Updated: 3:05 P.M. eastern standard time.
When the English/Spanish* version of the book and corresponding DVD arrived in the mail titled, “Witches in Holland: A Glance at Wicca in the Netherlands,” I placed it on my dining room hutch as one of my next “to-read” book in magical studies. It was placed in a nice stack with two other books: “The Gentle Arts of Natural Magic,” by Marian Green and also a book titled “Magical Use of Thoughtforms” by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and J.H. Brennan.
*There are few good books about Wicca in Spanish.. thanks to Daniel for the translation work!
When I sat down to read the book in the following couple-days upon receipt, I was very surprised to read one of the chapters written by my friend Morgana which said she and her partner Merlin (later separated a few years before his passing) began their occult studies with Marion Green’s course and also Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki’s order “Servants of the Light” before she and Merlin were initiated into a Gardnerian coven in England. I thought to myself, “What a really odd coincidence that I placed the book about Morgana’s organization she helped found in the Netherlands by two books written by authors she had studied with!”
Sometimes we can never be sure of the odd messages we are given – but if anything, I thought maybe at least Morgana would enjoy this funny synchronicity!
Morgana and Merlin (deceased 2012) co-founded “Silver Circle “, in 1979. It is a large Wiccan network from Continental Europe that came down from Eleanor Bone. In the chapter titled “Enchantment of the Silver Circle,” Gwiddon Harveston describes Silver Circle as: “Silver Circle is one of the largest organizations, or networks of practitioners and seekers of (Gardnerian) Wicca in continental Europe. Yet, the history of this organization has never been seriously studied.”
How would I describe this book and DVD?
A “Labor of Love.” This statement is also repeated in the book, but I had to state this again, as I could feel the emotions of the witches interviewed on the DVD and also the shared passions they expressed about their Craft in the pages of the book.
One thing that I must say that also makes this book extraordinary is when reading the first chapter of the book, we are given a very good and concise description of what Wicca is, because as we all know, Wicca is not easily defined, and it does mean something different to each individual Wiccan. This beginning chapter gives very good guidelines to begin the process of understanding this subject for the seeker. Also, the DVD itself walks you not only through some fascinating stories and tales in the Silver Circle line, but also takes you on this as a journey through the Sabbats of Wicca that we are familiar with today: each Sabbat and corresponding footage and interviews. This, I think, is highly invaluable because not only in a few brief pages does it have the ability to define the topic, but it can be comprehended by a new seeker beginning their quest of “becoming.” This I feel is very important in today’s ever-changing world.
One of the things I’ve noticed in communicating with others online is that when a seeker is looking for books and writings to read in order to begin their path in the Wicca, many Elders of the Priesthood begin by saying: “Read Gerald Gardner’s books first.” While I believe that Gerald Gardner’s books definitely have some great nuggets of information within them, they also can be very dry for a new seeker. (Though, for me, I think the easiest one to read is “High Magics’ Aid.”)
In order to engage a seeker, I always ask back, “What are your interests, and what drew you to take up your further study on the path? What are your interests in the occult?” I recommend folks start at that point, along with more concise introductions into Wicca – which now I can add in to my recommendations that “Witches in Holland” would definitely fit this bill!
This format of recommendations of their interests, along with a concise introduction may more likely engage their intellect, and as they begin to read and understand more and more, they may just find their way back to reading Gardner later on and be able to study it with more enthusiasm. If you don’t believe me, try offering a seeker of the Millennial generation a copy of Gardner’s “The Meaning of Witchcraft” and watch the response. Typically, they will flip through it very quickly and then put it back on the bookshelf where it will collect dust for quite a few years. In a few years’ time after they get their feet wet, they may go back and read some chapters like many of us did. We have a very new generation that demands a more engaging format to learning traditions and occult lore. As a mentor of students in witchcraft, I do try to teach them “tradition” as best as I can, using the resources that we have available today if they can be obtained. This can be challenging with our various established lineages, but it can be done!
And I have to be honest here – I myself am a bookworm and enjoy dry books, (and yes, I do like the Meaning of Witchcraft!) though for our new Millennial generation of seekers we have coming up in the Craft do not. Also, our coven here is very loose when it comes to teaching – meaning that we “get in the circle and get on with the work,” teaching by example and letting the students ask questions by what they observe and see. These questions will come up over time, and it can be described as a “drawing out” process where the seeker will observe the practice and try it out, begin to integrate it in their minds, and find that something may be missing – this missing feeling “draws inward” by the first reaching out and asking of “Why?” The mentor may give some suggestions on where they can ferret it out and help them discover this on their path of becoming.
