Historian Jeffrey Russell presents an analysis of witchcraft in an historical context, from the early days of Medieval Europe, through the witch craze of the Renaissance, and up into modern times. Russell doesn't bother trying to fluff up the history to make it more palatable to today's Wiccans, and takes a look at three different kinds of witchcraft -- sorcery, diabolical witchcraft, and modern witchcraft. A noted religious historian, Russell manages to make an entertaining yet informative read, as well as accepting that witchcraft in and of itself can in fact be a religion.
There is nothing else on the market like Ceisiwr Serith's A Book of Pagan Prayer. Despite the fact that some view prayer as a Christian concept, many Pagans do pray. This unique book features hundreds of prayers written to meet the needs of Pagans from a wide range of traditions. There are prayers for life events, such as handfastings, births, and deaths; for times of the year such as the harvest and midsummer, as well as petitions and litanies offered to different gods. Serith also covers the theories behind prayer -- how and why we do it, as well as tips on creating your own, personal prayers. Chances are that once you've started using this book, it will stay near your altar for years to come.
While The Spiral Dance is one of the best-known books on Wicca, it's also one of the most spiritually profound. Written by noted activist Starhawk, The Spiral Dance leads us on a journey through the spirituality of feminine consciousness. Sections on raising the cone of power, trance magic, and magical symbolism make it worth reading. Bear in mind that the original edition of this book was published twenty years ago, and Starhawk herself has said she's reconsidered some of the things she said the first time around -- particularly in reference to the polarity of the male/female. Despite some of the eco-feminist complaints about Starhawk, this book is powerful because it's one of the first of its kind, portraying Woman as Goddess.
If Gerald Gardner is the great-grandfather of modern Wicca, Doreen Valiente is the wise granny who offers wisdom and counsel. A contemporary of Gardner's, she is credited with the beautiful, evocative Charge of the Goddess, and may well have been responsible for much of Gardner's original Book of Shadows. Valiente spends a good amount of the book discussing the historical contexts of a number of rituals and practices in use today, but also takes care to acknowledge that practices and beliefs change even if the intent remains constant, and she points out ancient sources that may or may not be the root of contemporary ideals. Though it helps to have some knowledge of British Traditional Wicca beforehand, this book is a must-read for anyone.