone is reading" in mind.  IF you are someone who has already established your practice and, like me, were simply looking for ideas or history for forming new traditions or expanding your practice, I would highly recommend reading through this one!  But I caution those who are new to the Craft/Life to remember that not everything you read is going to be factual for your path.

For example, one point that was made early on, and then touched on again throughout the book, was the idea that No Magick is to be practiced on Sabbat Days/Nights.  This was an idea which I have NEVER come across.  So I turned to my Facebook page in an effort to get a wider view.  Over 50 people responded to my question and not a single one of them had ever heard of a belief or tradition against the practice of Magick on these days. In fact they all, like me, had always heard that the Sabbats were the perfect time for Magick.

Now, this may seem like a small thing, and to some degree, it is. But it makes me question the validity of other information within the book.  I do realize that different traditions hold different beliefs and practices, and I assume that whatever tradition the Author is a part of holds this "No Magick" rule.  The book though, presented this idea as if it were a "rule" or even as if it were some age old tradition - which it's not.  Because of this I wonder how many other ideas presented in this book are less than "factual" or possibly even less than historical.

Other issues I found were that the authors translation of terms tends to be based more on the "New Age" view of the world than on any real Linguistic study.  For example, the term "paganus" is listed as meaning "people of the earth" and the term "wcca" to mean "wise one."  I love Linguistics! And I have NEVER found meanings for these terms which are even close to what the author presents.

Those minor issues - and questions - aside however, the book was extremely helpful to me.  It was broken up Sabbat by Sabbat and presented a broad view of each filled with history, food, traditions and practices.  As I have studied these Sabbats for many years now, I will attest that for the most part, the information presented here matches that which I know to be true, and those points which I disagreed with were not necessarily wrong, instead they were simply from a different tradition than I follow.  It also presented me with a great deal more information than I had prior, which was, of course, the point.

Following the individual Sabbat chapters was a second "Part" to the book which consisted of Sabbat Rituals.  My ONLY issue with the Rituals was that they were written and created for a coven or group, rather than an individual.  The entire books was written in a way which is meant to speak to the individual reader. While it's understood that this reader MAY belong to a group, it's not generally written for a coven/group. Even the recipes which are provided are not generally written for quantities above the average family.  These rituals could be, as the author suggests, personalized very quickly, and this could include turning them in to familial or solitary rituals.  However, I feel if you are writing a book with the idea of an individual or a family using it to build their own practice or traditions, you should include rituals which match with that theme.

The final "Part" of the book is a glossary where numerous terms are presented along with their definition.  I did not go through this part of the book and read each definition for correctness, so I will not comment on that aspect.  And for a "starter" book, I like the idea of having a section meant purely to describe terms the reader may not be familiar with.  I do, however, question whether or not definitions in this book would be factual simply based on the issues I talked about before.  If definitions within the text itself were unreliable, I would hesitate to expect that those listed within the "glossary" would be any better.

Over all I would give this book a 4 out of 5 stars. If you are looking for a good title to give you some ideas on building your families (or your own) traditions, or even if you're looking for ideas for a coven celebration, this book is wonderful.  But keep in mind that it's not 100% factual and if you're looking for traditions or practices which are based solely on historical evidence, that you will need to do further study or research on just about anything you find in order to do so.  That said, if you are simply looking for ideas which you can use or which may tie in to your existing Sabbat celebrations, this book is a great way to find some.

Obviously if you were to compare the information written here with that in individual Sabbat books, you will find that this is greatly lacking. However, keep in mind that it would be impossible for a single book to hold as much information and detail as 8 individual books would. So expect to find more of an "overview" of each Sabbat presented here rather than an in-depth exploration of each one.  It's a good starting point though, especially if you're new to such celebrations.


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