Bookviews Book Reviews
Sons of the Goddess: A Young Man’s
Christopher Penczak approaches Wicca from the standpoint of the young man first finding his footing on this spiritual path. As he states in his opening Indroduction, Wicca is a religion with images of women and learned Sages for teachers and sometimes the younger man may find it hard to relate or find imagery with which he can relate.
Christopher Penczak is very well equipped to tackle this job
as well. He is a young man with many book
credits to his name on the topic of Wicca.
His series on the Inner and
The book is divided in to nine chapters covering a variety of beginners topics on Wicca, including starting on your path, stories Mothers and Sons from mythology, and Men’s Mysteries. Each of these chapters focuses on the young man approaching Wicca for the first time. From basic Wiccan beliefs to mythologies that focus on the relationship between the Goddess and her sons, to the man’s place in Wicca, the topics focus on the young man, giving him place in a religion that can sometimes seem very Divine Feminine.
There is a chapter on Meditation Magick, something Mr. Penczak is very expert on and it focuses on basic meditation practices and once you have mastered this you can use this practice to work some of his basic magick exercises, such as his “Protection Shield”, a very good shielding practice, and also opening up yourself to speak with spirits of all kinds.
Throughout the book, there are little “dialogue boxes” scattered in the margins of the book. These boxes discuss some questions you may have when reading the various chapters. From “The Burning Times” to questions about different Deities or stone properties or “Voodoo Dolls” Mr. Penczak anticipates questions the reader may have and very expertly and directly answers them in a clear and concise manner.
The book also provides illustrations on various topics discussed in the book. The Chakra system is illustrated, poppets, wands, various symbols and tarot cards, all laid out as examples to compliment the discussions.
Further reading will provide you with “Roles and Responsibility”, a discussion on the “Wiccan Rede” and a “Code of Honor” that Mr. Penczak includes as a basic guide to personal ethics. There is a discussion on taking your choice of religion public, how to approach your family with this decision you have made, and what is right for you! This is an excellent chapter and I found it to be very clear and some very good, solid advice for any beginner starting on this path.
There are also chapters on performing rituals, spellcrafting, and the Wheel of the year, which all give some very good information about tools you will need, elements and their relations to our workings. There is basic ritual construction, which he does elaborate on further making this a great introduction to ritual and personal adaptation of it to be your own. Spellcrafting covers the basics of spells, what they are, different kinds, times to work and how to do your own spells. Some very easy to do and very essential spells are included. And no beginners book would be complete without a very good overview of the Wheel of the Year and the celebrations that are the heart of Wicca.
The final chapter is on personal dedication to Wicca and the Craft. Mr. Penczak discusses what it means to being a witch, making the decision to walk this path and once you have truly made the decision that this is the right path for you, he has provided a simple yet elegant “Self-Dedication Ritual” to celebrate and mark the choice you have made.
The book has a good bibliography with some excellent sources for those who wish to read further.
If you are a young man who is looking for a book that
addresses the path of Wicca from the perspective of a young man and is written
specifically with the young man in mind, this book is a great starting place
and a good reference tool.
If you are a young man who is looking for a book that addresses the path of Wicca from the perspective of a young man and is written specifically with the young man in mind, this book is a great starting place and a good reference tool.I feel Mr. Penczak has done an excellent job covering an aspect of Wicca that has not been directly addressed before. It is clearly written, well illustrated and the focus is excellent. This would also be a good choice for any parent whose young man is looking for the first time at the path of Wicca andwants something that specifically addresses his needs.
Reviewed by Boudica
A Year and a Day: Days of Spiritual Practice in the Craft of the Wise
by Timothy Roderick
This book opens with the lesson of the Cauldron of
Cerridwen. Each person who looks into
Her cauldron sees the wisdoms they will need to follow the “Path of the Wise”. This book takes a very unique look at a
persons dedication to this path by creating a day to day guide for the
dedicating solitary to learn the wisdoms they will need to follow the Wiccan
path. Yes, this book
focuses on the practicing solitary and is intended as a training guide to help
you through the sometimes tough initial “Year and a Day” dedication that
so many books only suggest you do.
This book actually takes you there.
Timothy Roderick is a British Traditional Wiccan, who’s
previous books cover many aspects of Wicca, including working with the dark of
the moon as well as familiars. He is a
teacher of the occult, shamanism and mysticism.
He is the founder of the “Earthdance Collective”, a Wiccan community
where he has been their spiritual director for over a decade. He comes to this book with some very
impressive credentials and it shows in his work.
