Budapest, Zsuzsanna. The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries. (Oakland: Wingbow Press, 1989)[Copyright 1980] ill. Reading list, calendar.
ISBN: 0-914728-67-9

This volume was originally published as The Feminist Book of Lights and Shadows, and it is one of the seminal (oval?) texts of the Dianic and Feminist Wiccan movements.

Now that all the die-hard anti-dianics have run screaming from the room:
It's good. Even if you read it only as a historic document, it compares favorably with say, Raymond "Would you buy a used religion from this man?" Buckland, or Scott "Prince Wiftyfarckle" Cunningham's higher flights. As a historic document from the women who helped found modern Neopaganism, it belongs next to Starhawk and Adler. (Parts of the book are written by other authors, including Robert Graves and Chris Carol, Anna Kria, Erika Sophia, Phyllis Chesler, and Starhawk.)

Feminist Wicca, Womyn's Spirituality, and finally Dianic Wicca, grew out of the women's movement, of course. And the fact that such a movement was needed can be demonstrated by the fact that, in this volume, the spell for recovery from rape trauma comes under "Everyday Spells". Feminist spirituality took in a good bit of Margaret Murray, mixed it with Strega and anthropological accounts of ancient Babylonian and Sumeric goddesses, threw in a pinch of Vodoo, and seasoned it with a certain disrespect for men. It is the mother of ecofeminism and certain New Age women's traditions.

Warning: completely disregard the chapter about food. Really. (Remember, this was originally written in the seventies, by people who could be convinced that macrobiotics could save the world...)

This work is designed for women, ecofeminists, and witches who are interested in pursuing a Goddess-central or Dianic path, and who want to learn to create their own rituals. Though Rituals of Daily Life are included in the text, the author(s) do not lose sight of the fact that these rituals were created and are a basis for others. First, tools of the craft, reasons for spellwork, and the 'basic witchy setup'-- the semi-standard order of ritual followed by most modern Wiccans-- are covered, as well as a basic circle procedure.

Subsequent chapters include spellwork (protections, herbal recipes, righteous hex, 'spell for a sucessful school year', 'spell for painless separation' [very useful; most authors don't cover ending relationships], 'spell to free political prisoners', etc.) and 'rites of life' (blessings, self meditations, birthday ritual, conception, new mother, menarche & menopause, blessing of newborns, healing after abortion/miscarriage and after removal of reproductive organs, queening [middle age] and croning, establishing a grove, Dianic trysting [same-sex handfasting], death & burial rites. Also covered are the Dianic Great Rite and related rituals and a beautiful self-blessing ritual. Two large sections cover Sabbats, Esbats, and women's holidays. Though some of the rituals are stilted now, and others strident, they are worth looking at.

I would urge everyone who thinks they understand Dianics to read Chapter 5, "The Goddess and the God" with an open mind and heart. It is the most balanced portrayal of men in goddess wicca I've seen. Is it historically accurate? I doubt it. It partakes strongly of the mythology of womyn's history and is definitely female chauvenist. However, the thealogy of that chapter may make it easier to live with Dianics.

The chapter on prophecy is pretty standard, but the last part of the book includes some excellent information on different historic traditions (please cross-reference this material with other sources when possible though; much of it is radical feminist interpretation of history, including the author's mother's experiences.

The book is marred by the lack of an index and poor chapter and section division and headings. However, there is a Calendar and Suggested Further Reading section in the back that may prove helpful.

This is a book that most electic pagans should probably have read at least once, and many should probably have on their shelves as a reference work. You may not like its philosophy. You may or may not like Budapest's style. But not only is this a legitimate part of our neopagan heritage, but it is a useful starting point for creation and modification of ritual.


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