Many books about witchcraft introduce the reader to the basics but The Elements of Ritual is one of those rare advanced books on Wicca. While those without a good basic knowledge of the religion will probably not get much from reading this book. Implied in the doubled meaning of the title, Lipp goes through the standard Wiccan ritual structure and discusses the meaning and ritual design options possible for each element of the ritual from preparation to closing the circle. She also discusses how the steps of ritual relate to the four elements.

Arranged in a straightforward and logical order, we begin with a brief introduction, followed by a short chapter about the elements. The next four (long) chapters thoroughly discuss the stages and elements of Wiccan ritual from four points of view: the practical (what is done and how can it be done), the theological (why is it done), the metaphorical (what is the mythology or story behind things), and the mystical/magical. Ms. Lipp is clear about the various choices designers and participants can make and frequently gives sample sections of ritual as illustrations. The final short chapter ties it all together in a complete ritual script.

Ms. Lipp is clear about the fact that really good rituals don’t ‘just happen’ but are designed to feel that way. I found myself examining my ritual practices to reaffirm that they are consistent (and am in the process of re-writing my coven’s Sabbat rituals – partially as a result!) Unlike many books about Wicca, Ms. Lipp is clearly writing from that subset of Witchcraft, and I urge readers with a strongly eclectic or non-traditional viewpoint to remember that if they find themselves disagreeing with her teachings. This is particularly clear in her emphasis on polarity and hierarchy. She also believes that there is a right way to do things, although she is also clear about why she thinks her ways are correct.

Ms. Lipp's explanations of each step of ritual, and how they are related to the elements are clear and easy to understand.  It is very refreshing to read a book which pays more attention to the “whys” of ritual than to the “how” or “when,” and this is definitely not a Wicca 101 book.

I highly recommend The Elements of Ritual to newcomers and old hands alike.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author:  Deborah Lipp

Llewellyn Publications, 2003

pp. 273, $16.95