Hey guys, this is Selene. Robyn and I recently did a spellcast where we went through a list of our best book recommendations for various areas of the occult. Whether you're a beginner, a long-time occultist, or just someone looking for a bit of interesting reading, this list will probably have something for you to dig into. Most of these books are considered more 'serious' occult reading, though, so while some of them are beginner-friendly, others are quite dense and complicated-- we've marked books in this list by their level of difficulty within a subject and tried to give a brief description of why they're recommended in particular. Please be aware that this list is a work-in-progress, and not yet complete.
So, without further ado...!
The Giant List of Recommended Occult Readingby Robyn and Selene
Books for Total Beginners.
- (Beginner) Anything by Scott Cunningham. Scott Cunningham is one of the most prolific and most reliable authors you'll find on various subjects within Paganism. He wrote many foundational books on Wicca, as well as a number of excellent reference books, such as The Encyclopedia of Herbs.
- (Beginner) Ritual Magic, by Donald Tyson. In this book, Tyson discusses the history of Western occultism for the last few centuries and explains the foundation of a number of belief systems. Tyson's opinions regarding the relative validity or worth of certain paths has been a sore point for some, but that doesn't make his overview any less useful.
- (Beginner) Complete Book of Witchcraft, by Raymond Buckland.
- (Beginner) Wicca for One, by Raymond Buckland.
- (Beginner) Witches' Bible, by Janet and Stewart Farrar.
- (Beginner) The Witches' God and The Witches' Goddess, by Janet and Stewart Farrar. These two books give a brief overview of various Gods and Goddesses, respectively. They are an excellent reference tool when you need to get a paragraph or two about a God or Goddess in a hurry.
- (Beginner) An ABC of Witchcraft, by Doreen Valiente.
- (Beginner) First Steps in Ritual, by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki. A good selection of beginner rituals from various cultural paths around the world. This book has become required reading for most students who are new to the concept of ritual, and all of its rituals should be safe for beginners, though some may require further research before they are deeply understood.
- (Beginner) The Spiral Dance, by Starhawk.
- (Beginner) Mastering Witchcraft, by Paul Huson.
- (Beginner) The Meaning of Witchcraft, by Gerald Gardener.
- (Beginner) Witchcraft Today, by Gerald Gardner.
- (Intermediate) Advanced Wiccan Spirituality, by Kevin Saunders.
- (Beginner) Pagan Book of Days, by Nigel Pennick.
- (Intermediate) Solitary Wicca for Life, by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. Murphy-Hiscock offers a bevy of advice on what to do when you've been a Wiccan for a while, and feel like you need to continue growing in your religion.
- (Intermediate) The Shining Paths, by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki.
- (Intermediate) The Golden Dawn, by Israel Regardie. The Golden Dawn is also known as 'The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.' Israel Regardie publishes in this book a near-complete, in-depth manual on the theory and practices of the Golden Dawn. One version of this book weighs in at about 800 pages-- so it's not for the faint-hearted, or for the beginner. [Selene: This is a really long, really dense book-- but you gotta read it. Pre-chewed, bite-size books on occult theory can only get you so far; in the end, there is no substitute for reading the original material, in its original form. You should still read the pre-chewed version first, however, because it generally helps you out a lot when you later open the cover on the source material.]
- (Beginner) Magick in Theory and Practice, by Aleister Crowley. Whether you love him, hate him, or barely know who he is, Aleister Crowley was one of the biggest contributors to Western occult tradition, and his books are absolutely foundational to the understanding therein. [Selene: I like to say that if you're engaged in Western magic at all, then you are completely allowed to disagree with Crowley's ideas... after you've read them all, studied them carefully, and identified the numerous bits and pieces of your practices which likely date back to his work in the first place. Until then, you don't get to disparage Crowley's work. Crowley's personality and individual vices, on the other hand...]
- (Intermediate) Gems from the Equinox, by Aleister Crowley. Second verse, same as the first. Gems from the Equinox goes over Crowley's chosen advice and rituals for his own order, the OTO, and much of it concerns Hermeticism. We wouldn't suggest this as a starter book on the subject, though-- there are very few Crowley books that are actually intelligible to beginners unless you've got someone's line-by-line commentary on the book sitting next to it.