And it doesn’t look like I’m alone here in our own way of teaching, because on page 10 under the subtitle of “Wicca is a Mystery Tradition,” the book says, “It is also an oral tradition whereby firsthand experience is of paramount importance. It can only be passed on by what we call “osmosis.” Learning by imitation and assimilation.”
This above is just but one way and by no means am I saying it is the best way. There are other groups out there that have evolved more than us over the years, whereas we are still a bit more old-school from our years of being isolated and silent, but slowly we are trying to adapt some more innovations that are interesting.
So back to the book and DVD at hand – The Witches in Holland is actually a set that is perfect for the new seeker to be introduced to Wicca. It engages a bit more of the adult learning principles, which is important in reaching the new generation of the Wicca – it is easy to pick up and put down and reference back to when needed.
Before I talk about some other interesting highlights, I wanted to take a moment to describe the quality of the book and DVD……
One thing that I admire about the materials and books that are produced in both England and other parts of Europe like this one is the QUALITY of the book and its production. Many of our American publishers produce books with a lesser grade quality of paper and almost always in paperback. This cuts down on the production cost and allows consumers to buy books at very low costs, but it doesn’t take long for the pages to quickly yellow and the binding/glue to begin to be creased and damaged through normal use. The Witches in Holland book is a beautiful hardback book and each page is a thick and glossy on good quality paper. It is one that will very much last a lifetime even with very frequent use.
The same can be said for the DVD… The dvd has many subtitle options for other languages, including English, for those that are not multiple language learners. While in Europe, it is very common to know multiple languages, in America, this is not so commonplace – so that was quite helpful.
The actual production of the DVD is of superb quality! The picture is very clear and the graphics and production quality is very high. It is in fact, an enjoyable DVD to watch!
On a personal level, I love the interviews of the DVD. I find that I learn a lot about the essence of the practice of a witch just by shutting my own mouth and listening to them talk and tell their story. It almost seems a lost art to just actively “listen” to Elders speak. We now live in a world where we have an abundance of Elders within the world-wide spread of Wicca and I love nothing more than just listening to the stories and tales about their discovery and even an odd story of something they found fascinating. The stories sometimes tell me more than anything and maybe that is because it is very humanizing and we can find that we all relate on so many levels, regardless of the tradition we belong to!
Some interesting highlights I took special note of:
One thing that I liked about the book is that they cross the divide and include a chapter that is an interview called, “A Conversation with Maurice and Jetske.” This interview is a conversation with these two Alexandrian witches doing a question and answer format which to me was interesting to hear as I must admit that I don’t personally know very many Alexandrian Wiccans, though I have met some very recently, so it was great hearing from the perspective they gained by practicing within the Alexandrian tradition.
Another particular chapter was one written by Alder Lyncurium called “The role of the Witch in modern Society.” Alder asks some very challenging questions here in which the answer may be different depending on each Wiccan you ask. One particular challenge and question he asks and gives his answer on is: “Do we as witches have an aiding role in the pagan community and general society?” This question he asks is not an easy one to answer indeed! Though I must say that I enjoyed his thoughts on the subject.
Overall, I must say that I found myself agreeing with much of this book and seeing many similarities in approach. I sincerely hope the legacy of Silver Circle continues as a shining light within Wicca. This is one of those books and dvds that will serve as a great resource 100 years from now when after a number of generations come along and they say, “What made Silver Circle so special today?” Seekers in future generations will hopefully have access to this down the line and be able to view this with inspiration. To know where we are going, we must learn from the past: both our successes and failures. I can almost say with certainty that every Elder of the Wicca religion has had successes and failures just like everyone else in their tenure of magical practice.
One more thought that about this book and DVD – Morgana and Silver Circle did a wonderful job documenting their line of the Wicca with this set. Documentation like this should make many of us whom are Wiccan Elders ask the question of, “What are WE doing to document information about our own traditions so that information is not lost for seekers that come into the tradition in future generations – or for those who may be Wiccan historians of the future to be able to find information on?” Also, “What should we do?”
Original title “Heksen in Holland – een blik op Wicca in Nederland”/ 2015
Copies can be ordered from: http://www.silvercircleshop.nl/a-44174533/welkom-bij-silver-circle-webshop/witches-in-holland-dvd-including-p-p-worldwide/
*The Silver Circle network also publishes online the Wiccan Rede – Magazine for Wicca and Modern Witchcraft. They also include a number of English articles in each issue which are always thought-provoking. New issues come out four times per year: Beltane, Lammas, Hallowe’en (Samhain) and Imbolc.