Patricia Telesco’s stated goal in writing this book was to help those attracted to what she refers to as a “metaphysical lifestyle” find the path or tradition best suited to their needs. To this end, she has gathered firsthand descriptions of over 50 paths and traditions from current practitioners. In fact, the only writing that Telesco herself seems to have done for this book is the introductory material in the first 36 pages and the occasional remark at the beginning of an entry. The bulk of the book is composed of contributions received in response to a survey conducted with the help of Witchvox.com.
As is often the case in a collaborative effort, the quality of the submissions varies in style and content: some descriptions are detailed; others are more general. Most entries give a contact (often an email address) for further information, as well as a suggested reading list. All of the entries give some information about the contributor’s qualifications; but again, some of these biographical sketches are quite detailed while others amount to nothing more than “so-and-so is a practitioner of this tradition.”
Some of the contributors and traditions are nationally known and easily recognizable, including Oberon Zell-Ravenheart of the Church of All Worlds (CAW) and M. Macha Nightmare of the Reclaiming Collective. Other traditions seem to be regional, and still others could be of a single working group.
Telesco admits that she was not able to verify the claims made by various groups for historical accuracy, and that she does not agree with all views described by the contributors. She cautions that 10 members of a tradition may describe their tradition in 10 (slightly) different ways, and that the reader should not be surprised if his or her experience with the same tradition does not match up exactly with what was read in her book. She also apologizes for not being able to include all of the survey respondents, but other than citing space constraints, never explains the criteria she used in determining which entries would be included in the book and which not. I would have liked her to have included the original survey to see what information was asked for in comparison to what was supplied.
The descriptions of the various traditions make for interesting reading, and give a feel for the range of interpretations of a set of basic tenets that, at core, most of these groups seem to share, as well as broadening the reader’s awareness of the number of traditions currently being practiced. The suggested reading lists are a good starting place for those readers wishing to do further research on their own.
~review by Jackie Gorman
Editor: Patricia Telesco
2005, New Page Books
pp. 255, $13.99