Witch School First Degree
Lessons in the Correllian Tradition
by Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell
Llewellyn, PB, 260pp
reviewed by John Canard
I was pleased to be asked to review this book as I have heard some ferocious debates about the subject of Witch School and the Correllian tradition, and prefer to make my own mind up based on the evidence rather than hearsay. Based on the book I have to say it is a clear example of giving a group of people what they want. Some might criticise this, but if people are happy with the material then the author cannot really be criticised for filling a gap in the market that obviously needed to be filled. I was pleased to see that the introduction distinguished Correllian witchcraft from Alexandrian/Gardnerian, though the author does make the valid point that nobody has the copyright on the use of the term Wicca, as it simply means witchcraft.
The style of the material pulls together an eclectic blend of basic pagan information, with the now ever popular chakras (which have nothing to do with witchcraft), with what I consider to be a surfeit of affirmations. Affirmations have been made very popular by the New Age movement, and have their value, but when used in such quantity as found in this book there is a danger of encouraging people to hand responsibility to the gods, and become followers who do not accept personal responsibility for their actions and the consequences thereof. Not only this, but people are encouraged into a laity mentality by this book, even while it professes to encourage self-empowerment.
The level of knowledge presented is basic, in handy bite-size chunks which is ideal for people who want to be spoon fed rather than work hard to find out for themselves. A problem with this is that some of the material is not as accurate as it could be, or is explained in curious ways. E.g. everything that goes deosil is connected to the God and matter, everything that goes widdershins is connected to the Goddess and to spirit. What?!?!?! Likewise some of the chakra attributions such as planets are just plain wrong, based on modern Western mistakes rather than the Indian sources, such as the second chakra being Mars, rather than Moon, or the sixth chakra being Moon rather than Jupiter. This ignores a fundamental issue, which is that the Indian worldview has differences to the Western traditions, and they do not map onto each other exactly as a result. For a decent work on chakras try reading Haresh Johari, or Anodea Judith’s Wheels of Life is more accurate and useful.
The tendency to simplify can also be problematic, such as the declaration that today the athame can be any coloured ahndle and does the job of the white-handled knife as well. Saying a pentagram is a five-pointed star in a circle is just plain wrong, and perpetuating one of the most annoying modern idiocies. By definition a pentagram is a five pointed star, there are no circles involved, nor is a pentagram a pentacle, which is a tool. Another personal annoyance is the reference to Hekate as the crone goddess, which shows that modern misinformation has reached the stage where too many people perpetuate it as fact without bothering to go back to source. In fact the information on the deities and their attributions generally, particularly the seven planetary archetypes, shows a sad lack of research or understanding. Sekhmet the crone and Osiris the sorceror are just two examples of somebody who doesn’t know their pantheons trying and failing to make things fit their model and failing.
I would also like to banish this term “devoke” that seems to have crept in to books like this. I am guessing somebody looked at a dictionary and thought aha, de- means removal or reversal of, so I can be clever and use it to devoke, which will be the opposite of invoke. No! No! No! If you were reversing your call you would be doing it backwards, and this is not the case, e.g. saying the Lords Prayer backwards would be devoking. The case here is that you are bidding beings farewell. So this bit of attempted cleverness once again demonstrates the way people are just perpetuating any nonsense they read or hear, because they don’t actually understand what they are doing and don’t put any real work into it.
However it must also be said that there is a lot of good basic religious material here, e.g. the point is made that the chalice of wine is a eucharist. The appeal of this book is that it presents a pagan witchcraft religion, which is what Wicca never was and never should be. For people who want a simple, heavily chakra and affirmation based, feel-good spirituality, I can understand the appeal. However this book really is kindergarden paganism, and should not be taken seriously by anyone who wants to practice magick and really change themselves through taking responsibility for themselves and their actions.
This book is available from all the usual online stores, as well as directly from http://www.lewellyn.com