The book’s layout is quite simple; it goes by each day. The exercises are not long or drawn out, but
rather simple, concise and yet they cover much information. Day 1, for example, discusses Earth-Centered
Spirituality, covering a little history, a simple exercise in connecting with
the earth, and a simple set of questions designed to explore the exercise as
well as exploring yourself. There are
also little “dialogue boxes” designed to anticipate some questions or create a
“sidebar” discussion for you to ponder further.
Following “Day 1” is a list of items you will need for the next 30 days;
a shopping list if you will of basic supplies.
Each day unfolds with a new topic, a new aspect or some new
exercise to explore or think about. As I
wandered through the material presented, I liked the way it was laid out, each
day setting up for another lesson further along. Discussing words, discussing symbols,
building on these words, finding acceptance in your own life for these words
and symbols. It seems very basic and yet
it is necessary when you are looking at a completely new spiritual path and new structure
for your life.
The lessons become more advanced yet never too long or too
boring. The material is very expertly
explained, broken down to its simplest form, allowing the reader to keep up
with the material without experiencing an information overload. Every month there is a “Contemplative Day”
for the reader to experience, to explore and digest the material
There are Devotional Days, honoring specific Deities, learning their stories, exploring Them and feeling Their energies.
While the book can be started at any time, Mr. Roderick does
mention that traditional start time is sometime between Samhain and Candlemas
(Imbolc). I found that the Sabats are
all covered together in one section/month, rather than stretched out over the course of the
book. This would allow the reader to
start whenever they felt ready, rather that being restricted by the seasons or
The book covers the daily topics well. They are good overviews of the topic.
The exercises are well chosen for the
beginner, as is the way the topical material is handled. Yes, this book addresses the average
beginner. Yet it is not bound by that
restriction. There is much information
in here that would serve the slightly more advanced student, one who may have
had basic studies and is looking to round out their studies with additional
material. Yes, there are even a few
“gee, I didn’t know that” moments in this book for me.
The book contains illustrations of hand motions, tools,
symbols, crafts, cards and more. The
material covers a variety of topics from runes to alphabets, herbs to
astrology. The material discussed covers
a wide range of topics from tools to ritual basics to building power.
I really love the idea of this book, the way it is laid out
and the material that is covered. It
follows a very logical progression and is well thought out in that
respect. Mr. Roderick writes in a style that is clear, in
an easy to
follow manner that is kept light and reasonable for the beginning practitioner.
Mr. Roderick writes in a style that is clear, in an easy to follow manner that is kept light and reasonable for the beginning practitioner.
If you are a solitary looking to start your year and a day dedication and do not know where to begin, start by checking into this book and see if you don’t agree that this is a very good tool to get you started and on your way. I think you will actually find yourself following this book through to the end and you will get more out of this book than you thought possible. I do recommend this book for anyone looking for a very practical guide to the experience of theWiccan “Year and a Day” personal dedication.
Reviewed by Boudica
by Ruth Barrett
Ruth Barrett is one of the more recognizable leaders in the Dianic Wiccan Tradition that had its birth here in the United States, along with names like Zsuzanna Budapest and Shekhinah Mountainwater. Ruth Barrett actually learned from Z. Budapest, and was ordained a priestess by her in 1980. She took over Z's work and has been High Priestess to the Dianic community in Los Angeles ever since.
This book is an extension of the original work by Z. Budapest, adding to and expanding her work to be more inclusive of the rituals that have been added since Z's original work The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries published in 1980. The material is by Ruth Barrett and is intended to be used as a "guide and resource for individuals and groups, both beginners and experienced ritualists alike."
The book is not only a collection of rituals intended for and for use by woman-only groups, but it is also a complete outline of what ritual is, how to express it and what to expect from it. It covers just about every stage of a woman's life as taught by Z. Budapest and adds a few more as well.
The Dianic Wicca Tradition is female oriented Goddess worship. To use Ms. Barrett's own definition provided in the book "Dianic tradition is a Goddess- and female-centered, earth based, feminist denomination of the Wiccan religion which was revived and inspired by author and activist Zsuzsanna Budapest in the early 1970's. Dianic tradition is a vibrantly creative and evolving Woman's Mystery tradition, and is inclusive of all women."
The focus of the book is clear. This book explains how to approach the Woman's Mysteries through ritual intended to focus on and be performed by women in the Dianic Wiccan Tradition.
Having interviewed Z. Budapest a few years ago, and knowing her love for things theatrical I wandered through the book and its rituals and you could see Z's influence on the material. These rituals are expressive, while not being encumbering. They allow for personal exploration or group participation. They are focused. Ms. Barrett takes the time to set up each ritual with full explanation of where you are going with this and what to expect. "We do not all think alike, nor do we express ourselves in the same ways. " When applying ritual to groups she allows each woman to express herself in a way that she can relate.
