Sometimes I read a book that turns out to be very difficult to review because it’s such a mix of positive and negative – Self-Initiation for the Solitary Witch is one such book.

Part of the difficulty lies in the sub title: Attaining Higher Spirituality Through a Five-Degree System. You see, I believe (and teach) that being a solitary witch means that you do not need degrees to indicate spiritual growth; that degrees are how you rank yourself in a group. Since Shaddaramon’s system is based on his covens’ I can see why he used the delineation, but I also suspect that it had a lot to do with marketing. (“Hey, I can be a fifth degree witch if I read this book!”)

That said, this is a pretty good book to learn from. Overall, the verbiage is clear and structure that lends itself well to the beginning witch. More than half of the book is devoted to the First Degree, underscoring the need for a solid foundation when embarking on a magical practice. Unfortunately, some things relegated to the Second Degree, like raising and directing energy, are fundamental, although that may explain why the outline for the creation of a First Degree Initiation ritual is a bare half page in length and provides absolutely no thematic structure. (“…write a …ceremony that is meaningful to you.” I find the music of Metallica meaningful, that doesn’t mean they would make a good score for an Initiation ritual.) As well, I found the learning attained at the Fourth and Fifth Degrees to be things normally expected of a Third Degree.

It irritates me that there probably wasn’t much historical fact checking done, and that is just sloppy in this day and age. For example, the author refers to “Many Wiccans claim(ing)…heritage dating back before pre-Christian times…(p. 71) ” In fact, most Wiccans acknowledge their modern roots, not to mention that the period of history before Christ was 1000s of years. Nor did the ‘Burning Times’ take place in 1692 (p. 73).

However, I appreciate the fact that Shanddaramon stresses the need for experience as well as, if not more than, intellectual knowledge. That, plus the fact that he reminds the student that self-written rituals are far more powerful than any you might find in a book, goes a long way towards making this a worthwhile resource. As a guideline for self- study and growth, Self-Initiation... offers much to think about and incorporate, as long as one is capable of being honest when it comes to evaluating their needs and progress, it will aid development.

 ~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author:  Shanddaramon

New Page Books, 2004

pp. 252, $14.99