Changing gears in the realm of reading

I suppose as the month of January is almost half over, it would prudent of me to post a first blog entry for January 2006. I know it’s been over a month since I posted anything, for which I apologize. December was a difficult month for me on a personal level. Part of that was due to craziness at work. Another part was due to the fact that it was my first Christmas alone after ending a long term relationship with a man I truly loved.

Another part was that my main focus in the past few entries, a series of entries reviewing Catherine Sanders’ book titled Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality, has hit a bit of a roadblock. I won’t get into too many details at this point, as I would rather cover them in future entries in that series (assuming I ever “pick up the trail” again). However, suffice it to say that I’m struggling with Sanders’s incomplete research and tendency to focus almost entirely on the most superficial aspects of the Pagan movement. (Also, her chapter covering the “history of Wicca” is full of the same misconceptions, straw men, and other flaws as most treatments of the subject, and that’s something I’m getting tired of even trying to address.) So I’ve decided to put that process on hold.

However, I recently obtained another book which I’d like to cover in my blog. This one is by Robin Wood, a artist that is fairly well known in the Sci-Fi communities and probably most famous in the Pagan and Occult community for her tarot deck. (It’s certainly one of my favorite decks.) However, the book I’ve just finished reading is her less known introduction to “Wiccan” ethics, When, Why … If. It’s a relatively small book, being about 175 pages long without the appendix, glossary, and recommended reading list, so it makes a relatively quick read. Of course, you could spend a good bit of time thinking about what she has written, and Ms. Wood includes a number of “exercises” at the end of each chapter to encourage exactly that.

I will start out to say that this is by no means an exhaustive and complete discussion of ethics, Wiccan or otherwise. But then, that’s not what the author set out to do. She makes it quite clear in the introduction that her intent was to write a book to start the Seeker out on thinking about what it means to live an ethical life, and I think she more or less achieves that goal. I particularly like the fact that the first topic she covers in the book is the topic of honesty. Ms. Wood posits that it’s only when we learn to be honest with ourselves that we can truly begin to live ethically. If we continue to make excuses for our behavior, rationalize a poor decision, or even beat ourselves up for a poor decision rather than doing what we can to rectify things and learn from our mistakes, then we will continue to be lost.

The rest of the chapters cover such topics as love, helping others, harming others (or more accurately, avoiding harming others), sex, and the difference between wanting and willing. Each of these topics are covered quite well (though I still get the impression that like many “eclectic Wiccans,” Ms. Wood falls prey to forgetting that the Wiccan Rede has six other words besides “harm none” and that those words and their arrangement bear consideration). There was very little I could disagree with.

My issue with the book falls more to the fact of what was missing. Personally, I think that any book on Wiccan ethics should include solid discussion on beauty, strength, power, compassion, honor, humility, mirth, and reverance. After all, these are the very values that the Goddess of Wicca herself calls for after telling her adherents that all acts of love and pleasure are her rituals. The author covers a good number of these virtues implicitly in her book, but it seems to me that a more explicit and substantial exploration would be in order. One can only hope that Ms. Wood or another author will consider doing so in a follow-up book.

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