Swankivy's Reviews > The Law Enforcement Guide To Wicca

The Law Enforcement Guide To Wicca by Kerr Cuhulain
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really liked it

This was a pretty interesting read, even though all the stuff in it about typical Pagan and Wiccan practice was not new to me. The freshness on this one came from how well it tied this information to the practical; the author is a Wiccan police officer, and apparently encountered so much misinformation in the field about Wicca that the book was born to combat it. The book assumes most police officers in the West are going to be coming from a Christian perspective (or at least that they will be familiar with Christianity as an element of the dominant culture), so many of the descriptions compare to the Christian equivalent (or point out that there isn't one, like how Christianity has a devil and Hell but Wicca has neither of these). The descriptions of what is normal for Wiccan rituals helps contextualize skyclad practice (why you see naked people involved), apparent weapons (why bollines and athames are not tools of violence even though they are knives), and ritual basics (why you might see "peculiar" things like candles, altars, marked circles, secret alphabets, and supposedly Satanic imagery that is actually just related to one of many possible horned gods).

I especially liked when Cuhulain tore apart and eye-rolled the smear campaigns some Christian evangelists attempted, explaining why a reasonable person should never see these letters and conclude "why yes, 'W.I.C.C.A.' is totally an acronym associated with an organization that is trying to corrupt people through media and credit card debt, and they're totally uniting under one scary queen witch, that's totally a thing Wiccans do, and also they're communicating with kids through food labels." I especially appreciated it not only because it was funny, but because it sheds a light on the kinds of messages that are ACTUALLY being spread by people who want to see us as a threat. Putting aside how I feel about law enforcement in general (as a profession that largely allows, enforces, and perpetuates racist and ableist laws and practices even when individual officers aren't bigots), I have to say it is a very good thing to have these messages available for people who will be enforcing the law.

It's a good little mini-tome because it does what it's supposed to do. You don't read this book because you're trying to learn about Wicca or another Pagan tradition in order to practice it, so there are no descriptions of spiritual teachings or life lessons or what's personally rewarding about these traditions. It's mostly just "Is it this? Yes. Is it this? No. Will you see this? Yes, but it doesn't mean what you think it does. Will you see this? If you do it's not Wiccan." The book does a good job explaining and acknowledging why it's so confusing, too; since "witch" is such a broad word and only some of the people using it are doing so religiously, the misinformation is rampant. (And it doesn't help that some people who THINK they're "Wiccan" or "Witches" do things that the nationally recognized religion of Wicca do not acccept.)

The author opens the book with a list of what Wiccans actually live by (as set down by the Council of American Witches) and drives home the point that it is not an answer to Christianity or an opposite to it, and it discusses the role of Paganism as "manifest" versus "revealed." And there's quite a lot of information following that about how the natural world figures into a Wiccan's beliefs; the Sabbats (solar festivals) and Esbats (lunar celebrations), as well as some perspective on what magic/magick is and how Wiccans might use it. Symbols are printed with context--very helpful for those who might have otherwise looked at a star in a circle and thought "THE DEVIL!!!"--and there's some interesting explanation of different TYPES of Wiccans (Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic, Faerie, etc.) and family traditions, as well as discussion of where these traditions come from and what inspiration some modern Wiccans might be using when it comes to deities, practices, tools, and symbols. And I thought it was super important that the individual variation was stressed; Wiccans don't have any kings, any overall boss witches, any governing body, or any revealed text. They do not have a Bible. They do not have a Pope. Organizations exist but they are not for the purpose of religious leadership or execution of proselytizing goals. It emphasizes individual connection with nature-based deities and celebration of the natural world, and allows everyone in the small worship groups (covens) to essentially be clergy.

What was really cool was the focus on "What Wicca Isn't." This really does its job nailing down what police officers might encounter that shouldn't be blamed on Wicca and how ritual abuse/murder/rape are not supported by any Pagan religions. Just as there is not understood to be "Christian Crime" (even though some Christians have abused others through their church organizations), it is not appropriate to assume that anything associated with "the occult" or "rituals" is therefore a Satanic or evil criminal behavior. It was very interesting that the author included a cult danger rating system to put Wiccan practice into perspective, because by the recognized standards of what constitutes a cult, most Christian practices qualify more than Wiccan practices do. (Hopefully that will not offend the author's audience too much for them to listen.) I especially appreciated that the author printed actual letters that were disseminated among religious people to warn them of threats that didn't exist, and how Cuhulain patiently takes the letters apart explaining how there is no single governing Wiccan body, there is no threat to decency or attempt to convert anyone, and there is no desire to control the governments of the world. It's even got specific lies identified in a way doubters can fact-check--like how one of the letters insists that a Satanic leader described his objectives on When presented this way, it's hard to deny that these letters look ridiculous and easy to understand why anyone who believed they were real was gullible, but I could imagine well-meaning religious people latching onto what their leader told them and stirring up hate, intolerance, and persecution surrounding any Pagan activity because of perceived threats to their own well-being. It's also kinda surprising but interesting that Cuhulain addresses Wicca's connections with arcane traditions, secret societies (like the Illuminati!), ceremonial magick that's actually more associated with Christian beliefs, and myths about the origins and deities of Wicca (no, they're not connected with the Mormons, don't have "black masses," don't kill people or animals in ritual sacrifice, and don't worship a deity named Samhain).

The appendices of the book are pretty great too--there's a decent terminology glossary, a comparison chart for Christians to compare and contrast their terms and beliefs to Wicca's, a list of some major Wiccan traditions, a description of the practices and history of the Sabbats (eight solar festivals, some of which have been transmuted in some form into Christian holidays in the modern era), some common secret alphabets (Theban, runic, Ogham, and even a Tolkien alphabet because we Pagans are often such fantasy dorks!). And then finally there's a list of resources, an interesting real case study where the author encourages you to figure out what might have happened without making assumptions about Wiccan motivations, and a bibliography that allows you all the references you could want for everything discussed in the book.

I think the book is of interest to people who are not in law enforcement as well (even though it has that slant) if they are interested in what Wiccans and other Pagans believe and do but are not interested (necessarily) in practicing themselves. Most Pagan texts do assume the reader is a questing soul searching for connection in the Old Ways, while this book stays away from that assumption and talks to you like you're here to learn academically what's out there (along with a pretty good case for why it is your responsibility to know this stuff). I found it readable and recommendable.
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Reading Progress

September 2, 2008 – Shelved
November 10, 2018 – Started Reading
January 11, 2019 – Finished Reading

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