This modestly-sized book comes to us from one of the last surviving members of Gerald Gardner`s Bricket Wood coven, fifty years after the publication of Witchcraft Today (hence the title). Mr. Lamond has given all of us a profound gift by documenting key events from the formation of Wicca in an insightful and vividly evocative manner. Other influential figures from that time (Vivienne Crowley and Patricia Crowther come to mind) have shared their perspectives, but while their books may be historically accurate, they just aren’t a fun a read as Lamond’s.
We begin with a glimpse into his background – that of an educated but not religiously sensitized young man. An encounter with the Goddess Aphrodite turned him from even token Christianity and led him to meet Gardner. Within a year he was initiated and his long association with Wicca begun. I found his frank discussion of Gardner’s Masonic ‘borrowings’ and sensuality intriguing, as they answered questions frequently raised by newcomers. Lamond’s own difficulty with some of the practices mirrors that of many of us, and our solution is often the same: it (the oddness) doesn’t matter, the Craft works.
Part 1 is filled with factual information about how Gardner did things. Some things were surprising, many confirmed suspicions long held. Alex Sanders is there, as is the Fiveacres nudist club. Almost at the end of part 1 we have a section about the differences (and similarities) of American versus British Wicca (complete with accurate nomenclature), Feri and several other ‘offshoots.’ Oddly, the section itself ends with examples of the author’s weather magic.
We move then to "Wicca Successes and Failures," the second half. This is the non-historical and completely biased portion – and it is the most thought-provoking. For success we have the re-emergence of the Goddess as a major religion figure, the concept of immanence, the principle of personal responsibility, spellcasting, an awareness of the sacredness of nature, and seasonal rituals. For failures, we have a lack of care for our bodies and our children, actual observance of and closeness to nature, indulging in sexuality for pleasure rather than as sacred acts, and (finally) the rote following of rituals Gardner created without thinking them through.
The third section provides us with Lamond’s recommended ‘fixes’ for the failures Wicca has suffered. There isn’t anything shocking here, just a call for things like critical thinking, personal responsibility, and a return to the observance of nature as a regular portion of our practice.
Lamond makes no claim to being the authority on Wicca, and his criticisms are offered up as advice from an Elder. They may sting a bit, but the intent is to improve the situation. Furthermore, he intended that 50 Years would be for 2nd and 3rd degree Gardnerian initiates – a limited audience, and one presumably intensely interested in preserving the original way of practicing Wicca. I may not be part of that group, but I found Lamond’s observations valuable, both as a practitioner of American Eclectic Wicca and the leader of my coven.
Many thanks to you, Mr. Lamond!
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Author: Frederic Lamond
Green Magic, 2005pp. 140, 16.95