Today on Facebook Christian Day shared with everyone a review on Amazon of his book “The Witches’ Book of the Dead” that, to be honest, just annoyed me. It essentially brought to light some of the things that have for many years bothered me about a portion of the Wiccan community. I say Wiccan and not Pagan because this is specifically a Wiccan issue it seems. I know it bothers people to hear the term “fluffy bunny” but I am one to call a spade a spade and that is the only way to describe this particular review and the reviewer’s apparent views on Wicca and Witchcraft. I can’t help but talk about it here and use it as a way to sort of explore this somewhat odd notion that “Wicca is supposed to be safe.”
Here is the review, in its entirety, from Amazon.
(NOTE: Since this has now come up multiple times, both here and on Facebook, let it be clear that the review listed below is a copy and paste from Amazon exactly as the reviewer wrote it, including the horrid spelling and syntax errors. Yes, it should be “altar” not “alter”, however I felt that it was not my place to clean up the individual’s post since it just adds to the ridiculousness of the situation…and it’s how they decided to let their thoughts be known publicly.)
Skulls are not needed to be a Witch!
by S. Day “Night time Maven”
I will say that there are moments in this book where I understand his direction. The chapter on “The Alter of the DEAD” I feel sets the wrong tone for Wicca. I went from loving the chapter on “Opening the Doorway” to deciding not to finish the book after “The Alter of the Dead”.
This new wave of Witchcraft and Skull really bothers me. I threw Jade Sol Luna’s book on Hecate in the trash after I saw his picture sitting in a yoga posture with a skull and now this book. You do NOT NEED A SKULL TO BE A WITCH! I feel this type of behavior expresses the wrong idea of the modern Witch. Being a Witch does not mean that you have to scare people. I have children for goddess sake.
Stick with the greats like Cunningham, Buckland and Farrar’s of the wiccan world and throw the Christian Daye’s, Jade Sol Luna’s and the Digitalis’s out. Wicca was meant to be a safe not a scary religion.
I’m going to start out with full disclosure by saying that I started reading Christian’s book back in October while traveling during my move back to the east coast but I hit a chapter that was a bit challenging for me (I have to be in the mood for history that part of chapter 7 just hung me up at the time). I ended up setting it aside but I’m planning to make it as one of my titles for this year’s Pagan Reading Challenge. However I will say that I did spend a little time flipping through the rest of the book and reading over the rituals and got the gist of the rest of the book. I have read the specific chapters that the reviewer mentioned here since they are the second and third chapters.
First of all, there’s the huge misunderstanding that in my experience seems to run rampant among some parts of the Wiccan community. Wicca and Witchcraft are not the same thing. It just isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Wiccan who likes to cast spells for <insert twinkling chime music> love and healing; you being Wiccan and practicing Witchcraft doesn’t make all Witchcraft Wiccan. So, just remember, not all Witches are Wiccan. But at the same time not all Wiccans are Witches since there are those in the Wiccan community that do not work magick and just work with the religious and spiritual side of Wicca. Wicca is first and foremost a religion where as Witchcraft is a magickal art, a craft, a practice.
This idea that all books on Witchcraft must somehow be written by an author with a Wiccan viewpoint is incredibly ignorant and shortsighted. I think one of the last things that anyone could ever mistake Christian with is a Wiccan. That just goes to show that the reviewer obviously knows nothing about the author of the book. And that’s OK, not everyone starts out knowing the personal views of an author before reading their book, but to assume that he is Wicca because he wrote a book on Witchcraft is, again, ignorant.
This new wave of Witchcraft and Skull really bothers me.
Again, this is something that I’ve heard before; well, not in these exact words, but with this sentiment toward Paganism that addresses the darker aspect of life. Once again the only word that I can think of that addresses this is ignorance. This is not a “new wave”. The use of the skull, whether an actual human (or animal) skull as like what Christian uses, or in a symbolic sense through skull candles, crystal skulls, or skull sculptures is nothing new in Witchcraft or even in some traditions of Wicca.
The skull is not something that should be feared as this reviewer seems to see it. In generations past the skull was seen as a symbol of wisdom, a door to someone’s spirit of the spirit world in general, and, as many modern day Pagans (and, yes) Wiccans have come to use it, a symbol of mortality, the fragility of life, and the cycles of death and rebirth. The skull is only as scary as we make it and to demonize it as something that somehow has to be feared is terrible.