You can see the years of experience that Ms. Barrett has being carefully laid out in this book and she passes along much of her wisdoms and experiences. She references other authors and material that she feels will help you to understand the experiences you are about to have and it gives new depths to the work.
The rituals covered can be grouped, as she explains, into "thematic categories: creation/manifestation, release/transition/transformation, honoring and celebration." She very expertly explains how ritual can combine elements of each of these categories. She covers how to set up everything from your sacred space to your altar. She covers the Goddess and the elements, invocation and revocation, tools, and the Dianic Wheel of the Year with all the celebrations and their meanings. Nothing seems to be lacking in her teachings of ritual and how to carry it out and follow it though.
The writing is very clear, the concepts are very understandable and the directions are concise and easy to follow. The rituals are adaptable for individual work or for group workings. Meditations are provided, as well as follow up for after the ritual, for personal reflection on what you did or did not achieve.
The reasons for the seasonal celebrations of the Wheel of the Year are explored and discussed in depth. The Woman's Mystery's are also discussed and covered in this book. To name a few: first blood, birthdays, weddings, celebrating sacred sexuality, conceiving a child, birthing and welcoming the child, or choosing not to have children and honoring this choice, and croning. They are not laid out as rituals so much as the ideas and reasons for having rituals to celebrate these rites of passage in your life. The idea is to incorporate these focuses into ritual as explained and learned in the first part of the book.
Also included is a discussion on ritual specifically for the Lesbian lifestyle. These ceremonies are based on the original works of Z. Budapest, who first published rituals for lesbian unions, or "Trysts" back in 1980. Ms. Barrett expands this to include a "coming out" ritual.
There are also healing rituals, as for someone who has been divorced or survived a sexual assault.
There are some very valuable chapters in this book, such as Every Ritual is a Teacher, which is self explanatory and can apply to anyone who wishes to perform any kind of ritual. Her chapter on The Priestess begins with the statement "The roll of the priestess awaits re-definition in the twenty-first century. Its keynote must be service, not power." For anyone considering the roll of priestess in their community, I feel this is a very good overview of the history of the priestess and their present and future roll in the Wiccan community. This is another chapter which can apply to anyone looking at their place as priestess in the Wiccan community.
While the focus of this book is the Dianic Wiccan tradition, and it is very feminist in flavor and focus, it also contains much information that can be applied by anyone looking at personal focus on being a woman and anyone who wishes to focus on the Goddess spirituality in their lives. Ms. Barretts discussion, insights and visions are clear and focused and this is a large handbook for anyone who is focusing on the Dianic Wiccan Tradition, and anyone who is looking for some very powerful insight into Woman's Rites and Mysteries in ritual.
Reviewed by Boudica
Pendulums and the Light: Communication with the Goddess
by Diane Stein
Diane Stein is probably best known to many as the author of one of the first and most controversial books on Reiki - Essential Reiki. However, her books on healing and women and the Feminine Divine are also very popular and very good books on the topics.
This latest presentation, Pendulums and the Light explores some history, some mystery and making of an often over looked but very powerful tool - the pendulum.
With her opening chapter entitled Why Pendulums? Ms. Stein gives us some background on the book and it's purpose, what pendulums are, how to use them, and some very good advice on the practical and expanded use of pendulums.
Each chapter of the book is a very in depth look at the topic covered. In the chapter entitled How to Make or Buy a Pendulum she explores how to choose a pendulum, what stones to look for, personal appeal, what tools would be needed to make one, hot to choose stones, crafting the pendulum and so much more.
In Cleansing she looks at taking either your finished product or the item you purchased and clearing it to make way for your own personal energies. In Dedication to the Light she speaks of how to dedicate your new took to it's ultimate purpose and to your own personal Deities or "Be-ings of the Highest Light". What is nice is that this book crosses all paths. Diane Stein, while known for her own choice of spirituality, has always left the choice of spirituality open to the reader. However, she does go into her own beliefs and this makes for some very interesting reading.
The Meditative State covers working in meditation with the pendulum. She gives instruction for achieving a meditative state, working with your "Be-ings of the Highest Light" to learn how to handle this new tool. She gives some practical advice for working in your own private environment, and gives some very lovely meditations to use.
How to Use a Pendulum is a very practical guide to working with your new tool and its applications. Ms. Stein explains throughout the whole book that this can be used as a very simple "yes or no" tool, and she shows (in diagrams) how to determine how your "Be-ings of the Highest Light" are speaking to you through this tool, how to ask questions (a whole chapter to itself), and what to do if you are having problems with the tool (again, a whole chapter called Troubleshooting). Directions are clear, she explains very patiently and works through the processes in easy to understand language.
