Following a friend's advice, I picked up a copy of "Principles of Wicca" by Vivianne Crowley. I have recently finished it, and have many thoughts about the book. I thought I would write down a few of those thoughts.
As with any book I read, I found both good points and points that I felt deserved to be criticized. To me, aproaching a book with such a critical outlook provides me with a deep interraction with the materials being discussed - something I value highly. As such, my comments below will show both positive and negative comments towards the book.
The first thing that struck me was Crowley's use of the elements. Now, until I read this book, I haven't been big on the elements. But this book takes the subject into a greater perspective, rather than using the elements as simple magical correspondences. For example, Crowley describes Wicca itself as the fusion of Earth (Wisecraft and things like herbalism), Air (Philosophy and Knowledge), Fire (Magic), Water (Love and Worship), and Spirit (Mystery and Mysticism). Her use of the elements in other areas of the book also show an unusually deep meaning behind the elemental system. I was quite amazed at this approach.
In a similar way, the author describes the cycle of the year in an intensely personal manner. Crowley describes the seasonal cycle of Sabbats as a pattern to use in our lives for personal development. In effect, attunement to nature becomes the pattern for our growth as individuals. She takes this idea to the point where she even recommends modifying the Sabbats if the "standard" meanings do not easily match the climates and natural surroundings local to you.
My biggest criticism of this particular work by Crowley is her oversimplification of ethics. In this book, she seems to advocate the same strictly hard-line interpretation of "an it harm none, do what you will" that is so prevalent in "eclectic Wicca." (This particularly surprised me since she is an Initiation Gardnerian - a tradition which tends to take a rather different approach in my experience.) She then goes on to describe all curses as "acts of hate" and states that they have no place in a religion based on "perfect love." I cannot agree with this statement, personally. I can honestly think of cases where teh "Justice" aspect of perfect love may call for such harmful magics - as rare as those cases may be! Furthermore, I do not think it reasonable to set up such hard-fast "love/hate" dichotomies in our ethics. The world is much too multi-dimensional for that.
All in all, however, I thought it was a great book. It was certainly worth my time reading it.
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