Here is my (relatively small) catalogue of Wicca books - some are more useful than others, and the good ones are at the top of the list. There are also ratings for each book to give you an idea of their usefulness and depth, and a list of books at the bottom of the page for those who'd like some further reading. The fluff content of each book is also estimated, from 5 (high fluff) > 0 (no fluff).
I recommend that you read all the Wicca books you can get your hands on - even if they're awful! When you've read a bad book on Wicca, you'll have a clearer understanding of what Wicca is not, which is a valuable thing. It's hard to learn about something written about so subjectively if you only read the 'good stuff'. If the history of Wicca and Witchcraft interests you, then find out where we've come from - read Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft (because that's really where modern Wicca, as we know it, started).
If you're keen, I also recommend that you peruse the really old books like Malleus Maleficarum, The God of the Witches and Aradia, Gospel of the Witches. They've been mostly discredited (like The God of the Witches) or were bulldust to start with (like Malleus Maleficarum), but they'll give you a handle on how Witches before us would have been treated. I've looked through some of these and there are (or will be soon) basic rundowns at the bottom of the page. A lot of them are so old there are no copyrights, and you can find them in full for free on the Internet Sacred Text Archive.
Lastly, the best piece of advice I can offer on Wicca books is this: the best Wicca books are written by Wiccans. There are exceptions - Douglas Ezzy's Practising the Witch's Craft is great though Douglas isn't a Witch and, conversely, Fiona Horne's books are awful despite the fact she is a Witch. Mostly, though, people that aren't Witches tend to write about what they think Wicca/Witchcraft or Wiccans/Witches are, and they often have little or no experience in the actual practices/people they're writing about - Witches don't have these problems, and their books tend to be the best.
A note on spell kits: these are a waste of money unless you actually have some idea of what you're doing and why you're using the things that are in the kit. Even then, homemade cookies are better than supermarket ones, so to speak. A spell you've crafted on your own has so much more power than one you did from a kit and it'll cost you a heap less.
Ever wanted to know who these authors are? Check out my Wiccan/Pagan Authors page and find out who you're reading.
The Spiral Dance - A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (20th anniversary edition)
Starhawk; Harper Collins, San Francisco (1999)
Fluff content: 0
This is perhaps the most famous book ever written about Witchcraft (the real thing, not Malleus Maleficarum stuff). It's on just about every recommended reading list there is, and for good reason. Reading this book, I discovered that Starhawk is one of the few Pagan authors out there that writes in such as way as to make you feel that she's sitting there speaking to you, making you understand exactly what she's trying to say.
So, having said that, what exactly is The Spiral Dance? Well, firstly, I'll tell you what it isn't - The Spiral Dance is not a 'Wicca 101' book in the tradition of the Idiot's Guides and Silver RavenWolf. It predates that whole movement (being first published in 1979). The Spiral Dance is a discussion of what Witchcraft is and what Witches do (not including only the stuff that is explicitly oathbound) - covens, sacred space, the God and Goddess, magickal symbols, the Cone of Power, initiation, moon rituals, the Wheel of the Year and a heap of exercises, some invocations and chants, spells, charms and even some correspondences. I know - all that can be found in those Wicca 101 books too. The difference is that Starhawk emphasises the religion and the exercises - the spiritual stuff. The magick is there for those that want to do it, but the vast majority of the book is devoted to the nature of Witchcraft (including some good, frank and real-world discussions on birth, death and sex), and how you go about learning it.
Another excellent aspect of this book is that a whole chapter is devoted to both the God and Goddess, with a view to covering both deeply and equally. The exercises in this book are also great - some are coven-specific things, but there are many that can be done on your own, and all of them help with the visualisation and energy-raising skills you need to do ritual and magick. There are also further notes included on statements in the first and second editions of this book that help expand on what Starhawk is trying to say. Every Witch should read this book - you will find an almost unique approach to learning Witchcraft, and certainly superior to Silver's school textbook-like approach and the simplictic Idiot's Guides/For Dummies method.
Gerald B. Gardner with introduction by Dr. Margaret Murray, Various Publishers (1954, 1968, 1970)
Fluff content: N/A
This is something a little different to all the other books I've reviewed here. Gerald Gardner was an amateur anthropologist and archaeologist and wrote this book based on his own personal experiences with Witches, with some excerpts from and critiques of other relevant literature and experiences of others mixed in. This book is considered the first on 'modern' Wicca for good reason - it is a record of the practices and beliefs Gardner observed and had described to him by trusted (and seemingly trustworthy) sources, on which he built Wicca as we know it. Many of the observations and conclusions found in this book can be found in every modern book about Wicca as we know it, and it's easy to see why Gardner is called the 'father of modern Wicca'.
