Today, with the many books available and with more and more movie and television shows providing more-or-less accurate portrayals of Wicca, a tremendous interest in the Old Religion has developed, with many, many people seeking to come into it. Yet even today it is not easy to make contact with an authentic Wicca group, let alone actually join a coven. Imagine, then, how it was fifteen to twenty years ago. Although there were some public Wiccans, and even a few groups offering public rituals at that time, it was extremely hard to make that contact. Because of this, a lot of people decided to stop searching and to "do their own thing." Using works varying from records of the late medieval witchcraft trials to modern novels like Rosemary's Baby (!) as their references, people began to write their own rituals and simply declare themselves "Witches."
Since the early 1960s I had personally been working to straighten the public misconceptions of Witchcraft. I had started by writing books on the general principles of the Craft, trying to fill-in the gaps left when Gerald Gardner's books went out of print. Over the years I added lectures and workshops, to teach as much as practicable, to as many people as I could reach. It quickly became obvious that lectures, workshops, even one-to-one correspondence courses, could not reach everyone. I thought of people who lived miles from any populated areas; in areas where you could be hundreds of miles from your nearest neighbor. How best to reach those people, and give them the true basics of the Craft? The best way seemed to be with a book. A complete book on the Old Religion.
So it was that I came to write Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. I tried to include in it everything that anyone would need in order to practice Wicca; either as a group or as a Solitary. I based what I presented on (at that time) over twenty years Craft practice and nearly forty years of occult study. I included some of the history of the Craft, but did not dwell on it since I had detailed that in my book Witchcraft From the Inside. I felt that the emphasis needed to be on the practical side.
Our Own Paths
I believe that we all need to find our own religious paths. Some people prefer a great deal of ritual, while others want only simplicity. For this reason it is good that there are, today, so many Wiccan traditions from which to choose. When I wrote this book, I knew that I should not base it on any one tradition; it had to be nondenominational. It is therefore not Gardnerian, not Saxon, not Celtic…it is what you make it. I wrote completely new rituals, just for this book, and urged the reader to use them until familiar, then to make any necessary changes for personal comfort. I simply wanted to give a good, solid foundation on which the newcomer to the Craft could build, and build to suit the self.
No book—on Witchcraft or any other subject—can ever be truly "complete." There are always variations, advanced techniques, little-known secret practices, personal approaches, that have not been included. But I called it a complete book because it did contain everything that was needed to allow a person to practice the Craft: initiation, religious rites for all occasions, healing, divination, magic in many different forms, and so on. I am presently at work on a book of advanced Witchcraft which, I hope, will complement this present book. But the present book will, in this sense, always remain "complete."
It has been extremely gratifying to me, over the years, to meet people who tell me what "Big Blue" has meant to them; most admitting that it was their first book on the Craft. I am asked to sign tattered, well-used copies that are almost falling apart. I think this is a tremendous compliment; the book was written to be used, so I love to see that indeed it has been used.
What is written in the book has obviously passed the test of time. It is as relevant today as when first written. But it was thought that a new edition might be appreciated, if only in bringing it up-to-date in its overall "look;" its layout and format. Some new photographs have been added and some of the illustrations redrawn, but it is essentially the same book as before. And this is so that those who already have it are not forced into going out and buying a new copy. I hope that, in its new format, it will continue to help Witches and Wiccans, new and old, for many more generations. As I mentioned at the beginning, even today it is not easy to make contact with Wiccan groups and to gain access to a coven. I think this is as it should be. I think we gain a lot from having to do a little work to get what we want; having to search to find those we want to be a part of. It makes that final contact all the sweeter. So, hopefully, there is still a place for my book with those who are seeking, just as there is a place for it with those who have already "come home."
In love and light—Raymond Buckland