Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation
While it has its flaws, this book of shadows for beginners is packed with information and provides genuine, non-patronising support.
I hesitate before I recommend Silver Ravenwolf’s Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation and it’s not because I dislike the book. Written for beginner to intermediate witches, Ravenwolf narrows her intended audience even further by creating The Solitary Witch for the single teenager interested in the craft.
On one hand, I’ve never been able to find another book that packs this amount of information into such an accessible and easily adaptable format while maintaining a friendly, familiar tone throughout. There are no stupid questions in The Solitary Witch; Ravenwolf anticipates and responds without lecturing or underestimating her reader.
Ravenwolf’s intended audience will likely find the last section of this book (“Shadows of Magick & Real Life”) a helpful guide for bringing witchcraft out of meditation and ritual-heavy spells and into their everyday lives. In particular, I remember stumbling across the words “Locker Spells” and finding a list of suggestions for discrete ways to empower personal objects for success in a school setting. These suggestions are a subtle way of encouraging the reader that’s considering witchcraft for a personal path while gently dissuading those considering it just as a fad.
For a lone beginner with no-one to turn to and uncertain of their future commitment to the craft, The Solitary Witch is a book I’d recommend. Witchcraft is a highly personal experience and without a coven or structure to follow, much of the learning experience will be trial and error, but Ravenwolf takes out some of the guesswork. Many teenagers who are initially very involved may discover that the path isn’t for them. I don’t fault them for this. The reader who flips through this book, uses what they need, and then moves on will have pleasant memories with The Solitary Witch.
Readers who return to the book with more experience or a better academic understanding of witchcraft will start to understand my hesitation. Though Ravenwolf encourages her readers not to get weighed down by anyone’s dogma – including her own – she inevitably draws a line of “us and them” between witches and what’s easily interpreted as Western religion (most notably Christianity). Additionally, Ravenwolf uses Witch and Wiccan interchangeably throughout the book. This makes sense at first, given that this is a book about witchcraft, but it seems to dismiss the fact that not all witches are Wiccan or that Wicca as a formal religion isn’t something that can necessarily be done in a solitary setting. The Reede and ethics of Wicca are mentioned only in passing and I find the portions were she advocates readers lying to their parents highly disturbing. Several of Ravenwolf’s sources are questionable and there are a few times I’ve gone back to fact check parts that seem unlikely or not necessarily “Wiccan”, only to find they came from sources disproved years before the book was published. The history portion is especially wanting and for a book intended for beginners, I found this more than a little disappointing.
None of these things affects my ability to use what’s in the book. If you’re a teenager interested in Witchcraft and Magick (though not necessarily formal Wicca) with no-one in your community to turn to for guidance, it’s worth picking up a copy of Silver Ravenwolf’s The Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation from your local bookstore or library. While you’re there, check out a copy of Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner to help fill in the blanks.