Book review: To ride a silver broomstick
This review is written from the point of view of someone who has been a practising witch for more than twenty years. I am also not going to get involved in the current argument over whether Silver Ravenwolf is religiously intolerant. I do find it upsetting though that we, who can respect other people’s views, cannot seem to give the same courtesy to people in our own faith.
So first impressions are that book is definitely marketed to the younger crowd. The cover images, colourful cover and larger than life fonts used on the front defiantly catch you eye. I would imagine if you were looking for your first book on Wicca this one would probably jump out at you.
Delving inside we find a little on the charge of the goddess, an introduction, four main sections and three appendices. The charge of the goddess is a major part of Wiccan theology and practise and yet here it is given only a couple of pages. However to give Silver her due, it is written in a very engaging style. The language used is made to convey magic and mystery, sometimes to the detriment of the mood and sometimes to its benefit.
The introduction shows nothing surprising, being similar to any number of introductions you will have read. The four main parts of the book are named background shadows, building shadows, performing shadows and challenging shadows. As you can see she keeps to the theme of using language in ways to capture mood. While there is nothing wrong with this, since it keeps in theme with the book and its target audience there are a few problems with the sections themselves.
Background shadows covers topics like magicakal jargon, the wheel of the year, and defining the deities as well as a few other topics. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in these sections. It’s just that I read through them and I’m left with the strong impression that there is something missing. Maybe it’s just the definitions that she gives out don’t match with my own personal definitions but it just feels unfinished.
The second section, building shadows brings in topics like sacred space, meditation, visualisation, choosing your name and choosing tools and record keeping. This section is slightly better than the first and it covers some of what you would expect from a section about starting to practise.
Section three; performing shadows seems to be about actually casting spells. Here we have sections on designing and performing rituals, web weaving, divination, spell casting and correspondences. It’s in this section that I start to have some doubts about what is written. For a start the rituals are very loose and while this may be great letting them act as a framework so that bits can be filled in by the people reading the book, this is a book for beginners and such they would have difficulty filling those missing bits in! I have to say to me it seems a bit lazy.
The next part web weaving is about meeting other witches or magical practioner and I have to say I found this part great. It’s full of common sense advice and things you can do to minimise the danger of meeting someone new. The rest of the section is ok apart from the spell casting section. This gives me mixed views. On the one hand the section has information of topics like drawing down the moon which should clearly be elsewhere giving the section a messy feel. On the other hand she does show you how to break a spell, which is something woefully missing from a lot of books on the subject.
Challenging shadows is section four and contains information on things the author felt she had to put in but didn’t know where by the looks of it. For example why have a section on the Summerland and re-incarnation next to the part on the divine in the first chapter. Surely that would make more sense. Especially since this is sandwiched in-between something on astral projection and Wiccan ethics.
The appendices are also slightly strange. The first is on witch history and it seems to start at 1988. Why this is an important date in witch history I do not know. And the appendix does little to tell me either. Following that we have an appendix on pagan newsletters and services, surely something that could have gone in the web weaving section. Lastly we have the wiccan/pagan press alliance.
To me the book is clearly unstructured, having everything on one subject in one chapter is much better than making people flick through pages to get to information. There is some information I wouldn’t put in for starting witches for example astral projection. There is also information that feels unfinished or lazily put together for example the rituals in the book.
However some of it is spot on. It clearly knows its target audience, the language used is evocative and it is easy to read. There are moments in the book of pure inspiration and there are parts that are filled with incredibly good advice.
So to summarise, all in all it’s like a lot of books in that it has good parts and bad parts. Should it be vilified by some wiccans because it’s purely written for the younger generation? No it should not. It does that job admirably. Could it have been better? Yes but then you will never have perfection will you. Overall not a bad effort. 7/10