Full Title: Seasons of Witchery: Celebrating the Sabbats with the Garden Witch, by Ellen Dugan, Llewellyn Publications, 2012
This book has merit for several reasons, in my opinion. However, I also take major issue with some parts of it as well. I think that once a person gets to a certain point in their studies of Neo-Paganism, that's going to be pretty much true for any book you read. I like Ellen Dugan. She has good personal energy to me and she writes in an extremely accessible way. That has its pros and its cons (there's a point where "accessible" can cross over into "surfacey"), but I land on the side of finding her style useful for her market audience. This is a book that is useful for beginners just connecting with the Wheel of the Year and the Sabbats, Wicca-curious upper middle class housewives who secretly hide "witchcraft" books in their hope chests (that isn't an insult), and people who are grudgingly getting used to the idea that witches aren't for burning. And there are a lot of those people out there. Dugan is not an author who makes me throw books across the room in disgust. And there are a lot of those people out there.
This book is a casual conversation about the author's take on the energies of each of the Sabbats, complete with lore, a few beginner spellsy thingies (I'll rant later about "beginner spells"), personal stories, recipes, and ideas for connecting with the seasons. It's nice. Here's why I think it's nice:
1. A non-witch reading this book will find it very difficult to cling to the ridiculous notion that "witches are evil" and I'm all for that. Ms. Dugan (may I call you Ellen?) is such a likable person and she really communicates the reasons why we witches are witches without stating the reasons outright. She brings a sense of loving the Wheel of the Year to the reader in a true-ringing way, and communicates a sense of that love being connected to our spell craft. And that's awesome.
2. I love books on the Sabbats and think there aren't enough of them. I love books on all things witchy (witchy in a Neo-Pagan sort of way, anyway) to be organized in Sabbat order format because it really helps people feel the Wheel. Feel the Wheel. T shirt. Anyway...
3. I love that the author throws in lore. Granted, a lot of the lore is through the lens of her opinion, but authors write from their own perspectives as a given. I personally don't think that Odin is the source of the Santa Claus myth. I'm a Holly King girl, myself. But hey, throwing in lore is a great way to gently introduce Gods and Goddesses to new seekers and those who are curious.
Here's what I don't think is nice about the book:
1. It's overly branded. This is probably not the author's fault. One of the reasons you won't find me writing for Llewellyn Publications (not that they'd have me...I'm not implying that they are breaking down my door) is that they brand the crap out of their authors. Their branding is, in my humble opinion, almost exclusively skewed toward the fluff market and a subset of the fluff market, "Fluffies in Black," and that annoys me. They also, it is rumored, make their authors sign exclusive contracts with them that forbid the writer from submitting to any other label. Forever. So they have editorial control over what you write and if you want to publish another book, you're gonna do it their way. So we have no idea if Ellen (I'm calling her Ellen now) had her manuscript chopped to crap and cutesified (that's now a word. So Be It.) to fit the brand that the Book Lords deemed to be in their best financial interest.
2. It makes statements of fact where the information is not complete nor annotated. This is realllllly annoying to me.
Example: Page 37..."Lugh's consort is the nature goddess Rosmerta." Well, I'm not saying that this is false per se, but it isn't responsibly phrased. The reason I say this is that Lugh's wife, Bloddeudd, is the major player in Lugh's myths in the Mabinogion where He is the Sun, while She is the Spring Maiden. Sure, you can work with Lugh and Rosmerta (who is lovely...I worked with Her on Mabon), but to state, "Lugh's consort is the nature goddess Rosmerta" as though He has no other, is supremely misleading to new seekers, many of whom will be dutifully writing "Lugh's consort is Rosmerta" in their BoS's because they read it in a book. For the record, Lugh has a child with Dechtera, a minor Irish Goddess, as well. The Gods get around.
3. This book treats spells like cookie recipes. And it's not the only book to do that. I absolutely twist when I see books that suggest to beginners that a) You get this color candle and this herb and say this poem and Poof! You just did a spell! Blessed Be! and b) Witches don't write their own workings. Oh, and c) You don't need to study how to raise, focus, and release energy with intention in order to do spells. I turns me into Medusa. I get really, really testy. It's a disservice to seekers to dumb down the Craft like that and it makes it so much more difficult for teachers to properly teach spell craft.
So, for the record, if you lack the training and practice to write your own working and explain all of its layers in energetically cohesive terms, you CANNOT do a spell. If you are not raising, focusing, and releasing energy with intention, having studied the realities of energy work and various techniques to control energy, you ARE NOT DOING SPELL WORK. You are play acting. A properly trained witch can use another's working if he or she understands it, but little spells in cute little books that give you simple instructions about candles and poems but don't mention energy, visualization, focus, or release are not the place to find such workings. Lecture over. Mommy needs a beer.
Conclusion: If you are a beginner who wants a nice overview of the Sabbats as they are regarded by one author, then this is a nice book to read. And her recipes sound seasonally appropriate and yummy. I think it's a fine book for the audience for which it is intended. But it's a "witchcraft lite" book, so keep reading and don't think you understand the Sabbats just because this is the only thing you read on the subject.