- (Beginner) The Chicken Qabalah, by Lon Milo Duquette. The first book you should read if you intend to start studying the Qabalah. Don't let the funny name fool you-- the Chicken Qabalah was written by one of the foremost experts on Practical Qabalah in our time. In this book, Lon Milo Duqette manages to distill decades of study on the Qabalah into a short (and quite entertaining) explanation of the subject that is easy for lay-persons to grasp right off the bat. [Selene: This is one of my favourite books, ever. Robyn has a huge fondness for it too. Duquette has a great sense of humour, and a talent for making hugely complicated things seem childishly simple.]
- (Beginner) The Witches Qabala, by Ellen Cannon-Reed. Though you should really begin with the Chicken Qabalah in order to understand the concept of Qabalah, Ellen Cannon-Reed's book is the next logical step for those who actually want to practise Qabalah. The Witches Qabala goes through the practical uses of Qabalah in ritual work, the meanings and relationships of the Sephiroth, and a primer on the most common ritual associations involved with the Sephiroth.
- (Intermediate) Paths of Wisdom, by John Michael Greer.
- (Advanced) The Mystical Qabalah, by Dion Fortune. For the relatively advanced student of Qabalah-- at the very least, you should have the Sephiroth memorized and basically digested before you touch it. Dion Fortune goes over some of the more difficult concepts involved in Qabalah, and gives detailed descriptions and thoughts on the Tree of Life and on each Sephira. [Selene: As mentioned in the podcast, Dion Fortune is very much a product of the Victorian time period in which she lived. She was remarkably forward-thinking for her time, but her book still makes the occasional racist reference. Try not to be shocked. Much occult literature (and normal literature) older than a few decades will have these same drawbacks.]
- (Beginner) 108 Questions and Answers, by Paula Horan.
- (Beginner) Reiki Fire, by Franz Petter.
- (Intermediate) The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch.
- (Beginner) The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts. The first primer you should probably ever read on Buddhism, though much of it is more relevant to Zen than it is to other forms. Alan Watts, born in 1915, eventually became one of the primary forces in the movement that popularized and explained Eastern religion to Western audiences. The Way of Zen was a bestseller during its time, and it remains a remarkably easy-to-understand explanation of certain central concepts of Buddhism... relatively-speaking. [Selene: One of my other favourite books of all time. I maintain an in-joke with certain persons regarding THUNDEROUS SILENCE, which is explained in this book.]
- (Intermediate) Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation, by Carl Bielefeldt.
- (Beginner) Engaged Buddhist Reader, Ed. Arnold Kotler.
- (Beginner) Follow the Shaman’s Call, by Mike Williams. A good read which essentially introduces the subject of Shamanism as you go. The writer has a PhD in arcaeology, and the book touches on some of his work there in a tangential manner. [Selene: I enjoyed reading this book, and it gave me plenty to think about. I haven't the first idea whether authoritative Shamanists would consider it to be authentic, but my impressions tell me that it likely is, due to the academic research associated with it. This book is well-researched (but practical), impartial, and devoid of spiritual bragging.]
- (Beginner) The Way of the Shaman, by Michael Harner.
- (Intermediate) The Art and Practice of Geomancy, by John Michael Greer.
- (Beginner) A Practical Guide to the Runes, by Lisa Peschel.
- (Advanced) The Book of Thoth, by Aleister Crowley.
- (Intermediate) Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, by Lon Milo Duquette. If you want to read tarot with any authenticity whatsoever, you must read this book. If you want to read this book, we recommend that you first read The Chicken Qabalah (above). This book is quite long and in-depth, and you will probably have to read it multiple times over your lifetime to keep it all straight; on the up-side, it acts as an excellent reference book for tarot readings when you need to look up tarot associations. [Selene: This book is absolutely required reading if you're going to do professional tarot readings. Doctors have to study anatomy textbooks; professional tarot readers have to study Qabalah, and preferably some Crowley stuff too. A good intuition is not a cure-all for lack of knowledge in tarot any more than it is in medicine.]
- (Beginner) Esoteric Rune Magic, by D. Jason Cooper.
- (Beginner) Futhark, by Edred Thorsson.
- (Beginner) Runecaster's Handbook, by Edred Thorsson.
- (Intermediate) Circles of Power, by John Michael Greer.
- (Beginner) Essential Asatru, by Diana Paxson.
- (Intermediate) Goddess of the North, by Lynda Welch.
- (Intermediate) The Poetic Edda.
- (Beginner) Buckland's Book of Saxon Witchcraft, by Raymond Buckland.
