Silver RavenWolf (September 11, 1956)
My personal introduction to magic, witchcraft, and Wicca would have been altogether different without the writings and works by Silver RavenWolf. While many in the tradition have stark disagreements and valid concerns with her, she remains one of the most prolific authors on the subjects of various New Age movements, Modern Witchcraft, and Wicca. What sets Silver RavenWolf apart, and her ultimate reason for inclusion in my series, is that her writings and instructional books are geared towards and focused on teens. This aspect, I believe, is one of her greatest contributions to the Craft, and while other authors certainly have books approachable by young witches, Silver RavenWolf’s redefined witchcraft for a young generation.
Raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Silver RavenWolf attended Harrisburg Area Community College in 1976. Her family lineage extends back to the Black Forest area of Germany, and it is the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of Pow-Wow magic that has largely defined her writings. Silver RavenWolf allegedly had a very tumultuous relationship with established mainstream religions as child. This divisiveness has influenced much of her writings, and is often one of the main criticisms about her. After the death of her mother, Silver felt a “lack of support” from Christianity which, along side of various issues with fundamentalist neighbors, drove her to seek guidance in alternative faiths. She was heavily influenced by Sybil Leek’s (#31) “Diary of a Witch”, which Silver has described as illustrating to her the true nature of witchcraft. Throughout the 1980s, Silver married and had several children, while continuing her exploration of the various traditions of witchcraft.
Like so many influential Witches and Pagans of her time, Silver saw a need for increased communication and networking within the burgeoning Pagan community in America. At the time, there were various publications, periodicals, and magazines geared towards witchcraft and Wicca, however Silver hoped to coalesce these in hopes of helping authors share new information. She founded the Wiccan/Pagan Press Alliance out of this need, helping new authors learn how to navigate the challenges of editors and publishers. In this way, she paved the way and provided assistance for future authors on witchcraft who have come after her.
Silver’s initiatory pedigree is as prolific as her writing, and is another point of contention. She holds various levels of initiation in a spectrum of traditions, such as the International Red Garters, the Temple of Hecate Triskele (a Caledonii Tradition), and the Serpent Stone Family, to name a few. She holds initiatory degrees in nearly a half-dozen other traditions, with connections to Raymond Buckland. She has been trained in Spiritualist traditions, Pennsylvania Dutch Pow-Wow traditions, and has Master Certificates in Reiki. In addition to this, she has established her own tradition, the Black Forest Circle and Seminary.
The aforementioned Serpent Stone Family she was involved with has gained her some criticism. This tradition, which boasts initiates like Scott Cunningham, is semantically not a formal Wiccan coven, though she has often described it as such. Silver RavenWolf has allegedly claimed a lineage to British Traditional Witchcraft back to Gerald Gardner through the Serpent Stone Family, which is largely understood to be inaccurate. To me, this disagreement entirely misses the point, and Silver RavenWolf, regardless of any lineage back to Gardner, or lack thereof, remains a dedicated practitioner of witchcraft, magic, and multiple denominations of Paganism and Wicca.
Aside from her initiations, Silver RavenWolf has written extensively. She has close to 30 books, beginning with her bestseller “To Ride a Silver Broomstick” (1993). She has sold over half a million books worldwide, and remains one of the most well established authors for teens in their entry into witchcraft. As unapproachable and complex as her initiatory pedigree sounds, her writing has always been easily understood by the neophyte. She combines her background in Pow-Wow magic, and her various traditions of witchcraft, into a unique and digestible tradition that has served as the introduction into magic for countless teens throughout the 90s, 00s, and today. I found my path with witchcraft through many of Silver RavenWolf’s works, and they provided a truly unparalleled launching point for a journey of self-discovery within the tradition. Teens are in a particularly susceptible time of their lives, and Silver RavenWolf offers them a home and place of understanding in a world that often alienates them. Witchcraft is shown to be a place of acceptance through her writings, and as she speaks directly to teenagers and new initiates it speaks to them in a profound and all encompassing way.
The criticism against Silver RavenWolf as a writer are largely concerned with historical inaccuracies found throughout her writing, a conceived arrogance latent in them, and a hostility towards Christianity. I must admit that I found this trifecta to be some of the most appealing aspects of her writing. As a teen, I always found her arrogance to be a sign of conviction, which gave me confidence, strength, and pride. In terms of her hostility towards Christianity, this is generally quite common for practitioners of the Craft, many of whom have faced direct persecution and hostility themselves. Let the witch voice her issues with the worldview that condemns her to hell. In terms of the historical inaccuracies, I agree that it is quite disconcerting and I do take issue with them. As a teenager, however, I understood her to be helping to establish an origin mythos for witchcraft more than providing a historical treatise thereof. While these inaccuracies are certainly inexcusable, I do not find that they invalidate her impact as a writer and practitioner.