by

Mike Gleason

 

The Witch School First Degree  by  Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell  © 2008  Llewellyn 

EAN 978-0-7387-1301-4 240 pages Paperback $19.95 (U.S.)    $22.95 (Canada) 

I am from the “old guard” BTW branch of Wicca, so I was basically unfamiliar with the Correllian tradition.  I hit a couple of stumbling blocks in the Preface and Introduction, but nothing too serious.  The first was the use of the term “Nativist” as equivalent of “Pagan,” and the second was their dating system (1579 Piscean is equivalent to 1979 C.E.).  On a personal level those simply strike me as unnecessary affectations, but they have effect on the actual teachings, so they aren’t a major concern. 

Since the Correllian tradition, like many other systems of Wicca, is structured around a three degree system, and since it is anticipated that each degree will take a year (more or less) to complete, this book is comprised of twelve lessons (one per month).  If you work through the lessons in an honest and focused manner, at the end of a year’s study you should be ready for initiation as a First Degree Correllian.  How honest you are with yourself will determine how much you get out of your studies. 

Each monthly lesson is composed of multiple parts consisting of the actual lesson, exercises to develop your skill, a basic spell (for practical experience), a deity (to expose you to the multiple facets of divinity), a glossary (to explain words which may be unfamiliar), and study questions (13 for each lesson). 

I would strongly suggest that you obtain a notebook or two (depending upon your personal preference) to house a handwritten copy of each lesson’s glossary (I know a computer and printer are more likely to produce a crisp, clear copy, but if you take the time to hand write it, you will remember more of it) and you answers to the questions.  And for your sake, don’t just copy the relevant answer from the book.  Think about it, and put the answer in your own words, in detail.  The more effort you put into it, the more benefit you will derive from it.  It isn’t about getting the “right” answer.  It’s about getting your answer.  Your concept of deity (for example) most likely won’t be exactly the same as anyone else’s.  That doesn’t matter.  You are expected to make these lessons a part of your life. 

The lessons are extremely basic (after all, this is a “Wicca 101” book) and for that reason may be boring to more advanced students.  They are, however, presented from an Aradian point-of-view, which is often neglected in today’s community.  There have been few mentions of their beliefs in general circulation; fewer public exponents of the system; and even fewer well-known public personalities.  All of this makes this book (and the upcoming ones in the series) a valuable addition to the public knowledge. 

The lessons progress from extremely theoretical (the meaning of magic) to the practical (basic energy work) to the very practical (herbs, stones, oils and incenses).  Each of these lessons is carefully thought out and well presented. 

At the conclusion of the lessons is a little background on the Correllian tradition and its evolution from a family-base (Scots-Cherokee) to a public organization, through a merger with the Aradian tradition in 1904.  Beyond that there is a “Self-Wiccaning” (“Dedication”) ceremony which will grant you membership in the Outer Court of the tradition, as well as Correllian versions of the Charge of the Goddess and the Charge of the God.  

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The Witch School Second Degree  by  Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell  © 20008  Llewellyn 

EAN 978-0-7387-1302-1  480 pages Paperback $24.95 (U.S.)    $28.95 (Canada)   

This book is a little different from the first one in the series, as is to be expected.  It is designed to follow the same basic pattern, but has variations because of the subject matter.  It constitutes a “Wicca 201” book, as opposed to the more familiar, and basic, “101” books so commonly available in the market today.  I am still not really impressed by the use of their own dating system, but I accept it as a given when it comes to internal events.  Its use for dating mundane events seems unnecessary, in my opinion. 

Once again, the book contains 12 lessons, based on the assumption that the average student will take “a year and a day” to complete each level (“degree”) of training.  Each chapter is composed of the lesson itself, some exercises intended to help you expand your comprehension of the material, a spell to impart practical experience in the use of the information, and a short glossary of unfamiliar terms.  Unlike the first book, however, there are no questions at the end of each chapter. 

The topics covered in this book are very different from those in the first book.  They cover everything from divinatory methods (the tarot, Astrology, and Runes among others) to Sex Magic to Group Dynamics.  This is in keeping with the Correllian position that by the time an individual has completed First Degree training, the basics should be well integrated and understood and he or she should be ready for more complex concepts. 

In the Correllian Tradition Second Degree initiates are expected to be competent ritualists and should be able to answer questions on most topics.  They should be able to function as temple or shrine leaders with occasional assistance from the High Priest/esshood.  Therefore the information in this book is aimed at developing those abilities as well as expanding the individual’s general knowledge.  The information is extensive, even if it is not comprehensive.  It gives a good foundation for further exploration. 

