I’ve been reviewing books for more than a decade now, and I have seen a lot of ‘101’books come across my desk. Many are decent, most are good as long as you keep the phrase ‘from the author’s point of view’ firmly in mind, and a few are worth recommending. Craft of the Wise is in the last category.
Long time practitioners and American readers will both have to make adjustments. This is truly a 101 book, and if you know the basics there isn’t anything new here. If you are reading the book with an eye to recommending it to your students or other newcomers, you’ll want to caution them to take the “Ritual & Magic” chapter (aka ‘history’) with a grain of salt. The author is a British eclectic witch, and learned her craft “in the mud” of New Forest, where Gardner himself began. So, this isn’t at all like how eclectic witchcraft is practiced in the U.S. Bramshaw clearly believes that witchcraft is an Initiatory religion, a priesthood in which magic is a tool, not an option.
There are a few things that could be done better: the history (as I mentioned) is a bit lacking in referential material and occasionally falls into the category of wishful thinking. I really miss having an index. (REALLY Really miss.)
Overall, however, Bramshaw knows what she is talking about. She is serious, realistic, and clearly has actually done what she is talking about. Anyone who has ‘been there, done that’ will recognize this about Craft of the Wise, and it is one of the main reasons I recommend it, and will be adding it to my (very small) list of recommended reading. For example, she writes: “It is important to realize that the Degree system is not a way of achieving ‘status’ or a ‘medal’ – it is a structured programme of learning, which allows the initiate to go through a psychological re-birthing into the next stage of their education and spiritual development, and reaffirms their connection to the Gods. It is also important to remember that we NEVER stop learning, no matter what age or Degree we may be (p. 202).”
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Author: Vicki Bramshaw
pp. 404, $29.95