This book is a rational and objective look at both the history and practices of Witchcraft as Gardner observed it - he wrote this book almost as a piece of scientific literature, with opinions clearly defined as such, and this rather uncommon approach appeals to the scientist in me. He talks, among other things, about Witch trials, the sabbats, the Charge of the Goddess, covens, the God and Goddess and working skyclad; he's been paraphrased and quoted on these ever since, but reading Gardner's own words gives an insight that's a little different and somehow just better. It's full of 'light-bulb moments' - you'll be reading and suddenly understand the topic much more deeply than you did before (whether you knew you needed deeper understanding or not).
Perhaps the only real faults with this book are Gardner's assertion that 9 million people died in Witch-hunts, and his apparent inability to give any real detail of the rites he saw (which the Witches allegedly requested he keep secret as much as possible). Many people would also say that his writing style makes for hard going, but I rather liked the scholarly approach Gardner took and found it quite pleasant, and enlightening, to read.
I should make it very clear that Witchcraft Today is not a how-to book on Wicca. It is a historical, anthropological account of the Witchcraft Gardner observed, and while it is a window into the genesis of modern Wicca, it's not a book for the neophytes among us. Once you know what Wicca is and what Witches do, that's the time to start reading this book - to find out where Wicca came from, not to learn what it is.
Practising the Witch's Craft
Douglas Ezzy; Allen & Unwin (2003)
Fluff content: <1
The most enlightening Australian-oriented Wicca book I've read so far. This isn't a 'how-to' like the Idiot's Guides, it's a collection of experiences written by real Australian Witches actually doing ritual and magick. There is a very useful section describing the sabbats from an Australian perspective and giving tips on how you might celebrate them, but most of the book is devoted to what Witches actually do. This book was also the first one I'd found (before I'd read The Spiral Dance) that explores the deeper religious elements within the Craft - for instance, there are two chapters devoted to the ways in which Witchcraft deals with birth, death and sex. Some of you may have realised that most of the readily available Witchcraft books out there are quite 'sanitised' when it comes to those three subjects - they tells you a lot about the God and Goddess and sabbats and rituals and things, but very little about the attitude towards important issues. If you're lucky, you might get a little bit about teenagers and sex (i.e. from Silver RavenWolf and Fiona Horne, and I'm not sure they're a great source of wisdom on the subject), but nobody really seems to want to deal with birth, death and sex openly. This book does that, and that makes it the most valuable book I've found so far (next to The Spiral Dance). All Australians interested in Wicca need to read this - actually, anyone interested in Wicca needs to read this book! This book will teach you more about what Witchcraft is than any other book on this page. Brilliant book. (You can read it online for free - legally - here.)
The Witches of Oz
Matthew and Julia Phillips; Capall Bann, Freshfields (1994)
Fluff content: 0
This book, as the title suggests, is about Witches in Australia, and what they do - there are Southern Hemisphere correspondences, pentagram point correspondence alterations and excellent Australian sabbat anecdotes and tips. This is not your usual Wicca 101 - there is no space wasted with what you can already find in almost every other book ever published. What you will find in here is a practical guide - they discuss ritual tools (including a small amount on the scourge), the altar (in much detail), cakes and ale (including recipes), children participating in ritual (with an example) and half the book is devoted celebrating sabbats, esbats, new moons, Wiccanings, handfastings, requiems for the dead and examples of rituals for all these! YAY! There isn't a great deal on the theology on Wicca (they don't go through the Wiccan Rede and the 13 Goals and all that stuff that's been published to death), but this book has other features that more than make up for this - the major advantage of this book is that the authors tell you WHY THINGS ARE DONE THE WAY THEY ARE!! I haven't come across many good practical guides like this, but this is not the first book someone should read on Wicca. This is a third or fourth book, to be read when the ethics and basic knowledge of the religion have been grasped. Any Australian Wiccan with a working knowledge of Wicca should absolutely read this book (although it isn't easy to find).
