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Monday, September 26, 2011

Book review - Faery Wicca 1 and 2

 There are some bad books that just never seem to die, even after being pulled from publication for plagiarism issues. I was at a pagan conference in my state over the weekend at one of the workshops I taught someone asked about the book Faery Wicca (volume 1) by Kisma Stepanich, and I was actually rendered temporarily incoherant. I did recover and explain some of the issues with the book, but as I thought about it later I realized this might be a good time to post a book review of both of the Faery Wicca books here on my blog, since these were originally published in 1996 and 1998 respectively and all the melodrama about them went down so long ago that perhaps many people aren't aware of it anymore.
     Faery Wicca Book 1: Theory and Magic: a book of shadows and light. This one was pulled from print years ago but can still be found easily used; however it's not even worth the money to buy used. Her information is so inaccurate it makes me wonder if she read half the sources she lists in her bibliography. She relies on several authors which have been largely discredited, such as Robert Graves ideas about the Celtic tree calendar, or Seamus McManus's archeologically inaccurate idea that the Fomorians were Scythian or the Fir Bolg Greek. Beyond the shaky references, there are the author's rampant self contradictions - in one section she states that Cu Chulainn is Lugh reincarnated then two paragraphs later refers to Lugh coming to Cu Chulainn's aid, without ever explaining how that could be possible if they were the same person. Her information in general, but especially relating to any mythology, is so off it leaves a reader wondering what she is talking about. She inaccurately refers to the Fianna as members of the Tuatha de Danann and says that Badb was the main Celtic war goddess who "contained" three aspects including the Morrigan. She fall sinto the common trap of seeing moon and sun deities everywhere, despite the fact that Celtic deities did not fit a classical mold. Her text is full of Kabbalistic and Biblical references which have no place in the fairy faith, for example she states that Dana is GOD, in the Christian sense of the ulitimate deity that contains both male and female, the source of all, and quotes a Bible passage that she says shows that Macha was a also a biblical goddess/queen. And for someone claiming the title of Ollamh - the highest rank among the Fili, or poets of Ireland - her Irish Gaelic is atrocious. She mangles the language mercilessly (if only because she includes no accent marks), both in spelling and her pronounciation guide reducing it to meaningless gibberish, making it very plain that she does not speak the language at all - it seems to be included for no other reason than to make her book look more "Irish" and authentic, when it is in fact neither. Anyone who reads this at the least needs to be aware that it is not genuinely Irish in any way, and should skip right over any Irish Gaelic included in the text. The information about the gods and faeries is blatantly wrong and often contradictory. In short I would never recommend this book as it only spreads a lot of misinformation. There are much better books on Celtic Wicca, if that is what you are interested in, such as Celtic Wicca: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century by Jane Raeburn, or Lora O'Brien's book Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch
   Faery Wicca Book 2: The Shamanic Practices of the Cunning Arts (the Ancient Oral Faery Tradition of Ireland). As with the first book some of her information is simply wrong, such as her assertion that Cu Chulain was a shapeshifter who could take on the form of a wolf, hound, eel or bird, and her confusion of the Daghda with his harp. This occurs in that same section where she states he could take the form of a harp whose playing changed the seasons. In reality it was one of his famed possessions, not himself - in point of fact in one tale it is stolen and he must go with Ogma to reclaim it which would be rather difficult if he and it were one and the same. Those details aside though my biggest issue with this book is that the author takes Christian charms from the Carmina Gadelica, Vol. I & II: Hymns and Incantations (Forgotten Books), alters them slightly to be more appropriate for her "Faery Wicca" by changing references to God and Jesus to Danu, and calls them traditional Faery Wicca charms, without ever citing the real source she is drawing on. Not only is this misleading to people reading the book who are not familiar with the source material, but it is unfair to the source material itself to fail to credit it. Her faery faith is not old or traditional - it is clearly her own invention based off of altering genuine traditional material without ever admitting that is what she is doing. If you want to practice faery faith magic just read the Gadelica for yourself - you can rewrite the charms your own way and know where they came from. The author also falsely says that the term Ollamh means "faery shaman" and was traditionally used to describe those who mastered the faery shamanism she describes, when in reality Ollamh was the term used for the highest ranking poet and translates to "master-poet" or just "master" in modern Irish dictionaries.
  Effectively the author has made up her own tradition, which is fine in and of itself, although I don't agree with many aspects of it myself; currently she has new books out using the name Kisma Stepnaich-Reidling and a website called the Irish-American Fairy-Faith. The website also has some serious issues with using common domain, out of copyright, materials without credit to the sources while implying Mrs. Stepanich-Reidling wrote the material. Where the real problem lies with her books and tradition is the way she did it - by plagiarizing from many other sources including RJ Stewart and the Carmina Gadelica, and by asserting her own often contradictory opinions about mythology as if they were facts and generally accepted. The result is that people who read this material will either have a massive amount to unlearn later or will be buying into the lie the author is selling that her tradition is the modern face of the ancient Faery faith.
   Some links further discussing the books:
When Is A Celt Not A Celt
Open Letter from Former Student
Discussing the Plagiarism

5 comments:

  1. Whew! I can see the blisters now....!

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  2. I'd heard about Stepanich but never really knew what the problem was, so thanks for enlightening me. And yikes. Banshees and Leprachauns? Oh dear oh dear.

    I think you really took one for the team, reading through all that...:p

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  3. Thought this might interest you:

    http://www.faeryfaith.org/fairy-pilgrimage-ireland-faery-tours.html

    She is really taking peoples money now!

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  4. I think you are being way too judgemental. She's not claiming to be Witta or anything.

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  5. She's claiming - or was claiming in these two books - to be teaching the genuine traditional Faery Faith when she isn't. So realy that's not much different from McCoy's Witta....
    But as I said in the review the biggest issue is the plagiarism. She is printing other people's material and calling it her own, and to me that is a really big problem.

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