There is a section called Using Charts which expands the use of the pendulum further than the "yes or no" basics. She presents idea, directions and charts to use your pendulum with diagrams (some provided) and she includes her own "Fan Charts" to give you ideas on expanding your own limits and the use of the pendulum.
There is also a chapter on Healing with Pendulums which explains using these pendulums with Reiki, psychic healing, and again includes one of her "Fan Charts" to expand on the subject.
A very valuable note here, the chapter on healing opens with some excellent discussion on "legalities and ethics". She discusses some very important issues regarding healing and not being a medical doctor, and she also discusses being a "spiritual counselor" and how to obtain proper credentials and suggests organizations who offer training. She also discusses ethics. This is a wonderful start to a chapter that, if you have some of her other books on healing, you know she is always considering the welfare of the client and our roll and responsibility to our clients.
There are charts for correlations of stones to Chakras, a short discussion on Chakras and a diagram of the Chakra points and their meanings. She includes a Chakra assessment exercise, and some other exercises in psychic healing and stones.
The final chapter Pendulums and Karmic Release deals with Ms. Stein's personal path and her ideas on Karma and it's involvement in our lives. She discusses her association with the Goddesses, the "Lords of Karma" and how this is all involved in the processes she has described in the book. Again, it may not be your personal path, and you can skip this if you wish, but it Is interesting reading and it does directly relate to how Ms. Stein works in her own healing and spiritual practices.
There is a "Suggested Reading" list at the end of the book, and the book is indexed for quick reference.
This is a lovely book on the pendulum and its use, for beginners as well as experienced practitioners. It contains a lot of information, is well put together, crosses the boundaries of spiritual belief and practices and would make a nice addition to any home library.
Reviewed by Boudica
The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature
Back in the 60s, there were many of us involved in "earth ecology". We protested nuclear power plants; we started "Earth Day" as an awareness of what we are doing to the earth. We talked about recycling, living "off the grid" and being responsible for what happened to the earth we live on. We became "aware". Many of us follow the earth based spirituality path today because we became "aware".
This book represents Starhawk's return to that idea, resurrecting the feeling of living in harmony with the Earth and respecting Our Mother as we should. With this book, Starhawk wants to show us that we need to be more than just "aware".
The book looks at our connection with magic, the four elements we work with and how it relates to our beliefs and to the earth and its ecology. The book is filled with stories of her recent workings. It discusses how we connect with each of the elements in nature and provides meditations on the earth, the elements and finding our own place of balance in this world. And all of this is deeply rooted in Goddess Spirituality.
This is a book on personal responsibility to protecting the earth's delicate ecology. This is a book on earth based spirituality. This book is about magic. This is a book about Starhawk and how she has been dealing with all these issues. This is a book about finding where you fit into this whole equation.
As I read through this book, I found myself agreeing with some of the material that Starhawk was discussing. I also found myself disagreeing on some points. This books intention is to raise personal response. As you read the material that Starhawk provides for the mediations and then work through the meditations, the idea is to reflect on your own connections to these ideas, and the workings are meant to provoke personal response. Each person's response will be different, though the material provided for meditation is meant to focus you on specific ideas.
There are many personal stories told by Starhawk about her recent involvement in political actions. Each of these stories, be it the fire protection ritual she is involved with in the opening of the book, or her research about genetically engineered seeds and the World Trade Organization, we see Starhawk's view on personal responsibility carried to many different levels. While there is much here that should be reviewed and her resources for the information provided is extensive (her Select Bibliography is impressive as well) it is up to the individual as to how this affects each of us and how involved we want to be with the processes that Starhawk discusses.
This is a book that combines Starhawk's personal path of spirituality with her own personal path of ecological responsibility. Those who are not familiar with these issues will find that this book can be used as a handbook for personal exploration. It is a book of awareness of the kinds of issues that many of us should at least be familiar. There are many issues addressed here that makes this a good book of information, even though it may seem a bit extreme at times. If you remember how passionate Starhawk is about her chosen path, you can then understand the extremities. This book does allow for you to find your own small part in how all this plays out; you need not be as involved as Starhawk, but you may also find yourself provoked to action by the information provided.
This book is one that should be carefully read, openly discussed, and as you meditate upon the information provided, you will need to know the scope of your own abilities and how deeply your personal responsibility for the issues flows. This book may help you find this.
This is a very good look at Starhawk's recent path of earth based spirituality and responsibility for the earth, and one that every follower of Starhawk's path will want to read.