Dreaming the Dark - Magic, Sex & Politics
Starhawk; Beacon Press, Boston (1982)
Fluff content: 0
The title of this one should perhaps have been Politics, Sex and Magic - Starhawk is very politically active, and it shows throughout the entire book. It reads like Starhawk's thoughts put directly down on paper - which is, I think, deliberate - and it can be a little hard to 'take in' at some points; at some places in the book you read half a page and realise you have no idea what she's just said, so you have to go back and read it again. But, among the stories about blockading the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor and events of a similar nature, there are gems scattered thickly throughout all 229 pages. There are psychological analyses, anecdotes, insights and pearls of wisdom aplenty in Dreaming the Dark, and they open your mind in a very shrewd way to start you thinking about why some things are the way they are, and why people act the way they do. There are few people out there that can give you information and make you think beyond it at the same time, but Starhawk is one of those - read all the Starhawk books you can get your hands on.
Creating Circles & Ceremonies - Rituals for All Seasons and Reasons
Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart; New Page Books (2006)
Fluff content: 0
The title says it all - this book is a guide to performing whatever kind of ritual you need. And, coming from Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart, it's good guidance. There are instructions on almost every facet of ritual - everything from creating a sacred space and working with deities to handfastings and coven initiations with contributions/rituals in every section from a variety of people from a variety of groups, so there's something to like for everyone.
This book is divided into three sections - the first section deals with the basics of ritual (sacred space, the magick circle, calling quarters, cakes and ale, ending the ritual, etc.), the second section deals with components of specific kinds of rituals (i.e. blessings, dedications, rites of passage, handfasting, etc.) and the third section details rituals specific to the wheel of the year (group festival rituals and coven rituals, mostly, but very helpful to us solitaries). Within all these sections is also some background detail - for example, the first section (basics of ritual) contains background on magickal ethics, circle etiquette and so on.
I've found that some of the stuff in this book (such as initiations and mysteries) is the same kind of thing that's oathbound in the vast majority of trads and covens out there - the kind of thing we solitaries have trouble learning about because almost no-one talks about it outside the coven. Even the procedures for things like ending rituals and raising energy can be hard for solitaries to get a handle on, because it can be difficult to come across someone that understands these things and knows why they're done the way they are. This book is worth the money just for the insight it will give you into the physical practice of ritual and magick - things that other authors gloss over or can't reveal. This is not a book for the absolute novice - before you go near this book, you need a working knowledge of what Wicca is and an understanding of the spirituality involved. As a fourth or fifth book, though, I'd definitely recommend it - there's detailed instruction for people that need it, and general guidance for people just looking for inspiration or a little more information.
Wicca and Witchcraft for Dummies
Diane Smith; Wiley Publishing, Inc. (2005)
Fluff content: 1.5
This is another 'Wicca 101' book. There's not a great deal on practical magick in it, but it's full of info on sabbats (even though they're Northern Hemisphere oriented), the nature of Spirit (although Goddess-biased, like most books are), writing ritual and the philosophy and history of Wicca - Diane Smith manages to blend Wicca with science and make some sense of the Universe using both Wicca and physics (don't be scared off by that - I've never taken a physics class in my life, but I found it very well explained). There's even a little discussion about the Big Issues (being birth, death and sex), and there's more real-life, living-the-path stuff in this book than in some others. Overall, it's a decent book, but certainly not the final word.
There is some value in this book for those of you that aren't really all that familiar with the basics of the practical side of Wicca. If you need to know why people say you should face your altar North, or why we use magick circles, then you need to read a Wicca 101 book - an Idiot's Guide or a For Dummies - before you try reading someone like Starhawk, because you'll quickly get lost. Although there are pretty slim spiritual pickings in both the Idiot's Guide and For Dummies, the practical info can be very valuable for a newbie. I would strongly recommend that you don't get this grounding from Silver RavenWolf.
Denise Zimmerman and Katherine A. Gleason, Alpha Books (2000)
Fluff content: 2
This Wicca 101 book contains something on a lot of things you should know - things you don't hear about from Silver RavenWolf, which gives it a head start in my ratings. It's a Northern Hemisphere book, but quite informative and also quite detailed in a few areas. You'll learn a bit about the God and Goddess (more about the Goddess, as usual) esbats, sabbats, basic ritual, ways to work magick and correspondences. A book for anyone starting out - it's a decent overview, and it will tell you (quite basically) what a Witch is and what it means to be one. This was my third book (I think), but I didn't realise what it doesn't cover until I found Practising the Witch's Craft (book number four in my Wicca reading history) - granted, I started out with Silver RavenWolf's Teen Witch, which isn't really learning at all. There is a bit of detail about what you should and shouldn't do, but it doesn't deal with the deeper, more religious aspects of the Craft - if you want to learn about that, you'll need to look elsewhere.
