Pagan/Wiccan Guide Patti Wigington: First,I'd like to take a minute to thank you for answering questions for our readers at About.com. We've got a lot of people from some very diverse spiritual paths reading the blog. You've been practicing Wicca and writing about it for five decades or so. Can you tell us a little about how you arrived on this journey in the first place?
Raymond Buckland: That is a long story. Briefly, I was introduced to Spiritualism by my uncle when I was about twelve years old. As an avid reader, I read all the books he had on the subject and then went to the local library and started reading what was there. I went from Spiritualism into ghosts, ESP, magic, witchcraft, etc. I found the whole metaphysical field fascinating and continued to read and study from then on. Over the years my interest came to focus on witchcraft, especially finding that it is a positive, nature-based religion. After being brought into it, through Gerald Gardner, I made it my job to try to straighten people’s misconceptions about it. Gardner’s books went out of print, so I wrote Witchcraft From the Inside to try to replace them. It just seemed to “snowball” from there!
Guide Patti: In the past twenty or so years, there's been a huge increase in the amount of material available to people -- Wicca has almost gone mainstream, and a lot of that is thanks to authors like you, Scott Cunningham, and Starhawk. As a more public perception of Wicca steps into the limelight, what sort of changes -- both positive and negative -- do you see affecting the religion as a whole?
Raymond Buckland: I see both good and bad. It’s good that such an increase has made everything more accessible to people and has removed so much of the nonsense previously associated with witchcraft, leading it to become one of the fastest growing religious movements in America today. But at the same time, within witchcraft, so many people are labeling whatever they do as witchcraft even when it’s not, and there’s no one to say that they’re wrong. I feel that the true Craft is becoming diluted to the point where we’ll lose all the ground we’ve fought so hard to gain and witchcraft/Wicca will just blend in with the general “occult” field.
Guide Patti: With the amount of information out there right now for people new to Wicca, I often get emails from people who ask, 'What should I read?' If you were to recommend five books that any serious student of Wicca should have in their library, what would they be -- and why those particular titles?
Raymond Buckland: First would be Gerald Gardner’s original book from 1949, Witchcraft Today. I think every witch and would-be witch should read it, since it was the very first book on the subject that was actually written by a witch. My own Witchcraft From the Inside I feel gives a good overview of the background to witchcraft and to its re-emergence in modern times. Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon gives a good review of all that is happening today in witchcraft and paganism. Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance is important, with its emphasis on the Goddess. I think I have to include my own Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, dealing with the details of the actual practice. But it’s very difficult to restrict myself to just five books!
Guide Patti: Your Complete Book of Witchcraft is one of the first books I bought back in 1989; I still have my original copy, and I still use it for reference. Eighteen years after publication, what do you think of 'Big Blue'? If you were writing it today, in 2007, is there anything you'd do differently?
Raymond Buckland: I am very proud of 'Big Blue'. I must say that I’m a little surprised that it became such a classic, but if that means that the “truth” about witchcraft is getting out there, then I’m happy. If I were writing it today I’d probably leave out details of various traditions, simply because that’s an ever-changing scene and can get out of date very quickly. Also, I did gloss over the history of the Craft, since I’d detailed it in Witchcraft From the Inside, and perhaps I’d enlarge that section for the sake of completeness. But other than that, I don’t think I’d change anything.
Guide Patti: In addition to 'Big Blue', you've written over thirty other books on Wicca. When you travel to different shows and speaking engagements, which of your books do you get the most feedback on from people?
Raymond Buckland: That has to be 'Big Blue', though Saxon, Scottish, and the Solitary book (Wicca For One)are also frequently referred to.
Guide Patti: I've heard a lot of people say that the return to the earth-based faiths of our ancestors is a way of reconnecting with the planet and trying to get back to nature. We've kind of taken it upon ourselves to be stewards of the earth. Twenty years from now, do you think as Pagans we'll be able to look back and say we've changed things for the better? Are we doing a decent job in educating our kids -- and non-Pagans -- about the things we need to do to help our planet?
Raymond Buckland: I think we’ll look back and be proud of what we’ve done. Already there’s a major change of attitude toward the earth, and I do believe that much of it stems from the words and actions of pagans and witches. We shouldn’t kid ourselves that we are solely responsible, but we have had a large part to play in the ecological movement.