Reviewed by Boudica
by Eileen Holland
Eileen Holland presented us with a very wonderful book called The Wicca Handbook. It was a great beginning for anyone looking to start on the path of Wicca and it could be used by either solitaries or those looking to be coven trained.
This book Spells for the Solitary Witch focuses on spells and spell work specifically for the solitary practitioner.
Again we are presented with Ms. Holland's easy to read and follow style of writing. She lays her book out according to the kind of spells you may want to do, and lists her spells according to what you want to accomplish when working your spells.
I have to say her opening section, entitled "Before you Begin" is exceptional in explaining basic spellwork, what it is, what is magic, ethics when working magic, personal responsibility and terminology. This is an excellent reference on it's own and should be suggested to all beginning spellworkers as a point of essential reference. I wish Ms. Holland would have expanded this section, as she did it so well, but it does stand on it's own as a very good overview.
The sections on actual spellworking are divided into seven chapters, covering "Inner Work, "Goals, Hopes, Wishes", "Love", "Life Enhancement", "Problem Solving", "Magickal Candle Gardens", and "Tea Potions".
Each section has a selection of spells for various situations. Under "Inner Work" we find spells for acceptance, getting over it, even personal power talisman, a tool for building self-confidence. Each spell has complete instructions and directions on how to use the spells for each intent. A list of needs is followed by preparation and the actual spell working, which may include an incantation, ritual, and sometimes an "afterward" or review of what should be the focus and how you should react to the spellworking. With the Talisman, she discusses creating these talisman, the proper signs for you, day workings and correspondences, and all you would need to know to create and use a personal talisman.
Going forward into the various chapters, each chapter contains spells referencing the chapter title. In "Goals, Hopes, Wishes" we have spells for goals you wish to reach, spells for special wishes, interview charms; all with discussions on your intents to what you want to achieve and how to work the spell.
The "Love" section has workings for personal enhancement, to bring love into your life. The "Life Enhancement" chapter has spells for home blessings, abundance, fertility, joy, and protection to name a few. "Problem Solving" covers dealing with major mistakes, fearsome problems, problematic persons and hard times.
What I note in her spells is that when a spell calls for a "potion" as in her Tragedy Potion (for someone who has just encountered a tragedy in their life and you offer them this potion to help calm nerves and help them center and balance) the ingredients are noted and the appropriate cautions are given. In this case, she gives a recipe for a hot cup of cocoa, with some oil of peppermint. She notes "Note: this potion isn't for you if you are lactose-intolerant, allergic to chocolate or peppermint or have any medical reason that precludes its use." Wise words from a wise witch.
The book contains many notes of wisdom. "Magickal Candle Gardens" focuses on candle magic to assist persons in need. The garden is built indoors, containing candles arranged for your specific purpose and using candles of specific shapes and size depending on the needs. After going over the plans and the layout, it looks to be something even I would consider as a special magical working, being attractive, practical and very especially magical.
The last chapter is about "Tea Potions" specifically, and again, contains potions to work on yourself for specific situations you may encounter, such as personal health, luck, creativity and success to name a few. She works some of the potions with runes, others with chant. The only note I have here is that she did not repeat her good advice about being allergic to certain herbs, as most of these teas are herbal in their base. Please use your own digression when preparing these teas and if allergic, then look for a substitute.
Many of these spells are worked in conjunction with a particular Deity. That is the heart of Wicca, we work magic in conjunction with our chosen Deities. The back of the book has a "Glossary of Deity Names", a list of Deities, their tradition and their attributes. Even if you do not wish to work with the Deity mentioned, the list in the back will give you a good choice of Deities you may want to substitute for the one listed. Also, there is a generic list of General, all purpose Deities listed, such as "Great Goddess" or "The Lady" if you are unsure, or your path is not specific. And finally, the book is indexed, for quick references.
Overall, this is a great introduction to Spells for individuals who wish to work as solitaries and need advice and direction for their spellwork. This is a fine Wicca 101 Spell book that I would recommend to anyone looking for a place to begin.
Reviewed by Boudica
Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch
by Lora O'Brien
Who better to hear about Irish Witchcraft than from an Irish witch? This is not pseudo Celtic Wicca or the Fairy Folk magic many of us think we know. This book presents us with the actual practice of Witchcraft by one whose roots and life go deep into the Irish homeland.
Lora O'Brien is a true Irish Witch, yes, in Ireland. Born and raised in the Emerald Isles, she speaks in this book from first hand experiences growing up with the lore, the mystery and the magic that only Ireland can be.
