6/14/2012

Influential literature on Wicca, part II.

This blog post is a follow up to Influential literature on Wicca, part I. I talked about the first book on Wicca that has been translated to Czech language and published. This book was written by Stewart Farrar and was called What Witches Do. I also briefly described its elements that had the biggest influence and attempted to explain why I thought it was the case. 

What I did not mention yet was why the two words 'translated' and 'published' are important with relation to Farrar's books. There is one more book by Stewart Farrar that has been translated as well, but was never actually published. This book is called Witches' Bible, a well known book consisting of two parts which were originally published as two different books: Eight Sabbats for Witches and The Witches's Way. These two were translated by a guy called Martin K. from Zlín Region of The Czech Republic. The translation is hand-written and only few people ever saw it. I believe the translation was finished about the year 2005.

Not much has been published since 1996, the year when the Czech version of What Witches Do came out. It was few years later when the ecclectic/solitary wicca movement actually started to blossom. I myself would mostly attribute this phenomenon to a particular book written by Raymond Buckland. The book is called Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. It was published by Llewellyn in 1986. This book was translated and published by Czech publisher Pragma in 1998 and 2002. The Czech version of it looks like this:




The title says 'The Great Textbook of Witchcraft and Magic'. Again, there is an interesting alteration of the original title. And I believe that this time the change of the title could have largely contributed to the success of the book. The term Witchcraft alone would have probably not been interesting for so many people, given the circumstances of that time. Witchcraft as a term was not wide spread yet, but magic (as a term for western occult movement) was. The 'textbook' thing promised an easily accessible text which could provide much needed guidance for many. And it provided exactly that (I am deliberately not speaking of the substance yet). The most important factor however is that one of generic Wicca 101 books actually became the first Wicca 101 book in The Czech Republic. And therefore extremely popular. It got to the lists of recommended books of virtually all websites and blogs about Witchcraft. It caused a great impact in many aspects and I believe it was the trigger of many things and events that followed its publication.

Firstly, I would like to comment on the Czech translation as such. The quality of translation is average. It got some things wrong, but the text is quite readable. Which is more than can be said about translations by some other esoteric publishers. I am saying this even though I haven't actually read the original. Sometimes, one does not have to. The most notable translation specific of this book is using the word 'Sabbat' instead of 'coven'. The word 'Sabbat' is actually used in two different ways - to describe one of the eight festivals and to describe a coven. I am not sure if this really is a translation problem, but I believe it is. The translator of this book was not the first one who struggled with the word 'coven'. I myself and many others never bothered with translating this term. Throughout the years it found its place in the Czech vocabulary. Therefore various translations of it seem to be even more funny nowadays.

This also gets us to the first way of how this book affected the ecclectic movement. Many groups and in particular those who do not keep contact with the rest of the community, still use the word Sabbat to describe themselves as a group. Worldwide, there are many groups who claim to have ancient herritage, Wiccan lineage etc. and offer an initiation which they themselves never received.We have such groups too in our country. They are usually those who do not communicate with the rest of the world. And it is typical for these groups to use the word Sabbat in the context of this book. Because that is where their 'ancient tradition' actually comes from.

The second aspect is directly related to this. The book started an interesting trend of re-writing the history of European indigenous religions and traditions. Many people started to feel unhappy with a syncretic religion from 20th century (Wicca as founded by GBG) or mostly didn't even know there was one and started to parrot the funny stories from this book, about Wicca being 15 000 years old, 6 million Witches killed during witch hunts etc.

One of the best impacts of this book on the Czech ecclectic movement was spreading the ritual structure. Many groups and individuals adopted the ritual framework from it. Back in 2002 when I started to be interested in Wicca, I came accross this book. It drove me completely mad (and these were happy times, I tell you). I felt so great about it all. I started to collect and create magical instruments with so much enthusiasm! And eventually, I started to do solo rituals. The good thing was, that when I got invited by an ecclectic group (this one used to do rituals at Liberec airport during night) to take part in their ritual, the framework was exactly the same as what I knew and did before. And I believe this used to be and still is the case for many people involved in ecclectic/solitary Wicca.

This book is definitely one of the inspirations for the annual Bohemian-Moravian Witches' Conference, because it got together the individuals who actually started the whole thing. Everyone who used to come to the first 'conferences' knew this book very well. This book also served as a prominent resource for many websites and blogs about witchcraft. The Principles of Wicca Believes that were (according to the book) adopted by American Council of Witches were in almost all websites and known by everyone, despite them having little significance for Europe. Even though this book is in almost any witches' bookshelf in The Czech Republic, very few people actually adopted the Seax-Wicca tradition as their own permanently. I know of one group in The Czech Republic and one individual from Slovakia (but haven't heard about her for a long time). Yes, the book had an impact on Slovakia too, though quite a minor one compared to The Czech Republic. Overall the influence of this book seems to be slowly dissipating.

Before this book was published, I believe the Czech pagan community was mostly reconstructionist and very, very small. I firmly believe it is what triggered the developement of more ecclectic forms of paganism and the entire ecclectic/solitary wicca movement in our country. Many groups emerged, many friendships and cooperations started. No matter how inaccurate or out-dated it maybe, I think it is still the most significant book from the ecclectic/pagan point of view and a true milestone of such history. And to be fair, many people consider this one to be the best book ever published on this subject in The Czech Republic.

The golden era of this book ended about 2005/2006, after other books were published. I will tell you more about them next time.

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