Obviously, as a text book, it is not intended to be read straight through.  There are exercises to do and spells to perform on your way through this book.  Nonetheless, I would recommend skimming through it and reading the first page or so of each chapter, just to familiarize yourself with what will be covered.  Then go back and work through each chapter, taking as much time as is needed to make the information contained within it a part of your world.  Do not rush this process.  Allow at least a month per chapter.  And don’t assume that a single reading is enough (especially if a topic is unfamiliar).  Don’t hesitate to re-read a paragraph (or an entire chapter) if needed. 

The lesson on chakras is the longest in the book and is far more extensive than any treatment I have seen outside of a book devoted specifically to the topic.  Most authors treat chakras in a rudimentary manner, if at all, but by the time you work through this chapter, you will have a significant grounding in chakra lore. 

The more effort you put into the exercises and spells, the more benefits you will gain.  Your goal should be to become competent in the various areas covered in this book, to expand your knowledge, so as to be able to help others along the path. 

Some of the beliefs and attitudes expressed by this series of books will offend people, and not just those outside the umbrella of paganism.  While some of their statements may come across as dogmatic, it is necessary to remember that being non-judgmental is stressed in the early lessons.  The reader is intended to make what use they may of the information provided.  It should also be remembered that these works are intended to present the “official” position of the tradition.  Your understanding and position may vary. 

The chapter on Group Dynamics is almost worth the price of the book in itself.  It is well worth taking this book off the shelf and reading this section at least once a year. 

At the end of the book is an appendix which discusses many non-Wiccan Pagan religions.  Some get a short background and some are more extensively covered.  All of these religions are ones which are either currently a part of the Pagan mindset, or are major components of current Pagan religions.  While I don’t completely agree with everything that the author has written, it is useful as a jumping-off point for further, personal, research. 

There are two more books to come in this series (Witch School  Third Degree and Witch School Ritual, Theory and Practice) and they will address topics (I am sure) which will benefit the entire Pagan community.  You don’t need to plan to join the Correllian tradition to make use of the information they are presenting in these books.  Unless you are fortunate enough to live near a major training group or seminary, you will find these books an invaluable resource even if (or especially if) you disagree with some of what is said. 

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The Witch School Third Degree  by  Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell  © 20008  Llewellyn 

EAN 978-0-7387-1303-8 333  pages Paperback $29.95 (U.S.)    $34.95 (Canada) 

This is the third, and final, “degree” book in this series. There remains one more book to come (devoted to “Ritual, Theory and Practice”) and, as such it makes certain assumptions.  These assumptions are:  First, that the reader is dedicated to the path of service which is implied by aspiring to a leadership position; second, that you are capable of sustained study; and third, that you have completed the study of the first two books in the series. 

Although their approach may seem very simplistic in some ways (defining things in positive terms instead of negative ones), but this does not make them simple or easy to accomplish.  It requires a change in attitude and thought patterns.  As anyone who has ever tried to break a bad habit can tell you, this is far easier said than done.  However, once it is accomplished personal rewards and insight are sure to follow.  And each accomplishment makes the next attempt easier. 

There are some aspects of this book which may cause even experienced members of the Wiccan community to doubt the sanity of the author.  Lesson VI, on “time”, is one of those aspects.  The idea that people can relive portions of their lives without being aware of it, or others being aware of it seems to push the boundaries of acceptable thought. 

These books are written for two reasons, and they succeed in at least one of them.  The first reason they exist is to provide training for Correllian priesthood, and I can’t evaluate that since I am not in that program.  The second reason is to make the wider Wiccan/Pagan community aware of the beliefs and actions of the Correllian Tradition and how they interact with the wider community.  In that they succeed admirably.  That is not to say that everyone will agree with everything put forth in these books, but at least they can’t say they don’t understand where the tradition stands. 

The subjects covered in this book are some that are not normally discussed in print, since many (if not most) of the books currently being written are at an extremely basic level.  There is a need for more advanced materials.  While some of the comments are sure to rankle some individuals they will, or should, stimulate discussions and further thoughts/ 

Obviously, merely reading this material, and doing the exercises, cannot make one a member of the high priesthood of the Correllian Tradition.  You need personal contact, instruction and interaction to achieve that goal.  Fortunately the tradition is in an expansive mode, and the number of temples, shrines, and individual practitioners is on the rise, so this contact is becoming easier. 

While I cannot say that this system WILL work for you (every individual reacts differently to the same stimuli), I can say several things.  First, the system appears to be consistent.  Second, it incorporates – for the most part – ideas which have stood the test of time.  And, most importantly, it is based on experience, not merely dogma and pronouncements from “on high.” 

If you are willing to put in the time and effort to do the exercises and study the teachings, you will find yourself well-rewarded even if you decide not to pursue membership in the Correllian Tradition.  This book (and series) while not NECESSARY, can certainly aid in spiritual and magical development.  There is a wealth of material herein, which can be of benefit to all.