Having said that, and emphasizing Ms. O'Brien's background, we get into the meat and potatoes of the book. Do not be surprised at what you read. Yes, the Irish (Gaeilge) language is taught in schools there, so when Ms. O'Brien gives you the pronouncement of the words that define the culture, be assured it is the correct pronunciation. A big plus to Ms. O'Brien for including this and the definitions of these words, as it makes a world of foreign terms and meanings much more understandable and well defined. I appreciated her addition of this to her book and it makes the book much more user friendly.
Ms. O'Brien will also surprise you when it comes to anyone claiming to be Irish. "If you want to explore your Irish roots, don't just research your family tree, don't just profess a love for anything Irish, don't just wave your tri-color flag about on Paddy's Day. You need to come to Ireland. A connection to this land is just that: the actuality of literally setting foot here, feeling its power rise through your body."
Ask anyone who has been to Ireland, they will tell you the same thing. And coming from Ms. O'Brien who actually lives there, yes, if you are going to do the studies, then you should also immerse yourself in the culture. Ms. O'Brien gives us some wonderful insights into Irish history and mythology, laying out the story of the founding of the isles.
Her entire approach to the topic of Irish Witchcraft in this book is like this: a hands on primer from someone who is truly an expert in her chosen life style. We are graced with many of her "down home" stories, family folk lore and personal experiences. We are treated to myths and legends that are not found in many books, as well as the best known ones. While the usual stories of the better known Gods and Goddesses are told here: Brighid, Manannan MacLir and Morrigan to name a few, there are also lesser known stories like Biddy Early, Cliodhna and Dame Alice Kyteler. While they were not Gods or Goddesses, these names make up parts of Irish history, or are essential to the personal lore of a particular family or town.
The book is laid out as follows: You start off with a basic overview of Irish Witchcraft, then you are treated to the myths and mysteries that surround how witchcraft evolved in Ireland and then you are brought into the present practices and beliefs. Ms. O'Brien includes material that would be considered the Irish witches "Book of Shadows"; an outline of traditions and practices that would help you attach yourself to the tradition and traditions of a modern practicing Irish witch. She covers the Sabats as practiced in Ireland, meditations and rituals that will assist in your connecting with the land, the Gods and Goddesses and the fairy folk, and material for personal growth as a witch in this tradition. She even includes photos and drawings that give a little visual flavor to the topics discussed.
There are Rites of Passage as well as discussions of the Sabats and earth cycles. She outlines initiation in her Coven's tradition and lays out how her coven works with the various degrees of commitment from the membership. She also gives you a very wonderful overview of Ireland as a community, as a life style and as a home should you ever consider moving there.
This book is an excellent overview not just of the tradition of the Irish Witch but of Ireland itself as viewed by someone who grew up and lives there. We get the flavor of the Irish witch complete with all the mystery and imagination that we all attribute to it. You come away with a feeling that you need to go there to experience it first hand in order to fully appreciate its nuances. And I believe that was what Ms. O'Brien was looking to do when she wrote this book: to give those who wish to follow this path the ability to taste the true path of Irish Witchcraft and urge you to follow it into Ireland for the personal experience if this is truly the path for you.
Reviewed by Boudica
The Enchanted Candle: Crafting and Casting Magickal Light
Lest anyone think I dislike all Wiccan oriented books, here is a true gem in every sense of the word! I found this book on the shelf at B&N and originally thought it was a reissue of another candle magic book by Lady Sara. I made the error when I read the first line of the foreword where Lexa Rosean told how she met Rhea at the Magickal Childe shop in New York back in 1980. Well I'm glad I picked it up and brought it home!
This is a terrific book of candleburning ideas, spells, tips, techniques and advice that you just don't find in your regular 101 Candleburning books. There are no chapters or sections devoted to "Karma" or "The Rule of Threefold Return" which pollute so many Wiccan magical texts. Rhea also gives you a sense of security in telling you that she is not only a trained Wiccan Priestess but also intiated into Santeria and has experience in certain Tibetan forms of Tantric practices. Thus her experiences and training are wide and varied.
One of the best things I really liked about the book is her "talisamns" - which I could label Seals, Veves or Signatures of the Spirits and Occult Forces - which she tells you to engrave into the sides of your candles. For instance, her Road Opener spell on pp 225-227 is a classic spell in the African Traditional Religions but she offers you a nice Seal which you can use not only in your candle rites but draw it out on paper and carry it with you as your spell works. Road Opener is all about opening yourself to all the good things in life you may be missing out on health, opportunities, relationships, friendships, experiences, etc.
