Cover image for Witchcraft today : an encyclopedia of Wiccan and neopagan traditions
Witchcraft today : an encyclopedia of Wiccan and neopagan traditions
Lewis, James R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, [1999]

Physical Description:
xliii, 377 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF1571 .L49 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Reference

On Order



A clear, concise overview of the origins and history of the Wiccan and Neopagan movements, with A-Z coverage of concepts, rituals, practices, and practitioners.

* Thorough introduction explains the origin and history of contemporary Wiccan and Neopagan beliefs

* Provides A-Z coverage of Neopagan concepts, rituals, practices, and practitioners ranging from African Religions and Celtic Tradition to Numerology and Theosophy

* A documents section reprints texts important to the central belief system of Wiccans and Neopagans, including the text of Charge of the Goddess

* Thorough chronology detailing the development of these modern religions

Author Notes

James R. Lewis is a professional writer and academic specializing in new religions and the New Age.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Both of these A^-Z titles address witchcraft but from different angles. Guiley covers the Western tradition from ancient times to the present in more than 500 articles ranging from a paragraph to several pages. She examines people, places, events, traditions, and practices. Many of the entries are for people, from Abramelin the Mage (1363^-1460) to Oberon Zell (1942^-). Examples of nonbiographical entries include Candles, Covens, Evil eye, Loudun possessions, Museum of Witchcraft, Santeria, and Swimming. Many of the topics covered in Guiley (e.g., Amulet, Burning times, Curses, Salem witches) are also found in Lewis, though far fewer of the Lewis entries are biographical. Witchcraft Today is intended as a guide to "Neopaganism concepts, holidays, rituals, spirit beings, and so forth," and a 41-page introductory essay surveys the history of contemporary witchcraft and Neopaganism. Although the second edition of Guiley's book differs from the first in that there is more treatment of newer religions and movements, her perspective is generally more historical than Lewis'. Both encyclopedias emphasize Western traditions and practices, though Cabala and Vodun (voodoo) are discussed in each. Lewis has articles on such practices as the Women's Spirituality Movement and Tantra, which have influenced some modern witchcraft practice. Extensive bibliographies supplement suggestions for reading given at the ends of articles in each volume. Lewis also provides a list of Web sites, with a sensible caveat about the fleeting nature of Web addresses, and suggests using a good search engine when a site comes up as "not found." Lewis has two appendixes: a chronology of the Neopagan movement and texts for several different rites. The Encyclopedia of Witches & Witchcraft would be suitable for most high-school, public, and academic libraries. Its paper version would make it available to all but the most limited budget. With a more limited focus, Witchcraft Today would be appropriate for most larger public libraries and most academic libraries.

Library Journal Review

An excellent resource on the contemporary practice of witchcraft and on the ancient traditions that inspired it, this book features both short entries on terminology and concepts and longer articles on the development of various esoteric and neopagan organizations. A lengthy introduction by Lewis (religious studies, World Univ. of America) details the pivotal role that Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner had in shaping the rituals and hierarchies still accepted by witch covens in Britain and America today. The text frankly demonstrates that much of what Gardner and Murray wrote was based on conjecture, fabrication, and spurious scholarship, but it treats the organizations that evolved (at least from Gardner's vision) with respect, documenting their influence on the ecological movement, the women's movement, and religious reform. The bibliography lists print and online resources, and two appendixes offer a chronology of the development of modern witchcraft. Unfortunately, the book rarely mentions differences in practices or beliefs among the many traditions that exist today, giving little practical information for a reader interested in choosing between one organization and another. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Vivian Reed, Long Beach P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

These two encyclopedias demonstrate that contemporary witchcraft is gaining scholarly interest and that diversity exists in the subject and its treatment. For her welcome second edition, Guiley has pruned 60 entries (mostly on paganism and New Age) from the first, and added only 21 to total about 500, clarifying her focus on "Western" magic and witchcraft, historical and contemporary. She has also tightened her scholarship, restating as myth and legend some aspects of contemporary witchcraft the first edition presented as history. Unhappily, she has removed most cross-references and cut the index, but she has added further readings to most entries. Her single-minded focus on Gardnerian witchcraft might lead one to think that Gardnerian practices are the only ones. She includes entries on other traditions (e.g., the hedge witches) and builds on one of the strengths of the first edition by expanding the entries on individuals associated with "Western" witchcraft. Lewis's introductory 33-page essay sets the tone for his work, viewing contemporary witchcraft as "the most recent manifestation of the Western occult tradition." He includes more about contemporary paganism than Guiley, but little about any form of witchcraft other than Gardnerian. He is influenced by Aidan A. Kelly, who prepared the encyclopedia's historical entries and provided transcriptions of Gardnerian documents in an appendix. Kelly, somewhat controversial in Gardnerian circles, was an early participant in the development of witchcraft in this country. Lewis also enlisted Cynthia Eller to write the entry on women's spirituality, but the rest of the work is his. All 280 entries list readings and most have cross-references. Lewis includes a list of print and nonprint resources and a chronology. Although newcomers might benefit from Lewis's scholarly introduction, it gives a one-sided Gardnerian view of witchcraft that ignores both other traditions and witchcraft as a nature-based religion that incorporates an ecstatic mystery tradition and a strong emphasis on personal autonomy and responsibility. Lewis's entries on other pagan paths and New Age phenomena seem to imply that contemporary witchcraft is simply another aspect of the New Age movement. Guiley's picture of contemporary witchcraft is more varied, better presents witchcraft historically in Europe and the US, and offers insight into the contemporary religion. Her work is longer and lower in price, hence her encyclopedia is preferable if a choice must be made; having both volumes provides a fuller picture of the nature of contemporary witchcraft. M. R. Pukkila; Colby College