- (Beginner) Practical Magic in the Northern Tradition, by Nigel Pennick.
- (Intermediate) Psychic Self-Defense, by Dion Fortune. Dion Fortune goes over a number of practical situations where magical self-defense is necessary, and explains the solutions accordingly. These explanations are more readily understandable if you have previous experience with Western occult tradition, though some limited use might be gotten out of this book by relative beginners. [Selene: See above regarding Dion Fortune's time period and Victorian writing. You may find this book hard to chew on if you can't endure the Victorian writing style. If you can soldier through, however, it has some good information in it.]
- (Beginner) Full Contact Magick, by Kerr Cuhulain. A great overview of the more common techniques of magical self-defense by a cop who has encountered more than his fair share of negative energy. This guide is soundly based in the practical uses and situations of psychic self-defense. [Selene: I cannot recommend this book enough for beginners at magical self-defense. Actually, even people who believe they are adept at defending themselves often take something away from this book. Just because it is beginner-friendly does not mean the material is useless to advanced students.]
- (Beginner) The Crystal Bible, Judy Hall.
- (Beginner) The Laying on of Stones, DJ Conway.
- (Beginner) Dunwich’s Guide to Gemstone Sorcery, Gerina Dunwich.
- (Beginner) Power Spellcraft for Life, by Arin Murphy-Hiscock. This is the foundational book on spellcraft, and the first thing you should read on the subject. Keep it on your shelf as a reference. Arin Murphy-Hiscock goes over the techniques used to create and cast a spell of your own, rather than buying other people's rote spells. [Selene: We used to recommend this for every single first-time spellcaster or pagan-curious individual who walked into our store. It sold so well that we could almost never keep it in stock for more than a day or so.]
- (Beginner) Practical Candle Burning Rituals, by Raymond Buckland.
- (Beginner) Charms, Spells and Formulas, Ray Malborough.
- (Beginner) The Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, Judika Illes.
- (Beginner) Energy Essentials for Witches and Spellcasters, Mya Om. A great, bite-size explanation of foundational energy techniques and exercises by a witch with a nicely down-to-earth understanding of spells. You can't do a spell if you can't direct your energy properly-- period. Mya Om explains how to fix that. [Selene: Whenever someone came back after reading Power Spellcraft for Life, or if we didn't have that one in stock, I'd generally put them onto Mya Om's books. She fills in what few holes there are in Power Spellcraft, and makes for great continued reading for beginners.]
- (Beginner) The Un-Spellbook, Mya Om. Another good, bite-size read by Mya Om. This book is a diagnosis tool for people whose spells are failing on a regular basis. Why didn't your spell do what you wanted? Probably because you're making one of the mistakes outlined by the author. [Selene: We didn't often see people coming into the store with failed spells unless they were making one of the primary mistakes which this book addresses and fixes. It covers a lot of the same ground as Mya Om's other book above, but it's not a waste of money to pick up both.]
- (Beginner) Tao of Pooh, Te of Piglet, by Benjamin Hoff
- (Advanced) Godwin’s Cabalistic Encyclopedia, David Godwin
- (Beginner) Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith
- (Beginner) Divine Horsemen, Maya Deren
- (Beginner) Tell My Horse, Neale Zola Hurston.
- (Beginner) The Chicken Qabalah, by Lon Milo Duquette. A lot of my favourites are mentioned above already, and this one is no exception. It's short, it's crunchy, it's humourous, and it's written by a man with decades of experience on the subject. The Chicken Qabalah is actually a really enjoyable read, and it will blow your mind while it makes you laugh.
- (Beginner) The Way of Zen, by Alan Watts. This book, though relatively old, is probably the best explanation I've ever found for some relatively difficult concepts in Eastern mysticism. I also found it genuinely well-written and engaging. Furthermore, there are plenty of Zen 'in-jokes' which you will suddenly understand only after reading the work of Mr. Watts. We tend to take Zen a little more seriously than it is sometimes meant to be taken.
- (Intermediate) Magickal Self-Defense: A Quantum Approach to Warding, by Kerr Cuhulain This is a more advanced book on self-defense, though beginners might still get some use out of it, as Kerr Cuhulain has a very pragmatic, down-to-earth writing style. You probably don't know as much about defending yourself as you think, if you haven't read this book-- it's that important.
You guys will note that we don't have anything here... yet. What are your favourite crunchy occult books? What would you most recommend to your fellow witches?