Another interesting thing I liked was the Seal for the Uncrossing spell on pp. 176-178 as it is far more unique than the one I use for this all important ritual. However I LIKE her depiction of this Seal and I plan on using it in my next Uncrossing Ritual. This is one of my main reasons for my exuberance over her book: the uniqueness of her originality.
She discusses altar setups for different purposes and this is sadly lacking in any of the basic texts out there. Even though I have a regular altar setup I use in my Sorcery Lab, I still modify it for specific outcomes for the rites I'm about to perform.
Still another aspect she introduces the student to is Letter of Intent which is really a written petition to the Spirit(s) you're about to invoke. What is put down into writing often helps to cement your desire coming into fruition. Sort of like writing a letter to Santa asking for that favorite toy you've been wanting all year.
The Seals she introduces us to in the Money section are both unique and original and very creative. I especially like the ones for the Wheel of Fortune, Lakshmi Goddess, Ganesha and Tara spells.
I was a little bummed out by the lack of original authors listed in her Bibliography. Most of the ones listed are your same old run-of-the-mill new age authors you find on any B&N bookshelf. Other than that, the book itself is superb in both information offered and the layout of the material. I rate it a solid five stars out of five stars for all of the reasons cited above even with the weak & un-original Bibliography.
Reviewed by Moloch
Spellcaster: Seven Ways to Effective Magic
Edited by Elen Hawke & Martin White
Originally I was excited about having the opportunity to read and review the advanced copy of this book. My reason is that it is a collection of essays by seven authors called The Spellweaver Collective and these include Martin Duffy, Anna Franklin, Elen Hawke, Poppy Palin, Morgana SidheRaven, Martin White and Leah Whitehorse. No one I had ever heard of prior to this book so in my revelry I figured no names mean some new thinking. *sigh* Sorry to say my exuberance was soon abated.
Chapter 1 by Leah Whitehorse entitled Song of the Star is pretty much your standard old introductary material and viewpoints. She did capture my attention on pp. 18-19 where she puts the shoe on your foot by asking you a series of questions to get you to think about what it is you want in a lover or material security - two things we all want in our lives. Where she left me cold was on page 19 when she said:
"The first step to the working of a spell is not defining the spell; it is the decision itself whether to work magically. Actual spells are a last resort." Excuse me? What is the point of bothering to learn to cast spells if they are, in fact, the last thing you're to do? Whitehorse seems to be coming from that New Age Mentality of "Karma" whereby you must not exercise your will on the Universe since you may "interefere" with the life path of another. Baloney! Then Ms. Whitehorse herself is unethical in her intention to draw buyers of this book in the hopes they can better their lives with spells to only to tell them "Uh-uh-uh! You better be careful because you may interefere with another's will!" The whole of Magic IS interference! A spell or ritual is intended to agitate the ether and move forces to help YOU the spellcaster gain what it is you truly desire!
Then on page 20, we see where Ms. Whitehorse says: "Forcing my will also assumes that I have no trust in the greater pattern..." Hunh? Sorry but this smacks of the religious dogma from the Christian belief to 'trust in Jesus, He will provide!' If she's buying into that, then obviously her metaphysical concpt is far more skewed than I want mine to be! Sorry but I don't trust the "greater pattern" as life has shown me to be full of "unknown X factors" in the form of hindrances, walls, blockages, crossed conditions and the like. These I prefer to remove so I can walk my way thru life with little hindering my way.
From Ms. Whitehorse's way of thinking, one has to consider ALL possible alternatives first, take action to try them all to see which ones actually work and THEN if nothing comes of it, try weaving a spell! Not only is this a daunting task to the advanced practitioner (let alone a novice!) but with considering ALL possible alternatives and trying them all, you're likely to not need to do any Magic to begin with. So then dispense with the Occult altogether and move on into Goal Setting and Humanistic Psychology in lieu of Magic.
If this isn't bad enough, Ms. Anna Franklin continues on with this nonsense in Chapter 5 The Eightfold Ways of Magic where she gives you this massive guilt trip over the desire to have a designer coat. She wails:
"Can you estimate all those possible future lives and destinies that will never be fulfilled, and all those children who will never be born, and all because you stirred the forces of the universe to get yourself a designer coat? Still not guilty? You might be responsible for the deaths of more poeple than Hitler, but it doesn't count if it was only by magic does it?"
What???!! This is a highly outrageous and absurd lamentation that this woman has put forth! I'm sorry but I do not consider her a Witch in ANY sense of the word as she is too scared to put any portion of her power to use. I wonder if she has any guilt trip over the bugs that die when her automobile kills them as she cruises down the road? Or the countless lives she sacrifices each time she showers? What about the bacteria that is killed off by her body's defenses? Absurd? No more so than her Hitler assertion.