It’s funny to me knowing that there are people in other cultures all over the world, like those in Mexico, that take the skull and skeleton and make them funny, lighthearted, and at times somewhat frivolous, in order to remove the fear and add reality to it. Let’s just face the hard and cold facts of life; one day this reviewer will be dead. One day, in a physical sense, they will be nothing more than the skull and bones that makes up their physical structure. Why is this something to be feared? The reviewer talks about having children and not wanting to scare them. If you don’t want your children to be afraid of a skull then work to make it not scary! Your children are going to take their cues on these kinds of things from you. Make it scary and they’ll be afraid; make it magickal and a symbol of power, and they’ll see it in this way.
Honestly, I think that if the reviewer couldn’t handle Jade Sol Luna or Raven Digitalis I don’t know why they would have thought they could handle Christian Day.
Then comes my favorite part of the review, the part that I admit made me giggle.
Wicca was meant to be a safe not a scary religion.
Here I just can’t say anything but BULLSHIT. The watered down and homogenized version of New Age Wicca that has emerged over the course of the last 20 years certainly is “safe”, but that is not the only kind of Wicca there is. In fact much of the Wicca that is out there today would be unrecognizable to many of the early creators of the Wiccan tradition. Wicca is meant to be a path of balance. Balancing light and dark, life and death,God and Goddess. Exploring the Underworld as well as the Upper World. Sometimes those things are not safe. You have to get our of your comfort zone to explore the Underworld and commune with the Crone Goddess and the Ancestors. It saddens me to see things like the Hag and Crone watered down to simply be seen as Grandmother figures rather than the sometimes fearsome death figures that they actually are just because some Wiccan’s find them scary and they make them uncomfortable.
In a conversation I once had with a fairly new Wiccan who asked me about my patron Goddess, The Morrighan, I was asked what kind of “mother” she was. When I explained the darker death aspect of her and her associations as a Goddess of war this person actually said to me that I was wrong and that she was taught that The Morrighan was a “dark moon mother” who was peaceful and introspective I almost snapped. Where are these things coming from? Why do so many Wiccans (and other Pagans, too…I’m not trying to be down on the Wiccans, really) feel the need to take anything dark and twist it into something completely different and make it lighter?
The world of the Witch, including the Wiccan Witch, is not a world of implicit safety. Working under the notion that Wicca is somehow supposed to be “safe” and that work like what Christian and other Witches who dare delve into the deeper and darker realms makes Wiccan “unsafe” is ridiculous.
Let me say something about this idea that the reviewer has about these things giving the wrong impression of the modern Witch. The modern Witch is not afraid to explore all facets of the Craft. The modern Witch is not afraid to step into uncomfortable territories to learn more about the world, their spirituality, and themselves. The modern Witch is willing to take the stigma of something like a skull, a stigma that the reviewer seems content to perpetuate, and defy people to rethink their ideas and change their view. The modern Witch isn’t afraid to step into the shadows for a time and then return into the light.
My impression is that this individual is not “modern Witch” and instead seems more like someone with a New Age mentality that has moved to Wicca because of a desire to have a Goddess rather than a God to honor. Obviously this person is welcome to their opinion and their beliefs; I’m not knocking them for their views. What I’m trying to get at is that these ideas of Wicca and Witchcraft being one and that work that focuses on the death part of the life cycle somehow makes Wicca scary and unsafe is a ridiculous trend that needs to be rethought and addressed. By closing ourselves off to this idea of working with the dead, by demonizing the symbol and power of the skull, by seeing things that are dark as scary and thus trying to suppress them, we run the risk of falling out of balance and losing a big part of our magickal and spiritual world.
Christian Day is not everyone’s cup of tea and Christian’s book is certainly not going to appeal to everyone, but it certainly can open doors for considering why you might have these kinds of reactions (like the overreaction of wanting to throw the book in the trash). Strong reactions are places for healing. Find how the power of wisdom and rebirth of the skull can help heal you. You might be surprised at what you find in those dark places that you’ve been avoiding.