There are also, unfortunately, some inaccuracies in the book - the first of them is the picture of "Venus of Willendorf" on page 12. This is actually the Venus de Milo, which looks nothing like the Venus of Willendorf. This, I think, is the book you find just before you 'plateau' - when you know the basics and you need something deeper. After reading this, you'll move on up to real teachers like Starhawk and Vivianne Crowley. Second edition is almost identical to the first, and I haven't flicked through the third edition at this point.
To Ride a Silver Broomstick - New Generation Witchcraft
Silver RavenWolf, Llewellyn Publications (1993)
Fluff content: 3
This is marginally more detailed than Teen Witch - it was written earlier, but it's like a sequel. Goes into deeper detail and has more advanced content, but it's more like a school textbook than a guide to Wicca. Silver tries to take you through a series of 'lessons' - I found this to be most annoying and too structured for me. If you ignore the structure, though, some of the info is useful - but again, there's no discussion of the real, religious aspects of Wicca. Look out for opinion disguised as fact, and if you're looking for real, liveable, non-fluffy Witchcraft then pick another author.
Teen Witch - Wicca for a New Generation
Silver RavenWolf, Llewellyn Publications (1998)
Fluff content: 4
This was my first Wicca book (borrowed from a friend) - at the time, I thought it was kind of useful. It's extremely basic and simplified, but contains 2 introductions - one for teens and one for parents so you don't have to explain Wicca yourself. The last half of this book is spells, very few which are useful, and they take up space that could have been devoted to better detail and better content. I'm hesitant to recommend this even for young beginners absolutely new to the Craft - if you do buy it, you'll find a little bit of some absolutely essential things but not much detail, and you should be wary of reading Silver's opinions as fact. If you're considering buying this for your kids, please go for another book - Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (by Scott Cunningham) or something.
Life's a Witch! A Handbook for Teen Witches
Fiona Horne, Random House Australia (2000)
Fluff content: 4.9
Not a useful book. Written for Australia, but not particularly informative. Fiona relives her teenage years a lot in this book, and tells you very little about Wicca - what she does tell you can be described by the word 'fluffy'. She does mention sacred days and a bit about basic (very basic) ritual. There are a couple of useful titbits, but it's mostly stuff sent in by her 12-year-old fans. Not recommended - spend your money on something better, and only read this to learn something about what Wicca isn't. Even then, borrow it from a library somewhere and save your money.
The really old texts are different from the new books we can find in our bookshops. When I say 'old books', I mean basically all ones before Witchcraft Today (published 1954), because Witchcraft Today is generally considered the first of the 'modern' Wicca books, and the ones before it are really only useful for historical interest. So, being that I'm interested in history, I've been looking through these old books and I'm going to give you all a rundown of what they're basically about - you won't find a rating or fluff level, because they don't really lend themselves to such things.
The Golden Bough
Sir James Frazer, 1922
The Witch-Cult in Western Europe
Dr. Margaret Murray, 1921
Book of Hallowe'en
Ruth Edna Kelley, 1916
Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches
Charles G Leland, 1899
Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition
Charles G. Leland, 1893
Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, 1486 (translated by Montague Summers in 1928)
Malleus Maleficarum is a Witch-hunter's handbook, written to help the Inquisition's Witch-hunters find and get confessions from Witches.
These are some books on Wicca that are on my to-do list that come highly recommended. Obviously, because I haven't read them, I can't tell you how useful they are yet.
Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today - Margot Adler (1979, revised 1986, updated 1997)
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham; Llewellyn (1988)
Wicca: The Old Religion in a New Age - Vivianne Crowley; Aquarian, London (1989)
Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham; Llewellyn (1993)
The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical rituals, prayers, blessings and meditations on crossing over - Starhawk and M. Macha NightMare; Harper Collins, San Francisco (1997)
The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft - Ronald Hutton; Oxford University Press, USA (2001)
The Witches' Sabbats - Mike Nichols; Acorn Guild Press, USA (2005)
If you can't find them in your local library (I couldn't even find a few of these in the Louis Matheson Library at Monash University), then all of them (I think) can be bought for a reasonable price at Amazon.com and some from the Dymocks website (if you want, they'll even get titles in to your local shop).