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Author Topic: Forbidden Rites: Your Complete Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft  (Read 6432 times)


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Title: Forbidden Rites: Your Complete Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft
Author(s): Jeanette Ellis
Published 2009 by O Books
ISBN: 1846941385
ISBN-13: 978-1846941382
Paperback, 635 pages
List: $39.95
View this Book on Amazon

Reviewer: Mike Gleason

One of the hardest things to convey to students of witchcraft, in my opinion, is the difference between "Traditional" and "traditional" Witchcraft.  See, you're confused already, aren't you?  Traditional Witchcraft (capital "T") generally refers to what has become known in the U.S. as one of the British Traditional Wiccan groups (Gardnerian, Alexandrian, etc.), whereas traditional Witchcraft (lower case "t") generally refers to hedgewitchery, folk magic, and the cunning (wo)man of the local village.  The problem is that, short of using the phraseology "capital 'T'" and "lower case't'," which is awkward, there isn't any easy way to distinguish between them.  Frustrating, isn't it?

There are hundreds, if not thousands of books on Traditional Witchcraft, but not so many on traditional versions.  This book, by Jeanette Ellis, is one of the few I have seen written from the inside, as it were.

I can guarantee one fact about this book - you WILL disagree with at least some of the statements contained herein.  If you don't, I feel sorry for you, because you have no opinions of your own.

Based solely on this book, I have to assume that Ms. Ellis speaks in sentence fragments.  They litter the book like pixie dust.  Once you get used to them, however, (it only takes a few pages, honestly), you stop noticing them.  What I couldn't stop noticing, however, was that personal bugaboo of mine - sloppy spelling.  I understand that most authors (and publishing concerns) rely on automated spell checking programs, but these won't pick up "there" when it should be "their" (for example, on page 35).  Before a book makes it into print, it really needs a go-through by a proof-reader who doesn't have any connection to the book.

Another problem with this book, which should have been caught before publication, is punctuation.  On page 69 appears this sentence:  "All over the world colors are an important part of ritual in the Manchu Period of China, the emperors wore girdles of stones according to the different ceremonies that they presided over."  From this it appears that colors all over the world are important to the Manchu emperors of China.  I know that isn't what is meant but that is what it appears to say.

For me, reading a book is like taking an extended journey.  Generally I plant to take a week or so to enjoy the "trip".  However, once in a while I get so excited that I drive straight through in only a few days.  Sometimes I "have car trouble" and it either takes longer than I had planned on, or I am more concerned about making it to my destination and I am distracted and unable to enjoy the journey.  This was one of those books.  Between the lack of punctuation on the one hand, unusual spelling (what is "funa"?  Is it supposed to be "fauna" as I suspect from context?), and just the overall "feel" of the book, I found it hard to concentrate on what Ms. Ellis was trying to convey.  In one of my English classes in high school, my teacher gave each assignment two grades - one for what you said and one for how the technical details of writing were observed.  On the first half of that grading system, this book COULD be as high as a "B minus," but the second half couldn't hope for more than a "C".

I really wanted to enjoy this book but, quite honestly, if I had paid the cover price, I would have been (at least) disappointed by the sheer sloppiness.  For someone who has run a coven for over twenty years; who organizes two major festivals a years; and who makes their living selling Pagan jewelry, she presents a very poor image.  The "blurbs" on the back cover make me wonder if those individuals were working from what they assumed were "uncorrected proofs" (as I sometimes do), and assumed that defects in structure would be cleaned up before publication.

There is a lot of potentially valuable information in this book although I have to question whether many people will be able to ferret it out.  There are a lot of suppositions and personal anecdotes, to be sure.  And, honestly, not being a traditional Witch (I was trained Alexandrian, so I am a Traditional Witch) I can't say if these suppositions are representative of all traditionals, or only represent Ms. Ellis' interpretations.

While I would like to be able to give this book a hearty recommendation, I must hold back because of my reservations.  While I am inclined to accept her statements regarding gems and metal (she is in the jewelry business), even there problems exist in the way information is conveyed.

I respect Janet Farrar, Gavin Bone, and Professor Ronald Hutton, but I honestly feel their praise is, in this instance, misplaced.  I would certainly not recommend this book for the novice - unless there is a more experienced guide available to help sort things out (and then there really isn't any need for the book).

There are profuse illustrations of charms and amulets.  There are also herbal illustrations, and examples of various magickal scripts and runes.  The above items make it a handy reference work, but I tend to hold reference works to an even higher standard than other books, and all of the previously mentioned difficulties make it hard for me to offer more than a lukewarm recommendation.

Evaluating this book, in spite of the good points, it ends up being no more than average.  I would not say that it is a "must have" addition to a coven library; but if you have a spare $40, it may be useful.  If you are put off by grammatical errors and such (like me), you probably should save your money.  If you are an information junkie (again, like me), you will probably want it on your bookshelf.

This one is a toss-up, I have to say.  It will all come down to personal opinion.

I've had good experiences with other books from this publisher, and they are by no means the only ones to put out works with editing problems.  There have always been errata which slip through.  So don't let this review sour you on O Books.  Check out their website (at the top of this review) for other offerings.

[size=-1]Legal Notes: Some description text and item pictures in this post may come from and are used by permission. The Cauldron is an Amazon Affiliate and purchases made through the Amazon links in this message help support The Cauldron. List Price is as of the date this review was originally written and may not be current. The reviewer may have received a free copy of this book to review.[/size]

[size=-1]Discussion of this book is welcome. If you've read the book, please tell us what you think of it and why.[/size]
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Quote from: RandallS;58061
Title: Forbidden Rites: Your Complete Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft

by the sounds of things I don't think I could cope with all the grammatical arglebargle. I can't take someone seriously in published print when they haven't bothered with an editor.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2012, 05:42:03 pm by RandallS »
Ize bel zafen.
Ize bel daleen.


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Quote from: spoOk;58063
by the sounds of things I don't think I could cope with all the grammatical arglebargle. I can't take someone seriously in published print when they haven't bothered with an editor.

I'll expound (not so much expound as restate with what I consider to be proper emphasis) on one statement in the review: Every book needs a final go-through by a proofreader who DOESN'T USE SOFTWARE TO DO THE JOB.

« Last Edit: June 02, 2012, 03:31:28 pm by Starglade »
"The Eightfold Path is sometimes called the pathless path. Each step brings a growing awareness that enlightenment is in the here and now--in the world and in our relationships as we read these words . . . now." -- Jonathan White


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