The Crooked Path: An Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft by Kelden
A Book Review by Lord Tanys
I have been noticing comments on Amazon and commentary on YouTube that many of the Wicca-Witchcraft-Pagan-Magick books I had grown up with are considered “out of date.” So, I bought a few New Generation type books to see what is going on out there, and which books I may want to recommend, rather than the ones I love so much.
The Devil thank we for Kelden’s book, The Crooked Path. Yeah, that’s right.
I found Kelden’s excellent YouTube videos thanks to a Thorn Mooney video, and the topic of both videos was “Plastic Witches.” I found Kelden’s point of view to be well thought out, very well articulated, and all while he chopped vegetables. I have enjoyed his other videos very much as well. He also writes articles for Patheos.com called By Athame and Stang, which are a highlight of the site.
So when I learned he had just published his first book, the hunt was on. People who know me know I love book stores almost as much as I love books, so I hit up several of our local metaphysical shops, and then our big chain book stores till finally, at the third B&N location, there sat The Crooked Path, hot off the presses.
The search was worth it, and I have read through the book a few times already. It reads very much the way Kelden speaks, which is highly informative, but also interesting, full of heart, not talking down to us but not overly verbose.
And the citations! All through the book, Kelden cites sources of his information as footnotes for our further research. I love that!
The Traditional Witchcraft Kelden teaches is expressly non-Wiccan, and though there are similarities between the systems, Kelden does an excellent job of comparing and contrasting the two, and explaining Traditional Witchcraft on its own terms. He does this in a way that is inspirational and welcoming. In fact, I feel confident in suggesting this book as a precursor to one of our Second Year textbooks, the Grand-Daddy of Traditional Witchcraft, Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft.
Similar to Mastering Witchcraft, The Crooked Path treats Wicca rather politely, without the spiritual hipsterism that unfortunately is sometimes found in other Traditional Witchcraft media. Kelden displays grace and confidence in his understanding of the two subjects (Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft) and won’t dissuade interested Seekers from other systems of Magick (especially Wicca) the way more insecure books will.
Modern Traditional Witchcraft has incorporated much of Robert Cochrane’s work, most notably ritual working, involving the use of the Stang, Trance-inducing dance, and Trance itself.
Kelden does a fantastic job of explain the Stang (a multi-use pronged staff used often as an Altar, to put it simply) which is a well loved tool and symbol of Traditional Witchcraft. He gives a very good description of ritual setup, Compass Laying, Treading the Mill, and celebrating the Housel, so that one can easily do the work themselves. These are similar to a Circle, Witch’s Rune, and Wine and Cakes, but again, Kelden does an excellent job differentiating and defining them.
Much of the usable material, such as spells, charms and descriptions, come from historical sources, and often directly from the Witch Trials. In this regard Kelden has stated preference for a word such as “Folkloric” in describing this system. In my opinion, using such spells and charms, straight out of the Witches’ mouths (or ascribed to them by their persecutors) is an intense way of keeping their memory alive, and drawing strength from their sacrifices.
Such as the use of the name “the Devil”- a call-back to my opening statement, finally. Kelden points out the one thing the Witch Trials had in common, in every country, more than anything else, is congress with, and service of the Devil. So why not own it? Yes that is the name they gave Him, but so what? This may be one of the larger differences between Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft. Call him Cernunnos, Pan, the Witch Father, or the Devil; just don’t call Him late for Sabbat.
Other differences can include Elemental Placings around a ritual area, and not relying on the Wiccan Rede. In the former case, he explains quite well the theory behind placing the Elements where he does. This is different than the Golden Dawn/Wicca format, and I say “vive le difference.” As for the Wiccan Rede (and the Three-fold Law of Return) it is important to remember that these apply to Wicca and its practitioners; meanwhile there is a whole big world of Magick out there happily doing its thing, other than Wicca.
There are spells and charms included, several excellent recipes, many introspective exercises (subjects Kelden broaches for us to decide for ourselves) and meditations, advice on various topics both common sense and from his experience, and an excellent bibliography (one of my favorite parts of any non-fiction book, and often the first thing I turn to).
The Crooked Path is well researched and clearly well practiced, well written, intriguing and informative. I really like this book, and its author, and for anyone interested in Traditional Witchcraft, either to practice it, or to learn about this growing field of magical practice, this is the book to read.
Find The Crooked Path: An Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft by Kelden
on Amazon. ISBN-10: 0738762032 ISBN-13: 978-0738762036
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Inner Circle Sanctuary
Inner Circle Sanctuary is a school for traditional style Wicca and holds eight sabbat festivals every year.