Sadly every chapter has the token "Karma" duck-billed platitude by these self-appointed "Spellweavers". You can waste your money on this horrid little tome and feel guitly if you wish but I for one am extremely pleased I will NOT have this ridiculous collection of worthless essays taking up valuable shelf space in my private library!
On page 152, Ms. Franklin shows us she is preaching out of both sides of her mouth. She says: "The Fluffy Bunny School of Magic would have us believe that magic is all about nice little ceremonies praising pretty goddesses who spend their spare time posing for Vogue." (Obviously Ms. Franklin has a personal problem with attractive looking feminine Wiccans and Goddesses! Perhaps she should do a spell to raise her level of self esteem?)
She goes on to say: "This kind of new age nonsense is alien to practicing pagans who embrace the whole of the wheel -- light and dark, life and death, growth and dissolution, Beltane and Samhain. One half doesn't go away because we don't like to, or are afraid to acknowledge it. Both sides of the coin are necessary; there can be nothing without the balance of the two." LOL But what about murdering more innocents than Hitler as you previously stated, Ms. Franklin? She's showing us that she wants to appear as someone who has the power to stir the primal forces BUT really she's afraid to do so! You never know how many unborn children won't get to live. Bah!
About the only chapter remotely worthwhile to read is Poppy Palin's on Wild Enchantments. The rest of the book just outright sucks eggs. I guess that's what I get for high expectations from new age wannabe Witches. Spellweaver Collective indeed! Appears to be more of a collective of Guilt Trippers if you ask me.
Reviewed by Moloch
by T. Thorn Coyle
This is a work by the author on her experiences in the Faery Tradition which was founded by the late Witch, Victor Anderson. The book is nicely laid out and by a publisher that isn't trying to white-wash anything to the public. A reasonably priced hardcover with color dust cover is a rarity these days.
Unfortunately I had a helluva time getting thru the first few chapters. It was downright tedious to force myself to read it. For some reason, her personal history just didn't sync with me and I found it quite boring. This is unusual for me as I really am interested in how folks get started into any aspect of the Occult.
Another thing that bothered me was all the name dropping about "Victor" - meaning her teacher, Victor Anderson the founder of the "Faery" tradition of Withcraft. To me, name dropping is in very poor taste and I realize that many folks name drop to give the reader a sense of lineage and worthiness to read, but if your work cannot stand on its own merits, then it really shouldn't be published at all.
What else was odd for me to understand is how Coyle's version of Faery Witchcraft relies on so much mudra. There are parts where the book has the pictures of her in postures of the various exercises she advocates to tap into power. Often I was contrasting her poses to the Yoga and Tai Chi postures I've seen. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, rather I do not recall seeing much original mudra since Mabry's work in the Armenic Runic system.
There are specific spiritual exercises in this book that Coyle offers to the practitioner that would be beneficial to anyone's spiritual path. I enjoyed her section on the Warrior Ethic and how she explains that we should not coddle weakness. Well said! Unfortunately in her discussion, she advocates non-violence. This does not fit in with the paganistic backgrounds of our Indo-European ancestors where warfare was a very common way of life. One was trained to be aware of their surroundings as well as defend oneself, not lay prone allowing the antagonizer to murder you! Far too many neo-Pagans today are too pacifistic that if we as a collective whole were ever rounded up and put into concentration camps, they would go to slaughter as sheep!
I also highly recommend rereading page 236 about Engaging Your Fears. This is something that's rarely talked about in neo-Pagan texts. Learning to conquer one's fears is extremely useful in and of itself however it goes hand-in-hand with learning new things that may have been anathema to you in the past.
I tried the Sticky One exercises on pp. 49-55 including the Devotional Dance. I have to tell you at first I felt silly but as I continued the movement, I allowed my subconscious to create the Wish Bird and mine came forth as a falcon. The energy was intense to say the least and the fetch was sent on an errand to find something I had previously lost. A friend called a couple of days later telling me she had found my necklace in her car and that I must've dropped it when we went out to lunch!
The only other bone of contention I have with this book is like so many of the "Faery" tradition works, it's very feminist oriented and has almost an "exclusionary to males" tone to it. Even if that weren't Ms. Coyle's intention, it came across that way to me. Having seen this sort of thing before from Starhawk, I had hoped Ms. Coyle's version of Faery Witchcraft was not so politically feminist in scope.
In summary it has a good index which can help you find just about anything you have read in the book and the bibliography does offer some interesting resources that you typically do not see in your standard "Wicca" manuals. All in all I have to give this book a solid three out of five stars.
Reviewed by Moloch