Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone have updated their 2004 classic, “Progressive Witchcraft” and given the new second edition a fresh title: “The Inner Mysteries: Progressive Witchcraft and Connection With the Divine.” This is an important book for Wiccans and is a must read for a number of reasons.
Janet’s Wiccan credentials are impressive. She was initiated by Alex Sanders into Alexandrian Wicca in 1970, the same year the writer Stewart Farrar was initiated into that same coven by Maxine Sanders. Janet and Stewart soon became working partners in the coven and then romantic partners and later married. After receiving their second degree initiations from Alex and Maxine, Janet and Stewart set up and led their own coven.
Janet and Stewart wrote a number of highly influential books on Wicca including the groundbreaking “A Witches’ Bible” (originally published as a two-book series under the titles “Eight Sabbats for Witches” and “The Witches’ Way.”) They continued to produce books together and worked to help build Wiccan community until Stewart’s passing in 2000. Janet and Stewart’s books remain on the required reading lists of Wiccan training covens around the world.
Gavin Bone joined a Seax-Wicca group in 1986, and met Janet and Stewart in 1989. He joined with Janet and Stewart to assist with their writing and speaking engagements in 1992 and the relationship blossomed into a polyfidelitous union with the couple. Gavin worked with Janet and Stewart writing and publishing their books from the 1990s onward.
Janet and Stewart got their start in Wicca in what could be called the “old guard” when Alexandrian Wicca was becoming firmly established. Their books and publicity work for Wicca could easily be described as instrumental in building that foundation for the Wiccan community. With Stewart’s background in journalism it’s no surprise that the triad’s Wiccan journey would lead them to seek out the core truths behind the sometimes glamorous myths that built up around this spiritual path.
“The Inner Mysteries,” like the first edition, will undoubtedly ruffle some traditionalist Wiccan feathers. If provides a lot of insightful analysis that debunks common Wiccan historical myths. As they point out numerous times, a spiritual system’s value does not depend on the truth or falsehood of any historical claims that might have been made. If a system helps practitioners to connect with the Divine and meets their needs then it is successful no matter if the system is many thousands of years old or just a few decades old.
Janet and Gavin follow the logic further to question the value of other common parts of Wicca that often have been accepted merely on supposed historical authority. Are degree systems necessary, and if so, why? Must one work in a coven in order to be Wiccan? Is formal initiation necessary to be Wiccan? Should the Book of Shadows be treated as holy scripture? What is the essential core of Wiccan practice and belief?
These are all important questions that Wiccan practitioners and groups need to seriously confront. Janet and Gavin point out that taking these topics for granted, accepting the “old guard” pat answers relying on supposed tradition, leads to dogma and fossilization of what could be a living spiritual tradition into just another set of handed-down rules demanding blind obedience. We need to face these issues openly and honestly in order to help Wicca grow into the healthy lasting world religion that it deserves to be.
This book is not merely an exploration of Wiccan theory. It was written as a handbook for training – for solitaries as well as groups who are looking for a solid grounding in Wiccan spiritual and magickal practice. Janet and Gavin explain the theory, give clear exercises, and make it all practical and straightforward. This second edition of the book is clearly the result of the couple’s many years of personal experience providing exactly this sort of training all around the globe.
The only suggestions I would give to the authors for any subsequent editions of this book is to continue revising the history section as new findings are always coming to light. It would also help to have a topic-grouped bibliography at the end to help students extend their studies. The general bibliography is helpful but a bit daunting. Or instead of a topic-grouped bibliography at the end of the book perhaps a topical recommended reading list at the end of each chapter would work.
“The Inner Mysteries” is another thought-provoking book from a pair of prolific and clearly dedicated Wiccan leaders. In my opinion it should be required reading for both solitary and coven-based Wiccans.
“The Inner Mysteries: Progressive Witchcraft and Connection with the Divine”
by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone
Acorn Guild Press, Portland Oregon USA