There is a certain style of writing about the various topics of witchcraft and magic that I look for when reading books about, well, Witchcraft and Magic, which is difficult to pinpoint exactly but I can tell you that several of the books I have been reading lately have it. It is something to do with how they make you think about the topic at hand, and how they provide you with further things to think about, or as I like to call it food for thought. It is important for not just books but podcasts as well.. .. but I digress.
I am very pleased to say that Dancing the Sacred Wheel by Frances Billinghurst also has this quality that I enjoy in good pagan themed books. Which is most excellent as it can always be tricky to review a book of someone that you kinda know. I met Frances way back in 2003 at a Pagan festival here in New Zealand, and needless to say we got on like a house on fire, in the pavilion of judgement, and at the table of dissension. *coughs*. There is now a seat of sarcasm, but that is a different story from a different Festival.
Dancing the Sacred Wheel is a book about the Pagan Seasonal Wheel as it is celebrated in South Australia, along with information about Aboriginal seasons for the different temperate climates of Australia. This should be interesting to anybody who practices in a country that is not England. I do not mean this to insult people from England, but instead to encourage those who have been asking ‘why do the seasons in the country where I live not fit the Pagan Seasonal Wheel I read about in all of these books?’, even if you live in a Northern Hemisphere country. This is because this book will give you a new perspective with which to perceive the seasons in the reader’s own country. Hell, I live in New Zealand, just to the east of Australia also in the Southern Hemisphere where we cast our circles anti-clockwise and have Christmas in the summer, just like Australia, and I gained a deeper understanding of how to honour the seasons where I live.
Frances is also careful about including both Southern Hemisphere and Northern Hemisphere dates for the Sabbats. In some ways it is a little ‘compare and contrast’ with an excellent explanation as to why we here in the southern hemisphere cast our circles starting in the east then north then west then south. It follows the path of the sun, as our sun rises in the east, like everywhere in the world, but then tracks north, not south.
What I like about Frances’ book is the combination of historical, mythological and traditional information about each season. It is well researched and referenced, which is engaging and interesting. It encourages the reader to celebrate and practice their craft, not just read about it. I also enjoyed the excellent referencing, so that if the reader is interested in any aspect of what Frances is writing about, finding further reading material can be done with a quick Google search, or by searching their library or online bookstore and from the bibliography at the back of the book. This is not something that you find very often in modern Pagan books… just saying.
As well as history, each Sabbat chapter has a section on mythology and traditions. There are examples of how Frances and her coven honour the season, and an example of what they do. This is not in the form of the infamous ‘Ritual Script’ as in other books, but done in a reflective style that the reader can gain inspiration from. Again this encourages the reader to actually do something rather than just read. Perhaps the subtitle for this book should be ‘The book that gets you to read and practice.’?
Intertwined in each chapter as you follow the season are several traditional myths, such as the Oak King and the Holly King, and the descent of the goddess. These lead into the section about inner work for each Sabbat and season, again encouraging the reader to actually do things. At the end of each chapter are correspondences for the relevant season which include colours, candles, scents, and items that are traditional to have on your altar for that season — a most helpful reference for the beginner and adept alike.
All of this combined in an excellent book becomes not just about the seasons as Frances and her coven celebrate them, but more about helping the reader to figure out the season where they live and the land they live in and how to honour and celebrate them.
I give this book Five cups of tea English Breakfast tea! and very worth the read no matter which hemisphere you are from.
You can purchase you copy from Frances’s website here
Edit: Alternatively you can Email Frances Directly firstname.lastname@example.org for details of this account if you reside in New Zealand and would like to purchase a copy of my book. hooray