[V.E. Duncan is a blossoming polytheist. A writer who lives in the Los Angeles area (but who truly wishes to go back to New York City, where her heart is), she owns a cantankerous cat named Cleopatra. V.E. can be contacted through her website, Duncan Heights.]
Timothy Roderick’s Wicca: A Year and a Day has a second subtitle: “366 days of spiritual practice in the craft of the wise” and is actually a day-to-day study for learners who would like to study Wicca seriously but may not have access to a teacher or group in their respective areas. I suppose a person may use the book no matter where they are, but I tend to learn better and learn more myself when another person holds me accountable, so if you can find a good teacher, even a person who uses this very book as a text, that’s what I would suggest doing. Make sure when you search for a mentor or teacher, though, that you do the appropriate research so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It may be more work at the beginning of your study, but due diligence always pays off.
Now, one good thing about having a book and only your own time is that (1) you can work at your own pace, (2) it is well thought out and internally consistent, and (3) it’s all in front of you from day one. Wicca: A Year and a Day isn’t a short read: it’s meant to last a year and a day, after all, and from reading through it, I can say that it’s pretty thorough in what it purports to do. In the introduction, Roderick likens it to Cerridwen’s cauldron of knowledge and inspiration, and while I’m not familiar enough with Welsh mythology to really say whether that’s an apt description of this book, I can say that’s it’s packed cover to cover with information. Roderick warns against trying to do more than one day at a time and, after attempting an in depth study of the first thirty days to get a good feel of the text, I agree. I read the rest of the book after the first thirty days without doing any of the suggested rituals, meditations, or practices.
Wicca: A Year and a Day reminds me in some ways of Pagan Spirituality (which I reviewed in a previous issue of Eternal Haunted Summer), but there are a few significant differences. Similarities include the utter amount of knowledge and learning that my brain was forced to accept in reading one of these texts shortly after the other. Like Pagan Spirituality, Roderick’s text is not for the faint of heart. That is to say, it’s a lot of information, and if you try to think about it more than one day at a time, as it’s been designed, it can quickly become overwhelming. For example, Wicca: A Year and a Day does not include practicing a first spell until day 266. Any regular practitioner will already know that spells aren’t the be-all-end-all of Wicca (or anything other type of Witchcraft), but it’s not a beginner’s guide.
To simplify things, Roderick separates the study into roughly thirty-day increments, which are then separated from each other by a “three-day cycle that includes a day of devotion, a day of contemplation, and a day of silence” in order to let it all sink in (so to speak). He cautions against trying to combine two or more days into one (as I mentioned) or skipping any days or, I presume, doing any of the days out of order. Although the year and a day study can begin at any time, once you begin, you should try your best to continue at the book’s pace through the entire thing.
At the beginning of each set of days is a list of “magical items to gather”. For the first thirty days, I had to get my hands on white, orange, green, and indigo taper candles, a candle holder, a Farmer’s Almanac, a compass, self-igniting charcoal, a bit of myrrh resin, and a bit of an herbal blend consisting of dried meadowsweet and powdered oak bark. Since I know nearly nothing about herbs, roots, or plants, finding myrrh resin and the herbal blend mixture was my first test. I ended up buying myrrh online and having it shipped; I went to an herbs shop to get meadowsweet and oak bark.
Each day of my thirty-day journey made me think about some combination of the words I use, the resources I consume, the footprint I leave, the types of stress I endure, or the stress-relieving practices I use. By the end, I had two thoughts. First, I really wished I’d written down some of the assignments and tangents in a journal so that I could think about it more thoroughly and later track my progress and learning. Second, I was really glad that I had only committed to doing one day at a time. Some of the days were “easy” and didn’t take up much time, but many were more thought-provoking and emotionally exhausting than I at first realized.
Even though I am not Wiccan, reading Wicca: A Year and a Day was worth the time. It made me wish there were similar year-and-a-day studies covering other Earth religions and magic-based philosophies.