To Stir a Magick Cauldron, originally printed in 1995. This book, along with the rest of the Next Generation Witchcraft series, is always going to be controversial as it has been revised and edited and reprinted dozens of times.
It seems that as Ravenwolf grows and changes, her books do as well. Rather than being a record of her teachings of the time, they evolve and all of the ranty crankiness that earned her a reputation of dangerous fluffiness is washed away as if it never was. Personally, that alone is a reason to avoid learning from this person.
You want your Craft instructor to have a strong ethical character – to embody the ideals they mean to teach you. If they are unwilling or unable to stand by what they have said in print in the past, then that should tell you something very important right there.
That said, this is a book review, not an author review.
Again, the copy of this book that I read was from the late 90’s, early 2000’s. If you were to pick up this book today, I am sure that some of the things I point out will be nowhere to be found.
I imagine that the writing of this book was probably in progress before or soon after the first, To Ride a Silver Broomstick, was published, and in the copy I read, it shows. Ravenwolf takes her critics to task calling them out on “nitpicking” her first work in their reviews. She also makes claims that “no Real Witch would make judgements of her credentials and/or teaching methods”.
This whole section came across as childish and whiney, and I hope for the sake of those who will inevitably read this volume that it has been removed.
One of the biggest complaints about Ravenwolf in general is her attitude that deities are ‘Plug and Pray’. This means basically that they are not treated with any manner of respect as an actual entity would be, but rather like a tool. Need a shot of confidence? Conjure the Morrigan.
Aside from being completely disrespectful not only to the gods themselves, but to those who believe that they are as real as you and I, but it creates a careless attitude towards the energies a Witch works with. In this book magic is presented as nothing more than a new age self-help technique that is designed to make one feel better about themselves.
Take Witchcraft out of that scenario and replace it with any other religion and it’s easy for anyone to see how offensive that sort of attitude can be.
Another story that may or may still be in the text of this book is an anecdote about how Ravenwolf herself learned to ground from a student of hers. The implication that she had been working with spiritual energies all this time without ever knowing how to or even that you needed to ground that energy is disturbing to many practitioners. It calls Ravenwolf’s own training into question.
On the plus side, I recall that there were some fun craft ideas and the illustrations were nice. If she ever decides to make a Pagan colouring book, I will definitely be behind her 100%.
On the whole, this book seemed to lack the lustre of the first for beginners and has met with a lot of criticism over the years. If you’re interested, go ahead and read it. As I said, it has probably changed a lot over the years.
However, if I were designing a course of study for a Seeker, this book would not be on the reading list.