Am höchsten bewertete kritische Rezension
somewhere in time...
am 25. April 2000
This was one of first two books about Wicca that I ever bought, the other one was 'Buckland's Complete Book of CrapCraft.' Raven Grimassi is an odd author. His oddness is also somewhat puzzling. He is the only prominent modern neo-pagan author who makes any sort of effort to relate accurate and detailed historical accounts. But strangely, he still sticks behind the theory of witchcraft as an ancient religion. In many ways, he is a Wiccan appologist, dilligently trying to piece together fragmentory historical accounts that can prove once and for all that Margaret Murray was right all along and that witchcraft is indeed a continuation of an ancient pre-Christian pagan cult. Well, the first chapter of 'The Wiccan Mysteries' provides for the first bit of insight as to the utter fragulence of this claim, for Grimassi quotes and seems to idolize Marija Gimbatus, and uses her "old Europe" theme as a starter for his own historical account. It's too bad though that Gimbatus, like with Margaret Murray before her, has been shot down, discredited and refuted by nearly every serious scholar and anthropologist who has researched the fabled neo-pagan history of old Europe. Why such an obviously intelligent man would therefore use her theories as the basis for his work is beyond me. The chapter then goes on to say how women were revered above men in the minds of the earliest organized, dare we say "civillized" human beings. These "idyllic goddess" theories are today the butt of jokes in the anthropological field, you will find no one with serious credentials who will back them up. The rest of the book is an examination into ancient traditions and customs that find a home within modern Wicca, the point being to find a historical, and indeed ancient, justification for Wicca as a whole. Aside from the fact his first chapter "history of witchcraft" is basically a re-hash of long dis-credited psuedohistory, it goes without saying that the rest of the book, though interesting, is also pretty weak. Like I said above, Grimassi's evidence is mostly fragmentory. He will take a certain type of ritual found within a certain, say, Roman cult, and if he sees any similarity to it in Wicca, will jump all over this and hail it as "proof" of Wicca's antiquicy. However, he never establishes anything as being directly passed on from ancint days up to modern Wicca. He never establishes any sort of direct continuation. He proves that the basis for Wicca may indeed go back thousand's of years, but the notion of Wicca as a distinctive religious sect in ancient times is an issue that he never really address. This, unfortunately, is not what the neo-pagan community wants. What the neo-pagan community wants are ancient texts detailing the religion of witchcraft as it was practiced in ancient times, there is nothing like that here. All there is are bits and pieces from various scattered historical religious sects whose rituals and beliefs may have been carried out in the same manner as they are in modern Wicca. Usually the similarities are only of an esthetical nature. If he finds somehwere an ancient ritual where four people stood in a square formation and chanted something, he considers this a historical justification for calling quarters. If a modern Wiccan is content with the fact that his or her faith is essentially compilation religion, a religion compiled from various scattered sources, then the notion that Wicca is an ancient religion might just have some credibility to it. However, most modern Wiccans who still go on the "ancient cult" theory aren't content with this, what they are content with is the belief that witchcraft was a distinct and organized historical religious sect and that Wicca is a direct continuation of it. Grimassi seems to be well aware of this in his writings, well aware of what modern Wiccans would really, really like to hear, but even when the most detailed historical inquiry is carried out, the ancient cult theory simply doesn't hold up. Grimassi also gives absolutely no attention to goings on of Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley during Wicca's birth in the mid 1950's, he only says that Gerald Gardner was a Brittish witch(giving no definition of the word) and that he helped to revitalize Wicca in the present day. He realizes perfectly well that this is the place where it could all come crashing down, and it would be better to simply avoid this period. Instead he only offers fragmentory historical evidence to try and justify the "ancient cult" myth and then jumps ahead to modern Wicca, with nothing in between. That, along with the fact that most of his historical accounts in the first chapter regarding the "idyllic goddess" theory are blatently false, and are the two biggest holes in the book, and even if he can trace some of modern Wicca to ancient sources, that still doesn't fill in the gaps made by these holes, or can it even come close to finally proving, historically, the "tie-in" that connects modern Wicca to the fabled ancient cult of witchcraft.