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Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

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Be cautious of books that present fantasy as fact.

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There are tons of books out there - try to figure out which ones are useful to you.

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When it comes to the books on actual practice of Wicca and Paganism, it's a little more difficult to weed out the stinkers, because so many of them do include the same information as the others. However, there are a few things to watch for that indicate you may want to check other sources to see if they corroborate what the author says.

  • Blanket statements. If the author spends a lot of time preaching about "A real Wiccan would NEVER..." or "Real Pagans ALWAYS..." then be skeptical. Because there are so many different traditions of Wicca and Paganism, it's impossible to make blanket claims that apply to every single group, and a competent author should know this.
  • Books that encourage dishonesty. One very well-known and popular Wiccan author made a statement in a book years ago encouraging teens to lie to their parents about their study of Wicca. To many adult Wiccans, this basically made the author's entire catalog suspect. A spiritual path should never begin with dishonesty, and it was irresponsible of this author to suggest it.
  • Fanciful claims with no backup. If a book claims that a ritual is an Ancient Celtic Druid Ceremony, is there a footnote or bibliography to indicate where the ritual came from? After all, the "ancient Celtic Druids" didn't leave us anything in writing. There's nothing wrong with saying a ritual, poem or anything else is inspired by ancient writings, but be leery of authors who claim to be presenting ancient esoteric knowledge that only they seem to be privy to.
  • All gods and religions are the same. Be cautious of books that recommend mixing and matching of pantheons. While it's fine to be eclectic and work with a variety of deities, exercise some common sense when putting them together. An author who recommends pairing up, for example, a goddess of love with a god of war simply because they look nice together is creating a recipe for disaster.

While none of these specifically mean a book is "bad," they should be considered signs that further reading and study is necessary. If what the author is telling you is true, then other books should support their statements.

The important thing here is that if you learn to weed out the good books from the not-so-good ones, you'll be doing yourself a far better service than if you just blindly nod your head and agree with everything a writer says. Just because a book -- or even a really great website -- tells you something doesn't make it true, no matter how much we wish it did. Ideas based upon false information are flawed, and not only that, they tend to make the Pagan community look silly. Take time to read, don't be afraid to ask questions, be willing to admit that people (including you, and including me) are occasionally misinformed, and you'll do just fine.

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